RIP Chris "Punch" Andrews

One of my teenage mentors died this morning.

Chris Andrews, known for the past decade and a half by his on-air name "Punch" Andrews, died of lung cancer after a public and very upbeat battle.

Chris had a growing Facebook support group that, I'm told, is still growing. I'm not on Facebook, but I'm told the group is at

Everyone there has his or her own story ... I have mine, so here it is.

I met Chris about twenty years ago, when I was in grade 9 and started volunteering at Rogers Cable 10 in Newmarket. My first gig there was pulling cables and changing tapes for cameraman Chris at the Miss Portuguese Cultural Centre Pageant in Bradford.

From there, I worked alongside Chris as he toiled on both sides of the camera ... producing, directing, shooting, editing and hosting virtually anything on Cable 10. While he's long been known as a high-energy party DJ, he was equally adept at hosting all the shows. He was the Swiss Army Knife of community television. Public affairs, politics, Christmas shows, community events. He was the complete package for that environment. And a real professional -- even on days when he'd arrive 15 minutes before showtime, rush into the little bathroom with an electric shaver and smear on a tube of foundation. Whether no one was watching or ... well, hardly anyone was *ever* watching, but Chris always performed as though that show was going on his demo reel.

Chris really seemed to hit a groove at Rogers when he teamed up with handsome and charismatic volunteer Thom Marriott to do a show called Around Town with Chris and Thom. They made it no secret that they had no budget and were making the most of a rinky-dink format. Their signature special effect was snapping their fingers to simulate a teleportation to the next location. They tooled around the town in the rusty orange Rogers mobile unit that had been decomissioned in favour of the new production truck. It became the Around Townmobile, and it took Chris, Thom and their mascot Hotline the springy rocking horse to wacky adventures around York Region. I spent some good hours riding around with Chris in that messy van, lugging gear as he smoked and talked and smoked and smoked.

As they met with resistance with Rogers management, Chris and Thom took up a show on struggling Newmarket AM station CKAN 1480. There was no listenership to speak of, so Chris was given carte blanche to do whatever he felt like doing with his time slot. From what I've seen, his show on Mix 99.9 FM in Toronto was a modern-day version of the same show Chris perfected at CKAN.

He even brought in his own records to play. I would drop in at the station while Chris was running commercials during the Blue Jays game, and man the cart machines while he went to another studio to cart up some 45s or cassettes. I remember a smoke-filled control room where Chris spent what was probably half an hour, trying to get just the right recording of "Five Long Years" by Colin James. He even carted up a copy of "Closer to the Heart" by Rush from one of my cassettes, which I'd call in and request now and then.

Even though he was on a station that was a rudderless sinking ship, working for rubber cheques and being managed by people who he didn't seem to get along with, Chris was a ball of energy and determination. To listen to his Energy 1480 Saturday Night Open Line House Party, you'd think he was working the prime time shift on 680 CFTR in the mid-1980s. And I think that's exactly how he wanted it. He was playing radio. Some people say they love their job so much, they'd do it for free. Well, Chris actually did so.

And he did it all without an op. He did all the production himself. He was more than just a guy who could turn on the charm when the mic was live. He had the vision to imagine what would sound good, and the technical chops to make it happen. He played the mixing console like a piano. By spending so much time with Chris, and absorbing technical know-how from him and the others at Rogers, I was able to cruise through two years of technical class at university.

I had my first alcoholic beverage at a Rogers crew party at Chris' family farm just outside Newmarket. I remember taking a hay-wagon ride out into a field where one of Chris' drunken friends did back-handsprings in the tractor headlights.

I was a lonely, kinda miserable teenager, and I felt like I didn't have close friends. Hanging out with Chris and being invited along made me feel like I had someone to listen to me. He heard my angst and lonely rants, and kept me optimistic.

I remember shopping for back-to-school clothes and wanting "Chris Andrews shirts" -- striped button-ups with collars -- and Dockers, so I could look like him. He was, in my eyes, a cool guy. Seemed popular with the ladies, always taking them out to his boat.

