aTypical Night on College St

(a story about Toronto, ethnic diversity, and misanthropic annoyance)

I walked into the pizza parlour and there was a game of Twister in full swing. Ha they should call it Swinger I was thinking, but I kept it to myself: Nobody appreciated wordplay here. I could be nonchalant if I had to, so I did a 'swing' over to the counter and asked for a slice of cheese pesto basil hold the cheese. Luckily there was a pie coming fresh from the oven, so my timing was impeccable. I sat at a stool and read the downtown hipster rags, stealthily eyeing the pseudo-pornographic ads in the back and wondered what it would be like to run a brothel.

I sat for hours and organized my bills, made appointments and inserted them into my agenda, you know, regular pizza-parlour stuff. The Twister match would get loud and occasionally violent; a small Asian girl took a lead pipe and shattered the kneecap of a more elderly participant. That’s College Street for you. I sighed and lighted a cigar. Most diverse city in the world.

The police came, handed me a $500 fine for smoking in a restaurant. My ‘But there’s smoke coming from the pizza oven, so what about that?’ defence got me nowhere; I was out on the street a half-grand poorer but a lot more knowledgeable about how to cripple someone during a Twister match.

The night sky was alive with fireflies and lots of bats. Like most people I was afraid of the flying mice, but someone said they were a good source of protein, and even if you didn’t walk around with your mouth open hoping to catch a free meal, they kept the insects to a minimum. But they didn't eat the fireflies, I thought; something about sonar-based creatures and glowing-ass-based creatures respecting each other’s turf. I wondered if bats, if they could read, would like to read McLuhan, and I figured hell the bats have a better chance of understanding that shit than I do. Then I realized I left my water bottle inside the pizza parlour, but fuck it I was on my bike and headed for the Mod.

The Mod Club is a box-like centre of testosterone and hair gel that smells like the worst mixture of colognes you could ever conjure on a Saturday night—but I guess some people must like it or why would they be there. I don’t enjoy dancing, but I do like checking out strangers on the sidewalks. The way folks act on sidewalks tells a lot how they act in other situations, like on patios, or in restroom lineups, and hey maybe that’s about it. So perhaps it's not a very useful activity, but since I was on worker’s compensation I had plenty of time to explore every frivolous mental cul-de-sac that beckoned my free spirit.

There on the walk was Tina Schultz, extraordinarily tall with a limp, a teamster from Brampton with massive frizz hair and a slender ivory cane. She was a bit of a ringleader, had an entourage of about a dozen, a zoo really, including a barking macaque and a pygmy elephant fresh out of the Isle of Dr Moreau. 'Schultzie' is what her cronies called her; she was sassing up to this twenty-something Portughino who, for his part, was showing off for his Mustang buddies. "Half the people in this city don’t even speak English," I said to myself aloud, and thank god nobody understood me; and then I thought, I wish farting was like a language because if I went to someplace where they only fart in Swahili and I decided to fart in English then nobody could tell I had farted. But it was just another flatulence fantasy.

Standing beside Schultzie was Gouda McPherson, a pig of a woman absolutely stenching of cheese and onions. Gouda was a Scottish-Greek from the outer Hebrides who sold deep fried Mars bars out of a truck to stupid tourists at Queen and Bay. She had the evening off from the truck tonight, so I guess it was her cousin Bela minding the chocolate and handing out heart attacks like so many direct marketing flyers. Gouda was determined to get some action tonight, she said, even if it meant getting liquored to the tits and swooping across the dance floor on a chandelier. Men can’t resist angels flying down from heaven she crowed, and she made a halo motion around her head. I thought that if the Church of Scotland and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch ever got together they’d either excommunicate Gouda or announce proscription ie ‘kill her on sight’ and I’d be all over that like a bounty hounter on a stooge.

Behind McPherson were the Benson triplets, three College mollies straight out of a Ricky Martin video: tight abs and even tighter wallets. Cheapskates beyond belief, but everybody’s got some tragic flaw. The Bensons—Jessa, Tessa, and Odessa—would do well in a trashy Harlequin romance and hell I'd have given my small intestine to be their flowing-locked Fabio. Low IQ, sure, but they had abs you could bounce a coin off or start a fire with, and that fire’s nothing compared to the fire I got down below but then again these girls were only 17 and I don’t wanna get hauled off to 51 Division. They were so cheap, and who wants to pay for these girlies' slushy-and-gins? Not me, I got so disillusioned with the low-budget trio I nearly tipped the bouncer off about their fake IDs.

