Saturday, June 16, 2018

Going out not with a whimper but with a Banksy

BY GEORGE WARNER's protest paintings
is exactly where I found myself
There is a big art show going on right now in a gallery that Google says is a 15-minute walk from my house. According to a beautifully composed story by the Toronto Star visual-arts critic Murray Whyte in this morning's paper, tickets to the show are $35 and the organizers have already sold 50,000 tickets.

The story also mentions the show runs until July 11.

However.

On another page of the same newspaper, a full-page ad in the front section tells us the show, called the Art of Banksy, has been extended to August 19.

I'm pretty sure the discrepancy exists because the entertainment section of the paper was printed a few days before the front section, and the ad came in late.

And I'm telling you this only to remind you that we here at Pete's Blog & Grille know a thing or two about how journalism works. After all, we've been at it for more than 30 years.

But you sure wouldn't have believed that if you were with us, rather me, yesterday around 7:00 p.m.

You'd have thought, "He's lost it. Like the guy in A Beautiful Mind minus the math skills."
Purtygood writin' huh?

Here's why.

I was very close to home in my wife Helena's black VW Beetle; the radio was tuned to this country's best radio news show, As It Happens (AIH).

How good is AIH? It's been on-air since 1968. When I was in journalism school, I'm pretty sure most of us students thought landing a job on AIH would be like winning an Olympic gold.

An AIH trademark? On-air interviews with people within the very heart of breaking stories around the globe. The host would talk to, like, IRA rebels in a Belfast tavern or some Sandinista hostage-takers in a Managua, Nicaragua, bank. Or maybe a junkie poet a rich rock star ripped lyrics off from. Very compelling journalism.

I recall clearly the day one of our reporting teachers brought in a guest speaker named Lloyd Tataryn who--drumroll here--worked for AIH and, more importantly for me--more drumroll--came from my hometown of Sudbury.

For me, that single visit drew open the curtains on a world of possibilities.

Jump ahead now to yesterday, when AIH host Carole Off was interviewing Toronto artist George Warner.

Warner had sort of photo-bombed the big Banksy exihibit by staging his own art show, on a fence across the street.
DID I FORGET? The Banksy show was actually robbed.
True fact!!


He was protesting because he thought the Banksy show is emblematic of everything wrong with the Toronto art scene--it's rife with pretense, grant money goes to the wrong people; it's a snooty game--you know the arguments. I really don't have an opinion on the matter.

What I do feel strongly about is me having fun.

So I turned around and headed to the gallery. I was going to drive slowly by, roll down my window, yell "Hi and by George," beep the little Volkswagen horn and because that was George's voice coming from the dashboard speaker, and this is where it gets freaky--I'd hear me on the radio.

I got to the gallery. I saw the art on the fence.  Warner was easy to spot. He stood beside the paintings, wearing--I love this--a black leather kilt.

There was, of course, no interviewer in sight.

Because. That's. How. Radio. Works. And I've known it since...

Remember Tataryn from back up there in paragraph nine? I'd be lying if I didn't tell you he sort of burst my bubble when he told us that most AIH interviews seldom happened as we heard them. They took place earlier in the day.

Which is something I completely forgot driving to see George Warner.

I pulled over anyway.  Beeped the horn. I rolled down the window and out flew a lifetime's worth of professional credibility.




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

10 reasons I'm a stand-up guy

"Dad!," my daughter Ev said,  "You gotta do this."

That was two months ago. She'd just finished her seven-minute-and 44-second stand-up comedy routine at Second City, in downtown Toronto. 

EV AT SECOND CITY: Her grandparents would be beaming.
Ev had taken a six-week course (three hours a week) after which  the students climbed on stage to wow us with their performances. (Want to see Ev's? Click here")  

I did as I was told. 

So, on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, A.D., I will be on stage. Alone. With microphone in hand.  I'm four weeks in to the course and, even though I have no idea what's going to happen when I actually do my act, I thought I would share 10 reasons--in no particular order in fact I'm not even sure I'll get to 10--why this weird turn of events has been one of the best adventures ever.

