The Road To Hell Is Paved With…

Calgary City Council decided to turn the screws on smokers a little more this week by making their already insane anti-smoker by-laws even more draconian.  Ward 10 Alderman Andre Chabot is pushing to ban all tobacco products near parks, sports fields, and pretty much everywhere that “youth may congregate.”  This is some delightfully vague wording that could literally mean anywhere.  I’ve personally seen youth congregating in all sorts of places including public sidewalks, parking lots, dog parks, in front of the local convenience store, pretty much everywhere.  Even if this is not the intent of Alderman Chabot’s amendment, anyone with half a brain can see what road this is heading down.  The anti-smoker lobby has apparently been pushing the city to intensify its war on smokers for some time now and this is only the next step towards total prohibition of tobacco and tobacco products in Calgary.

It’s certainly curious that when things are going okay, i.e.: when there are no real problems to worry about, these neo-abolitionist organizations seem to come out of the woodwork, and intensify their “anti-sin” agendas.  Or maybe it’s not curious at all.  I suppose these people have nothing better to do when times are good than to stick their noses into the private, completely legal, business of private citizens.  It reminds me of a quote attributed to German Pastor Martin Niemoller from the 1930’s.

“First they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Now before everyone gets his or her knickers in a twist, it’s an analogy!  Clearly I’m not saying the extremely well funded anti-smoker lobby, and their friends the Mayor and Calgary City Council are National Socialists who are marching smokers to their deaths!  Clearly this is NOT the case, but it doesn’t make the analogy any less valid.

What people don’t remember is where this all started.  Back in 2002 the City of Calgary rammed through a by-law making it illegal to smoke on the outdoor patio of a restaurant or bar, thus pushing their own left wing, anti-freedom of choice, anti-smoker agenda on private business for the first time, and starting a dangerous precedent.  I thought this absurd at the time.  Why stop people from smoking outside?  Some of the mealy-mouthed excuses for banning smoking on pub patios had to do with the idea that “children” walking by might see someone on the patio smoking and suddenly be unable to control their urges to walk into a 7-11 and buy a pack of smokes.  Even though it has been illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy tobacco products for years.  Then a year later, after all the smokers had been driven inside by the anti-smoker by-law, the city made it illegal to smoke inside a restaurant or bar, this time citing workplace employee health as the reason.  Very crafty of them actually because who can argue that the health of servers and bartenders isn’t important?  

People who know me know that although I am not a cigarette smoker, I do on occasion enjoy a fine cigar in the relative privacy of my own back garden.  I say “relative” because I live in a small, semi-detached townhouse/condo with a four-foot fence, that’s less than fifteen meters from a City of Calgary off-leash park.  One of many, many, many places “youth might congregate.”  If this new proposal is added to the already brutal anti-smoker by-laws, and is allowed to get an “easy ride through council” as Alderman Chabot says it will I might very well lose my right to enjoy an occasional fine cigar on my own private property.

What’s next I wonder?  I suppose the anti-drinker lobby could make a similar argument to the one the anti-smoker lobby made and have the Council ban the legal consumption of alcoholic beverages by persons over the age of 18 on a restaurant or pub patio, because of the off chance that a child might witness the activity!  Said child would of course be scared for life, then not be able to control his, or herself head straight to the closest liquor store only to be kicked out immediately for being under age.  But I guess these neo-abolitionists never think of things like "legal age restrictions," instead thinking that any four year old can just walk into a bar, light up a fag and order a shot of Jack Daniels.  Will somebody please think about the poor, defenceless children!  If "the kids" are the only reason nonsense like this gets pushed through Council, then why not just enforce laws already on the books, such as carding anyone who looks under 18?  I guess the Calgary City Council doesn’t think private business operators are smart enough to do that, which I suppose is why all tobacconists have to have the windows to their private businesses blacked out like a down-town row-house during the London Blitz. 

I understand that some of you out there may not be smokers, but I cannot stress enough that the FREEDOM to take pleasure in a LEGAL PRODUCT like a cigar, cigarette, pipe, or chewing tobacco is in PERIL.  It can’t be put any simpler than that, and if we don’t speak out against this further attack on smokers, who then will be left to speak up when the Calgary City Council gets around to taking away something you really do care about?


Lond Ho Adventures

One Shot: The Big Chair

Joe Cornelius Hunter kept his flat keys on a four-foot leather cord like a pendant around his neck.  He began this practice almost three months back when over the course of one week he mislaid his keys not once, not three times, but five times.  It was driving him bonkers to the point that he decided to keep his keys on his person at all times.  Of course he might not have gone to this somewhat extreme measure had he known that his roommate at flat 1401 of London House, Bill Williams, had been deliberately hiding his keys just to fuck with him.

