A belligerent St Patrick’s Day outburst from Toronto City Councillor Mark Grimes started innocently enough.
When Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) took to the stage, I had been at the Old Sod at Bloor and Royal York for less than an hour. I was working on my first drink.
Grimes’ speech lasted a few minutes. He identified himself, including his role at city hall, and wished everyone a good evening. It was spirited, colourful, colloquial — and noticeably slurred.
At 6:35pm, I tweeted the following message:
“At the Old Sod, and a slurry city councillor Mark Grimes just gave an impromptu toast. He has the day off, he says. #voteto”
Not a big deal.
About half an hour later, I overheard my name.
It was a bit of a surreal moment. A group of barrel-chested, middle-aged men were reading my tweet. They seemed upset, so I identified myself, told them where I was sitting and offered for them to join me. I hoped that a brief conversation would calm them down.
During that exchange, one of the men (later identified as lawyer James Maloney) kept motioning for me to come speak to him.
I went back to my table briefly — to drop off our second and last round of drinks — then went back to speak to him.
He asked me repeatedly why I had sent my tweet. I told him several times, “I tweeted it because it happened.” They were an intimidating and unamused bunch.
I also told him it didn’t need to be a big deal.
I went back to my table. I thought that was the last of it. In fact, I tweeted as much.
“A cadre of Grimes’ guys were griping abt my previous tweet at the Old [Sod], so I introduced myself. But I think we smoothed it over,” I tweeted at 7:19pm.
Later, in front of the bar, Grimes was saying his goodbyes. As he walked up the street, he turned around and yelled, “Who said I was slurry?”
I was on the sidewalk smoking (a bad habit, I know), so I raised my hand and identified myself as the author of the “slurry” tweet, and I asked if he wanted to talk to me.
“I wasn’t fucking slurry,” he said.
He walked toward me and got right up in my face. He asked me several times, “Am I slurring now?”
“Yes,” I told him. “A little.”
Grimes’ friends got in between us, forming a physical barrier.
His black chauffeured car arrived, and his friends tried to get him into it. He refused. He tried to shrug off their hands, at one point waving his arms over his head and saying, repeatedly, “Don’t touch me.”
In that way that drunk people do, he tried to trick his friends into getting in the car without him, and he also tried to tell them he would “meet them there.”
They eventually prevailed and, with some talk of going to The Angus, he drove off.
I exchanged cards with Maloney, who — rather than apologize — insisted that my initial tweet was inaccurate. I told him I thought it odd that, given Grimes’ outburst on the street, he would contest the “slurry” comment from an hour ago. He insinuated that I had somehow breached my responsibilities to Xtra by tweeting what I had.
Another of Grimes’ friends accused me of ruining what is apparently an annual tradition.
Grimes, I was told, had not just the day off, but the whole week. His chauffeur, I gather, was not so fortunate.
At 7:31pm, I tweeted:
“Grimes: Who said I was slurry? I wasn’t fucking slurry. His peeps put him into his driver’s car, which was probably for the best.”