Thursday, November 26, 2015

Syrian refugees: Don't just welcome them, sponsor them

    Glay Sperling came to Montreal from Europe after Hitler's jackbooted supporters rose to power. 
   Sperling, once in Montreal, became an accomplished photojournalist and taught for 33 years at Dawson College where he founded the cinema department and become friend and mentor to many.
  He inspired a scholarship and even generated a catchphrase on Urban Dictionary.
Glay Sperling
  So one minute Sperling was fearing for his life in Europe. The next he's thriving and sharing his many talents in Montreal. 
   How did this happen? 
   He was sponsored to Canada by a complete stranger. 
   Tony Oberleitner was another war refugee who had no ties to Canada before coming from Austria. 
   His life was threatened after he was deemed suspicious by Hitler's regime for his work alongside cutting-edge thinker Wilhelm Reich.
  Oberleitner was a tall, optimistic and delightful man who filled a room with generous laughter. His wife Eva was an equally sunny person. Both went on to achieve a bunch of good things as a Canadians, starting a solid family out west. 
Colin Gravenor
  Neither would have been able to come to Canada had it not been for my father Colin Gravenor who was a stubborn opponent of Hitler's thugs.
   Gravenor led the Montreal section of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League from his office in the Mount Royal Hotel. 
   In the 1940s he worked hard to help those oppressed by Nazis in any way he could, including by sponsoring strangers. 
   Decades later my father was honoured in an exhibit at the Vancouver Holocaust Museum.
  The museum organizers told me that the efforts my father made were extremely uncommon among Canadian non-Jews at the time.    
  Now Canada is being asked to welcome Syrian refugees, which has left many divided on the issue. 
  Some good people have expressed apprehensions about these newcomers to Canada.      
  During the Nazi years many Canadians were also apprehensive about allowing refugees into Canada.   
  Those opponents were many and even included some local Jews who organized at least one protest against the refugees. 
  My father was bitterly disappointed and dismayed by that protest and repeatedly described it to me with great irritation. 
   Those protesters were not necessarily bad people but they were undoubtedly misguided and misinformed.

New opportunity to become a hero

   Now there's a new group of people seeking refuge from their war-torn land and we are seeing the same popular hesitation.
   Those who oppose welcoming the refugees are not necessarily bad people.
   However Canada can and will absorb the Syrians without a hiccup. 
   Those refugees will have kids playing alongside your children in the snow and sitting next to them on the bus discussing their homework. 
  They will bring their wisdom, perseverance and noble survival skills to help make this country better.
   If you're a cynic like myself, there's an element of self-interest at play.
   Sponsor a refugee and they and their families will forever be grateful. Those my father helped would have given their left pinkies if he asked.
   My father never stopped loving newcomers and their enthusiasm for Canada.
   He would frequently advise me to stand outside places where foreigners convene just to watch the purpose and enthusiasm they carried with them. In the 70s he hired many boat people from Vietnam to help in his businesses. 
   So get involved and join the happy experience in helping out. 
   Here's a link to help you get involved in this latest opportunity to do the right thing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Moe's Corner Snack Bar: Montreal greasy spoon institution to close forever

    Moe's Corner Snack Bar, a 24-hour greasy spoon at SE corner of Closse and De Maisonneuve is closing Dec. 7.
   The landmark eatery was opened in 1958 and taken over two years later by 36-year-old Moe Sweigman,
   Sweigman, from Halifax, worked the night shift while the El Morocco (later the Moustache) sat next door and the Canadiens played across the street, winning 10 Stanley Cups in the 18 years Sweigman ran it before selling out in 1978.
   Sweigman was no fool, fathering a pair of genius sons and describing his operation in poetic terms.
   His clients ranged, "from the Westmounters to the down-and-outer, the show people, the kids from the discos, waiters, barmaids, cops, taxi drivers, insomniacs and ladies of the night"
   He posted 8 x 10 framed glossies of celeb visitors such as Sophie Tucker, Jack Carter an Jackie  Mason but he tired of cleaning them and took them down. 
   He was philosophical about his departure.
  Nobody's indispensable. People will still come here after I'm gone. As long as you sere good food at good prices, you can put a baboon behind the counter with a cigar in his mouth and they'll still eat. That's life.
   Lee Thomas, a Greek, took over and brought his son Eddie Thomas and his blonde haired girlfriend. They parked their red Corvette in my father's parking lot next door where I worked. I was about 15. They were barely older than myself. 
   I gobbled down a hundred bacon and egg breakfasts with my father at the place, a spot where the noisy din kept him more subdued than usual, limiting his usual customary lengthy oratories.
   Sometimes at the parking lot we'd have an issue with keys. We wanted to close up but still had customers' keys. 
   So we'd leave the keys at the cash at Moe's or the Texan for the customers to fetch. 
   I was always amazed that the cashiers never complained about being burdened with this thankless task of giving the keys back.