He entered the building on the second level via the above ground tunnel entrance and proceeded to the elevator lobby.  The first lift to arrive was full, prompting Hunter to wait for the next one.  He stood and waited stewing about his miserable day spent working for the Cosmodemonic Security Company at BVS Towers.  Besides having to deal with the constant, petty, officious, and oft times callus bullshit that Thor “The Hutt” Jugg heaped upon him for most of the day.  Twenty minutes before the end of shift that lasted three hours longer than it should have, Hunter was sent down to the P3 level of the parkade to take a statement from an irate, and possibly drunken tenant about a minor vehicle break in.

The next lift arrived, devoid of human life, and as Hunter rode up towards his floor, he seethed.  The Cosmodemonic Security Company didn’t pay him anywhere close to the kind of money he should be getting to take the veritable heap of drunken abuse he was subjected to at the end of his shift.  He closed his eyes for a moment and it all flooded back to him.

“I was just down there two minutes ago!”  Hunter growled into his Motorola two-way.

“Well,” the crackly voice came back, “now I need you to go back and take the tennant’s report about the break in.”

He shook his head, “Ten-Four.”  His mind raced.  He had only just come from the parkade, which meant he was patrolling the third level maybe five or six minutes ago at best!  Was it even possible that a break-in could have occurred within seconds of him entering the stairwell and heading upstairs, then only moments later, having the tenant suddenly “discover” the break-in, call it in to the main switchboard, who then called Hunter on the radio?  It seemed unlikely to him, a bit dodgy really… He ran up the last few steps of the escalator, then sprinted to the elevator, taking the lift back down to the P3 parkade level, all in under two minutes.

Ten feet away from the two complainants, Hunter could smell the booze wafting off of them, so he steeled himself for what he knew would be an unpleasant encounter.  The one who owned the car, was visibly swaying, and had trouble focusing.  He pointed an accusitory finger in Hunter’s direction as he approached.

“About fuckin time you showed up!  I called yer office a half hour ago!”

Hunter very nearly rolled his eyes, Half-hour my ass!  More like ten minutes, if that! 

“What seems to be the trouble sir?”

The drunk executive looked confused for a moment, as if he had forgotten why he was there, “Trouble?  What the fuck you think the trouble is?  Look at this!”  He pointed drunkenly, this time at the 1989 BMW 323 with a shattered driver’s side window.

Hunter took a closer look and almost instantly noticed that almost all of the glass was on the concrete floor beside the vehicle with very little on the inside, almost as if it had been broken from the inside out.

“Whilst you security homos were playing grab-ass all night, some junky fuck smashed the window in my 90 thousand dollar car!”

The price sounded a little high to Hunter as he pulled out his notebook and a pen, in fact he thought he remembered an ad in the paper the other week for a brand new BMW 323 for considerably less than 90gr!  “Could I please have your name and the company you work at for my report please sir?”

“The name is Royer.  Daniel Royer and I work up at KPMG!  Now what the fuck are you guys gonna do about thish?  It’s a hunred thousand dollar car you know!”

Hunter scribbled down the name, “Did you see anybody suspicious when you arrived at the scene sir?”

“What the fuck?  How do I know?  I said what the fuck are you gonna do about thish?”

Royer’s buddy was standing in the background quietly, possibly trying not to be noticed.

Hunter stared at the silent man for a second, then turned back to Royer, “All I can do at this point Mr. Royer is take the report, and file it with the city police.  Now did you notice anything missing from the vehicle?”

Royer snarled, “No there’s nothing fuckin missing!  So all yer gonna do is prance around here acting tough and write a fuckin report eh?  I’m calling your boss and having you fired you little shit!  You have any idea who I am?”

A drunken douche-bag?  Hunter thought, as he whipped his report book closed.  “Thank you sir, were done here.”  Normally he would have tried to get more information from him, but this Royer character was being such a drunken ass that Hunter had enough.  He turned and headed back towards the elevator bank.  He was only a few steps from the door when a car squealed past him, about 20kph too fast for the parkade.

“Fuck you, you prancin’ faggot!”  Royer called out as they sped away in the second guy’s car, blasting up the ramp in a cloud of exhaust.

