This reviewer recalls a hike into the mountains with the esteemed columnist Allan Fotheringham on a free afternoon while covering the 1988 Calgary Olympics. Dr. Foth carried a briefcase onto the ski lift. Odd? Its purpose soon came clear. Inside were fixings for (here it gets fuzzy) martinis? Screwdrivers? G&Ts? Whatever. The point is: the man travels in style.
And so he has: 91 countries and counting. At his peak in the 1980s, he had five jobs: a national column for Southam newspapers, a 27-year run on the back page of Maclean’s, a gig on CBC’s Front Page Challenge, an author with Key Porter, a turn on the lecture circuit. Annual income: $492,000. Five employers meant five separate expense accounts, Fotheringham notes. “And if one of them didn’t like my expense account, there were always four others.”
This kaleidoscopic summation of his eight-decade globe trot (Maclean’s being his longest fixed address) was born of a near-death experience in 2007, after a colonoscopy went disastrously wrong. The sad irony is he finished the book, only to write a hurried dedication to his eldest son Brady, who died of a heart attack in Korea, worn down by the daily doses of the epilepsy meds that kept him alive.
But don’t expect a brooding meditation on death. Foth is a storyteller, a dancer, a lover of women. He lunches well, dines better, and remembers every detail. You could toss Who’s Who off the CN Tower, and not drop as many names as he does in this book. He remains, though, the wide-eyed correspondent from Hearne, Sask., “a gregarious loner” whose greatest allegiance is to his audience. “Life is a collection of memories,” he writes. “They pile up, connect together, disconnect and make in a scrambly way what life is all about.” It’s an apt description of the book: the sort of breezy tales you’d get over drinks with the good doctor. An agreeable way to spend a few hours.