Above is the motto of marketing and public relations professionals when describing an event they managed. You think I’m kidding. Hah!
I’ve been a professional event and conference planner since the 1980s,
when I was part of the Bell Canada Golf Tournament committee. That’s a
lot of years. In that time, I’ve arranged corporate promotional gigs,
entire conferences, and classy fundraising dos. The key to event
planning is the second word: PLANNING. We try to anticipate everything
that could possibly go wrong, and plan for it. Probably, we are the
most anal, list-making people you would ever come across. Even so, and
even with a ton of experience, I’ve found you can’t plan for
everything. What can go wrong, you say?
You can have water…and well, water.
Note to self: never trust your new staff with critical functions, like –
for instance – the bar at a reception for 500. She took care of the
liquor license. The cocktail food. The entertainment. The security.
The insurance. Everything, in fact, except actually hiring the bars
plus bartenders plus spirits. One hour before the event-start, we were
frantically on the phone with a nearby hotel, working a deal to borrow
all the staff and spirits they could muster. They came through, bless
their extremely expensive hearts. As conference-goers waited in the two
interminable bar lineups, senior management sashayed up and down the
line with lavish finger food to stall the riots. “It’s so nice to see
all the executives get involved like this,” said happy munchers,
blissfully unaware of their near-dry event.
Said senior managers took turns slurping the bottle behind the stage.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS put booze and the serving of which at the top of
your checklist. People will forgive most everything. But not that.
But I thought Moose Factory was in the Prairies…
In Newfoundland, they have a nifty way to make a little extra money.
Moose insurance. No, really. I used to work for a really big health
care association that had conferences across Canada. The national
conference was in St. John’s one year. It took a lot of organizing to
get the main sponsor’s huge demonstration truck across to the island of
Newfoundland. This was a million dollar vehicle filled with the latest
scientific and medical equipment, for demonstrating to the lab manager
attendees. Not a shabby enterprise, and the highlight of our nerdy
conference, seeing all those state of the art goodies. That truck
Until it was totalled by a Moose on the highway.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS get moose insurance. Yes, this is a thing.
Bus 54, where ARE you?
Wine tour. Yes, those words should never be allowed together. People
who go on wine tours invariably like to drink. As you might expect, so
do their bus drivers.
It takes 45 minutes to get from Hamilton to Niagara Falls. A convoy of
six buses started out. Three hours later, five buses made it for the
dinner theatre. The sixth made a slight detour to a winery and never
got out of the tasting room. Nobody there minded. They had a kick-ass
time in the attached resto. I’m told everyone forgot about the dinner
theatre in Niagara. We tried to reach them. But the ribald singing
made it hard for people to hear their phones.
Lesson learned: Never *start* your event at a winery.
Dogs and dragons…it will never work.
Twenty years ago, I joined the PR staff of a major urban teaching
hospital. Anxious to show our commitment to multiculturalism, we
scheduled several ethnic lunch days in the cafeteria, complete with food
and entertainment. You can imagine our excitement when the local
Chinese community agreed to bring costumed dancers with elaborate twelve
foot dragon into our facility.
So it was with great pride and a certain amount of smugness that we had
news media standing by. Not only that, the local television station
agreed to film the event. All good. Hundreds of people crowded in.
The music started up. The dancers came on stage. The twelve foot long
colourful paper undulating dragon was magnificent. Cameras rolled.
Cut scene to our blind physiotherapist on staff, who came into the
cafeteria with his seeing eye dog Mack. Mack took one look at the huge
dragon and took off, knocking over his master and a table full of
thoughtfully provided multicultural food. Dog went crashing into
dragon: Rips, screams, people running, tables falling, and all this
thoughtfully caught on camera for the six o’clock news. “Hamilton
Hospital celebrates Multiculturalism”
We called in every favour we had banked from every media person in town, to keep this off the news.
Lesson learned: The event was a success. Only the dragon died.
