Writing the ending for classic summer song


We often get songs in our heads that stay stuck, sometimes for days.

For me, it’s been Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. It started last week as the kids went back to school and the replay button in my mind is still on. It has made me ponder the song. And it certainly brings back memories for me.

I love the phrase, “Sun goes down alone” on the empty beach. It captures the melancholy so well of the carefree summer days that inevitably give way to  fall and the return to routine jobs and school.

I also  wonder about the outcome of characters in certain songs. What happened? Did they live or die? Did true love last?

I’ve decided to write the ending for Henley’s Boys of Summer.

As you may recall in the song, the singer is longing to get back together with his brown-skinned girl with her hair pulled back and her Wayfarers (sunglasses) on.

He sees a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac while he’s driving, referencing the Grateful Dead, and it reminds him of his love.

A favourite band when he and his girl were a couple.

He tells her he will love her after the boys of summer are gone.

So this is what happened.

Some college boys arrive in a resort town for summer jobs on a construction crew. They spend their off hours at the beach, playing volleyball, watching the sun set each night, throwing footballs around in the water, chasing girls.

Wayfarers woman gets a crush on a particularly amiable guy. She decides to act on her infatuation. She dumps the singer and hangs out with crew guy and his pals. It’s fun, intoxicating. There are lots of parties, romance, steamy summer nights. Feelings are intensified as only happens in the summer season with its easy-going feel and weather made for creating memories.

Singer is crushed. He spends his summer lamenting the lost love and as it draws to a close, he pens this hit tune.

He’s willing to take her back, no matter what. He promises he’ll still love her after the boys of summer are gone. He sings that he’ll show her what he’s made of.

He drives by the empty beach. He drives by the girl’s house – home of her parents – but knows she’s not there. She has gone back to school with plans of getting together with her new boyfriend every weekend. He’s at a different school but promises they can make it work.

They stay together through to Thanksgiving but the distance is too much. Brown-skinned girl is dumped.

She doesn’t go running back to her singer though, who continues to write other songs but never hits the same groove he had with Boys of Summer. He does well but this song is what defines him.

A couple of years go by and they meet up in the same resort town. He has become a banker and she sees him when she goes in to pay down her student loan.

There’s something about the suit, the business manner, that really appeals to her. She’s learned that boys of summer do come and go. She’s grown up. She longs for stability.

He invites her to see a Grateful Dead concert. She hesitates but decides to go.

It’s the first of many dates for them again. They re-kindle their romance. She can’t understand why she ever left him.

He can’t believe he actually got her back.




Lessons learned from one of the best sportswriters in the country


When Jim Kernaghan left the Toronto Star for the London Free Press in the early 1980s, it was the Big Smokes’ loss and the Forest City’s gain.

He was arguably the best sports writer this city has seen and one of the best in the country.

Personally, some 15 years after his arrival, it also became my great benefit.

When I joined the Free Press sports department, I was stationed next to Kernie, as we all called him.

A gentleman, mentor, leader, who became a friend.

This preeminent sportswriter passed away Sunday, his family gathered around him.

It was just last month that I received a call from Kernie asking for a small favour. For the many times he helped me out – including walking me to my car when I was pregnant and giving me a night mask for my eyes, that was soothing and kept out the light because I had insomnia  – I was glad to be able to assist him.

Kernie had a 3/4 tape he wanted converted so that his grandchildren could see a 1980 commercial produced for The Star that featured him. So good was he at what he did, The Star focussed its ad campaign on him.  By then he had written many times about Muhammad Ali and interviewed the likes of Pele, Rocky Marciano, Bobby Orr, Rocket Richard.

Since I work for CTV London now, he wondered if I could help with the tape. I think he knew then that he wouldn’t be around too much longer.

We have a 3/4 player that sits idle and has for some time. But it wasn’t hooked up to any other player. A co-worker suggested Producers Post on Wharncliffe Road might be able to help. I took the tape there and for a small fee, they converted it to digital for him.

Here is the 30-second commercial:

Kernie and I had daily talks over the better part of a decade while working side by side.

We’d talk about everything from cold remedies to our families to the ups and downs of life. And of course, sports.

He told me about picking up Ali and the other boxers that came to Toronto at the airport. Sometimes he drove them from their matches to their hotel rooms. That gave him a great opportunity to talk to them alone. He was crafty that way and it was what needed to be done to get a better story than everyone else.

I loved reading Kernie’s columns, because you always learned  something – including new words. He would challenge his readers and that included in the words he chose.

He knew human nature well and understood what made people tick. That insight helped him pen columns that were written with clarity, humour and compassion.

That compassion extended to everyone else around him. He had time for everybody. One of the last assignments we were on together was covering a basketball game at Western. An old friend was there and talked to Kernie at length after the game. Kernie missed his first deadline because he thought it more important to talk to the man than be rude and tell him he was busy.