1. For the past few weeks I've been able to spend three hours every Thursday evening with the other students; 10 or 11 (I'm too lazy to count) of the funniest individuals I've met. Think about it. These are people who want to be stand-up comics. We've got two advertising executives, at least one lawyer, one high-school teacher (oh baby Jesus where was a teacher like this when I needed him?), and OUR teacher is a woman named Precious Chong, whose father is Tommy Chong, of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong. 

2. When you come from a family like mine, this sort of thing is heaven-sent. Different families reward various achievements; some parents favour high marks; others like hard work and stick-to-it-iveness. In the Carter household, making people laugh was as important as food. April Fool's Day is a high holiday. Also. In a church-going household like ours, the only fact you know for sure is, anything's possible. Including the possibility that when the course ends and I get to take the stage, my late mother and father will be watching from heaven.  I realize that the thought of your dead folks being able to see you from heaven is seriously creepy--"can she really see me? even when I'm the bathroom??" but never mind that for a moment. I want to make them proud.

3. My Second-City show will make my older brother Alex jealous, a fact that pleases me immensely.  When we were young, Alex starred in quite a few high-school productions that I watched with envy and admiration. The only dramatic production I ever got a part in was the Sudbury Secondary School presentation of "David and Lisa", a weird old play that takes place in a mental asylum. I landed the very minor role of Simon--the challenged, mysteriously gendered and lonely flute player, which was lots of fun for Alex, because in real life I didn't get a lot of dates, my name, Peter, is actually based on the name Simon (look it up) and I did take flute lessons and, well, moving right along... 

4. I just remembered something. Our "David and Lisa" never got performed. For some reason, our theatre arts teacher decided it wasn't to be a stage show but rather a video production and even though we spent hours and hours in the studio with cameras and everything, a final "David and Lisa" never materialized.  Not that I've been carrying this around with me, but once in a while I'll be watching late-night TV and see the name "Kevin White" in the credits as an executive producer of something; and that's the same name as one of the kids in our production--I think he was David--  and when that credit rolls across the screeen; I wonder why my name's not up there.

5. Think about it for a second. Growing up the youngest of five boys and hearing, from the time you're born, that your older brothers are all so good looking or bright. My next oldest brother Eddie was on the Sudbury Secondary School Reach for the Top Team; the eldest, Pat, was so clever he skipped grade seven; Tom had a sports car and could play the trumpet like nobody, and when he was in grade 10 Alex was once on local TV for some reason and my best friend Trevor MacIntyre's mom saw him and said "your brother's so handsome!"  

6. One time, Eddie was tapped to play a solo on his Fender MusicMaster electric guitar with the Sudbury Secondary School Orchestra behind him and when the conductor Linda Brault introduced him, she said something along the lines of, "this guitarist might just be a boy from the west of end of Sudbury but he plays like he's got southern blues in his soul."  

7. Did I mention that I was also the shortest of the bunch?

8. But back to Second City.  I also have five sisters. Which reminds me that in Carterland, we don't converse; we compete. Two days ago, my sister Norma and I had this very discussion on the phone.  She was going on about something and I admitted to her I wasn't actually listening to what she was saying as much as I was waiting for her to be done so I could say something more interesting than what she had to offer and she asked me if I was done yet. If you think I'm kidding, you don't know my sisters. 

9. Now I'm really scared. I'm thinking, halfway through my performance, I'm going to be looking out in the audience and I'll hear somebody say,  "Pete, do you have a comb?"  I'm not sure who first came up with this but when we were growing up, if one sibling interrupted the other with "do you have a comb?" it meant "what you're saying is really boring." 

10. No, I don't have a comb. 




Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tasting the dragon

I looked over at my wife Helena, in the passenger seat.
PETE'S A FAN: Gettit? Pizza fan. Never mind.
The guy at Marconi's even  looked
and talked like Don.

"I'm pretty excited," I said calmly.

 "You might," she warned, "be disappointed."

 Me: "I know."

That exchange took place at 2:10 this afternoon. I'm not joking about being excited, not one bit. As weird as this might sound, we were on our way to a place called Marconi's Pizzeria, and I'd been fantasizing about the trip--way more than you might consider healthy-- since April.

Here's why.

Back in mid-April, I was editing away at my new job when my cell buzzed. The caller I.D. read: "Roman."

