After riding through Hell and Damnation from Scranton Pennsylvania to Syracuse New York towards Canada, the ride from Kingston to Ottawa was as pleasant as pleasant could be.
By the time we rolled into the Ottawa hotel parking lot late afternoon Wednesday, May 30, there were far more than 100 JMA Bikes from all parts of Eastern USA – from Florida right through to Ohio and New York, with another 50 or more from Toronto and Montreal.
It was indeed quite a sight to see, especially when our 44 Bikes were added to the mix.
And as much as I tried to drink-in the excitement of the moment, and tried not to think about what had to be done on Parliament Hill the next day, and all the things that could and would most probably go wrong, that was just not going to happen. The stress was palpable.
On the way through the lobby of the hotel, I came across Gadi Pager, president of the Toronto YOWS, and member of the organizing committee, who along with Steve Stein also suffered from the inability to keep his word.
Prager met me with a big smile and body language that said: “Let’s be friends”, to which I asked – Where’s Gila? Which wiped the smile from his face. Prager answered with a shrug. And I simply kept on walking. Prager was no friend of mine.
Two nice things happened after we arrived at the Ottawa hotel:
1 – Gary Burd of the M25 who hailed from Amarillo Texas along with a fair sized number of us went to the Lone Star Restaurant for a terrific Tex-Mex supper, where we had a chance to chat and meet with a Canadian Pentecostal Bishop, who was in from Vancouver British Columbia.
Not only was supper great, it also set the stage for a much larger event that I will write about in the next and FINAL chapter.
2 – The next thing that brought a smile to my weary face was FINALLY meeting Joyce Kaufman for the FIRST time. It was as if we had known each other forever.
I was exhausted by the time I turned-in at about eleven o’clock. And since I hardly slept a wink, I was just as exhausted by the time I got out of bed near 6:30, which is normal for me. Nonetheless though, tired or not, there was a great deal to get done.
THEN CAME THE CALL:
Imagine how you would feel, if just after stepping-out of an early morning shower, while standing before the mirror with fresh shaving cream on your face you receive a desperate phone call from your Sound Manager saying that he and his helper were denied access to Parliament Hill, because they weren’t given Security Clearance, AND YOU KNEW THEY WERE CLEARED, BECAUSE YOU HANDLED IT YOURSELF?
The poor guy from the Sound Company was beside himself, knowing that he had very little time to get everything setup, and now he couldn’t even get on the property to get it started.
So, what do you do near 7:00 in the morning, when all the offices are closed until 8:30 at the earliest, and the guy refusing entry to your people was speaking the worst English imaginable to my sound guy who couldn’t speak French, and then REFUSES to speak with me over the phone in French because that’s not his job?
Here’s what I did:
I started calling every official phone number I had in my Cell Phone directory. I called homes, offices and cell numbers. I also sent out TEXTS where I could. I called what I knew were private lines and didn’t give a damn. Not only had I filled-out all the Security Paperwork and had it properly submitted and approved, I also copied all of it to everyone who I thought might have any need whatsoever to have a copy, even if that person was responsible for doing nothing more than just picking-up trash on the HILL.
AND IT WORKED – Within 15 minutes, our Sound People were on the HILL and the system was being installed.
Before leaving for the HILL, I found myself opening a large cardboard box that was delivered to the hotel, that held NEVER AGAIN “T” Shirts, flags, and ID Tags for the VIPs and Volunteers supplied by MP Goldring’s Office. But, finding all the people who were to receive these goods was a different story.
MARLA BIRMAN FROM FLORIDA TO THE RESCUE:
Marla and her husband Perry flew-in from Florida, specifically to attend the Pledge on Parliament Hill, and leapt at the opportunity to help-out. So, between the two of them, with Marla at the lead, what would have been at the very least an hour’s job and aggravation, all of a sudden became no worry at all.
Coffee in the morning for me is like oxygen, but I was so frazzled by everything that needed to be done within the next few hours, that I never even sipped on the oversized cup of coffee Perry bought for me.
So, starting my day with the phone call from the Sound Crew, the box of “T” Shirts, Flags and ID Tags, not knowing what was to be next on Parliament Hill with no coffee to jumpstart my day . . . I wondered what else could happen?
AND THERE IT WAS . . . Steve Stein standing between the lobby door and myself while I was heading out to Parliament Hill – WITH HIS HAND EXTENDED IN FRIENDSHIP NO LESS. Is this guy not a PUTZ?