Chris helped me out a lot by writing me a letter of reference when I applied to his alma mater Ryerson University (then Ryerson Polytechnical Institute) for Radio & Television Arts. He coached me about what they'd be looking for in an applicant, who to talk to, and what to bring up in the interviews. I got in. I did well. I was aiming for television, but got into radio.

We lost touch when Chris moved out to PEI for a paying radio gig.

A few years later, back in Toronto and teaching, Chris invited me to speak to his class at Seneca College. What an honor for me to have the man who taught me so much believing that I had something to teach his students.

I think that might've been the last time I saw him in person. I seem to remember visiting him at the Mix. We've emailed here and there, and I sent him a DVD of a video I made of him at CKAN back in the day, plus some video of him hosting the Rogers Christmas Hotline in the early 1990s. When I heard the Jim Richards interview from earlier this month, and he said he was hoping to visit PEI one more time, I offered to meet up with him in the Maritimes. But that won't be happening.

I'm sad that he's gone, but ... hey, he wasn't sad. Chris said he had a good run. Always leave them wanting more. He went from an energetic kid volunteering at Aurora Cable, to a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-most at Rogers Cable in Newmarket, to bar DJ on Newmarket's Main Street and weekend radio host at CKAN, to PEI, then back to where he wanted to be -- on the air in Toronto, keeping the party going.

Some people leave this world never knowing how many lives they touched. Chris exited this life knowing that he was loved and appreciated ... and respected. He made a big difference in my world. There would be no Big Ass Superstar if there hadn't have been a Chris "Punch" Andrews.

So long, groovy boy.

For your consumption ... two videos from the archives. The first is a show opening from Around Town. I loved that show. I was a big fan. The second is a segment from Around Town in which Chris and a woman -- Lorraine, I think? -- filling in for the MIA Thom throw to a segment about Teen Pro Wrestling. Chris was kind enough to send Bubba out to do a story about a wrestling group I was involved in. I got to be on Around Town. What a hoot.

And one more post: Chris "Punch" Andrews before he was "Punch".

Sleepy landing

If you can see this, we've landed safely in Halifax after a week in Cuba.

Our flight was delayed more than four hours ... Five hours? I can't keep track. It's almost 3am as we prepare for takeoff in Varadero. I'm starving and exhausted. The delay is due to a big ass snowstorm in Halifax. A brutal end to a gorgeous week.

Anyway, just a note to say we've landed ... And are heading home to sleeeeep. Hoping the phone won't wake us. :) We'll be in touch soon.

Hola from Cuba, mang

Greetings from the sunny shores of the Barcelo Marina Palace in Varadero, Cuba.

We're having a lovely time here. The food is fabulous (bacon bacon bacon, as promised), the staff is friendly, the amenities are plenty, and the weather has been decent. The first coupla days were H-O-T-T and humid like a sticky Toronto afternoon, but today it's a lot cooler and windy... too surfy to swim.

Tomorrow we're off to Havana for a tour ... next day is a half-day of snorkeling on the reef.

Lots of photos to come upon our return.

Many thanks to Laura for cat-sitting ...

The internet is slow, and for some reason the hotel appears to be using Vista on its two public machines with mucho security enabled, so I can't even get at my main email ... so ... I'm gonna wrap up and go get a sunburn.

Anchor vs. Reporter

The relationship between reporter, editor and anchor is sometimes complex and occasionally adversarial. Thankfully I've never been in a situation quite like this.

This is not a Personal Finance blog

I've been reading a lot of Personal Finance blogs lately. There's a whole genre of blogs out there run by people who share their financial plights and successes with the world. Some are struggling to get out of debt and blogging about how to save a few bucks here and there. Some are making millions and explaining how the average Joe or Jane can do the same.

I started at Give Me Back My Five Bucks, run by krystalatwork. She's a young Vancouver woman who buried her debt in a hurry and is now ambitiously saving up emergency funds, travel funds, condo down payments and whatnot. She links to lots of other Canadian and American PF blogs.

