Monday, 26 December 2016


The Ice Man Cometh (Sort of)

Seven, maybe six, possibly eight years ago I was in Toronto on business. I managed to corral a friend for a night on the town after remote office hours. The excursion eventually concluded in a bar on Queen Street - mercifully within weaving distance of my hotel. The joint’s theme was, I vaguely recall, ironic hipster communist, red stars and Groucho Marx and John Lenin and alcohol. Perhaps because of the setting and my friend being a musician and me having had my first novel published, drunken artists unable to make a living off our fields of passion, our conversation turned to politics, specifically the state of the Left.

I pontificated, hopefully in an undertone, that the Left has always been bereft of sensible economic policy but since it had pretty much dictated social mores in our country, and rightfully so, it was now seeking a new windmill to tilt at and its current bete noire was ecology, us in our environment. Whales, gluten and meat had been forsaken for the grander, abstract concept of global warming. And ‘global warming’ had been hastily re-branded as ‘climate change’ and that sudden zigzag in terminology and definition was cause for alarm to an ad man like me because obviously the primary premise had been flawed and the new message came across as a hasty patch to beta Version 1.0. Where were the R and D, and Q and A, anyway?

Well, dear me, was I ever wrong. Time has told. Science too.

Edmonton is Canada’s northernmost major metropolis. It is a winter city, which is to say that for many months of the year it’s fucking cold. The sun’s on a broken dimmer switch, the days are short and the nights are longer than a Baptist Sunday sermon. A recent Bishop of Rome, perhaps John Paul II, allowed that Hell indeed was a human construct. In my Canadian Hell it is 50 below, I am naked, alone, and I am wet. I cannot imagine further misery. Oh, wait, the songs of the Poppy Family as sung by Paul Anka are on eternal repeat.

Growing up I was never a Cub or a Scout, never a joiner. I’ve always preferred my own company excepting those times when it has just been me with me and there’s nothing left to mutter about, only walls to climb. Rah-rah teambuilding advocates whose exercises were endured throughout my career in advertising only fertilized my latent misanthropy. Knowing all of this, I, in a moment of unhinged transcendence, volunteered for our neighbourhood’s outdoor ice rink maintenance crew.

Outdoor hockey is a tired trope in this country, a marketing cliché for anyone who wants to sell anything wrapped in the prickly and nostalgic wool of soft nationalism. Still, there is something magical about shinny, informal games played without persnickety referees, fewer rules and no padding. Hockey is the best sport on Earth when it’s just played by a group of friends with strangers. Nuances need not be negotiated. No goalies means no lifters, hacking and slappers are tacitly forbidden.

My volunteer motives were threefold and entirely selfish. I wanted to force myself to get out as I can easily and pleasurably pass time engrossed in a book or the sides of a record album. I prefer exercise that achieves a companion benefit or result. I cannot comprehend Lululemon gym hamsters who work out on machines that simulate actual activity. The two-inch diameter watering hose is more than 200-feet long and wound on an iron spool, heavy metal and rubber. Finally, a clean sheet of outdoor ice allows me time travel. Alone on a rink wearing a team sweater, I can again be a kid with dreams of growing up and being as good as Jean Beliveau or Bobby Orr.

Ideally you make ice when it’s between eight and 12 below. You lay down a spray over the entire rink and when you retrace your steps to do it again your first layer will be frozen. A proper hockey ready sheet requires some 40 or 50 hours of labour. Watering a base of turf too heavily in milder weather results in unsightly yellow patches because the drenching displaces soil and minerals which rise. The resulting blotches are overly prone to gouging and spot melting on a sunny day. Our volunteer crew efforts to date have been uncoordinated. I visited the rink twice last week but nobody else was there, perhaps because the outdoor temperature was too warm. Like anyone hours into a new job, I hesitated to take the initiative, worried about making slush and undoing what little we’d already accomplished.

The physical plant for our rink, essentially a big tap, is housed in the adjacent community hall. That public building is a new one. It opened in September, over budget and rife with niggling functionality issues mostly caused by a ‘green’ vision of self-sustainability (except the solar panels were too expensive). So - and mercifully, I think, we were unable to take advantage of an insanely bitter cold snap earlier in December because nothing we needed to flood the space worked properly. The rink enclosure had also been utilized as a construction staging area. Consequently the grass was chewed up, rutted, and the re-sodded portions were never mowed. The field was no longer even a suggestion of level.

It snowed all day Christmas Eve. Think of a street as a shallow trench between kerbs, now imagine it filled, unplowed and compacted. Today, five days past the solstice, the weather gave us a bit of a break. Christ was born between six and three B.C. and so he would’ve turned about 2020 on His birthday yesterday and I was feeling that old myself today when the rink manager called seeking labour. I got into my gear and hustled up the street.

The rink manager ran the snow blower. I followed his path wrestling the pull of a mechanical rotary brush, burnishing our thin layer of ice and the stubble poking through it and too inexperienced to sport ear protection against the roar of the motor. Next we chipped off the snow encrusted along the base of the boards and heaved it outside the confines of the rink. Hockey boards are surprisingly high when you’re wearing boots and standing on frozen grass instead of a thick slab of ice. Our goal this holiday week is to somehow have the rink ready for New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow’s forecast indicates a high of zero, in northerly Edmonton, in late December; I’m not confident but I’ll do what I can – weather permitting.

Saturday, 17 December 2016


Feng Schadenfreude

This morning was much like other mornings. I sipped my coffee from a Beatles Apple Records mug. I perused the newspapers. The disc jockey on CKUA had gobbled acid with his breakfast oatmeal and was spinning some bizarre stuff, lame Holiday Inn cocktail lounge torch treatments of classic rockers. One of our tabbies had found his way into an enclosed space and was yowling at a blank wall. The other tore at its fur, scattering tufts on the carpet in the hall.

Out on the front porch grey cigarette smoke snaked and swirled away, hotter than the freezing air. Not much higher up, the moon, a pale smudge on fading navy paint behind muslin cloud curtains, hung frozen solid. Somebody somewhere fired up a motor; a lazy idiot using a machine for a sweepable skiff of snow, I thought; during the winter sound carries much as it does over water, sharply. Then the jackhammering began nearby in earnest. Nobody in their right mind busts up concrete in mid-December when it’s 20 below. I worried that a City crew was attempting to expose a compromised water main. Swell, a couple of days without running water. Great. I leaned over the railing and peered down our street.

Our very fine house is situated in what is now considered a desirable inner-city neighbourhood. The river valley, the University and hipper-than-thou Old Strathcona are all within walking distance. Downtown is across the North Saskatchewan River, a ten minute drive or train ride. The community is long established and its trees are described as old growth. Some folks with too much time on their hands are advocating for expensive and pretentious retro-decorative light standards and street signs. Some of us are quite content with the status quo.

Neighbourhoods like forests regenerate over time. Older homes are demolished and replaced by newer models with better insulation and more reliable and safer hidden working guts: PVC pipes, mandated smoke detectors and electrical wiring that doesn’t require hockey tape to function. Interior millwork reflects current décor trends and fashionable materials. Street life isn’t very different for the most part. Infills generally blend into our sloped roof bungalowscape once their new build sheen has been subjected to the wind and the weathering of a season since builders and owners tend to respect the existing character of the community. Generally.

There’s no accounting for taste. Three doors down and on the other side of the street the Borg have begun colonizing Edmonton: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. Somebody postmodern and gauche has commissioned a black cube of a home complete with black windows. The architectural style is sort of Prairie-Brutalist, Nazi bunker with a second storey. It might look all right in a moon crater in a low budget sci-fi film. At least we don’t live in its shadow nor have to look upon it directly.

Our local devil’s radio suggests that there’s some feng shui involved with the design of the simple square – the steel and concrete fortress is worth a million alone, never mind the lot! For instance the front door is actually located on the side of the house to confuse floating evil which only manifests from one direction. There are whispers of a small exterior courtyard hidden within the confines of the cube, very feng shui though impractical in this climate (Where do you pile the snow even if you're shifting it with a gasoline blower?). Maybe grocery store tabloid astrological charts and Facebook memes of affirmation guide the construction and labour of sub-trades?

The jackhammer was working on the new neighbourhood blight. Cracking a surface poured mere weeks ago. Something was wrong, out of sync with the crass micro-universe. Expensive. Good. Now the noise didn’t seem so irritating. I smiled upon the misfortune of the strangers sullying my street. I do not ever want to get to know the Borg because I might actually like them; I will never be assimilated.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Through a Mirror, Cracked

America’s Central Intelligence Agency has stated with “high confidence” that state sanctioned hackers in Russia interfered in last November’s presidential election. Apparently the secure servers of both major political parties were breached but only e-mails deemed detrimental to the Democratic campaign were leaked. President Obama has ordered an investigation. President-elect Trump who has eschewed daily intelligence briefings (there’s a joke in there somewhere) has dismissed the CIA’s allegations. He said somewhat insightfully that if the election had gone the other way and losing Republicans had decried the Kremlin’s influence they would have been derided as conspiracy theorists.

