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The old hacks who make The Ex-Press the glorious, old-school rag that it is.

Mob Rule: Part 13

Checking in at the Flamingo If things were hot in New York, they're scorching in Las Vegas, where our family guy is wise to the history of the syndicate, but looking to get a better look at the landscape from his suite on the 30th floor By John Armstrong It was just after 7 a.m. local time when we touched down in Vegas and the heat hit us as soon as they popped the cabin door, an instant, sweltering blast like being in the kitchen on Christmas Day when your mother opens the oven to check the turkey. It was already over 80 and climbing and I could feel myself starting to sweat through my ‘lightweight’ wool suit. Vanessa already had her sweater halfway over her head, revealing a shorter version of a man’s white tuxedo shirt under it. She got a pair of sunglasses from the shoulder bag and immediately looked ready for the Riviera. “Don’t worry, the limo’s got AC,” Cohen said. “In Vegas, everything has AC – no-one goes outside except to get to the pool, and ...

Highway 17, the road not taken — sadly

Travel: Ontario's Highway 17 Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled -- mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own.   By Charley Gordon If you’re tired of the predictable travel articles about beaches in Asia, castles in Europe and gourmet food just about anywhere, this is the travel article for you. It’s about good old Highway 17, the one you can drive for four days and still be in Ontario. Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled. This is not because of the scenery, which is often magnificent, or the road itself, which is well-maintained and easy to drive. It is mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own. It’s a safe bet that more Torontonians have been to Bangkok than to Sudbury. For them, the north begins around Orillia and ends before North Bay. On their summer travels, they don’t get to ...

A fan’s lament

R.I.P Blue Jays Season The boys in blue took Canadians on a roller coaster ride through the post-season, turning even the hesitant and risk-averse into Bautista worshippers, but even with a pumped up Pompey and a ride from Revere, the Royals won the division crown By Rod Mickleburgh And so it ends, as it almost does in baseball when you embrace a team, with heartache and a taste of bitterness. After a magical, three-month run that delivered such delirious thrills and joy to me and millions of others across the country, the Toronto Blue Jays are gone, leaving players and fans to agonize over what might have been. It happens every year. Teams get so close to the final hurdle, only to falter at the finish line. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t be sports, and everyone’s team would win every year. In baseball, only one team out of 30 wins the World Series. How often is it the team you root for? The Cubs haven’t won since 1908, the Red Sox went 90 years without winning, Seattle ...

The Sick Days: Part 10

A serving of self-loathing, with a dollop of death wish An autoimmune diagnosis suggests something self-inflicted, and the fact that the 80 per cent of the 50 million American sufferers are women fuels the idea that there is a substantial psychological component. Forty-five percent of women suffering autoimmune disease were first labeled hypochondriacs. By Shelley Page Before I knew I was the proud owner of an immune system that couldn’t tell self from invader, doctors pushed sedatives on me. They hypothesized that my buffet of bodily dysfunctions — stabbing pain around my lungs, clawed hands, ruddy and hot joints — were provoked by overwork and exams, stress or anxiety. Something of my doing, or my response to something of my doing. Then I found out I had an autoimmune disease. And if we’re going to get all psychological about it, it’s like having the mutant spawn of Hannibal Lecter, the self-cannibal of all illnesses. We sufferers allegedly have an acute ...

Mob Rule: Part 12

Fasten your seat belt, the turbulence continues Flying high in the night sky, Jack Kennedy feels a little lightheaded thanks to Vanessa's skin-tight pants and leather boots, but he's brought back to earth with a warning about Joe Kennedy -- yes, that Joe Kennedy... By John Armstrong At Idlewild the gatekeeper waved our little motorcade through the gates, and Ricco gunned the big armored Lincoln out onto the runway and right up to the wide-bodied jumbo jet gleaming on the tarmac. The escort cars parked in a protective cordon around us and uniformed Pan Am attendants ran to collect our bags while Mickey’s bodyguard helped him out of the car. Vanessa had taken my advice and worn stretch pants, high leather boots and a thick, loose-fitting sweater that still managed to look sprayed-on. I assume this was what she regarded as comfortable travelling clothes; I’m sure they were, but the effect was anything but comfortable for me. I couldn’t help but be acutely aware of every man ...

