So, I’ve been scribbling nonsense regularly in this blog for a year now, and here is the sum total of everything I’ve learned in the process: If your topic is beer, large numbers of people will be curious about what you have to say. If you write about practically anything else, no one will care.
Of the 37 encyclicals I’ve issued — this is the 38th — the two installments devoted to the subject of beer attracted exactly four times the traffic of the next most-read topic (which was about an undeservedly obscure rock singer named Lotti Golden.) The beer-related pieces delivered eyeballs, but my carefully constructed considerations of muy serio topics such as dying newspapers and beastly Dick Cheney drew flies.
I detect a winning formula here. You’ve got to give the people what they want: beer. This seems to be the case for visitors to this blog, hailing, as they do, from 30 countries, including several where they don’t encourage beer consumption, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Plainly, this discovery calls for a beer. The challenge for the coming year will be to work some sort of beer reference into each post. Actually, it really isn’t that much of a challenge, since you can conveniently divide all the world’s experiences into two categories: those which can be better understood, or improved upon, by having a beer in your hand, and those which cannot. (Thanks to Plato for his early work in formulating this approach.)
Working down the list of my past year’s greatest hits, my fourth most-read post was an appreciation of the late Ted Rogers, a fellow I probably wouldn’t have cared to have a beer with. But, you need to give the devil his due. Yesterday, they dedicated part of a street in Toronto to Rogers, which is an extraordinary occurrence. This isn’t a town big on handing out recognition or acknowledgements, unlike Paris, Brussels, or Montreal, where you earn a street named in your honor if you happened to be a dry-cleaner who didn’t mix up the orders too often. (Toronto’s usual rules of disengagement don’t apply if you’re some sort of hack municipal politician, in which case you’re certain to be recognized with your name on a nice big expressway, or a cute neighborhood dog-run.)
True that there’s a so-called Walk of Fame somewhere in the west end, but that was mainly created to pay tribute to non-entities, such the cut-ups who appeared on TV game shows that no one watched. We’ve always felt safe and virtuous about elevating the mediocre in Toronto, but quickly get tetchy should someone act too big for their britches.
The songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, for example, is a giant, who deserves an outsized bronze statue on Yorkville Avenue, or perhaps outside the former site of Steele’s Tavern on Yonge Street, where he performed. He ain’t going to get one. Neither will legendary musicians such as Ian Tyson or Murray McLaughlin, or the poets Raymond Souster and Al Purdy. Toronto is a cold, cold town. The very name is derived from an Ojibwa phrase that means: Place-where-they-might-give-you-a-zoning-permit,-but-first-you-need-to-bribe-a-city-politician. (Although several scholars with a more scatological bent insist that a more accurate translation is: Place where they wouldn’t bother urinating down your tonsils even if your kidneys were on fire.)
So it is that there’s no portion of University Avenue named to honor Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow in his hometown, but all he ever did was figure out some obscure surgical manoeuvre that led to countless lives being saved.
Ted Rogers is deemed worthy of honor, no doubt for his pioneering contributions toward “system access fees” and “negative-option billing,” two innovations that enabled him to syphon cash from sleepy-eyed cable-TV subscribers across the Dominion of Canada. That, in a nutshell, was Ted Rogers’ Way — and that is what I’ll recall, should circumstances lead me to stroll down the newly christened Ted Rogers Way.
There is a nice symbolism in a portion of Jarvis Street being named for the communications kingpin. Back around the time Ted was collecting his law degree at the University of Toronto, the thoroughfare was commonly called “Tawdry” Jarvis Street, or “Notorious” Jarvis Street, and it was widely known for its streetwalkers. The sex-trade workers long ago moved elsewhere, making the sidewalks safe for boardroom icons, such as dead Ted, to step out of their limousines without concern. Let it be known that working gals will never again be welcome on Ted Rogers Way, at least unless the Rogers organization can devise a plan to somehow incorporate the trolling bawds’ activities into their consolidated corporate earnings statements.
But, as I say, you might as well give the devil his due. Unlike various former big-wigs in the Toronto media business who are currently incarcerated here and there, Ted steered well clear of the jailhouse, and we salute him for that. You try to picture a hypothetical Garth Drabinsky Drive, or Rue de Myron Gottleib, or, I regret to add, Lord Black Boulevard, and what comes to mind is an appropriately dismal stretch of Gerrard Street East or Broadview Avenue in close proximity to the Don Jail. That ancient lockup is not what anyone with a dictionary would call salubrious, and I’m led to believe that no matter how much you scheme or wheedle, once the cell-door slams, that spells the end of Happy Hour. The readers of this blog will want it to be said of Ted that, unlike some others, right until the very end he was entirely within his legal right to tell the waitress to bring him a beer.