Roman Stankiewiecz. I've known him since--I believe--grade one. The Stankiewieczes--they had six kids and Roman was my age--grew up on Whittaker Street, one block west of the house where we Carters lived.

And although Roman and I have kept in contact-ish, it's not like we see each other regularly. We've gone for years without talking. So when his name came up on my screen midday like that, I got a little worried. We're at that age, right?

I stood and walked into the office kitchen area so I could take the call in private

I wasn't taking notes but I can recap with some accuracy what he said, and it was this:  "Pete. How ya doin'? Listen. Mike said I had to call you." I knew right away he was referring to Mike Blondin, another guy we've known since grade two. His mom had four sons, Bill, John, Joe and Mike, who was my age, and they lived up on Stanley Street, a few blocks north of Roman.

"Mike and I just had pizza at this place called Marconi's near Cawthra and Burnhamthorpe and you know what Pete?

"It is almost as good as Don's!"

I could almost hear the exclamation mark.

Pizza comparable to Don's. That  is well worth the alarming mid-day phone call from an old friend.

When we were growing up in Sudbury, out of a little renovated garage half a block south and another half block east of our house, our classmate Paul Uguccioni's father Don ran Don's Pizzeria; and for us west end Sudbury kids, Don's pizzas set the standard by which all subsequent pizzas would be measured.

Don's little pizza shop as we knew it moved to a bigger, fancier location some time when we were in high school. And then it changed hands. And although there's still a Don's Pizzeria in Sudbury, I cannot vouch for it one way or the other.

ME,TREV, ROMAN,&MIKE, 5 YEARS AGO: Some things
never change, like the jean jacket I'm wearing in both pics. 
All I know is that original pizza experience is something that a lot of old west-enders have been searching for more than half a century.

When Roman called me, he also happened to mention that it was me--all those years ago--who introduced him to pizza, at Don's. When he told me, I was really touched. Then a few weeks later, I was telling our other friend Trevor MacIntyre about the call, and he said the same thing. He hadn't had pizza until he and I went to Don's together. I felt honoured, like I'd led them on their first lion hunt or something.

And Trevor reminded me we used to split a small pizza with just sauce and cheese, and it cost 95 cents. By our reckoning, we were probably in grade four.

Grade four. Going to a pizza shop by ourselves. I just realized something else. I spelled Paul Uguccioni's surname right on my first try. And I haven't written that name for decades. Now that I'm thinking about it, not only were Paul, Mike, me, Roman and Trevor friends, we were altar boys together; we played scrub baseball together and all grew up in this funky Sudbury neighbhourhood and we were able to "hang out" at the local pizzeria when we were, like, 10 years old. Unsupervised. Maybe there's something beyond Don's distinctive tomato sauce and spices flavouring my memories. Just maybe.

I'm not the kind of guy who hearkens back to the good old days, because like my dad used to say, "the best thing about the good old days is that they're gone" Our childhood days were anything but blissful and innocent; we just like to think they were, which is probably a good thing.

But never mind that.

Since those Don's Pizza days, Roman, Trev, me and Mike have done some stuff and been a few places. A lot of pizza has been consumed. And with every bite--it turns out--we've been comparing whatever was at hand to that original, perfect, Don's.

My quest for pizza as good as Don's once took me to downtown Rome, Italy.  A Newfoundlander named Keith Something and I went to so many pizza joints and drank so much red wine one night that before passing out we followed the ancient Roman orgiastic tradition of hurling everything we'd eaten and drank back into the Tiber River. I recall the guy whose restaurant we'd just exited standing behind us, yelling in Italian. I think he felt insulted.

When I told Trevor about Roman's mid-afternoon call about Marconi's, he said he'd been searching for pizza as good as Don's, too. But he put it this way:

"It's sorta been like chasing the dragon, hasn't it?"

And that's why I was so excited driving out to Marconi's this afternoon.

If Monty Python were making a movie about our trek to Marconi's they would have clapped coconut shells together. Pizza as good as Don's has been our holy grail.

MARCONI'S BILL OF FARE: If Don's had one, it
mighta looked like this.
Arriving at the strip mall parking lot, I felt a bit giddy. Like I imagine my devoutly Catholic mom would have been, pulling into the parking lot at, maybe, Lourdes.

We walked toward the storefront. Pizza boxes were stacked 15-high. Very Don-ish. The grey-haired aproned guy who greeted us from behind the flour-covered counter could have been Don for Pete's sakes. This bordered on eerie.

The proprietor (son in law of the original owner) served it to our table.

Helena burnt her mouth on the first bite. (Reminded me of a joke my daughter Ev told me: "Did you hear about the hipster who burnt his mouth? He ate pizza before it was cool.")

So far, so good as Don's.

As tempting as it smelled, I waited. Maturely, I might add.

Then I took a bite. And a second.

The crust was thin and moist. The ratio of tomato sauce to mozzerella? Perfect. Not too heavy on the spices and completely devoid of any designer-pizza fakery like broccoli.

Marconi's Pizza is really really good. This was one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life.

Roman's assesment was 100-percent accurate. Marconi's pizza is, "almost" as good as Don's.

The quest continues.

















Sunday, May 6, 2018

Top 10 Iris Cat FAQs.

A PEEK BEHIND THE SIGNS
Instead of a regular card this past Valentine's Day, I bought my wife Helena an electric sign. It went on the sill in our front window where--our neigbour Delanie was quick to point out--our cat Iris usually sits. In fact, Delanie suggested that Iris might be miffed at the sign.

So, somebody in our house came up with bright idea of letting Iris send the occasional message to the world.

Well now. 

We sure didn't intend to post a new sign every day, but what happened was, after I think the third or fourth one, the following comment appeared:

"I'll be very upset when you get bored of this game."

It came courtesy of one of my favourite people, my Goddaughter Amelia O'Callaghan. All you need to know about Aemy is she named her daughters Faye Lovely and Ivy Darling. But what her Facebook message meant is that we're on the hook for the freakin' sign until either Iris abandons her window post, starts pining for the fjords, or the end of the world comes.  

And since the signs have started, we get questions. Here are the 10 most-asked:
IRIS SAYS: Your sign suggestions
are  welcome

10) Is Iris alive? 

Yes. Some people thought we were sticking a stuffed animal up behind the sign but no, Iris is about 11 or 12, she arrived here as a 16th birthday present for my son Michel who is now 25.

9) Where'd you get the sign? 

The Tiff Lightbox gift shop in downtown Toronto.

8) Has anyone every complained about the sign? 

Not yet. But there have been a couple of captions that the household censor board turned down. You'll  have to ask me about them in person. I'm not going to commit them to social media.

7) Where did Iris get her name? 

The name came courtesy of my daughters, either  Ev or Ria. I forget which. One  of her eyes (Iris's, not my daughter's) is green; the other blue and her whole name is Professor Iris, but it really doesn't matter what you call her because Iris won't come because she's a cat.

DID YOU EVEN KNOW the little critter
had a name?
6) Is there any chance Iris doesn't respond because she's deaf? 

You might be on to something there. Researchers have learned that a disproportionate number of white cats are deaf. I'm not making this up. Deaf white cats far outnumber deaf cats of other colours and that's why more white cats get hit by cars. They can't hear them coming. If you share your home with a white cat, it's something you might want to remember.  

5) Is there a chance this nonsense — going to all that trouble, re-writing the sign, coming up with messages,  having long and sometimes heated discussions with other members of the household who help compose the messages and fretting over getting photos without too much reflection in them EVERY DAY — happens merely because you want to make a terrific pun about Iris possibly being deaf and hence using Sign Language? 

Odds are good.

4) Don't you guys have another cat ? 

Yes, we have a skinny tabby named Kiwi.  Iris is not very nice to her, but Kiwi keeps coming back for more. The cats have a sort of Foghorn Leghorn--Henry the Chicken Hawk thing going.

AND YOU WONDER
why I look up to my big brother
with such awe?
3) Isn't there somebody in your house who's really allergic to cats? 

Yup. Same guy who cleans Iris's and Kiwi's litter box. What's your point?

2) Have you ever tried to, like, get a cat-food company or something like that to sponsor the sign? Maybe you could get rich off it.  

No. We Carters specialize in coming up with great money-making ideas but never acting on them. One of these days I'm going to blog about my big brother Tom, who, a long long time ago arrived home with his invention, "the electric board." True story. It was a little squarish piece of plywood with an electric cord attached to it. We never marketed the electric board. It's just another example of the Carter money-making wizardry left to wither on the vine.

