By Kirk Verner
June 22, 2010
2:08 PM EDT
Downtown Toronto is a fortress. I stand on the corner of Bay Street and Front Street feeling more rodent-like than human. I look left and then right, searching for a pile of cheese hidden amidst the kilometres of fencing. The feeling of insecurity pulses all around me faster than the enlarged raindrops filling a puddle at my feet. Is it possible to smell fear? It must be, I can smell it. It is the smell of burning rubber escaping from the feet of fast walking businessmen trying to “wrap-up” this week’s workload early enough to avoid coming to the office on Friday. The light scent of salt can also be detected by my busy nostrils; it is the smell of foreseen tears, I can taste them in the back of my throat. The G20 Summit Meeting is gracing Toronto.
I’m not sure if hosting one of these wretched events is as enjoyable for the regular people of Toronto as much as it is for a gaggle of suits trying to bolster the image of Toronto into one of “first-class” ranking. Signs hang in nearly every storefront window in the area disclaiming any association with the events that are sure to unfold this weekend. Some of the hand-written notes even display heartfelt apologies from business owners to their patrons using words like, “Unfortunately…, Under the circumstances…, Regrettably…, and Please return on Monday…” Now that I notice it, the sidewalks are free of many people; free of determined shoppers, tourists lugging bags overflowing with Blue Jays’ gear, and actually free of anyone that isn’t sporting some sort of weapon, mask, or bundle of Zip Ties I assume will serve as handcuffs in a pinch.
Streets are lined with sturdy, at least eight-foot high and in some places even taller, fencing. It is the sort of material you will find lining the exteriors of carnival rides; the thick steel that essentially holds your brains and entrails inside of a pod as you are hurled around in every direction. It is the type of fencing that has an inch-wide diamond pattern covering its face; cleverly manufactured to be too small for any would-be terrorist to fit their creepy, little toes through, yet large enough for the Riot Squad to saturate frantic crowds with pepper spray.
The presence of extra police and security is everywhere. FBI-looking cronies wearing snug black suits, sunglasses, and gloves linger in areas only I would roam. They frown at me and furrow their brows while I walk. I feel like Osama Bin Laden, minus the cracker crumb blown beard and M-16; although, I would like to challenge old O.B.L. to some skeet shooting.
I am now standing in front of Rogers Centre, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Scalpers try to sell me tickets for tonight’s Jays/Cardinals matchup, but I am still memorized by the fencing and police activity. Like cattle rambling to water on a summer’s afternoon eight or so officers on bicycles slowly pedal past me up a slight slope underneath the CN Tower; the paved path in which they ride would certainly be blanketed by the tower’s ominous shadow on a sunny day, but not today. I ponder buying Blue Jays’ tickets but am reluctant due to my desire to spend very little time in this concentration camp of an area. “Click…click,” goes my camera, and I am off.
If I am to die a hideous death it will without a doubt be granted by my own hands; I refuse to be on the World’s News as simply b-roll. You will not see me downtown or on a subway for a week. I only wish for the best, but fear the worst.