Friday, March 30, 2018

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

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.'"

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.
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."