Both of the suit wearing ass-clowns were thoroughly soused.  It would have been easy just to call the cops, give them the plate number and a description of the car, and tell them the driver was impaired and let the chips fall where they might.  That would have taught those ignorant jerks a lesson.  But as it was, all Hunter did was take their abuse, write a very detailed report about it and head for home.  Oh, and seethe… oh yes there would be plenty of seething…

The elevator doors opened on the (technically) 13th floor of London House, Hunter turned and headed towards flat 1401 when he remembered the three beers left in the fridge.  He breathed a sigh of relief.  If there was ever a day when Hunter needed a beer after work, than this was it.

Hunter slid the key into the deadbolt and turned it.  The tumbler flipped too easily suggesting the door was unlocked.  He twisted the knob and pushed his way into the flat expecting to see Bill stretched out on the chesterfield crushing Hawkin’s Cheesies and watching CNN.  Instead he found himself staring at Jeri Tamara Ryan, a girl he had met six months ago at the Warehouse.  Jeri was tall, blonde and leggy, an attribute she excentuated by wearing the shortest of short shorts and skirts, even in the dead of winter.  She went to school at the Alberta College of Art, and over the last few months she had sort of attached herself to Bill, Hunter, and their group including fellow art student Paco.  This pleased Hunter, as he had always thought their group needed at least one chick in it to prevent every get together from becoming a complete and utterly depressing sausage party.

“Hey Hunter!”

He was confused, “Hey kid, uh, how’d you get in here?”

She swung her legs off the arm of the leather chair and planted them on the carpet, sitting up straight.  She folded over the page in the book she had been reading and took a sip of beer.  Hunter noticed it was his copy of White Noise, by Don DeLillo.

“Oh, I borrowed Paco’s key.  I have to go back to the school in a bit for some studio work, and I didn’t want to go all the way back to Okotoks, you know what I mean.”

Hunter shook his head, “Wait, this is May, aren’t you guys finished for the year yet?”

She took another sip of lager, “I have one last ‘end of the year’ project to finish, and one last exam (art history – yeesh) but other than that I’m done for the year.”

Hunter shrugged out of his long, black coat and hung it up in the closet next to Bill’s Canadian Forces parka.  He left his boots on and returned to the main room.

“Okay, I’ll forgive you because you’re new but just so you know, the chair you’re sitting in is My Chair®

“My chair eh?  So what’s that mean when it’s at home?”

“Well,” Hunter smirked, “the rule is that the person that sits in the chair in error has to sleep with the person that sat in it last,” he shrugged, “I don’t make the rules, but you know…”

Jeri raised an eyebrow, “Really-meats?  Because it sounds to me like you made that rule up… possibly just NOW!”

Hunter shook his head, “No no, it’s actually been a house rule since I dragged that five hundred pound thing here from BVS Towers two weeks after we moved into Lond Ho.  Did I ever tell you the tale?”

“Five hundred pounds eh?  Clearly you’ve lost all sense of hyperbole, but no you have never imparted to me the tale of the chair.  Should I prepare myself to be amazed?”

Hunter sat on one of the wide, poofy arms of the massive, room-filling chesterfield and began unlacing his fourteen-hole Doc Martens.  “It began on a cold October evening…”

*     *     *

“So-izzat! Ohboyohboyohboyohboy!”  Thor “The Hutt” Jugg burbled away, shifting in his creaking office chair, as it strained and protested against his massive girth.

Hunter looked up at the clock with bored annoyance, attempting to will it closer to 15:45, shift changeover time.  The tiny office was filled with the unpleasant smells of burned coffee, stale cigarettes and greasy B.O. so the sooner Hunter could get his ass out the better. 

Earlier in the day, the management company decided to auction their old furniture off to make room for the brand new ultra-modern chairs and tables that were to be delivered the next day.  Hunter was surprised that they actually let the contract security people like himself bid on items because normally only “true” employees of Hammer and Son were invited to take part.  This had sent Thor into a red faced rage, as it was his belief that contract employees were less than nothing, and should be treated as such.  They shouldn’t even be allowed to use the employee locker room, much less be invited to partake in Hammer and Son corporate events such as the furniture auction.  His anger at Hunter hit an all-time high when he had out bit Thor on one of the old, tan leather lobby chairs.  It was Thor’s own fault really, had he not been such a cheapskate he could have had the chair for just a dollar more, as Hunter only had a fiver to his name.

The door to the security office clicked and opened.  Hunter was relieved and stood up from his seat, only to be disappointed; it was David the afternoon supervisor, and not his relief man after all.  He was beginning to sit back down when Thor The Hutt began shooting off his blubbery mouth.

