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Just woke up from the starkest dream.

I was walking into a supermarket. I saw a longtime friend, Shirley Hughes, who now runs THE TORONTO SILENT FILM SOCIETY.

I had given her a flyer for the original silent BEN-HUR.

The clerk looked at it disdainfully. “You like those?” she said.

“I love those,” said Shirley.

I then started to tell the clerk that in the remake with Charlton Heston quarter-horse geldings were used for the chariot race while in the original prize Arabian stallions (essentially wild horses) were used. There is a huge difference between how the two types of horses run. It may not be apparent to most. Anyone who loves horses (and Shirley loves horses) is thrilled by that difference.

As I was speaking I noticed that Shirley was not looking at me.

On her face was etched pure horror. I followed her train of vision. I turned and saw a woman approaching the cash in a crouching position with a drawn gun. At that moment I felt something that caused me to turn. A man stood beside me with a pistol aimed straight at my temple.

Then I woke up.

I thought that is so strange I have to write it down. When I went to do so I found my computer had to be rebooted. I had that dream over an hour and  a half ago. Its images are still with me.

The two people were not police officers.

A street person before Christmas last year said, “I was offered $1,000.00 to kill you. The thing is, if I have been offered this others have.”

I think you will agree that is one stark dream.

We walk alone. Don’t expect anyone to care. It is a waste of energy that will debilitate us.

I met three powerful American women who had a huge influence on me. They were Jane Jacobs, Judith Merril and Doris Mehegan. They did not believe in God. They taught that when we see someone who needs our help and we pass them by we kill a part of our soul.

I do not pass people by. I have watched an awful lot of people pass me by over the last near twenty years since the attacks on myself and others began.

The dead vastly outnumber the living.

“The thing people who read your mother’s book THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES do not understand and the reason why they have trouble understanding it is that she wrote it from the perspective of the dirt poor,” I said to Jane Jacobs’ son earlier this year.

Jim replied, “Yes.”

City planners and politicians always speak about improving our lives. Their plans are expensive but they promise the expense is worth it. Said William Blake, “Improvements make smooth roads that are easy to travel but the hard roads without improvements are the paths of genius.”

In THE WILHELM/BAYNES edition of THE I CHING which I began living the year I met Jane Jacobs and Judith Merril, 1968, teachers the inferior man tries to create order out of chaos while the superior man recognizes the order inherent in what appears to be chaos.

Jane says the same thing in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES: “There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”

She also states:

Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation–although these make fine ingredients–but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings.

If a city area has only new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there are automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction. These high costs of occupying new buildings may be levied in the form of an owner’s interest and amortization payments on the capital costs of the construction. However the costs are paid off, they have to be paid off. And for this reason, enterprises that support the cost of new construction must be capable of paying a relatively high overhead–high in comparison to that necessarily required by old buildings. To support such high overheads, the enterprises must be either (a) high profit or (b) well subsidized.

If you look about, you will see that only operations that are well established, high-turnover, standardized or heavily subsidized can afford, commonly, to carry the costs of new construction. Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction. But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops go into older buildings. . . . Well-subsidized opera and art museums often go into new buildings. But the unformalized feeders of the arts–studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies, backrooms where the low earning power of a seat and a table can absorb uneconomic discussions–these go into old buildings. Perhaps more significant, hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighborhoods, and appreciated for their convenience and personal quality, can make out successfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction.

As for really new ideas of any kind–no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be–there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.

I live in an old, run down building. The City Of Toronto has been doing everything it can to bring to a halt what I have done and am doing here. The City of Toronto and most of the city’s bureaucrats see absolutely no value in what I do (nor in what most of the people who live in this city do). We don’t fit in with their plans (as many businesses on King Street in Toronto have found out for themselves).

Our new chief planner has made it clear that he does not hold with the ideas of Jane Jacobs.

Just as, in my dream, a man held a gun to my head a gun is now at the head of the City of Toronto.

We have a grim future ahead of us.

–Reg Hartt 10/13/2018.

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