As I show up for work last Thursday, April 10, the police have surrounded NOW Magazine and blocked streets to our offices. Here we go again, I think, as I steer through alleyways and parking garages to avoid the dragnet. Dozens of police stand in the closed streets sporting all the latest variations on jodhpurs and jumpsuits that they get to wear. A few dozen robed priests go by, and I remember they're burying the cardinal today.
Our downtown offices near the Eaton Centre and Massey Hall make us the uneasy neighbours of St. Michael's Cathedral, directly across the street to our west. Within weeks of moving here in 1999, Andrew Cash authored an article listing the five worst churches for social change commitment in Toronto. Of course, we declared St. Mike's, our neighbour, the worst church in town.
Closed streets, the cops, the suits and the crosses. In a strange twist, the Canadian bourgeoisie have been airlifted into our neighbourhood, and they sombrely troop through the church's Gould Street front doors.
When the service finally starts, it's broadcast onto the street through loudspeakers. Cardinal Adam Maida, from Detroit, begins by welcoming guests and listing distinguished husbands and wives. I'm convinced I hear a hesitation as he welcomes the Right Honourable Premier Ernie Eves and "Mrs. Bassett" -- sinners surely?
Hours later, it's a jollier crowd who make their way out the back door of St. Mike's onto a sidewalk full of NOW staffers enjoying the sun and ringside seats from which the police can't move us along.
NOWniks are buzzing, contemplating who will emerge, and many lick their chops at the prospect of Ernie Eves. I find myself in the unfamiliar position of exploring being the reasonable one. Should we be bad-vibing people coming out of a funeral? But the wall of heavily made up, high-heeled TV reporters alongside flash photographers waiting to greet the dignitaries makes this a political zone. Why, here comes Lincoln Alexander, the man who makes baseball games political every time he appears on the Jumbotron urging fans to stand for God Bless America.
John Turner steps into the bright sun, and his brief bewilderment reinforces his role as the Liberals' lost man. As Bob Rae walks by, waves are exchanged and someone shouts, "We take it back, Bob." He smiles and disappears behind a bus.
When Premier Ernie and Mrs. B. emerge, the energy level leaps. Someone shouts, "Not this time, Ernie, not this time." Mrs. B. hustles off into a limo -- back to TVO, perhaps? -- while Ernie so appropriately lumbers up into a giant gas-guzzling SUV.
Somehow, Brian Mulroney eludes us during Ernie's exit. Prime Minister Jean Chretien pops out with local Liberal MPs. I'm not charged by the usual zeal I feel when facing down incumbent politicians. As the PM and his pals gather and giggle on the church steps, I realize they've got me with their anti-war stance. I'm actually proud of these guys.
As the limo swoops south on Shuter, another surprise: we all break into applause and Jean waves enthusiastically. Inside the limo, I later learn, Dennis Mills tells his boss, "Those people are cheering you because you defended our sovereignty."
That's right, Dennis, but mostly we're applauding because the PM has stood up for peace.
The limo sweeps off to Gerrard's Chinatown for dim sum, I head into my office, and a few diehards lie in wait for Mayor Mel, who we find out later has left through the other door.