Sunday, 30 March 2014


EAT ME

 

Pecking Orders

 
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?

Thursday, 27 March 2014


NONSENSE VERSE

 

My Favourite Word

 
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

Sunday, 23 March 2014


NONSENSE VERSE

 

The Tabby’s Delicate Tummy

 

When Mungo the cat makes that sound
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

Friday, 21 March 2014


EDMONTON EXISTENTIAL

 

Alberta Premier Says Good Night, Calls It a Day

 

No 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.

 

This 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.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


NOIR CANADIANA

 

The Day of the Wind Chimes

 

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. I smiled.

 

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 leave.’

 

‘I live across the alley,’ I said, friendly. ‘The name’s Danger, Geoff Danger. What’s your wife do?’ Seemingly curious now.

 

‘Uh, she’s in marketing.’

 

‘Selling manna to the masses, eh?’

 

‘Excuse me?’

 

‘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 whatever.’

 

Clever boy, I thought. ‘I can do that,’ I said.

 

‘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 son.’

 

‘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…

Thursday, 13 March 2014


SAINTS PRESERVE US

 

Countdown to the Apocalypse

 

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 here.

 

A meGeoff world exclusive:

 
I 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.

Thursday, 6 March 2014


SAINTS PRESERVE US

 

Hinterland Who’s Who

 

Item 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.

 

Cue the loon.

 
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 in Canada 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?

Sunday, 2 March 2014


A FAN’S NOTES

 

The Montreal Expos and Baseball Lit

 

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 then.

 

Following the first-ever Olympic Games held in Canada, 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 downtown Montreal, 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 imitates art.

 

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 na├»ve 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 analyses.

 

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 demerits.

 

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.