One Month Done

It has flown past but I’ve been on the job for a month now. After a rough first couple of weeks of 12 hour days, I think I’m getting the hang of it. And now the team is expanded to three people so the workload will be a little more evenly distributed.

There is still a ton of things I don’t understand but that will, I hope, come with time. And I really need to adjust my working style. I’m really content to sit in my office and produce analysis but for this job to work, it’s really about the face to face meetings and selling the partners and associates on what I’m doing. So suddenly I need to become more social and start working on relationships. This isn’t my strong suit but when in doubt, I can always act like it is.

I was in Toronto this week to finally meet my boss and other co-workers. He works in Calgary. Our mutual boss works in Toronto, as does my counterpart. Prior to that I’ve only spoken to him on the phone and in videoconferences. One thing I’ve gotten used to is that, now that I’m 45, my bosses are just going to be younger than me unless I suddenly start moving up the ranks but that’s never been my career goal.

As we were waiting to leave in the Porter lounger at Billy Bishop Airport, a colleague from the Montreal office asked me, “As tu remarqué que les gens de Toronto sont vraiment ‘into customer service.?’ C’est comme, ‘Just give me my double espresso. You’re too happy for six-thirty in the morning.'”

Now that I’m back in a job, and a rather demanding one at that, it’s important to use the downtime well. Tomorrow we’re going to see Les Géants downtown and camping trips are planned for the summer. I may not get a summer vacation this year but I’ll need to make sure I’m spending time with friends and family and getting to the gym when I can.

 

The Royal York

I think it’s fair to say that I have a bit of a fascination with the Toronto of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. It may be because as a child growing aware that my world extends beyond the newly built shopping mall in East Saint John, there seemed a realisation that things in this country tended to gravitate toward Toronto.

The shows I watched on our two channels mostly originated from – there until we got cable and American TV. That confused me initially – (“I thought our prime minister was Pierre Trudeau. Who’s this Jimmy Carter guy?”). On CTV’s horrible sketch comedy show, Bizarre, or perhaps it was the game show Definition, there used to be a voice-over at the end of the show which said something to the effect of “When in Toronto, guests of Bizarre stay at the luxurious Royal York. Cars used on the show provided by Tilden Rent-a-Car, featuring the all new Chevy Cavalier. In Canada, it’s Tilden!”

The Royal York, to me, was as Toronto as it got. Later in the 80’s, as a long forgotten TV channel devoted to rock videos called MuchMusic came on the scene, the picture became more broad. They had a subway, as shown by the Spoons’ “Romantic Traffic” video. On CBC’s Street Legal, if you crossed Cynthia Dale, you’d find yourself on the business end of her shoulder pads. Clearly, this was a city of some importance.

Someday, I thought to myself, I’m going to stay at that hotel. Perhaps when I’m performing my stand-up routine on the Don Harron Show. I never did become a famous-in-Canada stand-up comedian, which is good because I don’t think my late-in-life shyness could have dealt with celebrity. But thanks to cheap, nonrefundable internet rates, we’re staying at the Royal York next month.

We’re attending the British Isles Show, where we’ll meet up with some folks for that other blog I write for, as well as, hopefully, Antony Cotton and Katherine Kelly, two actors who appear on the The Greatest Television Programme of All Time.

The trip is really an excuse to meet up with friends (and stock up on Hob Nobs) and see a bit of the city. I may be that rare Montrealer who genuinely likes Toronto as I always have a great time when I’m there. Besides, that whole Montreal vs. Toronto thing is so played out, I’d like to think. But then, I’m not a native Montrealer or a native of any big city. I just like visiting cities.

The weekend is also our annual chance to be really, really, really anglo.

Thud!

There’s an interview with novelist Rabindranath Maharaj in today’s Globe and Mail. His novel, The Amazing Absorbing Boy, details the life of a young immigrant to Toronto. He comes off as a genial, engaging kind of guy and his novel sounds like the kind of thing I’d like to read. The thing that is slightly irritating is the article’s title:

Pow! A multicultural comic-book hero for Toronto

I assume the title comes from the fact that the novel’s protagonist loves comics. And his name is a riff on one of the Hulk’s first villains. But that’s about it, as far as I can tell.

Is there some rule in the Globe and Mail style book that insists that any time the medium of comics is mentioned in an article, the title must always employ a comic book sound effect? Also, the title implied that someone was writing a comic book about a Toronto-based superhero, which is also something I’d read.

No big thing, just, you know, irritating.

Toronto the Good

This past weekend, we took our annual Spring trip to Toronto. This also made for James’ 5th round-trip flight and the bigger and squirmier he gets, the more difficult it becomes. Still, he puts up with his parents and their need to drag him everywhere like a little trooper.

I’m also finally getting comfortable with getting around the city. I long ago became one of those rare non-Torontonians who loves that town. For all its reputation of being cold, unfriendly city, I have always found Torontonians exceedingly polite and even warm. Maybe I’m just hanging around the wrong neighbourhoods.

The intial purpose of the visit was to go to the British Isles Show, but the more time I spend in the actual British isles, the tackier that event becomes, to the point that we’ll probably skip it next year to free up the afternoon to do other things. The real purpose of the trip, really, is to reconnect with friends, which we did and that was a lot of fun, even if Fynn’s of Temple really should avoid trying to be a nightclub.

Next visit, however, should probably be in summer.

Here Now The News

Our Top Story

Last night, possibly spurred by last night’s discovery of my old community college diploma in radio journalism, I had a dream in which I became a freelance reporter for the CBC, specialising in the Montreal arts and culture scene. 

However, because I graduated in 1992, my technical skills were out of date. While younger, hipper, better-looking reporters rushed around me with their MacBooks, I was trying to find a shoulder strap for the portable reel-to-reel tape recorder that I found in the CBC’s basement. I was an ace tape editor back in the day.

Apparently, all of CBC’s arts reporters were competing with each other so we were all sent to a media event where some unidentified artist was making an announcement of some kind. When I arrived, the younger reporters started saying how they admired my retro style but I couldn’t persuade them that this was the only way I knew how to report (because cassette tapes hadn’t occurred to me). 

Sometimes it’s good to change a career but sometimes it’s good to stay where you know what you’re doing. 

And in other news

Watched a little of the Junos last night. Still not sure why Russell Peters has become as huge as he is. He’s funny for about two minutes and I liked his little Bollywood dance entrance but then he repeats these jokes for an hour: “I ate French fries for lunch today which is funny, because I’m Indian.”

Still Other News

Attention Dorval Residents:

Dropping off your busted-ass TV set at the local recycling bins is NOT recycling. And probably not legal.

And Finally

The Youngling has bronchiolitus and his mum has sinusitus although both seem to be on the mend. But if you’re lucky, Toronto, we’ll be bringing these exciting viruses to your town this Friday. We’ll be hooking up with some old friends and celebrating all things British. And drinking beer.

Except for the Youngling.

He likes whisky.

Thank you, Leah

A few years ago, in a small fit of rage, I threw my Saturday Globe and Mail against the wall after reading one too many self-important columnists waste valuable paper space on utter horseshit. I vowed never to read it again.

This was, in itself, horseshit because I still read it online and once in a blue moon, will pay for a copy, just for a change. I still hate the damn thing.

I can never tell what demographic they’re going for with that paper because, if their weekend section is to be believed, the Globe reader makes >200K per year, lives in Rosedale (but with a condo near Queen West), has a massive cottage in the Muskokas, and like the couple in the old CIBC commercials, is torn between a retirement in Provence or Tuscany. In other words, whatever it is, it ain’t you. So I quit reading it. For a while.

Turns out, their most important columnist Leah McLaren is reaching out to me. She has decided for me that it’s ok to be me. It’s ok to buy the inexpensive things I buy because, hey, she buys them too.

So to you, Leah, I say thank you. Thank you for letting me enjoy what you call “crap“.

I have gone my entire life purchasing cheap fast food, buying housewares from discount stores, eating frozen food not, as you might conclude, in an elaborate attempt to be ironic but because it was what I can afford. Turns out a rarefied person such as yourself also enjoyed these things in her less sophisticated youth and now you have the choice to enjoy them again.

Of course, it’s not because you have to for financial reasons. Oh no, let’s make that clear, as you do in your column. You got money and you do move in fabulous circles. You could continue to enjoy quality goods (that I’ve never heard of) if you want. You just choose not to, for now.

You’ll grow tired of it, of course. Eating at McDonald’s and shopping at Wal-Mart will save you money but it does mean you’ll have to rub shoulders with the acne-faced, the working classes, the suburbanites, the recent immigrants, and, yes, the fat. By the time the fall Vogue comes out (assuming it’s still read in your circles), you’ll have moved on to the latest movement you and your friends have noticed.

But until then, I’ll remain content in the knowledge that you and I could be eating a Big Mac at the very same time. I’d like to think that connects you and I on some level, if only for an ever fleeting moment.