Jack Lakey, typist at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, has a reputation for “getting things fixed.”
We wish to clarify his activities.
What Lakey does is work toward the elimination of uneven or unusual situations in cities.
In Japan, they say, “the nail that sticks out gets pounded flat.”
Jack Lakey would like Japan.
It’s the things that “stick out,” the things that don’t fit the norm, the things that make one puzzled or put a smile on one’s face, that more often than not are attacked by Lakey. He takes complaints from the small-minded bureaucratic-types of the city, the ones who’ve never wondered or been charmed by anything in their lives, the ones who hate the thought of danger or of mischief, the ones who drive Volvos because it’s safer (at least for them), and he “fixes” them. He hammers them flat. The places Lakey touches turn dull, unnoticeable, and regular. Jack Lakey is the Ex-Lax(tm) of the newspaper world.
The things that Lakey’s lackeys notice tend to be the things of dreams: they are triggers for the unconscious mind: teasing us with potential, with maybe, with mysterious possibility and unknowable beauty.
For Lakey and his ilk, they are dreck.
What Lakey boasts about makes us cringe. He destroys dreams. He’s no fixer. He’s a wrecker.
What are some of the things Lakey has gotten “fixed?” Take a look at the list (link above, at Lakey’s name) and think about what he would eliminate: “There’s something in the air outside Gino’s Pizza Bar and Grill to take your breath away, and it has nothing to do with the fiery chicken wings.” Or: “Walking through a long tunnel at night is scary enough, without having to do it in virtual darkness.” Or: “Here’s an unlikely recipe for danger and neighbourhood discord: People playing baseball in a city park.”
We’ll tell you about two of them that hit us personally.
Once upon a time, there was a damaged safe, of the type a jewelry store might have on the premises to keep valuables overnight. It was large and heavy–perhaps two feet high, two feet wide and two feet deep. The damage done to it was specifically that the door had been removed. Perhaps it had been blown off in a robbery? Perhaps it had been removed by the new owner of a building who had discovered it and hoped to find valuables within, but lacked the secret of its lock? In any case, the door was gone and the safe, made of solid steel and weighing many hundreds of pounds, had been abandoned on the sidewalk at the corner of Pape and Danforth avenues. It sat there for years, sometimes with some scraps of litter inside, unmoving and unknowable. Out of the way, at the edge of the city’s conciousness: a wonderful, harmless mystery. Except someone wrote to Lakey about it, and Lakey wrote about it in the paper, and a week later it was gone forever, probably sold for scrap to be turned into a car part made in China.
Once upon a time, there was a fence beside a railway track at the edge of a laneway connecting the back of Gerrard Square shopping mall and the ugliest street in Toronto, Jones Avenue. The fence was of wood, and several staves had been knocked out allowing a view through into the track: its wild scruffyness, its burdock and thistle, its creosote-besotted gravel. The hole in the fence also allowed passage for teenagers to make a shortcut from the mall to the highschool over at Coxwell and back, and there was always something junked there–a piece of someone’s stereo equipment, a bag of old clothes, a pair of underwear. The hole was one of many places that provide access to the forbidden tracks. It’s impossible to keep people off train tracks, especially when they make for great shortcuts, or places to hide, or places to hang out. This particular fence, just six feet wide, would be repaired occasionally with a new fence stave, but it would never stay repaired for long. Until someone complained to Jack Lakey about it. Lakey wrote about it in his column, and a week later we saw a truck backed up to the piece of fence, engine running, arc-welder in place. The wood fence was replaced with a steel one. Perhaps it was made from the re-smelting of the Pape Ave. safe. It’s been there ever since–no more hole, no more illicit access to forbidden territory.
Lakey is a danger to dreamers everywhere.
So it was with some consternation that we heard he had turned his hooded eyes to the Dundas Street bridge: “For people who rely on Dundas St. E. to get into and out of the downtown core, the interminable work on the bridge cannot end soon enough.”
What’s been going on at the Dundas bridge? In short, the entire Dundas streetcar line has been replaced over the past year or so. Much of the street, from east to west across Toronto, has been shut down sporadically. The bridge over the Don, which we hopefully wrote about in a lob called “DeBaeremaeker takes action: ALLDERBLOB takes credit”, was carved open and all its steel parts replaced. For months the only access over the Don at Dundas has been on the sidewalk, and a prominent sign at each side begs: “Cyclists, dismount” (as if). From the sidewalk it’s been interesting to see the crumbled bits of plate steel that once supported the loads of streetcar, car and truck traffic. Some of the infrastructure looks like it’s well past time it was replaced.
Some small-minded person wrote Lakey and complained about the time it’s taken to repair the bridge. Lakey looked into the matter and wrote about it in his column. And now, only a month later, the bridge is ready to re-open.
Was it Lakey’s attention that sped the plow on Dundas? We doubt it. But it was his words about the Dundas Bikelanes, a route that is dear to our hearts and to that of anyone who lives along the former speedway, that raised our dander. He wrote: “Dundas is a key route for east-end drivers and has become more congested during peak traffic periods since one lane in each direction was closed a few years ago to accommodate a bicycle lane and on-street parking.”
Lakey’s ignorance is outstanding. Dundas more congested? This simply is not borne out by the facts. All the bikelanes did to car traffic was to streamline it and prevent the dangerous weaving that characterized drivers there before the lanes were striped. There’s been no significant reduction in the carrying capacity of the road. The time required to traverse Dundas at rush hour was increased in one direction, but lowered in the other, effectively eliminating any real effect. In the meantime, Lakey in his bureaucratic way refers to the street as a key route for “drivers.”
The fact is, Dundas is a key route for cyclists, just as much, if not more so than for drivers. Dundas is a key route for Streetcars, which have literally only three places to cross the Don River. Dundas is a key route for pedestrians, for whom the sidewalk remaining open during the reconstruction has been a vital lifeline: children cross the bridge to get to school; old folks use it for shopping. It’s busy 24 hours a day. Lakey’s sucking on the exhaust pipe of his car has limited his ability to see these road users, which is typical of his view of the city.
And now the bridge is to be re-opened.
What Lakey had no clue about when he wrote his column was the plans the city’s transportation dept. had for the repaired bridge. Now the asphalt is down and the fence is to come down in a day or two, we can see the what of it: the missing link, between Broadview and River, in the bikelane that reaches from the Beaches in the East to the Eaton Centre at Yonge street, has been addressed.
“Sharrows” have been painted on Dundas.
If Lakey really wanted to fix something on Dundas, he would have fixed it so half-way measures would not have been all we got on Dundas. He would have fixed it so the stretch of road, which has been closed to cars since the spring, would remain closed to cars: streetcars would be welcomed back, bikes welcomed back, but cars left to deal with things just as they have done for months now. He would have fixed it so that the city’s transportation engineers would have made accurate traffic counts and we would know the truth: you can shut down a major roadway to cars and yet survive; and we would have actual numbers to tell us exactly how it happens. The pseudo-science of traffic engineering would have come a step closer to useful, real science.
But Lakey’s been too busy ripping up people’s dreams to do anything really useful like that.
Let’s call him what he is: not a fixer, but a smasher.