|Ed Zawadzki & Edward Kuciak|
SO LONG, MY FRIEND
Ed Zawadzki lived a colourful life that ended far too soon
I knew who Ed Zawadzki was long before he new I existed. Eddie was one of the tough dudes who hung around the front of our high school. He looked like a Viking transported to 1970's Etobicoke. You didn't mess with him.
Ed got to know me later after an incident that occurred one night when my buddy Steve Chalmers and I were cruising the neighbourhood in the old man's Buick Electra (A beast. I could hardly reach the pedals or see out the window). Chalmers noticed Zawadzki hanging out with some other thugs at the local plaza and suggested I put the fear of God into them. So I stepped on the gas and steered the Electra toward Ed and his pals. I was pretty reckless in those days, but watching big Eddie leap out of the way like a balet dancer was pretty funny.
A couple of days later I'm walking down the hallway at school (Vincent Massey Collegiate) and I feel what could only be a crane lift me up and slam me against the lockers. It wasn't a crane. It was Ed. He wasn't amused. He held me with one arm and was going to bash me to pulp with the other, or words to that affect. What saved me was my heightened state of dim-wittedness. I threatened him back. He laughed and after that we became friends.
On Wednesday, I lost my friend. Ed had been dealing with health issues the last couple of years and it caught up with him.
Fellow Postmedia scribe Steve Simmons described Eddie as a rogue, and he was, but in the good sense of the world, he was mischievous, a scamp. Ed wasn't a saint, but who is. You didn't screw with him, but he had a huge heart. He was incredibly sentimental. He cried at the drop of a dime. He was a street guy who wrote books and promoted boxing and rock and roll shows and dabbled in broadcasting and column writing for the Canada Free Press. Eddie had lots of dreams. We were going to write a book about Toronto's notorious past, of the criminals and rounders who populated this town long before it became Toronto the Hip. We were going to put together a radio show about boxing and MMA but Eddie never found the time, mostly because he looked after his mom Wanda, who is in her 90's.
Eddie wrote a couple of books about accomplished North Americans of Polish descent. (As well as a sports trivia book). As a result of his, Ed was awarded the prestigious Paderewski Medal of Honour at the Polish Consulate in Toronto a couple of years ago. His mom, a concentration camp survivor, was so proud. I was proud of my friend too, though I pretended I couldn't pronounce the name of the medal. "Congratulations on winning the Pader ... uh, the Poder ... uh ... congratulations on winning the medal," I told him. "You're an idiot," he replied. We were close. Really, we were.
Simmons pointed out that Eddie was Uber before there was Uber. Which is true. A few years ago I stopped drinking because the accidents were piling up. So Eddie used to drive me around. Gave him a chance to tease me about my driving. "Remember that time we were driving and you hit that deer?" he told me once. "What deer?" I replied. "The one in the zoo," Ed said.
He had a great sense of humour. We'd send each other SCTV clips and howl. In the mornings, Ed would drive in front of the house, honk the horn and we'd go for a coffee and laugh over old TV sitcoms.
Ed would call almost every day, usually at a bad time. "I can't talk," I'd say. "Tommy's (Buffery's son) crying." "Then stop looking at him," Ed would reply
Ed saved my bacon a few times. Once, he promoted a fight card in Niagara Falls. I gave him a lot of publicity in the paper, although many of the articles weren't exactly upbeat. The morning of the fight, I walked into the restaurant at the hotel and there's Ed having breakfast with the notorious Hilton brothers, some of whom were fighting on the card. "Morning," I chirped pleasantly, noticing that the brothers were getting up to shake my hand in pugilistic fellowship. As Ed explained later, they weren't getting up to shake my hand. Sort of the opposite. Ed talked them out of it.
He used to call me Steve, from Family Guy, because I was always so grumpy. I could never figure out how he was so pleasant all the time. When I called, he'd always answers the phone with a hearty chuckle. "Are you insane?" I'd ask. It's hard to believe I'm never going to hear that laugh again. It's hard to believe that never again will I answer the phone and hear Eddie say, "Hiya pal. Coffee?"
Ed lost his faith a few years ago. He couldn't come to terms with all the hate in the name of religion. The same with me. So I don't knew where his is right now. All I know is, I miss him. And it hurts. If I could talk to him once more, I'd tell him that I love him. Of course, he would have laughed because he always accused me of being devoid of human emotion. If he could see me now, he would know that isn't true (THE TORONTO SUN, Friday, September 2, 2016).