Sunday 29 December 2019
Sunday 22 December 2019
(First published in The Sage Magazine, 2015)
The following story is true. And it may explain the slightly manic sense of humour that has informed my years as a comedy writer.
For most of my life, I have been confused about Christmas.
This is because I am the quintessential Canadian mutt. Four parts Italian, one part Irish, one part English, one part Chippewa, and the final bit was a surprise, at least to me. It overlaps with the English connection (wait for it.)
The Italian part is easy to explain. Mom came from Italy with a whole bunch of relatives. In fact, ‘relatives’ were the main export of that small town outside Palermo, outranking olive oil for several decades. They brought with them a wonderful love of food and wine and laughter from the old country. Unfortunately, they didn’t bring a lot of good taste.
Every year, my Sicilian grandmother would put the plastic lighted crucifixes (made in Japan) in glaring rainbow colours, on the Christmas tree. I was a bit confused by that, not only because it was gawd-awful tacky and fought with my budding interior designer. But the part in the Ten Commandments about ‘no graven images’ seemed to be at risk here.
Nevertheless, we all looked forward to the blazing orange, green and red crucifixes, unaware that it was a sort of macabre thing to do to a Christmas tree. Did I mention Halloween is my favorite holiday?
The Chippewa part of our family tree was a tad more elusive for me to discover. We lived in 1960s Toronto, after all. One didn’t notice a lot of diversity in suburban Don Mills at that time. However, some of our family rituals seemed to be a little different from those of my school chums. They started to point this out.
I first got a hint that there might have been First Nations blood in our family when someone asked why we put ground venison in our traditional Christmas Eve spaghetti sauce. True, we had a freezer full of deer, moose, salmon, and not much else. Later, it occurred to me that I actually hadn’t tasted beef until I was ten, when for my birthday, Dad took us to the A&W for a real treat.
“This tastes weird,” I said, wrinkling my nose.
“That’s because it’s made from cow,” Dad said.
Of course, if I had been more on the ball, there were other clues. But at the age of six, you don’t necessarily see things as out of the norm. What your family does is normal.
That summer in Toronto, I loved day camp. They split us kids into groups named for First Nations tribes. By happy coincidence, I got placed in the Chippewa tribe. When I got home and announced this, the reaction was: “Thank God it wasn’t Mohawk.”
The camp leaders were really impressed with my almost-authentic costume. (Everyone else was wearing painted pillow cases.)
But the real confusion about Christmas and my provenance came many years later.
I spent most of my life not knowing we were part Jewish. I was about forty, when the designer shoe (a bargain on sale at David’s) finally dropped. Dad and I were eating pastrami on rye at Shopsy’s Deli one day (which we did on a regular basis, once a month – a reasonably intelligent person might have considered this the first clue) when Dad wiped a drip of mustard off his face and said:
Dad: “I haven’t heard from my cousin Moishe Goldman in a long while.”
Me: “We have a cousin named MOISHE GOLDMAN??”
Of course, if I had been thinking, all this made sense. We had lived in a Jewish neighbourhood. Our frightfully English family name was apparently Hebrew for ‘antelope.’ And I was only the only kid in school who got Halvah in their Christmas stocking every year. (Damn straight. I really did. I still do.)
So I’m hoping this may explain why we have a five foot lighted Christmas peacock on our front porch this year, and a lighted Christmas palm tree in our back yard. “A Peacock in a Palm Tree” may be confusing to you folk who know the song and are expecting a partridge with pears, but to those of us who have been confused about Christmas all our lives, it is mere icing on the proverbial Kugal.
Wednesday 18 December 2019
"Crime Club is a fast-paced read with few breaks from the action…. the reader is given a good sense of who Penny is and what motivates her. Her close relationship with her dog Ollie also provides some depth to her character. Crime Club is written in a simple and straightforward way with short sentences and an easy vocabulary, making it an excellent choice for a struggling reader or a reader learning English. The fast pace and plot focus will also please any reader looking for a quick mystery read.