Monday, 16 May 2022

NONSENSE VERSE


Will You Give Me No Peace


Fuck you I say fuck off

I couldn’t give a toss

Lanyard ‘round your neck

Shilling utilities on spec

Piss off from my door

Don’t knock on it no more

Running down the hall

Another bogus robo call

Credit card security

Home computer impurity

Used clothes for charity

Disease donation solidarity

Contribute to the misery

By making poverty history

Art gallery membership

Even though it exhibits shit

And you my China doll

You make no sense at all

Very stern but a little fresh

Mandarin via Bangladesh

Canada Revenue gift card taxes

Sheriffs due armed with axes

Can’t you all just let me be

It’d really fuckin’ please me             


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of sublime meter since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

A FAN’S NOTES


James Taylor with Jackson Browne


Ann and I spent a mellow, mid-tempo evening in the company of two seventies musical giants. Ann has always enjoyed James Taylor’s music and has previously seen him in concert. A few years ago we attended a scaled back Jackson Browne theatre show together. This hockey arena double bill, upper tier scrimmed, and originally scheduled for more carefree, pre-pandemic times, should have flipped headliners. We decided to buy tickets late last week. I thought the performance would make a fine finale to Ann’s May Day birthday and then Mother’s Day and, anyway, our faded social skills off the property require refreshing.


Neither sensitive wimp had anything to say to me during their primes. They sang from an easy listening place where I wasn’t. I’ve since come around more than a little bit, with caveats and conditions.


My nephew, 32 years my junior, dropped by for a visit on the weekend. He was going Monday night too. He asked me if there was a definitive James Taylor album he should be familiar with by curtain time. Ann would say Mud Slide Slim.


I said, “You know, he’s one of those guys where all you need is the Greatest Hits.” It’s a Boomer staple, on the same shelf as the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.


The irony of James Taylor, singer-songwriter, is that three of his biggest hits are covers of the Drifters, Marvin Gaye and Carole King. They are low key love letters but he doesn’t inhabit them the way Aretha owns “Respect” or Joe Cocker owns “Darling Be Home Soon.” Then again, I can’t imagine anyone else covering his material like “Mexico,” “Fire and Rain” and “Country Road” except for maybe a drunken amateur in front of a midnight campfire.


Taylor took the stage dressed like Tom Joad in his rumpled Dust Bowl Sunday best. He is a strikingly tall man. Ann leaned into my right ear: “He was wearing the same clothes last time I saw him.” He showered the people with his greatest hits. All of them. While some of the arrangements have been changed from the overly familiar, his voice has not. Taylor confided that though he’s been clean for decades, he understood he performed for the majority of his audience, “people who are still fucked up.” Why, thank you, sweet baby James, I guess heroin and mental hospital stays combine to form a sort of grandfatherly clarity.


My nephew wanted to know about Jackson Browne. I said, “It took a while but now I really admire his songwriting. So, yeah, there’s definitely a couple of albums of his that are worth having.”


If Taylor is a singer-songwriter, Browne is a musician-activist. Being harangued by employers, politicians, priests, professors and California rock stars with one nostril never suited my temperament. To Browne’s credit he informed the audience that he’d been watching YouTube footage of himself for “research purposes.” He said his song introductions and explanations ran long and he ultimately told his video self to “shut the fuck up.” Amen, I’ve thought that for the longest time. Rumours from the last century allege he may’ve rehearsed that line on his various domestic partners.


The couple seated to Ann’s right asked her who Browne was, they’d never heard of him. They were younger than us, but, man, Ann and I looked way better, a bit more fashionable too. Buying a t-shirt at a show and then wearing it immediately at said venue is frightfully gauche. I whispered, “If ‘Doctor My Eyes’* doesn’t hook them, nothing can. They’ll think ‘Take It Easy’ is an Eagles cover.”


Following the 1979 “No Nukes” concerts in New York City, Browne tried to walk handsome and hot down E Street. “Boulevard” came out more John Cafferty and Beaver Brown than Boss. It will never, ever be mistaken for “Dirty Boulevard” by Lou Reed. Still, it’s got that crunchy Fender sound I love so much. Browne didn’t play it nor did he do his version of Little Steven’s “I Am a Patriot.” His more recent material, not that Ann and I had heard a note before last night, blended nicely into his set. “Downhill from Everywhere” from just last year rocked far beyond “Boulevard,” the road paint blurred.


Conversely, Taylor rued that his latest album, yet another American songbook syllabus, had landed in the marketplace “like a baby being thrown down a well.” Taylor, of all people, should’ve realized they’d all been done and redone; he’s been there before in so many understated and somnambulant ways. He did play one pleasant enough jazzy obscurity from the collection as the screen behind the stage displayed a Merrie Melodies cartoon about cats in college. Mercifully, he let those other old dogs lie and stuck to his own.


* If you’ve a proper stereo, I mean one with speakers that move air, blast this song, turn it up! I don’t know that I’ve ever heard such rich, fat production since. The piano and the congas sound fantastic. Jesse Ed Davis (Taj Mahal) on guitar; Crosby and Nash chiming in on the choruses. The lyrics are great, suicidal existential angst muted and fairy dusted by soaring music. “It’s later than it seems.”           


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of insufferable music snobbery since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

A LONG WAY FROM MANY PLACES


Recurring Engagement


“Oh, my boy,” as Elvis might’ve mumbled from the stage; I’ve been keeping this blog current for almost a decade now. I have written satire and wretched verse. I have covered politics, business, history, sports and music. I’ve tried to promote my attempts at contemporary fiction. I have dwelled upon the fleeting absurdity of existence and continue to do so. And the weather. As Shelley actually wrote, “Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”


I envisioned Dispatches from the Crooked 9 as a genuine magazine. A compendium of what captured my scattered attention that particular day or week, which would in turn, I hoped, engage some of my readers some of the time. Nobody cares about everything and, anyway, I tend to flit about. A particular joy for me has been chronicling Ann’s and my travels. There’s always another world unfolding beyond the civic boundaries of the Crooked 9 and our neighbours’ eyes, and a reflective green highway city limits sign. I don’t take many photographs when we’re away, but I always pack a child’s Hilroy exercise book and a few pens; I prefer to scribble my impressions.


We have booked our first trip since covid walloped the world. A short flight to a comfortable place. I’m so excited that a trip yet to be taken counts as travel writing. Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, has always struck me as a very clichéd, veddy British place. At one time it was an important Royal Navy station, a check to the ambitions of Imperial Spain and the American ideology of Manifest Destiny. The Butchart Gardens suggest Kew, while the grand old Empress Hotel still serves high tea to Royal Doulton dowagers.


Victoria is home to Ann’s big brother Jim and his wife Shannon. The four of us are good friends, so much so that Ann and I have become friends with their friends. Jim is a retired accountant who loves to cook. On a visit our way he insisted on making macaroni and cheese, another dish to serve at a large, outdoor family gathering. I was almost pained watching him measure the ingredients so precisely. He didn’t count out the elbows per cup individually, but, you know, an internal struggle to refrain from doing so was evident. Shannon, a self-described “hot mess,” neither hurries nor rushes, no, Shannon “snaps a garter.”


The small grace of returning to a different place multiple times is familiarity. Ann and I enjoy ferreting through Victoria’s bookshops, one of which, Munro’s, is legendary among Canadian bookworms. There’s a record store in Fan Tan Alley that’s an absolute musty must for me. I’ve kept in touch with a high school and college chum who now resides in Victoria’s hippest neighbourhood, proximate to mile 0 of the Trans-Canada; we used to spend hours together earnestly dissecting the meaning of Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel songs, time well wasted. In Jim’s and Shannon’s company I cannot help but think of the Beatles and Lou Reed because we four go day tripping, doing the things that we want to. And oddly, shockingly, shock and odd, there are a few preferred pubs we make a point of frequenting.


The West Coast League (WCL), a baseball loop, has recently and somewhat absurdly expanded to Edmonton. I’m now aware of its existence. While Ann and I pondered visiting dates convenient for all and flight availability, I tracked our plans against the scheduled home games of the Victoria HarbourCats (not a typo, don’t get me started). Ann always enjoys a couple of hours at the ballpark on a sunny afternoon or warm evening. I always get a little extra kick watching baseball in an unfamiliar venue. Royal Athletic Park is a few blocks off Government Street, so not too too far from the water. We noted the club would welcome the Coquitlam Angels on Father’s Day.


Good hosts always ask visitors if there’s anything in particular or special they’d like to do. Good guests normally demure. While chatting with Jim and Shannon over the speaker phone I said, “Well, there’s a ballgame on the Sunday afternoon.” Worst case scenario was that I’d make my own way and meet up with the others afterward. That prospect didn’t bother me, better than examining pottery or local crafts, signed and numbered prints of frolicking orcas. We ended the call. They phoned back an hour later. They’d bought a dozen tickets; everybody in their Victorian circle was game.


I began to conceptualize this blog when Ann and I were in Parksville on Vancouver Island. We kept extending our overnight, one-off off season stay. I’d go to the desk each morning to book just another night. Jim and Shannon had recommended a casual resort to us, cabins and seclusion; a beach like boots – made for walking. I was reading Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men at the time, a borrowed, second-hand copy. I wondered where the book had been, it was a long way from home and many other places. Where might it go next?


My Victoria is a city strangely out of time. I’ve written about it in the past. Today I’m writing about it in the future. Come June I suspect I will write about it in the present. I’m covering a lot of the familiar, the same old ground, but how I wish, how I wish, Ann and I were there now. Then again, the HarbourCats won’t be playing yet.             


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of travel writing since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

A FAN’S NOTES


Guy Lafleur 1951 - 2022


The last time I saw Guy Lafleur play a National Hockey League (NHL) game, number 10 was him, but it wasn’t. Sort of a Schrodinger’s cat winger. He was the only player on Edmonton’s Northlands ice not wearing a helmet. His uniform was wrong, Quebec Nordiques powder blue. There was one fleeting, shining moment of another time and another place: Guy led a rush and once inside the Oilers zone he half spun and made a blind backhand pass, tape to tape; an assist for a legend who was already in hockey’s Hall of Fame and who used to score at will.


The NHL was formed in Montreal in 1917. Le Club Athletique Canadien was formed in 1909. The team was a stroke of marketing genius, a Quebecois antithesis to the existing Anglo Maroons and Wanderers. The Montreal Canadiens eventually came to dominate the NHL for three consecutive decades, the fifties, the sixties and the seventies. Those teams had tremendous depth but their identities were singular, each era featured a Quebecois superstar. “Rocket” Richard was the first NHLer to score 50 goals in 50 games. He is a myth now but during the fifties he was a veritable psychopath from the blue line in. Jean Beliveau exemplified the sixties, an elegant, rangy centre, a gentleman who later in life respectfully declined an offer to act as Canada’s Governor-General, our ceremonial head of state.


I came of age in the seventies, for better or worse. I think of Guy, “the Flower” in the English press and “le demon blond” in the French press, as a rocker. Like Jagger and other great front men during rock’s pop culture hegemony, he was all flash and all substance, utterly electrifying. The most exciting hockey player I have ever seen. Ken Dryden, the erudite goaltender of those phenomenal seventies Canadiens teams, wrote in his seminal book The Game that their best player whose game was built for speed was always destined to burn out rather than gracefully fade away.


It didn’t help that Guy tended to live like a rock star too. The sporting press in those days wasn’t tame but nor was it prurient. Beat writers and columnists kept their copy to performance, to shifts, to final scores: off ice was off limits. It was an open secret that Guy enjoyed a couple cigarettes between periods. When he nearly decapitated himself in a single vehicle accident after the bars had closed, well, hadn’t he played hard that night and subsequently grown tired driving the speed limit along a notoriously dark stretch of highway?


I’d rather watch old footage of Guy than regurgitate his statistics, but some are telling. He notched 1000 points in just 720 games. The goals and assists, reliably combining to more than 100 through six consecutive winters, were registered against every team in the league. Cleveland Barons, Kansas City Scouts, Colorado Rockies, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, bad teams, good teams, the opposition didn’t matter. And when it really mattered 134 points in 128 playoff games, including 58 goals. One glorious slap shot in one series ended the coaching career of Bruin buffoon and blowhard Don Cherry. Guy played another series aware that he might be sniped at or his family kidnapped. That’s why his name has been engraved on the Stanley Cup five times.


Hockey fans know the eighties heralded a changing of the guard. The Canadiens were getting older and the New York Islanders were getting good. When the Islanders got old, which didn’t take long, the Edmonton Oilers were getting good. The Canadiens began to play boring, defensive hockey. The neutral zone trap did not suit Guy, there was no space for élan, panache, fun. Of course, he’d lost half a step or so by that time. Still, he complained. The team awkwardly engineered his bitter retirement in 1985. It had all been so fleeting. It must have galled him that the Canadiens managed to steal the 1986 Stanley Cup without him skating on the right wing of the power play and the first or second forward lines.


Guy had been a god in the hockey capital of the world. The Theology Department of the Universite de Montreal now teaches a course on the Montreal Canadiens. The Shroud of Turin’s got nothing on the bleu, blanc et rouge sweaters. The old Forum on Ste-Catherine, since ineptly repurposed, remains something of a shrine. This is now. In 1988 Guy came out of retirement at age 37 to play for the New York Rangers and the Nords. He managed 107 points in 165 games thereby reducing his points per game average to a mere 1.20. C’mon. Wow. At least those clubs let him play what was left of his style of game.


The Montreal Canadiens ultimately made up with Guy because all the team had to market for its centenary was the past. The reluctant ambassador stumped for the club that had cut him loose years before. The Canadiens have always displayed a bland corporate mentality in that the organization is ruthless in ridding itself of what it perceives as difficult or diminishing assets. Trouble is the club has seldom got it right as flamboyant individuals do not fit easily into slots and they tend to thrive in less cloistered climes.


Guy’s life on the other side of the rinkboards was all a bit bizarre. He recorded a disco album. He plugged his scalp with implants and so when he flew on skates his blond hair no longer fluttered so much as sat through his velocity like some perfectly combed helmet. He touted Viagra on television. He tried to sway the legal proceedings surrounding one of his two sons only to find his godlike status in Quebec was confined to the Montreal Forum. Right wing, right thing, maybe he hadn’t been the world’s best father. He could not effect change in court, only on the ice. His restaurant business was, frankly, a bit of a boring drag: a mere greeter, a man like him. Heart problems followed for a star who’d played every game with every ounce of his own. Lung cancer too.


Unlike Beliveau, Guy was never a diplomat. And so when the Canadiens presented their presumedly rehabilitated goodwill Guy to the sports media to promote the team, he had no qualms going off message, revealing why he thought the current incarnation of the team sucked. I always sensed a certain glee, fire wagon hockey schadenfreude. Because, you know, when he played the game… I loved watching him. He moved like Jagger.         


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of hard-hitting, insightful sports coverage since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.