GOOD – BETTER – BEST . . . That’s the direction this R2R was headed.
While all the plans were starting to coalesce, somewhere in the midst of it all, Lou DeVuono called to tell me that he had arranged a meeting with Toronto City Councilor Doug Ford (for his HHR), who also happens to be the brother of Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford, who was empowered to speak for the Mayor . . . both of whom are big supporters of Israel.
Lou asked if I’d like to attend.
The meeting took place at Toronto’s City Hall, where we primarily discussed Police services, since we hadn’t yet received a written commitment, which worried me somewhat, even though we did have a verbal assurance “of sorts”.
“Don’t worry” . . . Councilor Ford said, as he picked up his cell phone and made a call on our behalf, while I was staring out his window onto Nathan Philips Square, which is a huge concrete Plaza framed by the two semi circular City Hall buildings.
Nathan Philip’s Square, by virtue of the corporate power of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is Canada’s epicenter, where literally TENS of thousands of people pass through and around this structure day in and day out – But especially around noon.
After Doug Ford got off the phone, he looked at us and asked if there was anything else he could do? To which I responded: “How about Nathan Philip’s Square?”
“Is there any way we can have Nathan Philip’s Square available to us to hold a rally and a Pledge of NEVER AGAIN on Friday noon on June the 1st?”
His answer shocked me – “WHY NOT?”
I couldn’t believe my ears, since having a secondary Pledge in the heart of this incredible city was far too much to expect. So I pushed my luck: “What about having you and the Mayor attend, with the Mayor being the Keynote Speaker?”
Again, his answer blew me back on my heels:
“If the Mayor is available, he’ll be there. If not, I’ll be there. So, let’s go track down the Mayor and see what his agenda will be on June 1st.” So, off we went from office to office through the Mayor’s private offices to see what the Mayor’s response and agenda will be.
As it turned-out, the Mayor had snuck out for lunch. But, we were assured not to worry, and someone from the office that is responsible for Nathan Philip’s Square would be contacting me soon.
That night, I attended an R2R organizing committee meeting where I announced this unbelievable opportunity, to a group of organizers who were also quite pleased.
To my mind, if this R2R was all about giving REAL meaning to the words NEVER AGAIN, I couldn’t possibly imagine anything that could have been better than all the events that were unfolding – ESPECIALLY IN THE HEART OF TORONTO.
HERE CAME A PROBLEM THAT I DIDN’T THINK WOULD BE A PROBLEM:
Toronto Councilor Doug Ford was true to his word . . . I was contacted by the person responsible for the group that managed Nathan Philip’s Square, who told me that all the arrangements have been made as per my request, INCLUDING a FREE stage and a FREE sound system – It really doesn’t get better than that.
And even MORE than that – we were given the full use of the Plaza (Square) to park our hundreds of Bikes.
BUT . . .
Nathan Philip’s Square is surrounded by old Justice Buildings, where court is held every day till noon, where by agreement, the City will not hold noise-making activities on the “Square” while the Courts are in session. So, we would have to readjust our schedule some.
I saw no problem in this . . . BUT THE ORGANIZING COMMITTEE DID.
As it turned out, according to the committee, this would impinge on the time set aside for a planned lunch at a Host Synagogue. All right I suggested, move the time of the lunch. We can’t I was told, because of the school children at the Synagogue. Besides they said: “WE GAVE THEM OUR WORD”.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Instead of dismissing this once in a lifetime opportunity out of hand, we could have rented a couple of busses and brought the students and the boxed lunches to Nathan Philip’s Square. But that wasn’t even brought up for discussion because I was simply flabbergasted.
I didn’t argue. In fact . . . I said nothing, since I couldn’t believe that this group would simply throw away the GREATEST opportunity imaginable to get out the words NEVER AGAIN, especially at the epicenter of Canada’s GREATEST City, with the Mayor or his Councilor Brother taking the Pledge of NEVER AGAIN.
To me – this was akin to telling the Mayor of New York City thank you but no thank you.
All I saw as the committee rejected this NO COST windfall of support and messaging, was the enormous media participation that we could have had vanish from my very thoughts.
This was the first time that I had serious doubts about what this committee was really all about. Were they about staging the BEST schmooze-fest to compete with all the other R2R schmooze-fests? Or were they really embracing a serious Pledge of NEVER AGAIN?
GUESTS – GUESTS AND MORE GUESTS:
As the date was approaching, I was setting up the guest list of people who would be invited to attend the R2R Friday Night Banquet. The list included several of the Members of Parliament, Joyce Kaufman, Lou and Anne DeVuono of the HHR, and Gary and Caroline Burd of the M25 with a guest of their own, plus seats for the professional photographers who agreed to cover this event at no charge as a favor to me.
We also needed to pay for the rooms of – Joyce Kaufman, two Montreal Rabbi’s who volunteered to oversee the Kosher meals and provide Sabbath Services.
We needed a room-night for one of the Members of Parliament and another for the photographers. We also needed a couple of room-nights for David Soloway the Keynote speaker, plus a room-night each for Lou DeVuono who asked if we could accommodate him and a Motorcycle Reporter who would be covering much of all the events.
