Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ham and eggs and suicide

Back in the early eighties, a couple of guys named Bill Player and Len Rosenberg concocted a scheme to vastly enrich themselves at the expense of... well, it's hard to say.

What they did was buy a portfolio of apartment blocks from Cadillac Fairview, a major construction conglomerate at the time, and then flip those apartments a couple of times, with the final purchasers being a consortium of imaginary Saudi investors who were paying close to 50k per key for buildings that Player and Rosenberg had picked up months before for half that amount.

Those very buildings have been changing hands, 25 years later, at well over 100k per key, so I suppose that one way of looking at what was much ballyhooed as the greatest fraud in Canadian history, would be to say that time has exonerated Player and Rosenberg.

Alas, time has not exonerated me and Kipling.

We were broke dumbfucks 40 years ago, and we're still broke dumbfucks!

A couple of times a year I get together with Kipling at the Teviotdale Truck Stop to shoot the shit about who done good and who done gone etc.

Today was one of those days.

As it often does, conversation went round to who has managed to beat the system and who has not.

Since we are both of us getting on in years, a lot of our conversations go like this:

So whatever happened to what's his name?


You know, what's his name...

Do you remember his name?

No, I can see his face, but what was his name?

What's his name's name?

Ya, what's his name... What was his name?


You know, what's his name the wop who used to work in shipping at Kearney's.

Lotsa wops worked in shipping at Kearney's

Ya, I know but this guy, what's his name... what was his name?

Oh ya! What's his name. Fuck! What was his name? I remember the guy... always had a big smile on his face...

Ya! That's the guy! What was his name anyway? Tony? I wanna say Tony...

Nah, I think his name was Lew... like Luigi, I'm pretty sure it was Lewy... but ya, I think you're right, I think we're talking about the same guy. Big happy face all the time!

Ya, that's the guy! So whatever happened to him?

One thing that Kipling and I have noticed over the years is that little guys who rock the boat get fucked, and big dog shitbags who have political connections get to loot and plunder with impunity. Player and Rosenberg were little dogs with big ambitions.

So here we are in Teviotdale for breakfast again. Highly recommended. Nothing is great but everything is really good. The wait staff are mostly middle-aged local farm gals who never in their worst nightmares imagined themselves pouring coffee for me and Kipling in their middle age.

But they're not bitter about it. They intuitively sense we've suffered too.

When little dogs, interlopers, pretenders, get too big for their britches, the real big dogs, aka "the establishment," swings into action. One day Bill Player and Len Rosenberg are the toast of the town; up and coming wheeler-dealers in the finest tradition of capitalism's street of dreams...

Next day they're scum.

Happens all the time. You could ask Robert Campeau about it, or you could have a few years ago, but my understanding is that he's a few exits ahead of me on the Alzheimer highway these days, and there's no point in asking him anything.

Shit happens.

So what happened to what's his name? Used to have the big block 'Cuda?

You mean what's his name?

Ya, you know the guy... 'Cuda notch-back with a big block... a 68 or a 69...

Ya, I know who you mean... what was his name?

That was a 68 I think... fer fucks sakes, I don't think you could get a big-block 'Cuda in 69.

Fuckin' right you could, I had one!

What, that white one with the black stripes? The 440?..

Ya, that was a 68.

Fuck off! That was a 69!

Oh ya? So how come I saw you driving it in 68?

Oh fuck man, it was my car, I remember what I was driving. It was a 69.

So how come I saw you driving it in 68?

Oh for fucks sakes man, you can't remember 68 from 88.

Long pause...

Ya, you gotta point there... but the Dago, what was his name?

Ya, ya... I know the guy... I ran him a couple of times with my Super Duty! Whatever happened to him?


Oh for fucks sakes! He was such a happy guy! What happened.

Don't know man... lost his job, got into the hard drugs...

One thing that didn't happen when Len and Bill flipped those apartments was people losing their jobs. That happened later, when the government, acting in its capacity as enforcer for the big dogs in the real estate and banking industry, seized and liquidated their companies.

I'm having the breakfast special. Bacon, sausages, ham, three eggs, home fries, toast. Kipling tells the server he's fat enough already and will hold to a two-egg and ham special. We're gonna be outta there for under twenty bucks, at least if we don't tip those middle age farm gals. So we'll be outta there for thirty.

Seems that if you're a well-connected shitbag, all sorts of wonders may happen. How else to explain that Porter chappie, who was holding hands with Big Steve one day, and was on the lam, ducking multi-million dollar embezzlement charges the next?

But that's nothing. Back when Len and Bill and Robert were being tarred and feathered, well connected insiders were running amok. It was the heyday of deregulation. CN and CP were divesting their trucking operations, and within the space of a few years both companies had been looted into the ground, the assets stripped, the pension funds eviscerated, all by a coterie of hangers on of former PM Mr. Mulroney. The only people who were ever charged were a few hapless front men who took the fall for the big dogs operating behind the scenes.

The true story about who lost big and who won bigger in the dismemberment of CP Express and Transport, Interlink, and Route Canada has yet to be told. Oddly enough, it's very hard to find information on these topics, even now as the information age is supposedly at high tide.

Yes, it's fun to get together a couple of times a year and swap theories about who done what and why somebody might have off'd themselves.

I remember when things were winding down in the frigate program. I was a late hire and therefore one of the first to get a lay-off notice. Went back the next summer, hoping to hoist a few with the old mates. Had a few phone numbers. Got in touch with Buddy and other Buddy, but another Buddy was disconnected.

So we get together, me and Buddy and other Buddy, and I says, so what happened to Buddy? He ain't answering his phone no more.

Aye... Buddy got his lay-off...

Ya OK, I got mine too... so what?

He got his lay-off notice. Then his old lady says she's gonna leave.

What, the gal with the carpet-cleaning business? Jeez, I coulda seen that coming... she had dreams, that girl... wasn't gonna hang around with a guy had no job... Well, that sucks! So where's he at now?

He's nowhere man... he shot the old woman.

Then he shot himself.

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