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Gen X - Rob Ford - Graffiti

Posted by Chris on August 11, 2011 at 2:45 AM

 "Dad that's sooo not cool", says my 14 year old daughter as she eyes me up and down commenting on my outfit as I am about to leave the house. "Not cool", I think to myself, " how could this not be cool", checking myself out trying not to get caught checking myself out. My kids do that to me, they make me question everything and they know it.    

As I left the house I wondered, "not cool" when did I become not cool. My entire fashion life has been jeans, t-shirt and a good pair of boots, and I thought I was doing well, until now. It seemed my commitment to never wearing a suit had backfired and I was now a victim of my own rigid dogma.  

"Babe, you ok", my girlfriend interjects as I am standing at car door seemingly lost in thought, "could you open the door please". It's date night as we head out to watch a movie. "Sorry babe," I press the button and the door lock releases. As we drive to the movie, I venture out of my head and ask my girlfriend if she thinks my outfit sucks trying not seem insecure about the whole thing, upon which she points out that my outfit was fine. I sensed diplomacy was afoot but by now I was fully insecure and launched into tirade about my blunts and that they were the best pair of shoes that I have ever owned and I don't understand why everyone has to make a big deal about them. "I know that honey, But you own three pairs of the same shoe, in different colors".  Then it hit me, "I've become my father", I thought to myself. My dad, god bless him, is exactly like that. I remember as a teenager making fun of him for the exact reason that my child was now chiding me.

Generation X

That was pretty much the extent of my 40th year. The year 2010. I had essentially been an adult for 20 years with experience and memories and was now being told by my 14year old who, by the way, was wearing the same shit I used to wear when I was a teenager, that I am sooooooooo not cool. WTF.

Turning 40 in downtown G20 Toronto was crazy as both my restaurants kinda served as the border line for the crazy shit that went down. It was a pretty surreal moment as I watched 60 cops dressed in full riot gear pull up on the corner of Church and Richmond and practiced a containment drill just in case "the crazies" came that far east.  While I felt grateful for the protection I couldn't help but notice the ease at which they helped themselves to my washroom facilities, trudging through my space like gunslingers scaring the shit out of the few brave souls I did have. At this point I reflected on where I'd be if I were 20 years younger and why I wasn't out there demonstrating with them now.

Crazy is what's happening in London right now, what was happened in Toronto wasn't. We forgot that  98% of the "the crazies" were in fact average law abiding citizens expressing their right to peaceful demonstration, some of whom, were good friends of mine. The more I thought about it the more I realized that I was fine, that my core values were still intact. That's what I love about "living in the city", living in the bowels of it, where the crazy shit goes down. It keeps you relevant because you are living it, feeling it, breathing it.

I say relevant because that is one of the main issues as we get older we just don't feel like it's that important anymore to be concerned about anything else other than our mortgage, our kids, how we are going to pay for everything and that asshole at work who keeps disturbing our otherwise peaceful tranquillity. That's it. While it's natural to relate to the world differently as we get older, the world oddly enough is still pretty much the same as that of when my boomer father had inherited War and bullshit. Remember the first Live Aid concert in 1984 to save the starving children in Ethiopia? Well add Somalia and Kenya to the list in 2011. London is on fire and the rest of Europe is about to implode.

My generation living in North America, Generation X, has largely observed this phenomenon from afar in air conditioned comfort. We flip a switch and there's light as its always been, turn a tap and there's water as its always been and we want it to continue being that way.   "Been there, done that" the phraseology for perpetual boredom was coined by my generation, and the generation consumed by consumerism is about start paying penance.


In the city of Toronto, in these times of Fiscal austerity we've dealt with the situation by electing to public office  a man who supporters and non supporters alike all agree has some mental health issues.  Now Rob Ford is the Mayor of the fifth largest city in North America and a Gen Xer to boot, promising to stop the gravy train at city hall. WTF were we thinking. In truth we were not. Angry perhaps but not really cognizant of the consequences. That ocean of anger gave us the wave that is Rob Ford. He is  both the beauty and the tragedy of the democratic system. You need lemons to make lemon aid. It's lemon aid time and the beauty of the democratic system is that you only get what you ask for and in our case quite tragic.

We all know a "Rob Ford" that guy in high school you weren't so sure of, or maybe that asshole at work. Rob Ford at Toronto City Hall was the asshole at work who got the big promotion and now he will fuck over anyone who gets in his way. But life isn't junior high or is it. Recently, a friend of mine pointed out that what we witnessed in the last Mayoral election was the first in a conspiracy that began in 1995 with the Mike Harris common sense revolution. Amalgamating the city of Toronto into the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) hasn't really resulted in any savings whatsoever (ok so we got 311 to vent our frustrations). What it did change was the constituencies and that allowed for the suburbs to have a greater say in Toronto's municipal politics. As he puts it,"This is the revenge of the burbs mate, revenge of the burbs", with a decidedly English accent, "Do you know anyone who voted for Rob Ford?" My blank stare confirmed his suspicion, "There ya go, that's because you live downtown mate, it's the suburbs that elected that daft ignoramus, and now they plan to paint the city Bay-view Village Beige. Now they want me to paint over the beautiful mural that your friend painted on my garage wall, bugger". As I walked my dog through the back alley along Queen St I am reminded that I've been observing this art for nearly 20 years an art form that my generation popularized in the 80s. Popularized because Graffiti has always been around, the writing has always been done on the walls, people everywhere have risked their lives to write on the wall. People travel all over the world to take pictures of walls with strange markings. It's current form is only about 30 years old, it's Pig Latin for Artists. You know what's up when you see the walls. Galleries just don't make money from from art that belongs to everyone. Remember Art is also a business. Of late an effigy of Rob Ford popped up in the alleyway behind the restaurant on queen it's a classic.That is a piece of art that I think that everyone should see so much so I made a T-shirt of it.

The back alley along queen between Spadina and Niagra is now known as Graffiti lane and attracts tourists from all over the globe taking pictures of the art in the alley.  A few months ago I got a letter in the mail from the city advising me to  paint over my mural or they will paint it over and slap the bill on my next property tax bill. The thing is that the artist Jabari Elliot (aka Elicser) who painted that mural ten years ago now has work exhibited at the ROM in their permanent collection and is responsible for at least ten pieces in the alleyway between Spadina and Niagra. I informed the city  that the work on my wall was commissioned by me and is painted by a well known artist.

It seems I am not alone in my approach as in the past few months in my alley way alone five new murals have popped up. Threats from the city have only resulted in more murals as people pay Graffiti artists to paint murals on their walls rather than create a blank slate for taggers and declare it art.

I guess you have to live downtown to get it. The walls of the back alleys are alive with art that tells us of what's going on in the minds of next generation, they tell stories as they did before we left the caves. I was one of those kids and look how well I turned out (insert laugh here). As a Gen Xer graffiti is the art form that we invented and as I look at my 14 year old flex my old style a smile comes over me.  Maybe Rob Ford is doing the same thing, maybe he is a closet graffiti art fan after all and is conspiring to legitimize it as he is doing right now,"declare it art or I'll have my minions paint it over, heh heh heh, what do you think of that one Doug, man this Kush is strong", as he inhales in the garage.

Love is love.  


HARLEM UNDERGROUND                                                                                                                745 Queen Street West




Harlem restaurant | 67 Richmond St. East | Toronto | Ont. | Canada

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