Oct 18, 2014 - Literary    2 Comments

Why We Should Stop Worrying about Taxes and Figure Out the Best Way to Spend Them

Joe Cressy photo

I was struck by something Joe Cressy said last night at an informal gathering at the house of my friends, architect Robert Chang and writer Karen Connelly. Joe is pictured above with his wife Nina. He is a candidate for Ward 20 in our city election and last night he told us how he was being portrayed in some of the media as “a tax and spend” guy–as if he was going into politics to empty our pockets until we don’t have a sou left to our names.

Then he laughed. And that’s what’s great about Joe Cressy. He has the confidence to see how bogus the tax and spend criticism is.

Taxes are inevitable, he pointed out. We need them for our schools and our roads and transit system and for child care and clean air and water. We can’t avoid taxes so the important issue is how wisely we spend them. Government spending is not a social evil, in other words. It’s how we take care of ourselves and our communities. It is, in fact, the foundation of democracy, and we need to spend our tax money well so a city like Toronto can be a creative, prosperous place to live.

I like someone who says the truth when it needs to be said. For too long, it feels like Torontonians (myself included) have dwelt inside a bubble of magical thinking, expecting our roads and schools to be good and not wanting to pay for the things that make them that way. Well, time to grow up, huh? Let’s stop being swayed by accusations of government over spending and examine how it can be done better.

The other thing I liked about Joe Cressy’s views on Toronto is his belief in our waterfront. Right now the number one thing tourists come to see in Toronto is the Eaton Centre. Number two is our waterfront. “Wouldn’t it be great,” Joe asked. “If our waterfront was number one?”

Yes, wouldn’t it? And that means not expanding the island airport so planes dominate our harbour. Joe says the Billy Bishop expansion plans will harm the wonderful rebuilding of the waterfront that is going on right now. More planes will make it harder than it already is to enjoy the new promenades and civic spaces.

As you can see, Joe is also down to earth. Intelligent, sincere and honest. Maybe that’s the definition of authenticity.If you want to read more of his views see his recent article in Now, Progressive is not a four-letter word http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=199716

2 Comments

  • Glad to have Joe as our Councillor.
    In spite of all the disruptive construction on Queen’s Quay West and around Union Station, Thousands of people come to the waterfront …to Harbourfront and the Islands. 41 years ago…
    Harbourfront was created to turn an industrial area into the playground of the city. This has been successful. An expansion of the island airport for jets will undo all this development in one stroke and effect the development of the whole city for the next 100 years. The traffic at Bathurst and QQ West and at Lakeshore Boulevard and Fleet Street is terrible. Expansion of the airport would necessitate an complete transit-traffic rework. This could swallow up funds needed for the overdue improvements in Scarborough and The much needed Relief line from Union to the north-east.

    • I totally agree with you! Already John Tory’s son is lobbying for expansion of the island airport. I know Joe will help fight it. It is foolish and unethical.

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Oct 14, 2014 - Literary    7 Comments

A Goodbye to Hotel Chelsea

Hotel Chelsea under construction

The Hotel Chelsea, NYC 2014

My old home away from home is no more. The Hotel Chelsea is being gutted for high end condos. Unfortunately, the renovations have destroyed the old suite that used to belong to Thomas (not Tom) Wolfe, the famous American novelist from the 1930’s. That Wolfe wrote many of his novels at the Chelsea and I often stayed in his fascinating old room. It had a working fireplace, floor to ceiling windows and wooden Victorian shutters.

Last week I visited my friends at the NYC hotel, the writer Ed Hamilton and his wife Deb. (Yes, a few hold-outs still live on in Chelsea rooms and the hotel’s new owners are obliged to pay for new homes for them.) I had a tour of the building and saw that the contractors have torn down the beautiful wood panels in the hallways. At least the wrought iron staircase was still intact although souvenir collectors have been stealing parts of it.

The hotel is a shell of its former self. I had a peek at its  newly renovated section. The renovated part was totally uninspired and could have been in any apartment building in any old place and not in the Chelsea, the celebrated home to Twentieth Century artists, singers, composers and writers. Many of its tenants gave the former owner Stanley Bard paintings instead of paying rent. Plaques to writers like Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas and Thomas Wolfe are by its front door unless the new owner intends to take the plaques down too.

Why do we do this to our historical monuments in North America? You can bet that twenty or thirty years from now, some enterprising soul will try to rebuild the Chelsea in its former glory. As Ed Hamilton says, the sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen.

7 Comments

  • I know exactly how you must feel, Susan. I know how I felt when they converted my home away from home, Sutton Place, into condos. I have not been inside to see what they did to it, and it did not have as long and storied history as the Chelsea, but it had its own place in Toronto’s history.

    • Yes, I also remember Sutton Place at the height of its glamour. It was in fact the most glamorous place to eat and drink in the Sixties in Toronto. So thanks for this.

  • You must remember Mr. Bard. I wrote a chapter of my novella about The Chelsea Hotel circa the late 70’s I was there when Virgil Thompson still lived there and the ghosts of Janis, Sid and many others floated down the staircase, the fabulous staircase. I am glad I have the memories of la recherché du temps perdu and I will never forget staying at the Chelsea Hotel. Every day a movie.