The world of espionage is, to purloin a poetic phrase from T.S. Eliot, “a wilderness of mirrors.” Author John le Carre titled one of his spy thrillers ‘The Looking Glass War.’ James Bond film buffs will recall the climax of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun.’ The assassin hunts 007 in his labyrinthine fun house where killing is a great game enhanced with mirrors. Bond eventually gets his lethal drop on Scaramanga by posing as a pop-up cut-out of himself. What was unreal and expected became unexpectedly real.

The audacious beauty of the Russian hack is that “high confidence” is suspicion but not definitive proof. If it did not happen, the perception that it did is an equally effective result. Either way Moscow is a crafty and powerful global puppeteer; there’s no tell-tale hanging chad. Red state voter suppression laws are likely more culpable for the Clinton Inc. defeat, yet there must be a certain cold comfort in believing the debacle was engineered in part by the security apparatus of a hostile foreign power. Whatever evidence exists, if any, remains in the shadows.

The existing State of the Union is a fine state of affairs indeed. A concerned northern neighbour reluctantly concludes that both of America’s political parties are more concerned with advancing their respective ideologies than prudently seeing to the needs of the country they were created to serve. Political discourse is so toxic that what might be a pressing matter of national security simply mirrors partisan schoolyard hard lines: “Yes they did.” “No they didn’t.” The fact remains that someone has artfully hammered another wedge into a country that is already displaying all the symptoms of a major crack up.

Monday, 12 December 2016


Do Do Do

I spend a lot of time looking out my back door. I call it writing because the typing part is mechanical. If I’m working on a freelance job, watching our eccentric neighbour put out peanuts for the squirrels, blue jays and magpies is billable time. I suppose if a curtain hung over the beveled window pane I’d be an expert at twitching it for a discreetly better view.

Beside me on my left is a white bookshelf, a little taller than me. Its top is stacked with wicker bread baskets and a cowl of quilted fabric which I think must be a tea cozy. Two shelves are crammed with cookbooks. One shelf is my staging area where I store my cigarettes. Often there is an open can of beer on a Butte, Montana Quarry Brewing coaster: WE DIG BEER. There’s an unopened tin of AC/DC Australian Hardrock Beer, brewed in France (?) that features the Black Ice album cover artwork. There’s the Bob Marley Exodus lighter I bought at the airport in Barbados, headed home and needing just one more cheesy souvenir to display alongside my Banks Beer ashtray. There’s a box of wooden Sun Studio matches, a thoughtful gag gift from a former colleague. There’s a grey Elvis tin that might hold ten or so cigarettes if I could be bothered to use it. There’s a figurine of Youppi! the defunct Montreal Expos hirsute orange mascot who now reminds me of Donald Trump because neither pear-shaped humpty is an Einstein. The wall switch for the back porch light is tucked in there too, covered with a Mick Jagger plate. The bottom shelves are plugged with gloves and footwear, slabs of suet and a bag of seed for my flock nestled up against my birding books.

To my right is framed sheet music from the Jazz Age: ‘When the Morning Glories Wake Up in the Morning (Then I’ll Kiss Your Two Lips Good-Night)’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Regular Sweetie (But I Won’t Be Your Once in a While).’ Beside the elaborately and gorgeously illustrated Gatsby tunes is a laminated Rolling Stones 1970 European tour poster, art deco design: radical rhythmic change in a mere 50 years. The boot rack on the tile floor is positioned over a furnace duct grille. Next to that is a reconditioned pine washstand that my father presented to me nearly 30 years ago. That’s where the current magazines are stacked, primed for perusing during my wee small hours walkabouts.

My back door is six steps above grade. I apply more stain to the planks every spring. The wrought iron railings are due for some fussing next year. From time to time when the low light is right, shortly after dawn or near twilight, the evergreens in the yard and across the alley shift hues, becoming rusted and black, and the shadows in the snow disturbed with hare and skunk prints change from blue to grey, to violet. For a brief, shining moment I see my immediate space in this world through the eyes of Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson or Emily Carr, painters who translated the Canadian landscape onto canvas using colours and forms I’d considered surreal until I saw them.

