Yonge Street in Toronto – dirty snow from last week’s blizzard still piled up on the sidewalks. Outside the Eaton Centre, there’s a collection of Sunday afternoon preachers and attention grabbers, including a guy handing out ‘Black History’ newspapers and someone offering free information on Islam.
Further on, a gathering of pale women handing out vegetarian literature. They stand in front of pop-up displays of the meat/murder interface - grim abbatoir interiors, puddles of blood and swinging carcases on steel hooks. Nice. Thanks. On the pavement at their feet they have a little clutch of stuffed toy animals - pink piglets huddled together.
Beside them a raggedy-looking banjo player turns his back to the traffic and does his best with cold fingers.
Just at the corner, there’s a guy – young for a street preacher – with a trendy beard and beanie hat, exhorting us to give praise and thanks.
‘How many times do we give thanks to God?’ he asks. ‘The one who made… everything?’ And since this is Yonge Street in Toronto, it’s a river of busy human beings - and no-one stops to answer.
So far, so familiar. As I wait at the light, he takes a different tack. Spotting someone in the crowd with a cup, he blares through the megaphone: ‘Hmmm… That Starbuck’s sure looks tasty. Is it good? Yeah? Did you thank Jesus? Did you THANK GOD for your STARBUCK'S today?’
The light turns green and we move off and away. Beside me a couple of young girls catch my eye and we all snigger, our breath rising in silver clouds as we part ways at the corner. After half a block, even the sound of the banjo player is gone.