  • It’s all about real estate.

    Just like Yorkville, just like Haigh Hasbury just like like Greenwich Village. Hijacked by capitalism. When anything gets discovered, becomes ‘the thng’, its over. Like Muskoka.

    I remember the day they mass produced tie dye t-shirts The Movement was over.

    Those who value cultural and architectural heritage must protect these treasures. Once they are gone they do not come back.

    Our own Annex is endangered by development. All that is left of Yorkville is the name.

  • Why is it that when you type in a hurry you always make mistakes ? Ha ha ..My English teacher would be horrified by !!!

    • I do remember Stanley Bard. He was very kind to me, a paradox of a man who believed hoteliers should support the making of art. At the same time, I suspect he also liked living in a human beehive where he was the guy in control, the person we all came to with our hand out. He didn’t often disappoint.

      • Stanley was a mensch.

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Oct 6, 2014 - Featured, Literary

Jane Urquhart hops on board the Writers’ Blog Tour

portrait Jane Urquhart

Last week, I tagged Jane Urquhart for the great Writers’ Blog Tour. Thanks to Jane for taking part and giving us a sneak peak into her writing process:

#1. What am I working working on?

I have recently finished a novel, The Night Stages. It is to be published in spring by McClelland and Stewart in Canada and Farrar Straus Giroux in the USA.

#2. How does the novel differ from others of its genre?

Difficult question. I’m not sure. It may be more important to say that it is different than any other novel I myself have written. Admittedly, parts of it are familiar terrain for me, but there is a significant subject in this book that concerns something I have never written about before.

#3. Why do I write what I write?

I am more comfortable in my skin when I know I have an alternative reality to disappear into. I have always day dreamed, and feel very blessed in that I’ve been able to make some use of that day dreaming.

#4. How does my writing process work?

I am always astonished when I finish a book in that I can never remember writing it. This is not to say that I can’t recall characters or landscapes. I mean the physical act of sitting down and typing out the sentences. I am not sure, therefore, what my writing process is. One thing I do know, however, is that it has been a great privilege to be able to spend a good portion of my life doing the two things I like the best: reading and writing.

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Have you heard of the #Writers’ Blog Tour? (Google it, and you’ll see all the various writers on the Tour.) Each writer tagged to join the tour posts answers to the same four questions on their blog. They might post answers all at once, or one at a time, whatever suits. They also provide links to the posts of writers who came before. Jane’s website is currently under development, so I was happy to share her answers on my blog. To see what I wrote for the tour, check out my blog below.

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Sep 4, 2014 - Literary

Summer is over and I’m on the Writers’ Blog Tour

My friend, the author Lauren B. Davis has tag teamed me for the next Writers Blog Tour. This summer, I’ve been isolated on a remote rock in the Georgian Bay, away from the online world but here we go again–the digital bliss of interconnection. I’m to answer the four questions below and then ‘tag’ two other writers to pick up the challenge:

1. What am I working on?

I’ve just finished my third draft of my new novel, The Dead Celebrities Club. It’s about a white collar criminal (born in Toronto) who runs a dead pool in an upstate New York jail. The idea is to pick the celebrity who will die before the other ones do, and there is a prison jackpot for the lucky winner.

DalePaul02

2. How does my new novel differ from others of its genre?

I can’t think of another novel that resembles The Dead Celebrities Club and I’m not sure how to classify it. Maybe the safest thing to say is that it’s a portrait of a certain kind of individual, the sly fox, who is always up for a new way to make money, an optimist who is out of touch with his feelings until the events he sets in motion catch up to him.

3. Why do I write what I write?

In Heroines of the Sexual Gothic, my recent theatre show with the Billie Hollies (an all female Gothic Noir musical group), I talked about how the protagonists in my novels represent a part of me that I repressed when I was younger because exposing that side of myself would have been dangerous or humiliating. But The Dead Celebrities Club has nothing at all to do with this theory of mine. So there you go!

4. How does my writing process work?

After I think and think and think and after I do a lot of research and make notes on a huge drawing pad, listing things like the ten most important scenes, and each character’s three favourite words, I dictate chapters in my first draft on an audio file. My assistant or myself types up the chapters. Then I revise until I’m blue in the face. For me, writing involves discovery although I usually have a bare bones outline that I use to start myself off. I don’t write about what I know exactly. I believe in writing about what obsesses you, and what you know will inevitably come into the story.

Have you heard of the Writers’ Blog Tour? (Google it, and you’ll see all the various writers on the Tour.) Each writer tagged to join the Tour posts answers to the same four questions on their blog. They might post answers all at once, or one at a time, whatever suits. They also provide links to the posts of writers who came before. To see what Lauren wrote, check out her blog below. And to see what the other authors wrote on their blogs, google the great Writers Blog Tour.

Lauren B. Davis, Author: Writers’ Blog Tour – Why do I Write What I do? Question #1

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