Sunday, April 2, 2017

Why jealousy's nothing to sneeze at

NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE: Cormier was so good-looking
I'm using his mugshot to make my blog prettier.
Yesterday afternoon at about 2:00 p.m., if you were driving in the lane beside me and glanced over, you would have seen me seem to sneeze and then quickly reach up to adjust my glasses.  Except it wasn’t a sneeze that I burst out; it was a spontaneous laugh. Followed by the wiping away of a laugh tear. The exact word I said, loudly, with a forward jerky motion of my head, was “Hah!”

I was listening to the radio. And while I’m not naming names, the announcer was talking about a new CD that was about to hit the stores.  “And this,” he promised, “is going to be one for the annals.” And he pronounced annals as if it only had one n.

I know, I know.  I'm immature because I think that's so funny. Which means so is my older smarter sister Norma Fairman. Because when I phoned her immediately to tell her about the announcer’s slip up, (as one does) she had the very same reaction: “Hah!,” said Norma.

Come to think of it, I am more mature than Norma because, and this is where we get to the true-confession part of this blog, my “hah” was only one third because of my little-boy brain.

Mostly, I laughed for professional reasons.

Here’s what I mean.

The announcer wasn’t just any random voice. He is also a successful musician and recording artist. I also happen to know what he looks like. The CD he was referring to was produced by his friend and colleague.  They’re both younger than me and they have really cool major-market media jobs and I was stuck in traffic behind the wheel of my aging Malibu that one of my nephews—the aforementioned sister Norma’s son Paul, to name names--deemed a “dad” car. 

I was guilty of driving while jealous.

And I’m dead certain my envy fueled my response to the announcer’s delightful mispronunciation of “annals.”

I know, I know, you’re like, “What???? Peter? You've got a great life; a loving and never-a-dull-moment family, the aforementioned Malibu, a motorcycle, four brothers, four sisters, four guitars. What could you be jealous of???”

As I told Norma, I’m jealous of every other person in my line of work and then some. Like that disc jockey.

When I see a great story in a magazine, I think, “Rats! I wish I wrote that.”



We subscribe to the print version of the Toronto Star. On page GT2 of Saturday's paper, there was a story about garbage in the part of the city known as the Distillery. The headline? “Distillery District in trash can-undrum.” Clever huh? I hate it.

When I was editor of the magazine Today’s Trucking, if we produced what I thought was a great feature about, say, a one-legged trucker from Lesser Slave Lake who wins a Nobel prize for literature, I would be perfectly glib and happy until the competition, “Truck (spit-pitooie) News” scooped us with their take on the trombone-playing driver who rescues foster puppies in Romania.

I hate when that happens.

I know I’m not alone.  A friend of mine who makes a living as a fine artist—meaning she paints pictures that people buy and hang up in their homes—told me she has the same issue.

I once asked her if she participates in the annual art show at Toronto City Hall. It’s a big deal and hundreds of artists bring their best work to display hopefully and with any luck sell.

“Not me,” she said. “I don’t like what it does to me.”

She said she’s so competitive that if she had a booth at the show and the artist next door asked her to watch his work while he went to the bathroom, she’d take the opportunity to run over to his booth and push all his work over and rip his canvases. And she doesn’t like her inner Mr. Hyde. So she avoids those shows.

I get that completely.

Quite a few years ago, I lost a good friend named Jim Cormier. He died in his sleep when he was 39. Left a fabulous partner Cynthia and two perfect kids Russ and Colette. I’m still mad at him for dying and I think about him every day.

I loved Jim and I don’t throw that word around.

He gave me my very first magazine job. He helped me find work when I needed it. Then, near the end, we happened to be writing for competing publications. He penned columns—mostly about his young family—for a magazine called Canadian Living. I, meanwhile, was producing lots of stories about my home and kids for Canadian Living's chief competition, Chatelaine.

I remember one time we had both families altogether at the Toronto Zoo and Jim was like, “if something funny happens here I’m going to write about it before you are.” 


Because he was so widely and deservedly loved, his funeral service packed the really big church where it was held. For a few days, it seemed like Jim was the only topic in town, especially among the set I moved in. And I’ll be damned if all the praise of Jim wasn’t justly deserved. He was funny, generous—my wife will tell you he was gorgeous to look at—and talented as a writer and musician. He would have really liked my "annals" story.

But three days after his funeral, an editor in town who knew both Jim and me well sidled up to me on the street.

“Tell the truth, Peter,” she said. “Are you a bit jealous of all the attention Jim’s getting right now?”

I told you she knew me well. 

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