Friday, May 08, 2009
Be a star, but don't cut a fart on the elevator of The Star.
He was about 73 and a recruiter for Thomson Newspapers.
I was out of work again, The Star wouldn't have me on any more on a regular basis and I had to ebarrass myself by working for a nearby provincial daily called the Oshawa Times.
"What do you know about newspapering? said the grizzled old Judas- goat for out-of-work itenerant reporters. "I am 73 and am still learning."
Across the interview table, I almost mutter to myself, "Do you think you'll ever get it?...I mean, time's a-wastin'."
Anyway I was hired and went on to producing some fairly readable stories about war veterans, saloon fighters, truckers-on-speed and other optimists.
One aspect of writing--any ambiious writing--soon shows you what the hell is wrong with you.
I am, probably, a manic-depressive (most writers are), and I seem to do my best work on a manic phase where it will get ya a prize and sometimes evn imitated by the slick magazines But during a depressive phase I will look at a typewriter or telephone and and ask, in all incredulity, "What is that?" Happily,at the Times, I was largely on a manic writing streak, though those streaks had often to be interrupted by my having to chase ambulances. and police cruisers. That's when I'd get depressive, bored with the story and screw up. Meanwhile, my story on the war veteran remembering the horrendous taking of Vimy Ridge at a loss of some sixty thousand Canadian lives in World War One--resulting in an impressive monument at Vimy--was passed hand to hand by vets at the Legion, and was cribbed almost word for word by the Star, my previous employer. "But, said my Star friends over a drink--"Oshawa Tmes? Baby, you f*cked up...Egad. How the mighty have fallen."
It was actually quite embarrassing. I had been a fairly big man at the Star, but coming to work with a vodka hangover, I somehow sickened my editor, standing next to me on the elevator. Was it a bouquet of Shmirnoff I laid on him, or did I inadvertantly cut a fart, driving the poor man to scramble, getting off on the wrong floor just for breathing space. Before escaping, he had hissed, "Man, this elevator is loaded!"
He did not entirely label me as "Smerdiakof", out of Dostoevsky, a character known for extreme flatulence.
I was still young very young in those days...young guys are like that, gassy, unkempt boorish and proud of it. Fart under the covers...force girl's head under the duvet. "If you love me you will stay under the covers. If not, you're a fart-smeller". Like that.
Looking back, lord how could we? The arrogance of bibilous youth. They are still around. Stupid, rude and proud of it.
Anyway, I had been eased out of the Star, probably for farting in the elevator, especially around Beland Honderich, who, though he was the most powerful journalist in Canada, had been somhow my friend, but probably not too fond of Smerdiakovs. He got tired of emptying my ashtrays--he would do that--and probably my farts.
Ah but the manic-depressiveness at the Oshawa Times.
I was in the middle of a good streak on a GM strike at Oshawa. Good colourful vignettes of characters on the line--when I got the call to rush to a bank robbery.
Bank robbery? I am in the middle of the biggest story on Canadian labour.
Young, arrogant, I had said to the editor, fock you.
Fock me? he had said. Fock you. Your are fired.
"Me? God's chosen"
Pounding the pavement again I certainly realized that the grizzled ol recruiter had been right. There was a hell of a lot I didn't yet know about journalism...Or ones personality.
It was a more chastened, sober journalist that finally landed at the Toronto SUN. Never mind your moods. Do the work.