NEVER TAKE DIRECTIONS FROM DONATO
Three old friends and colleagues, accompanied by our resilient wives, have celebrated the anniversary of the foundation of the Toronto Sun almost since it began 41 years ago.
It's often an adventure. Suitably it's on Halloween.
One year a man living across the street from Yvonne and Peter Worthington threatened to punch me in the nose because he didn't like the way I had parked.
Another year, Diane and Andy Donato, the noted golfer, arrived more than an hour late, blaming the traffic. I wondered if they had dallied along the way.
So now we take care with arrangements. Donato phoned to say they had picked a restaurant in the centre of where we all lived. "It's just north of the Sun on Ontario Street and it's Italian and on the west side. Called Mangez and something. 7 p.m. " he said. He kind of slurred the name and I asked him to repeat it.
Mary and I set off early. After all, it was raining, there were 20,000 people going to the first Raptors game, and there would be strangeness on the roads, most of it by drivers and not the trick-or-treaters.
I slowed on King at the mouth of Ontario St., which was one-way against me, but could see nothing. And then we entered the special hell for parking downtown at night when it's raining and pedestrians and cyclists scuttle in dark clothes along one-way streets. And Ontario is one of the more frustrating destinations because it has a jog in it and also just isn't there for a block.
We drove north on the first parallel street, Berkeley, and then the one-way streets kept interfering. Finally we arrived after circling at a restaurant that Mary had glimpsed in the gloom and felt triumphant to see its name, Mengrai. Inside, we were assured by a woman glancing at the reservation book that there was a table for six booked by a Donato. I had had a twinge of misgiving because it was Thai.
Amazingly, we were 20 minutes early. And we waited. Finally had some excellent lemon grass soup, and a spicy Caesar. And waited. About 7.30, we ordered some tasty prawns. And waited. At 8 p.m., I said this was late even for Andy. And we summoned the waitress to double-check that reservation. Turned out it hadn't been made by a Donato.
She knew of no other restaurant with a name like Mangez but I went out in the rain and walked up and down and found Mangia Bevi two blocks to the south. And the Donatos and Worthingtons inside wondering impatiently where Mary and I had been for more than an hour.
Andy, being Andy, insisted I had screwed up. Yvonne indicated my spluttering denials were tiresome. Peter didn't care as long as there was sausage. Dianne was dubious, And Mary, bless her, assumed that as usual I was wrong.
You would think Donato would show a little respect because I'm older. And I had been his boss, although that was hard to tell. But I have 30 of his paintings, prints, montages and cartoons collected over 40 years despite his insults, so many that a friend suggested I call my house the Donato Gallery. (And I have five gentle glowing watercolours by Diane to make me feel better after all the cartoons which ridicule me. One even calls me an Ass, something I was trying to conceal from the world.)
It was a great occasion after that hiccup. The anecdotes flowed with the red and white wine, and our stories have aged longer, more than five decades of journalism going back to the old and lamented Toronto Telegram.
"Remember, " Yvonne said, "the Tely Walking Team in the first Miles for Millions for 32.8 miles. There were seven of us. I remember how impressed I was when Pete left for an hour or two and had a tooth pulled and came back to walk and didn't tell us. And John carried Danielle on his shoulders as he and Pete and I made it all the way to Nathan Phillips Square."
Of course Danielle Crittenden , who I called the "elf," is now a big boss at the Huffington Post, a best-selling author and TV personality. She's married to famed pundit David Frum, making them one of our power couples with parents who were also power couples.
Peter recalled Ben Wicks, the cartoonist, pub owner and TV personality, calling it quits in the charity walk and grabbing a cab even though Ben had once marched in a military band. And then Peter recalled the great newspaper challenge with him trying to match a professional walker in hiking huge distances to Toronto. He set a blistering place but had to quit when he was way ahead because of all his blisters. Then the pro dropped out of the stunt and a little police reporter from the Star, Dot O'Neill, finished the walk and won a VW even though there were suspicions, later confessed to, that she had cheated to such an extent that her photographer Eddy Roworth gave her lifts and at one point they had gone off bowling.
And we kept telling anti-Star stories, where, as Peter told Sun readers in this year's anniversary column, he had considered working after the Tely's death despite Yvonne's warning that he would be ground down.
Worthington, the editor turned columnist, and Donato, the editorial cartoonist when he isn't golfing, are still stalwarts at the Sun, being among the best in their trade/profession in the world. I departed finally last year because I didn't do as well at negotiating payment above a pitiful sum.
They won't like me going public with this but Andy and Pete love what they do so well and would probably work for free because columns and cartoons have been flowing from them like Niagara Falls when lesser journalists and artists have been falling out of their rocking chairs.
We didn't have our anniversary dinner last year. There was an unofficial Day Oner party paid for by the dearly departed. Then the Sun finally broke down and had an official party where editor-turned columnist Mike Strobel MCed and asked me not to speak because they only had several hours.
Two years ago we met in a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant down in warehouse country after Peter checked out of hospital that morning to come and still had blood trickling from a hole in his chest.
Actually we all have the same doctors, from the able and well-connected Dr. Bernie Gosevitz, the best GP in the world when you can get an appointment, to Dr. Heather Ross, the best cardiologist in the world who is about to ski to the South Pole with a retired Thunder Bay firefighter in whom she planted a new heart.
That's to prove that there is real life after your heart is replaced. They've also skied to the North Pole and sort of climbed a mountain in Antarctica. It's a heavy-duty vacation from Dr. Ross' incredible workload which even has her being the singer and leader of a good band filled with medical specialists who can put you under if you complain about their playing at a charity gig. .
Andy talked about meeting me at Ross' fundraiser and Peter wondered why he hadn't been invited. He announced he was going to complain via e-mail. Imagine! He has been writing for 60 years and wandered the world and hobnobbed with the famous and even a mass murderer or two, and here he is, nearing 100 probably, and still so competitive he doesn't like being left out even from a fundraiser.
There's hope for all old farts like me who are only in our 70s.
I hope our dinners last a long time. I just won't ask Andy again for directions. It's a wonder he can find the greens.