Being paid what you’re worth

In December of 1985 I drove 100 miles or more to start my first job, after graduating from the journalism program at Centennial College in Toronto.

In Durham.

Not “region” as I had thought based on the job posting in The Globe & Mail. Not commutable Oshawa or Whitby.

Nope, Durham, Ontario. North of Guelph, south of Owen Sound and for this aspiring writer hailing from what has often been called “Scarberia,” the Toronto suburb-city in it’s own right-and now part of the GTA, Scarborough.

My boss was a wheeler-dealer named George Benninger. The monthly publication was called “Insight on Collectables,” a trade publication that gave industry folks, gift shops and fans of collector plates, Royal Doulton figurines and art prints the latest news about the pieces and artists they loved.

One of the many Norman Rockwell collector plates I wrote about

The starting salary was $225 a week.

But…if I recall, it went up $25 a week for the next three “you’re still here” periods so after a year I was making a whopping $300 week.

And the rent on my bachelor apartment in Owen Sound was $225 a month. In a 3-storey building with next to no sound dampening. Which can be annoying. Or entertaining. One night, the young lady upstairs woke me up with her orgasm and she and her man got busy at all hours of the day.

No complaints here. A woman experiencing pleasure is a wonderful experience. Life is short (and I’m guessing her man wasn’t).

So, money, bills and all that stuff.

Making more a week than I paid a month in rent? I had lots of beer money. Subscribed to the movie network package on cable TV, a conversation overheard by a cheap co-worker who still had a black and white TV (it was 1985).

One of the coolest parts of my job at Insight was interviewing the artists at trade shows. I met James Lumbers at The Buckhorn Wildlife Art Festival, north of Peterborough, Ontario.

Lumbers would take photos of an abandoned gas station and add the ghosts of patrons and service attendants to what one gallery owner called “spook stuff.”

I interview James Lumbers, the man who painted this. He combined modern day scenes with ghosts of people and cats.

Sadly, the “make more in a week than you pay for rent in a month” equation has flipped. Expenses have gone way up, salary hasn’t. Though I bet my bank CEO is making ten times the money he made three decades ago. The rich get much richer. The middle class stay in the middle and are made to feel grateful for still being employed.

Or they get downsized or restructured.

I’m now a freelance writer. No salary or guaranteed income but if there’s one lesson I have learned over these many years it’s that you have to be in control of your future.

A few years back, someone recommended this book to me.

So true. You can’t keep running back to where the cheese was. It’s been moved.

I’ve got a long way to go in paying off my condo mortgage. But I’m in control of my earnings.

And the sound dampening isn’t great here either but my neighbors upstairs are in their 70s, living in Australia from September to June and the most I ever hear during the four months they roam above, thankfully, is snoring.

 

 

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Real men don’t play slowpitch

One afternoon, when I was in my early 30s, I stood at the urinal at The Harbour Inn, in Owen Sound.

I was wearing my slowpitch uniform which, if I recall, sported the logo of our sponsor, the local Ford dealer.

As often happens, even if you really don’t want it to, I was focused on the business at/in hand, and the guy shaking the dew off his lily next to me struck up a conversation.

What league do I play in? Umm, Owen Sound co-ed slowpitch.

“No offence, man,” said my fellow urinal puck target shooter…hey, gotta do something to pass the time and aiming at that sanitary cake does the trick…”but that’s….”

The next word he said was a mix of ball preceded by a word that suggested slowpitch was less than manly.

FASTBALL IS REAL BALL

Real men played real baseball (not available in Owen Sound unless you were a kid or over 45) or what was and still is very popular in that city, fastball. Or fast pitch softball, with underhand, windmill pitching.

I’d never been interested in fastball because it was and still is a pitcher’s game. The pitcher is like 10 feet from the plate…okay, I think it’s 45 feet…and when the Owen Sound Tiremen senior fastball team played, it was pretty common for the pitcher to throw a shutout, strike out 15 batters and toss a no-hitter several times a year, even in the world championships.

Okay, Mister ____ball, last night I played my first game of fastball at the age of 56. Against guys who were mostly in their 20s and 30s. Hit two singles while guys half my age struck out.

The fact is, hitting a ball in any form of baseball is not easy. It’s all a matter of timing. I’m 5’9″ and about 160 pounds and didn’t hit a ball over the fence until I reached the age of 40.

When I was the same age as my Harbour Inn urinal neighbour I could never figure out how guys smaller than me could hit the ball 260 or even 300 feet.

Timing.

It’s not size or muscles. If you can connect at precisely the right second or half second, extend your arms and have the ball hit the sweet spot on your high-tech bat, the ball is going a long way.

