Wednesday, 22 March 2023



I love Chuck Berry’s music; the Rolling Stones were my introduction. His songs were vernacular poetry, wordplay calculated for mass contemporary appeal yet destined to remain relatable decades later. They always told a story and they always had a lyrical hook: There was a cool young whippersnapper/Who used to love to run and play/But the draft board got him/They inducted him today/It wasn’t me/Must have been somebody else/It wasn’t me

A Berry song that has always stuck with me is “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” because of its baseball verse: Two-three the count with nobody on/He hit a high fly into the stands/Rounding third and headed for home was a brown-eyed handsome man. I don’t care how many pitches a great hitter fouls off, you can’t have a two-three count in modern baseball. In 1886 a full count would’ve been four-three, but I digress. Then again, Berry’s brown-eyed handsome man did leave his mark throughout all of human history; Venus de Milo lost both her arms wrestling another woman to catch and win him and by the close of the song, he, originally written as a brown-skinned handsome man, is cleared of any and all charges by a smitten court. He is free. Needless to say, there’s a whole heck of a lot going on in this catchy allegory.

The Globe and Mail two weeks ago ran a story by its music critic examining the state of contemporary pop. The compositional consequences of streaming in an era of TikTok attention spans are brevity and lack of traditional structure. Taking it to the bridge is best left to the likes of James Brown. I flagged the story for my friend Kevin who writes and records as the Muster Point Project (his latest single is “I Don’t Mind”). We met 30 years ago in the Canada Safeway advertising department (Kevin designed the cover of my first novel, Murder Incorporated). About an hour later I sent him some nonsense verse called “Stream This!” I was thinking anything by the Ramones or “Rip This Joint” by the Rolling Stones, short and fast. He ran with the joke. Another hour later he replied with a demo. He wondered too if I had anything else. Seriously?

I try to read a book about baseball every spring. There’s a quickie one about the Montreal Expos on my night table now. Some old habits are so hard to break. The outdoor chore cap I keep by the back door has switched sports (the Canadiens were done before Grey Cup Day anyway). Berry’s legendary slugger crossed my mind. Stories need twists, words can be twisted and catchphrases can be turned around. If I say, “Leave it to me” and you say, “Leave it to Geoff,” chances are we're talking two very different things.

I sent Kevin an untitled set of lyrics. He wrote music for them and named our song “Handsome.” I never told him, but that peculiar synchronicity blew my mind. Kevin decided the chorus needed brass. Because, you know, Kevin thinks big, always has, and, anyway, it never hurts to get a quote, he got in touch with the London-based Kick Horns who’ve recorded parts for the Stones and Eric Clapton. They liked our song, they got the gag, and they really got Kevin’s dummy horn arrangement. You can listen to the evolving demo here on SoundCloud.

The Muster Point area on SoundCloud features a few of our other recent collaborations, including “Stream This!,” “I Love That Song,” and “Grub Street.” Don’t forget your Muster Point merchandise either! Kevin’s debut album is available as an 8-track tape (I believe a shared offbeat sense of humour cemented our friendship). Certified and genuine Muster Point Project music, including “I Don’t Mind,” can be streamed on Apple Music and Spotify. 

 meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of chartbusting hits since 2013. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers.

Saturday, 11 March 2023


Housework After Midnight

I stay up mopping after midnight

I use a flashlight

That’s what I do, always mopping

After midnight, cleaning up for you

While I was vac-a-q-ming

An attachment whispered to me

Wafting on an upfloat

I heard a silent dust mote

Say I sound like Arlo Guthrie, that hippie

He rhymed motorcycle and pickle

Pronunciation not too fickle

And just like both the Trudeaus

Who lived upon the Rideau

The kid ain’t worth a nickel, a hammer or a sickle

Well I’ve raised the carpet pile

Singing Patsy all the while

Baseboards are drudgery

And I should let the angel be

Time to wash the kitchen tile, shine it up with style       

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of execrable verse since 2013. Apologies to Patsy Cline. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers.

