Something’s happened in downtown Ottawa. When I lived there, from 1999 to 2003, its streets never struck me as particularly mean, but since I come from Winnipeg, where the streets are considerably meaner — I regularly parked outside crack houses when going to evening university classes — my perspective is, shall we say, jaded. But even I had to stop and wonder what the hell has gone wrong when I read this harrowing article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail: crack cocaine use has exploded in downtown Ottawa, with junkies begging like crazy to get the few dollars needed for their next hit. It’s to the point where even homeless advocates are advising people not to give money to panhandlers: it invariably gets spent on crack. (This takes me back to my time in Winnipeg, where I was hit up by panhandlers about half a dozen times a day, and I turned them down every time. Odds were, no matter how hungry or homeless they were, the money was going to be spent on solvents.) Crack is ugly shit.