Kernie’s son Terence, the youngest of his four children, told me that what he will treasure most about his father is that he saw the humanity in everyone.

“One of the things he says a lot (is) that the world is not a matter of black and white. That’s where the humanity is. It used to drive him bonkers when people would write, ‘A person that” instead of “A person who.’ When people say ‘A person who,’ they are removing the humanity from that person.”

One of his father’s favourite sayings was: “No problems, only solutions.” Terence says that bit of wisdom is life changing.

Kernie survived an abdominal aortic aneurysm a couple of years ago that almost took his life and it led to a renewed spiritualism.

While in the hospital, struggling to survive he had strange dreams, including one in which he was in a competition with another dying man and they were battling to see who could live the longest. The man he was up against was a South American boxer.

Terence says he still gets chills just thinking about that.

That health fight a couple of years ago took its toll. Kernie hadn’t been feeling well recently and had been at the hospital last week. He found out he had cancer.

He went into the hospital Friday and his condition deteriorated quickly. Terence says he told his father then that the family wanted him to get better, but it was also OK to let go. “It’s probably some of the hardest things you ever have to say.”

Terence says he fights against canonizing people after they die. “I wouldn’t say that he was perfect, he was just a decent, decent man.”

Rest in peace, my friend. Godspeed until we meet again.


Irate father calls his child names for getting a white shirt dirty

A recent study in Quebec showed up to 30 per cent of children are neglected.

While some may question the findings of the study, it’s notable in several ways.

Many children are afraid to be left alone. While you can distract them for a little while by playing a movie, soon they want mommy or daddy.

Children who don’t feel secure, turn into adults with issues.

Our society needs to realize that children deserve our unconditional love and support. They need to feel safe and secure. They need to have their needs met.

When they aren’t loved unconditionally, the world becomes a scary place for them and that can lead to all kinds of problems for the child that linger well into adulthood and may never go away.

The reason I mention this study is because being neglectful can be just as traumatic to a child as yelling at them or abusing them emotionally or physically.

While at a soccer tournament recently, I was in a car parked beside a man and his son. The son had on a white uniform and he spilled something on it.

The father’s reaction was absolutely appalling. He called his son a putz several times. “Why do you have to be such a putz?” He let the F-bomb fly over and over as he tried to clean the uniform.  He asked the boy what was wrong with him. The child looked down to the ground and placed his head against the back of the front car seat as he sat in the back.

I rolled down my window to let the father know that his cursing and name calling could be heard.

The mother then walked over and was herself astounded by her husband’s reaction.

It’s a white uniform, she told him, and it was adults who gave him the food. What do you expect?

At that point, I offered my Clorox wipes to see if they could get the uniform clean. I told them that my son’s uniform was also white and getting stains out was a constant.

The father settled down and the mother was embarrassed and asked me if I had heard “the domestic.”

The child looked at me with a smile and said thank you.

We cannot treat our children this way. Children are going to spill things. They are going to cry. They will throw temper tantrums but we are adults. We can deal with this. We need to tell our children that we love them and treasure them.

It’s the first step to solving some of the problems that plague our world.


Arms deal versus right livelihood

Much has been written and stated about the controversial arms deal between the Saudi Arabian government and General Dynamics Land Systems in London.

While the Saudis have an abysmal record on human rights, the federal government claims to be keeping an eye on how that country will be using the combat vehicles.

But more and more people are questioning the morality of the deal and Canada’s decision to proceed.

Sweden cancelled a defence deal with the Saudis last year and endured much criticism. So does that mean the decision wasn’t the correct one?

Jobs are at stake, reputations and there could be lawsuits.

Still, when we think about how those vehicles could be used, it’s chilling.

Should we not care about our fellow man living under an oppressive regime? What about children?

Human Rights Watch writes: “Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment in detention. Saudi judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.

“Judges can order arrest and detention, including of children, at their discretion. Children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced as adults if physical signs of puberty exist.”

As well, “Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system remains intact despite government pledges to abolish it. Under this system, ministerial policies and practices forbid women from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son.”

There is a Buddhist tenet that speaks to making a living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.

It’s called Right Livelihood and it suggest we find a way to earn a paycheque that does not cause harm and ideally that is ethically positive.

Now things can get really complicated when you think about Right Livelihood. Does the way I earn a living hurt others? Not easy to answer, but worth reflecting upon.

Manning leaves with stain on his career

As NFL quarterback Peyton Manning retired yesterday from what is a Hall of Fame career, he said he had no regrets.

Of all the things he said at the podium those words jumped out at me.

For Manning, with his “simple guy” act (even channeling Forest Gump at one point), has a stain on his career.

If you don’t know about the sexual assault allegations against him, read this story below.


Instead of honouring a confidentiality agreement in a court settlement, Manning and his father wrote a book smearing the women at the centre of the allegations.

The court documents are pretty damning and yet Manning says he’s leaving with no regrets.

