I want to be an artist

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Not sure if that was the exact question but, when I was in Grade 6 at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mrs. Butler wanted to know our career aspirations.

I said, an artist.


My classmates approved, and all around the room I heard comments along the lines of, “He’ll make it.”

Not so fast, said the dream killer.

Mrs. Butler proceeded to pull out a collection of drawings and paintings from her former students and said, “You think you’re good? Look at these.”

Not exactly a confidence builder for a 12-year-old.

Though, if my friend Mike McDougall reads this, he proved Mrs. Butler wrong because he actually became an airline pilot.  Ha, you naysaying ninny.

A few weeks ago, I started to sketch the scene my living room. The couch, entertainment unit, Ringo and his cage. It wasn’t half bad, and it took my back to 1974 when I had rendered a black and white sketch, totally free hand, of baseball legend Hank Aaron. Not sure why I chose Hank but it was the same year The Bad News Bears had been released, and  Ahmad Abdul Rahim told Bears coach Buttermaker  he wanted to play the same position as Aaron, right field.


I’ve always preferred left field though I buggered up my arm a month ago playing centre field. Caught a ball off my shoe tops, snapped my arm back at the elbow and, torn bicep tendon. Though, since I had to wait over three weeks for an ultrasound, surgery may no longer be an option. At least it’s my non-dominant hand. I can still throw and bat without pain.

But that sketch of Hammerin’ Hank didn’t impress Mrs. B.

I took art in high school. None of my teachers saw anything promising and I spent those years wondering what I really wanted to do for a living. Years later I told Mike that I had considered being a pilot, so much so that I had to to go back for an extra semester to catch up on physics and chemistry.

THE WOULD BE AVIATOR

Failed both of them. I wasn’t meant to be a scientist, pilot or insurance adjuster. Though, between high school and college I did work in the mail room at Pilot Insurance. The pilot logo was a sea captain, not an aviator.

Would Mrs.  Butler have suggested journalism, or a career in radio? 

My local dollar store has pencils and sketch pads for $1.29 and I’m often tempted to buy those and start drawing again. Life is full of regrets and I don’t want to be 110 (yes, I am a dreamer) sitting on the patio of a beachfront bar, looking out at the water and thinking, “I should have….”

Maybe my sketches wil be crappy. Maybe good. But the joy is in creating and, torn bicep tendon notwithstanding, I should put pencil to paper, raise the finished piece and salute my Grade 6 destroyer of dreams.

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A salute to Venus and Serena

I have never been a fan of the Williams sisters but on Saturday morning Venus Williams could win Wimbledon at the age of 37.

Aside from Martina Navratilova and Jimmy Connors, tennis players in the modern era haven’t made the finals or even the semis of major tournaments (United States, French and Australian Opens, and Wimbledon) after reaching their mid-30s.

Roger Federer is the exception.

Pete Sampras retired at 31, Chris Evert at 34 and John McEnroe won all his Grand Slams before his 26th birthday.

evert connors

Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors, Wimbledon champs and sweethearts in ’74

What irked me most about the rise of Venus and Serena? Tennis commentator Mary Carillo called it “Big Babe Tennis.” Which meant women who were 5’10” or taller with massive serves and devastating ground strokes, overpowering finesse players like Martina Hingis.

venus

Now…the 5’7″ Hingis won all three majors at the age of 17 and would have captured the calendar Grand Slam had she not been involved in a horse riding accident prior to the  French Open that year. And, a player of similar stature, Justine Henin, won several majors, hit with power and had a strong serve.

Hingis did not.

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Martina Hingis in 2014, 20 years after turning pro

The story goes that Martina’s Mom (and coach) wanted to save the teenager’s arm by having Martina spin serves in at medium to 3/4 pace, rather than developing a first serve that could be a weapon (a huge asset then, an essential today). It worked in the short term. Hingis beat everyone in sight. A chess master and artist with incredible feel.

And then came Venus and Serena, Lindsay Davenport and the second coming of Jennifer Capriati (teen phenom who bounced back from legal and drug problems).

