Sunday morning. A good one, more Aaron Neville lazy Sunday than Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday mornin’ comin’ down. The stereo
is playing Bruce Cockburn, early stuff from before he got all squirrelly about
rocket launchers and the fascist architecture. The weekend edition of The National Post is still pristine,
saved from yesterday for this quiet morning. My Beatles Apple Records mug is
brimming with freshly brewed ORGANIC FAIR
TRADE coffee. The Ocean Spray ruby red grapefruit 100% JUICE BLEND bottle sports a NEW LOOK! yet the Same Great
Taste with NO SUGAR ADDED. The
bread slices in the toaster are made With
delicious, high fibre, omega 3 flax seeds. Other ingredients include Sprouted organic whole grains, though no
iodine or Vitamin K according to the Nutrition Facts label, but zinc and copper
up the yin-yang. Free Run brown eggs
are sizzling in the black iron frying pan. I’ve sprinkled them with ground Tellicherry pepper. And I’m standing
before the stove wielding a spatula, monitoring as the whites cook white when I
glance at the counter and I read this on the lid of the grey carton: Eggs exclusively from hens who are free to
roam indoors and express some natural behaviours. Everything stops. Happy,
happy chickens. I turn the burner off and then pull the plug on the toaster. I
need to think about this. Has the agri-business and by extension white male
patriarchal society hithertofore exploited chickens? How long does the average
career of an industrial egg-laying hen last and what happens to them when
they’re done? I open a beer which boasts a DISTINCTIVE,
FULL-BODIED FLAVOUR. I go outside and light a cigarette that promises TRUE CANADIAN TASTE. My little
chickadees are flitting about the feeders hanging from the birch tree. The
Baptist couple stroll by with their dog but don’t stop, maybe because I’m
wearing flannel pants, a fleece and a sweat stained Chisox cap. Maybe because
I’m drinking and smoking. Maybe because they have to get to church or wherever
they go on Sunday mornings. Just another Christian brand and I wonder if
they’ll go see the new Noah movie and question why he remembered chickens and
chickadees but forgot to board the dinosaurs and unicorns before the great
flood lifted the ark? There’s a package of MAPLE
LEAF PRIME NATURALLY Portions chicken breasts in the freezer. GRAIN FED, AIR CHILLED and CANADIAN FARM RAISED. It’s possible
chickens got a raw deal from history and I suppose ruffled feathers constitute
a natural behaviour. As does crossing the road, but who went first? The roaming
chicken or the free run egg?
I like ‘fuck,’ I think it’s swell And I pronounce it rather well I have screamed it in the street Uttered it in a flush of heat I often use it as a verb A noun, a gerund, or just a word Fuck you, you fucking fuck Moron, cretin, you dumb cluck I still spin the Sex Pistols often ‘Cause no one sings it like Johnny Rotten But mainly I’ve just fucked myself With gospel lies from the Catholic shelf When the boss said, ‘It’ll be this way’ I cashed my cheque and said, ‘Okay’ When truth became our leaders’ lies This voter took it all in stride My ideals and self-respect Are epitomes of a fucking wreck Freud suggests I blame my mother Yet my life’s my own and no other Some days I want to lose this skin Though I can never come back again I’ve learned to cope each night and day And ‘Fuck it all,’ is what I say
My weekend head snaps around I shout ‘Nooo!’ like Nicolas Cage And dive headlong with a magazine page Alas, the beast is far too fast He heaves it up with one great gasp It glistens on a carpet two weeks new Leaves of plants and kibble stew A stinking lumpy golden mound Always announced by that same sound When the cat cries ‘Meow! Bletch!’ I know the bastard’s going to retch Yes, when he crouches and howls that ‘Mew!’ Jesus Christ! He’s going to spew
matter what anyone thinks of her policies, Alison Redford was undone by an old
party machine badly in need of replacement. She deserved better. Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark as quoted in this week’s Edmonton Journal.
is… a human story. It is about a real person, a good person, a person who loves
this province and has worked and made incredible sacrifices… And it’s the story
of a system that takes someone like that and chews them up and spits them out. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi as quoted in this week’s Edmonton Journal.
