Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Ontario Coalition against Poverty (also see our links list) has mounted a campaign in support of restaurateur Victor Jiang, a Chinese immigrant who operates a restaurant on behalf of his elderly father in downtown Toronto (the view from here in the West is Ick!, but we'll leave that aside). The powers that be in TO have determined that no good deed should go unpunished and hence they are determined to close down this restaurant, the Cabbagetown Restaurant, first by denying it its liquor licence because it is "a centre of drug dealing and drunkenness" (even though it closes in the early evening). Mr. Jiang has become something of a local fixture because he offers a place where poor people can gather and socialize. He is very easy going about tabs and even has gone into the street to invite poor people in for a free snack and coffee. The real reason why Mr. Jiang is being persecuted is that "development plans" are afoot to "upscale" the neighbourhood he operates in, and a restaurant catering to poor people just doesn't fit into such plans. The OCAP website will hopefully explain more about this campaign. Go there to see more.
Why this tweaks Molly's diminishing number of memory neurons is that I can remember exactly the same sort or gathering places from my misspent youth. When I was about 13 my father retired and we moved into one of the "not nice" neighbourhoods of downtown Regina (though hardly the most "not nice" one). It was like right out of 'West Side Story'. I actually lived in Regina's "West End" and picked up the usual turf stuff very quick. It helped that I came in from the country and was at least twice as strong pound for pound as any city kid and was even quicker. Took me a little time to pick up the nastiness, however. Nowadays this sort of culture shock is reserved for the poor buggers who come in from the reserve, but 40 years ago it was the fate of a lot of us "white boys" as well. At the time we fought occasional petty wars with others from the same class from Regina's "North End" (presently Regina's worst neighbourhood), but our main venom was reserved for the more affluent people in the "South End". Lots of stuff to tell there, but it is long ago and far away.
But anyways, while I was trying to make my way as a country boy in this alien environment I rapidly became aware of certain "points of honour". There were certain small businesses that were located in our neighbourhood whom we very obviously recognized as "our own". We were befriended by the owners and whatever the conflicts that might arise from our "occasional"(or more than occasional) bad behavior, all was forgiven in the end. These businesses gave coherence to the neighbourhood, not just to us kids but to all residents. None of this stuff was very "politically correct" in our present day phraseology. Because us kids were on the street at all sorts of hours we would beat the shit out of anyone trying to break into "Willy the Chinaman's " store. Later in life I had the opportunity to help his son who was studying in the sciences. This was not done out of any ideology such as is common today but only because "Willy" was recognized as "one of us". You "owe" your own.
It was a different world that most people today cannot appreciate, where class and neighbourhood trumped the sort of identity politics that was to be invented shortly thereafter. West Side Story, like I said.Similarly for "John the Greek" who ran the "Chicken Inn". It was a "hangout" in the same sense that I suspect Mr. Jiang's place is. Though we were "rougher" in some ways and far less "rough" in other ways. The world changes. John had what he called the "Centennial Broom". He went to Expo 67, and named his weapon after it. He's use this club to break apart a few of the fights we started in his restaurant. He also used it twice (at least when I was present) when thieves attempted to rob him. After he's downed the thugs the rest of us would get in on the job to finish the beating. NEVER was anybody beaten to the point of near death, and NEVER were the police called. Also never did any fool try to come back to either Willy's or John's.
Presently Molly lives in what is basically a middle working class neighbourhood. She likes it. Life is nowhere near as rough now here. Molly is much older now. But still....
EVERY time when someone talks about "revitalizing a neighbourhood" what they are really talking about is pushing either sleaze or working class people to somewhere else. Molly's old "13th Avenue" neighbourhood in Regina has seen a gradual expansion of trendiness,expanding each year from the East to the West. I see the results every year when I visit the city to see relatives(none of whom live in the old neighbourhood). From a blinkered "lefty" point of view this may seem great, as the "trendiness" looks like progress to their eyes. Downtown is worse. It's a concrete area of monuments that makes downtown Winnipeg look "vibrant". That is the "vision" of those lefties who see no problem in joining the Liberal Party. No room for those left behind in their "progressive" vision. I forget how many "unsolved fires" occurred in each year to clear the area for this development. For those in the know!!!-God bless Montreal. At least Winnipeg never got into the "arson mode of urban redevelopment". Better an abandoned storefront than a burned out hulk that would serve as a good parking lot here in Winnipeg.
So, for any readers of this blog, go to the OCAP site. Do what you can to help in this "conservative" cause because not all progress is good. Think of your own childhood. Long live real conservatism !!!

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