Friday, 23 November 2018



The final football game of the Canadian season will be played here on Sunday. Winter’s coming on in whatever form it may take in these days of goofy climate anomalies. The air is crisper, better to transmit the relentlessly annoying noises of motorized machines. Everyday life has become a source of sonic irritation, from snow-blowers, to paving to neighbourhood lots being divided for ugly, skinny residential rectangles. It’s good to get away from it all or at least have something to look forward to, dangle a lamp at the end of the low-lit tunnel of shortening days.

Years ago when I lived in Calgary I caught a bus every workaday morning that let me off near a Seventh Avenue C-Train platform. The bus was always full. One grey dawn I was crammed up against the driver, rigid, intent on not invading his personal space. It was freezing outside. The commuter smog hung low like cancer-flavoured cotton candy. The skyscraping core though within easy walking distance was invisible.

Without taking his eyes from the smoking parking lot ahead, he nodded toward an electronic billboard on the roof of a whitewashed auto body shop. “What would you do with $20-million?” The timed ad was promoting a growing provincial lottery jackpot.

“I’d get the Beatles back together and have them play my backyard,” I replied.

He said, “But John and George are dead.”

“Like I’m going to win $20-million.”

“Somebody has to.”

“Guess I’d better buy a ticket.”

Lotteries are peculiar mechanisms. The odds of winning are impossibly slight and so players essentially pay for what is already free: a few moments to dream. Paying to dream is as silly as buying back your own tap water from Coke, Nestle or Pepsi because they’ve re-packaged it in a plastic bottle. Still, water is the stuff of life and life, excepting the double-helix of DNA, is made of dreams.

November is a dreary month, often cold and always tinged with the sadness of Remembrance Day. No finer time to dream of a sunnier future. So when the Rolling Stones announced dates for a 2019 American spring tour the Telexes began to get typed. Tony, an old friend and intermittent meGeoff correspondent wrote from his hellish retirement in Bermuda, “Pick a city. We’ll go.” On it!

I filtered Ann’s and my known obligations. I compared the Stones’ schedule to the relevant Major League Baseball teams. I was distracted during my searches by a mechanical roar from across the back alley. I stood watching and listening as a deceased neighbour’s lot was cleared of its trees and his modest post-war bungalow demolished. Eventually I returned to my task. I was delighted to arrive at Chicago, the band and the city share some history and the Cubs would be hosting the south side White Sox or the New York Mets depending on our arrival and departure dates. The dream was creeping into scheme territory.

Norm is a lawyer based in Toronto. He also plays a mean guitar, a blonde Fender. We grew up together. We went to high school with Tony. The three of us are still Stonesheads. Back in 1978 Norm and I took a train to Toronto and then a bus to Buffalo to see the Stones together. The first time for both of us. We didn’t know it then but Tony was there too.

Chicago is one of those cities to which I’ve always dreamed of returning. While Ann scrolled through Airbandb listings I baited a hook for Norm: Ann, Tony and I were planning to see the Stones in Chicago, Cubs at home, 2120 South Michigan Avenue once the home of Chess Records and now the Willie Dixon Blues Foundation, Buddy Guy’s Legends club nearby on Wabash, good eating and drinking. I threw in a little high culture for good measure: And the Art Institute of course…

Because daydreams are not nightmares I neglected to mention a few things to Norm. Seven months is a long time, anything could happen to any one of us or the group’s members, life’s like that but not in the Reader’s Digest sense. The Stones are long past their best-before date and the venue is a football stadium. They’ll play a set we’ve all heard before. God knows what the currency exchange rate between Canadian and American dollars will be by June 21, 2019. And then there’s Chicago’s batshit crazy propensity for gun violence.

“I knew it!” Norm wrote back. He also allowed that he might have some Stones credit in the bank as he’d taken his wife of 30 years to see Hamilton in New York City for their wedding anniversary. We left things at that. Meanwhile this reverie of a road trip, a reunion and a rock ‘n’ roll show is gratis, no charge until Wednesday, November 28, 10 a.m. local time when I’ll spend money struggling to make a dream come true, typing with two fingers, hunt and bash. Be nice to get away from it all and hear some beautiful noise for what could be the last time.                

Copies of my latest novel The Garage Sailor are still available and ready to ship. Get aboard at

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