Meet Alan Mendelsohn.
Once he travelled the world – asking questions, meeting the known, meeting the unknown.
It was a passion of his, a magnificent obessession.
It started when he was only 24 years.
And even today it’s still with him – this constant life thread – travelling, roaming the world, but in a different way.
Always ready to explore, being curious.
It brings to mind a quote:
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.Anthony Bourdain
Later in life his work garnered him international recognition, endless awards and tributes.
Today, he travels to different parts of his garden, tending to his plants, vegetables, especially those damn heirloom tomatoes.
“My summer has become the agony and ecstasy of growing heirloom tomatoes. The garden , which is huge , is a sanctum, sanctorum for me. Every morning I check on every plant. The other day a Dahlia’s leaves were turning mouldy, they looked whitish and droopy. I performed radical surgery on it. But whether it can revive is an open question.
“The hollyhock the same. I get pissed at plants that decide to roll over and die. I watered and nurtured them assiduously and they have the gall to die on me. Dam plants, no empathy for their gardener.”
Aside from his garden there also is his grandson to tend to.
And the the other magnificent obsession – looking for art in all the right places and posting them on his Facebook page.
His world-wide adventures started in his early 20s.
For one year – he was going to visit to all the usual places in Europe.
But as often happens in life – things changed.
It was the second week, a youth hostel in Amsterdam.
He met an Aussie and soon a cinematic romance developed – walking along moonlit canals in Amsterdam.
Next was Morocco and Spain for four weeks.
And there he met a German traveller.
One day the German pulled out a map of Asia, and said he was going overland to India, through Iran and Afghanistan.
Alan thought – what a great idea.
The European trip was cast aside, instead he was on a bus from Amsterdam to Istanbul – Asia bound.
Eventually he ended up in Herat Afghanistan.
Even early in life – storytelling was his forte, standing him in great stead, later as a broadcaster-journalist.
His description of Herat.
“It looked like a village out of the 16 th century. People washing their meat in an open sewer. And there I had the strongest hashish I have ever had.
And I hung around Kabul, and Kandahar. I remember my buck a night hotel in Kabul. I opened the door , turned on the light and there were lizards everywhere. On the ceiling , on the walls, on the floor. This Winnipeg (Alan was born in the city’s North End) boy had seen a garter snake once. I closed the door in fear. I saw someone on the grounds of the hotel and said I need a place to stay. There are these terrifying lizards all over my room.
He opened the door and said those are harmless ghekkos. Their docile and they eat mosquitoes. And so I lived with a colony of ghekkos. And thought of them as my room mates. There were no Geico ghekkos ads then.”
And those early adventures left a lifelong imprint on him – seeking new adventures, discovering new place, savouring, enjoying.
So when he became a journalist-broadcaster he was ready – telling and crafting great stories.
That career spanned 40 years.
It started on two major, widely-listened CBC radio programs, This Country in the Morning , and then As It Happens.
When he got hired at, As It Happens, he was terrified, couldn’t sleep. This was the big time.
“I was in the old radio building walking in the hallway and who should be walking the other way but Barbara Frum. I was too timid to say anything. She stopped and said, I heard you were going to be starting working on the show in three weeks. I am so excited and enthusiastic about you coming aboard.”
He thanked her, walked on, totally excited.
The two got along famously.
Then he entered the world of television. For 10 years, a producer at the Starship Enterprise of Canadian broadcasting, the CBC’s nightly current affairs program The Journal with Barbara Frum.
After that he became an independent documentary producer and director.
He produced, directed, and wrote more than 100 documentaries. Those efforts garnered him 75 international awards and two Gemini’s, the highest broadcasting accolade in Canada, analogous to winning an Emmy.
His documentaries varied – space stories, historic war stories, human interest stories.
Today life is different but that sense of curiosity, being well informed is still with him.
He has applied that curiosity to a few different things – all done with gusto and fervour.
Even though retired he still acts as a judge at film festivals and as a freelance book editor.
His greatest thrills these days is spending time with a lovely woman – teaching him the joys of gardening, expanding his appreciation of food.
His huge garden at his Toronto home has become his sanctum filled with agony and ecstasy. Each morning he checks all his plants.
Especially his heirloom tomatoes.
Playing the stock market is another new venture – another case of discovering, exploring, often savouring the wins and accepting the losses.
He says he has done modestly well.
No doubt – Mendel has and still is living a well travelled life, a life of endless joy.
“Whatever you do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe