Before I get started on my weekly rant, please allow me to take a moment to wish you all a very happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Advent, Winter Solstice, Twelve days of Christmas, Kwanzaa or even Newtonmas I wanted to wish all of my readers an outstanding and safe Winter season!
As I hear from you throughout the year I am always surprised at what articles seem to get most of your attention. It’s very clear to me over the last many years that you all really love the funny and ridiculous “Bruce” and I couldn’t agree with you more. I love making people laugh. I think I love this more than anything else I am able to do. There is something really amazing about being able to be wonderfully verbal at just the right time. Not just verbal but ridiculous and spontaneous. Making people laugh is a wonderful thing.
I’m just curious if laughter really heals the emotionally scarred like they say it does. There seems to be so much unhappiness and violence in the world; are people laughing anymore?
Of course on any given day you can hear much laughter on the bus, in the coffee house, in the theater and so on. But I took a moment this past week to tour a place that made me wonder, “How much laughter was ever heard here?” Rightly so maybe, but a foreboding thought none the less. The place was one of the most notorious holding facilities in Canada for some of the most notorious criminals. The Don jail. Better known as just “The Don”.
I’m not sure what made me want to walk through this particular historical building but I was in the area for an appointment and I just really wanted to go in. It’s now part of a health centre and the workers literally work inside the skeleton of the old jail house. I’m not sure I could do that. It seems depressing.
As I began my self guided tour there were three trees on display decked in Christmas ornaments just inside the front hall. It did seem a bit odd to me to see this in such a place of sadness. I didn’t want to feel so sad but it was like it came over me like a heavy cloud and stayed with me the entire walk.
I stared around the main hall for quite some time not sure I was ready to visit the holding areas of some of Canada’s hardest criminals. Every once in a while I would see one of the staff from the offices walking up and down the steal stair cases that led up and down to the prison cells. They all looked depressed to be there. I’m not sure why they would use this space in this way. I didn’t think it worked at all and it honestly felt a bit disturbing. Maybe it was just me. I do have a flare for the dramatic but nonetheless, no one was smiling so it was easy to get this impression.
There was one lady who helped me find the men’s room and she was really upbeat. She said the washrooms were some of the best in the city. I didn’t really know what she meant by that. Maybe just an off coloured joke. I guess the washrooms were okay, but still unsettling.
I decided to make my way down the steel staircase first. With the painted facelift it had clearly received, the cold of the basement lost a bit of it’s air of gloom. I was shocked when I came upon the single holding cell. Just thin enough for a small spring bed; the mattress long rotten away. My mind in a mist of wonder of who may have stayed there. What had they done? What brought them to this breaking point in their lives and who suffered because of their acts of violence?
This was a lingering question in my mind. How and why do people get to this dark place in their lives that they steal, kill, destroy? This was a choice that was made and they had to pay for it. Some paid the ultimate price in the gallows. The heavy steel door remained locked as I stood in front of it with such a real heaviness in my heart.
The heaviness of heart for the criminal, and the deepest of sadness for the victim. Nameless, many with ghosts lingering these halls like quiet demons. I didn’t stand in that small cell. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. These are shoes I was not willing to stand in. All I could think was this is not just another day in paradise. I said a prayer for the criminal. I said a prayer for the victim.
I was thankful my life had neither of these experiences and I really did pray for peace on earth. Take a moment to remember those who suffer and for those who have chosen the wrong path.
Merry Christmas. xo
Bruce in the City
Edited by Mary Ellen Monk