Wednesday, 19 July 2017

CORRESPONDENCE: DEAR meGEOFF

A Letter from Tony

Tony Intas and I were classmates and football teammates at Montreal’s Loyola High School. That was 40 years ago. Tony is a resident of Vancouver; however for the next nine months or so he is itinerant, rootless, travelling. Today Tony writes to meGeoff from our hometown.

Greetings from Montreal.

I decided to take a break from the paradise that is the People’s Republic of British Columbia and return to the city of our respective births to experience some good old fashioned “Montrealisms,” those special moments that can only happen here.

That I have certainly done so far. Much to my pleasant surprise, I have also experienced some new ones, to me anyway, established during my extended absence, one of which I will describe now - a surprisingly active black market in plastic milk crates.

No, they are not being used to store record albums, as we all did as teenagers, but to put on the backs of bicycles, lots of bicycles, ridden by all kinds of people...

As I am here for a few months, and recall what an Olympic sport it is to try to find a parking space downtown, I decided to get a bicycle as my primary means of transport and errand running, with the appropriate amount of moral superiority and righteous indignation for those who do not do the same to minimize their carbon footprint and save the planet (yes, BC has had some effect on me).

As I am at the age where it now hurts too much for me to wear a backpack for any extended period of time (and affects my centre of gravity on the bike as I dodge other cyclists, cars, pedestrians and potholes), I decided to do what is “de rigeur” here, have a milk carton container installed on the back of my bike, perhaps the most securely fastened accessory on it, because these babies are in hot demand. Where does one get one? You could in theory buy one from a hardware store, but Montrealers do not buy what they can get for free, nor do they “pay retail." Instead, one “acquires” one, by oneself or by the more fun method of “from a guy or a guy who knows a guy." How and for how much? It is very much “don’t ask, don’t tell," pay cash if you absolutely must buy one (and don’t ask for a receipt of course because none will be forthcoming).

I expect that in the near future, restaurants and corner stores - the community centre hubs of society known here as “depanneurs,” will begin to padlock chain the milk crates in their back alleys to minimize the loss of these precious commodities, due to the “permanent” borrowing by those who have alternative uses for them. Until then, the selection from which to choose is virtually limitless. Pick a colour.

Who would have thought?

AMDG (Ad Majorem Dei Gloria) - for the Greater Glory of God

Tony

Readers of this blog who find themselves in places where they don’t normally find themselves, actual or otherwise, are encouraged to write meGeoff a letter detailing their experiences and impressions. Get in touch with me. I’m on Facebook.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

NOIR CANADIANA

Advice Not Taken

My Walther P-38 lay in pieces on the workbench. I’d cleaned and oiled its parts. I’d flipped through my slabs of Semtex, dry and pristine in their sealed plastic sandwich bags. Upstairs the needle in the spinning groove was playing Coltrane and my thoughts wandered to risqué peepshow images of my buxom moll Ann Fatale, my love supreme. She’d gone out, shopping for booze, smokes and invisible nightwear. I was feeling neglected, hard done by. So when the black dial phone hung on the basement wall stud rang, I answered it.

I reckon that call came about a year ago. The phone hasn’t rung since then; I’m not easy to reach. My name’s Danger, Geoff Danger. I’m a fixer. If you lead a decent life, why, you need never know that men like me exist. Trust me: it’s better that way. Go to church and put your faith in some phantom other than the likes of me. Still, we’re all called in someway, aren’t we just?

‘Yeah?’ I grunted.

‘Mister Danger? My name’s, like, Ivanka?’

‘You may squeak like a broad, kid, but you ain’t no broad. What’s your name.’

‘Uh, Donny?’

I ran a pipe cleaner along the rifling inside the pistol barrel. I cradled the receiver in the crook of my neck, shoulder hunched. ‘Got a surname, kid?’

‘Junior? Donny Junior. Some friends of mine in Washington, very powerful friends, very powerful, suggested I seek your counsel.’

‘Talk is cheap, kid,’ I grunted. ‘Wet work’s more efficient.’

‘Uh, that’s really not an option? Anyway, like, daddy’s running for president and I’ve been offered some very damaging information about, like, his opponent whom I’ll call “Lock Her Up” for the purposes of this conversation?’

I lit a cigarette and poured myself three fingers of Irish. I took a healthy swig. After I swallowed, I grunted, ‘Go on.’ I took a deep drag on my cigarette. ‘Who’s your source?’