“Meester Unter!  Youse are not yet reliefed!  So take an zeat!”

Hunter decided to keep standing.

“Hidey ho there Ace!”  David smiled at Hunter.  “How you doing this fine day?”

“Gee Dave, I’m just swell!  And you?”  Hunter answered, David was a good guy, a Born Again Christian, but Hunter never held that against him.

“Another beautiful day courtesy of the Lord!  And I couldn’t be better thanks for asking.  Hey if you want to take off that’s okay, I can hold the fort.”

Thor struggled out of his chair and slammed his radio into the charging station.  “Daveed! I must half speaks wit jou!”

Hunter rolled his eyes.  Did The Hutt really think he couldn’t hear him?  In the microscopic confines of the security office the maximum distance one could be from another person was six and a half feet, and David and Thor were less than three feet from Hunter. 

“Jou cannot tell ze Dumfeld peoples ven they can und cannot leaf.  I are thy daytime superwisor zo eet ees mine yob to do dat.  Okay? So izzat!”

“Uh, alright then Thor, whatever you say.”  David said, shrugging.

“Ah so izzat then!  Ohboyohboyohboy!  I am off then und shall see youse tomorrow!”  He was very pleased with himself, it wasn’t everyday he got to pull rank and bully two people at the same time, and with a mighty slam of the door, Thor The Hutt was gone.

Hunter slumped down in his chair.  It was ten to four and still no sign of his replacement.

“Sorry about that misunderstanding Hunter, but you know Thor…”

“Yeah, no it’s not your fault he’s a total fucking asshole of a thieving Dutchman.”

David winced.  He didn’t like, or condone swearing of any kind, but had just about gotten used to Hunter’s almost constant use of them.  The only time he had put his foot down was when anyone took the Lord’s name in vain.  A ‘goddamn’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ thrown out in his presence and he would just about lose his nut.  Once he had gotten so angry, Hunter thought he was going to take a swing at him.  The memory of it brought a smirk to Hunter’s lips… some people were just too thin skinned!

The door rattled and opened and finally Hunter’s replacement “Cockney” James English had arrived.  He slid his keys and radio belt across the Formica table and stepped towards the door.

“See ya in hell boys!”  He said as way of a goodbye as he stepped out the door.  He stopped.  Something was wrong.  The chair that was sitting in the hall only ten minutes ago was gone.  Hunter reached back and caught the door before it could close.

“David,” he said calmly, “you see a big-ass leather chair in the hall when you got here?”

“Huh?  Oh well yes I did indeed!  Was it yours?”

“Yeah, I won it in the auction today.”

James spoke up, “Yeah, mate it was gone like when I got here yeah!?”

Revelation hit Hunter in the face like a slice of lemon wrapped arounf a large gold brick.

“Thor!  That enormous prick!  Thanks Jim, Dave, later!”

Hunter sprinted down the hallway, the anger building with every step.  How dare that greasy Dutch National Socialist bastard steal my freaking chair!  He skidded to a halt at the elevator bank and hit the call button five or six times.  Only a few seconds passed before the lift arrived.  With the ding of the bell the doors parted and Hunter jumped in and pressed P3.  The locker room was on P3, and it was also the only level security personnel, both regular employees and contract were allowed to park.  Excepting of course during the day shift when only Hammer and Son employees were given the privilege of a parking spot.

The door was only half open when Hunter squeezed through into the parkade lobby, then into the parkade proper.  He was running at full tilt when he came around the corner and spotted Thor The Hutt laboriously pushing Hunter’s oversized chair towards the back doors of his grey panel early eighties vintage Chevy van.


Thor looked back over his shoulder and cursed under his breath, knowing he was caught.  He stopped pushing the chair and stood as straight as he was able, huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive.

Hunter stopped running and walked slowly, deliberately up to the fat bastard, taking the time to catch his breath before speaking.

“So what’s all this then?”  He asked the panting Thor, who was holding a hand up in surrender.

“So izzzat, ohboyohboyohboy, jou caughted me meester Unter!”  He crashed his mighty girth down on to the bumper of his van, causing the suspension to creak in protest.

“What the hell man, I mean I know you fucking hate me, but stealing my five-dollar chair?  Even for a thieving Dutchman like yourself that shit is cold!”

“Jes, jes, vhateffer jou say meester Unter.”  Thor said, sorry only because he got caught.

“Yeah, whatever.  And by the way it’s ‘Hunter!’  With a fucking ‘H’ not ‘Unter’ with a fucking ‘U’!”