I never skipped a step . . . I looked at him with his goofy smile and extended hand, and just kept walking. I take being screwed very seriously.
I mounted my Bike, and rode the few minutes to Parliament Hill, where I met with the Ottawa Parking Authority, the Ottawa Special Events Police, the Ottawa Motorcycle Escort Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Parliament Hill Maintenance people, the Color Guard, the Honor Guard, the Bagpiper, the Bugler, and our Sound People. ALL WITHIN 30 MINUTES.
For breakfast – I had a very early morning Bar B Q sausage in a bun with extra mustard and a diet cola from a street vendor. His cart wasn’t even set-up when I ordered this breakfast of champions on the concrete sidewalk, but, being a stressed-out diabetic, I really needed something to eat.
The Bikes were set to be parked on Metcalfe, which is a wide long main road that runs South to North through downtown Ottawa, right-up to . . . and perpendicular to the main street (Wellington) that runs parallel to Parliament Hill.
PARKING WAS A HUGE ISSUE:
We had a very serious concern that there would not be enough parking available to accommodate the number of Bikes that might be ridden to Ottawa for the Pledge of NEVER AGAIN, since at the best of times, parking in downtown Ottawa and anywhere near Parliament Hill is at a premium.
So, to the great credit of the Ottawa Police and the City of Ottawa, after several meetings we held together, it was decided by the Police and the City that they would close down Metcalf from 10am until after the event, which was scheduled to wrap-up by 12:30 at the latest.
By the time I arrived at Metcalfe, the Special Event NO PARKING signs were up, and the Parking Authorities were already restricting parking on Metcalfe allowing for Bikes ONLY.
I don’t really know how many Bikes eventually were ridden in for the event; other than we took far more space on Metcalfe than had originally been allocated for us by the authorities. What we do know though, is that there were far more than just a couple of hundred Bikes, perhaps as many as 300 plus, and that there wasn’t enough room left on Metcalfe to park as much as an additional “bicycle” let alone a motorcycle.
SO – HOW DID THE CAR GET PARKED ON METCALFE AMIDST ALL THE BIKES?
Anne (my wife) drove to Ottawa to be part of this event, and with her she brought our German Shepherd Stryker, making it somewhat of a challenge to find parking close enough to Parliament Hill. Nonetheless, she found a parking lot a reasonable walk away.
My younger sister and brother-in-law came to Ottawa to be a part of the event and bring FLAGS and SIGNS that needed to be dropped-off. They dropped-off what needed to be dropped-off, and like Anne, they too found parking several blocks away.
My older sister and brother-in-law also drove to Ottawa to be part of the event. And they too parked their car several blocks away.
SO – WHO WAS THIS CREEP WHO THOUGHT THAT HE WAS BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE WHO PARKED AMONGST THE BIKES?
If you were thinking Steve Stein . . . you’d be wrong. But, if you thought YOW president Gadi Prager, the prize is yours. As much as anything, this simple act of inserting himself where he had no business, says everything that needs to be said about the man who placed himself above others.
Should I have been surprised?
As the moment to begin the ceremonies came close, there was a considerable amount of debate about the Color Guard, the Honor Guard, the Bagpiper, the Bugler and where to position the speakers.
Before I continue, I have to say how hard Member of Parliament Peter Goldring worked to secure the Color Guard, the Honor Guard, the Bagpiper and the Bugler. It was also Goldring and/or Member of Parliament David Sweet who secured Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney to speak, along with the Australian Deputy High Commissioner and a person representing the Israeli Government.
And SPECIAL accolades go to the staff of Peter Goldring’s Office who worked tirelessly to organize Flags, ID Tags, “T” Shirts, guest chairs and volunteers.
BUT SOMETIMES MORE IS TOO MUCH:
A great deal of the PROTOCOLS were a significant source of aggravation . . .
Who’s to speak first? Who’s anthem will be played first, and in what order? Are the anthems going to be played all together or spread throughout the event? Where will the Color Guard stand? Where will the Honor Guard stand? When will they march-in? From where will they march-in? When will they play THE LAST POST? When will they play the LAMENT? When will they play the ROUSE? When will they play TAPS?
EVERYONE HAD AN OPINION . . . AND THAT WAS JUST SOME OF IT.
It came down to debates as simple as where the speakers should be standing or sitting before and after they speak.