Carillo’s Big Babes.

It didn’t matter that Hingis excelled at volleys and could counterpunch like no one else. The lack of a strong first serve put her behind the eight ball in every match against those baseline bashers and serving machines.

So, yes, I  have rooted against the Williams sisters for over 20 years.

But….

GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

Serena is one the the greatest athletes of all time. Any sport. Male or female. Still the number one player at 35, until she got pregnant earlier this year and I’m betting if Venus wins on Saturday, she will thank her sister for being an expectant Mom rather than a competitor in London.

Venus, win or lose, making the Wimbledon finals at 37 is a remarkable achievement and I wouldn’t bet against Serena winning the Australian Open in January. If any Mom can win a major, it will be the younger Williams sister.

As for Hingis, she’s 36 and still one of the world’s best doubles players. Martina has won several Grand Slam doubles titles in recent years…ladies with Sania Mirza, mixed with Leander Paes, and she’s made it to the Wimbledon mixed doubles semi finals with Andy Murray’s older brother, Jamie.

Good luck to all.

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You never stop learning

One of Elvis Presley’s early tunes, on Sun Records, was Good Rockin’ Tonight, which had been done in the late ’40s by two rock and roll pioneers, Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris.

Have you heard the news?img_0118-1

The musical answer was, there’s good rockin’ tonight but in general terms the response today is often people don’t want to know, couldn’t be bothered to find out or mistrust every reporter, editor and publisher on earth…you know…the “mainstream media.”

We lost my Dad, Joseph O’Mara, over a decade ago. We looked everywhere. And my father, who loved the clever, sarcastic works of Oscar Wilde, would have appreciated that joke. He was fond of telling and retelling the tale of a man…not sure if it was a relative or just someone in his Manchester neighbourhood…who informed his wife that he was going out for cigarettes.

And never returned.

Not a nice thing to do but who knows, maybe they all lived happily ever after. But…”I’m just going out for cigarettes.”

“Okay, dear.”

Father’s Day has passed and it made me think of what my Dad instilled in me. Curiosity. The desire to know and understand things. To never stop learning.

The O’Maras in Scarborough, late ’60s

Dad subscribed to Newsweek and while he celebrated his Irish roots far more than his English upbringing, he did take pride in the newspaper produced in Manchester. Still one of the world’s finest, The Guardian. He also watched the MacNeill-Lehrer report on PBS, and Mom still watches the news on that station.

HELLO, GONZO!

And, when I was a journalism student, and Dad had passed on buying the new family car that I fancied (too sporty), his consolation gift to me was a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s collection, The Great Shark Hunt.

So, the end result has been, I want to know things. Sure, in the Facebook and Twitter world it’s so convenient to repost stories we haven’t even read and add a comment of “OMG, check this out!” So easy to hear things, like Trump does (stop hearing things, Orange Man, and read…oh, what am I thinking? He’s too busy winning and living the life we’ll never come to close to seeing, playing golf and making Robin Leach’s caviar dreams seem pale by comparison).

I get it. We have jobs, bills to pay, kids to feed. In my case, a cockatiel named Ringo.

Who has time to read a newspaper or magazine piece, let alone a book? And they’re so biased, aren’t they? Twisting people’s words and making stories up, pushing their own agendas.

FAKE NEWS…UH HUH

No, most of them aren’t. Give your head a fucking shake. Fox News is opinions. Newspapers and major magazines, whether left or right leaning or somewhere in the middle, enploy reporters who actually talk to their sources. That’s followed up by fact checkers, corroboration and more fact checking and even more corroboration. Read Robyn Doolittle’s book about Rob Ford and you’ll know the time and effort it takes to get the story.

To get the story right. Do they get it wrong? Occasionally. Do they invent stories to win awards? Sometimes. But those are the exceptions. It’s human nature. In all walks of life, people lie and cheat.

So, a salute to everyone that wants to discover the truth and isn’t satisfied with second or third-hand coffee shop ramblings and is always ready to call bullshit. Hunter S.  Thompson. Woodward and Bernstein. HL Mencken. Matt Taibbi. Tabatha Southey. Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The Washington Post (I subscribe to it) and, if you think I’m only mentioning big or small L liberal publications, I also get MacLeans, which is regarded as conservative.