Tuesday, 7 March 2023


Needless Complications

Oh (insert non-gender-specific noun here)!

Netflix last weekend reimagined the world of entertainment. It streamed live comedy on a Saturday night. The event was a Chris Rock special. The comedian was the host of last year’s Oscar ceremonies which took place in March. You may recall a tame joke careening so sideways that one paragraph in his eventual obituary was able to write itself on the spot.

I didn’t watch the appropriately timed Selective Outrage. I didn’t even know it was on. Contemporary comedy hasn’t, with few exceptions, really resonated with me: The human condition is the constant and better jokes about our absurd state of affairs have been made before. I’m a laughter libertarian, nothing is inappropriate or off limits. Oh my, offense is entirely subjective. And, anyway, with few exceptions, my friends, family and colleagues have always made me laugh harder than any seasoned pro could.

Celebrity sissy fights don’t mean nothing to me. Monday The Globe and Mail published a review of Chris Rock’s Selective Outrage Netflix special. Normally I would’ve just turned the broadsheet page over to the national weather map, but the word “toxic” in the headline caught my eye. The real hook was a mysterious portmanteau neologism in the sub-head: “misogynoir.”

I thought, Qu’est-ce que fuck?

The critic, apparently more woke than a colicky baby boy on Viagra, complained that Rock’s riffing on his schoolyard spat “reeked of misogynoir.” The term was then defined parenthetically: “misogyny against Black women.” A free society is a dynamic society. Thank Dog for that, but sometimes it’s hard to keep abreast of changes, cultural and linguistic. Black women used to be African-American women and before that, black women, no cap. I never thought an ugly blanketing term like “misogyny” would need to be quantified or refined, specialized and personalized like an Amazon algorithmic shopping suggestion.

Does this mean “Brown Sugar” must be consigned to the dustbin more than 50 years after its debut on Rolling Stones Records because it constitutes misogynoir? Could it not merely be a louche and lascivious song about the sleazy underbelly of pre-Emancipation New Orleans? “I got 99 problems, bitch ain’t one,” is the only Jay-Z lyric I know. Seems like a compliment, but then again, “bitch” is definitely a misogynistic pejorative when I use it. Is it even fair to infer the bitch in question is Black?

Portions of contemporary society are hypersensitive, hair trigger. Prickly activists, academics, pundits default to outrage, so much so that even a couch potato can move fast and break things with a few keystrokes. I’m qualified to write about words because I used them frequently, almost daily. I’m qualified to write about arts and culture because I’ve consumed them my entire life. But I’m not sure that I know what I used to know any more. Are Ralph Ellison and Colson Whitehead great American writers or are they now great Black writers? The distinction makes no difference to me because I don’t believe it’s that important. They write what they write about and my life’s been that much richer for reading their prose. I’m not entirely comfortable with Sharpies being taken to lines that are slowly and relentlessly being erased. Did misogynoir really need to be coined for clarity? The root word is definitive, an absolute.    

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of etymology since 2013. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023


Springsteen and Me

I remember an aimless drive through the twilit streets of Montreal, a warm Sunday in 1987. The subdued Tunnel of Love was Springsteen’s latest release. My friend Robert was at the wheel of his Mazda. My job as rider was to work the cassette deck in dash. He worked in printing as a film stripper and constantly worried about his vision because in that specialized trade the eyes have it. He played rugby at a high level but was irked he wasn’t quite good enough to be selected for the provincial side. I managed the night shift in a grocery store, a job I hated; I tried to write every day, either freelance assignments or fiction. We were both pushing 30 and incredibly frustrated with our stations to date in life. You can’t help but bring stuff like that home at the end of a shift. Do it often enough and it taints everything; it spoils the view of what’s great in and about your life. We must’ve had “One Step Up” on repeat five or six times: I’m the same old story, same old act, one step up and two steps back.

