Saturday 03 Dec 2016

360-degree View
David Simmonds

Well, the excitement is building. Yes, I know it’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and more power to her. I’m referring to something a tad larger.

It’s the 150th anniversary of Wellington’s incorporation this year. Now I hope that mere statement is not going to start those with similar longevity anniversaries rioting in the streets of Wellington on the Lake. And I know that, technically, Wellington is no longer an incorporated municipality, and further still, that the word ‘sesquicentennial‘ is almost impossible to pronounce, let alone spell.

Still, Wellington is very much a community, and it always puts on a good parade. So why don’t we celebrate? I don’t mean by communing with the spirit of the Iron Duke; I mean by creating some tangible civic monument.

The sort of thing, in fact, the only thing, I have in mind is to follow what the Big Smoke has done with its own greatest asset, the CN Tower. Why, well, because although we may not realize it, Wellington, like Toronto, already has a tallest freestanding structure and, like Toronto, it is also a tower, in our case, the water tower. 

The owners milk the CN Tower for every possible use one can imagine. There is a restaurant over 1100 feet up. There is a “Skypod,” at the topmost level offering an “awe-inspiring 360 degree unobstructed view of Toronto” and surrounding region. There is a glass-floored observation platform, which, assuredly, is safe to walk or even jump on because it can “withstand the weight of 14 large hippos.” How they know that, I have no idea, because my hippocampus tells me that they can have never put 14 large hippos up there. The word ‘large’ is a weasel word: I could put 14 hefty hippos up there, they would crash to the ground and the CN Tower people would weakly plead, “When we said large, we didn’t mean that large.” Unless, of course, the statement is a typographical error; they intended to say, "14 large hippies."

The latest gimmick is something called "Edgewalk." For a mere $175, you can walk around the perimeter of the tower for an hour and a half on a five-foot wide ledge, 116 storeys above ground, connected only by a “trolley and harness” system. Sort of like bungee jumping, I guess: no jumping, connection only with a cord and certain death if the cord breaks. Of course, they designed it with the “highest international safety and security standards in mind.” According to CN Tower PR, “trained Edgewalk guides will encourage participants to push their personal limits, allowing them to lean back with nothing but air and breathtaking views of Lake Ontario beneath them.” 

Now for my money, I would pay $175 for the privilege never to go anywhere near Edgewalk. I would sooner push my personal limits by listening to rap music for an hour and a half. I’ve always been suspicious about the CN Tower. Built by engineers, the tower therefore might fall down at any time and always made me feel that Toronto was trying to confirm it was world class by building something taller and uglier than built anywhere else.

Our tower is a functional, not a monument to municipal vanity. It is modest in scale. All the same, it towers over our village and gives the visitor, if the visitor had access to it, relatively speaking, the same unparalleled 360-degree views that the CN Tower would offer. Without meaning to boast, our 360-degree view is a heck of a lot better than is theirs. At least it will be until the wind-turbines-that-nobody-except-Dalton-wants arrive.

Our water tower might be a tourist draw, in any number of ways. We could feature a unique exercise staircase all the way to the top. We could have it painted in trendy hues of grape. We could offer an observation deck where one could observe the goings on at Swamp College Road or the creative work of our local beaver population in the harbour. It would actually appeal to the pusher of limits in me if I were to stand, caged in, on an observation platform more than 40 feet above ground. We could open a restaurant, probably with warmer food too, since it wouldn’t have to wait to catapult hamburgers up 1100 feet.

We could also offer a water slide, which would thrillingly twist down four storeys and come to a gentle rest on Oak Street. We could install a pool at the base of the tower and offer high diving platforms. We could install a rope and pulley system and people could rappel their way down to Wellington Beach. 

It’s an asset just begging to have its value maximized. Sesquicentennial: bring it on. Congratulations, Betty W., on your 60th!

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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