1) Who writes the signs?

Iris is the dictator.



Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Night Robes Saved The Day

IN LOO OF LITERATURE: Many Carters
could recite chapter and verse of this classic.
Three days ago, April 11, 2018, big problems in the Carter household.

The furnace wouldn't go on and the temperature was dropping fast.

The thermostat flashed: "lo [sic] battery".

Here's the quick version of what happened next.

Step One: Open fridge door. Because that, right beside the mustard, is where we keep our batteries.

Step Two: Remove the plastic thermostat cover  and lean in to read the battery-replacing instuctions, and in doing so, remove my glasses and hold them, as one does, between one's teeth.

With the glasses hanging from my mouth like a furry gift dangling from Iris our cat, I removed the old batteries with my right  hand and--this is important-- rather than place them on the counter like a real repair guy would do, I kept them in hand, clutching them with my baby finger. Of course one of them slipped and fell behind the one-metre-high shoe rack that sits below the thermostat and I decided then and there to reach down to fetch it.

Almost pulled my shoulder out doing it. Plus I got a lot of lint on my hoodie.

And it was at that moment--as I was bent over a shelf that has no reason for being there, finding not only a dead battery but also a pen, a crumpled-up Mastercard receipt and an Iris-created hair ball--that a question occurred to me, and that question was this: "Is 'klutz' a real word?"

ROBESPIERRE BE HEADED FOR TROUBLE: Get it?
I remember how happy I was several years ago when I learned that "schmozzle" is in fact Yiddish and means "chaos" or "mess".  Before that, I thought it was a made-up word because it sounds exactly like what it means. I wondered if  "klutz" was the same.

I decided I would look it up as soon as I fixed the thermostat.

Did I mention that I had placed the other old dead battery in one of the shoes on the rack, which is where--for safe keeping--I had put the new ones?

Suddenly I had three identical AA Energizers in the lovely red high-heel  and I thought, "Man these are nice shoes! I wonder which is the old battery and which are the new ones."

You're thinking, "But the new batteries were cold to the touch, right?"

And you'd be correct, except you've clearly forgotten my first paragraph. The entire joint was cold. So there was no way I could tell which batteries were which.

I'm pretty sure it was my older brother Alex or perhaps my sister Charlene who I first heard say the word "klutz." Away back when.

Funny thing, later, I Googled it and up came one of those flashes from the past: the book called The MAD Adventures of Captain Klutz, a staple in the Carter household john. Then I recalled Charlene--or Chuck, a name those of us who still love her use--calling ME, of all people, "Captain Klutz".

Which reminded me again of another nickname, one that I still get, from Alex.

If I'm at his house, he'll be walking to the kitchen and he'll ask, "Want a beer, Robes?" and by "Robes", he means "Pete."

Here's why.  One day, when I was 13 or 14, Alex perceived a link between me--his baby brother--and the French historical figure Maximilien Robespierre, who Wikipedia describes as "the repellent figure at the head of the Revolution who sent thousands of people to their death under the guillotine." For some reason, in Alex's brain, I was Robespierre and, latterly, just Robes. (Could be worse. When I was an even littler kid, my older brothers and sisters called me, their beloved baby brother--and you'll have to ask them why--"Little Hitler." Actually, the more I think about my family and klutziness; I have a sense the condition is hereditary. Plus I think it has something to do with being easily distracted.

FOILED AGAIN: Look closely, lower battery, right side
But back to my furnace.

I had the three batteries mixed up, but that's the story of my life, so give up is something I did not do.

Rather, I shoved and jiggled and inserted and poked until the little lo-battery light disappeared and real LED numbers lit up.

And then, I realized that my problem wan't just low batteries, the whatchamacallit sticking out the end of the battery wasn't reaching the piece of steel attached to the thermostat. The metal thingie was pushed in too far.

I'm so proud of  what I did next that the following day, I bragged about it to a bunch of other people, including a woman named April who works for the same company as me but in Georgia, USA., of all places and she's a novelist in her spare time--I scrunched up tinfoil, smooshed it between the new battery and the piece of steel, and the freaking thermostat started working again. The furnace came back on.

