Needlepoint Class - Chuck Poulsen  

Real writer helps Poulsen

Well-known Vancouver journalist and author Don Hunter is filling in for Chuck Poulsen this week. Poulsen's column will return next week from Mexico - if he hasn’t been shot. 

Chuck Poulsen asked me to write a guest column while he's in his snorkelling gear for a hiatus at his mansion in Mexico.

I thought I'd better check what "mansion" is in Spanish. It's "mansion", which also means casa grande, or big house, I guess. Anyway, he has one of them.

Why would anyone want to go to Mexico just now? I've been once - my wife and I crossed over by bus for a day from San Diego. My abiding memory – other than that of being swarmed by vendors about every two steps - is of the pathetic Zonkeys – donkeys painted with white stripes to make them look like...yeah, I know you know. The last story I read out of Tijuana concerned six young men being machine-gunned to death in a pool hall, apparently because they belonged to the wrong social club. Wait a minute, maybe that was on Oak Street, Vancouver.

Chuck and I were colleagues at The Province newspaper in a different era. And we became good friends, which is why I agreed to guest for him this once. I wonder if he'll ask me again. If he gets back from Mexico.

He made a subtle suggestion that I might touch on B.C, politics ("Maybe write something about B.C. politics"). Oh, spare me. . . Well, okay, a little: I covered all B.C. premiers and their various acts from W.A.C. Bennett to Glenn Clark before I retired. I enjoyed Dave Barrett the most - Dave enjoyed McEwan's Scotch ale almost as much as I do - and I disliked Bill Bennett the most. Bennett's humour always had a cruel edge to it, like he enjoyed having a victim.

Little story about Dave Barrett when the NDP lost the election (after one term, and to Bill Bennett) in 1975. We were at the NDP election night HQ at a hall on Kingsway in Vancouver. I was standing next to Dave and his human resources minister Norm Levi, watching the results pour in (and drowning them). When it became clear their rule was over, Barrett turned to Levi and said, "What the did we do?" That quote never made it into my Province story, nor anywhere else, until now for Castanet.

There was also Gordon Campbell: In the mid-1980s, I was writing a series for the paper predicting "up and comers" in various areas, and spending a couple of days with each. One of the first was the young Vancouver middleweight fighter Michael Olajide, known as The Silk. He was smooth, and smart enough after 32 fights -27 wins (19 KO) and five losses – to quit the game with his looks and brain intact. Then I suggested to my editor that then youngish Vancouver Ald. Gordon Campbell looked like he would take the mayor's chair. Spent two days with him shooting around Vancouver, concluded that he would go higher and higher. He was smooth, and smart, until fairly recently.

Left the ring, a self-Knock-Out.

Own goal, in terms of my sport - soccer - which Poulsen doesn't understand.

Not long ago, I told Poulsen that I was becoming progressively more ticked off by the mounting collection of fancy-printed address labels and note pads and even pens that charities to whom we regularly donated were stuffing into my mail box.

We recently threw out more than 1,000 such address labels - all paid for, and mailed to me (a little irony there), by the money I sent them. I told Poulsen he might want to write a piece about this friend of his who has decided to strike virtually all charities from his list and instead buy tickets on the Children's Hospital Lottery. Poulsen said if I guested for him, I would be allowed to mention my novel - Incident at Willow Creek - which was published last year by the fine little Edmonton publisher NeWest Press and which he declared to be one of the best sustained reads he had enjoyed for some years. I said that was a generous thought from an old friend but that a mention would not be necessary.

Un buen año Nuevo (A good new year), Chuck and Castanet and all of its readers.

-- Don Hunter

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