‘There are two,’ Donny Junior continued, ‘with impeccable, very fine, credentials. One is a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin. The other is a gentleman who used to work for the KGB.’

‘Ex-KGB,’ I grunted. ‘Hmm.’

‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘the accounting firm, very, very well known. You’ve heard of them?’

‘We’ve crossed paths.’ I flicked an inch of ash into my copper Expo ’67 ashtray. I peered around my workroom studying the various tools I’d accumulated during the ensuing 50 years. My gaze rested on my chisels and saws; they were sharp at least. ‘What do they want in exchange for this so-called information?’

‘Nothing! I love it!’

I grunted, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch, kid.’ I thought of Ann Fatale’s annual attempt to make me a sandwich. She doesn’t know which side of a slice of bread to butter: best leave it to the kitchen staff of the best hotel in town.

‘But there is, Mister Danger! There is! My family’s been eating for free, like, at very low cost, for, like, two generations! By the way, have you tried the taco salad at daddy’s New York restaurant? Tasty, very, very tasty, delicious.’

‘Sure,’ I grunted. ‘Well, I’ll tell you something for nothing, kid, since you called. Walk away from this deal and keep walking and don’t leave a trail. That’s my advice, for what it’s worth.’

‘Thanks for your, like, valued input, Mister Danger!’

I hung up the phone. I’ve been shot. I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been punched. I’ve been slapped. I know a brush-off when I hear one. Coltrane was still blowing in the living room on the hi-fi. I heard Ann Fatale blow in through the front door and drop her marketplace bags in the vestibule with a whoosh and a sigh. Then I heard the diamond needle tick-tick around the Impulse! label, the end of “Resolution.” I glanced at the black phone. Somebody had to have been listening; I’d heard the faint clicks. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘not my gig, not my country, but that’s not the end of it.’ I shrugged at the silent furnace and strode upstairs to deal with more important things.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

HUMAN WRECKAGE

Desperate Measures

When I first arrived in Edmonton in 1990 I learned quickly that if I didn’t like the weather, all I had to do was be patient for ten minutes. It was soon apparent too that the city was graced only by two seasons, construction and winter. Today our neighbourhood is under occupation by a paving contractor, crews, trucks and machines. The upgrades to the sidewalks and street surfaces are long overdue. Aged residential infrastructure must necessarily take a backseat to ring roads, light rail transit expansion, dedicated bike paths on roads never designed to accommodate afterthought lanes, utilities and services. The expanding city is cash-strapped, hamstrung by limited avenues to raise additional revenue beyond property taxes.

During the last week of June, the postal carrier who services the Crooked 9 summoned me from the garage. She was standing in the middle of the road. I walked to the edge of the abyss. I leaned on my broom. She informed me apologetically that she was not permitted to deliver mail to addresses without sidewalks. I replied, “Fair enough.” I did not mention to her that the person who delivers the morning newspapers in the darkness before the dawn continued to negotiate the trench, the barriers, the stakes, the flags and the wires that now demarcate the property. I often hear the slap and thunk of the broadsheets’ arrival because I’m usually up in a fog, reading a sandwich at the kitchen counter and eating a magazine.

The undone state of the block has led to something of a midnight crisis. Despite two walkable Canada Post substations in the area, the mail piles up at an inconveniently located sorting depot in an industrial park. The Economist and The New Yorker no longer get delivered a week late, they don’t get delivered at all. I’ve nothing to read at three o’clock in the morning. I could substitute a book but a splayed, hands-free and hoagie-friendly book requires a broken spine and that just won’t do.

ROBBERY PREVENTION PROGRAM IN EFFECT. NO BALLCAPS. NO SUNGLASSES. NO HOODIES. The other day I strode into a chain depanneur, measuring myself against the hold-up tape on the doorjamb. I wanted to buy a carton of cigarettes. In front of the till in a rack about level with my knees was a copy of Maclean’s magazine. I believe the last issue I bought was in 1977, when its cover featured a candid photo of Mick Jagger with Margaret Trudeau, who was on a rip in Toronto at the time, unavailable for official functions at Sussex Drive. I’ve since thumbed through greasy copies in desultory waiting rooms, encountering the byline of a journalism school mate now and then. Maclean’s is a Rogers Media property, no longer a weekly general interest magazine but a moth-eaten legacy monthly now, withering in these digital times.