Insert exclamation mark here!

Still.

My workaround was not sustainable.

If I put the battery cover back on as is, it would dislodge the tinfoil and we would be out of heat again. So somebody in my house smarter and less klutzy than me suggested that as brilliant as my fix was, we could do worse than to summon an electrician to take a second look.

90 minutes later--thanks to my decidedly unklutzy method of finding hired help fast--a real licenced expert, with a pick-up truck, a t-shirt, muscles, tool belt, Spanish accent, the whole 8.22 metres--completed the job, just like that.

I forgot to ask if he knew who Robespierre was.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Don't it drive you crazy when they make it look so easy?

BUILDING BRIDGES TO CHINA
He's going to kill me when he reads this, but about four minutes ago I decided my friend Douglas Perry is the Waylon Jennings of classical music.

Read this handful of Douglas facts and tell me if you don't agree.

1. Douglas, who's about my age or maybe a bit older, is the father of three spectacular adult children, and a professional viola player and, if  you Google him, you'll see he's spent the past 40 years performing with the most capable musicians on the planet, which he might or might not be one of. What I know about classical music wouldn't fill a 140-character tweet.

2. You'd never know, from talking to him, how accomplished Douglas is. See that poster? His name appears in teensy weensy type down near the lower right corner; it's almost unnoticeable. Which is weird because not only is he performing in the show, he organized the whole thing. Here's how he rolls. A few years ago, Douglas performed with the Chinese composer /performer Fuhong Shi and because the music and cultural ties so intrigued him, he stayed in touch, traveled to China and formed a professional partnership and the result will be this April 12 concert. When I said I'd like to blog about it, Perry was like, "Great!" and then,in typical Douglas style, yanked a funny quote out of the ether: "You know Sol Hurok? The old New York impresario? He said 'you know, you can't stop them from not coming.'"

PERFECT PITCHING: Douglas's
into it, from Bach to the Blue Jays.
3. Which brings me to my daughter Ev--another huge Perry fan. Get this: Ev is scheduled to perform her first ever stand-up comedy act at Second City April 21. (When my brother Alex heard this, he said, "good for her, too bad for you.") When I told Douglas, he got all excited and mused, "maybe she could do like a dry run of her show at the Fuhong concert." Imagine having a stand-up on stage with those other players? See the Waylon comparison? When Jennings showed up in Nashville, he did things his own way. As for Ev's debut, I don't know yet  whether she and Douglas have seen eye-to-eye on that yet.

4. Speaking of, about a year ago, Douglas mentioned he'd like to invent windshield wipers for his eyes because sometimes when he's at work the orchestra plays so beautifully he tears up. I wish  everyone could retain that love for their work.

5. Did I mention that I once interviewed Waylon Jennings' brother Bo? True fact. I was doing a story about Waylon's touring truck, a 1966 Mack; and interviewed Bo on the phone from Texas. What I remember most is Bo said that although his brother is known as an outlaw and a risk-taking roue--which is really not a word Bo used but I've always wanted to try it out--the truth is, what mattered most to ole Waylon was music. Bo said when he and his brother were young, Waylon was so intent on "getting the guitar sound down," he'd spend countless hours at the back of the bus practising when everybody else was out having a good time. "At heart," Bo said, "Waylon was an artist, alway working."
GOOD-TIMIN' MAN: Good music's all about timing

Which brings me back to Douglas. He's always working at something. Plus, every time you talk to him--and if you come to the concert in April I'll see that it happens--you come away richer; probably smarter besides.

One of the things he taught me recently? The Italian word "sprezzatura," which is what you call it when somebody makes something really really difficult look really really easy.

Perry and the Jennings boys know a thing or two about sprezzatura. And now you do too.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

5 Lessons Learned at 12 Jobs

I had just begun my new gig as editor of the Metropolitan Toronto Business Journal and Jerry Collins was the CEO of the city's Board of Trade, which ran the magazine. I met him in the hallway en route to the bathroom and he asked where I was from.
SARTORIAL SAVVY  IS A STRONG SUIT: I didn't say
I had it, just that it's important.

I told him: "Sudbury."

His response, without breaking stride: "No kiddin'. Who's she play for?"

