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Tales of the Toolbox

Now terminated

My neighbourhood bar, as it turns out, is the oddball Toolbox – surely the only nonsmoking leather bar situated in the middle of nowhere (map) to be found in this or any major metropolis. (Not quite in the middle of nowhere, actually – a few doors down one finds a biker den. Overlapping demographics, shurely?!)

The place is a dump and borders the industrial wastelands of Toronto, and is surrounded by white trash, but the clientele is unique, and I'm rarely bored there. So I'm keeping a journal. You've been forewarned. (And I seem to be setting myself down the course of organizing these entries as badly as my Volt reviews. Will I ever learn?)


April 2000

Thursday 20

Saturday 22

Sunday 23

Tuesday 25

Wednesday 26

Thursday 27

Friday 28

The place is dead as heaven on a Saturday night. I strike up a conversation with the only fellow describable as cute, a compact type with good skin and an upturned nose, and the most adorable attempt at a goatee. Ken’s his name. (Seems to be a pattern.) His friend stood him up, and, to paraphrase the T-shirt, he went all the way to the Toolbox and all he got was to talk with me.


Sunday 8

Wednesday 10

Other days

A couple of boring-as-fuck five-minute visits, during one of which Glenn actually notices me for half a second.

Thursday 18

Sunday 21

Thursday 25

Boring and quickly becoming actively unpleasant. I split.

Friday 26


Thursday 1

Saturday 3

It was a highly deterministic weekend. Pretty much everything that happened was destined to happen. Why? I kept getting déjà vu experiences all weekend.

Sunday 4

Saturday 17

I’ve been back a couple of times. Last night the visiting Detroiters were supposed to put together some kind of Bare Chest Contest™, which wasn’t scheduled till 0100, past my bedtime. But Carlos, he of the girls’-field-hockey-coach jacket, was in full gear at the pool table. Literally astounding arms. I wasn’t aware that triceps, my favourite muscle, were equipped with such tendons. And a major basket. An acquaintance describes him as "aloof." He can afford to be.

Thursday 22

I ran into Ron. We were supposed to share an après-travail apéritif earlier in the week, which Ron had to cancel because one of his friends committed suicide. (Another of his friends, and the second son in that family to kill himself.)

– Oh, hi, Ron. How are you?

– I’m all right, considering I’ve been drinking since five after noon. We buried my friend today.

Ron was in reasonably good spirits, I think. More naturally himself, rather than the constructed artiste persona. He didn’t look or act drunk. He described his plans to paint a watercolour of the yellow rose everyone at the funeral received. A gift for the friend’s mother. Ron has some experience with representing death in painting. His blobettes abstracts directly refer to the eight friends who died in a ferry accident in England a decade ago, while Ron survived.

We enjoyed an amiable conversation across a narrow bar by the front door, talking about him and me in equal measure. Much discussion of the goatee he shaved off, to my disappointment. There was a lot of love flowing between us. I had to kiss him on the cheek at one point, with his soft velvety skin. Naturally, I stopped to think whether I could get away with it first. Welcome to the land of nonspontaneity.

Nuzzling my forehead against his later on was, however, spontaneous. I ought to just come around there and pop you, he told me, making a quick addition he wouldn’t were another persona in effect: Except I don’t know what your sexual preferences are.

Quite powerful, the forces at work. And entirely new. Nothing like that before in my life. Unstudied, unambiguous, unsullied, unprompted by anything but the two of us and what’s been percolating for weeks.

Thursday 29

Very crowded indeed, though not with anyone interesting. R.M. Vaughan, local art critic, was heard to tell his friend "I love this bar."

Bumped an acquaintance of gay-hockey infamy who still acts like I’m wrapped in sticks of TNT with my thumb pressing down on a plunger. He was kind enough to imply that I had once had a LTR. How generous.

Glenn walked by, in leather vest and no shirt. Heyyy. I know you, I said, with a big smile. Accompanied him into the cloakroom, where he was handling disrobed customers (well, handling their clothing), and tried to chat, but there were too many competing voices. Joe, come back, he said as I walked away. No, you’re busy, I said sincerely. I’ll talk to you later. I came back several times, but he was always busier still.

Boys almost never call my name, certainly not in a tone that says "I want you to stay."