OH, THOSE SHORT FENCES

Having said that, I really miss the Balmy Beach diamond, just north of Owen Sound. The fence was maybe 240 feet and my first homer landed just over centrefield at that cozy little park.

I wonder if Mister _____ball even played ball in any form, or is still playing. He’ll be in his 50s so the only form of ball available to. him will be…

Slowpitch.

In addition to my fastpitch nights with real baseball elements like stealing bases, sliding and still being at bat after hitting a second strike foul ball, I’m also playing in a Sunday night co-ed three-pitch league.

That has…no stealing, third pitch foul ball means an out, no sliding and a long list of non-competitive, just for fun rules.

And it is fun.

So, at the age of 56…honestly I don’t feel any different than I did at 36 or 26…I’m getting the best of both worlds playing semi-serious fastball and Sunday social three-pitch softball.

Cheers to that fellow I stood next to in the Harb’s bathroom. Your next Labatt Crystal (popular in the Owen Sound area and seemingly nowhere else) is on me.

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What team do you play for?

I’m a team player but, with apologies to Lorde, I’m not on anyone’s team.

Teams used to unite us. Now, thanks to Zuckerberg and his team that sells our data to other teams, teams divide us. Setting up showdowns of faiths (or lack of any faith), ideologies, political leanings and our love of animals, babies, pizza, movies, TV shows, beer or wine (Obikwa Shiraz, you rock!).

I’ve lost Facebook friends because I was accused of being on the wrong team. Two people had a dispute and both took the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome approach. One man/woman enter, one man/woman leave.

Can’t I still be friends with both? Apparently not.

The Philadelphia Flyers have always been my team. They won two Stanley Cups in the mid-’70s and were the most hated team in hockey. The Broad Street Bullies. Bending the rules, playing dirty, intimidating the opposing team. And they had the goalie that put the two best back-to-back seasons in NHL history on the record books, Bernie Parent.

Bumper stickers at the time said only the Lord (not Lorde, though I’d bet she’s a good athlete) saves more than Bernie Parent.

What I loved most about that team, well…

They never gave up and even if the game was lost, Clarke and company looked at the scoreboard and said, “4-0. Let’s make it 4-1 or 4-2 and show the other team that we battle till the end.”

And…the lack of celebration.

OKAY, GUYS, THERE’S MORE WORK TO BE DONE

If Bobby scored a goal he didn’t jump in the air or pump his fist. No. The look on his face said, “We worked hard for that, we deserved it…let’s keep plugging away.”

On a side note, Leafs fans will remember Rick Vaive for reacting to every goal he scored…but not assisted on…as if he’d won the lottery. Big jump. “Look what I did!”

Side note, in my college days my classmate Mirna’s mother worked at a restaurant across the street from Maple Leaf Gardens and her Mom, who had served Ricky many times, arranged for us to meet the Leaf’s sniper.

Vaive didn’t show up.

Prior to the last U.S. election you may recall I posted something along the lines of, “If you support Trump in any way….”

Ummm, you could have interpreted it as a big Fuck Off.

Because you were on that team. Not really a team, c’mon. Unless it’s the team of you don’t really follow world affairs or politics and think all parties are corrupt and bought and what the hell, why not this guy who talks like a professional wrestler and was born on third base and says he’s hit a homerun though he’s struck out more times than you could be bothered to actually read about or investigate beyond coffee shop banter…

Hang on…

As I’m typing this, Deep Tracks on Sirius/XM, hosted by the great Jim Ladd, is playing Elvis Presley’s version of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode, So cool!

And, as Johnny Maraca, now and forever, I will go.

I BET SHE DOES!

To a Monty Python reference. “Your wife…does she go? I bet she does.”

I go off in tangents. Streams of consciousness. As George Wroebel…grade 10 history teacher wrote on my report card, “You are basically an enigma. You write well in a style that is peculiarly your own.”

Translation: I passed you because your essay questions were short on facts but entertaining.

I don’t want to be on your team unless it involves baseball, volleyball or tennis doubles.

You don’t have to be on mine.

And that’s fine.

Respecting each other’s views should be what matters most and the key word is respect.

There’s a town hall meeting that occured priot to the 2008 election and it featured an exchange between Repulibcan nominee and war hero John McCain and and eldery woman and GOP team member who said Barack Obama was a commnist.

“No ma’m,” McCain said. “He’s decent family man.” McCain went on to say it was simply that he and Obama had differing views on how America should be run.

Differing views. Mutual respect. Put that in your algorithms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….

As soon as you start using words like idiot and moron, your side of the argument is over. I wasn’t a fan of Stephen Harper but, even though I disagreed with his views on how Canada should be run, he was (and is) an intelligent fellow, a decent family man and someone who had the country’s best interests at heart.