With that, we were friends. What he did, in shorthand, was prove to me that he knew and expected me to know the following old joke.

One stranger in a bar to another. "Sudbury? You say Sudbury? Only thing that comes out of Sudbury are hockey players and hookers!"

The other guy: "Hey. My mom's from Sudbury."

First guy again: "What Collins said."
2 SCORE OR NOT 2 SCORE years after
the earlier pic was snapped

I'm only retelling that horrible joke to introduce today's blog:

 5 Lessons I've learned at 12 jobs.

Two weeks, ago, I started--and I'm not kidding--full-time journalism job number 12.

Yup. My appointment as an Analysis Editor at The Lawyer's Daily brings my tally to an even dozen.

It'd be a baker's, were I to include my two-day-a-week gig at CPA magazine and more if I added  the full-time business of running the start-up-only-to-close-down-four-years-later City Dog magazine. I was never technically hired there; in fact I'm not sure I would have brought me on, either, but that is material for another blog.

Still. Twelve.

TWO RONNIES: One young on the way up and the other.. 
Twelve times have I had to learn new office rituals. On far more than 12 occasions I was forced to navigate foreign phone systems, rehearse then record impressive-sounding voice mail messages and ramp up to speed on the small but really key info about a new workplace; i.e., where supplies are kept, the best source for gossip, whether goofing off on company time is allowed or not, where the best restaurants are and how the fax machine works.

Except I just remembered that fax machines didn't exist until job number-four, at Chimo Media, a magazine publishing company in Toronto. One of the editors, Alan Lofft, told me that a reporter was going to "fax" us a story, from Japan. I was like, "Great. What's a fax?"


Alan, a hi-tech guru as well as an extremely patient teacher, said, "Brian [the writer] is going to put his story on a screen in Japan and it will appear here, at the post office over on Adelaide Street."

Me: "Really?" But when I trotted over to the post office, there it was. Miraculous.
ROCK&ROLL MODEL: At 83,  he's been singing longer'n I've been
fogging up mirrors.

Imagine how many lessons like that a guy learns over the course of 12 new jobs.

For the sake of brevity and also because I have some errands to run, I'm only going to share a handful here today, and they are:

5) Never trust Pete's first impressions. They're 100-percent wrong. I return home after my first day and tell whoever's here that this new colleague seems snobbish and is going to be hard to work with. Two weeks in, turns out he's a sweetheart and I have to take it all back. It happens with such predictability that I should just skip the first and leap immediately to the second impression, but I always forget.

4) Work your body clock. To make my point, I have to tell you that my digestive system reminds me, just about the same time every morning, to hit the john. (So predictable is this phenomenon my wife once called me "Nine O'Clock Willie!") But never mind that. Remember Collins from up there in the first graph? Turns out, every workday, nature summonsed him around 9:00 so we--three out of five days--met somewhere around the men's room. And that's how I got to know the boss and why he felt so comfortable making the Sudbury joke. (My first impression of Collins of course that he was arrogant and stand-offish.Turned out to be a really great boss. Ditto Lofft!)

3) Be nice to everybody, always.  Not only will you be happier, healthier and more fun to be around, but as Rockin' Ronnie Hawkins, said "Be good to the people on your way up cuz you're going to meet them again comin' down."

2) Go back and study lesson number three some more.

1) You're never too old to learn new things. Not only have I had to learn all the computer codes, passwords and oodles of jargon so I can get rolling at The Lawyer's Daily, I also just realized why I've never forgotten parts of one of my favourite movies, "Lenny," starring Dustin Hoffman and Valerie Perrine. (Best Picture and a bunch of other Oscars, 1974.)
LENNY BRUCE: How to unmake friends and influence
police people.

Hoffman plays the real-life but now-dead stand-up comic Lenny Bruce, a rebel who kept getting arrested for obscenity and drug use. My memorable scene? During one of his trials, a sociologist who was called to testify in Bruce's defence, was being sworn in, and the court reporter was reading out the guy's long list of citations and appointments. He'd been a teacher here; a lecturer there, and a consultant in a half dozen other places.

Even though he was testifying on Bruce's team, the comic leans over and whispers to his lawyer, "Guy can't hold a job."