With that Hunter left The Hutt where he sat, on the bumper of his van, defeated and panting almost to the point of throwing up.

Hunter shoved the across the tarmac to the locker room where he changed, Superman quick on the off chance that The Hutt attempted further shenanigans.  The elevators were only a short distance from the locker room, and Hunter had a little trouble getting the chair into the lift, as it’s feet caught on the gap between the floor and the elevator car.  The doors closed on the chair, then sprang open again, and again, and again before Hunter realized pushing from the outside wasn’t doing any good.  He hopped over the chair and into the lift car, reached over the chair and grabbed the thick, heavy arm closest to the lobby and pulled, flipping the chair on to its side and into the elevator.  The doors slid shut and Hunter stabbed the ‘2’ (+15) button sending the elevator up and on its way.  When the doors opened he flipped the chair over the other way sending side over side and into the lobby.  Hunter flipped it onto its polished wooden feet and sat down for a moment on the chair’s thick seat cushion. 

The hard part was over.  Getting back to Lond Ho would be a piece of cake using the +15 system.  He thought.  The inner city was laid out in a grid pattern with many of its buildings featuring an interconnected series of second floor, enclosed pedestrian bridges known as +15s.  Hunter jumped up, spun the chair around and began pushing.  The chair slid quite easily and quickly along the low friction carpeted surfaces, and the tile flooring of the bridges.  He got some funny looks from the few people he passed and only on one occasion did he have to ask for help from a passer by to hold one side of a set of double doors open when the single door was just a couple of inches smaller than all the others.

Finally he was within sight of flat 1401!  The end was at hand!  It had taken just under twenty minutes to push the chair home and now victory was to be his!  Hunter fished out the keys from around his neck and unlocked the door, shoving it open.  He gave the chair a final shove.  It wouldn’t fit.  He tried flipping it on to its side, on its back, but it was a no-go.

“You have got to be kidding me!”  He said aloud.

“What the hell are you doing Hunter?”

Hunter looked up to see Bill standing on the other side of the door.

Hunter gave the hard won chair a kick, “Fucking thing won’t fit in the door!”

Bill stood back and took a sip of Drummond Dry, looked down at the chair and swallowed.

“Take the feet off numb-nuts”

Hunter looked at the chair, then back at Bill who was smirking “Don’t you give me that look.”

“What look?  I’m giving no look.”

“I think there was a look…”

Hunter and Bill quickly unscrewed the polished wooden feet and moved the chair into the flat, put the feet back on and shoved it against the wall by the bathroom door.  Hunter sat down.  This was the perfect spot.  He could see the TV without having to crane his neck, and it was equidistant to the kitchen and the bathroom, in other words: The Perfect Spot.

“Lemmie have a go Hunter.”  Bill said, motioning to the chair.

“Yeah, no this is now My Chair® in fact I might have to come up with a house rule so nobody sits in it but me… something ridiculous like a “sex clause” or something…”

Bill nodded, “It’s a good way to me not to sit in it that much is certain.”


*     *     *

“and that tootz, is the story of the chair.”

Jeri downed the last swallow from the tinnie of Drummond Strong, let out what Hunter thought was an impressive belch for a girl, then tossed the empty can in the direction of the recycle bin, missing it completely.  She made no move to pick it up.

“Well that was quite the tale,” she said pushing herself out of the chair and on to her feet, “I gotta get back to school.”

“Hey, come on we had a contract in principle!  By continuing to sit in the chair, ipso facto you agreed to the terms that accompanied said sitting.”

Jeri stepped into her Canadian Forces surplus parade boots, “I don’t disagree.”

“Well then?”

“You didn’t say when it had to happen.”  And with that she pulled on her heavy, paint stained sweater and took her leave.

The heavy door swung shut, and Hunter stood silently for a moment, walked over and snapped the deadbolt to the locked position.

“That’s not a ‘no’!”  He said aloud to no one.

Hunter exhaled and walked up to the recycle bin on his way to the fridge, pausing to pick up Jeri’s empty as he did.  He stopped.  There were more empties in the plastic bin than there should have been.  He had a bad feeling about this…

He dropped the can into the bin, wrenched open the fridge door.  He sighed, staring at the space where once there had been the remains of a six-pack of Drummond Strong awaiting his arrival home from a days graft.  He stood for a moment, feeling a flush of annoyance, then another thought hit him, a desperate thought for certain, but… He flipped open the butter shelf door and there it was; a single tinnie of Drummond Dry

Smiling, Hunter reached in to claim his prize.

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