Don’t make me go back to Durham

Not the Durham town that Roger Whittaker sang about (eeks, never thought I’d reference him in a blog!). Not Durham,  North Carolina, where Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis educated Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh about women and baseball, and baseball and women.

No, Durham, Ontario, the town of 2,000 where I began my career in journalism in December, 1985.

A few months earlier I answered an ad in the Globe & Mail. National art & collectibles publication seeking reporter for a monthly magazine in Durham. I was living in Scarborough, now part of the GTA but then a city in its own right. I thought I was applying for a job in Durham REGION…the nearby towns of Oshawa or Whitby.

And then I got the call.

Durham, up Highway 6, north of Kitchener, south of Owen Sound. I was 23, and desperate to get out of my parent’s house and thus began my long and winding road to becoming Johnny Maraca. Durham would have been too much of a culture shock so I found an apartment in Owen Sound, a 30-minute highway drive from the old farmhouse that served as the magazine office.

It was my first experience driving on unlit highways and in the first few weeks I had a few white-knuckle, grip-the-wheel trips home. Following the lights of the vehicle in front and hoping the driver didn’t end up in the ditch.

My first place was a crappy attic apartment that literally had no kitchen sink. I washed my dishes in the bathtub. And, each night a snarling dog guarded the front porch and dared me to approach the front door. She was a sad, one-eyed creature that, thankfully, softened up when her lone eye recognized me.

So, when I went home to Scarborough for Christmas I had constant thoughts of not going back to Durham. I hated my apartment. The job was so-so. Rolling Stone hadn’t magically invited me to join their staff so there I was writing about Norman Rockwell collector plates and Hummel figurines.

The Annie series was big back then. Oh, the excitement!image

My parents convinced me to get in my Sunbird and stick it out. After three years with “Insight on Collectables,” I became the editor but I also hit the ceiling in terms of position and salary. Eventually, I landed a copywriting job with CFOS in Owen Sound. 

I spent three years as a journalist. I’ve been in radio for over twenty five years, mostly as a copwriter and producer and in 2008, I became Johnny Maraca.

Who knows what would have happened had I insisted on staying in Scarborough and kissed Durham goodbye?  Another magazine or newspaper job? Public relations? Perhaps a totally different career.

Somewhere up Highway 10 in late December ’85 I, as John O’Mara, began a reluctant and long journey to become  Johnny Maraca. Creating, researching and hosting the Rock and Roll Riot lets me combine my journalism background with my love of music so maybe I ended up in the right job after all.

Though if Jann Wenner’s reading this, I’d still kill to write for Rolling Stone.

About johnnymaraca

host of Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot, the rockingest show on the radio. 60 years of rockin' rhythm and blues, from the late '40s pioneers like Louis Jordan to Elvis, Chuck Berry, CCR, Stray Cats, Ramones and tons more. Friday and Saturday nights at 7 on 97.7 the Beach, listen live at http://977thebeach.ca, and WRSG in Middlebourne, West Virginia, Tuesdays 6-8 pm.
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