Tag Archives: This American Life

Toronto #terrortunnel on This American Life

Had lots of fun helping out on the opener for last weekend’s episode of “This American Life,” the U.S. public radio show. The piece is a riff on the Toronto tunnel story I wrote for Maclean’s magazine back in March, when I got to spend a few days with Elton McDonald and his family up at their home in the Driftwood Court public housing complex. Elton, who’s 23 now, and who works in construction, spent a couple of years building a sophisticated underground clubhouse in the wooded ravine behind his house, which is in one of Toronto’s roughest neighbourhoods. That tunnel caused quite a bit of worry when authorities uncovered it early this year—people called it the #terrortunnel on Twitter, speculating it was part of a plot to disrupt the Pan Am Games, some of which were due to take place at a nearby tennis stadium. But in the end it was just Elton, trying to get away from it all. Thanks to TAL producer Sean Cole for stickhandling the piece. And thanks again to Elton and his family for putting up with me as long as they did. I believe Elton continues to crowdfund his grass-cutting club for neighbourhood boys here at Eltons Tunnel Vision Fund.


Russell and August Cobb

Russell and August Cobb

August and Russell Cobb eating tiramisu in the Painter House, part of the Leighton Artists’ Colony at the Banff Centre. Once owned by Glen Sather, former player and coach of the Edmonton Oilers, the Painter was transplanted from Buffalo Street, in the town of Banff, to the colony a few years ago. Russell, a transplant from Oklahoma, teaches Latin American studies at the University of Alberta, and has been working on a piece of non-fiction at the Banff Centre. His amazing story, Heretics, about a preacher in Tulsa who became the subject of controversy within the church when he rejected the notion of Hell, appeared on This American Life in 2005. It is hard to know who likes tiramisu better—Russell or his four-year-old son August. Like many people, August enjoys dancing to the Daft Punk tune Get Lucky; unlike many of his fellow enthusiasts, both adult and pre-school, August can pull it off.