Archive for May 16, 2020

They Call Me Red



21 November 2013


“Hi, Dennis,” said Chuck, “Chilly this morning. Do you have the time?” I showed him my watch.

“Twenty to nine. I’m only going to stay for another ten minutes. I’ve collected enough for a pizza. After that, I’ve got some groceries to pick up. I made my beef stew last night. It was delicious, but I put in too many spices — three Oxo packets. Next time, I’ll only use two. I had the farts all night.

I said, “Yesterday you were telling me all the interesting things that happened when you worked at Queen’s Park. Do you have any more of those stories?”

“No, I told you all the interesting stuff, the rest was drudgery. I had another job as bell boy at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen. I sure learned a lot there. It’s on the corner of Queen and Gladstone.  In its hey-day, it was one of the best hotels in the city. It was known primarily for the cheap draft at the Tavern. It ended up as a strip joint.  It was disgusting, they hired girls as young as twelve years old to work as strippers. It was eventually demolished in 2005 to make way for a new office building. I don’t know what’s there now — some high-rise.

“There is a maze of tunnels under downtown Toronto. All the businesses used them to bring in black market goods through the storm sewage system. One led from the kitchen of the Gladstone to the Lisgar apartments.  Weeks in advance, big shots would book a room. They’d enter the Lisgar, but instead of going upstairs to the apartments, they’d go downstairs.  Their room would be all ready for them, anything they wanted. They’d phone room service at the Gladstone. We’d bring their meals, drinks, girlfriends or prostitutes through the tunnel. Nobody’d be the wiser. I won’t mention any names, but some of our regular guests were Cabinet Ministers and a Supreme Court Judge.  All politicians are crooked.

“At the Gladstone, they only served Carlsberg beer. One of the bosses would drive a van to the docks  and,  miraculously, it would be loaded with cases of beer. They’d drive through the tunnel and unload right at the hotel.

“Nearby there was also a clothing store where my girlfriend worked. She said she could get me a good discount. The suit I picked out was priced at seven hundred dollars, imported from Italy.  I got another priced at three hundred. My son was with me at the time, he said, ‘I could use a suit.’ We got all three for a total of three hundred. It was all controlled by the mafia.

“When I was a kid we used to fish in near Harbourfront.  There was none of this catch and release stuff then. I think that’s stupid. We fished to eat not to hurt fish.  We’d take them to the back of this Chinese restaurant. They’d give us fifty cents apiece for them.  They’d mix it in with the chicken to cut their costs.

“There used to be a great bar at the Duke of York. That’s where all the high-class prostitutes would hang out — they were expensive though. A couple of times the hotel was shut down by a food inspector for serving cat, disguised as chicken. The fanciest hotel in town serving cat.”


Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People ($2.99 Download) ($.299 Download) ($.99 Download) ($2.99 Download)

They Call Me Red: ($.99 Download)