One particular Saturday afternoon, finding myself with some free time, and experiencing a brief respite from the constant rain in this city, I moseyed on over to the local strip, known as the Drive to locals, for some coffee.
My favorite haunt is an old school Italian place that serves the best espresso in town. It is a vestige of what used to be a tight-knit Italian neighborhood. There are still some old men who are regulars there, and their loud arguments interspersed with cursing amuses me. Nothing like a few well placed placed "Que cazzo" or " Va fan culo" at 110 db to get the day started.
It just happens to be a good place for people watching, sort of like a freak safari, because, on this strip, there is no shortage of freaks.
It has unfortunately become fashionable of late to indulge in America-bashing here in Canada. It seems like a substitute for the lackadaisical dogma that passes for patriotism up here. Them's mighty big words for self-righteous Canucks who, in many cases, haven't traveled to the US much.
I have roamed far and wide over this continent, even had an opportunity to live in New York City for a while. I can safely say that we Canadians should stop casting aspersions and take a good hard look at ourselves, before feeling superior to our neighbors to the south.
After I observed a cross-section of Canada's finest that afternoon, I doubt that we have anything to be smug about.
Resplendent with my greasy accoutrements, full-on pomp, leather jacket and Converse, it was I who was garnering strange stares and dirty looks. That day, it was me who was the freak.
Here's a few observations from that day and various sub-genres of freaks that I saw.
1. Old School hippies.
I think every Province has these. These middle aged freakos can usually be seen riding some POS recumbent bike and discussing with others of their ilk as to how much wood the can strap onto their bikes as decoration. A lot of these geezers, with requisite un-kept facial hair, were draft dodgers.
Lacking any rudimentary skills or tools they will usually lash a bunch of crap on their bikes with duct tape or rope( usually hemp rope, cuz it's natural, man)
These Birkenstock and wool sock wearing aging Granola munchers will usually go on ad nauseam about hemp and how it's a government conspiracy.
They will automatically assume, that if I am also riding a bike, that I am one of their leftist brethren.
They won't be there long because they are on their way to the one of many organic stores on the Drive to buy a five dollar tomato or some foul smelling herbs.
2. New School Hippies.
I have written many times about these annoying, humorless and self-righteous cretins. They are pervasive in this 'hood and and be seen aimlessly walking up and down the Drive without any obvious destination.
Their contrived outfits consisting of as many layers and colors that they can dig up from the pile of rags that is their closet, is de rigeur and is meant for maximum annoyance factor.
They will lug bongos and congas around and openly smoke joints in defiance of "the man". Such rebels these hippies.
They congregate in some protein deficient vegan restaurants that have some of the surliest staff around. After exchanging much leftist doctrine while munching on tasteless vegan fare, they will all meet up at the local park and start a drum circle.
Having no visible signs of employment, they just count down the hours until the next critical mass ride.
3. Hipster Fixie Riders.
This sub-class of hippie just came out of left field a few years ago, and not unlike cockroaches, have multiplied prolifically.
Their skinny jeans, ironic mustaches, dumb hats and cartoon sunglasses are all meant for maximum annoyance as well. They will look around as they trundle their ridiculous fixed gear bikes with no brakes, to make sure everyone is looking at them. If no one looks, they will whistle tunelessly to get attention.
The smug smiles that they have when they have gotten looks of derision, is a testament to their passive aggressive nature and the fact that they are real pussies and would lose a fight in a heartbeat.
A lot of them are employed as bike couriers. They seem smug about that, like they are part of some elite social class. They scowl at all the suits as they deliver documents to law firms. The irony is lost them however, as they are all but unemployable in any other line of work.
After their 8 hours of causing traffic mayhem, flipping the bird and taking off and skidding down hills trying to stop their brakeless bikes, they congregate at the local hippie-park to indulge in a game of bicycle polo
They are destined for extinction because their super tight jeans have probably made them impotent. After riding fixed gear bikes for all that time their knees will be shot in 20 years. These aging hipsters will be seen hobbling about muttering something about "damn rickets".
4. Crackhead Hosers.
If the hipsters are the roaches, the crackheads must be the rats. They can be found everywhere scavenging for something or other.
They rapidly scurry from place to place, crack arms flailing, while having loud pointless conversations with other fellow crackheads. They seem to have a language all their own.
It's like uber-hoser. Take-off-eh cubed. Their high pitched voices all seemed to have acquired that crack-accent, no matter what part of Canada they may be from.
I wonder why they are in such a hurry to get to where they are going. Getting more crack I suppose.
Don't feel too sorry for them however, because beneath that emaciated, dirty exterior lies a devious mind. They want more crack and they want your shit.
5. Middle Aged Man Haters.
There seems to be an inordinate amount of these on the Drive. Their permanent scowl is testament to their anger. When they see me, they seem to get even angrier. That rockabilly thing really seems to piss them off.
I have been known to utter "Pffft" out loud when their scowls get too obvious. They just scurry on to the liquor store to get a bottle of shitty wine.
Sporting some of the most horrific clothing I have ever seen, they are bereft of any style. Shapeless haircuts and clogs seem be another one of their favorites.
They will gather at another man hater's hippie-house and her thirteen cats to drink the shitty wine they just bought and go off on endless tirades. Anger is all they know and they revel in it's acrid taste.
6. The Slummers.
I don't know what planet these folks are from, but they perplex me and frighten me at the same time. They can be seen strutting around on weekends all decked out in their finest clothes and jewelery. Lots of jewelry.
The come to gawk at the locals while they enjoy 8 dollar gelatos. Their smug expression of superiority is a definite indication that they think they are way better than the local denizens.
Though their clothing looks expensive, it is incredibly tacky. The excessive jewelry and liberal amounts of make-up the women are wearing complete that image.
They will walk up and down the Drive four abreast, pretending to be oblivious to the riff-raff around them. They soon get bored with their surrounding and depart. They go back to wherever the hell they came from feeling so adventurous. They will regale their friends with tales of their afternoon in the ghetto.
As the afternoon progressed I ordered another espresso and watch the parade while being serenaded, by what was possibly, the world's worst busker.
I eventually got tired of it, and left. It was like a puddle of puke on the sidewalk, you didn't want to see it, but you would stare at it for a while. When you realized how gross it is you would walk away, the image burned in your mind, wishing you had never seen that damn thing.
It's a nice day, I'll think I'll go back for more.