Saturday, July 30, 2005


Doors open.
Doors close.
Sheepdogs sleep.

Just sent column 7,127 down the pipe.
I'm okay with it.
Saved this photo for this day. Sweet.
It looks at me every time I turn on my computer.
These columns kept him in kibble.

Guess I should also save a complete file copy here--in case it's not posted to the canoe website Sunday. By accident, of course.

EXIT RIFF: This is my last column for the Toronto Sun.

Those who just muttered "Good" can probably stop reading.

The first dunf column surfaced in the third issue of the Sunday Sun. That was September 1973--about 7,127 columns ago. Not bad for a part-time job.

From Trudeaumania to Prime Minister Dithers and Premier McFib, from the Tiny Perfect Mayor and North York Bananaman to Amiel, the Black Queen of King Street, it has been an all-too-enjoyable ride. Did I hear somebody request the Christmas Glove joke? Too late.

If you remember any of those columns, get to a clinic. You may be what we doctors call "an effin' boomer." Boomers are despised by ad agencies and young alike. Quick, get in the van. Enjoy our ride to the dump.

The clever columnist keeps two file folders.

One is the Alibi File, in which you place any favorable mention. Notes from Allan Slaight, Leonard Asper, Gary Lautens, Jim Carrey and years of in-house high fives. You frantically wave this folder the day you zig when you should have zagged and fear they might fire you. Mercy!

The other folder is labeled Last Column. Here, you save any final effort by a Royko, a Breslin that manages to touch your heart or shows some class, a generosity of spirit. You hope to marshal the same. If you can't, you can always scalp theirs. Hey, just kidding. That would be wrong.

Many exit columns celebrate mentors and guardians. Daily columns can only be grown by master gardeners. Mine would include the amazing Kathy Brooks, insightful pal John Downing, wise Trudy Eagan and quarterback Peter Worthington--who saved me from ever being sacked by a Bassett. And of course, tabloid newsdom's founding god of grins, Doug Creighton.

Barbara Amiel once wrote that to survive at the Sun you have to learn ballroom dancing and how to be a good sport. She danced with Doug. I once danced with Eagan. They were kind enough not to laugh. Or demand to see our Alibi Files. They were good sports. But hey, I've mastered the limbo.

To be a happy Sun reader, you need two things. Good toonz and good teeth. Try the new CD by jazz singer Chiara Civello for the first. And if you fear dentists more than a Liberal majority, find Anesthesia Associates in North York. Superhero "Dr. Dave" was not an invention. Dr. David Isen is real. So is being zonked, dentalphobes. Anyone for pre-med? Me!

I'm sorry we never solved the mystery of Mickey Mouse's dog, Pluto. He's half Mickey's size. Is Mickey a giant mouse? Or is Pluto no bigger than a thimble? Goofy--Mickey's next-door neighbor--is also a dog but walks on two legs. Does Pluto never look over the fence and cry: "Hey, I got a dog house. Look what that dog has! You're my pet now, cheese-breath."

Please, no sobbing, Sparky. There's no key to turn me off. Did I mention I've been blogging for a month? See proof at

Eight years ago, my late, great accountant asked how long I planned to write a column.

"Until they beg me to stop," I joked. "The Sun's been very good to me." Arthur Gelgoot, guru to so many media idiots, let a gentle smile flicker about his cozy Bay St. office. "You can stop any time, you know."

I nodded. He meant financially. I thought emotionally.

Years later, I had a conversation with somebody at the Sun I suspected might be my boss. A freelance writer, I never really knew who was my boss. Nobody ever talked to me about yesterday's column. Nobody asked what was in tomorrow's. They left me alone. AND paid me. Holy crap. Unique.

"Hey, when the day comes, just say the word," I assured one of the editors. "I won't go away mad. I'll just go away."

"Like hell you will," he laughed. "Everybody goes away mad." Wrong, dude. Page Six died screaming. But not me.

Exit laughing. Y'all have a great life. Thanks for the ride, gang.

Beer? dunf

Dunf's e-mail:

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ontario, off the grid

High Falls, Algonquin Park

Paddled with a pal yesterday into High Falls on the east side of Algonquin Park.

