Thursday, March 31, 2016

Reading InBetween The Lines

I asked Rachel Naud if she remembers our first meeting.

She does.

After she reminded me about it,  I felt all different shades of guilty.

RACHEL NAUD: What's amazing is, she still talks to me.
Before I explain why, you have to know that Rachel is an editor and writer and publisher.

A few years back, she launched a magazine called INBETWEEN--it's for parents of teenagers--and maybe because she assumed me to be a teeniebopper in an old man's carcass--she asked me to contribute.

I did and do.

She built the business from nothing. It probably took  more all nighters, nail biters and sheer bullheadedness than I've ever committed to any journalistic project.

And this week, Rachel announced that INBETWEEN has been redesigned and relaunched, and man is it spiffy. The girl don't give up.

There's a link to the magazine below, but before you see for yourself, read this.

                       "Why I'm Awash With Guilt"
                                      by Peter

 2001 Reasons to Read INBETWEEN
I asked for Rachel's recollection of our first encounter. She had just graduated from journalism school; I was an editor at Chatelaine.

Rachel: "I spent money I didn't have on one of those books that listed all the magazines and editors in Canada.  I can't remember what it was called. (Seems so archaic now!).  Anyhow, I saw your name and called you.  And, you, to my delight and absolute terror, ANSWERED THE PHONE.
I introduced myself and told you I was wanted to write for you. You met me for coffee at the food court in the old Maclean-Hunter Building (was that what it was called?). We talked. You asked if I understood what Chatelaine was about. I guess you were happy with my definition of it because you gave me an assignment. 

"How to host a year 2001 New Year's Eve Party based on the movie 2001: Space Odyssey." 

Like. X@#!!*! 

I had to watch that horrible movie and basically fast-forward through it. It was painful.

But I wrote it. And it printed on the  last page of Chatelaine and I was so proud."
INBETWEEN COVERS ARE a strong suit. Get it?
Back to Me:  Anybody who says they actually  enjoyed 2001: A Space Odyssey is either lying or they were--when they saw it--as stoned as a gravel road.  If I'd been forced  to endure  2001 in order to have a magazine story published, I'd still be burning beef at McDonald's.   

So congratufreakinglations to  Rachel for INBETWEEN. I know how much work and sweat and frustration and "No thanks I'll get back to you Rachels" go into something like that.

Then again, maybe the slogging through the Kubrick flick steeled her for the effort.

With that, here's a link to Rachel's brainchild.

Please read enjoy, tell your friends about it, and share. The more  this country gets of Rachel Naud's journalism, the better we'll all  be. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hockey Morning in Canada

The tall slender teen who approached 15-year-old Sudbury goalie Cam Lamour in the arena lobby was dressed in a perfectly fitting suit and tie; he was wearing gleaming polished shoes and a big smile. He held out his right hand to shake Lamour’s and congratulated the Sudbury player on a great performance. 

“You guys were terrific out there,” he said, adding, “especially considering you don’t play together all the time. You really held your own.”

It was mid-March, in Toronto.

Moments earlier, the two players faced each other in a hard-fought match. They were among hundreds of elite players from 20 minor midget AAA teams from across the province competing in the annual OHL Cup tournament. 

I am not a hockey fan. I was at the game only because my good friend John O’Callaghan is a great-uncle to Cam Lamour, and John had told me about how proud the family is of the young player.
“I think you’ll get a kick out of this,” he said.
Goalie extraordinaire Lamour and his great uncle John O'Callghan,  

Well now.

It was one of the highlights of my winter.  And I’d attend another game like this in a heartbeat. Here’s  why.

At a top-notch tournament like this, the players are the country’s finest.  As many scouts and agents as hockey moms fill the bleachers.  You can read most of the players’ bios at

Lamour, who usually plays goal for the Sudbury Midget Wolves, was on this occasion minding nets for  Team NOHA , a collection of all-stars from various squads around area-code 705.  Team NOHA consists of fabulous players, but they’re not a regular club. 

Contrast that to the team they had just finished playing.

The guy congratulating Lamour was Akil Thomas, the leading goal scorer for the Toronto Midget Marlboros.  Given their links to the Leafs, their roots and the fact that they’re in Canada’s largest city, the Marlies might actually be the finest collection of young athletes of their age in the world.

One of the players has “Antropov” stitched across the back of his jersey. Turns out he’s Danil, son of retired Maple Leaf Nik, who was in the stands when the Marlies met Lamour’s team.  And the one named Spott? That would be Tyler. His father’s the assistant coach of the San Jose Sharks.
Star forward Thomas moved from Florida to play with these guys. His dad, Khalil, is also a former pro.

To watch them is to witness youthful athleticism at its finest. Even I—a non-hockey fan—could appreciate the finesse. They’re a blue-and-white machine in which every player knows exactly what his team mates are doing at any given time.     

And the thing is, they only beat Team NOHA by two goals, one of which was on an empty net during the final moments of the third period.

Team NOHA’s supremely valiant effort, especially when they went into overdrive in the last period, holding their own against the blue behemoth almost to the point of beating them, made me surprisingly proud to be part of the Sudbury cheering section.

I can’t stop talking about the game.  For one thing, just seeing dozens of young men from all corners of the province in jackets and ties at 8:00 in the morning lugging their huge hockey bags into the arena is good for your heart.  They’re shiny clean and smiling and they’ve worked harder to get here than I’ve ever worked for anything, ever.

I was also surprised at how emotional I could become, within seconds of seeing these athletes. Had you asked me a day earlier if I cared who won a game between Team NOHA and the Marlies, I would have said ‘nope.’

But showing up the arena and watching them bust their backsides at dawn, surrounded by caring moms dads and coaches yanks a person like me deep into the excitement. I can’t believe how invested I became in the game. Especially when I saw John’s niece’s son Cam under all that pressure. Really. Being a goalie is a huge responsibility. You’re the last hope right?

Team NOHA was also a tad penalty prone. At one point Cam only had three forwards out there, two of his team mates were in the penalty box.

I was fretting for the team and feeling very badly for a guy I’d never even met before.
(I don’t think I’ll be feeling sorry for Cam for long. His proud grandmother, Marie Baker, tells me the OHA draft is on April 8. “Fingers crossed,” she added.)

The game was great.

Seeing the Marlie’s star Thomas afterwards congratulate Lamour even greater. (Does the human species get better every generation or what??)

The game also reminded me that—in a time when professional athletes move from city to city like mercenaries--when a sports franchise like Team NOHA really does represent a place a person comes from, it’s easy to get and stay behind them. It’d watch these players  anytime.

As my buddy John said when we talked about me writing this story, “somewhere you gotta mention that once again, Don Cherry is right. We have to pay more attention to these guys.”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I'd love love love to show up to the next ComiCon in this Batmobile

Here's why watching real tv as opposed to prepackaged bingey stuff is so delightful. You come across material like this, the first Batman movie ever made. Produced in the middle of WWII, it's pretty easy to see who the good guys are. This was on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, March 23.

 Batman & Robin in "The Electrical Brain"

P.S. What's the difference between electric and electrical?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fighting Crime: Me and Douglas And Loreena McKennitt

I’ll never forget the day a single piece of music literally and without doubt turned what could have been an ugly and painful (for me) conflict into a happy and memorable afternoon.
At one point on that unforgettable day, I was certain a big guy was going to break my nose. Seconds later, he and I were laughing. And it was all because of music.
I’ll give you more details in a minute but here's something much more important.
Today, March 22, 2016 A.D.,  I came to understand that the incident has significance ranging far beyond my schnozz and downtown Toronto. It was in fact historic.   
But before I explain that, you have to know what happened.
The “near hit”  was in 1994 or ‘95, in the heart of Parkdale, an inner-city neighbourhood near our Toronto home.  I had just dropped my children Ewa, Ria and Michel off at a community centre. It was a Saturday.
After leaving the kids, I nipped back to our house for some reason. And yes, I was driving a minivan.
Returning to the gym, I had Loreena McKennitt on CBC.  I think she was singing  Lady of Shalott. But I wasn’t merely “listening”.
I was enraptured, and I didn’t know enrapture was a word until I just Googled it. 
McKennitt’s angelic voice was taking me by the ears, far, far away from Planet Dad and Parkdale. I also think I was falling in love. 
Still, I managed to navigate back to the community centre. I parked but stayed in the van a few extra moments to savour the rest of the song.
Except. Somebody rapped on my window. A dark-haired big guy with a moustache peered down at me. I switched off Loreena and rolled down the window.  
“Whattaya think you’re doin?” he said. “Ya can’t park here!”
Then I noticed.  My van was exactly at the end of his driveway, completely blocking him in. I hadn’t even looked.
“Geez,” I said. “I’m sorry. I was lost in the music. It’s Loreena McKennitt.”
Mr. Moustache: “Really?” Then--I’ll never forget what he said next:“She does it to me too.”
It actually happened that way.
We laughed, I apologized and drove to a suitable spot.
And here’s why you have to know that.
This very afternoon I was  with my friend the musician Douglas Perry, who not only knows more about music than any man I’ve  met, the lucky dog actually played as a session man on one of McKennitt’s records. 
But we weren’t talking about her.    
I was explaining to Douglas how--in my completely unscientific opinion--music has played a very significant and probably measurable role in decreasing crime across North America.      
True fact: Since the mid-'90s, the U.S. and Canada have enjoyed terrific drops in violent crime. It’s way more peaceful out there than it used to be.
You wouldn’t know it by looking. Exciting stuff still gets reported. But now, newspapers have to go further afield to find the drama, and everyday stuff we used to write off as non-news—puppies being rescued by the SPCA-- are reported as important events.
But U.S. gun crime peaked in 1993 and has been plummeting since. The western world is safer. Period.
Theories for why are many and varied and range from increased literacy to more access to birth control and the absence of leaded gas in cars. (True! Look it up!)
My theory? Music. Plain and simple.  
Douglas likes this, too.
We live in a far more musical world.
Music soothes the savage breast, right? (Douglas told me about research that shows that goats and cows milk more happily when the right music is played in the barn.)
And over the same period of time since the McKennitt incident, the entire North American population has immersed itself in music, everywhere, all the time, to an unprecedented degree. In the car, through headphones in school; in offices.  En route to everywhere.
When my dad was my age, he didn’t work with Frank Sinatra crooning in the background. Music was played on special occasions; and often badly and through horrible sound systems.
Even car rides were unmusical.
When I was a kid our family made a lot of  trips between Sudbury and Toronto. A few miles south of Sudbury, the sole AM signals would fade and we’d be lucky to hear anything until we neared Toronto. 
Mostly? There was no music.
But now?
Everywhere. What’s more, piped-in music is far superior to the old brand. I recently chose to eat at a particular coffee shop in the Winnipeg Airport because John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers' Room to Move was coming from its in-store sound system.
This morning, I was driving in Toronto rushhour in the rain. We're talking some of North America’s most vicious traffic. 
On the radio was the London Philharmonic Orchestra performing a delightful piece of very happy music that I couldn’t identify.
 It occurred to me that if I had a close encounter with any other driver while I was engaged in this smiley music, ain’t no way could I so much as frown at him, much less get angry.
(Turned out it was the theme from the video game Tetris.)
Music makes us happier; it relieves stress and helps us think more clearly.  It calms us down. And it’s everywhere.
Now you know why there’s less crime.  You’re welcome.
But you know what my favourite part of this is?
When I shared my theory with Douglas, he sat back and reflected quietly for an uncharacteristic length of time before responding. Very unDouglas-ish, I thought. Then he calmly said, “Peter I think you’re on to something.”
Douglas is one of the smartest people I know. Not only that, he’s been in the same room as Loreena McKennitt. That's good enough for me.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

