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Friday, April 24, 2015

Douglas James McIntosh Is Dead

I am deeply saddened.

My friend ... one Douglas James McIntosh has died.

I found out today at around 8:30PM... that he had actually passed away some two weeks earlier... and that no one knew until earlier this week.

We have had these past 25 years a mentor-protege relationship, though admittedly he seemed to think the roles had been reversed these past few years as I encouraged him to look after his health more than needing to work himself, to well, death.

His letters for the past year talked of his struggles with diabetes... but I wanted him to stop driving cab, look after himself so that I could come and visit... but he loved to drive more than anything.

I first met Doug pretty much 25 years ago today, while I was with the Toronto Star as an intern reporter on their Summer Internship Programme.

I was to make pick-ups that day... that is I was to pick-up photos of people who had just passed, to accompany either obituaries or news stories.

His cab was stopped in front of the newspaper that day, and rather than get in the back like most rides, I got in and sat in the passenger side front.

I don't know why I did it, but I did.

Doug drove me around that day for about six hours or more... we stopped at a Harveys and I bought him lunch and charged it all to the newspaper, because he deserved to be fed and looked after. Basic human kindness and all... but apparently no one had ever done that for him.

While on one pick-up, I had actually beat the police to the victim's house and thus informed the parents of their daughter's passing... it sickened me to have been the one to do that... but they understood, and even though they were in shock, they treated me as well as can be expected. Still, the experience soured me forever on being a newspaper reporter.

Doug saw my face... and when I explained what happened, my new friend put me at ease and did his best to help me recover my sunny disposition.

At the end of our journey hours later back at the Star, Doug, knowing I was soon to go to Japan on the Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme, begged me to write to him from there.

So I did.

I wrote a form letter and sent it out to about 20 people (family and friends got a real letter)... but Doug was the first person to write me back in Japan. His was the first letter I received.. or maybe it was actually a tie from my friend Rob.

What the hell... I wrote back to Doug... and after three years and 67 letters from him (tied with the amazing Rob), I had survived Japan.

Doug and I initially hit it off because I knew a fair bit about Jim Morrison and The Doors, his favorite band.

I told him that I had once been an extra in a movie, a Bette Middler/John Goodman flick called Stella... and that I was actually wearing a Jim Morrison blue tee-shirt in the couple of scenes I am in... somewhere around the 40-minute mark dancing and later drinking in a bar (The Silver Dollar here in Toronto).

Doug and I are friends... he taught me many a valuable lesson... about how to be a good writer... he was much better than I was or am now... but he just wouldn't take the time to write that damn book about driving can in Toronto... it would have been beautiful... though I'm afraid all the juicy stuff I know about various people and their activities would have caused us both trouble should it ever have leaked out.

Ah me...

Let me leave you with the very last line I read in the letter I opened from him today...

"no eternal reward will forgive us, now, for wasting the dawn"


It has a photograph printed on it by his printer showing Mt, Fuji I think...

But he ended this conversation with me just as he began it 25 years ago, with a quote from The Doors.

And... in atypical fashion... he decided NOT to sign off at the end.

Kanpai Doug... and thank you for letting me be your friend.

Yer droog,
Andrew Joseph

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