Sunday, 24 June 2018


Nothing Compares 2 U

Without you, I’m dead meat/I’m a raggedy dog dying in the streets/Of a God-forsaken shanty town/Where gangs of children are hunted down – Rolling Stones, ‘I Go Wild’

The executive and legislative branches of the government of the United States are wrestling with a public relations disaster even as they attempt to grapple with a global norm. Human beings all over the planet are constantly on the move, seeking respite from the miserable life sentences that constitute their existence on Earth. Who would not flee a war zone, systematic sectarian persecution, accusations of thoughtcrime, the devastation of climate change, or the poverty and disease inflicted on its citizens by a corrupt, failing state?

There’s been nothing new under the sun since Pangaea fractured into Gondwana and Laurasia, since the Israelites fled Egypt, since European utopian dreamers sailed to the New World in search of a better way of life. It’s a universal trope, make your way to a new place, contribute, do a little better in order to provide for your family. The globe has always been criss-crossed with such paths and routes since someone started keeping track. In modern times some of those treks are slightly less arduous. Our species has always rambled.

Studies suggest that the number of refugees and asylum seekers migrating to safer havens has not spiked in recent years. What has changed, perhaps through calculated manipulation, is the popular perception of the weak, the tired, the hungry and the poor. They are now criminals and terrorists to be feared and shunned as unwelcome interlopers, national security threats. Contempt trumps compassion.

I don’t really care, do u?

No, because u jury-rig and gerry-build, make do. Spring the patriots who had been secretly arrested by the United Nations and the Democrats from that seemingly abandoned Wal-Mart near the Mexican border. Get the private military contractors with proven Iraq and Afghanistan credentials to build temporary camps. Round up the illegal aliens. Have someone wearing a uniform and wraparound shades greet the freshmen internees and select who’s directed to the left or right as they disembark the guarded transport. Split up families.

But the eyes of the world are watching now. Got to spin this buffoon’s inhumanity to humankind. Send the photogenic First Lady to smile down upon the No Tolerance orphans. Make sure she sports that cheap, olive drab jacket from that Spanish fast-fashion retailer even though America’s own retail sector has been gutted by bankruptcies and lay-offs. Get the message out to the White House administration’s core constituency, dog whistle-style.

Tweeterdumbest defended his trophy wife’s choice of outerwear twitterpating that the graffito painted on her back wasn’t a calculated sneer at the plight of migrant families riven by border authorities so much as a protest against the fake news media. In the odious autocracy of orange skin and alabaster bandit eyes, every outlet barring Fox News and Info Wars is fake news media. Blame is easier to lay than a porn actress.

America’s system of governance is one of history’s newer models, a sturdy chassis riveted with checks and balances. For more than two centuries it had purred along, as reliably as a well-maintained V-8. In a liberal democracy, an untethered press and the opposing voices of other political ideologies are essential to keep that motor running, hold those with power to account. Cheerleading unconscionable federal policy is not part of their mandates. There is nothing subtle about this distinction even though it seems to be beyond the grasp of an infantile strongman and his cohort of blind partisans.

Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards once explained his penchant for honesty thusly: “How could I now possibly remember the lie I told somebody a month ago?” Biographer James Boswell quoted his friend the lexicographer Samuel Johnson in Life of Johnson: “Accustom your children constantly to this; if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end.”

The current occupants of the White House are beyond vulgar in their disregard for truth, let alone common decency. Here’s hoping Truth emerges from the fetid swamp that is the District of Columbia. It might be a little dizzy from being spun constantly but maybe it will be angrier at having been denied, and intent on hitting back; bring the hurt and force a reckoning.

My new novel The Garage Sailor is ready to ship. Get aboard at

Monday, 18 June 2018


Late in the Game

While rooting around in the basement storage room last week I came across my old football. A Canadian Football League branded knock-off of a much more expensive and slightly larger official game ball, one that won’t make me cringe when it scrapes pavement. I held it for a moment and then mimed launching a 60-yard game-winning bomb as the clock on the stadium scoreboard ticked down to double zeros.

In the cabinet beside the football was a soccer ball whose internal pressure has ebbed, leaked into the atmosphere. Standing in the corner were my two wooden Sher-woods, each a quarter-century old but still perfectly adequate for a lone skater pushing a puck around on an outdoor rink: black tape on the blades, white tape over black atop the shafts to make knobby grips. There’s a tote bag filled with baseballs hanging off a coat hook, a stack of gouged pucks on the shelf.

In the downstairs spare bedroom there’s a bookcase filled with sports biographies and journalism. Leaning against it is an Adirondack Super Stik, a red-ringed bat I’ve carted around with me since my days in university. Tucked under the mattress is a newish baseball mitt with a ball crammed into its pocket. I bought it four or five years ago in a massive sports emporium in Butte, Montana. The leather is supple even if it’s a little jaundiced in colour.  Still, the Easton ‘Synergy fp’ is a worthy substitution for my mysteriously missing Wilson Bobby Bonds model, the best baseball glove I ever owned.

I’m getting on toward 60. I don’t play much of anything anymore except the fool, Scrabble, the radio, CDs and LPs. As I’ve aged I’ve gleaned some insight into myself: I want and need less and less (some music and books aside). Consequently, any once treasured or sought after possession that leaves the Crooked 9 in a bag, a box, on the bed of a truck or by any other means (ambulances not included) never to return is another victory for my late embrace of minimalism. Logic dictates that I should donate or throw away the various implements required to play childish games.

Though I still pay attention to the results, I have for the most part soured on professional sports. My lifespan is shrinking and I’ve got better things to do with my money and time. I’m tired of the agents, the lawyers, the crimes, the hype, the dope, the new revenue streams and the civic extortion. Full disclosure: I miss Montreal Expos baseball, and am beyond infuriated that the hockey Canadiens have been mediocre for nearly three decades.

It’s arguable that elite, blockbuster sport has reached its saturation point with fans. There’s too much going on in the blur of overlapping seasons. Every league has tinkered with the rules of its game, a sop to broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers. What’s left though is the essence of our games: baseball hides stained green, scuffed or deflated footballs and dried up, brittle hockey sticks. Nobody has to pay to play with relics like these.

Despite the merit of de-cluttering, parting with old sports equipment has proved exceptionally difficult. Every piece evokes a memory and all of it evinces a false promise that I may yet compete again another day. There’s a warm comfort too in old leather and wood that’s been used for nothing more than social distraction and a bit of exercise, a feeling a lot like listening to the red and blue Beatles albums on vinyl instead of the re-mastered and digitized 1 collection.

Bob Dylan once said that nostalgia is death. And I get that point of view, that of a vibrant artist who refuses to settle into stasis. I think of nostalgia as a mild hallucinogenic because we all innately understand that the good old days were accompanied by long, sleepless nights. Memory and history inform us of the monsters under the bed and in the wardrobe. Name a sin. Name a crime. Name the Four Horsemen, those eternal skeletal riders.

I can still throw a spiral but probably no farther than ten or 15 yards. I still have a decent wrist shot, never had a slapper. As a ballplayer I was all glove, no hit. I am surrounded by disused and distressed sporting equipment. There’s no pressing need to keep any of it. None of it reminds me of any particular game or exploit but rather the blessed respite of play, when everything else in the world and my life ceased to matter for a couple of hours. I used to know a guy like that back in the day.  

My new novel The Garage Sailor is ready to ship. Get aboard at

Monday, 11 June 2018


The Translator’s Blues

Tomorrow in Singapore the leaders of two enemy powers are scheduled to hold peace talks even though they are not officially at war. Tweeterdumbest, the 45th President of the United States will sit down with Kim Jung-un, the third generation nepotistic despot of North Korea. Issues on the agenda include nuclear weapons, sanctions and cyber incursions.

By virtue of the International Date Line (not to be confused with Ashley and a small tear in the fabric of space and time, meGeoff has obtained a leaked partial transcript of tomorrow’s historic summit. Enjoy this fake news world exclusive.

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Little Rocket Man, you look like one of those chubby kids I used to bully while growing up in Queens.

TRANSLATOR: (Uh-oh.) The President extends his greetings and best wishes to the Supreme Leader.

DICTATOR OF NORTH KOREA: Face to face at last with the bumbling dotard.

TRANS: (Oh, no.) The Supreme Leader graciously extends his welcome and thanks to the President.

POTUS: Can you believe this guy’s haircut? Have you ever seen a stupider look? Stupid. Stupid looking.

TRANS: The President says that the Supreme Leader is well groomed.

DONK: I can’t believe his haircut. I have never seen anything stupider than that. Why is his skin orange?

TRANS: The Supreme Leader graciously accepts the President’s compliment and returns it tenfold.

POTUS: Who made your cheap suit? A Chinaman? Very, very poor. The fabric. Cheap. The best tailors in New York are Jews and Wops. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.

TRANS: (Oh, Christ.) The President admires the Supreme Leader’s wardrobe and allows that he would like a similar suit himself to wear as a show of good faith, solidarity, peace and friendship.

DONK: His neckwear is strange. Perhaps its length compensates for the inadequacy of his manhood which he cannot find beneath his bulging belly without using the stumpy fingers of both hands?

TRANS: (Whoa.) The Supreme Leader believes that as relations between your two great countries continue to improve, many Western fashions will be welcome sights on the streets of his homeland.

POTUS: Okay, Kimmy, let’s cut the crap, cut to the chase. I made both those phrases up. Like them? I do. They’re clever. Very clever. Do you know what else I have? A button. A big red button. A big red nuclear button on my desk. And it works. It works very well. I know it works very well because I’m a stable genius. I’ll use it. Happy to use it. Excited, very excited to use it. I’ve been preparing my entire life.

TRANS: (Oh, man, they don’t pay me enough.) The President suggests there are many complex issues to be discussed and negotiated upon here in Singapore, and that time is of the essence. The President sees no reason why two well-respected and intelligent leaders cannot reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

DONK: I have long fantasized of having this doddering fool seated across the table from me executed by anti-aircraft cannon.

TRANS: (Uck!) The Supreme Leader says he shares the dream of world peace with the President.

POTUS: I’m hungry! Very hungry. Somebody get me a Diet Coke and a couple of cheeseburgers. Two of them, two cheese burgers. Don't poison them! Do they have McDonald’s in this shit-hole country? Is Singapore a country or a city?

TRANS: The President has been pleased with the course of this initial meeting in Singapore and suggests that perhaps this may be an opportune time for lunch and for both parties to break bread in a gesture friendship.

DONK: Did the Yankee imperialist buffoon bring any extra cheese burgers? I suspect so because he is so porcine. His mouth resembles a spuming anus.

TRANS: (I need a drink.) The Supreme Leader agrees with the President and makes a joke that common ground is often found over a delicious lunch of delicacies.

POTUS: I don’t eat barbecued cats and dogs, okay? I don’t. So wrong. Very, very wrong. Fat Boy Kimmy here looks like he eats a lot of them, strays. Cows. I like cows. Cows are good. Can they afford to own cows in South Korea?

TRANS: (Christ, two maybe three drinks on my break.) The President welcomes the Supreme Leader to his table.

My new novel The Garage Sailor is ready to ship. Get aboard at

Friday, 8 June 2018


Living on a Fault Line

The other day I had a long phone call with a friend of mine who was scheduled to be in Edmonton this week to deliver a talk about modern technology and its impact on various aspects of society to an audience of assorted deputy ministers and policy wonks. His message will be something of an admonishment; our leaders and authorities have been too slow to embrace its possibilities and opportunities, let alone keep pace with the velocity of the digitally loosed arrow.

Civilization is currently floundering somewhere in the primordial quagmire of a new historic age, one worthy of a proper noun in the future annals of human progress. The Industrial Revolution is over. Something else is happening right here, right now. I’ve been trying to navigate my way for a few years but I feel I’m baked into the middle of a Black Forest cake, I can’t discern the layers of enlightenment for the candied cherries and the cream trees.

Evidence of this period of transition is all around me, in my neighbourhood and on my street. The city’s livery firms are more responsive to my needs because they realize I can summon Uber instead of a taxi but I have to leave the neighbourhood to shop because our district’s modest commercial corner proffers brown paper window coverings and dust. Who pays the property taxes due on dead retail space and how does the City assess the value of a vacuum when ‘location, location, location’ really doesn’t matter anymore?

Blocks surrounding the Crooked 9 are undergoing neighbourhood renewal. The immediate area is clustered with machines, steamrollers, cement trucks, mustering crews and their own private vehicles. The project is a decade late, if only because Canadian cities are handcuffed by a legal inability to raise revenues for building, maintaining and expanding their required infrastructure. Anyway, I got mine just in case Edmonton hits that Detroit city flat-line. The gas company and a couple of telcos were ripping up what the City had just repaved, upgrading their hardware. Any soul on my street in a neon safety vest blends right into the occupation.

Two weeks ago one of my neighbours’ homes was broken into. Property crimes in the area are spiking. Employment in Edmonton is usually stable because it’s a government town anchored by a major university. Still, some sectors of the economy are suffering and idle hands… I was outside that afternoon, mowing the lawn and then repainting a stick of furniture in the garage. If I saw something, I didn’t know what I was seeing. Something else struck me too: I do not know the people in my neighbourhood as well as I used to. Here was the new gig economy at work.

There is always a stream branded courier van delivering Amazon wares. There are sub-contracted couriers too with magnetic decals on their car doors. Food is delivered by grocery stores, specific restaurants and app drivers who pick up meals pretty much from any place with a functioning kitchen. There are dog walkers and maid services on regular schedules. There are hired gardeners and landscapers, snow removal services. Nobody seems to possess a whit of inclination to do anything themselves.

Paying another to perform one’s mundane chores adds up. Consequently many homeowners in the area have developed basement or garage suites to ease existing expenses even as mortgage interest rates rise. Back lanes are crawling with legitimate strangers entering and exiting through side and rear entries. Tenants come and go. I never get to know them. There’s someone in the alley. So what? Around the front, some tenacious door-knocker is looking to raise funds for a soccer team, a jazz ballet club, an elementary school or some disease only an unlucky few acquire.

So unless the bad guy is masked and decked out in a Beagle Boys black-and-white prison outfit I’ve no clue who’s suspiciously treading in my patch on my watch. I am as mystified and confused about the new reality as those politicos my friend was engaged to lecture. I can sort of see a sea change but can’t make any sense of it. The lesson is simple: being blind in these times, ignorant, just won’t do.

My new novel The Garage Sailor is ready to ship. Get aboard at