Update 15

Toronto rose into view, its concrete overpasses, underpasses, off-ramps and on-ramps twisting and turning like a bowl of spaghetti, with a smoggy sauce draped overtop. But this is Canada! Clean, pristine, remember? Mountain air, fresh-like-laundry. We don't have… smog. Guess again.

Early one morning, we raised our tired heads and walked into a studio. Tarantulas crawled onto our shoulders, we petted baby lions, tiny tigers (little bears, too? Oh my! But sorry to say, no). We danced with the rappers, wrestled with the hosts, ran laps about the place... Breakfast TV: that's the way they do it, out here.

Quickly, quickly; a hustle-bustle day... We dashed to E. C. Drury, school for the deaf, spent some frantic last-minutes trying to learn sign language. "But, guys," says Wendy. "We've got an interpreter for you." …Oh. Well, that makes things a bit easier.

Following this: a hodge-podge; potpourri, if you will. We handed candy to passers-by, shined shoes, cooked hotdogs for Animal and Pitbull (two of Toronto's homeless). We passed pizza, gum, newspapers, coffees, lottery tickets, flowers, a dinner or two, for another pair of unfortunates. Offered loonies, for people to do their bit on Speaker's Corner, say their words to the world. We tapped on the glass, and a curious Mr. Strombolopolous came out to say hi, and do his part. But why this mayhem, this madness? Good question. A hundred-dollar bill had been given, a few cities back. "This, boys, is for you," said Mr. Generous Benefactor. "Pass it on, hand it over. As you say: pay it… ahead… I think." Forward, but yes, point is gotten. So we dropped it to the ground, smashed it into a hundred pieces, and went to town. Downtown, in fact.

Thanksgiving, next. Mmmm… Turkey, gravy, cranberry, more. Take a load off, sit down that can, easy and breezy. Relax time, right? Of course not. Gotta work it, boys. But where? The Clubhouse.

Every member of the place had walked the darker streets, at one time or another. Found things a little tough, too much. Upon certain occasions, downright terrifying. Mentally disabled, the label that was given.

They'd hit the bottom, bounced every rung on the ladder, climbed back up. And now, the last step… this Clubhouse. They fed each other, lived there if necessary, held the place together, and found a place for themselves, once again, in that big scary world.

"Tickets!" cried Erik, full of smiles, walking the dining room. "I need tickets!" Hand in the ticket, get the turkey, the gravy, the rest of the feast. That's the way it went.

Val and Brad and Chris? Putting on the finishing touches. "You think this thing is done, guys?" Brad says, holding open the oven, peering inside. "Dunno," Chris answers, adding some extra spice to the stuffing, wanting to make it a memorable meal. Val was in the bathroom, seeing how he looked in his apron. Satisfied, he came strolling out, to see a long, hungry lineup. Rubbing his hands together, he jumped into the fray.

Trays of turkey, buckets of gravy, pitchers of cranberry, mounds upon mounds of mashers… To make it short: Sixty people; twenty minutes. And finished; ka-put.

Erik scratched his head, counted his fingers, pulled socks when he needed some toes. He pursed his lips, stopped his counting. Stood, and announced. "That's three people, guys, each minute!" …Thanks, Erik. Couldn't have figured it out for ourselves.

And, lastly, Electric Circus… Our motor home pulled to the curb outside, just as lights being bolted into place, stages dragged into the studio, speakers dusted off and rolled to their berths.

The music started pounding, the lights whizzing flashing; the dancers started shaking, grooving, moving. Producers rushed everywhere like tornadoes. "You! We need you right now, up on this stage, right here…" "And you two, up over there. Lots of energy now, you hear? Heaps!" They dragged the hosts back and forth, harried people from one stage to the next, bullied camera-men like strict parents, spoke tongue-twisting words into their headsets, and went running from the studio in a flail of clothing and arms… To find the ulcer medicine, perhaps?

Break-dancers spun, gyrated, twisted; DJs flipped their disks, bobbed their heads; girls wearing platefuls of makeup determinedly poked their faces into the camera. Val and Chris bopped on the stage, Brad hopped on the floor, making people think he was trying to throw his back out. And the fourth of this fearsome foursome? Erik. He walked around, doing nothing else but waving at the camera for two straight hours. "Just wanted to make sure my mom sees me, that's all."

"Okay, guys," Jean-Paul calls out, as the music grinds to a halt, the lights cool their coils, and the cameras go slinking back to their cages. "That's a wrap!"

...And not only for this show, but Toronto, too.

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