Sunday 2

I am such a nerd. I walk out of the house expecting a cool 15° evening as ever, and it’s a swamp. I’m wearing black jeans, a T-shirt and shirt, and my dirty white jeanjacket and my hat. I stand there and think: Should I change? Naaah, I conclude, foolishly and yet again ignoring the Woman’s Intuition.

I’m dying of thirst halfway to the bar. And when I get there, it’s the remnants of another naked party. So everyone else is wearing either shorts and tank tops, shorts with no tank tops, or merely shoes and socks, and I’m dressed for October.

On the patio, a slender skinhead type stands next to me. I let him. I allow him to catch my eye, and he doesn’t. I wonder if he’s another Belgian. I can’t take that much boredom when I’m this overdressed.

I walk around a bit. Passing him twice, I notice his bleach-blond bristles. He grunts an approving “Mm” both times. I stand nearby. He’s holding his beer bottle in exactly the right way. Walks by. I follow.

He’s already kissing and crushing the nipples of some other lad, who I must admit has a bit of charisma. I get up close for some voyeurism. Eventually the other lad, having noticed me twice, asks if I have any poppers. As if I’m gonna.

Suddenly there’s a throng. A fat dude fellates the other lad while he rims the skinhead. The lad bursts, and gets up and stumbles away as if we’d just slit his carotid.

Skinhead turns to me, finally. What were you waiting for, I ask him, a singing telegram?

Paul’s the name.

He’s got a lot of what you need in a man, including foreskin, a good body, unreservedness, and a cologne this nerd finds literally intoxicating. We ought to do this again sometime, I tell him, but he doesn’t take the bait to exchange numbers. I mean, imagine what we could achieve horizontal. And alone.

Thursday 6

Hoping strongly to bump into Ron again. But no dice. And he’s not returning my calls. Either he’s on to me and is cooling my jets, or is manifestly unwell. I left him alone for the entire week to give him space, but now I want some of that space back.

The mullet was back, playing pool. Thought I was his next opponent. Got a haircut recently. Looks more human. In conservative Bay-quality white golfing shorts, the relatively astounding legs became apparent. After I told him I was merely a voyeur, not a player, he lost all interest, so I may never know what his secret is.

I bump into Miss Carl Strygg, of denying-HIV-causes-AIDS fame, for the second time in a week (and only the second time in maybe five years). He’s worried about taking airplane rides with his mom, whose osteoarthritic knees were recently replaced with titanium. I was in total femme-out mode chatting with Carl. One has to be to keep up.

Elsewhere on the patio, I spotted a 6′4″, 200-pound man in a wheelchair. How the fuck did he get there? So I asked him. (“Where is the barrier-free entrance to the patio?” I asked, trying to impress him with my crip knowledge.) He mumbled something and looked incomprehending. I asked him how he got onto the patio. Still no go. Tu parles français? I tried. No dice.


So we have a German giant of a man in a wheelchair on the patio of the Toolbox on Naked Night. What are the odds?

”In a wheelchair.” “Uh-huh.” “How to get into patio?” Points to secret door. By golly, on the far wall the boards are actually hinged. It’s a door. My, my, my.

While chitchatting with Carl, I threw shade on these two skinhead types standing nearby. One, 6′5″ and in his very latest 30s, was vaguely reminiscent of Jeff Braff, a former Torontonian (with dual citizenship) who went on to become a bigwig in the AIDS gravy train. (Always treated me well. Recommended I visit the Y twice a day, if at all possible, as he did.) The tall skinhead’s friend, a mere six feet, was late 20s and gave off a slightly stronger ping.

I guess he hadn’t inspected his sweater closely during his last surreptitious trip to the Bay. A base-of-nape logo gave him away: Tommy Hilfiger.

He threw further dirt onto his own grave when, well before witching hour, he heaved a big sigh and headed for the door, uttering the words “School night.”

I took a cruise through the bathroom at one point and spotted this filthy bearded Manson type, wearing naught but mechanic’s overalls, waving his Prince Albert in the urinal alongside the taller, older, braffian skinhead, whose dick was impressively thick. (Proportionality is never guaranteed with the tall boys, let me tell you. And you still have to worry about the coefficeint of expansion.)

