Elm Street has lingered in my mind for as long as I can remember. I can’t recall when it got planted there. After having it in my thoughts for years, rekindled every so often by my mother’s interjections “they’re from Elm Street” about Italians whose origins she knew of, I recently learned that Elm Street riding West from Yonge Street to University Avenue was part of a ghetto-like district known as the Ward where various groups of immigrants had settled since the Victorian era. Till I learned of the Ward I knew only my mother’s reminders without which I don’t think I’d ever have known there was an Elm Street, an Italian immigrant locale other than my father’s Grace and Dundas little Italy, I’d simply have known that Barbarian’s Steak house was off Yonge Street somewhere between Gerard and Dundas, maybe near the Gerard Street village where I used to wander from the old Yorkville village when I’d begun playing drums on “the strip”. In time, through recollections like frames in an old film played backwards, I’ve begun to recall events that were linked by Elm Street which had for years been simply isolated incidents separately memorable but with nothing in common. Now I know that they all touched Elm Street.
My first memory is of a time when I was still young enough to be driven around by my father who once drove to a Victorian style building still standing wrapped in a kind of semicircle round the south west corner of Elm and Bay, just up from the bus depot. I sat in the car and waited until he returned from meeting his brother-in-law, my uncle Tony eventually proprietor of a show club, in that building that probably functioned as a restaurant. Then there was the time years after when Mr. Dave Cooper owner on the Zanzibar insisted on showing me his brand new bar Davy C’s wrapped around the south east corner of Elm and Bay, now a chicken product eatery opposite that other corner building my father visited years ago. Then of course there was Lou Miles clothing store where everyone including Ronnie Hawkins and even Chubby Checker had their suits made on the west side of Yonge round the corner from Elm Street. I just now realize that my uncle’s name Tony Mille, visited by my father at the corner of Bay and Elm, had a surname that resembles Miles. Both names originated in Italy and I think that my uncle may have been born there. And recently I’ve concluded that Frank and Sandy’s barbershop then on the east side of Yonge just up from the Zanzibar not far from Elm and Yonge was likely a kind of Elm Street outgrowth that offered hair cuts and big photographs of actor and athlete celebrities getting their hair cut: by Sandro, Cosimo or Ignatio; whenever they visited the Yonge Street strip.
Journalists writing about politics too often seem to share the same glossary of offensive unthinking epithets. When one wishes to learn what a politician is doing that might improve public life writers simply revert to their derogatory journalese of racist and sexist. They rarely try to inform readers or television listeners precisely what a politician has done and how his racist or sexist acts will affect public policy. They seem mainly concerned about how the races or genders affected by hearing of a candidate’s racism or sexism might vote. People who self consciously see themselves as not being part of a dominant culture may see a candidate branded by media as racist as someone who will use public policy to exclude them whether they see themselves as light or dark members of a minority culture of immigrants or native born. I remember while television and other news media were charging Toronto’s Mayor Ford with racism that the person who in my presence spoke most highly of his accomplishments was a member of a visible minority, the other.
Online these character diminishing labels are often repeated in file headers by news organizations from one end of the English language world to the other with never a thought to attempting an informing analysis of these charges of racism or sexism. These kind of media characterizations of Mr. Trump as he’s been attempting to win the Republican nomination to run for president of America in the 2016 illustrate the dearth of the kind of political information people need to make informed decisions about who to vote for. Voters rarely see candidates speaking for themselves and if they do their perceptions are filtered by video or made concrete by the whims of journalists who too often seem to follow one another in their name calling charges of racism or sexism. Accurate and thoughtful analysis of facts is what voters need. When Mr. Trump began his campaign, instead of saying that he was not a serious candidate, journalists should have been informed enough to know that he was seriously trying to be president. They should have known that Mr. Trump must have been aware of the many citizens who had been suffering from increasing impoverishment and that those sufferers were desperately looking for a way out, the people media have branded as unsuccessful white men as though women and people of varying skin tone were all better off. But from my vantage point way up in Canada I’ve learned that everyone regardless of skin tone, race, or gender is suffering from an economic malaise that began before racism or sexism had become popular political epithets permitting that malaise and its devastating effects to persist.
What people should have been told from the start of his candidacy is that Donald Trump the billionaire business man came to be in the economic and legal morass he wishes to untangle. They should have informed everyone that his manner is that of a deal making salesman, a person who likes everybody and wants to be loved by everybody, like Willy Loman or Jay Gatsby. And they should have pointed out that like Willy and Gatsby he’s been trying to bring back the past, trying to get the horse back into the barn.
Now that President Trump has fulfilled a major but puzzling campaign promise for Jerusalem, I’m reminded of Soviet Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s consenting to the establishment of the State of Israel despite the foreboding of some Iraqi Jews back in the 1940’s.