Later memories

   In later years I'd come by on the occasional drunken post-clubbing moment or with my then bro-in-law Pierre Fortin, who lived nearby for a while. 
   One time I saw a guy falling asleep while eating and chewing, Both dozing off and eating. Unforgettable multitasking. 
   Another time a staffer went to the bathroom for too long and his colleagues teased him that he was "painting the walls in there." Being a proper kid from Westmount it took a while for me to figure out the unappetizing reference.
   A meeting with a pair of excellent cops brought me back in the 90s, as an Asian crime squad specialist named Livesey got me to meet him at the spot he affectionately called "the Eat and Puke." Thanks to those meetings I got what would become one of the biggest local news scandals of that year.     
   Though they have been there for about 37 years, I am thankful that I only have a memory of Eddie and his wife as sparkling young teens with bright, hopeful eyes and a kick-ass car.
  (I later learned that there was already much tragedy in the family, as two sisters were claimed in the flower of their youth, a story that only underlines the bravery of small shopkeeper family in my eyes.)         The two became parents of a brilliant and clever daughter who I do not know but have chatted with on the Internet occasionally. 
    Kevin Vahey, the brilliant Boston cameraman and observer of life, recently laid tribute to the longstanding eatery upon his latest visit. His enthusiasm for the place underlined the fact that sometimes people don't appreciate the good things in their own hometown until it's too late.    

Monday, November 23, 2015

Brilliant scrotum bag crowdfunder brings shame or glory to Montreal

   Montreal is the motor behind a lot of great ideas and the scrotum napsack is just the latest of them.
  The company that is bringing this great bag to the world is at risk of not reaching its $33K US target on indiegogo.
   They still need over 1/3 of that total within the next 20 days on their crowdfunding pitch.
   Apparently there are more people amused by the sac than people who actually want to buy the bag.
   How can you resist this pitch?
We've got every Supreme Court justice, every president every Dracula in the world with their scrote'n''tote. Where do we go from here? We sell out. We've got the Google scrotum with integrated GPS technology, the worldwide scrote boat. The best part of this part of our business plan is that it doesn't make any sense. that's why I want you to shut up and go into your crummy old non-scrotum school bag, pull out your wallet, and just send me the money. Don't think about it, just send me the money.

   Daniel Bitton is the nut behind the sack. It was designed by his friend the prosthetic makeup artist C.J. Goldmaner.
  So far the effort has sold 232 bags at $69, while 151 others have paid $10 for the rights to buy it for $69 later. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Montreal's Mocambo sweetheart: old photos shine light on east end nightclub joy