This 40-year-old blond man across the passageway was staring at me and trying to chat me up. Say something, he commands. I grin. Hello, I say. Soon: Whoa, he says. Don’t you love watching guys piss? No comment, I said. (A big man with a big dick I will watch sewing a button on a shirt, OK? I’ll watch him swipe a debit card at the supermarket. I’ll let him counsel me to visit the gym twice a day.)

Later, Mr. Big ’n’ Tall was seen engaging in a bit more frottage with the pig, to my dismay. Don’t you have any standards? I thought. The blond man, whose meat is a good size, showed what age and experience can do with a larger specimen from someone who still chooses to keep his mouth shut. On the way home, I felt like king shit cock-of-the-walk. Because I was.

Terminating Tales of the Toolbox

July 30 – I’ve been back to the Toolbox several times, of course. Not much notable happened. A bear type fell backwards into one of the tubs and got right up again to resume his previous activity. I complimented Glenn on his flame-red shorts, which I described as hot pants (articulated as two words).

En route home, a local resident, resplendent in her poor-for-generations working-class tank top and bodyfat, bitched out her bf unit, seated in his very swank Cavalier two-door. “Don’t be dissing me in front of other people!” she screamed. I stopped to beckon a young kitten from a back porch whose door was open. The cat decided to come visit, but, halfway there, the bf unit screamed out the cat’s name and “back inside!” Gee, if only I’d known. I gave the warring couple an “Oh, give it a rest” wave without looking back and kept on my way.

A moment later, I surprised a skunk – a beautiful creature, only the second I’d ever seen (both of them in the last six months). She disappeared as though beamed aboard the Enterprise.

And then there was July 27

Walking to the Litterbox, a police car passed. The Woman’s Intuition said: Wouldn’t it be odd if they asked where I was going? To the Toolbox, I’d say, presumably. Oh, isn’t that a coincidence? they’d reply. We’re planning a raid there for later tonight. Wouldn’t that be odd, I asked myself.

At 0050 hours, after missing several Woman’s Intuition cues to leave the bar, an announcement was made over the PA:

Can you hear me out there on the patio? I know you can. As of this minute, Naked Night is cancelled. I just had a visit from the police. They’re gonna hassle us to fuckin’ death. Bob and I have four years left on our mortgage, and we’d like to stay in business. Sorry, guys, but –

“It’s the end of an era,” Ron told me the next day. “It’ll make a good story for your Web site.”

And speaking of him

Even though this journal said far more about me than any person named here; even though everything I wrote is true, and truth is an absolute defense in libel cases, not that anyone has been libelled here; even though it all happened to me or in my presence, and thus, as part of my life, I have a right to document it, I am terminating Tales of the Toolbox.


Ron and Glenn, and for all I know other people, have lost trust in me altogether. I ran into Ron the other day at the Toolbox, and at one point he uttered the phrase “I choose not to answer”; at another point, he walked smartly away from me as though I were carrying a Betacam connected by satellite uplink to a live CNN feed. Meanwhile, someone keeps plugging the word glenn into the search engine of this site. I don’t know anyone else named Glenn.

Shutting down Naked Night would seem to be a propitious, if unrelated, trigger to shut down Tales of the Toolbox. Sorry, everyone, but.


Of the episodes documented here, my favourite memories are:

  1. Meeting Ken, the indie-rock d00d. Would like to see him again. Surprised not to find him at Vaseline, the fag rock night at the El Mo.
  2. Getting my Hello Kitty key fob fixed.
  3. Encountering the skunk.

Seemingly low-wattage events to nominate as Top Three? Somewhat. But I have learned a few things from writing Situationist Histories. Small details write their memoirs in big letters.

Further hauntings

September 1 – Having had some time to reflect, I must say that the blond-haired man making out with Flavio has been much in my memory. I hold out a romantic hope that he breaks up with his bf, with whom he is unhappy anyway, and eventually recovers enough to revisit the Toolbox, where I hope to have sufficient guts to chat him up. Without, presumably, telling him how magnificent he is. In the top percentile of redheads, whom I already track scrupulously.

Minor heartbreak at being ignored by Paul, the man with the cologne, and the dick. I wonder if I am hallucinating a connection. Perhaps, like plugging an extension cord into itself, a connection still exists even if he doesn’t know about it. I have to have some kind of romantic fantasy unrelated to redheads.

On the upside, Ron and Glenn are both talking to me again without reservation. A significant auspicious outcome.