Thursday, June 23, 2016



I have never taken more pills.
 It seems I get a new prescription every year.
Which makes me popular at Shoppers Drug Mart when I'm not bitching about a problem in reordering.
Take the latest example. I see I'm low on something called ezetimibe so I call in and reorder.  Two days later, I go through the normal hassle of trying to park near the Shoppers at Royal York and Bloor and Mary runs in to collect my order. They have nothing for me.
Return home and phone. This time the story changes to that I tried to reorder while I still had 10 pills and the government won't pay until you have less than that number.
Now Mary and I run into this all the time even with such a minor maintenance drug as ezetimibe which reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body and isn't to my knowledge a hot item in the drug world.
I have taken allopurinol for two decades to end vicious attacks of gout no matter how carefully I ate. Heaven help me if I try to get these pills before the government-appointed time. Yet allopurinol is  a drug that people take for years and isn't sold in dark doorways. How about enough to last three months.
I would like to know what OHIP bureaucrat is responsible for these arbitrary rules on when you can reorder minor drugs which are not on anyone's hit list of hallucinatory delights.
 I would drown them in pills and forms, or have their parents lecture them on getting a reasonable number of minor pills on each visit.
Now once a year, if you talk nicely about Barry Phillips, the veteran pharmacist who presides genially over his Drug Mart empire in central Etobicoke, and offer up your first born into servitude along with a second mortgage on the house, you can play snowbird and wing off to Florida or some warmer clime with even, heavens, a couple of months of pills.
But reordering drugs goes on month after month after month, not just once a year, and there are many people trying to grab a little order out of the chaos by putting together the daily allotment of pills two weeks in advance.
There are new people surfing above 65 every week,  and while all of us appreciate the drug help we get grudgingly from OHIP, we really do want to reduce the number of trips to even such a fine establishment as the Shoppers Drug Mart in the heart of the Kingsway.
After all, waiting cabs cluster around the Royal York subway station like bees around the hive, and there is a steady flow of  traffic behind the drug store on the one-way lane - with dumb drivers regularly going the wrong way.
We will have to move the Tim Hortons to get any help from the cops.
I doubt if the drug scene is going to explode if drug stores are allowed to renew a prescription while, heavens, the patients actually has more than 10, but our medicrats say they know best. That is one reason why our medical spending takes more than 40% of the provincial budget because of all the extra steps they insist are necessary.

Sunday, June 5, 2016



I have interviewed and even yarned with many famous people. Then when they move on to solve the great mystery of whether there is a heaven or a hell, I watch this flutter of journalists who try to create out of one interview or a few hours some relationship with the departed.
Why can't they just settle for an account of how these leaders in their fields impacted our country or the world?
Then there are those forgotten by time. Even if they die in the saddle, so to speak, they may have influenced or entertained hundreds of thousands,  but now they pass from the stage with only a few trumpeting farewell.
I can tell the story of how Nelson Mandela nicknamed me the Canadian who hit so hard, or when Yitzhak Rabin warned me about radicals in the cabinet room just weeks before one assassinated him, but they were just flashes of encounters over the decades and mean only that I did get to talk to a lot of people who were world greats.
And then there were the jerks who acted like they were.
Actually my theory based on many encounters with obese egos is the greater the person, the easier  to talk to. It's the petty chiefs, the bureaucrats on the make, who are more trouble than they're worth.
But today I talk about those durable performers with fame rooted in longevity. They created for us over the decades until their names became embedded  into the corners of your memory. You may not have thought about them for years but they were really around from childhood until the anecdotage when most have forgotten and the young just don't give a damn.
Like Howard Cable.
There was just one encounter. I was CNE president and had urged our reluctant entertainment staff to have a military tattoo. There was a reception first for the military brass, because it was important to get the co-operation of our defence department or the Ex would have had to pay for every last drummer.
And there I was introduced to an old man by someone who really didn't know who Cable was and suspected that I would be clueless too.
I pumped Cable's hand and said to me he was the most famous name in music. The legend of military music and Broadway shows and revues!
I had grown up listening to his music on the CBC when going to live radio broadcasts were still the in thing to do.  I would do the TTC trek to a studio just off Yonge where Wayne and Shuster performed on Thursday nights with Herb May booming into the mike. There was the Happy Gang every noon, with an audience generally of Ryerson students and a few tourists. But whatever the location and the time, most of the music I was hearing had been touched by the baton and pen of Howard Cable.
 And of course during the Ex the Grandstand show, with music supervised by Cable, was one of the biggest acts in Canada. Naturally he directed onsite entertainment when Expo 67 was the biggest and most innovative show in the world.
He was a stalwart of early TV in New York and in Toronto. He arranged and directed the music for countless National Film Board productions when the NFB was considered a national treasure. Many a Canadian revue or musical featured his music. High school music teachers used his scores.
He was so prolific and so great that of course he was still composing at 95 when he died this March on a day he was to scheduled to attend a recording session.
I chatted with him that one night about how he had grown up in Parkdale and loved to walk down to the Palais Royale to listen live to the Dorseys and one of the Herds of Woody, music that you hear now every Sunday night on 91.1, our jazz station which is smart enough to have Glen Woodcock as host of his Big Band show for 40 years.
Why Woodcock, the Toronto Sun's retired associate editor, almost goes back to the horse and buggy days and cream floating on top of delivered milk about which Howard Cable used to reminisce so often.
So I met Cable only once, but I listened to him for decades. And so did you if you have survived a few decades or so, even if you now forget his name.