Saturday, October 22, 2022


 It seemed such a simple task. Getting Mark my loyal bullmoose son to take me to the grand old Royal York Hotel for the 29th induction luncheon of the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame. I have been on the selection committee from the start before I was hobbled into a wheelchair.

It took four hours and I missed the start thanks to a downtown so snarled with traffic that it might as well have been a Ukrainian city under Russian attack. Plenty of time to look at election signs for an assortment of anonymous candidates. Plenty of time to think that the city traffic is now run so stupidly that all 25 councillors and the mayor should be replaced. Fortunately some have quit and a few, like Stephen Holyday, Mike Colle and Michael Thompson, perhaps deserve to get another crack at saving a city from the woke activists and bureaucratic nincompoops who couldn't run a sandbox in a kindergarten.

Of course parking downtown now requires a second mortgage. Back in 1958 when I first covered luncheons at the Royal York as a hungry cub reporter, I strolled over from the Old Lady of Melinda St., the Tely, and made my way to the gilded caverns. It took a few minute. The Tely vanished in 1971 and the hotel has primped its way through many changes. It took us half an hour from downtown Etobicoke just to get to the western flank. And that was just the start of climbing Everest.

It was silly of us who thought with four degrees and a lifetime of experience downtown that it would be easy to access even a giant hotel. But no western entrance, and the south doors are not accessible supposedly to simple-minded dolts. We actually did get inside with the help of bemused hotel staff and I dragged myself up several flights of grand stairs while Mark lugged up the wheelchair and went off to find some nook that didn't cost a fortune to park.

I pushed my wheelchair towards the two banks of elevators and finally won the competition to get aboard one by shoving my wheelchair into some giddy thing. Best block I have thrown since my football days at high school and college. Of course the luncheon had started and it didn't matter much because the tables were too close together for a wheelchair and an 86-year-old fart to get through.

Mark finally returned and I found my corner and could concentrate on the heroes of the day. Josh Dueck, Greg Westlake and Lorin MacDonald, stars from the worlds of Paralympics, human rights and hockey who know all about not only being champions at what they do but how to handle the hassles and frustrations of dealing with a giant city and a giant hotel which make such feeble attempts to actually let people moved around.

This hall of fame started with Vim Kochhar, then a senator, who had the inspiration for what we called the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, that great Canadian who ran across the country and into our hearts as he persevered and became an icon for all disabled. Early recipients were Edwin Baker and Rick Hansen. We renamed the hall because of some difficulty with the Fox family and Vim, who can be very persuasive, has had the Tiny Perfect Worship chair it for a year....which has turned into 29 even though David Crombie, still smiling and deaf like me, has the city clamouring for his attention.

The selection committee has had such notables as Rev. Bob Rumball, the great football player, and Con Di Nino, the former senator, as we sift through the remarkable biographies from people who smash the odds as they achieve, and achieve, and achieve. I have served on several hall of fame selection committees in the political, journalism and sports worlds but this is the one where the nominations leave me thankful that there are so many of our neighbours who hurdle adversities as if they are just  sidewalks cracks.

Too bad that so much still has to be done. As proof of that, we leave the grand hotel by heading to the eastern side. Along the way we encounter a hall of fame notable, David Onley, in a superior motorized wheelchair which makes mine look like a Model T compared to a Jag. But there is only one way out, a small elevator that takes David while we wait. Behind us are giant meeting rooms and hundreds of hotel rooms. And I use the small elevator and wait in the cold for Mark to negotiate a loan and pay for parking.

How nice the city has become so accessible....