Running for Your Life: April Fools Day and Grampa

Every year it’s the same thing. April 1 rolls around and I think of my grandfather, my mother’s father. April Fools Day was his birthday. If he were alive today, he would be 126 years old.

There are people in your life who play a role as savior. I’m a firm believer in the adage that you make your own chances. Some people may have certain advantages in terms of wealth that leads to an access to a first-rate education, or more important, contact with those who are blessed with insight and compassion, those who help shape the people we become.

In each and every case, though, it’s the individual whose actions yield the exceptional. At the end of the day, we look at ourselves in the mirror and there is only one person who looks back.

Then there are people like my grandfather. William Samuel Neath lived with us for three years. In a small room off the front door of my Aunt Gloria’s house that we were renting in the early 1960s. He was old and feeble then and I was a mere boy, sensitive and quiet. He did little more than lounge in his LazyBoy and smoke a pipe. For breakfast he drank tea and ate an orange that he’d first roll with the flat of his hand to better encourage the juice to flow from what counted for bulk citrus in Owen Sound, Ontario, in 1962.

On April Fools Day, Grampa would have me trace the scar from a wound he received in the Great War. Bone fragments had lodged in his forearm, and when I’d do as I was told and press the hard lump, his arm sprung up in mock salute and we’d laugh and laugh.

That thought always makes me smile. He is gone all these years, but in the days leading up to April Fools, I always pause to think of him. On that single day I convince myself that he too is looking back at me in the mirror, I resemble him now as much as I remember him then.

Next: Running for Your Life: C’mon in to The Jazz Palace !!

Running for Your Life: If-The-Greats-Were-With-Us Thursday

On the event of the March 19 LRB review by Christopher Tayler of the third volume of Samuel Beckett’s letters (1957-65), I can only imagine that Beckett would repurpose this tweet (from a letter to his friend Barbara Bray) to try to restore order in the embattled conscience of someone close to him:

“Work your head off and sleep at any price and leave the rest to the stream, to carry now away and bring you your other happy days.”

Next: Running for Your Life: April?

Running for Your Life: In My Blood by Pascal Dupuis Mad April (and May and June), the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, will be here in no time.

They always make a great story. How will the Kings climb, the Penguins swoon? The Maple Leafs? The Leafs wait till next year.

This spring, though, my favorite story when it comes to the game is the one above by Pascal Dupuis in Derek Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune. Take a moment and read this memoir piece above by a hockey player with a blood condition identical to the one that has me running every other day for the past thirty-plus years.

In a report out this week,, Penguins manager Jim Rutherford said, “I do feel confident he’ll return to the team next year.”

If the Pens play with half the heart of the man on the sidelines, they’d win the Cup in a walk.

Next: Running for Your Life: If-The-Greats-Were-With-Us Thursday 

Running for Your Life: Throw back Throwback Thursday

It seems to me if you’re in the mood to post nostalgia on social media – and who isn’t? from time immemorial we humans have been accustomed to the idea of seeing our early life as glory years, when we were more handsome (more beautiful), had more energy (more fun) and were less unencumbered (money worries? us?) – then post those vintage snaps every day, not just on Throwback Thursday.

In fact, when you look at the pictures that people use to identify themselves on social media, the very notion of here and now – like what is happening, or what is on your mind – is being filtered by that vision of a better time, that Throwback Thursday, if you will. That photo on social media we show the world doesn’t look like the face we look at every morning in the mirror. It’s posed, caught in one perfect moment or another, often in such a way that when you actually see the flesh and blood person and not the Facebook “friend,” you won’t even recognize him (her) because, well, she (he) looks like someone else.

I propose to throw back Throwback Thursday. Why kid ourselves, the majority of us long for the past, not just on one day of the week. A time when spring rolled around and lo and behold the mind did turn to thoughts of love. Why don’t we just call it what it is: the Throwback Internet?

That is, unless you’re a millennial. Then social media is all you’ve known. And there’s no simple blogpost prescription that can help to interpret and navigate the psychic potholes of that mental landscape.

Next: Running for Your Life: In My Blood by Pascal Dupuis 

Running for Your Life: Paper Boy

In the late 1960s, I was a paper boy. I delivered the now-defunct Toronto Telegram on Saturdays to home subscribers in Owen Sound, Ontario, and loved to accompany my pal, Greg Dunham, on his daily route, delivering the Owen Sound Sun Times. Ten years later, I would work at the Sun Times as a cub reporter, and inevitably find myself in the newsboy and newsgirl room, where the papers – hot off the press – were stacked before they were picked up after school for home delivery.

I’ve been in the news business now through almost four decades, reporting and editing for weeklies and dailies, mostly. From the Prescott Journal weekly in Eastern Ontario to the Chelsea Clinton News weekly in West Side Manhattan to the Wall Street Journal to, currently, the New York Post.

At work, I write on a computer now – originally paper in a typewriter – but I don’t read the finished product on one. I’ve tried but it’s ink that runs in my veins so I read newspapers and hardback and paperback books. When it comes to something beyond one hundred words, I print it out. For me the type isn’t real unless I can run my fingers over the page. Especially when it comes to papers. I know too much about headlines and body text, about “widows” and “orphans.” I know when a headline will fit. There are no headlines on the Internet.

When I’m running in the park, I think at times the trees are shuddering when I pass. For those with a bent toward environmentalism, as a lifelong newsman I’ve been a party to the killing of hundreds of thousands of trees. Not something I’m proud of.

The millions of screen readers aren’t a threat to trees. But they are a threat to the beauty of long form writing. With the change in reading delivery systems – from real books to e-books, from newspapers to news websites – comes a restriction to an elimination of a certain kind of writing. The shorter attention span of screen readers spawns ever briefer fiction, ever sparer news items. Keep it busy, keep it moving.

Me, I long to return to a slow afternoon in the newspaper supply room, the papers piling up. Failing that, there’s nothing better than sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading the paper, if it’s a good one, every single article on every single page.

Next: Running for Your Life: Throwback Throwback Thursdays