Today as I walked along the beach, I saw the 25-foot art installation of Conrad the Raccoon and wondered if humanity has gone mad or have I?
Over my five years on this beach, I have written about the beautiful area of Toronto I live in. The Beaches, as this area is often called by tourists and newcomers like me. The long-term residents adamantly claim it’s The Beach. Tomato or Tomatoes is the best of both worlds for me. On the edge of the city, almost like a small town, it’s a series of contradictions.
The lake is one day beautiful and the next it is wild.
Surfers and families flock to play. Cold plungers wade in and alternate nostrils breathe even on the coldest of days. And even dead people like it here because at least three or four times a year one of them washes up on the beach. Even to the floaters, this is a good neighbourhood.
People love this area so much that they come here every day and leave hundreds of pounds of plastic on the beach which city workers clean up and we ship our garbage elsewhere. Out of sight out of mind. ( but we are getting rid of straws and plastic bags right?) The wealth here is astounding and the poverty is as well. As more and more people pay huge prices for land and big homes, rents skyrocket and so even more people flock to the beach area to sleep. If you are going to be homeless being next to the lake is not the worse place to be.
The big church next to me spent three years and millions of dollars being renovated so its dwindling very older population can restore this historical building. It’s gorgeous. and they are honestly very good people who do a soup kitchen. But have built an an-of-the-cold program that cannot be opened because Mayor John Tory didn’t want the homeless spreading Covid by sleeping in close proximity. Apparently, the frostbite and disease from living in the back alleys were much better choices. Tory is no longer mayor and as my friend, and comic Adam Crawley, said, “I hope Tory doesn’t need a warming shelter after his wife kicks him out for cheating.”
The opposites contained in that reality mean these two demographics butt up against each other more and more. Last week, five police came to protect a wealthy owner’s house from being invaded by a woman with severe mental health issues. As she sat in their front yard, screeching nonsensical protests, the people inside looked on as big policemen tried to coax her off their property. Despite their bad rap, the cops seemed quite gentle, one, in particular, talking kindly to her for nearly 45 minutes. Of course, there were many witnesses. Hundreds of bystanders gawked on as if they had stumbled upon a new streaming show on Crave. As selfies were taken and videos posted to Tik Tok, there was much speculation about why she’d be so stupid to have a mental crisis on a property with a security system. “They don’t think, do they?” said one man, more as a statement than a question.
Yes, this challenge to hold two opposing realities is our invitation these days. How do we reconcile it all?
Today, as I was down on Q-beach and as Burt, ran around in circles having a ball with other dogs I stumbled upon the art installation of Conrad the Raccoon. Beside it, there was a plaque that said, “For the raccoon who inspired love and compassion in this city.”
I did a double-take. It looked like a giant wire teddy bear. It didn’t look like Conrad, at all. In fact, how I met Conrad was the way the whole city did. Dead. Rotting on a sidewalk. In 2015 Conrad became an overnight sensation because the city took days to come to remove his rotting bones. A guy on Twitter posted daily updates and he blew up online ( and from rigour mortis) Things online come and go quickly but apparently, Conrad has enough staying power to be part of an art installation 8 years later.
I won’t get into the debate about how other statues of other beings have been erected for far worse things. Or whether Conrad deserves this recognition or not. Believe, me I am not raccoon-bashing. Yes, he wore a mask but not on the right part of the face. And has no one on the world wide web investigated Conrad’s back story? Has no one unearthed a picture of him as a younger raccoon, spying in windows at the girls’ prep school? That no one found some security video of the time he was screaming at someone’s family dog. I find it shocking that not only did someone take the time to make a piece of art Conrad’s art installation is over 25 feet tall but Conrad’s statue has a sign that says “Please don’t climb on this.” I wonder if Conrad would have respected the same instructions.
I phoned my kids to rant about Conrad. I thought they’d be on my side as I challenged them to consider that the poor are not remembered, how the woman dragged away has no name and the floaters that wash up on the beach not getting statues in honour of them. I spit and spewed for 10 minutes about how putting up a statue for a dead raccoon symbolizes the end of humanity as we know it. When I finished they said, “Mom, love is love, and Conrad was cool. Don’t be on the wrong side of history about this. ”
The wrong side of history? Come on is logic being muted by this faux understanding? Has reasoning no place in this society?
If I want to be invited over for Easter dinner, I have two choices, either put a muzzle on these feelings or be given a time-out in the “Old Fart” corner.
UPCOMING SHOWS AND WRITING CLASSES
4-week Writing class –April 15th on zoom 10 Am to 12:15 EST: Theme: The Crossroads Of Your Life: EARLY BIRD Special 209. plus HST ( firstname.lastname@example.org to register and pay) Please register by March 20th to receive the discount.
The Mother of All Mother’s Day Shows is going to be a great gift for your mom or kids. May 13, and 14th. I am host and comic, co Starring singer Babz Johnston. Its at the Comedy Bar East on The Danforth in Toronto and its accessible.
New show Charlottetown P.E.I Sept, 6-11th. At The Guild. Tickets on sale soon.