Monday, 25 October 2021

A FAN’S NOTES


Too Soon?


The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup relatively recently. I cannot remember which particular season nor can I remember their opponent. Those two sentences may also be applied to the St. Louis Blues. Both of these clubs had made the finals previously and lost, many years ago back in those remarkably courteous days prior to the uber-advent of the internet. In today’s bloated and gaseous NHL it’s not easy to reach the final, let alone make a return trip.


The Montreal Canadiens last summer reached that heady height for the first time since 1992-93. Like most teams they are mediocre on their best nights. Their surprising run reminded me of my days in university when I sometimes woke up in strange places and wondered how I’d got there. The Habs were easily dispatched by Tampa Bay. The Lightning, though an elite squad, are also a covid era anomaly, repeat champions due to two pandemic seasons being pretty much compressed into one. They beat somebody to win the lockdown tournament and then skated through an abridged schedule oddly reconfigured by a temporary divisional realignment.


The Montreal Canadiens are a lot like the Rolling Stones in that their glory days were some 40 years ago. Like the band, the franchise has exhibited an unabashed knack for marketing its past. And only a delusional fan would believe that last season’s unfulfilled miracle is something to build on, some kind of harbinger. The Habs’ operating philosophy since their heyday and the ensuing swelling of the NHL goes something like this: “Please God, if we can just squeak into the playoffs, anything can happen.” A bowling alley manager or a beer rep could manage the organization with a mission statement like that one. Oh, wait, those snarky scenarios actually unfolded. When a Habs fan says, “I could’ve done that,” it’s not barstool bragging. The shocking and immediate quality play of the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights exposed the systemic ineptitude rampant in most NHL front offices. Remember, the Vegas roster was initially comprised of players 30 other teams deemed expendable.

 

I’m not writing to bury my favourite team. I can’t praise them either. Their perpetual mediocrity will likely see me out. Saturday night the Habs walloped Detroit’s Red Wings 6-1. That was their sixth game of this new season. They lost their first five, giving up 19 goals while scoring just four. The team’s two lynchpins are aging defenders, both of whom have probably reached their sell-by dates due to past injuries. Neither one has played a minute so far in 2021-22. Goaltender Cary Price is out for a month having entered the NHL’s player assistance program. Perhaps his head exploded when his employer left him and his contract exposed to the Seattle Kraken in yet another expansion draft. Canadiens defenceman and power play anchor Shea Weber is gone for the entire season and may be permanently broken after 14 years of big league hockey.


The pixels in the NHL post season picture usually morph into focus by American Thanksgiving, Christmas at the latest. It’s not even Halloween yet and the Canadiens are already in an awfully deep hole in their awfully deep pre-pandemic division. When the next cup final rolls around sometime during the middle of the 2022 baseball season a few Canadian sportswriters will pen their annual laments about Lord Stanley’s lengthy sojourn in the United States. I’m looking at you, Roy MacGregor, and so why not just write that the seven Canadian teams in the league are similar to the majority of their American counterparts, they haven’t got a clue as to what it takes. Meanwhile, virtually no fan of the game will ask, “Who lost it last year?” Bonjour, hi, Montreal! Bonjour la visite!  


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of barstool sports expertise since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer

Thursday, 21 October 2021

HUMAN WRECKAGE


How She Reminds Me


Have you ever noticed a mystery doppelganger? A stranger who reminds you of somebody else? Who are you to me? I get frustrated in these aging days of mine when I can’t put my finger on them, mostly because that’s a criminal offense. They’re ghostly figures on a sort of l’esprit d’escalier - those witty afterthought replies that have long surpassed their original repartees’ best-before dates.


Across the street from the Crooked 9, about three doors down, there’s an epic renovation going on. I’ve been monitoring years of painfully slow progress from the front porch. Should the work ever be completed, I’m pretty sure it’ll resemble Johnny Cash’s stolen car, a scrounged mishmash of miscellaneous materials. My eyes are already tired from observing and maybe one day they’ll be really sore.


I’m accustomed to the turquoise portable toilet and the dump truck on the lawn. Used to those highlights of the local scenery. Madame has been lately visiting her previous, present yet future home. I can’t imagine the finishing touches are anywhere close to being touched up. Anyway, she’s reminded me of someone with her electric bottle blonde long hair and severe straight-cut bangs. I’ve been watching; her look’s been niggling at me.


My first thought was maybe Madame personified the competing publican in my second novel Duke Street Kings. As with all fictional people, that character was a composite, albeit largely based on S., the hilarious and gregarious bartender who presided over the workaday lunch rush in Calgary’s downtown Unicorn Pub when it still occupied the basement of the elegant and historic Lancaster Building. No.


There’s an 80s vibe about Madame. Maybe Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, but she hasn’t filed her incisors into fangs nor does she wear her makeup like warpaint; Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott’s mullet during the height of hysteria over Pyromania? No, but closer.


Ian Hunter post-Mott? Oh God, oh God, I was so close to knowing this blonde – not in the biblical sense. And then coincidence, serendipity and synchronicity all kicked in at once, like mushrooms, pot and alcohol. There had been a small item in the entertainment news: Michael Caine allowed that his lengthy acting career was probably over, not many roles for a man his age. That was it! Madame reminded me of Michael Caine in drag! A Brian De Palma film, Dressed to Kill, 1980. Yes! My relief was cathartic, what the French might describe as le petit mort.      


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of snippy neighbourhood gossip since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer

Thursday, 14 October 2021

NONSENSE VERSE


The United Conservative Party Fight Song (Cheat Sheets Available)


My Ma and Pa were sibs

Raised up cross-eyed kids

For Alberta free and strong

Inbred genes gone wrong


I don’t read the news

Doesn’t suit my views

My reality it seems

A host of internet memes


Covid is an elitist joke

A verified commie hoax

I won’t get no vax

‘Cause I know the facts


Rodeos and QAnon

Sunday best, tin hat on

A global conspiracy

Can’t fool me


Tried to drink javel

Didn’t feel so well

Now my Invermectin

Is a miracle confection


Think I've shat my breath

Feeling much like death

Gasping in the ICU

I’ll leave room for you


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of some of the worst poetry ever written since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

HUMAN WRECKAGE


That Song


Sunday morning came down like a mournful song, dreary, Thanksgiving rain threatening. Our window blinds were up but our lights were on. Ann was in the kitchen making batter for a pumpkin cake and I was trying to be helpful by getting in her way. Public radio was broadcasting a show called "Play It Again" which features Billboard hits from the 1920s through to the 1950s, a fascinating and engaging hour of radio. Times being as angry and yet delicate as they are, the show now comes with a pre-recorded waiver - some lyrics may no longer be considered appropriate. Baby, it’s getting weird outside.


Just as Ann turned the mixer on, the host spun Lefty Frizzell’s utterly glorious and gloomy “The Long Black Veil.” Lefty did not write it, but it's his. The song, narrated from beyond the grave, is a tragedy in three verses. An innocent man elects to be hanged for a murder he did not commit rather than besmirch his lover’s reputation with the scarlet letter. “There were few at the scene, but they all did agree, the slayer who ran looked a lot like me.” His honest alibi is almost in flagrante delicto as he was actually elsewhere “in the arms of my best friend’s wife,” but he chose to speak not a word in his own defense. It’s a grim view of life: trespasses exact a terrible toll, atonement is impossible.


“The Long Black Veil” with all its dread and doom reminds me of a much later song, Kate Bush’s eerily ethereal “Wuthering Heights,” gothic and hopelessly haunting.


When Ann was squeegeeing the metal mixing bowl with a rubber spatula, I said, “I think, considering all the music in our collection, ‘The Long Black Veil’ might be the song we have the most versions of, I mean by various artists.”


Johnny Cash covered it and so did his daughter Roseanne. We’ve got a heartbreaker version by Gregg Allman; The Band of course, and the Chieftains featuring Mick Jagger.  That’s five and I’m forgetting a couple, maybe Emmylou? Somebody else too. And I can hear something that never was: Rod Stewart rasping “The Long Black Veil” during his An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down – Never a Dull Moment prime. 


“I’m not going to do up a spreadsheet or anything.”


“You don’t know how,” Ann replied.


Yeah. Does anybody out there still operate with MS –DOS and an adorable Commodore 64? How could I ever configure rows and columns for all the triplicates in the Crooked 9’s music library? Consider Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” quirkily agitated by Talking Heads or Bryan Ferry. Ann and I sometimes daydream about visiting Memphis, Tennessee: Beale Street and barbecue, Stax and Sun; in the meantime we’re only able to travel there with Chuck Berry, Johnny Rivers and the Faces.


“Tumbling Dice” is my all-time favourite song ever. If I count the Stones’ own proto-version “Good Time Women” from the expanded Exile reissue, we have four versions of it. Linda Ronstadt recorded a very sexy cover for her Simple Dreams album. No surprise then her guitarist Waddy Wachtel is also one of Keith’s X-pensive Winos. However, the stunner is courtesy of the late bluesman Johnny Copeland who enlisted guitarists Eric Ambel (Del-Lords) and Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites) to really fatten up the song’s slinky, hypnotic rhythm. Ann is eternally grateful she shares the Crooked 9 with a sad sack middle-aged Stones fan because she knows we have every live version of “Tumbling Dice” the Stones have ever released.


In a somewhat similar vein, Ann and I possess three versions of “Darling Be Home Soon.” Apologies to The Lovin’ Spoonful, each one is performed by Joe Cocker. Each one makes me misty eyed.


We have a finite number of LPs and CDs at this moment and that total will grow before the end of 2021. It’s impossible for me to calculate the number of songs we have two versions of, especially when I contemplate the Tin Pan Alley tradition of factory songwriting before His Bobness and the Beatles changed everything by composing their own material. The Lieber-Stoller world was no more. So long, Doc Pomus. Ann’s musical tastes and my own intersect more often than not. So, I can hazard a big label data scoop: most of the songs we have alternative versions of likely originated as Chess or Motown releases, blues and “the sound of young America.”


Our headliners here at home, those performing artists whose works are scattered throughout the catalogues of rival artists, are probably Berry and Dylan, maybe Willie Dixon, maybe Willie Nelson and maybe Smokey Robinson. Contemplating our collection, I’m a little surprised that interpretations of Jagger-Richards, Lennon-McCartney, John-Taupin, Carole King, Leon Russell and Tom Waits aren’t as prevalent as I would’ve assumed. Then again, I suspect it requires vast amounts of swagger and verve to wax a track when its primary writer and performer is able to listen and judge.


Great covers bring something else to the stereo. The incomparable Otis Redding replaced Keith’s iconic fuzztone riff with horns when he went strictly Memphis with “Satisfaction.” I can only imagine Joni Mitchell’s reaction the first time she heard Scottish hard rock band Nazareth absolutely bludgeon her incredibly delicate “This Flight Tonight.” It's not her song any more. Perhaps the royalty cheques still elicit a smile.    


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of musical musings since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer. 

Monday, 4 October 2021

SAINTS PRESERVE US


Days Like These


Last week roots rocker John Mellencamp released a single, “Wasted Days,” an earthy and reflective collaboration with Bruce Springsteen. The low-key video shows two grizzled hipsters, soul survivors from the days when rock ruled popular culture. The song echoes the sentiments I hear throughout Springsteen’s latest album, Letter to You, his collection of warm and sometimes bittersweet rearview mirror images of growing up on stage in seaside bars. I admire Mellencamp because he kicked back against the star maker machinery and willed his transformation from a groomed, manufactured teen idol into a vital American artist.


Flyer Guy made his weekly drop at the Crooked 9 too. His advertising bundle delivery is benignly erratic: lunchtime, happy hour, after midnight – and pick a day. He resembles an Allman brothers hybrid, Capricorn Records long blonde hair, Duane and Gregg the holy duo. He always wear a rock band t-shirt. His mellow is beyond Cheech & Chong bongs. From time to time he wishes to converse a lot more than I’d prefer. This gentle soul’s wasted days must be epic and that’s a legitimate response to days like these.


A pharmacy circular announced that Saturday was National Brow Day, Up to 50% off* on selected Annabelle Kohl, Rimmel London, L’Oreal and Maybelline New York products. No surprise. Friday was the International Day of Older Persons. September was the host month of National Coffee Day and some sort of Siblings Day. Dog knows every breed has its day. Does Caitlyn Jenner celebrate Mother’s Day or does she leave that Hallmark holiday to Norman Bates?


Lost in this daze of days was Canada’s inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a sombre end to September. The plight of this country’s First Nations is not particularly pleasant. A disproportionate number of Indigenous citizens populate Canada’s prisons. A disproportionate number of Indigenous women have been murdered and those missing are presumed dead. Many reserves are without potable water. These and other issues under the shadow of the horrific legacy of Canada’s residential school system, a government policy of assimilation predicated upon, to be brutally frank, beating the “Indian” out of Indians.


Our National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is nothing to be celebrated. It is rather like Remembrance Day, a grim day necessarily marked, and intended to prompt all Canadians to pause and reflect on this country’s past, present and future. This special day debuted on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s watch. Naturally he went on vacation, took a holiday flyer. He wouldn’t dare do that on November 11 no matter what deep family sunshine discount the Aga Khan offered him for a sojourn on that private island paradise.


I will not deny our prime minister’s natural charisma. He made the cover of Rolling Stone after all – granted, the magazine isn’t what it was. I understand realpolitik. I understand that the needs of a party and its leader will always trump any ethical considerations. What I don’t understand is Trudeau’s propensity for botching the small stuff, the ceremonial and symbolic duties of his office. Is a public appearance or two in a First Nations community on our first-ever National Day of Truth and Reconciliation such a big ask? Is there a single grain of common sense in that man’s head? Maybe not, because that snap election call two years into his term as head of a carte blanche minority government didn’t quite work out either. Engaged and enraged Canadians are now obligated to question his judgment about everything, from the economy to foreign policy.


In the great fund-raising and marketing scheme of things, diseases are graced with an entire week or even a month of national awareness, psycho-symptomatic credit card donation channels for hypochondriacs. Canada’s First Nations got a day and the prime minister flew through it, over it. No surprise then that eyebrows and pugs get more notice, more ink. What a wasted day for the rest of us. 


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of prosaic tangents since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is out now. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.