CORNWALL Ontario – Didn’t my mom and dad make cute babies?
I turned the BIG 5-0 today. It’s bewildering. Frankly it kind of freaks me out. The 31st of July has spawned some odd and strange people. I share this day with Wesley Snipes and JK Rowlings; Evgeni Malkin and Ted Cassidy (Lurch on the Addams Family) Mark Cuban and Dean Cain also are born on the 31st .
Very few people including myself ever expected me to make it. When I was young doctors told me I wouldn’t make it to 30.
In the 80’s flying back from the Arctic where I was working and adventuring our old Nordair jet was hit by a wind shear and it being night we were plunged into darkness.
I still can feel that night. People screaming; the whoosh of things flying by, the plane moving into a dive and then the lights came back on and somehow the engines came back on too.
I was told that we essentially had one shot; about a 15% of surviving it.
I remember a strange substance fueled night when a biker held my hand down and did the knife trick between my fingers to see how manly I was. I still have all my fingers which is handy for we writers.
I have a lot to be grateful for these fifty years. I’ve met and experienced a lot of amazing people. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some even if they didn’t always mean to teach.
I was lucky to have a full set of parents and grand-parents; and get to benefit from that until I was 12.
I was lucky to be born in Canada.
I’m old enough to have been around and hear the Beatles before they broke up.
I’m old enough to remember Monday Morning Choo Choo by the Stampeders. I remember my mom warning me not to walk near mailboxes on my way to school as a kid in Ville St. Laurent as some of the mail boxes in Montreal were exploding.
I remember Canada before the Metric system. I grew up while Montreal won five Stanley Cups and then was lucky enough to work with many of the guys from that team later in life. I was lucky enough to go on tour with Maurice Richard and many of hockey’s biggest names including one night when I made the mistake of falling asleep on our bus and waking up to see the Rocket grinning over his seat at me just before I would have been given a hot foot.
I got to enjoy Montreal in its hey day. To watch Mabel Normand films at Moma in NY and wander Manhattan. I got to live in Los Angeles for nearly a year with the grandson of the family that handled all the music for MGM.
I was lucky that Ted Blackman returned my call and helped me get my start in sports.
I was lucky enough to work with one of Canada’s greatest sports photographers, and know his son before he became the greatest goalie in NHL history. I was privileged to work in hockey and in Hollywood becoming the answer to a question that stumped Hockey trivia guy Liam Maguire.
“Name the only Montreal Canadiens employee to ever have his work nominated for an Oscar?”
I’m lucky enough to have had one of the Eaton family insist that I meet this “young doctor” of his back in 1984. That doctor still takes care of me, and I still will get my butt to Westmount to see him no matter where I am if I can. His patience and support are a big reason why I feel I’m still on this planet. Thank you Paul Lysy!
While I wish I had a bigger and closer family I’m grateful for all of them; but I’m more grateful for the long time friends I’ve had; some over 40 years. I remember my mom’s family Passover ceders while her father, who was a Cantor, was still alive. His four daughters singing harmony was very special.
I remember my paternal grand-father who had been a pro boxer when he was young teaching me to protect myself when I was being bullied as a kid and I remember him taking me with him to the theatre where he was working as a projectionist when I was young.
I remember my paternal grand mother being there for me no matter how bad things were as a kid. She was a very strong woman and the first president of the Canadian Association for the Blind; something I’m very proud of.
The running joke when I was older was that one grand-father was clergy and one was a fighter. If I couldn’t learnedly discuss an issue with you then I’d just thump you! I think a lot of my toughness and ability to deal with issues come from those early lessons.
I’ve lived from dial phones, to touch pad, to those big 80’s cell phones, to dial up internet, to my amazing Start.ca 55 mps internet of today.
I still own that 386 computer I paid $1800 for 🙂
I’m so grateful for the books I’ve read. It’s not the same reading online. It might be better; but hey, I still own vinyl and those big honking laser discs too.
I’m grateful for Billy Wilder yelling at me on the phone. For Brock Peters giving me that afternoon of his time. For my very first literary agent Anne McDermid. I’m even grateful to Stuart Sender who ripped me off; but without whom I may not have been able to watch the delightful Diane Lane open an Oscar envelope for the project that started out as one of the many strange thoughts I’ve had.
I’m grateful for friends like Jason Stuart who taught me a lot about how to accept people for whom they are and showed me some of the ropes, and gave me a great bit of advice one day when he said “never let people see your inner crazy!”
I’m grateful to my now ex-wife Lea Anne Whitson for the near eight years we spent together. There are even days I miss her.
I’m grateful to all of the girl friends I’ve had during the three years since our break up including my current one.
I am cherishing each and every day with my senior fur babies. Sam who’s 22 or 24 based on which estimate is right from the shelter I rescued him from 14 years ago. Mr. Butch who’s now 15. Little Fitzy who’s going to be 2 soon and of course Miss Melly who has been with me through thick and thin these last 13 years including bringing on first dates to check out the ladies.
She may not be with me physically much longer; but I know our spirits will be intertwined forever.
Lastly I’m grateful for the journey that has been this online newspaper which I started in 2009. Sometimes the worst experiences lead us to special places.
I’ve written over 7,500 pieces in that time for CFN; shot over 1500 video clips and interviewed people from Justin Trudeau to Mark Hamill.
People said I was insane to do this experiment here in Cornwall Ontario. They told me what a horrible community it was and how horrible the people are; how corrupt and crooked the city is.
I didn’t see that. Every place has good and bad whether it be Los Angeles, Montreal, London, or even Cornwall. When I first moved here I saw opportunity. I saw a need to fill. I wanted to be part of it. I thought that in the digital age it was content that was important; not where it was from and I thought it’d be amazing to create a media company in Cornwall that would include this newspaper; the radio station what would have become our online TV station.
Have I made mistakes? Sure, we all have. It would be easy to “blame” people like Bob Kilger, Rick Shaver, Lezlie Strasser, Bernadette Clement, David Murphy, his gf Vanessa Regnier, Elaine MacDonald, Jim Brownell, Gilles Latour, Chris Munro, Bob Peters, Glen Grant, Ed Lumley, just about any one named Bedard, Guy Lauzon, Patricia Brown, Chris Savard, Todd Lihou, Sue Stewart and the rest of the Remax crew; Karen Burns, Brock Frost, and others on some of the difficulties and obstacles that have not only hurt my business; but have mostly hurt our community.
But again obstacles are put in our journey for reasons. I think the trick isn’t to focus on them; but to focus on how to over come them.
When I turned 30 I made a life decision. I decided to give the gift to myself of devoting all of my energies into writing. At that time it was screenplays and it has been a great adventure and one which I’ll never stop.
Along that journey I’ve written a novel and a half and of course jumped into journalism. I think when people look back at CFN they will scratch their heads. I remember our current Leader of the Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, sitting me in his office and simply not believing that CFN was essentially a one man show.
The fact that what some slur as a simple blog has become an online newspaper with over 200,000 visits per month is something everyone in this community should be proud of as there really hasn’t been much actually created in Cornwall that hasn’t been known other than pedophile rings and toxic pollution.
As I turn 50 I am turning my focus to my new life goal; because life is truly a short and wonderful gift. Each day is a blessing and we really should all embrace them because one day they will end. There will be no more days.
A huge thank you to all who have played a role in this amazing experiment and journey.
My last thought tonight is back to my real first memory of Cornwall way back to 1994 when I was touring with the Old Timers. We had left the Fairview shopping centre in our little team bus and cracked open and mixed some Caesars. I was feeling no pain as we walked into the Civic Complex.
I took one of Gilbert Perrault’s hockey sticks while he was singing Elvis in the dressing room and skidded along in my cowboy boots to centre ice. The lights were down and for some strange reason Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska was playing.
I blasted a few pucks and was having fun like a kid, which is what hockey truly means to me. I was falling on my rump and bouncing back up and in walked Guy Lafleur. We looked at each other oddly. I think I fell again. It was an amazing evening and of course we won as usual. Larry Robinson gave me a ride home as I really wanted to see my then girlfriend at the time and didn’t want to wait for the bus.
That night planted the seeds in me that there was magic in Cornwall. It’s funny how one special moment can do that. It was like eating a really nice meal and simply remembering the flavour.
I miss that feeling about our city. I really do. I’m not sure if it’s dead or just sleeping. I’m hoping that it comes back soon.
But tomorrow is the first day of my 51st year. New challenges. New goals. A new day.