I knew a couple other people in the lineup and I said hi as I was waiting for Troy and Loni. T & L were my friends from high school who had suggested we gang up at the Mod. Anyway my sidewalk hellos were smooth like unsalted melted butter: there was Liuna Giulioni, an acquaintance from my volunteering days selling bingo cards to hopeless seniors at Delta Bingo; also Greg-Theodore Jones-McCutchen, part-time tennis pro at the lakeside Boulevard Club who I often spat at as I rode by, because I mistook him for the Ocean. Beside Jones-McCutchen was a large wolf-gorilla of a man, Cronkite Glumph, a half-Alsatian, half-collie of an ape with massive teeth and a leather horse-collar round his neck. He was drunk on zinfandel and singing showtunes. Gay as a fruitbat, I thought, although I felt a desire for fruity pomegranates myself. I missed those exotic Mediterranean treats: at College and Dovercourt it was mango mango mango with the occasional banana and I was too lazy to walk down to the Metro at Crawford so I was stuck with myself complaining and waiting for my ticket to the Big Show to arrive.

Troy and Loni showed up half-past-midnight; they were liquored to the dicks and stinking of rye. Troy was a one-hooch pansy, easily drunk and short of courage otherwise, although tonight was somehow different; he was all gumption and lothario, aiming to break his streak of lonely luck and maybe bed one of the Benson triplets. Fat chance, Troy was less capable with the ladies than a one-armed cadaver in a high-tech space shuttle. And then there was Loni, barely conscious most of the time, and drooling and spitting the rest. Loni lacked basic skills; mine were mad and sterling in comparison. I swear Loni once asked a stop sign out on a date, so hammered he thought it was Kate Moss. Ok I’m exaggerating but I was clearly the most studly of my sadass trio and that meant not one of us would work up the nerve to even say hello to the Benson triplets, but who gave a rat’s padoodie because I dismissed them ages ago.

The bouncers at the Mod were all Irish, renegade Catholic monks with brown frocks, each guarding his post with a 20-lb mace. There was a tiny deacon distributing communion wafers laced with ecstasy over at the side entrance. It was the kind of thing that hurts the reputation of the Church—you know, drugging the laity and all (and probably stealing their wallets). It was half past midnight, I was reeling from Twister, stinking of pizza and just wanting the night to be over so I could get home and instant-message my online girlfriend in Israel.

I had recently learned about telephoning strangers on Skype. I met a very nice girl who was from Haifa; she a Palestinian born of a strict Muslim family and quite likely the most enchanting creature on Allah's green and spherical earth. Witty and wise even in her broken English, Aliayah conveyed loneliness and yearning that transfixed our two souls together as one. The loud and gangly timbits I hung out with in Toronto simply could not match her sweet plaintive 'otherness'. What I mean is that 'once you go Arab, everyone else is just a Scarab (beetle)' which is the stupidest proverb I’ve come up with so far. Aliayah had skyped me out of the blue one morning at 6am, told me about her rainbow-coloured birkah and the trouble she’d gotten into with the local imam for listening to Arab techno music, and it took us about 15 minutes to fall in love. A sweetheart like Aliayah doesn't skype herself out of the sky without a grand cosmic reason. She reminded me of smiles and fluffy pink cotton candy, sundresses in springtime and the warm perfumed body of the mother of us all.

Anyway Aliayah was on my mind, in my heart and even ringing in my ears—since I had gone swimming in the Lake and taken a lot of water. I didn’t have time for the mollies on College, they were all metro and retro, coiffed to the jackboots and spitting trendo-talk like a veejay on amphetamines. Even though one of them, Elsa von Slutsky, a receptionist at the Gladstone chocolate factory was always giving me the eye. My slut sonar was usually on buzz, but Elsa snuck up on me. She was all makeup and glitter, fishnet and stilettos, with a red-pink wisp of curly Q hair and cleavage that hypnotized me with sickly sweet nausea.