   A set of photos featuring a cheeful woman posing with friends in the sprawling east end Mocambo bar at Notre Dame and Davidson shines a rare light on the high-spiritedness of the east end club that was around from 1948 to 1965.
  The identity of the dark-haired woman posing in all of the photos remains unknown.
   Was she a singer? A waitress? A customer?
   So far nobody can say.
   First some background on the Mocambo.
  I've never seen a photo of  the long-demolished building but it stood on the north side of Notre Dame E. just west of Davidson, an area now just lawns and bike paths.
   The building was occupied by Danby appliances for about one year before being transformed into the Mocambo in 1948.
   The bar had no cover charge but its overhead must have been very steep, so one might conclude that it served many a drink.
   Here's a description of the shows from one night in 1960:
The cast stars Disc Star Ruth Brown who comes from American TV and Broadway to sing for Montreal cabaret goers. Claude Girardin is the master of ceremonies and he introduces on his bill Exotic Dancer Faith Gardner, the acrobatic team of The Mephistos and the trained dog team of Sonny Moore. Bob Lavoie and his Orchestra plays for the shows and the Big Benny Band plays for the intermission dance sets
  So management had to pay an American act, an emcee, an exotic dancer, an acrobatic team, a dog show and two bands, on top of the usual bouncers, doormen, bartenders and waitresses.
  All without charging cover.
  Management was able to afford the high overhead partly by closing after hours and got into constant trouble for breaking the rules, narrowly avoiding having their entire booze stock confiscated in 1959. Manager Hyppolite Ross managed to prove that the club had a legit license and averted the raid.
   That same year the club was described as a frequent offender when it came to violating the liquor laws but it had friends in power.
   Celebrity wrestler Johnny Rougeau owned the joint, at least in name, and put a variety of other wrestlers on the payroll, including Gerard Duchesne, who wrestled under the name Gerry Bright.
   Bright was busted for helping the Liberals rig an election and instead of being brought to the cop shop, police brought him to the Mocambo where Rougeau - who worked a chauffeur and fundraiser for a young Rene Levesque - dealt with the situation in 1960.
   Rougeau and Duchesne were both charged with election offenses but that was considered a minor deal as he kept running the place, which frequently had to hustle to gets it booze license returned, including in 1960.
   The club was known for featuring many French acts, including Alys Robi, but also faced competition from countless clubs offering similar fare including the Cafe de l'Est further east on Notre Dame.
   The club disappeared sometime in late 1964 or early 1965.
   Rougeau was still in his mid-30s by then. He would only live to age 54, felled by cancer in 1983.
    In its twilight  years, Rougeau's booze hall presented an impressive bill of Chubby Chcker with Frankie Lymon and the Ink Spos as well as Jennie Rock, an artist of the twist in May 1963..
   The next year it hosted a relative unknown in the form of the 14-year-old Stevie Wonder.
  More photos of the mystery woman below.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Montreal Vodka Bar: Borough orders Decarie establishment to shink popular longtime terrace

    Fans of a popular watering hole on Decarie are irritated that borough authorities have forced its owners to cut down the size of its popular terrace.
  The Vodka and Company bar at 5055 Decarie (corner Dupuis) has long seduced passersby with a luscious terrace that proved an irresistible magnet (don't overdo it - Chimples)  to people living and working in the area.
  Elderly Israeli men would meet in the mornings for coffee, while Habs fans would gather to watch games on the big screen.
  The terrace has existed for as long as anybody can remember.
   Now many regulars who come to the establishment feel that the bar has become a shadow of its former self since the bar was forced to reduce its terrace to about one third of the old size.
   The shrinkage was reportedly ordered by Snowdon borough councillor Marvin Rotrand.
   The first few feet of land and adjoining a sidewalk technically belongs to the municipality, so the borough was legally able to order it cut down after many years.
   The terrace area was heated and remained open in the winter but the canopy has been removed and what's left is now cold and barren.
   "It has killed the charm of the place," said one former regular.
   Management declined to answer questions about the affair when contacted by phone Tuesday afternoon. 

