When I returned to Toronto (the city of my birth) from the hinterlands of small town Ontario in 1990, I began what would be a four year run as a full time working musician. By 1994 however, the gigs were paying less and less, and had become a bit less plentiful, so to supplement my income I took a part time job at Cosmo Music out in the wilds of Scarberia. According to local legend, the name Cosmo is an abbreviation of COSt MOre, by the way. Anyway, they were assholes to work for, so I promptly quit one day, and realizing that I had to do something to top up the rent money, I flipped through the Help Wanted ads in the back of Now magazine.
There was an add for a tele-fundraising company by the name of Goyeau Communications, looking for callers. I contacted them and set up an interview for the following week. When I arrived at Goyeau's offices at Yonge and Gloucester (which is about as "downtown" as you can get in Toronto), I was greeted by the office manager, Daryl, and one of the supervisors, a tall wiry fella named John O'Keefe. They interviewed me, and offered me the job, which I accepted. On my first day there, I met my future wife, and over the next few months I soaked up the atmosphere that was created by a room full of would-be artists and liberal-thinking types that made up my gang of co-workers. It was during breaks between calls that I jotted down the lyrics for "She Dates Creeps", "American Dream" and a few other future Folkpunk gems. So you could say I have fond memories of working there.
The supervisors, including John, also put in shifts dialing would-be contributors to worthy causes such as Amnesty International, or Kids Help Phone. It was then that I realized that John O'Keefe was probably one of the funniest people I'd ever worked with. If he was speaking to somebody who was stonewalling, he'd keep hitting his phone's mute button during the conversation, so the person on the other end wouldn't hear him berating them for two seconds before John carried on with his sentence. It got the point that he could spout out a complete sentence, peppered with phrases worthy of Lewis Black on a good day, all the while clicking the mute button on and off like he was sending a telegram by Morse code. To anybody sitting near him, it was all we could do to not burst out into hysterical laughter while we ourselves were speaking to a potential donor.
Also around this time a band called The Presidents of the United States had a hit on the radio entitled "Lump", and John and I would catch each other humming it at work. We had a running gag about how "you know, the kids today, they got their skateboards, and they got their Doc Martens, but they love their Lump."Goyeau Communications folded in early 1996, and we all went our separate ways, but a lot of us would sort of keep in touch through other co-workers, or grab a quick pint if we ran in to each other somewhere. I hadn't seen John in at least a couple of years, but always meant to get in touch with him at some point.
Last weekend, John went out with some friends for a couple of drinks, not too far from where Goyeau had been located. As he was leaving the pub and walking up Yonge Street to catch the subway home (typical John, he was a supporter of things like public transit and bike lanes) he passed by a strip club, and was shot in the head by some useless little fuck from the suburbs who had just been tossed out of the strip club by the club's bouncer. The aforementioned useless little fuck decided that shooting the bouncer would be a good idea, but he missed and hit John instead. John died almost instantly, leaving his nine year old son to sort out just how fucked up this city and the rest of the world really are.
When Mel Lastman was mayor of this dump, he used to prattle on that Toronto is a "world class city", although how a world class city ended up with a dope like Lastman for a mayor is beyond me. Maybe he meant "THIRD world class city". In order to live anywhere decent in this rat's nest you now have to fork over about $400,000, just for the privilege of having idiots shoot your friends while your friends are minding their own business. The air quality gets worse by the minute, the condos downtown which started to sprout up uncontrolled while Lastman was mayor (I believe one of his sons is a condo developer, handily enough) have increased the population density to the point that gridlock and over-crowded public transit is the norm, and in spite of all of it there are still a few bozos who think Toronto is a wonderful place to be. Well, maybe back when John O'Keefe and Goyeau Communications were around, but not anymore.
So that, boys and girls, is why I cancelled my upcoming gig at Bread And Circus. I didn't really have it in me to stand in front of a microphone and be an entertaining performing flea for yourselves and a bunch of drunks from Kensington Market. Not now, and probably not anytime soon. Sorry. What a fucked up world.