The July ‘Special Commemorative Issue’ trumpeted an analysis of ‘The Canadian Dream at 150.’ “Not our myth,” I thought. I then noticed that its author was Allen Abel, a wonderful writer whose prose I first encountered in the sports pages of the Globe and Mail. I recognized the cover art as a work of Lawren Harris, my favourite painter: ‘Red Maples.’ The magazine’s logo was a reproduction of the lost beauty of true typography, dating back to the days when commercial artists designed and drew fonts only for the letters required, not needing to bother with the rest of the alphabet or upper and lower case variations. Impulsively, recklessly, I decided to add $6.99 to my order.

Awake in the solitary navy blue of a starless night, I discovered I’d purchased 90 pages of something next to nothing. Aside from the Abel piece (in which a photo caption placed Bonavista, Newfoundland in British Columbia), a particularly witty columnist had a go at Nickelback, a conundrum for some, a universally reviled band that sells millions of albums anyway. An easy but a very used and tired target, sort of a 21st century Helen Keller punch line: “Move the furniture!” Oh, how we laughed in 1967.

Most of the content was paid advertorial, a sort of Canada Day parade of afflictions, syndromes and diseases. Rogers Media obviously knows the demographics of its shrinking readership. Maclean’s is a national magazine, distributed from coast to coast to coast. Consequently I was struck by a full page ad suggesting I live out my retirement in Elliot Lake, an affordable, safe, clean and friendly community with breathtaking scenery and an abundance of the services and amenities I expect. Elliot Lake apparently hosts one of the most affordable retirement lifestyles in the province.

But which province? There are ten provinces and three territories in Canada. So my question was, “Just where is Elliot Lake with its sunlit beaches, golf and hiking? Is it near Bonavista, BC?”

To casual readers The Economist and The New Yorker appear as similar shades of grey, far too many columns of type to scan. The ratio of content to advertising is extreme by current standards. The writing is usually top notch and facts are checked; how quaint. In recent years, both Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, fading publications, have tarnished their legacies by running grossly inaccurate stories, blunders that rival Newsweek’s now legendary ‘The Hitler Diaries’ hoax.

I’ve no idea if my two favourite magazines are bleeding or thriving. Down a soon to be paved road they may exist (if at all) in very different forms. Perhaps I’ll sniff, “They aren’t what they once were.” But today due to circumstances beyond my control, the night must withhold some of its pleasures and there are no substitutes.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

NONSENSE VERSE

The Song of Tweeterdumbest

I’ve unleashed a Twitter deluge
Because I’m big very huge

Look at my tie note how long
It suggests my mighty schlong

I’ve shilled rotgut rancid steak
I leveraged daddy’s real estate

I love gold and I love gilt
I do gauche right to the hilt

I never read I just watch TV
Paid a ghost to glorify me

I’m the face of a luxury brand
Voice of the common man

Women are a kind of icky
They bleed and then get sticky

I trust Info Wars and Fox News
Alternative facts is what I choose

Muslims and Mexicans on report
No rooms left at my resort

What’s the deal with the FBI
Poking Vlad right in the eye

I want to nuke North Korea
Paris accords NAFTA see ya

I’m undoing what’s been done
Paid my family to join the fun

You liberal haters and loser elites
A thousand cuts from my tweets

Monday, 3 July 2017

HUMAN WRECKAGE

A Decent Flag to Wave

I’ve never been to Spain. And I’ve heard heaven’s Oklahoma. I only know what I know. I know a little bit about Canada, excepting Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the three northern territories and vast tracts of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. My grasp of Canada’s geology, geography, its various historical narratives, and its current state of affairs is fair to middling. Though I have often felt out of place visiting regions of this big country, I have never once not felt at home.

Nation-states are human constructs and as such they will always be flawed, some terribly. Those in power are prone to making colossal mistakes, pursuing idiotic policies and committing ghastly crimes against humanity. There’s nothing like people. Canada, which Saturday celebrated the 150th anniversary of its confederation, isn’t so different. But if my existence is the result of a cosmic lottery, I certainly won a prize; there’s a whole wide world of wickeder countries to be born in under the big, hot sun.

