THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT (August 10, 2020)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been writing this report and publishing it every Monday for almost 30 years. In 1992, when I started writing it, I had a mailing list of “12 loyal readers” and I printed the reports on both sides of original photo postcards, using a very loud dot matrix printer. Every postcard was hand stamped with a signature comedic image of me looking goofy, wearing a wig, and an antler headband. Someday (and time’s running out), when I become a famous writer, those printed cards are going to be collectors' items, worth tens of dollars. The point is, those first reports were an effort to connect through writing.
Over the years, and depending on the subject of that week’s report, my readership may have grown a little from the original 12. Certainly, the internet helped increase my distribution. I don’t know how many people actually read the report, but I do sometimes get feedback from strangers, ranging from “Great report!” to “You are an idiot!”. “Flamers” and “trolls” come with the territory and I expect that. Still, I am always encouraged if my words inspire any dialogue, and I am delighted when readers take the time to respond to the reports, be their responses positive or negative.
Over 20 years ago, while I was still working in Toronto, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek report about bagels, suggesting that nobody in Canada knows how to make a good bagel. I said that the Montreal bagels are no better than dinner rolls and that none of the Canadian bagels I’ve tried, remotely compare in taste and texture to a good Manhattan bagel. Believe it or not, my blasphemous proclamation stirred up the ever-brewing bagel debate, and I even received a little hate mail. People apparently have strong opinions about their bagels. I’m not sure why that particular report was so well circulated by fax and email, but it seemed to “go viral” as they say. I figured that was the end of it, but a few weeks later, I was working at my cubicle at Royal LePage, when I was summoned to the reception desk. In response to my report, some anonymous reader from New York City had sent me a dozen fresh New York bagels via FedEx, with no return address. I asked 3 of my friends in Manhattan, with whom I shared the report, who they think might have sent me the bagels, but to this day, it remains a mystery. Let it suffice to say, I was flattered that someone went to the trouble and expense to do that. I’m not exactly sure how they found out where I worked, which was a little spooky.
Jump ahead to the recent past, when I wrote a few reports about fast boats. Especially the Sea Flea Oppenheimer Report elicited a lot of responses. One of our friends from Banff, Alberta, a guy named Bob Barrie, used to be one of the owners of Bumpers Beef House, a well-known restaurant in Banff. He wrote me in response to my “Wildroot Charlie” article and asked during what period she raced. It turns out that his friend's uncle had a hydroplane named “Miss Supertest” that raced in the same class and around the same time. Coincidentally, I’d just received an email from my cousin Harry Lehman III, my grampy Harry Lehman’s other grandson, informing me that he had located the last surviving member of Wildroot Charlie’s pit crew. He provided me a link to that man’s Facebook page, which I immediately visited, and there in the photo sections, was an old photo of Wildroot Charlie and Miss Supertest, racing side by side on (I think) the Niagara River. Of course, I immediately sent the photo on to Bob in Banff. It’s fun to connect the dots.
Writing, both songs and these reports, has always been my way to connect with other people. At a time when communication is on injured reserve, I hope the things I write inspire some kind of positive dialogue. I’m not so full of myself as to assume my words will change the world. I do think that any dialogue, any story told and heard, is a step in the right direction. The next time you are inclined to write “RU OK??” or some other inane abbreviation for real communication, in a tweet or text, consider writing an entire sentence. Better yet, write a letter (or make a phone call) to an old friend or family member with whom you have not communicated in a while. Make that connection, because it’s good for the soul.
And whoever sent those bagels, 23ish years ago, if you’re reading this, thank you, they were delicious and please, identify yourself!
Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED