Ink In My Father's HandsThursday, December 18, 2014
The English man of pink complexion was the editor-in-chief of the Buenos Aires Herald. I was in his office in the late 90s. My father had written for the paper in the late 40s. I asked the man, whose sad face reminded me of the Graham Greene’s protagonist in The Honorary Consul, about my father. I wanted him to find any vestiges that my father may have left. He explained that in the 40s reporters had no bylines but he invited me to check the micro-fiches. He was right; I did not find my father. I spoke with the editor after who told me that he was about to go home to England after a longish stint in “the Argentine”. To me he seemed a lonely and alienated man in a foreign country even though his Spanish was perfect. I got the impression that as soon as he arrived home he would feel as alien and would never find his home except from a bottle.
Neither of the two men sitting with me at Trees (a coffee shop on Granville very close to the Vancouver Sun office) today in any way reminded me of the English man in Buenos Aires. They reminded me though of his sadness, perhaps a futility that whatever it was he had done for the Buenos Aires Herald was in vain.
I had looked forward to meeting up with Vancouver Sun editor Nick Rebalski and Sun Columnist Ian Mulgrew. The former is extremely serious, by nature, the latter likes to guffaw.
I had looked forward to the meeting (and I was not to be in the least disappointed) because even though I have never worked for a newspaper I have that ink in my blood that somehow transferred from my father’s hands to my face when I was a boy. I know that when asked by the publisher of the Buenos Aires Herald if he wanted to be the editor, my father (who may have been under the influence of Old Smuggler Whiskey) threw an inkwell at the man and his chance for promotion was dashed in black.
Here in Vancouver I wrote often for the Vancouver Sun and the Georgia Straight. In the early years of the internet when somehow my PC was incompatible with the Sun’s Macs I sent essays to Nick Rebalski (he was a very good and kind editor to me) in an early form of an email program called Eudora. This was just fine for Rebalski.
My favourite moment in my shadow career as a would-be newspaper man was one day, early in the morning in the late 90s when John Cruickshank was the Sun’s Editor-in-Chief. I had gone to hand in some stuff to Mix Editor David Beers (now editor of The Tyee). I ran into Cruickshank who put his arm on my shoulder and told me, “Alex come into my office.” We walked through the whole Sun newsroom. In his office Cruikshank told me, “I plan to unleash Beers on the whole paper so that he can Mix it. Mix has been a success.”
Of course that never happened. Cruickshank was sent to the Chicago Sun Times as Publisher and Beers was left to float and the Mixing of the Sun never happened.
Now at the end of 2014 I feel a nostalgia for something that I really never had. Talking to Rebalski and Mulgrew (one of if not the best tenacious columnist of the Vancouver Sun) I was jealous of that feeling, the real one of working for a big city newspaper.
No matter what eventually happens to our Vancouver Sun, Rebalski and Mulgrew will have experienced that thrill of writing today and anticipating that tomorrow. With CNN’s constant “breaking news” there will never be any more tomorrows.
After parting with Mulgrew, a laughing Mulgrew who might just take a vacation in Uruguay soon, Rebalski told me he was going to Sikora’s Classical Records to find something for his wife. I accompanied him.
At Sikora’s there were three attendants at the front counter and only one possible customer. There were now three. Rebalski found something. As he was getting ready to pay, the door opened and fine, tall gentleman that I know walked in. It was Don Stewart the owner of Macleod’s Books. I was suddenly hit by the irony that in a shop that was now stocking LP Records we had a record seller, an obsolete photographer, a journalist and a bookseller. I mentioned this. One of us then said:
We are trying to stay above water on a sinking ship that is doing so in a diagonal like the Titanic.
Fortunately all four of us have seen better times and better times can be savored and never forgotten or taken away.