NOT EVERYONE WITH OPPOSING VIEWS IS AN IDIOT (OKAY, SOME ARE)

And a challenge.

Try to find a writer on the other side that makes you reconsider your views so you can experience shades of grey instead of black and white. Most won’t. It’s so easy to follow and repost articles that reinforce your opinions. David Frum (son of Canadian broadcasting legend Barbara Frum) was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. I’m liberal leaning but I enjoy David’s pieces for The Atlantic.

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And thanks to my Dad (that’s us in Florida in the mid-’70s) for encouraging me to keep learning. In 2007, because he read Newsweek and watched PBS, my father was following the career of a young senator from Illinois and, a year later, wasn’t surprised when Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and went on to become President of the United States.

Hillary had it in the bag. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

I am still learning, still curious, and still calling bullshit when I see it, and I always will.

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Abe Vigoda wants to know if you want another beer

I’ve spent a few hours…okay, many, many hours…in sports bars, clubs and beachfront bars but back in my college days I was not served by lovely young ladies named Chelsea, Kelsie, Jordon, Taylor, Emilie, Megan, Meaghan, Brooke, Leah, Jenna, Joy, Samantha, Victoria, Evita, Debbie, Dakota or Nicole.

No. Most of the servers looked like Mel from the TV show, Alice.

Or Abe Vigoda from Barney Miller.

ANOTHER CANADIAN, BUDDY?

And I was okay with that. I had paid a cover charge at The Knob Hill Hotel, The Rondun, The Queensbury Arms, Tony’s East, Tony’s West and The Gasworks (though, correct me if I’m wrong, The Gasworks did not usually have a cover) to see Santers, Lee Aaron, Anvil and Goddo.

The price of admission was around $5 though I got to know Lee (aka Karen Greening) and she often put me on the guest list to save me the entry fee. Five bucks bought you at least one beer in those days.

WELCOME TO THE KNOB

Though my childhood friend Alfie Petitti had always said, you gotta see Goddo live and I wasn’t that impressed. Then again, when we were paying 0ur cover charge on that night  at the Knob 35 years ago, some guy ran out into the hallway and puked in front of us.

Kinda set the tone for a less than wonderful evening and I’m sure my friend Gord Howard recalls Greg Godovitz introducing “Under My Hat” as a song we all should know because they’ve been playing it so fucking long.

Yeah, now I’m in the mood!

But the fact that Mel or Abe Vigoda served us didn’t matter in the slightest. We were there for the music and, if you read my last blog about an outrageous $30 mid-afternoon cover for an “all white” party at Bananas…and thanks for doing so…you know I want value for my club dollar.

DJ JIZZY DUDE FLASH MAN

Not some guy playing tunes off a laptop and moving turntables forward and backward. Does that require some talent? Perhaps. Does it compare to playing a barre chord or maintaining a steady 4/4 beat? Umm…no.

Abe Vigoda was in his mid 50s when he played Dectctive Fish on Barney Miller though even then he seemed ancient. I’m 55.

GOING TO CHISHOLM, MINNESOTA TO FIND MOONLIGHT GRAHAM

In my previous blog I referenced Field of Dreams…my all-time favorite movie…and the scene in which Ray Kinsella travels back to 1972 and meets Archibald Graham, aka Doc, or Moonlight Graham.  Doc, as portrayed by the great Burt Lancaster, says he’d love to go back and stare down a big league pitcher. And, as the pitcher goes into his windup, wink as if he knows something the guy on the mound doesn’t.

I’d just like to see a live rock band at the beach. At The Dardanella, if at all possible and the grand old lady of the beach…she’s 99 years old..is set to open at the end of June.

If the server is a college kid named Brittany, Courtney, Ashley or Tiffany, fine by me. And if it’s Mel or Abe Vigoda, the answer will still be: “Yes, I’ll have another one.”

 

 

 

 

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