Say "buttermilk" to someone and it's kind of like saying "blue cheese." Everybody goes, "Yecchh," but when pressed they'll admit they've never really given it a chance.
My ma enjoyed it as a child when they kept a cow on their place in what is now part of Toronto. It's the ideal food for this filthy weather. Add mint, cucumber and salt (in a blender is best) and you've got refreshing sustenance with no cooking.
"Cold buttermilk" and "Do as little as possible" are my two tips for surviving infernal summer days. Air conditioning is cheating that only contributes to bad weather.
This is the time to be nocturnal. The raccoon amusement park opens out back before the sun has fully set. The junkyard cats have become very blasé about the takeover of their territory. In the middle of the night my place becomes the training ground for home invasions. They're learning. Around here, I rule the night.
It was at night that I visited the swan watch at the Music Garden at Harbourfront. All day long Mother Swan guards her nest, warming her six (they think) big eggs while Mr. Swan is off somewhere else. He drops by when the crowd is right to preen and play to the audience.
Mrs. Swan, on her bed of sticks in this watery gully choked by oil from nearby yachts and party boats, gets no rest. Everywhere there's movement. From all sides, rats are attacking the nest. Some are burrowing, trying to chew their way to the swan's delectable unhatched babies.
I'm standing with a pleasant gentleman who does not like living outside but is forced to due to our survival-of-the-richest system. Here we are, seeing the other side of the story of the beautiful urban swan. But for her bit of greasy water, the swan is on the street. Like people who live on the street, she's fighting enemies that nice people who pass by in the day don't see.
My swan-watching friend tries to make a living retrieving beer bottles worth 10 cents each. Harbourfront condominiums are full of people who throw these returnable bottles into their blue boxes. The boxes go out on the sidewalk. This gentleman is very aware of economics and ecology. He says that in 10 minutes he can save 50 pounds of bottles from needlessly being trucked to the smashers to be made into bottles again. He has managed up to eight 24s of empties on his bike. So he's providing a service and earning the money he needs to pay to sit in a restaurant.
But no, of course not. He says the threats he receives are escalating. Recently, the boss of the condo guy who began bugging him last year, at first with snide comments, came outside and stated, "The board of directors have directed me to call the police." This guy and every other of his ilk always say, "I'm just doing my job."So is the bottle collector.
The security guards and guys in suits are acting on condo owners' behalf. The residents are the ones who throw glass dimes away. Do they really have something against this fellow saving them? To his face they might say no. But their board of directors, their building managers and security guards are the ones making his hard life harder.
Nice people avoid personal confrontations and hire men to have them for them. It's the way of the world, and Toronto is world-class!
A character I have never seen before has turned up lately. He walks around with a cage in either hand filled with parakeets and budgies and other coloured birds. He offered me two for $10. He's out every Saturday in Little Portugal. The bottle man recently saw an Ontario conservation officer in his Smokey-the-Bear American-style hat and bulletproof vest, a 9mm Glock on his hip.
"Are you here to check on the swan?" the bottle man asked innocently.
"I'm up to a lot more than that," was the ominous reply.
International poaching ring? I suggested maybe he was in Toronto on some all-levels-of-armed-police field exercise organized by the new ruler of Ontario, Julian Fantino. I have heard more than one anti-terrorist show of force exhibition mentioned on the radio as a fun day out for the family. They were in small towns. Here, they probably don't advertise.