THE OTHER FORD

Though if Rob (sorry, Doug, though he will ever live in his brother’s shadow) becomes the Ontario Premier….

Doug Ford. Not Rob. If’s so hard to separate them. If you’re on his team then fuck off.

No, you can fuck back on.

If you can explain why he should be the leader of our provincial government and do it in a way that doesn’t say “team” as much as why it would affect you personally…unless you’re rich so remove yourself from the debate…I’m willing to listen to your views as an individual, rather than part of….

A team.

My Flyers lost in the first round. Though the playoff pool run by the father of my friend and volleyball teammate Amanda allowed for a re-set…meaning you can trade players who are out for players who are still in….

So…

Go Sharks and Jets!

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Rockin’ at The Knob

For anyone who hasn’t lived in Toronto, Scarborough (or as it has been slagged, for decades, Scarberia) is part of the Greater Toronto Area and has been either a suburb of T-O or a city in its own right.

Back in the early ’80s Toronto’s Best Rock, Q107, posed this question:

“What’s the definition of a cultural event in Scarborough?”

Answer…Goddo at the Knob.

Toronto’s hard rockers Goddo played the Knob Hill Hotel dozens of times. I saw them once at that suburban venue and to this day, two memories remain. As I and my friends Gord Howard and Alfie Petitti were paying the cover charge in the lobby, one patron staggered out of the showroom and vomited at our feet.

Welcome to The Knob.

The other memory? Even though it was the early ’80s, Greg Godovitz introduced Goddo’s tune ‘Under My Hat” as such…

“This is a song you all should know because we’ve been playing it for so fucking long.”

I’ll cut Greg, Gino and Doug some slack. Maybe an off night. Maybe Greg had a shitty day.

But the Knob was my rock club during my days at Centennial College, when I aspired to be a writer for Rolling Stone, sitting in Stevie Nicks’s living room and starting my profile of Stevie with colourful descriptions of the decor, the surrounding area or whatever pets Stevie may have owned at the time.

I did arrange for an interview with Canada’s Metal Queen, Lee Aaron, and got to know Karen (real name Karen Greening) and hang out with her and the band in their suite at the Knob between sets. Guitarist George Bernhardt was surprised that I wanted to chat with him as well.

“Everyone wants to talk to Lee…no one wants to talk to us.”

Ahhh, but the dear old Knobbie will always bring back memories of one band, Scarborough’s own Santers. AKA, the Rick Santers Band, who made it on to Q107’s Homegrown album in the early ’80s. A few years later, their version of Free’s “Allright Now” went to #13 on 1050 CHUM’s top 30 chart and got plenty of airplay on the Mighty Q.

Take a look at this cute couple.

Santers bass player Rick Lazaroff and the lady he’s been married to for over 20 years or so, Darlene Watters.

In 2007, I moved to Wasaga Beach and found a tourism website run by Darlene called Wasaga Dot Com. Near the bottom I saw an adverting link. Contact Rick Lazaroff. I did, and told Rick all about my Knob/Scarborough history with the band.

WELCOME TO WASAGA BEACH

We connected and became tennis buddies. As for Darlene, I had seen her band Shattered Heart play at the Harbour Inn, in Owen Sound in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

But it all began in that concert room at The Knob. Watching Laz kicking his left leg out and attacking his bass through many Santers tunes and Zep songs (though their best covers were of Mississippi Queen and White Room) and Rick/Ralph Santers/Santer and his brother Mark shaking the foundations as we pounded several Molson Canadian tall boys.

It wasn’t as legendary as The Gasworks (where I also caught Aaron, Santers and Anvil) but The Knob Hill Hotel will forever be in my rock and roll heart as the place where I rocked my weekends away at McCowan and Eglinton.

THE DARDANELLA IS NOW WHAT?

One of my greatest disappointments in moving to Wasaga Beach 11 years ago was finding out the storied rock venue, The Dardanella, had become a dance club. Fuck off! Fuck you and the SeaDoo you rode in on. No one has rocked the Dard in over a decade but if I could have one wish…on what will be the 100th birthday this summer of the grand old lady of the beach…which due to mismanagement and neglect, was only open a grand total of 7 days last summer…

Let The Dard Rock again, and whether you hail from Scarberia, Brampton, Oshawa or wherever, we can feel that bass drum in our gut and raise our glasses to the venues that shaped our lives.

Go back to 1976 and I’m sitting in the Elaine Theatre, across the road from The Knob, and watching what went on to become one of my all time favourite movies, The Bad News Bears.

In the words of Bears shortstop Tanner Boyle, “”I’ll drink to that.”

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