Greetings once again from your sister city, Toronto! Lo, another year has passed and, like every year, it was great, momentous, fabulous, but in the end, disappointing. The hockey team, despite an early glimmer of promise, is scheisse. The basketball team is scheisse. The soccer team is scheisse.
And then there's the baseball team, which is brimming with prospects, boasts the greatest power hitter in the game, and perhaps the league's most talented general manager. But it's owned by a widely loathed communications company that is actually the wealthiest owner in all of Major League Baseball, and yet it is too cheap to pull the trigger on a big-gun free agent. That's actually more painful than being scheisse.
As the French say, plus ça change... You're probably wondering about our mayor. When we last wrote, he had just gotten elected by promising to lower taxes and get rid of "gravy" ( bratensosse). One of the very first things he did as mayor was hire one of those snazzy accounting firms – the kind where everyone has an MBA and wears expensive scuba-diving watches, even though they don't scuba dive – to go through all the city's books and find wasteful spending. After months of number-crunching, they found it. They told the mayor that if the city stops mowing the grass in parks, it could save a few hundred bucks. So much for bratensosse.
But the mayor wasn't the big story this year – his brother was. Imagine for a moment you're at a neighbourhood barbecue and this big guy pulls up in a honkin' SUV, rips the tongs out of the host's hand, takes over the grill and then burns the bratwurst and undercooks the chicken. Do you know the kind of guy I'm talking about?
The first thing he did was announce this big plan to close a whole bunch of public libraries. Then, when he was criticized by Margaret Atwood, he was like, who's she? (That would be like a German politician saying he'd never heard of Günter Grass.) And then later, out of nowhere, he announces this wacky plan to build a giant Ferris wheel on the waterfront along with a huge mall and a hotel you get to by gondola.
None of this helped the mayor very much. But things are looking up for him. As you read this, the mayor is negotiating a new contract with the city's union. These were the guys who organized that garbage strike a few years back so they could keep their month of paid "sick" leave (on top of generous vacation time) right as the world economy was collapsing. These were the guys who sent their goons out to block people from dropping off their reeking garbage in city parks. These are the guys who can't actually be fired because their jobs are guaranteed for life. (Do we sound like Greece to you?) The whole reason the mayor got elected was to get revenge against the union. And if he does, maybe people will forget about the bratensosse.
2012 is shaping up to be quite the humdinger. Everyone is wondering if Toronto's housing bubble is finally going to pop. To be fair, we've been wondering that for the past ten years. But now the IMF and The Economist are warning of imminent collapse, so it looks like all those house flippers who do slick yet shoddy renovations without bothering to put so much as a fibre of insulation the walls might finally lose their shirts. A lot of us really hope so.
How are things in Frankfurt? Is the eurozone crisis as bad as everyone says? Did you guys find any bratensosse this year? If so, where was it?
Happy New Year, Frankfurt! Hoping to see more of you in 2012.
With ever heartfelt warmest love,
Your sister city,
Special to The Globe and Mail