For me the firing or resignation of General Flynn from his National Security post has puzzled me. Recently a search string rekindled that bemusement leading to my learning about a book the general wrote “Field of Fight:..” from which according to an online excerpt of his book suggests the importance of getting into the mind of America’s Middle East opponents.
The notion of learning how one’s opponents think so America can win in the “field of fight” reminded me of something I’d written some time ago.
I’ve been following media accounts of Middle East “news” since 2013. But I’ve forgotten much of what I’d heard from 2003 until 2008. I remember that 2001 was a kind of turning point in America’s and the West’s relations with Middle East countries. When Mr. Bush junior invaded Iraq in 2003 there was always a sense that he was responding to the terror attacks of 2001 despite reports that he went into Iraq to get rid of Mr. Husain’s WMD, and to spread democracy throughout the Arab world where until then there had been hereditary monarchs as leaders. Once Mr. Bush had removed Mr. Husain, I started being made aware of sectarian divisions within Iraq’s population. When Mr. Obama replaced Mr. Bush in 2008 the “Arab Spring” , a baffling media phrase that seemed to obscure understanding, especially in Egypt where there were prolonged demonstrations that led to the relinquishment of power by Egypt’s leader. I still recall a television journalist suggesting that rebelliousness, the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East, would likely lead to democracy. After Egypt’s leader had finally resigned I remember seeing Republican senator McCain and former Democrat senator Lieberman in Egypt glad handing everyone within range of a media camera. But after a “free” election won by a Moslem Brotherhood member, I was reminded of sectarian divisions in Egypt between Moslems and Coptic Christians, and in recently militarily pacified Iraq between Moslem and Moslem Shiite and Sunni. I’d read a bit about Islam and was struck by the view that Islam is not just a religion with unique practices and moral code, it is also a nation of religious laws. As I became aware of the opposing schools of Islam within Iraq, I was taught by media reports of growing violence throughout the Arab world; more and more this violence seemed to be motivated by religious antipathy. The idea of a Moslem nation seemed not to exist; only Sharia law is mentioned without reference to those laws as expressions of that nation. Middle East events seemed driven by fanatical outbursts of religious fanatics: peoples of the same region, the same religion, and the same race at war with each other as though this were a kind of chaos that is inherent to that part of the world. Recently I’ve been seeing an article turn up on line in response to searches for “Ramadi” which suggests that Isis itself is being managed by Iraq’s Bathists, a curious suggestion that contradicts media reports to date which indicate that Isis is directed by Sunni Moslems opposing Shiite Moslems in order to set up a Caliphate(whatever that is) guided only by the Moslem nation’s code of religious law, Sharia. But the Bath Party was not organized in 1943 by a Christian Syrian to terrorize, but to bring together all peoples of the Middle East through a resurgence of Arab culture in a political union more socialist than democratic.
Some years ago I examined paintings in Italy, France and England to observe how painting styles had changed from Roman times to the 20’th century. Ancient and medieval wall paintings were elements of architecture that enhanced buildings with images of heroes and actors in religious stories. In the renaissance paintings in frames diminished paintings’ architectural function and lessened the grandeur and forcefulness of their human figures which often seemed to be designed more to show the artist’s technical virtuosity than the glory of human action. When I got to the 19’th century impressionist period I was shocked to see that some had bare canvas showing between painted colour.
The other day I saw a copy of an impressionist painting framed under glass that reminded me of my own impressionist painting of the Brown Derby tavern I had painted from the memory of past sense impressions using the Paint program. My painting was a result of my not being able to find a photo of the Derby online. but now that there are plenty, I like mine more than those old photos that are now readily available because I can’t remember the Derby ever looking that way. Now I realize that despite their crude technique and sensible inaccuracies, impressionist paintings express how their artists perceived sensations that make reality as lively as the figures in those antique pre renaissance wall paintings.
I’ve been reading Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism. This morning a television news item announced the death of a 146 year old man,our planets oldest person, in a Java village: I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of years long life spans of most of the major figures in the book of “Genesis”.Doubtless – Frye’s analysis of myth would likely include Noah’s 950 years as characterization in a ‘… stylized narrative not fully adapted to plausibility or “realism”‘.
All nations with written histories are nations of immigrants. Roman Italy in prose and poetry was depicted as a nation of settlers from Troy, ancient Greece and immigrants from Gall. In post-Roman Italy, German, French, Norman, Hungarian, and Spanish immigrants fashioned its present population. Britain is also a nation of immigrants comprising Danes, ancient Germany’s Angles and Saxons, Norman French; modern Germany’s Handel, George I from whom Queen Elizabeth is descended; Karl Marx and today’s arrivals from her former worldwide empire.