All the Hockey News That's Fit to Blog

Mm.. Can you cut and past this into a browser?
Yeah, that would probably work.

Welcome Back Carter

Pete's Blog&Grille is now being produced independently of Today's Trucking Magazine. As of March 1, I am no longer the editor of the magazine but because I invented Pete's Blog&Grille mostly because I liked the name, I feel I can't give it up.
Also, in 2014, Pete's Blog&Grille was named Best Business Blog in Canada by the Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015; it was named Second Best.  (I guess that's what silver means.)
So  now Pete's is an independent operation, blogging in the street.

Thanks to everybody at Today's Trucking and Newcom Business Media for helping launch Pete's Blog&Grille. Hope you--and lots of others--drop in for a visit, as often as you can.

Where We Solve the Big Life&Death Issues

It's getting harder and harder to decide which funerals you can take time off work for and still legitimately get paid and which funerals you have to take a holiday day for.

It's not as easy as it seems.

For instance, some funerals--immediate family comes to mind--you should get a day off with pay for.  Any boss who docks you for attending a funeral of a family member will not go to heaven.
But  it gets tricky. For one thing, the definition of family varies. Is your girlfriend family? She is if you live with her, I guess.

Or try this. If my pal John died today (Saturday) I would would definitely take time from work to attend the funeral next week come what may.

How should the HR department log that time off?   Bereavement leave? I'd think something as official as Bereavement Leave  you'd save for a dead, say, spouse.

That means you'd have to take your pal's funeral as a holiday day.

Seems like the wrong word. Then again, John would want me to have fun at his sendoff.  (Here's a signal funerals are getting trendy. Spell check did not put a little squiggly line under "sendoffs". What does that tell you?)

Still. A holiday?

Very recently, we traveled about 300 km and stayed one night in a hotel in Sudbury to attend the wake and funeral of  my sister-in-law Brenda's late mom Doris Urso.

A sister-in-law's mom? In retrospect, I know attending Doris' farewell was the right thing to do but what manager in the universe is going to let me have a day (or two in this case!) to make that date?

People attend funerals for different reasons. Some you go just because it's the right thing to do. You want to show your support for the living. Sometimes your spouse makes you go. I've gone to some funerals knowing they would be fun. I've attended some funerals because I knew I'd meet up with people I hadn't seen in a long time.

Sometimes you go to funerals  just to make sure the person's dead.

What's an HR person supposed to do?

See what I mean? This is way more complicated than you thought.

That's why I'm presenting the Pete's Blog&Grille Guide  to Determining which Funerals You Can Attend and Still Get Paid and Which Funerals Don't Count.

Funerals Companies Should Cut You Slack For

1) Your own;
2) Immediate family's;
3) Immediate inlaws'. (I'm not saying you HAVE to attend these; only that if you do attend an inlaw's service, it should get the same respect as family.)
4) Your boss's. (What's she going to do? Fire you? Ha.)
5) Three others of your choosing. More than three? Take the day off. Just do yourself a favour and don't tell anybody which you've chosen to use company days for. Somebody will take offence.

Funerals You Definitely Take a Holiday Day For

1) Services for people you know only from playing Farmville online;
2) Celebrities whose funerals are televised;
2) Anybody that you are glad is dead;
3) Your pet hamster.
5) Victor Newman's. On second thought, maybe the boss should spring for this one. But never mind. You know what I mean.