SO . . . At one point, after being tugged from a dozen different directions . . . from a dozen different people, my head felt as if it was going to explode, until I finally said ENOUGH to everyone:
I SET THE PROTOCOLS . . . NOT THE POLITICIANS:
In a heated exchange with one of the politicians I said . . .
“This is NOT a Parliamentary event. It is NOT your event. It is MY event. The permits to be on the HILL are in my name. Not anyone else’s. All the organizing is on me. If this event is a huge success no one will know my name. But, if it fails, everyone will know who to blame.”
“This has nothing whatsoever to do with Parliament and/or the politicians. And if the Member of Cabinet and the Diplomats are not happy with the arrangements, they could just as easily not come.”
As a matter of truth, my exact words which ended the conversation were: “If they don’t like it, they can just F*** off” . . . The phone went dead at the other end.
As you can imagine, this didn’t sit too well with the politicians, to the point that we barely said two words together during the event. But enough was enough.
And as far as I was concerned, no one was coming to hear a speech from any member of government. And if NONE of them came, that would have been MORE than fine with me. Actually, I would have preferred it.
In 100% retrospect, if I were ever to do anything like this again, which I might, it would NOT include any political or diplomatic element whatsoever.
As for the Color Guard, the Honor Guard, the Bagpiper and the Bugler, I took them aside and asked if this was the first time any of them had ever participated in such an event, to which they laughed. So, my next comment to them was this:
Here is my agenda. Here is the KEYNOTE event, which was the actual PLEDGE. So, why don’t the group of you tell me how YOU want to handle it. And in less than one minute they did, and their part of the ceremony was flawless.
JOYCE KAUFMAN OF WFTL FLORIDA:
When dealing with amateurs, you are literally always guaranteed to get amateur results. So, when you’re putting your trust into the hands of a professional like Florida Radio Personality Joyce Kaufman whom I asked to be the MC and the Keynote Speaker, who was given what amounted to a last minute script with plenty of room for adlib, you don’t worry, because she will carry the day no matter, which she did.
We also had what could have been a serious problem concerning the VERY loud Bells in the Peace Tower – that at the stroke of noon would begin to play a fifteen-minute rendition of Canada’s National Anthem, drowning out all other sounds, so all of the many speeches had to be done BEFORE noon. And we were “officially” to start at 11:00.
To make certain the Bells wouldn’t be a problem, I set a timeline of just one minute per speaker, with as much as two to four minutes for government and diplomatic speakers. And I made no bones about it; SPEAK WITHIN YOUR ALLOTTED TIME, or you will be the reason for a calamity.
What the speakers didn’t know however, was that I intended to start about 10 minutes early, and padded the speaking time, to the point that our first speaker, Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney was caught off-guard, and had to hustle from the House of Commons Portico to the speakers podium after he was introduced.
And when a few of the non political speakers came to me expressing some concern that their speeches might be a bit rushed, or they might run a little over their allotted time, I told them not to worry, to take the time they needed, and just give a good speech.
Steve Stein, who I really didn’t want on the HILL to be speaking at all, but would be there nonetheless because I gave him my word that he could speak, as long as it was under one minute, and that he stuck to the theme of NEVER AGAIN, approached me while I was finalizing the last of the details before the event commenced, and asked a bewildering question:
“Can you count?”
My response: “Pardon me?”
Again he asked if I could count? To which I responded in the positive; at that, with a stupid smirk, he asked if I could count 1000 people in attendance – and walked off.
What instigated this sick query from Stein was my hope that we would attract as many as 1000 people, to which I guess he took tremendous pleasure in pointing out that it didn’t happen.
The Montreal Suburban Newspaper reported about 1000 people in attendance. So did Belt Drive Betty. But, whether there were 1000 or 500 people on the HILL made no difference whatsoever.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS – MAYBE MORE THAN ONE MILLION PEOPLE:
If I cared one whit to what Stein thought or said, I would have pointed out to him that just one camera is worth thousands of people.
But . . . there wasn’t just one camera – there were HUNDREDS of cameras and dozens of YouTube videos online featuring this incredible event even BEFORE we reached our next destination.
The FINAL Part of this story will be published within the next few days, which will highlight one of the great successes in my life, that I had the incredible privilege to be a part of.
Oh – And if you think I’m done with Steve Stein just yet. There is one more Stein Moment to come.
And The Truth Shall Set You Free – PART TEN will be published shortly.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov