Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Going cold turkey

Kerrene Tilson, Rick McCutcheon, Sue Smith,
me, Patsy Holder

Forty one years ago, lunchtime at the Anchor Inn in Little Current, Ont., found me sitting adjacent to one Sue Smith, who had just moved to town to work at the Manitoulin Expositor newspaper for a spell. (That's how we editors measure time. Spells. An editor's blood type? O. I wrote both of those great editor jokes myself.) 

Here's Sue ordering a sandwich: "Chicken, with mayo, on white."

There's Peter, thinking: "That is the safest sandwich I ever heard of. Completely neutral. Anybody could like that sandwich." Vegetarians might take issue with the chicken part, but I didn't know any back then. Vegetarians, that is. 

Every time I eat a turkey or chicken sandwich, I think of me at the Anchor. 

Why am I going on about this now? Because it's the day after Christmas and I had leftover turkey for breakfast. When I eat cold turkey or chicken there's nothing I can do about time travelling back to the Anchor.

It's not just turkey sandwiches, either.

AN OLD FRIEND: Ron Temchuk
I could be walking through the downtown Dundas West subway station after a Jays game but then spot an advertisement for a Teen Burger and wham! I'm in the back seat of a car munching on a Teen Burger, purchased by my buddy Trevor MacIntyre's dad. That memory is so strong and so positive that just thinking it makes me feel as carefree and relaxed as an 11-year-old boy going for burgers with his pal in his pal's dad's car.

Coffee in styrofoam cups? Welcome to Pete's Lunch, a block south of the garage where my dad worked and where we hung out as kids. 

Sometimes the garage guys sent us on coffee runs to Pete's, which was operated by an always friendly Chinese man whose real name probably wasn't anywhere close to Pete, and he let us kids play the pinball machine. Pete also had a way of mincing chopped onion into his burger meat, infusing them with a taste that I've tried in vain to replicate since. 

And that's what I think of every time I see coffee in a styrofoam cup.

Writing of coffee...one of the dozens of reasons I like going into our office so much--even though I don't have to these days--is because of my lifelong (so far, anyway) friend Ron Temchuk.

Thing is, at our office, we get free coffee. It's a perk. Ha-ha. 

And one of the flavours this free coffee comes in is cappuccino. 

(as in Beatanik) lives a few houses east.

I only have to gaze at the froth to magically start shooting pool, sipping cappuccino and debating big-picture topics like what is art and whether world peace is attainable with Ron at an Italian joint up Bronson Avenue near the house he and I shared with, at various times, Nigel Simms, Jan DePater, Rick Mayoh, Boris Hrybinsky and Stuart Ziegler (among others) when a bunch of us were going to Carleton University.

It's the tangible memory of these visits with Ron that I like about cappuccino, way more than the taste of the stuff. 

This is fun. 

Here in Toronto, there's an onramp that takes you from the eastbound Danforth Avenue to the Northbound Don Valley Parkway; a half-a-kilometre swooping downhill curve to the right, and every single time I head down I -- for some reason -- think about my brother in law Al MacNevin and his brother Dave. Included in that memory is an early '70s P1800 Volvo sportscar, cornering so rapidly the car was up on two left wheels. I don't know if anybody actually did that, or said it sounded like a good idea, or if it's all something I imagined.

All I know for sure is the imagery is so strong it makes driving down the ramp way more fun. The City of Toronto should rename that stretch of street the MacNevin Ramp. 

As I type at this moment, on the wall over my right shoulder hangs a pair of oil paintings that we purchased 20 years ago from an artist neighbour, Beata Hasziuk.

Shortly after we got the art, I was visiting my doctor, Mark Huryn, in his downtown Toronto office and I noticed a Beata painting on his wall, too. Mark's a great doctor. I once asked him if I might have adhd because I'm so impulsive and have a hard time meeting deadlines. His response? "You're married, right? You got a house, correct?  You're working? No big debts? You're probably fine." 

We allow cookies.
Neither Mark nor Beata have the foggiest idea how frequently I think about them, just because I'm sitting under the paintings. 

Beata's name also reminds me of beatitudes, so here's a new one: Blessed are the artists for they shall remind people of stuff forever. 

We have a ceramic Christmas cookie jar that every time I look at brings me to my aunt Kaye's kitchen. Kaye, my mom's younger sister, lived up the street from us and loved me like crazy and in her kitchen on a shelf, for as many years as I can count, she had ceramic cookie jar though I think Kaye's was a pig. 

I remember thinking "That thing is always on the very same shelf, every time we visit. I wonder why she doesn't take it down and play with it. I sure would." 

So now, whenever I look at our ceramic soldier, I am reminded that we should all have as much fun as we can, right now, because you never know, you might just wind up remembering this exact moment forever.

Look. You are definitely going to create memories. Might as well make them happy ones.




  1. Thank you. Hopefully, I'm back. I always enjoy your writing, and memories.

  2. Hi Peter. Such fun to discover your blog. Seeing those Manitoulin faces sure brought back memories. I can identify with memory triggers. I started to write a collection of columns called, The Story of Things, with a collection of anecdotes triggered by household items. Trouble was, we kept moving, I kept getting rid of stuff and the idea is now wasting away in my stand-by folder. I did write a series on Facebook during the pandemic and published it under the title, Mind Off-Leash. I had to - my unfinished ideas folder was stuffed full and permanently in purgatory.
    Drop a note sometime. We currently live in Bermuda but will be moving back to London in a year.