Mob Rule: Part 11

Jack Kennedy and his family connections Our risk-averse narrator may be related to an American dynasty, but as he explains in this instalment, he'll never be welcome in the inner circle   By John Armstrong   I called down and told Ricco to requisition some of the armored money trucks from Receivables to carry the Commissioners back to the airfield for their flights home and select drivers, shotgun men, and bodyguards to accompany them. After the Waldorf, I was taking no chances. As we were escorting them to the elevator Bobby took me aside. “I’m sorry we didn’t get any time to really talk while I was here, Jack. Mother asked me to tell you everyone misses you and wishes you’d come home. I’d like that, too. I could really use you.” He pronounced it “awsked” with that funny upper-crust accent the whole family has, Boston by way of no-one knows where. I was both flattered and suspicious. It’s hard to know how to take Bobby. Even in his forties ...

Obscure illness gets star treatment

Thanks to Selena Gomez's recent revelation that she suffers from Lupus, the world knows a lot more about an illness that once stood like a wallflower at the high school dance of diseases By Shelley Page The world’s teenage girls just got a crash course on lupus. Selena Gomez has 34 million Twitter followers, 47 million Instagram followers and 58 million Facebook followers. And she has lupus. Suddenly, the obscure has become front-page tabloid fodder. I feel horrible for her, but oddly happy for those of us who suffer from the fatigue-inducing, organ-destroying autoimmune disease. October is one of those months when there are walks and talks for many major diseases. October is Autism Awareness Month. Ditto for Brain Tumor Awareness, Breast Cancer Awareness, Eye Health, Learning Disabilities, Psoriasis Awareness, SIDS Awareness. And Lupus Awareness Month, at least in Canada. It’s an obscure illness that doesn’t attract big banks as sponsors or celebrities ...

The Sick Days: Part 9

The press was powerful and intoxicating Printing secret crushes fills a last-minute news hole, and opens a young reporter's eyes to the power of shared community a newspaper can cultivate By Shelley Page After the latest issue of Monty’s Mouth was distributed, our junior high school’s collective of burnouts, jocks and nerds would spend five minutes smelling the paper it was printed on, hoping for a high off the pungent smelling mix of isopropanol and methanol — the duplicating fluid used in the ditto machine. This was the era when cooking sprays like Pam were huffed out of plastic bags and kids hung out near the pump while their dad filled the gas tank. Working for Monty’s Mouth was like school-sanctioned substance abuse. But I was drawn to the paper because of the intimacy it created. I liked when kids gathered to read about wrestling wins, near perfect foul shot percentages, out-of-town band trips, and overwrought student poetry that sometimes had to be ...

The Skirt for a win

The Sick Days: Part 8 Life as a young reporter was an environment of extremes, both exhilarating and noxious. There were parties, drinking, intrigue and byline counts. It was fun, but often felt icky. By Shelley Page After jumping out of the Poison Dwarf’s car to escape his lust-dressed-up-as-apology — which I paraphrase here as “I behaved badly, it’s your fault, and I will make you pay” — I realized I better apply for jobs at other newspapers. I sent out applications to a dozen newspapers across the country, including in the North. I’d always imagined I’d have to go somewhere remote for my first full-time job, and I was fine with that. I also kept research and writing stories in my off hours, while evading the gaze and grip of the PD, my mentor, who I never spoke to for the rest of the summer. I contemplated going to his bosses to complain about his behaviour, but who? It was the ’80s and I was supposed to shrug it off. Around me, my real or imagined ...

Mob Rule: Part 10

Mopping up after a bloodbath The price of doing business in New York City gets pricier by the day, forcing 'family-style' operations to retreat behind the reinforced steel walls of a downtown fortress while the local chamber of commerce hides its anxiety behind a fake smile By John Armstrong   When the first wave of medics had unloaded I went back down and found Meyer and Ricco then excused myself and headed for the nearest washroom, walking briskly but carefully; my bowels were sending urgent messages. Meyer came in while I was still in the stall. “You all right, Jackie?” I was covered in sweat and felt like I might never eat again. “Fine,” I answered. “Just need a minute.” I heard Meyer strike a match and smelled cigar smoke, which was probably a wise idea on his part. “It’s perfectly natural,” he said after a minute. “Survival mechanism. If you crap yourself you’re less attractive to predators. Saw it on a nature program. ...