Happy birthday to me.
Turned 24 last week—man, I feel old—and I didn’t really know what to think of the card my parents sent me.
TO A SPECIAL SON—There are times when you’re an angel . . . and times when you’re a pest. There are times when you’re kinda grumpy . . . and times you joke and jest.
There are times you’re kinda quiet . . . and times you’re rather loud. But there is never any time when you don’t make us proud.
Isn’t that sweet (hold on while I cough up lunch that’s been sitting since the sixth grade). And inside the card was a note reading: Go out and eat OK. Love you and look after yourself.
There was a fresh $20 bill attached and I did use the money to go and eat (I bought a sub). But I used the change to buy a pack of cigarettes and with what was left, I got a coffee (sorry, Mom and Dad, but I am Greek and cigarettes and coffee is part of our staple diet).
That was about as interesting as my birthday got—until the afternoon of last Wednesday.
Got a call from John Nagy, sports editor for the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, loading me with questions that made me feel like someone being audited by the tax police. Then got a call from the paper’s managing editor, Brian Dryden, who offered me a job in their sports department.
Took the job.
As such, next week will be my final one in Fort Frances and all I have to say is this—thank God.
Don’t get me wrong, though.
Outside from the critics who threatened to smack me with a “monster bass” because of my disregard for fishing, and outside of the people who spread rumours about me that were as unfounded as the Loch Ness monster, and outside of the people that made my job frustratingly difficult at times, my time here has been about as enjoyable as sliding down a slip-and-slide that hasn’t been sprayed with water.
I loved the 65-hour work weeks. I enjoyed spending more time at the rink than I did in my own apartment. I looked forward to Tuesday nights, which is when we would lay out the District Living and Sports sections, and sometimes not get home until the local drunks started stumbling towards their homes.
It was great waking up 5 o’clock in the morning to take pictures of the boat launch for the bass tournament. It was fun answering phone calls from parents who felt their six-year-old child deserved a full-page feature on them because they scored a couple of goals in street hockey.
“He’s going to make it to the NHL,” they would say.
“I’m sure they will,” I responded as my eyes rolled behind their sockets.
I looked at some of the farewell columns others have penned when they departed from the Times, and it wouldn’t be my style to thank everyone from the bagger at Safeway to the bartender at the local bar.
There have been some fun times, though, I will admit to that. And I will thank the Times for giving a punk 22-year-old a chance because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to go where I’m going.
But will I miss Fort Frances? I wouldn’t bet your left shoe on it.
And that’s not a total knock to the town because there are some people that I will miss. But I’m a city boy—always have been, always will be—and I never got comfortable with my Fort Frances surroundings.
I’m almost certain there won’t be tears shed for a Greek sports writer that gave relationship advice, made analogies that caused more confusion than clarity at times, and showed distaste for the area’s main attraction (fishing is a great hobby, but it has a ways to go before I would ever call it a sport).
But maybe there will be some moans and groans about the Greek’s departure.
I’ve stopped counting how many times I got pulled over in the aisles at Safeway by little, sweet old ladies who complimented me on my writing and said they had never even touched the Sports section before I came.
There were those who actually agreed with me—many did not—and thought I was Howard Stern-ish in the way I wrote what I felt with no regard for the consequences, which might have been great conversation for your coffee breaks but wasn’t the best for my profile.
There were numerous e-mails from people throwing out compliments that made me feel like I was doing something right. But don’t be mistaken—I never got into writing for the compliments or for the accolades.
My dad taught me early in my life that modesty is the best policy and that cockiness gets you no where.
I’ve never cared about medals. Never been interested in the awards. And could care less about certificates.
Ever since I was 14 years old, I was fortunate to know I wanted to write and I do it because I love it, not because I want people to like me. But I do ask for a person’s respect.
For me, sports always have been a release from life’s daily stresses. For me, writing always has provided an outlet to express myself. And for me, that will never change, but I’m not delusional in thinking I’m curing cancer here people.
Next week’s column will be my last for the Times, and I could think of no better way to finish off this one than by using the words Frank Sinatra would use to finish off a set.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught,
To say the things, he truly feels,
And not the words, of one who kneels.
The record shows, I took the blows
And did it My Way.
I never got a cake for my birthday. Never got a chance to blow out some candles and make a wish, so I figured why not take that opportunity now?
And here’s my wish—I wish I can keep doing it My Way.
Happy birthday to me.