It began when the housing project where I lived needed some renovation. We had to deal with the East Littlestone Housing Federation, a slimy bunch whose Commissioner was our chief enemy. Resenting the tenants' demands for control of the renovations, he deliberately let us buy some defective plumbing fixtures . We were unable to prove that he actually was related to the man who sold us the toilets, but we know what we know. We appealed to the City Council for financial redress, but they were all in the pay of the plumbing and heating barons, not to mention being spineless lackeys of the Commissioner. Same with the Province and the Federal Government. We got no satisfaction.
Then at a tenants' meeting on one heady, magical evening in summer, the kind of night when Western Australia decided to secede from the Dominion, Henry Hilison, a powerful man who always spoke impressively, rose. He argued that freedom had been denied us by the grinding heel of City Housing. And freedom was the most important thing in the world. Then he made us realize something we had always known, deep down inside. That we were an independent nation, free and indivisible! The feeling flowed around us like the wine we were drinking from Norm Coolidge's basement. If we were a nation, he argued, we must have a state. And so we declared that Simcoe Court City Apartments was now the Free People's Republic of Simcoe.
The FPRS announced its secession to the Commissioner and all three levels of government, but shamelessly and in complete violation of international law, they refused to return our calls.
We set up customs checkpoints at either end of our street and sent ambassadors to other City Apartments. We dealt diplomatically with our first international crisis, which was the City's refusal to pick up the garbage. If we were a sovereign nation, they said, we could pick up our own garbage. We countered that the crimes against us by the City were so deep that five centuries of garbage collection could not redress them. We gave the garbage men pass-ports, and they resumed their duties.
A more serious challenge came from within. Certain elements made a demand for the reintegration of Simcoe and the City. "Never," we replied. "not until the rivers run dry, and the sun turns black, and only if the rents are halved, will we even consider it." It did not escape our notice that most re-integrationists were non-natives of Simcoe, settlers in the recently constructed Marie Dressler Block. When we decided to deport them we had our first serious clash with the City police, who mercilessly kidnapped our teenage militia just as they were expressing our national will by hurling the Dressier dogs out onto the street.
Even the offer of an Autonomous Region of Marie Dressler could not stop the ingrates from seceding after that, so we were forced to adopt the "Pakistan solution." Simcoe was split, as her daughters wept and gnashed their teeth.
If only the Eritreans had received our request for arms this terrible split would have been averted! Because of our policy of refusing to pay our Hydro bill, the new boundaries were drawn by candlelight, and mistakes were made. Helen Glowerbury's apartment was divided down the middle of the kitchen, which was okay if she got everything she needed out of the fridge at the beginning, and then went over to the stove. But she kept forgetting things, the border guards got irritated and quit, and soon the border was totally porous.
All this was disheartening. Then the City police put a stop to our campaign to annex the Epitome Apartments on the other side of the park, and the Commissioner's agents delivered eviction notices. People seemed to forget their mystical national bond, and the heady euphoria of the first flag-waving, anthem-singing days faded.
Everyone was bickering with everyone else. It killed a lot of bridge games. Some people even went back to paying rent, and Henry turned quite eccentric. "Let's be fifty nations, free and indivisible! Each tenant a nation, with his-or-her own currency and foreign policy! " he said. Most of the tenants were too blind to see that this was the logical evolution of the nation state.
Henry, however, was undaunted. Last I heard his nose had sent notice to his brain that it had unilaterally declared itself to be a sovereign appendage.
Barry Stevens is a Toronto-based screen-writer.