My grandfather was English; he was born in Bristol. The family owned a haberdashery in Fishponds, a suburb. Disruption arrived innocently enough, a bus route to the city, and competition, was introduced. Papa sailed to Canada aboard The Empress of Ireland to seek his fortune. In Montreal he met a young woman from Hove, near Brighton, the daughter of a baker. The outbreak of the First World War extended her summer holiday in Canada by some 90 years. Together they rented a duplex in Outremont and raised my father and his sister. A few streets over, a French Canadian woman and an Irishman with family roots in Philadelphia, USA had an Irish setter named Sean and five children, the youngest of whom was my mother. This randomness explains my predilection for dad rock, my colonial mentality, and my white male privilege in 2017 social media discourse.

July 1st allowed a lengthy peek into thoroughly modern Canada, now viewed as our planet’s progressive beacon by the New York Times and The Economist. Many folk on Facebook decorated their profile pictures with red maple leaves while others decried capitalism, inequality and fascist police forces. The newspapers were a marketer’s wet dream, complete with a government-approved Canada 150 logo. The National Hockey League and my bank paid for full-page congratulatory colour ads in the Globe and Mail. Anyone else sniffing after a loonie of patriotic sentiment did so too.

Festivities of Parliament Hill were crashed by protesters, pardon me, activists. Dissent is tolerated here; and anyway, these days anyone without a grievance isn’t considered to be engaged with society or even alive. That’s me, an aging boomer, a walking symbol of complacency, complicit in and guilty of the Kafkaesque crime of being relatively content with my lot in this life.

Celebration day took a surreal turn after an excited Prime Minister Trudeau omitted Alberta while rhyming off Canada’s provinces and territories. Here in this province, Wildrose party leader and leader of the opposition in Alberta’s legislature, Brian Jean, tweeted that he personally would never forgive nor forget that inadvertent federal slight. Jean, who once lamented at a partisan rally that it was illegal to “beat” NDP Premier Rachel Notley, has never once, not once, committed a public speaking gaffe. Shortly thereafter, St. Bono of U2, on hand to rock the national party in the capital, praised Canada for “not building walls but opening doors.” Obviously provincial trade barriers and pipelines aren’t the singer’s area of expertise.

The eyes of the world are watching this immense and sometimes abashed, peaceful dominion that stretches from sea, to sea, to sea, hemmed in to the south by the Great Lakes and the Medicine Line. Canada seems great from a distance. My fear, typing as someone who would never wave a flag, any flag, in a public space, is that internally our national conversations are coarsening. Discussion of any issue, real or perceived, is increasingly superseded by deaf, agitated complaint. Speaking positively of some of the delicate threads that bind us now rings off-topic, Ann of Green Gables freckled pollyanna. Here we are, now. There are worse places to be a citizen, 194 or195 of them to be less than exact. There’s likely time enough to tinker with Canada’s new world model; perfection is impossible but it’s good to have a goal.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A LONG WAY FROM MANY PLACES

Montreal, Mon Amour

My elderly mother rightly maintains that she is still in possession of all her marbles. Her pins however have betrayed her, those matchstick legs are no longer sturdy, and easily fatigued. She wonders if she should maybe upgrade her tricycle walker to one with a built-in seat to ease the exhaustion of a lap around the Westmount High School football field. Mom is angry with herself because she’s all too aware that she’s no longer capable of doing the things she used to love to do. Once in a while she flings her cane down an empty corridor in her seniors’ residence and cackles madly as she strides forth to retrieve it.

When Ann and I visited with her in Montreal last Thursday, Mom literally ticked off the dead, only four of her friends are still alive. Her substitutes are the dogs in the neighbourhood, all of whom she knows by name. Each week the administrators of her residence issue a double-sided 14”x11” paper bulletin detailing upcoming events and the choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of Monday’s options was pepper steak. Beside it in a still steady, elegant, convent school cursive was a single notation: “Crap.” Mom says she prays every day to die that night in her sleep. On the other hand, she allows that her dreams of life in the wee small hours are incredibly vivid and wonderful.

Because Mom has always lived in Westmount and my sister and her family resides nearby, and I used to live proximate to the old Montreal Forum, Ann and I stay in the west end when we visit, always stomping that same old ground. Last week was refreshingly different. Montreal is a busy place this summer. The city is celebrating its founding as Ville-Marie, a Jesuit mission, 375 years ago. Fifty years ago the future glided into town on a monorail in the guise of Expo ’67. July 1st will mark the 150th anniversary of our country’s confederation. The city was also gearing up for Quebec’s Fete Nationale, which used to be St. Jean Baptiste Day until the separatists co-opted it for pride purposes. Preparations were underway for the renowned jazz festival, a street party if there ever was one. While attempting to book our stay, Ann and I found that hotel rooms were at a premium and their prices reflected that.