When I made the arrangements with the Host Hotel, they included a flat rate for all rooms, INCLUDING Suites at $115 per night. So, we were in a great position to honor all of our guests in a manner that would show them our appreciation and make us look good.
The cost for all of the room-nights, which amounted to about 12 if everyone used a comp room, would have been slightly more than $1500 taxes in.
LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR: Even though the Host Hotel was a client of my agency, and I was the organizer of all the arrangements for the Hotel, I did not ask ask for, nor did I expect a free room from the R2R.
I also paid for the full R2R Registration Fee, the Bar B Q, the Banquet, and the Saturday Night Closing Party. Let me repeat – I did not ask for . . . nor did I expect anything for FREE. I was more than happy to pay my own way which I did.
THINGS WERE REALLY STARTING TO COME TOGETHER:
I got very lucky and found a tremendous Sound Company in Ottawa, which agreed to provide the perfect system we needed for $2000 – including set-up, two operators, breakdown and taxes. THEY WERE FABULOUS!
I can’t possibly describe my relief at having this serious obstacle removed.
Gila Yefet, who is a no nonsense Israeli born Canadian travel agent, who was part of the R2R Toronto organizing committee, took half of another part of my super stress off my shoulders by securing a really cheap (about $500) direct round trip airfare for Joyce Kaufman from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto.
I had originally budgeted close to $1000 for airfare.
But, the problem now, was how to get Joyce from Toronto to Ottawa and back again. But, as it turned out, this was no problem at all, because Lou DeVuono’s wife Anne stepped up to the plate and offered to meet Joyce at the Toronto Airport, and drive her directly to the Ottawa hotel.
As for the need to rent a motorcycle for Joyce, Lou actually took care of that by getting a Harley Davidson Dealer to LEND one at no cost, which turned out to be an unneeded perk, since Lou volunteered to chauffeur Joyce on the back of his very big Victory Motorcycle.
So, with all of this coming together . . . why the EXTRA stress?
Everything that was happening was happening well under what I had assumed would be the worst-case cost scenario that I had originally presented. But, we still had no money, and Stein was still locked in a pissing contest with the JMA, who had all the money.
At the very beginning of my participation, I made it crystal clear to Stein and Prager, that no one who puts-out for this event should be out of pocket by even one cent, to which there was no disagreement, especially since this was NOT a charity. And there would be more than enough money from reservation fees to cover costs.
HERE’S THE MONEY WE NEEDED ROUNDED OFF TO THE NEAREST HUNDRED:
$1500 – For the comp rooms.
$2000 – For the sound system,
$ 500 – For a special fund to the Rabbi who cares for mentally challenged children.
$ 500 – For Joyce Kaufman’s Airline ticket.
$ 500 – For my cost of gas to cover FOUR round trips to Toronto.
$ 300 – For my cost of gas to cover SIX round trips to Ottawa.
$ 200 – For 50 HHR Patches to be sent to the M25 Riders.
$ 200 – For Joyce Kaufman’s Ottawa hotel room.
$ 250 – For Joyce Kaufman to cover any incidental costs (walking around money).
$ 250 – For David Solway, also to cover incidental costs (walking around money).
$ 400 – To pay taxes and shipping for two shipments of caps from the USA to a US Depot.
$ 500 – For the Afghan Repatriation Fund.
All in all – the total amount of costs came to $7100.
Steve Stein ASSURED me that there would be no problem getting the $1700 for the comp rooms paid by the JMA, out of Registration Fees, but, he would have to work on getting the rest from them, including the Sound System.
So, what we needed to be paid aside from the comp rooms was under $6000, which under the circumstances was a gift in comparison to what the R2R was getting.
As I wrote previously, I was adamant that we somehow raise our own money to cover the $6000 costs, which would take pressure off of me, by giving me one less thing to think about.
Remember – We should have paid $6000 just for the Ottawa Police Escort, for which we paid ZERO. We should have paid a thousand to several thousands of dollars for the Toronto Police and Insurance Liabilities, for which we paid ZERO. There should have been rental fees ($400 per use) for the Host Hotel Meeting Room, for which we paid ZERO. We should have paid for the Hospitality Suites and divided main floor ballroom, for which we paid ZERO.
AND WHAT ABOUT $4000 FOR A SOUND SYSTEM THAT I GOT FOR HALF THE PRICE?
My costs to travel to Toronto, SPECIFICALLY for the R2R at $125 per round trip didn’t include my cost of hotel room, parking, meals, wear and tear on my car or any part of the two days lost taking care of R2R business. It just barely covered the gas.
My trips to Ottawa, which numbered more than one dozen, didn’t include the costs of parking and meals that I paid for others, with whom we were negotiating on behalf of the R2R.
My trips to the USA to pick-up caps for the event, where I had them priced at the LOWEST wholesale rate possible to save the taxes at the border, barely covered my costs of fuel and tolls at the International Bridge.
And then there was the TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS of REAL advertising in Montreal and Ottawa that I arranged at NO COST to the R2R or JMA.
I didn’t attend any part of the R2R Toronto, which I had far more than a hand in setting up. And in the next installment of: And The Truth Will Set You Free – PART SIX . . . you’ll read why.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov