Wednesday, June 12, 2013



Back when people sat in bars and actually conversed, instead of staring into smart phones as they do now, back when having a good memory, even a photographic memory, was useful, two Canadian newspaper types invented an instant hit called Trivial Pursuit.
I remember it well because that's when some stopped liking me.
We used to have a car pool party of the neighbours who took turns driving our kids to French immersion because no buses were provided at the start, and each year the French fries (as they were called by other classes during recess) were moved to another Etobicoke school.
The car pool crowd decided to play this new trivia game, a lot of fun until husbands got annoyed at me answering all the questions.
Sorry, I said, but the game grew out of newsrooms and press clubs and anyone who has ever spent time reporting and drinking collects trivia like a robin collects worms.
Before you think I'm becoming (too) egotistical, there were later variations involving, for example, pop culture, and I no longer was champ. Gone were the questions that could be answered by anyone who had ever been in a big newsroom where you were surrounded by people who knew trivia because they had interviewed many of the big players, whether in movies, politics, sports, business etc.
With the answers to most questions just seconds away on a smart phone, the wizards of trivia have had their wands broken. No longer would I boast about the dinner party where the senator named all the teams in English soccer and their home fields,  the financier who was later jailed - the businessman, not the senator - named all the ships in the Argentine navy and their tonnage, and the mayor disgorged endless stats about baseball before the Jays were  invented.
I hung in for a time but then decided it was safer on my ego to join the ladies.
It's a couple of years since I phoned the psychiatrist with the genius IQ and the photographic memory and said that we were now passe, no longer the wows at a party.  (I don't claim an IQ over 145 or a photo memory, just five decades of journalism.)
What's the point of trying to memorize anything when the Internet has become the flawed memory for the world, just a few strokes away? You can Google major stuff or the truly minor, like I was saying that Conan O'Brien was really tall and when someone challenged that, I winkled out immediately that he was 6'4".
There are a lot of dubious sources out there on the Internet, a point I was trying to make to a university journalism class when I talked about how wonderful the flood of facts is on the Internet but when you look stuff up, it is like dipping a tea spoon into the torrents below Niagara Falls and expecting you will find accurate info on the first try.
That is the Achilles heel of smart phones (which is bizarre imagery.}  You can also be given too much info and drown while searching for the consensus.
For people in their anecdotage like me, smart phones can be a curse or a blessing, depending on whether you were right when your children decided to check out your memories.
Now I love to tell stories. Mary says I do it too much. Three sons often point out I've told them the story before. Yet Number Three son, in a forgiving mood, wrote a full page in the Sunday Sun on me where he delivered this wonderful line - the family don't mind me repeating stories because they want to see how they turn out this time. Touche, or something!
Yes the smart phone can be dangerous when sons challenge dear old dad, but I'm suspicious when they argue but then don't  pull it out and check me out immediately.. They must sense I may actually be right. For a change! Wow! There is hope for the old farts.
The local pub was so noisy recently that it was hard to follow the hockey and baseball over the yahoos. I swore when the Kings scored and Number One son was annoyed. I kidded him, since he lives just south of L.A., that I didn't like the Kings much as one of the "new" teams.
 He argued they had been around for years. And of course they have, founded in the 1960s by a refugee from Toronto. I said I was joking because, after all, they won the Cup last year. No, they didn't, Number Two son said, Chicago did. Since he still plays goal twice a week, I refrained from saying that it was the Kings last year, Boston the year before, and then Chicago in 2010.
The point about new" teams vs. the Original Six is not lost on those of who who still remember when hockey was really hockey and Tim Horton was not a doughnut/coffee joint but one of the srrongest players in the league. And Boston vs. Chicago is giving us a taste of a golden past, echoes of a vanished era before strikes and more stories about salaries than scoring.
But back to the noise, a typical night as beer disappeared and we were happy we could walk home.. We argued about planes, and everything else, I wondered about switching from draft to a Bloody Caesar with rum. And Number One son argued that no Caesar was ever made with white rum.  Then I remembered when Mary got so filled with the joy of drinking  Long Island Teas in Mexico, which were assorted rums,  that she tried walking out of the deep end of a very large pool. And Number One son said there was no such thing as all-rum Teas.
He insisted I was really living in the past as an ancient AC 1 in the RCAF when I talked about flight engineers even though, as I pointed out, there are literally thousands of older planes still using them. And of course the military, which don't have the same staffing concerns as the airlines which are always on the verge of bankruptcy.