Victim of Montreal police strip club beatdown tells his story

   As we have tragically learned, a night of revelry can quickly slip from festive bliss to panic, violence and tragedy.
   Police are usually on the right side of this equation but one young Montrealer tells Coolopolis that the very people who he would expect to protect him savagely beat him for no reason while at a nightclub on Nov. 1.
Robert Stonescu seen here in a collage with Kama Sutra behind him
   Robert Stonescu was with five friends celebrating his pal's 21st birthday at the cozy Kama Sutra Gentlemen's Club (You mean strip club no doubt - Chimples) when the mayhem began.
   One of his friends reached out to grab the bottom of a performer, which is a clear violation of protocol in such establishments.
   Stonescu had no part in his friend's action, which he describes as "stupid."
   The doorman quickly interceded on behalf of the aggrieved woman in skimpy thong and and he ushered the young man out the door. 
   The rest of the group followed.
   Meanwhile a group of policemen who had been standing inside the bar for over half an hour confronted the group as they stood near the entrance one St. Dominique just south of Prince Arthur.
   Stonescu believes that one office mistakenly thought he had some involvement in the offending bum-grab
   The offier targeted him by screaming in his face.
   "C'est quoi ton hostie d'affaire?"
   The young man parroted the cop by replying in a similar bellicose style.
   The cop did not deem that an appropriate answer and hit Stonescu hard on the forehead with a left cross.
   Another officer then joined in and police hit him four times altogether. 
   He said that one cop told him in French, "shut up or I'll kill you." 
   Stonescu saw another officer kick one of his companions without provocation and then push him to the ground and handcuff him.
   Stonescu fled amid the mayhem but then worried that his flight might further provoke the enraged officers who he feared might even shoot him in the heat of the moment. 
   So he simply stopped and laid down on the sidewalk.
   Police then punched and kicked Stonescu - who is small of stature - as he lay prone on the ground pleading for them to stop.
   They then handcuffed him and marched him to a police cruiser, forcing his hands high above his back as he walked, loudly calling him "tapette" (faggot) as he walked.
  The officers, members of the Eclipse squad, which aims to "combat violent crime," drove him a few blocks away and released him without charge.
  The police officers did the same to his companions.
   After he left the police car, Stonescu realized that his jacket, wallet and cell phone were still inside the police cruiser.
   Stonescu was unable to reach his friends and ended up waiting from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. outside in the rain near the gas station at Sherbrooke and St. Lawrence, where the cashier would not allow him to enter.
   Police instructed him to come to Mount Royal and St. Lawrence to collect his belongings but made no assurances how long he'd be there. 
  So he did not embark on the 17 minute walk in the rain.    
   Nor did he hop a cab because he was unsure the police would be there to give him his money back, which he needed to pay the driver.
   After four hours of waiting police finally brought Stonescu his belongings. 
   He returned home to Laval where he went to see if he had suffered a concussion at a local hospital and to have his other bumps and bruises examined.
   Stonescu -- who has no criminal background and who one friend Coolopolis describes as a "an amazing sweetheart," -- says he is still shocked and traumatized at what he endured. 
  He said he has taken steps to file a criminal complaint against the officers.
  "It's my duty as a citizen. I said to myself that 'I'm not going to let this happen to another guy to get beaten up for nothing,' because next time they'll do it worse," he said. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Neo-Nazis on Mount Royal: Hitler heel-clicking in swinging 60s Montreal

   These days Mount Royal just west of St. Denis is a pretty good spot to get a drink, but in the swinging sixties the spot once had another considerably more sinister vocation.
   Sock it to me! Peace and Love! Tie dye! Austen Powers! Hippies! Flares! Long hair!
   Montreal's neo-Nazis were having none of that in the 60s.
   Here is a description from Duplessis Orphan activist Rod Vienneau about his encounter with a neo-Nazi meeting around 1964.
   I was living in Montreal on Henri Julien St, this certain night, took a walk down Mont Royal to St Denis, was standing in front of the Banque National which was at the direct corner of Mont Royal and St Denis, looking towards the mountain. I started walking on the south side, there was a Spanish night club just next Boxer’s grocery store,
     I stopped between both places, it was a Thursday or Friday, and it was at this place I noticed a lot of men going upstairs, a door between both stores but what I found weird, was every man entering was wearing a blue shirt. I stayed outside quiet sometime, when nobody else was coming in, I could hear a lot of rumble and yelling.
   I went up, there was a small little glass that one could look in. I looked and saw maybe 75 or more men standing hitting their boots together like the Nazis, all together they would yell Heil Hitler! with their arm out facing the ones in front behind the table, maybe Adrien Arcand was there and their leader,
    I couldn’t see the whole hall, but there was quite a few, something I noticed: the men had armbands. I  didn’t notice any wearing them when they went in. They all had black boots army style at the time and they looked French. 
  So why on earth would Montreal have such a strong neo-Nazi/fascist group into the mid-60s?
  Vienneau is interested because he believes that postwar Nazis had a strong influence on Quebec. He believes there to be a link between such figures as Camille Laurin, Denis Lazure and former Nazis and the nuns who ran the insane asylums where many Duplessis Orphans were forced to live.
  Laurin and Lazure visited East Germany and might have had contact with former Nazis during their time in East Germany and then went on to work with nuns at a secretive insane asylum.
  I can't much comment on his viewpoint.
  However the neo-Nazi meeting on Mount Royal suggests that longtime local blue-shirt fascist leader Adrien Arcand - then about 75 - might have still been going strong even at that advanced age.
   Arcand died a couple of years later during Expo 67,
   But what could have possibly attracted Montrealers to Nazism during a period when rock and roll was starting to catch on and young people were letting their hair grow?
   One possible factor might have been incredible poverty in Montreal. Some areas were practically starving while others were wealthy. Only a tiny percentage of Montrealers owned their homes and the quality of their apartments was often abysmal. Young women would routinely turn to prostitution to make ends meet.
  Some of these injustices remain true today. But people have found solace in their TV programs and Internet games.
  Arcand is not entirely forgotten. He is now seen as a buffoon, indeed a recent movie portrayed him in a comical fashion, with actor Haley Osment describing him as a "total nutcase."