I stepped back when I saw her. “Are you sure that strapless dress isn’t illegal?” She cried over the music "Johnny, dollface, where’s the fire? You so hot tonight it makes me sad I don’t own you and make you my love slave!” Not that forward even for Elsa, I thought—she got around faster than Andretti on a Ferris wheel—but her advances made me queasy. I said "Elsa, you must be on fire yourself; in fact I can’t remember a time you didn’t have three firefighters on top of you." I was cranky, still groggy from the pesto and pissed off about my $500 fine.

The night was long, there was dancing—which I did not enjoy—and lots of ogling carried out by Troy and Loni. They wanted to hook up with the Benson triplets, but I dragged them away at the last minute when I whiffed an undercover vice cop picking out stooges and jotting down notes. Reading police reports online made me wise to what the fuzz were trying to pick up: seems a huge pederasty ring was about to be busted, and I wanted no association with those perverts. I grabbed my boys by the scruff and escorted us to the night-side open air. Outside, the constellations were glowing stronger than usual, as though the heavens were sending a message. “That message is,” I squawked in my worst Brooklyn accent, “never mess wit da guys at the Mod.” I was thinking of nonsense faster than a fish drinks his own piss, but hey I was missing Aliayah and just pining for my bed.

The next morning I picked up my messages: there was one from Elsa. Seems I had forgotten the keys to my bike lock down her cleavage and she wanted to know when I could come by and get them. She would be likely be showering, but "what a nice surprise it would be" if I popped in on her. I called back and left a message that I was out of the country and I hoped she'd enjoy my fifteen-speed forever. I resolved to walk down to the Urbane Cyclist to look for a new bicycle. The things you do just to avoid Elsa von Slutsky.

It was a smoky kind of morning, made me pine for a cigar, but I had a few things to tick off my checklist.
Number 1: find a bookie.

A bookie, yes. I was hoping to win at horses, I knew my ship was coming in on a fancy mudder called Eileen. I was a gamer, I was bold, but I was also short of cash and so my grand scheme was on hold. I wondered, how often did Elsa get short of cash and sell her body to unscrupulous layabouts? I would have to sell my own blood or maybe loan a kidney if it came down to it, because Eileen this horse of mine was a pass to Sweetride-land. I was sick of the College St. convenience stores and kinkos and hoboes, the wasted men and sullen stares of emasculated overcompensating Gino youth looking forward to a lifetime of beer and football, all punctuated by 3am fisticuffs and vomit down an alleyway. My horse’s name was Eileen and they said she could run on water. Unfortunately the race was on a dirt track, but still if she could elicit that kind of hyperbole she showed promise. I realize in my later years that nobody likes a literalist.

I walked out on the street and I realized I forgot my mobile at home. I looked around for a phone booth and a phone book. I turned onto College and Elsa von Slutsky stood before me like a vibrating cow of Hades, full of snort and effusiveness, quick to heat up and slow to mellow kinda like a spicy chai milkshake that nobody ordered but you drink it anyway—it leaves you bloated and way past due for an enema. Elsa left me all groggy inside, I wanted to swat her and make her go away, but her permanence was unavoidable, and plus she had my bike keys.

“Thanks but no thanks Elsa” I said in a voice too loud to be suave, “I just purchased a new two-wheeler so keep those keys wherever you found them.” She grabbed my hand and rubbed them across her massive silicone chest. I looked at my molested fingers and wished I had a blowtorch, to burn off the forever tainted skin. I ran away down the street and she chugged after me in her high heel leather boots, still dripping firefighter grease from whatever debauched session she held in her weekend whoring parlours, and she was crying "Johnny come back! The bike keys are just an excuse! You don't understand..." but I knew her all too well.

I might have blacked out but when I got back to my room and there was a one-line chat-skype from Aliayah. “Is it warm in Toronto?” Right now, too hot. An email from 51 Division news alert service said three rookie undercover police triplets had arrested three men from Woodbridge for “attempting to solicit for a lapdance in a public place” and purchasing alcohol for minors. Ha. I connected a few dots and realized with my smoking fine I couldn’t hit the track anyway. Fuck it. To make it with Eileen the horse I would have to go back to Elsa and maybe sell my bike.

I whispered to Aliayah to forgive me when I dialled the number. I looked outside my basement window. It wasn’t smoke, it was fog. “Please don’t pick up,” I thought, but she did. I said, “Elsa, darling. I’m sorry about this morning.” She said something but I interrupted. “Listen, forget the bike. Are they hiring at the chocolate factory?”

No comments: