HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT. The inevitable summer heat wave has begun. I've been
crying wolf for years now that we've been long overdue for a really scorching
summer. After last summer, the penultimate in a climatic trend -- wet,
cool, hell on the garden, worst year for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant
I can remember, though the ivy loved it -- I was certain that this would
be the one. It seems I was right.
It's worse on K, I think. She spends most of her day in
a succession of air-conditioned offices, whereas I'm here most of the time,
at my desk in the top floor gable with an ancient Electrohome fan pointed
at me, or on my back on the couch, trying to read, listening to Ennio Morricone
soundtracks. She comes home, unaccustomed to the dense funk I've been swimming
in all day. The cats barely move, except to complain that their water dish
is dry again, or ask for more food that they barely touch.
The deck garden is doing fine, though. We had to wait
till the beginning of June for the crew of gawky teenage boys our landlord
hired to re-build it to finish -- thanks to a week of rain -- but once
they were done, we ordered fifteen bags of soil and hauled the pots out
of the garage. I had the herbs and tomatoes in first, and they've thrived,
late as they were. Four kinds of basil -- regular, curly leaf, Thai and
cinnamon -- are growing like weeds, and the tomatoes are already flowering.
It's still far from the lush garden we managed the last
two summers, as there just hasn't been enough time to really plant everything.
I fantasize about afternoons spent out there, under the umbrella, with
a cold bottle of vinho verde and a good book, but it's been simply
too hot -- the new tarpaper roof banks the heat like a solar battery, and
reaches broiling temperatures by mid-afternoon. Needless to say, a lot
of watering has to be done, after which I'm drenched in sweat and good
for little more than a damp, restless nap.
OKAY, IT'S HOT. That might explain my bad mood. Forgive
I HATE BICYCLISTS. Okay -- a draconian statement. Still,
this city is afflicted with two particular species of bi-pedallists that
drive me to near-berserker rages.
The first variety is the eternal boy, helmet-less and
dead-eyed as they barrel down the sidewalk in front of the Shoppers Drug
Mart -- straight for you. These would be young men who think that the sidewalk
is as good as the road; better, actually, since mere pedestrians can't
really do much damage to them on their grimy lowrider velocipedes. Look,
shitheels -- anything with wheels goes on the road, and that includes scooters,
skateboards and inline skates. These dimbulbs seem to think that all sidewalks
are vast right-of-ways, like the mostly deserted pavement on residential
Except that I always encounter these ass-for-brains on
streets like Queen or King -- busy main thoroughfares where there's no
shortage of old people, baby strollers, or hair-trigger rage junkies like
myself whose blood pressure surges when one of these slack-jawed drool
collectors narrowly misses my khaki-ed knee with the grimy tire of their
greasy conveyance. It's always boys -- boys of a certain age, 16-30, dreaming
the whole time of a car, I'm sure. I'm sure they'll make ace drivers.
There oughta be a law. Actually, there are laws, but I've
seen any of them stopped by the local constabulary, even the "bike cops"
that emerge, on their police issue BMXes with their unflatteringly tight
bike shorts, every spring. Damn, this is getting me livid.
The second species of hated cyclist is the self-righteous
"anti-car" urban rebel. They join in protests whenever a cyclist is killed
by a motorist, staging "die-ins" at busy intersections, circulating petitions,
festooning their helmets and their expensive twelve-speed mountain bikes
with anti-car slogans. Yet, for some reason, these are the same people
who refuse to obey traffic signals, turn from middle lanes, and studiously
stick to the centre of the road at a snail's pace when no bike lane has
been provided for them, just to remind you that they have rights, too.
Except, of course, for the right to get ticketed and fined for not obeying
the rules of the road.
Just yesterday, I was on my way home on the streetcar.
Passengers were embarking at the stop by the main gate of Trinity-Bellwoods
park, when I spied a long column of cyclists -- the self-righteous, Che-on-wheels
variety -- emerging from the park. They turned onto Queen from the main
gate of the park, a long line ringing their bells in front of the streetcar.
We were at a red light, so no problem, but they just kept coming when the
light turned, running the red in a mass exercise of civil disobedience.
We sat, a streetcar full of non-drivers, while they poured past, big smiles
under their Oakley shades and teardrop helmets. Each bike sported some
kind of sign, a slogan about "cycle power" or the like. Sticking it
to the man. Right on. Breaking a law they'd pillory any driver for
It's not that I have any great love affair with the car.
I don't drive, don't want to, don't harbour any covert fascination with
the automobile, except as a design icon. (Which means that I live in despair
of modern auto design -- whatever happened to the days of the Nash, the
Citroen, the VW Carman-Ghia, even?) I'd love to see fewer cars on the roads,
better public transit, more leeway given to bicycles as regular urban transport.
I'd just like everyone to obey the rules -- hardly oppressive diktats of
an unjust regime, but a safety code developed from years of analysis of
When "bike power" advocates thread their way through traffic,
turn against signals, cut across intersections and lanes of traffic, and
curse drivers for their insensitivity, they seem to ignore one basic fact:
Cars are big, very big, and very fast; they can kill you. Bikes
are spidery little machines, by comparison, vulnerable to everything except
mere flesh-and-blood pedestrians. There's an inverted pyramid of lethality,
here, and its dynamic has to be respected. I know I walk the streets, wary
of multi-taskers on their cell-phones, at the wheels of SUVs, whenever
I cross the road, cautiously stepping off of streetcars in case some motorist,
drunk on speed and urgency, fails to notice the huge, looming, red and
white streetcar disembarking passengers. Must I also walk the pavement,
afraid of cycle gangstas and resentful bike guerillas?
Okay. I'm finished with this subject. One more rant.