He needs to do the right thing and come clean. Everybody loves their sports heroes – so it’s far easier to overlook his actions or dismiss them – but his are not the actions of a hero.

He got one last stab in with his words  “no regrets,” meaning he will likely never acknowledge the harm he has truly caused.

Please let’s talk because people’s lives depend on it

It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day. As Canadians from coast to coast Tweet, text and talk, the money Bell will donate to mental health initiatives will add up quickly. (Five cents for every hashtag)

Bell Let’s Talk Day was launched in 2010 and since that time more than $100 million has been raised.

The idea of this day is to get Canadians talking about mental health in the same way we would cancer or any other illness. It will lessen the stigma that is still so prevalent.

I know we still have a long way to go.

Yesterday in the newsroom, I took a call from a man telling me of his plans to commit suicide. And I know of at least two people in London who took their own lives yesterday.

This man had called once before – about six months ago.

At that time he was desperate. He had just been discharged from hospital and had nowhere to go.

An accident had left him unable to work and surgery to try to repair his condition was botched, he said.

He had gone through all of his resources and was now on the street. I could sense how scared and frustrated he was.

Fast forward to yesterday and this man called again to say he had no prospects in life. His condition wasn’t going to get better. He had no way to make any money. He felt the health care system, particularly the mental health system, had failed him and so many others.

This time there was no desperation in his voice. He calmly told me how he planned to end his life. His wife was living out west and she was coming to say good-bye. He said his therapist and other family and friends knew of his plan. He said he no longer wanted to be a burden to anyone.

What he wanted from me was an opportunity to call attention to the sad state of services for those with mental health conditions. He didn’t want anyone else to go through what he is.

It was chilling. I believed he was going to do what he planned. I didn’t know what to say. All I could really say was sorry.

After the conversation, I alerted authorities. They took it seriously and I gave them the information they needed, including where to find him.

Today I am left wondering about his man. Can somebody save him? If there is an intervention, will he try at some other point in time.

As I reflect on this sad situation, I realize just how much we still need to do to take this mental health crisis seriously.

Please let’s talk.

Cummins continually fought for common man and planet earth

Photo I took of Joe Cummins at his London home for a story about pharmaceuticals in the Great Lakes.

Photo I took of Joe Cummins at his London home for a story about pharmaceuticals in the Great Lakes.


Prof. Joe Cummins name was well known to me. As a journalist in London, I was aware of his environmental work, particularly his fight to educate people about the dangers of PCBs. He was often in the news as he drew attention to a PCB dump site at a transformer plant in London.

I admired him as he stood up to big companies who tried to paint him in a less than flattering light.

Joe didn’t care – and I call him Joe because he signed his notes to me as Joe – as he knew somebody had to stand strong.

Joe passed away on January 8 here in London after an illness.

I first met Joe in 2012 in line at a visitation for my former colleague at The London Free Press, Peter Geigen-Miller. Another colleague introduced us and asked if I knew who Joe Cummins was. I said, “Of course, I do.”

He smiled and shook my hand, but didn’t have any need to call attention to himself. He was there to pay respects to Peter, who wrote about environment issues for The Free Press and had cause to often write about Joe.

About a year later, I sat down with Joe to write a story about his latest campaign to protect the environment and his fellow man. He was approaching 80 at this time, but was still so passionate and so caring.

His health was failing and his voice was raspy and weak. It was hard to hear him at times.

But what he was telling me was so important. Joe was calling attention to pharmaceuticals in the Great Lakes.

He was taking on the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and wanted answers about contaminated drinking water.

He wanted the MOE to make public the 17 sampling sites where tests were conducted on drinking that contained pharmaceuticals, hormones and bisphenol A. His own drinking water at his London townhouse contained some of these pharmaceuticals, he had learned.

When he found out his water contained the antibiotic erythromycin he was particularly concerned because of his  allergy to this drug. Joe’s water was from the Elgin Area Water Supply System, which treats Lake Erie water.

I wrote a story about this that was published by the U.K.’s Global Development Observer.

For my article I asked the MOE why the water sample sites were not made public. The ministry sent me a statement saying that the study was a voluntary survey. “The ministry is committed to keeping the identity of participating municipal water systems anonymous. The results show that the quality of their drinking water is good.”

When the MOE refuses to say where the water was tested, that raised red flags and Joe was the first to jump on that.

The MOE report was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment and Cummins chastised the journal for failing to involve the full details of the study, namely the sample sites. “This is a serious abuse of scientific reporting which will allow bureaucrats and politicians to control and decide how and which data are to be used”, he said.

Joe travelled to London, England in 2013 to discuss the issue of pharmaceuticals in drinking water.

He continued to keep me apprised of his work and his latest messages were about his questions to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over tomato juice produced in southwestern Ontario that he maintained was never properly approved for commercial production.

I will miss Joe Cummins – his courage, conviction and conscience. And I feel more vulnerable without his eyes on those who abuse the environment.