Pines, pools, perfect blue sky, no bugs.
And hardly any people! It's high summer! What gives?

I guess everybody's home, playing Grand Theft Auto.

All the best things are off the grid.
If you can hike 45 minutes one way, or canoe or kayak about five hours round trip, you can see and share this not-so-secret place.
Water, cascading over monumental rock faces.
Sit in the bubbles. Try the natural slide.
A perfect place.

Location: up the east road from Pembroke into Algonquin Park.
To canoe/kayak, start from the Achray launch ramp.
Between two and three hours by water with one quick liftover around a damn.
To hike: find the unmarked trail halfway between the park gate and Achray at about mile 16. Any Algonquin staffer will be happy to help.

Yes, it's even better than in the photos.
Most Ontarians will never see it.

"The world stands out on either side,
no wider than the heart is wide...
Above the earth is stretched the sky,
No higher than the heart is high..."

Stephen Harper's favorite joke

Why do Albertans turn the sides of their cowboy hats up?

To fit three in the front seat of a pick-up.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Canada Day

Canada is eating toy food at 30,000 feet and looking down on the most amazing herringbone of blacks and whites that turn out to be the Rocky Mountains.

Canada is coming home from Kensington Market with a vegetable that looks like a carrot, smells like a melon, feels like a banana but may be a potato. The lady next door knows how to cook it. You give her half.

Canada's lying on your stomach on a raft and watching shy fish circle below, safely hiding in your shadow.

Canada is slogging down a narrow, snow-clogged street in Quebec City, watching a midnight traffic jam of ice floes in the St. Lawrence.

Canada's sitting on the shore of Newfoundland's Grand Lake, sucking at a bottle of Star while a pal balances a bottle of Moosehead on his forehead. Laughter tickles the stubby pines.

Canada is paddling three hard days only to discover two other tents are already pitched at your "secret" place. Windlocked, you'll meet the strangers you meet there again each summer for the next 20 years.

Canada is Muskol. A hell of a lot of Muskol.

Canada is patching the hole in the tent and killing the last mosquito at 5.23 a.m. to finally fall asleep. The sun rises at 5.33.

Canada is climbing a tree with two friends in August and waiting two long hours to drop a balloon filled with water on your best pal.

Canada is a sharp green stick with one brown hot dog on it. The first frank falls in the fire but the second is perfect.

Canada is an amazing red trillium in a hillside army of white ones. Sprawl in the foot-high flowers and it takes them 15 minutes to find you.

Canada is poring over your priceless pile of 44 maps of lakes and portages in front of a roaring fire in January and never thinking about a black fly.

Canada is a metal mug of coffee too hot to hold, on a misty morning that's too cold to be there.

Canada is standing on the deck of the last B.C. ferry of the night, watching the water slide by. From somewhere deep inside the ship, a door closes. Or opens. Stars wink at reflected twins in the sea. Time stops.

Canada is meeting a bear at the rural garbage dump. You consider each other thoughtfully for long moments. The bear has other things to do.

Canada is dogs wading in lakes, sitting in shallow water to cool their bums.

Canada's the lightning storm that scares you witless.

Canada is whipping into a beach on one water ski to land at the exact edge of the sand ... just ... so. Keep your stomach sucked in: those girls are watching.

Canada is one perfect fiddlehead green. So small, so fixed in your mind as a fragile growing thing, you dare not pick it.

Canada is discovering the dog has eaten all the marshmallows.The marshmallows are already upchucked in your sleeping bag.

Canada is unpacking Christmas lights in a chilly attic.Canada is watching the field mouse run up to, then over your girlfriend's sleeping bag and never telling her when she wakes up.

Canada is one ear of yellow corn, a plate of butter and a napkin. You feel yellow a long time after.

Canada is sitting in a privy, hoping porkies don't come for another 10 minutes. Swallows have torn the toilet paper into confetti, no piece big enough to hold.

Canada is a deep lake, a sloping rock, a warm sun and a perfect curve of time. Afternoons arch to the horizon.

Canada is a brown envelope from Revenue Canada. And the modest boat you christen ... Rebate.

Canada is whitecaps on the lake, cold smoke spirals above winter chimneys, the speckled rocks at the bottom of a clear, glassy stream.

Canada is a big secret.