For a second I contemplate dropping an unsuccessful pen and taking up an untutored brush to capture December’s fleeting beauty. I recall a Bob Geldof song lyric from the 80s: ‘There’s so much beauty, I wish that I believed enough to pray.’ But the light changes swiftly and everything is linear again, like cursive writing in a lined notebook or edited type on a printed page. The curtain that’s not actually hung on my back door is drawn.

Friday, 9 December 2016


The Circle Is Unbroken

That lascivious tongue has been part of popular culture for 45 years. Rolling Stones Records was launched in 1971 with the ‘Brown Sugar’ maxi-single whose B-side was backed with both ‘Bitch’ and a live version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Let It Rock’ recorded during the Stones’ 1970 European tour. That disc is rarer than a 21st century Stones studio release, but not by much.

There is a fundamental advertising rule: never, ever mess with your visual identity, your logo. That poor tongue has been through the wringer: nails have been pounded through it; baseball and football stitches have been added; it’s been blown to bits. Last Friday you could find it in record shops tinged an electric overdose blue. The justified and ancient brand didn’t even bother putting its name on the Blue & Lonesome album cover because we all know and recognize that lick.

Once I was seduced by the Rolling Stones, a little before puberty – likely not a coincidence, the natural question to ask was, what do they listen to? That was how I met and fell in love with the blues. It’s too facile to say that Blue & Lonesome could have been their 1963 debut although the 12 Chicago tracks chosen by the 2016 incarnation of the band could easily have comprised that first album.

The original sextet could not maintain its purist stance for a long, long while. There were too many personalities and outside influences, push-me-pull-you. The first big Stones hit was a casual gift from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. For every ‘Little Red Rooster’ there was the Bo Diddley beat, songs by Chuck Berry, Bobby Womack, Otis Redding and Solomon Burke, and ballads composed by Jagger and Richards. The band was too talented not to evolve and create its unique noise.

Worshipping the blues as teenagers and understanding them as senior citizens are two very different things. While the elevated lifestyle of a Rolling Stone is beyond my capacity of comprehension, I can relate to the universal human trials of financial and personal failure, divorce, death, suicide, cancer and addiction. We’re not that different. In his autobiography Keith Richards’ ghost wrote that the true essence of the other, mercurial Glimmer Twin was to be heard in his harmonica playing, and how Mick is one of the best there ever was. Blue & Lonesome is weathered and inspired, a document of experience and lives lived. It could never have sounded this authentic in 1963 even if the songs had been cut at 2120 South Michigan Avenue.

After the cut, pasted and overdubbed pastiche that was 1981’s Tattoo You, Stones albums became increasingly infrequent. Fans had grown used to two-year gaps but no more. While the group ineptly managed its petty internal dynamics rock music was relegated in status to a sub-genre of popular music. Meanwhile a complacent industry was blindsided by digital disruption; sad sacks like me recording mix tapes home alone on Friday nights were no longer a problem worthy of addressing.
The circus maximus that is the 21st century touring version of the Rolling Stones is always capable of churning out another Stonesy rocker for yet another compilation. The songs are good, if out of time, yet they don’t quite resonate like the crowd pleasing warhorses on Through the Past, Darkly. ‘Don’t Stop’ would have made a fine unheralded gem on the side two of Undercover. ‘One More Shot’ might have added a half star rating to the abysmal Dirty Work – the ad campaign was better than the music: Pure Hearts; Clean Minds; Dirty Work. I’ve long wished the corporation would cease purveying second rate takes on ‘Start Me Up’ and get back to their roots. I did not expect an album of Chicago blues covers. NOBODY EXPECTED AN ALBUM OF CHICAGO BLUES COVERS!

Cover albums by artists revered for their songwriting chops are alarming releases, possibly droopy white flags waving from dry wells. Ray Davies and John Fogerty have each released covers of themselves in concert with admiring acolytes. Nobel laureate Bob Dylan has recently mined Frank Sinatra standards twice over. My favourite record in the sub-sub-genre, until last Friday, was Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll. Maybe it was just a placeholder from a lost weekend that stretched into years, but Rock ‘n’ Roll provided autobiography and context, a personally curated diary of Lennon’s formative years even if I was left to wonder how he managed the leap from Chuck Berry to ‘Strawberry Fields’ to ‘Working Class Hero.’

Blue & Lonesome is the true story of the Rolling Stones, that primordial sound that existed before graphic icons, stage fireworks and inflating penises, girls and dogs, before artifice, before rock ‘n’ roll Barnum and Bailey, before Lear jets and candy from strangers, crazy mama. A circle has closed. It only took a couple of generations.

Monday, 5 December 2016


Christmas Shopping

Even when you love your work you need a break sometimes. I’d been on hiatus, weary of the calculated vengeance I’d so casually inflicted. Death has a smell and it was starting to stink. My name is Danger, Geoff Danger. I can be your staunchest ally or a relentless nemesis; it’s up to you: your morals, your ethics. I’m a knight whose armour is polished with blood and cynicism. The lustre’s dulled.

When my bosomy blonde moll Ann Fatale asked me to go to a suburban mall with her I said okay. Downtown streets after midnight are my usual prowl, but I was bored. So I backed the black winged, chrome bumpered Cadillac out of the driveway and drove her to the marketplace. I’d planned to sit in the car smoking and sipping hootch, listening to hard bop on the eight-track. Ann whispered breathily that maybe I could buy her a Christmas gift this year, just this once. Well, I’d given her my world and everything in it but you can’t argue with a fine looking broad whose gams are longer than ‘War and Peace.’ She said there were two stores that purveyed dainty unmentionables and that I was overly familiar with her intimate measurements anyway. How hard could it be?

I parked near an entrance. Ann and I agreed to split up and rendezvous again in one hour. I went into the lingerie shop and bought what I thought would look good hanging off a bedpost or piled on the floor, which was how I came to be walking through the concourse carrying two pink paper bags with four-inch gussets. A too pretty young man leaned over the counter of a kiosk and tried to slip me a packet of something. It looked like a French tickler. I brushed it aside. ‘Excuse me, sir,’ he said in a faux Continental accent, Suisse with a lisp, ‘what do you use to wash your face?’

‘Irish whisky,’ I grunted. I tried to turn away, intent on getting Ann’s gifts into the trunk of the Cadillac.

Precious reached out and stroked my cheek. ‘Do you exfoliate?’

I put my bags down and grabbed him by the throat. ‘You little piece of Eurotrash,’ I hissed, ‘do you bleed? Do you feel pain?’ I broke his perfect nose, cleanly. His blood flowed Santa Claus suit red. I could smell its coppery scent.

Back in the parking lot I sat behind the wheel smoking and drinking. I soon tired of the company. There was time to kill before meeting Ann Fatale and I knew she’d be late. I decided to go back into the mall and see if I could find a record shop. I did.

The jazz section was pathetically small. I poked through it and stopped to examine a re-mastered version of Horace Silver’s Doin’ the Thing – at the Village Gate on compact disc. A clerk about a third of my age with only half his head shaven and sporting black nail polish asked me if he could help me. I ignored him. ‘That is a remarkable album,’ he said.

‘I have the vinyl,’ I grunted.

‘Well then, sir,’ he said, ‘this won’t be a worthy upgrade. I think some of the rawness is missing. But if you like that raw style…’ He circumspectedly directed me over to the blues. ‘A different idiom, I know, but I think you’d really enjoy this.’ He handed me an album by R.L. Burnside called A Ass Pocket of Whiskey. The cover was a caricature, cartoony.

I studied it. I studied the sales guy. I admire people who are good at what they do no matter what that may be provided it’s legal and above board. I grunted, ‘You’re all right, kid.’ He wished me a Merry Christmas and was there something else I was looking for? I said no and took the disc to the cash.

I was waiting when my doll arrived late in a fluster amid a flurry of bags. More bags than an old folks’ home. ‘I kept you waiting,’ she sighed huskily. ‘I was a bad, bad girl. I did some impulse shopping.’ I grunted. ‘It was the strangest thing,’ Ann went on, ‘there was a pop-up store down one of the concourses manned by such a gorgeous young man.’ Ann glanced at me, ‘But not my type, big man. Anyway, somebody had punched him in the face.’ I grunted and peered down at my shoes, wanting another cigarette. ‘I felt so sorry for him. I dropped two century notes on skincare products.’

‘Oh,’ was all I said.

‘Can you imagine?’

‘No,’ I admitted.

‘Did you get all your shopping done, baby?’

‘I did. I did. I even bought us some new music to listen to, blues.’

‘Oh! Why don’t we get home, pour a drinky-poo and listen to it? And you can watch me exfoliate my Brazilian.’