Exactly where?

   If you're obsessive about knowing exact locations, as I am, let us speculate together where exactly this meeting took place.
  What is now the Boite Noire movie rental joint was a grocery store until about 2006. In the 60s it was known as Boxer's Groceries.
  Right next door, adjacent to the west, was the Chateau Madrid Restaurant, which was a popular eatery from 1960 to the mid-70s.
   The next building over was a dry goods store and then next one to the west - the Bily Kun brewpub as well as the show bar upstairs known as the O Patro Vys - sat vacant.
    So the meeting was held in either what is now the O Patro Vys or one of the two upstairs places immediately to the east.

Relocating to the Snowdon Theatre could stop CDN/NDG borough's long descent into Hell

  Montreal contains one borough that towers above all others but lacks in power what is has in size.
  It's an urban area so large that is would be Canada's 30th largest city in Canada if it went solo.
  Cote des Neiges/ Notre Dame de Grace is home to 165,000 residents, which ranks it large than Sudbury, Niagara Falls, Sherbrooke, Nanaimo, Fredericton, Kingston and countless other Canadian cities.
  The borough has two representatives on the city's 12-member Executive Committee, Councillor Lionel Perez and borough mayor Russell Copeman but still punches below its weight and routinely sees its needs overlooked, as seen in such fails as:
  • The highway on-ramp to the Ville Marie Expressway was demolished, never to be returned, forcing downtown-bound motorists to much-slower routes via already-congested Cote St. Luc and Decarie or through the slow city streets along St. James in St. Henri 
  • All traffic to the MUHC Vendome superhospital travels through NDG, while a route via Westmount was permitted to remain closed
  • It failed to develop Blue Bonnets, which means that massive mall tax cash revenues will instead go to TMR with its upcoming Royalmount Mall
  • It made no progress creating the long-needed Cavendish extension  
  • Massive numbers of new traffic lights have been installed through the area, making driving a headache
  • The costly Turcot interchange rebuild will move traffic to the bottom of the cliff below St. James, making life in the area noisier and more polluted 
  • It has failed to maintain the Snowdon Theatre, a property is owns but allowed to fall into disrepair and crippled a gymnastics club where hundreds of girls practiced the sport
  • Completely unable to make any progress on rehabilitating the long-deteriorating and vacant Empress Theatre
  • Authorities permitted the MUHC Superhospital at Vendome to manipulate wording in its contract to build six storeys of parking above ground, rather than below ground as planned
   Many failures were the fault of the borough alone. It allowed developer Tony Magi to build a hideous project complete with old-fashioned eyesore above-ground phone poles, while another councillor allowed 14,000 square feet of cement to be poured in the middle of a green space at Oxford Park.
   The borough administration was even corrupt and got nailed for crimes.
   Secretive meetings and dodgy land deals led to a corruption conviction against longtime councillor Saulie Zajdel. Longtime former borough mayor Michael Applebaum is soon to be tried on corruption as well. (The secretive methods continue still, by the way).
   Solutions do not seem near at hand, as councillors bicker among each other: one has grown old and cynical, another is bent on establishing a wacky personality cult and one is so fixated on bicycle paths that he wore a helmet at a city council meeting.
   The borough needs a break and there is one slam-dunk project that could easily go far to finally put it on the right track.
  The borough must move out of its bland office space at 5160 Decarie across the street to the Snowdon Theatre.
   The project would allow the landmark Snowdon Theatre to be rehabilitated and could also usher the return of the gymnasts into their proper place on the upstairs level.
   It's a no-brainer as the borough - in spite of its large population - has easily the worst town hall on the island. Compare its town hall anywhere else, such as Verdun, Westmount, Outremont, which all have impressive buildings.
  The borough currently rents its offices from a numbered company.
  It already owns the Snowdon Theatre, so there's not much involved in the switch.
  Once installed in the Snowdon Theatre the borough could then imitate the mayor of Montreal and order a section of the nearby highway covered up.
  Covering a section of the Decarie above Queen Mary would help return Snowdon to the glory it once knew before it was demolished in the mid-60s by the Decarie Expressway project. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Montreal's Le Goglu - anti-Semitic rag in all its Google News glory

    Google News has countless kooky and peculiar scanned newspapers on its excellent news service site and I thank them daily for the incredible supply. I only dream of the day Google posts even more of them.
    One of the strangest local papers is something called Le Goglu, which lasted for 2.5 years when launched in 1929 and was briefly revived for 15 months in 1946.
   The paper calls itself a satire and has the requisite ridiculous articles, such as one about dead bodies attacking grave diggers.