Having lived in Alberta for 27 years, my knowledge of Montreal hotels was both limited and dated. In our den in Edmonton, Ann suggested altering our search parameters and tasked me with filtering Expedia, Trivago and Fuckknowswhatelse-dot-com. I saw an opportunity for us to maybe change out our traditional backdrop and embrace other parts of the city during our family downtime. I rolled the dice on a loft on de la Gauchetiere between Beaver Hall and St-Alexandre for $168 per night. Rue Ste-Catherine, the Main, Chinatown and Old Montreal were easy pedestrian destinations. My mother and my sister were 40 minutes’ distant on foot or less than half that for a cheap cab fare.

Our base space was minimalist industrial, sparse and bare with exposed concrete walls. Our view from ten stories was the tops of aspen trees and the belfry of St. Patrick’s basilica. A black water tower on the roof of a building to the right looked like a lunar landing module. Across the street was a park, a manicured urban ruin, the rectangular stone foundation of a long gone 18th century building left intact as a communal bench. Our building’s face was jagged, like one side of a lightning bolt. Consequently I could peer into our neighbour’s place. I realized that whoever it was must be a permanent resident because I could see a guitar on a stand, books and a very scientific-looking telescope – ideal for gazing into thousands of downtown windows. The centre of the loft building was a vertigo void, not quite a courtyard nor an atrium but a deep shaft of real weather. Ann and I got a kick from the science fiction funkiness; the only drag was that we had to collect our keys three blocks away from our Loft4U and humping our luggage through Montreal’s narrow humid backstreets after a day of air travel was a mildly infuriating hassle.

Our location however allowed for a delicate brush of nearly forgotten touchstones. The outdoor stalls in Chinatown sold bootleg knock-offs. We wandered through the bazaar and then turned north once we reached boulevard St-Laurent. Ann and I ate hot dogs in the Montreal Pool Room. I could see the Café Cleopatra sign across the street, the sleaziest peeler joint I’ve ever set foot in. I was there once with my late brother; we were between Ottawa and Dallas, in town together for the last two hockey games at the Montreal Forum.

Ann and I also lunched at Marche de la Villette on St-Paul in Old Montreal, a busy bakery and delicatessen sans proper personal space. Out on the street I scanned for a half familiar design studio; one of my first freelance writing jobs was interviewing a gentleman who was largely responsible for the graphic identity of the ’76 Olympic Games in Montreal and was later commissioned by Canada Post to design a stamp commemorating Treffle Berthiaume, the founder of La Presse, a newspaper that still publishes but no longer prints ink on paper.

Papa Moore, my grandfather, an engineer, walked the provinces of Quebec and Ontario evaluating the futures of villages and towns, and whether or not they’d require a telephone exchange. His office was in the Bell building on Beaver Hall. “Do you have a place for a hard working young man who has served his country?” And so my father began his career inside it until he accepted a transfer to Ottawa in the early 70s. This succinct tower of stone, this whole damn city, shaped my life.

Westward ho! We ate dinner in the old Dominion tavern, once a respite on my lengthy record shop, book store and newsstand route, and now an upscale eatery. The delight was that nothing inside had been changed, from the wood and the ceramic tile and the hunting lodge decorations, so much so that for a brief moment in the men’s room I mistook the trough pissoir for a sink. Time had passed and I’d forgotten the way things used to be.

The Canadiens play their home games at the Bell Centre on de la Gauchetiere. The last game I saw there was against Nashville. I took my mother. Mom dolled up, lipstick and fur, the way she did when my stepfather escorted her to Saturday night games in the Forum in the 70s. Mom wanted a hot dog and a beer, I was delighted to oblige. “Mary Riley, Mary Riley,” Mom loves people watching but she points at them as she criticizes. Dear God, I’m equally snide and snippy but I like to think I’m less obvious. Ann frequently shushes me in public because I guess I should probably think “Jesus Christ!” instead of muttering it a little too loudly. I can’t hold my peace if I see someone with a green tattoo that looks infected. And stupid bad haircuts, ninja Hitler Youth, I can’t cope.

On departure day my sister offered to drive Ann and me to the airport. My mother, desperate to escape her residence for any reason, insisted on coming along for the drive. I got into the backseat beside her. Mom elbowed me in the ribs. I leaned over and down and asked, “What?” She said, “Nothing, I’m just moving my arm. You’ll shave when you get home, won’t you? I hate beards.” We took the scenic route through NDG and Montreal West so Mom could have a look around. She kept pointing at things, shops and businesses she used to frequent when she was independent; trouble was my left eye was often in the way.

We were early for our evening flight so naturally boarding was delayed for almost an hour. And of course flying east to west against the prevailing winds takes longer. Ann took the window seat. I squeezed into the middle one. The passenger on my right was Bogart in The Caine Mutiny; he played and fiddled with a yellow plastic ball for four hours. I couldn’t make out its embossed logo. I couldn’t concentrate on the novel I was trying to finish, Medicine River by Thomas King. Someone inserted a hot curling iron into my sinus cavities. My right nostril leaked like a faucet. My eyes teared up; my ears plugged up. My back began to ache. My four ounces of complimentary club soda ballooned down in my belly. I stared down at that fucking yellow ball.

Ultimately there was a touch of grace in the Air Canada cabin even as the trio of children across the aisle added their shrieks to the canned air. I am my mother’s surviving son and though Ann and I had just spent three days in her company, I did not mutter, “Jesus Christ!” I did not shout it. I did not scream it. I just thought it. Repeatedly.

Monday, 19 June 2017

HUMAN WRECKAGE

Whyte Avenue Freeze-out

After listening to our two favourite CKUA radio shows and completing Saturday’s New York Times crossword puzzle, Ann and I decided to break free, move beyond the boundaries of our property. Our destination was Whyte Avenue, the south side’s shopping and nightlife strip, and home to Blackbyrd, maybe the city’s last pure record store. We wanted the new releases from Willie Nelson and Jason Isbell, and I knew that with the leisure to browse we’d find some ancient catalogue gem from someone at a reasonable price.

The day was sunny and breezy, the solstice imminent. The bikers and hot-rodders were congregated in the Timmy’s parking lot, showing off their clean machines. The day drinkers were in the darkness of the Commercial Hotel’s blues bar. The sidewalks were tight with people and their dogs and children meandering on weekend time. Some of the pubs and eateries erect temporary street-side patios so patrons can enjoy the crush of humanity in the sunshine from behind a barrier. Pedestrians then must navigate boardwalks that extend onto the road which makes vehicle traffic flow like blood through an artery rimed with cholesterol. Everybody move over, that’s all.

Ann and I were impeded by a group of gym-rats and their skinny little molls. There was jostling, a molten shoving mass and raised voices. Somebody shouted, ‘Let’s go into the alley and fight it out!’ Ann said, ‘Somebody should call the police. Should I?’ I looked at the puffed up corner boys with their oiled haircuts, their muscle shirts, their baggy track pants and pristine leather sneakers. I said, ‘Fuckit, let ‘em cull their herd.’ I’m not afraid of youngsters but I don’t approve of the way they present these days; green ink tattoos scream infection through toxic clouds of sweat and Axe.

One of the fighters jogged ahead to get ready for the dumpster cage match. When Ann and I reached the crosswalk at the end of the block, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, unable to make the turn into the fight site or even cross the street. ‘Do you got a lighter? A lighter? Do you got a lighter?’ A cigarette butt burned down to the filter flipped up and down between his lips. The end appeared sodden. He hadn’t been alive long enough to ask for a match but he was jitterbugging on some drug that had yet to be invented when I used to take them. ‘Do you got a lighter? A lighter? Do you got a lighter?’

Have I a lighter? Me? Us?

There’s a Toronto Blue Jays Bic in the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt right now but only because I could not find a Montreal Expos one earlier this spring. There’s a winter use Montreal Canadiens at home in one of my bedroom bureau drawers. I’ve got two Elvis Zippos that need flints and fuel. I’ve got a heavy metal Rolling Stones American tongue logo lighter that’s a bit too tacky to use. There’s an emergency Bob Marley Exodus tour lighter that I bought in Bridgetown, Barbados, on the shelf by the kitchen door staging area where I do all my standing, staring and thinking, and its purchase was a misremembered mistake because I actually caught the next year’s Kaya tour at the Montreal Forum. There’s an emergency 7-11 lighter in a tray of our Honda’s console. Ann’s got about six plain Bics secreted about her person because she knows she’ll likely mislay five of them. Do I have a lighter? Do Ann and I have lighters? Do we have lighters?

I said, ‘No.’