Tuesday, May 27, 2008


One of the best dividends offered by these newfangled innertubes is the ability to maintain contact with the key elements of your life while you're elsewhere. I'm not just talking e-mail, instant messaging and catching up on the local newspaper.

I mean you can be baking on a beach in Australia and not missing the final game of the Stanley Cup, or, in the case of an Australian friend of mine, selling snow blowers out of a chilly Newmarket storefront while the laptop monitor keeps updating a half dozen surfcams on the Queensland coast.

Any writer who understands the craft will testify to the importance of "Place". The location of a story, where the characters come from and unique local mores have the most powerful and profound effect on the telling of the tale.

Transpose "All the King's Men" from New Orleans to New York and it's a completely different dynamic. Have Tarzan's parents shipwreck on the coast of British Columbia and you're into a whole new mythology.

Therefore, many of my local touchstones in Toronto and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) go a long way toward making me who I am. One of the most important is a guy named Mike Stafford. Because Mike keeps me in touch with the Truth.

Mike's a morning talk show host on Talk640, a radio station that's a little more hip and edgy than what normally passes for a talk format in most markets. Mike's show runs Monday to Friday from 10-12. Then he takes an hour for lunch and comes back at 1:00 pm. That final hour may contain a new topic, but it usually features a revisit of the morning's most controversial item, now informed by email comments that have been sent to the station and the new angles Mike's unearthed in the interim.

What addicts me to Mike Stafford and makes him essential to my day is his unerring ability to cut through the media or political spin of a story to what it's really about. Stafford's background research and his understanding of the elements at play in our society are impeccable.

Every one of his waking hours must be or has to have been spent reading, learning, net surfing and doing all those things really wise people do to make sure they're not being "played" by somebody and to help them gravitate unerringly to the truth of what's really going on.

That operational clarity is enhanced by a spew of pop culture references that would make the writers of "Pinky and the Brain" look like they were phoning it in and a sense of humor that could teach any sitcom room a few lessons.

But most importantly, Mike offers a level of common sense that is refreshing in an era operating on spin, unapproachable sacred cows and countless Emperors with no clothes. Even when he's making an argument I don't agree with, I know he's in a close orbit to the truth, so you have to give his take it's due.

In many ways, he feels like one of those guys you grab a beer with from time to time, who listens to your rants and tribulations and immediately fits your world back into its proper perspective, reminding you of what really matters and offering some pointers for staying on the right path.

Luckily, in the same way the internet gives us all a direct link to our hometowns, it affords the opportunity for our local heroes to be exposed to a wider audience. You can listen to Mike anywhere in the world by clicking the station link above or you can read his blog which always deals with far more important issues than those I write about.

So, Stafford, if you're reading this (and given those Google Alert options, you just might be) I'm out of town and stupid busy for the next month. But once my world gets straight again, I'm looking you up and buying you a beer.

A man devoted to honesty, truth and laughing at life in the same moment deserves at least that from one of those you've touched.

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