    But as we have seen, satire has long been used as a smokescreen for libel and Le Goglu uses their satire label to issue a vigorously anti-Semitic outlook.
   The writers make constant references to what they describes interchangeably as the Liberal Party and Jews, or implies that Jews run the liquor business and so forth.
   One article suggests that "Soon the Jews will post a huge sign in front of the cross on Mount Royal "without distinction of race or religion "
   "This formula has served to magnetize the bad element of the Liberal party."
   Of course no such sign was ever put up as far as we've heard.
   The staff of six are all listed as Emile Goglu. But it's known that local fascist leader Adrien Arcand edited the paper, among others, for some time.
   The artwork is top flight and the paper is a valuable historical document, although we hope nobody looking at it today gets influenced into its insane point of view. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Ste. Anne de Bellevue: what went wrong

   A waterside boardwalk, marina, delightful shops and restaurants, schools: such are the elements which have long made Ste. Anne de Bellevue - the furthest-west of Montreal's island suburbs - into an urban gem.
   But lately the town's decline is immediately evident to anybody cruising into the city of 5,000 founded in 1703.
Restaurants have been closing in Ste. Anne's at an alarming rate
   Anybody who has hit the main drag would have noticed the jawdropping vacancy rate, which includes a pair of large-sized, once-thriving adjacent restaurants, leaving visitors half-expecting to see tumbleweeds blow by.
   What caused the sudden decline in fortunes? One might look no further than a costly and ill-advised major rehaul of the main strip that left it closed for over a year and then left it more cumbersome to navigate upon its return.
   But here's a bit more background: the city was one of those municipalities that demerged from one-island-one city in June 2004 as 1651 voters opted to leave the City of Montreal against 356 that voted to stay.
   The popular mantra was that smaller cities are run more efficiently, as they keep a tight reign on their spending.
   This formula might work for cities like Westmount which have solid cash coming in from commercial taxpayers such as Westmount Square, but Ste. Anne's has a different scheme.
  And of course, it's easy to brag that you pay less but as you know, you get what you pay for.
  Ste. Anne's squeezes their nickels by subcontracting such tasks as city inspection, which has led to very poor service. The city has since been unable to keep competent people on staff, as workers frequently leave to other more lucrative careers in such fields as pet grooming.
   As a result of going solo, the tiny city was forced to take on expenses of maintaining 11 kilometres of roads and a pair of highway overpasses which a past mayor said "we can't possibly afford."
   Already-high taxes were raised by over two percent in 2014, forcing landlords to sacrifice repairs and in many cases pass on those higher-expenses to commercial and residential tenants.
   Many residents live north of Highway 20 and have no connection to the main strip, which they see as a place where drunken CEGEP students make noise and bother people, a reputation that has been undeserved for about 20 years as the Brass and other youth-catering establishments are long gone.
   But the popular agenda of townsfolks that come to council meetings is to discourage commerce and traffic, a popular will that has hurt the tax base and led to a high vacancy rate on the main strip.
   About four years ago then-mayor Francis Deroo approved a massive remake of Lakeshore Boulevard, aka Ste. Anne.
  The street was closed and dug up for over a year with predictable results on the fortunes of main street merchants.
  The renovation included trendy new elements such as wider sidewalks and narrower streets, changes which cost about 20 street parking spots.
   Once reopened, elderly drivers found driving too harrowing on the lane-sized main drag and so they stopped coming. Other motorists noted the difficulty parking and also stopped coming to the many restaurants.
   As a result, the newly-widened sidewalks have been less-trod, the newly-implanted benches unoccupied.
   The massive marathon remake of main street included new underground wiring which would allow the removal of the old wooden electrical poles.
   About two years later the poles are still there.
   The one-term mayor that oversaw the urban remake is long gone.
   Whether the city can recover and once again thrive is another question.