I love Caesars and and know that about the only constant in all the recipes is clamato juice. And Long Island Tea is just a mix of white liquors like rum, vodka and tequila as well as a liqueur like triple sec. Those deadly ones in Mexico got their taste from a heavy planter's rum.
The sons like to poke fun at me because I still use an old cell phone for which only a few have the number. But Number Three Son says he'll give me his old smart phone after he buys the latest generation. Which is fortunate because I think the next time I go on a family pub crawl, I should be armed with more than just my memory. After all, it seems I need electronic confirmation that I actually do know what I am talking about....on occasion.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013



I love picnics. Never been to a bad one, even when it rained, From a kid angling for a second piece of tart lemon pie to an older guy trying not to stare at what's inside those bikinis, a picnic is a joy forever.
When I was the skinny orphan where I never did anything during the summer but swim and imagine what the world must be like outside the small town, the simple church picnic was a major event.
Only one concession road out of Chesley, and the Saugeen River is not much at that point, and all the people there I saw twice every Sunday, but I still enjoyed every slice of pie and all the egg salad sandwiches even though well-filled bikinis had not yet entered my thoughts.
Then there have been all the Plewes picnics with my aunt and uncle and their 11 children with whom I lived when I went to Weston Collegiate. Fine food, great anecotes, but I couldn't admirt the bikinis because I was related to all of them.
And now has come,  for my 47th time, the preview of the CHIN Picnic which of course is held at the Ex for three days ending July 1. And I can stare at the bikinis, providing Mary is on the other side of the Liberty Grand and my son Mark is off winning the barbecue.
In my defense, may I say that I am restrained in my admiration and never say a word. But Lenny and Theresa Lombardi invite all these boisterous guys with Italian heritage and they are unreserved in their admiration and comments. I thought I was somewhere in Rome having a drink at an outside table while the world paraded by, and some may as well just been wearing a bikini.
What I love about Lenny's party, beside the food, is it's an unabashed celebration of womanhood. And in this day of political correctness which has destroyed such pleasant events as the Miss Toronto contest,  it is nice not to be made out to be a pervert for taking a second look.
Back when it all began in 1966, back when (sorry Lenny) CHIN was an unknown ethnic radio station run by his dad Johnny Lombardi who also brought acts over from Italy, Johnny got the idea of the bikini contest which was manna from heaven for all the news photographers who loved to shoot women, and for all the editors like me who loved to run the pictures.
The CHIN party became the darling of the media.
Usually we were made to feel guilty by the dogooders and PC missionaries who eventually convinced the Toronto police association that its sponsorship of the Miss Toronto beauty contest was not wise. Politicians of all hues and stripes hastened to crap all over beauty contests and threatened to ban them from public property everywhere, including, probably, the moon.
But along came Lombardi and an ETHNIC BEAUTY CONTEST. And the activists and gliberals didn't know quite what to do. After all, it was the era of the huge hit of Metro Caravan, those marvelous days where you bought a passport and jaunted around to 54 church halls and auditoriums named after distant capitals and ate and drank well, and admired the dancing and exotic displays.
No one official in Toronto was about to attack any ethnic event, perhaps to make up for how post-war immigrants were treated. So the CHIN picnic and the radio station prospered, even though the Toronto Sun in the early years still suffered broadsides of indignation whenever the SUNShine girl was too bare or not ethnic enough. Often I was called upon to defend the Girl, and used to bring up as a fallen Baptist  that I didn't remember which one of the Ten Commandments mentioned women's bathing suits. All the media loved the CHIN bikini contest even if the Star and Globe were holier than thou about the SUNshine Girl while running some pretty bare females themselves. TV and the Star and the Globe could display some "girlie" pictures without subscribers phoning up to cancel in blue-rinse indignation.
Over the years, the advance party has also been a must event for savvy politicians as well as photogs.  For example, Doug Holyday was at the latest, but then the deputy mayor may have just been in hiding from the tag team of the Fords. Everyone loves an invite because you can mingle in a rich ethnic boisterous affair which can torture the ears as you do the same to your stomach.
I would never miss it. Lenny says in his program: "Many people ask why we describe this fantastic multicultural music festival as a picnic. I like to say the image and emotion conjured up by the word picnic is synonymous with the event. Think family, fun, outdoors, friends and good food and just like a family picnic there is no admission fee."
Oh yes, I'm told there is also a bikini contest for men. That may well be so, but I keep getting distracted by what we used to call stupidly the weaker sex.