Friday, 2 December 2016


The Company Man

Mid-November was dreary, uninspiring. I couldn’t drum up a full quorum of the Tuesday Night Beer Club. So it was just Stats Guy and me who crossed the river and headed downtown to Beer Revolution. We settled in at a round table in a corner and ordered pints of Penny lager because the Tuesday brew special is peach flavoured and if you like peaches, eat one, listen to the Allman Brothers album or the Stranglers’ single.

Our server returned once we’d finished our catch up chat and had gotten around to perusing the stiff oversized menu. “What’s an ‘American’ pizza?” Stats Guy asked her. “It tastes just like a Big Mac,” she replied. “It tastes just like a Big Mac?” Stats Guy repeated. “It tastes just like a Big Mac,” she said again. “With the special sauce and everything?” asked Stats Guy. She said, “It tastes just like a Big Mac.” I watched a sports highlight on the television; Stats Guy asks a lot of questions sometimes. Finally, he decided, “Okay, I’ll have one of those.”

As our server walked away I said to Stats Guy, “Why’d you order that? If you want a Big Mac, have a Big Mac. I love dill pickles. I like potato chips. I would not eat a dill pickle flavoured potato chip.” He said, “I have to know; Big Macs taste good.” They do and once in a while, you really want a Big Mac, even an ersatz one, apparently.

Michael James ‘Jim’ Delligatti who invented the Big Mac in 1967 died this week. According to USA Today the middle club sandwich-like bun was crucial to keeping the big burger together. ‘Big Mc’ didn’t sound right. The rest, as they say, is obesity. Delligatti, a franchisee who owned almost 50 stores, never received a penny from the corporation in exchange for his sandwich, its condiment and its name though it ultimately came to define McDonald’s. Once the Big Mac became a standard menu item in 1968, its creator ate one a week for the rest of his life. Delligatti lived to be 98.

Around the time Terry Jacks left the Poppy Family for a solo career, there was just my mother and me left in the Montreal house I grew up in. Dad had accepted a Bell Telephone transfer to Ottawa and was camping in a bedsit on O’Conner Street. My brother had moved to Edmonton to begin his career as a metallurgical engineer. My sister was living in an apartment in the west end, on Walkley near Loyola and was working on her pre-med degree in pharmacology; she took Wesley the grey and white family cat. The happy miracle of my parents’ divorce was that the Catholic Church automatically excommunicated my mother: no more attending mass on Sundays!

There were broken pieces to examine even if they could never be reassembled. My Nana said to me, “Your mother wanted Ruby Foo’s and your father (her son) could never afford it.” Ruby Foo’s was a motel and restaurant on Decarie Boulevard, at one time trumpeted as ‘The Las Vegas Strip of Montreal!’ I remember it as a sunken expressway lined with car dealerships and places adults went if they weren’t going downtown because the buzzing and winking neon signs were no brighter there. On our newly minted pagan Sundays my mother would ineptly tootle us to Decarie in our maroon Beaumont for a carhop brunch at the A&W, a tray of foil pouches hanging from a partially rolled down driver’s side door window, a Whistle Dog for her, a Teen Burger for me and fries or onion rings to share. A baby root beer and a manly mug of orangeade. But something was happening across the traffic trench beside the racetrack.

I was still too unsophisticated to listen to stoned, giggling FM disc jockeys or appreciate ‘Interstellar Overdrive.’ Heck, I still hadn’t figured out that I could utilize ‘fuck’ in my speech as a verb, noun, adjective or gerund. On Top 40 format CKGM between ‘Boogie Down’ by Eddie Kendricks and the Jacques Brel abomination that was Terry Jacks there was a constant commercial. A truck driver in what I took to be a tough New York accent lectured a big rig rookie ride-along, something like: “When ya’s hungry, kid, ya gotta look for dem golden arches.” A McDonald’s had risen on Decarie beside where they ran the sulkies. It was a long bike ride away for a kid saddled with a newish red ten-speed from Eaton’s, a store brand, not a Raleigh, not a Schwinn.

How was I to know that that instantly served box of magic was an edible Model T Ford, an avatar and a harbinger? It tasted good and it was exotic. How was I to know the Big Mac would homogenize the plant, be the advent of global branding? How was I to know that places like the Do Drop In in my neighbourhood where Eddie manned the grill and Phyllis waitressed and rang up the tabs would go out of business? How was I to know that I’d grow up to accept garbage on my plate in a restaurant because at least it was better than McDonald’s? God bless and god speed Jim Delligatti; I love your burger, even more so when it’s hot and the bun doesn’t taste like the packaging. Or a pizza.