One that appears chock full of great links is Quest For Four Pillars run by Mr. Cheap.

Articles at Millionaire Mommy Next Door (closed) made me question the conventional wisdom that home-buying is the best investment.

So, yeah, there's a lot out there. And a lot of these bloggers show their stats for all to see. I applaud them, though I'm not quite prepared to do that here.

While I'm proud to say that my RRSP is usually maxed out ... and that my spending habits are generally sensible and sustainable ... and that I'm doing what I can to save, like putting 10% of my gross income into the employee share purchase plan -- the one that matches 25% in the first year, 33% in the second, and I think 50% beyond that.

But in reality, we know that people are often more comfortable talking about their sex lives than about their bank accounts. I'm happy to share some generalities, but I'm not about to post my income stats here. I'm not comfortable sharing my salary with the world. Likewise, I don't want to know how much my coworkers are making. I just don't wanna know. If they're making more, I don't wanna know. If I'm making more, I don't wanna know. I know how I'm doing, and I'm curious what the industry average might be, but I don't want to tempt any hard feelings on the part of me or anyone I work with.

Having said that ... a tiny tiny bit of PF blogging from BigAss. I've read that knowing where you're starting is key to knowing how to get where you want to go. You dig?

So, I ordered up credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion. I messed up the paperwork on one, so it didn't come through ... but the other one arrived, and was 100% beautiful. No missed payments, no red flags, nothing to complain about. I have credit, and I use it wisely. I have no outstanding debts. I make my payments on time. I'm a good consumer.

Next, I went ahead and calculated my net worth. Well, not in excruciating detail -- I haven't added up the value of my physical 'assets' ... that box of Generation-1 TransFormers in mom and dad's garage is probably worth something astonishing, but I didn't factor it in. I also have not included the value of any insurance policies or pension plans. I'm frankly not certain where all that info is, nor do I understand whether it should be counted in my Net Worth calculations. I'm looking at more readily calculable stuff.

A nifty web site called Net Worth IQ lets you punch in the numbers and keep track of it all. I've been keeping track, loosely, for a few months, and here's my 'badge':

At least I *think* it's supposed to stick it up there. Anyway. If that doesn't work, you can see it here.
So, that's it. I'm not a Personal Finance Blogger. I may write stuff here 'n there, but I'm not going to strip my bank accounts naked the whole time. Would you? Let's hear your thoughts...

What's in your wallet?

I've been reading a lot of personal finance blogs lately. Seems a bunch of them are answering the question "What's in your wallet?" I figured it might be fun to do the same here ...

So ... here's what's there right now.

  • One $20 bill

  • Thirteen Halifax Metro Transit tickets

  • Two (why two?) business cards for my financial advisor at RBC Royal Bank

  • Air Miles collector card (collector since 05/98 and I've never cashed in my points)

  • American Express Air Miles credit card -- more miles

  • Citibank MasterCard -- had this one since I was about 19

  • RBC Gold Visa -- just got this one and I've only used it once

  • RBC client card #1 for my personal accounts

  • RBC client card #2 for the shared accounts

  • Nova Scotia Health card

  • Ontario Health card in rough shape and useless

  • Rogers Video membership mood card

  • Video Difference membership card (excellent video store, BTW!)

  • Blockbuster membership card (I doubt I've ever been to Blockbuster in Halifax)

  • Company insurance card

  • Staples Dividends card

  • Hallmark Club Card

  • Carlton Cards Club card

  • Birth certificate

  • Two of my business cards

  • Toronto Police Service media card, expired 2004 but still looks cool

  • M&M Meats key tag

  • Picture of me and Amanda

  • Picture of me and my sister, circa May 1995

  • Picture of my sister and her hubby

  • Nova Scotia driver's licence

  • and, what a crumpled and torn receipt from December from what's probably Boston Pizza

Wow. That's a lotta stuff in one wallet!

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...