Alberta’s politics sometimes seem as stagnant as a tar sands tailings pond.
The Progressive Conservatives have owned the legislature since 1971 when they
unseated the Social Credit Party who’d grown complacent since their first
majority in 1935. The stability of decades of Tory dominance in Edmonton, four and creeping, is somewhat preferable to the
‘Oh Christ, here we go again’ fatalism inflicted upon citizens by the ever
shifting sentiments of the national assembly in Quebec City. Yet out here hard by the eastern
slopes of the Rockies, things don’t seem quite
as copasetic as they once did.
Alison Redford is the third Tory premier to
be deposed in the past ten years. As with the orchestrated demises of her two
predecessors, Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, her personal popularity was polling
in the bottom of a trough, perhaps a pork barrel. Perception is everything and long knives were
sharpened in Tory committee rooms across the province. The PCs have always been
willing to eat their own in exchange for retaining power.
Redford of course made some dreadful missteps. These times have been
uncertain for most taxpayers and she wasn’t wise to blatantly leverage the
publicly funded perks that go with shilling pipelines. There is some evidence
that Redford was too progressive for old guard
PCs. It’s no secret that Prime Minister Harper and his cadre of federal
Progressive Conservatives were rooting for the far right Wildrose Party during Alberta’s last
provincial election held just 29 months ago.
‘The party’ is a vaguely sinister phrase. It
evokes Darkness at Noon in 1984. Alberta PCs seem equally ruthless
when it comes to neutralizing their elected, though inconvenient, leaders.
There is an overwhelming suggestion that the party, and therefore the province,
is governed from backstage by an elite of unelected Tory rainmakers. The Journal reports that the party has
already begun tinkering with the mechanism it utilizes to select its public
figurehead. The next leader will be someone they
want, the dues paying grassroots membership be damned. The fix is underway. The
fix, like the internal rot, is in.
The windows were cranked open and on the
stereo the Oscar Peterson Trio was cranked up: Night Train. My gun was in pieces on the table, the parts lay like
a puzzle on an oily rag. My cigarette tasted good and my chilled beer even
better. It was nearly noon. Ann Fatale was out being massaged and waxed or
whatever it is dames do when they go to the spa.
Spring, sort of. The days linger a little
longer. That funny old sun shines down from a slightly steeper angle. The air
smells a little fresher, like it does when you walk out of a backroom high
stakes poker game at dawn with everyone else’s money. Ice patches have become
brittle and crack easily. The snow begins to recede, retreating from the bases
of trees and bushes to reveal the dusty brown winterkill.
Maybe climate change is real. It had been
an unusually harsh winter and I’d done my share of killing. The name’s Danger,
Geoff Danger. I’m no hero, just a fixer. Maybe the last honest man left in this
dirty old town. And everybody’s got to live somewhere, even Ann and me. I can’t
boast that we’re good neighbours or upstanding community league members. Our
Welcome Wagon has no wheels, but the bar is stocked.
I reassembled my heater and rammed a full
magazine into its butt. I made sure there was a shell in the firing chamber and
then set the safety. Glock locked and loaded. Oscar was playing I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good so I
knew I had about 10 minutes to the end of side two. A happy dilemma: maybe
another smoke and another beer and some Bud Powell or Horace Silver; or maybe a
shave and shower and then another smoke and another beer and some Bud Powell or
Horace Silver. It was looking to be a fine, fine day.
The fresh breeze wafted a ting, ping, chingle into the kitchen. I
glanced outside. The blue jay that hangs around the massive lilac in the
backyard beady eyed me with mild alarm, ‘It wasn’t me, man!’ he seemed to say.
Wind chimes, I thought. Some sad son of a bitch has hung wind chimes. A no-no.
Bud and Horace would have to wait, this had to be dealt with immediately.
Wind chimes are a lot like police sirens in
that, at least initially, you can’t tell which direction they’re coming from. I
stood in the back lane and listened. It took me less than half a cigarette and
four sips of beer to pinpoint the source.
I went through somebody’s back gate into
some sort of magical fairyland. There were LED lights strung in the low hanging
branches of the firs, painted plywood cut-outs of animals, a sandbox, a slide
and monkey bars. And wind chimes. I knocked on the door. A young fellow
answered. He carried a baby in his arms. Two older children clung to his legs.
He asked, ‘Can I help you?’
‘You live here by yourself?’ Aggressive
questions make people hesitate, retreat yet speak.
‘Uh, no, my wife works and I’m on parental
‘I live across the alley,’ I said,
friendly. ‘The name’s Danger, Geoff Danger. What’s your wife do?’ Seemingly
‘Uh, she’s in marketing.’
‘Selling manna to the masses, eh?’
‘Cookies and soda to fat kids,’ I said.
He grinned uncertainly. ‘I guess you could
say that.’ He scanned me from hair to feet, yet still managed to keep one eye
on his toddlers. ‘What’s the baseball bat for?’
‘This,’ I said, ‘is a Louisville Slugger.
It weighs 34 ounces. A nice piece of ash,’ I said, momentarily distracted by
the image of Ann Fatale nude and perspiring gracefully within the confines of a
stone and cedar sauna. ‘It’s a Henry Aaron model, probably the best ballplayer
I ever saw.’
‘What about Mays or Clemente?’ he inquired.
‘The only stat that really matters is total
bases.’ This wasn’t going quite right. ‘Look,’ I said, ‘I’m going to use this
bat on your windows, your car, your head, your children, I don’t care. Do you
have a pet? Or I could just use it on your goddamn wind chimes. Your choice.’
‘Look,’ he repeated, ‘my wife put a lot of
work into this yard for the kids. I hate the chimes too, but I don’t need the
agro. Couldn’t you just disable them instead of destroying them? Leave them
hanging? You know how it is, people in familiar surroundings eventually cease
to be aware of the sights and sounds. Just take out the dinger thingy or
Clever boy, I thought. ‘I can do that,’ I
‘You’d be doing me a favour,’ he said.
‘You’re a seamhead, aren’t you?’
I squinted at him. ‘A what?’
‘A baseball nut. Why don’t you come in and
sit down and talk a little ball? There’s beer in the fridge. I can’t,’ he said
nodding at his three children, ‘I’m on duty until 5:30 or so. There’s a pair of
pliers somewhere too. You’ll need them. Probably in the junk drawer by the
dishwasher. Help yourself.’
‘You strike me as a little stir crazy, my
‘Pretty much. Pretty much.’
I walked into his kitchen and took a seat. The beer was cold and Ann would not be home for a while. ‘I saw Mays and Clemente too,’ I began…
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers this
week announced the fall publication of a children’s book written by Rolling
Stones guitarist Keith Richards. The book is illustrated by his daughter
Theodora Richards. The book is titled Gus
& Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar and was penned
without the assistance of James Fox, Keith’s Life collaborator.
You can view the cover art and read the
press release at keithrichards.com. You can read an unedited transcript of the first
draft (dictated into a recording device) here and only
A meGeoff world exclusive:
always took candy from strangers. I mean, if you’re gonna get wasted, get
wasted elegantly, heh-heh… The only problems I’ve had have been with policemen.
Booze and pills and powders, choose your medicine. You won’t catch a cold on
the poppy. Me and Lucifer, we’re like this, heh-heh… And Mick’s a great bunch
of guys, the bitch. The pool’s in but the patio ain’t dry. Istanbul could be interesting. Wild horses,
man. Some Girls?
We couldn’t remember their fucking names. White chicks, heh-heh… Girl, you’re
too rude. She’s got a mind of her own and she use it well. Guitars are shaped
like women. I’ve slept with my guitars. Five strings, open G, man. The Mounties had
to wake me up. We were gonna bring down the government. Coming down again. I’ve
never turned blue in someone else’s bathroom. The height of very bad manners. I wasn’t
looking too good but I was feeling real well. Heaven’s never struck me as an
interesting place to be and mind the Catholics, they’re even dodgier. Better get some sleep tonight. I've been up for nine days.
from this morning’s Globe and Mail: The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications
Commission alleges that two specialty porn channels may not be airing enough
Canadian content or closed captioning.
The Canadian beaver or Castor canadensis is an industrious, mainly nocturnal creature
known for its inherent shyness. This happy little soul prefers to frolic
privately in dark, moist places. The beaver may be found virtually everywhere
and thrives especially in densely populated urban areas after Happy Hour.
Beavers are generally tame and are prized by the vast majority of Canadians who
either own one or would like to pet one. For more information about our frisky
friend the beaver, why not contact the Canadian Wildlife Service in Ottawa?
My Expos are ten years gone although the
sun is the same in a relative way but I’m older by a decade and that much
closer to sharing their fate.
At our regular Tuesday pub supper last week
my old friend Stats Guy was animated about pitchers and catchers reporting,
that long distance signal from warmer climes that winter here may yet be on the
wane. The vacuum between Super Bowl and baseball’s spring training which used
to be filled by Sports Illustrated’s
Baptist stroke book, the swimsuit issue, has been ably plugged by hockey games
broadcast on multiple sports channels in television’s new digital universe. The
spring magic of freshly groomed infield dirt, pattern-mowed grass and easy,
lazy swings from the batter’s box has since lost its lustre. Montreal is no longer a line in the National
League’s East Division standings. The game doesn’t miss the Expos, but I do.
When the Expos began life in 1969 they
played home games in an aluminum bandbox called Jarry Park,
there was a swimming pool beyond the right field fence. Jarry was situated in
Park Extension, never noted as one of Montreal’s
better neighbourhoods. I was raised nearby in the wealthier Town of Mount Royal. The ballpark
was within walking distance and as a member of the Bank of Montreal’s Young
Expos Club I paid only 50-cents for a $1 left field bleacher seat. Trouble was,
once across the boundary of L’Acadie
Boulevard, I was a Townie on Parkie turf. The
survival strategy was to become invisible on Saint Roch Street, blend in, or
run like hell through the nine block gauntlet of older street corner boys
before or after games, in whichever direction.
Years later I met a guy who grew up around
Jarry, a cook in his father’s and uncle’s Saint Catherine Street pizza joint. He
had happy memories of chasing Townies up and down Saint Roch. We laughed. More
importantly, hanging around the yard so much he became acquainted with many of
the players and possessed a bevy of balls and cracked bats to prove it. I was
envious. And those were different times; a kid could approach a ballplayer
Following the first-ever Olympic Games held
the Expos migrated to the white elephant toilet bowl known locally as the Big
Owe. The stadium was the crowning jewel of the multi-purpose behemoth era and a
truly awful place to watch anything, let alone a baseball game. However the
club had improved enough to fail, to begin breaking Expos fans’ hearts and
anyway, the nine beers through nine innings game was always fun.
As the Expos became scary good in the early
90s circumstances began to collide, collude to crush them. The game’s economics
were as insane as the financial ledgers of a province bent on independence but
way more in the black. The Expos were always the younger brother of the
Montreal Canadiens, summer players in a winter city in a hockey town – although
both franchises struggled equally with a peso-like Canadian dollar as members
of leagues that conducted business strictly with dead presidents. The Canadiens
of course managed to finance their own new sparkling arena in the heart of
only to complain about the property taxes. The Expos dreamed of being literally
right next door in a retro-style, baseball-only facility. Whether we’re talking
about a Quebec Inc. ownership consortium or a pair of baseball pants, alas, the
pockets are not deep. There’s room for a tin of chaw, a batting glove, and in
the 80s, maybe a gram or two of cocaine. At the end, playing home games in Puerto
Rico, the franchise became the living embodiment of Philip Roth’s
Port Rupert Mundys, the homeless baseball team whose lost season is chronicled
in The Great American Novel. Life
A decade on, the bitter pill swallowed
remains the diameter of a craw-cramming hockey puck. Any modicum of
sentimentality over big business, big entertainment and big sport at this stage
of life strikes me as naïve or even weak. Yet, something’s been lost and maybe
it’s just me, knowing that when I go home again I cannot go to the ballpark nor
can I lie in bed listening to a late night Expos AM radio broadcast from America’s west
coast. Rain delays were to die for. Duke Snider, the Brooklyn Dodger legend and
Expos colour man, would start telling stories to commentator Dave Van Horne
(who still does the Florida Marlins play-by-play): “Why, Dave, one time when
the Dodgers were in Japan,
me and Jackie (Robinson)…”
I bumped into Duke Snider once. There is a
grocery store on Saint Catherine
Street between Tower and Fort, not far from the
old Montreal Forum. I asked him what he thought of The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn’s seminal book on the Brooklyn
Dodgers of Duke’s era. He said a lot of it wasn’t true. As I was wearing an
A&P apron and he was looking for Sun Maid raisins there wasn’t time for
follow up questions. His comment did not ruin the book for me, in fact I’ve
since reread it.
Professional baseball has existed since the
National League’s founding in 1876. Given the sport’s head start on North
America’s other pro leagues, its century of dominant popularity and its innate
ability to mythologize itself, it’s little wonder that baseball has inspired so
much poetry and prose, some it great. I’ve long believed that the best writing
in most daily newspapers is to be read in the sports section. Not because of
the gravitas of the subject, but
because it takes a certain flair to tell a story under deadline in which
everybody knows the ending. This was especially true during the heyday of
print, when a big city would be served by at least three competing dailies and
publications such as The Sporting News,
Sport and Sports Illustrated strove to outdo each other’s features and
Because it is March and because it’s
20-below outside, my traditional annual baseball read is on the night table.
This year it’s Hank Aaron’s I Had a
Hammer. Last year it was The
Teammates by the late David Halberstam whose writings on sport outshone his
brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning political histories; perhaps because passion
played a part. Through the years I have read genius, notably The Glory of Their Times, Lawrence
Ritter’s oral history of baseball’s early days. I’ve read crap too, Billy
Martin’s Number 1 springs to mind.
Everything in between, the bios and the memoirs, have their merits and
The Expos lived as long as Jesus Christ, 33
years (there's a peculiar faith in certain circles that each may yet return). As such, they’re a footnote in baseball’s canon although Mordecai Richler, Canada’s greatest writer, sighted
them for a few broadsides in various essays on baseball. The Expos Inside Out by Dan Turner is the most definitive book I
have on the franchise. It was published in 1983.
On March 25th Random House
Canada will publish Up, Up, and Away
by Jonah Keri. The last word on the Expos apparently and an ironic twist on
Dave Van Horne’s signature home run call (remember the swimming pool beyond
Jarry’s right field fence). I’ve never heard of the author although Amazon
gushes over his credentials as one of the new breed of sports writers. The full
title of the book, multiple Oxford commas included, is a hot sauced, gut
clenching, cringe: Up, Up and Away: The
Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business
of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. I did not make that up.
My hunch is that Jonah Keri didn’t either.
Even though Stats Guy grew up in southern California and followed
the Dodgers I’m certain he will buy this new book. Friends from the old nine
beers in nine innings club will too. I’ll await their reviews. I’d like to go
back even though it doesn’t really matter anymore. But sometimes it still does.