I don’t believe a lovelier song about self-loathing has ever been written. I don’t like to hear it now; I’ve come a long way. Another Springsteen song I can’t bear is “Streets of Philadelphia.” My brother’s death from cancer was an agonizing process for me to helplessly observe. There were peaks and valleys, hope and despair. And my clothes don’t fit me no more. The lines about physical decline broke my heart. And too the chilly rationalization of a lapsed Catholic intellect: Ain’t no angel going to greet me, it’s just you (death) and I, my friend. I sat up nights alone in the dark with a bottle of Irish whisky with that song on repeat. Headphones. But, you know, we saw Springsteen together 20 years before that. And the Rolling Stones too.

The most endearing of Springsteen’s brilliant guises to me is that of the wildly romantic and insanely verbose greaser street poet. That phase was consolidated in 1975 with Born to Run. That album was my gateway Springsteen drug. I had a hero who hadn’t come from my big brother’s or big sister’s record collections; Springsteen was mine even though he was closer to my siblings’ ages than mine. And strangely, from Darkness on the Edge of Town through to Human Touch/Lucky Town, he was always writing and singing about where I seemed to be in my life. Springsteen and me, we were like this. This connection strikes me as maybe something of a sad projection: I somehow feel like Robert DeNiro as Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy. And yet, fandom manifested is like two sides of an album: There is trying desperately to emulate Keith Richards at age 17 and then there is a thoughtful dissection of a doomed relationship through the prism of Blood on the Tracks; they are very different but they are the same.

As the world continues to transform amphetamine-apace, the Stones haven’t changed. Some of their albums are moonlight miles ahead of others, but you always know what you’re going to get. Springsteen, while no Bowie chameleon, is as variable as Dylan: There are E Street albums, solo albums, hybrids, really, really stark solo albums, and discs of folk and soul covers. Tracks and the expanded reissues of Darkness and The River provide a glimpse into an alternative career in a parallel universe. I will always buy a Springsteen album, but honestly, the nine records released between The Rising and Western Stars haven’t stuck. I don’t know them backward and forward like The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.

A one-sided relationship of nearly fifty years isn’t always automatically simpatico, same page chapter and verse every time. Unless it’s live. The Stones and Springsteen are consistent: they don’t come around often and they’re the most preposterously astonishing live acts I’ve ever seen. A ticket was a guaranteed great night out. God bless artists like Little Richard, James Brown and Tina Turner for showing Jagger and Springsteen the critical importance of actually entertaining their audiences. (I’m reminded of a Rolling Stone review from the seventies accusing the Eagles of loitering on stage – some things never change as the brand plays on.) Springsteen’s “prisoner of rock ‘n’ roll” shtick isn’t as impromptu as it seems. The joy is in his wink, he knows you know that. Showmanship. Springsteen has fun at work; I’ve spent my entire adult life wondering how that must feel.

When a mid-autumn date for Edmonton was announced, my mind went into Kathleen Turner Overdrive, a sort of distempered Pavlovian response: This’ll be great! Haven’t seen him for 20 years! About the same lag for the Stones, come to think of it. Let’s face it, they’re done. But Springsteen’s only 73 and hale not frail. I’m no kid anymore, either. Maybe he can still “drive” the mic stand? Stage slides and piano jumps are probably out. Still. The last three albums have ranged from great to good. But only one with E Street. The band’s like a hockey team; the nickname’s stayed but the roster’s rotated. Still, it’ll be a great show! No doubt! No risk! An expensive blast. What’s my ticket price ceiling? They don’t cost two hours of work at the A&P these days. What’s this Ticketmaster “verified fan” and dynamic pricing bullshit? Not that I’d be sleeping out in February, at my age. Fuckit, it’s not life and death, just a concert; I’ve seen him three times. Christ, my bladder really wanted that ’81 show at the Montreal Forum to end about half an hour sooner. If I get a ticket this time, I’ll really have to monitor beer consumption; the old scrotum was much more elastic then. No way he’ll go over three hours, then again, you just never know. That's the magic! And if he does, I bet you he won’t play Incident on 57th Street. Bastard! Fucker should let me write the set list. What does he know?

P.S.: My friend Robert bought his employer out and then sold the firm when he decided to retire. 

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of insight into glory days since 2013. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers.