Wednesday, 22 July 2015



Baptism of the Ball Cap


I wear ball caps frequently. As Edmonton is home once more I wanted one that offered up a nod to the city. A hockey Oilers cap was out of the question. Triple A Pacific Coast League baseball in this town is a distant memory, hell, so are the independent Canadian, Northern and Golden leagues. I settled on displaying my support of the football Eskimos.


The team’s entwined double E logo is one of the classier ones in sport and the club’s green and gold colours remind me of Alberta, specifically the green stalks and golden tops of the acres of canola you see from the highway. The trouble with most modern team apparel is that the designs seem intent upon making fans look like inbred Shrine Circus clowns. So it took me two years to find a suitable lid, a plain solid green cap with a gold embroidered EE which I bought last week for $20, my self-imposed spending limit.


New ball caps need to be broken in. The bill must be curved just so. The cats must nuzzle the bill’s rim and deposit muzzle goo. The headband needs to smell like my hair and my sweat. The sun, the rain and snow need to dull the brand new lustre.


Nobody ever hired me and paid me to be ineffectual and incompetent. One of the eye-opening lessons I learned early in life is that some people aren’t very good at their jobs. What’s worse is when you’ve actually employed them. Complaints and concerns tend to go unheeded once the cheque’s been cashed.


A year ago Ann had our gently pitched tar and gravel roof replaced with shingles. The front of the house is not a clean line from left to right, there’s a little zig above the steps leading onto the front porch. We spend a lot of time together sitting out under the shelter: talking; watching the street life serenade, the birds at the feeder hanging from the birch and the weather, which tends to roll in from the north. Given our habit and our suddenly volatile climate, Ann and I were quickly aware that the new eavestroughs and downspouts weren’t performing as promised. Water spurted and cascaded from all the wrong places. We grew some spectacular icicles last winter. Home improvements aren’t supposed to create new problems.


But the roofer’s an expert, right? This is how he makes his living. He disparaged members of his crew as idiots as good help was hard to find; we were not reassured. And anyway, it was likely my fault for not keeping the gutters pristine. And what was he supposed to do about last winter’s accelerated freeze and thaw cycle? Ice dams are damn tricky. As for freaky, violent summer storms…


Monday night the electric sky exploded in bursts of white and purple. The low clouds were science fiction orange. Wind marched the howling silver rain down the street in martial sheets. Ann and I sat out and sat up late to watch the show. I was wearing my new Eskimos hat. We realized that this moment was the opportunity to prove ourselves right to the contractor. The saturating night was no roofer’s controlled test with our garden hose tap opened a quarter turn. The lone spout in the backyard, the mouth of a lengthy, simple single gutter was a torrent, the ray gun snouts of our Dalek water barrels were spurting overflow. The downspout on the front left of the house was foaming but not working nearly as hard. Rainwater overflowed the trough above the front porch. The front right downspout emitted a mere chilly trickle.

I stood in the rain on our driveway and pondered the zig of our front eavestroughs, mystified. The pouring rain did its job working in my new hat, I was pleased about that. Ann called out the geometry from the lee of the front porch. The gutters must meet in a subtle V over our front steps. They slant away from their respective downspouts installed at each front corner. It doesn’t take more than a few fractions of an inch for water to pool and overflow or run where it shouldn’t go. I took off my cap to feel the cool rain on my face and work the sopping brim so its arc will be just so. I thought about the roofer: Well, well, well, it took a year, but we’ve got you dead to rights (and lefts) now, you arrogant idiot bastard.

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