I know three definitions for hash. The first and most proper is “any well-defined procedure or mathematical function which converts a large, possibly variable-sized amount of data into a small datum, usually a single integer that may serve as an index into an array. Referred to as hash values, hash codes, hash sums, or simply hash.” (Whoa – too much before-morning coffee, but I thought the teachers on city council would appreciate this one.)

The second and one known by most folk is the slang word for hashish, “a potent form of cannabis produced by collecting and processing the most potent material from female marijuana plants.”

The third and one that you may not be familiar with is my grandma’s “hash.” When I was a kid my grandmother would take leftovers from the last few days and throw them into a cast-iron frying pan on the old wood stove. It was one of my favourite meals. Well folks, today we are serving up grandma’s hash. To wit:

Has everybody heard of a piñata? It’s a coloured paper container, often shaped like a donkey and filled with candy. It’s usually tied to the end of a rope and hung from a tree branch. While blindfolded, people take turns whacking at it with a stick. The goal is to break the donkey and spill the candy.

The other day while having coffee with a friend we were mulling over the pension defamation suit against John Ferguson and wondered if the former city councillor is on the hook for legal costs. And then he came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea: make a piñata with a sign that says “Pension Plaintiffs,” hang it at King’s Square and charge people “10 bucks a whack.” The money collected could be put into a “never, never, never give up” fund or account for Ferguson.

Good idea, but there’s a problem, I said – you’d have a lineup all the way down King Street and cause traffic jams.

Not easily deterred my friend replied, “How about Harbour Station”?

What do you think, piñata fans?

*****

In sports, when a team isn’t doing well, the coach usually gets fired. I note that a number of NHL coaches were sacked this season – gents such as Guy Carbonneau in Montreal, Craig Hartsburg in Ottawa, Tom Renney in New York and Michel Therrien in Pittsburgh. After reading Monday’s article (“City hardly making grade”) where AIMS puts Team Saint John pretty close to the bottom, it got me thinking about things our senior city managers said in recent months:

* Nov. 17, 2008: “Disability is done through the pension board and if we are looking for specific information from the board, then we should ask for that information from the board.-” Greg Yeomans, city finance commissioner, who had 10 weeks to prepare his presentation on long-term disability numbers, but could not answer questions about how the city’s LTD policy measures up to other cities. (Council ultimately voted to seek a third-party assessment.)

* Dec. 13, 2008: “We’re not there yet.-” Paul Groody, commissioner of municipal operations for 11 years, when Councillor Gary Sullivan asked whether the department has a quality control process that ensures the city’s funds are spent wisely on work that’s done in the appropriate amount of time with the appropriate number of personnel.

* Jan. 5, 2009: “I can provide that information, but you will not accept it.-” Terry Totten, city manager, who presented council with three options on the tax rate, but not the projections council had requested Sept. 29, 2008.

Hmmm… how do you think Team Saint John would do in Donald Trump’s boardroom on The Apprentice?

*****

I heard on the news that Bradd Arseneau, who survived the terrible bus crash last year that took the lives of other Bathurst High School basketball players, was selected by Gatorade to do a commercial that celebrates the heart, hustle and soul of athletes. Last month, Bradd led the Phantoms to the provincial AA boys’ championship, a remarkable achievement by any standard. Bradd said that he plans to donate his commercial proceeds to a worthy cause. Perhaps this remarkable young man would agree to provide a few lessons in passion, courage, standards and expectations to Saint John’s senior city management?

There it is folks – my literary version of grandma’s hash. Hope I didn’t leave it in the pan too long.

Herb Duncan is a Saint John businessman who has followed city issues for more than three decades. He can be reached by e-mail at duncan.herb@telegraphjournal.com.