Disillusioned with Adam Giambrone
It was a rainy afternoon and I sat in a chair outside Toronto City Councillor and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone's office waiting to interview him.
After calling me in half an hour late for our 3:00 appointment Giambrone apologized for his tardiness, mentioning the mayor asked to see him for an impromptu meeting. In what I thought was a clever attempt to lighten the mood I remarked with a laugh: "Don't worry about it. The mayor asks me for last minute meetings all the time."
The expression on the councillor's face and the sudden appearance of crickets in the room signaled to me the next forty-five minutes would not go as I had originally planned.
I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and I wanted to write a piece for the University of Guelph's student newspaper, the Ontarion, about something interesting - something bigger than the latest campus
basketball game or student protest about space for clubs in the University Centre.
I wanted to do a piece on a young successful person in Toronto to give hope to my fellow grads (and also, maybe myself) entering a less than optimistic employment scene.
After e-mailing George Stroumboulopoulos, Jian Ghomeshi, and Adam Giambrone, three Toronto "figures" who I thought would offer engaging interviews and thought-provoking advice, I crossed my fingers to hear any response at all.
The first I heard from was George, whose assistant sent a rather humbling response informing me that he "gets many, many requests like this." Read: No time for small beans like me.
I half expected to receive the same stock e-mail from the assistants of the other two.
After a bit of e-mail tag with his assistant, the conflicts in Jian's and my schedule proved to be the end of that story.
The prospect of interviewing Giambrone was exciting. He was the youngest elected Toronto City Councillor (he was elected at age 26), had been the president of the federal New Democratic Party and had received glowing reviews from Mayor David Miller and other colleagues.
I considered the short amount of time that had passed since the scandal broke, and decided he probably thought the interview wouldn't hurt in repairing his tattered image and perhaps help him to retain some of his former squeaky clean persona in the public eye.
I also wondered if he wanted to take advantage of this interview to up his cool factor amongst the young university demographic, a large majority of whom would reside in Toronto in the near future. I thought about the cringe-worthy Youtube video he created to drum up support in the mayoral election, and his ridicule-inducing haircut.
I also wondered if that infamous couch was still hanging around in his office.
Rather than behaving like someone whose bad judgment had just been splashed all over Toronto's newspapers, Giambrone surprised me with his confidence...or dare I say, cockiness.
He leaned back in his chair with his arms clasped behind his head as he spoke about his work in archaeology and his ability to speak Arabic. He casually mentioned his partner Sarah enough times throughout the conversation that it felt a bit forced.
I asked Giambrone if he could recommend a great neighbourhood to live in for someone new to the city. Roncesvalles, I suggested? Giambrone responded: "There's nothing wrong with Roncesvalles, it's kind of cute, interesting neighbourhood, but I don't like going there.
"Because I feel very weird going that far west. It's cut off and it just feels very different. There's nothing wrong with it. It's a subjective not an objective feeling to it."
Interesting way to describe the city for newcomers to Toronto I thought.
I brought up the recent NOW Magazine cover story on east vs. west in Toronto and asked him for his thoughts on the debate.
After hearing about his discomfort traveling too far west, I asked the Councillor if he would ever live in the East.
"I would never move East of Yonge," Giambrone responded. "My partner comes from Saskatchewan, she's not from Toronto, and she said 'It's cheaper in the East,' and I said, 'I'm never moving.' I will not move East of Yonge. I live at Bay and College so we're still in the West end.
And I wouldn't live there long term, it's fine for now but...no I would never move East."
Although the NOW piece seemed to take a lighthearted approach to the debate, citing good bars and architecture as barometers of coolness, Giambrone's seriousness on the issue took any of the fun out of it and seemed to imply a bitterness toward the dichotomy.
As the interview went on I knew I had to ask about the infamous sex scandal, although it seemed as if Giambrone had forgotten it happened at all. Without being too direct, but being what I thought was obvious enough, I asked Giambrone how he had dealt with the negativity towards him in the media lately. He looked me square in the eye and asked, "What criticism?"
I was too shocked to stare back and tell him it was partly because of a text informing a young university student that she was "good-looking naked."
In the end, I was disappointed with the meeting.
I was disappointed with how jaded he seemed. I was disappointed with his lack of sense of humour and how he didn't smile or laugh easily. I was disappointed that he was so full of rhetoric and political script that he seemed no different from any other 50-something politician.
I suppose, mostly I was disappointed that he wasn't inspiring.
But I have realized that it isn't Councillor Giambrone's fault that I was disappointed. It was my naivetĂŠ that was at fault.
It was my naivetĂŠ that caused me to believe that because he was young, had advanced quickly in the political ranks, and had accomplished impressive tasks in such a short span of time, he would provide an inspiring story and meaningful advice for emerging grads.
All was not lost, however, as I have begun to shed that shell of naive skin, that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young writers seem to have.
So I do have something to thank Giambrone for, I guess.
This post was submitted to blogTO by guest contributor CF. Photo by Tsar Kasim on Flickr.
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