Thursday, 25 June 2020


Am Here, Buying the T-shirt

A visitor to Canada, provided they’re allowed in and once they’re out of quarantine, may be forgiven for believing Prime Minister Trudeau’s given name is “Fucking.” Outrage is pandemic coast to coast to coast. From the oil patch to lobster traps, from pipeline protests to reconciliation demonstrations, our elected leader has become a lightning rod for chronic, agitated dissent. But, hey, Mister Trudeau wanted the fucking job.

In order to cash in on the times, meGeoff is launching its first line of official merchandise. There’s money in merch. Loyal readers may now order the official Universal Canadian Political Dog-whistle Tee (UCPDT)! One size fits all provincial ideologies, personal picayunes and passions. Had a slight? Got a gripe? Make it right with the meGeoff UCPDT!

These exclusive t-shirts are branded by a Canadian enterprise though stitched together in an offshore factory. The fabric is something soft and cotton-like, non-uninflammable and meant to be well-worn. The trendy colour is a sort of distressed, cardiac arrest, exploding blood pressure facial pink. The bold sans serif slogan, silk screened onto the chest in white, alludes admiringly to Sophie Gregoire, Prime Minister Trudeau’s wife who courageously survived her own struggle with the covid-19 virus: SOPHIE IS –

Order now! And then revel in amazement as your fellow Canadians happily fill in the blanks. It’s not a cryptic crossword, no sudoku grid. Walk proud, walk angry, assign blame and point fingers whilst sporting your meGeoff UCPDT! We are one. If only we could connect the dots.   
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of commercial exploitation since 2013. Don’t sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, stay safe.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020


Talking 21st Century Covid-19 Blues

Raw wet market bush meat, infected by a bat
Someone had a yen for a flank of bitten civet cat

I went to my bank and addressed my teller masked
She didn’t even blink, no, she never even asked

Compass duct tape arrows in every single store
Pointing this way out, exit through that door

A Home Depot list is pinned on the kitchen wall
I’m in the plumbing aisle, can’t remember it at all

I memorized the lyrics of all of my favourite songs
Today all those words I know are very very wrong

I’ve forgotten who I was, don’t know who I am
I’m just your average first wave pandemic man

Dinner tonight will be a bagged drive-thru treat
A rubber gloved cone of sloppy mystery meat
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of excruciatingly wretched poetry since 2013. Don’t sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, stay safe.

Monday, 15 June 2020


World Burns, Privileged White Guy Gets Haircut

Eventually, one is compelled to act. When Alberta began her coquettish emergence from lockdown in mid-May, essentially an economic reverse striptease, I took a long, hard look in the mirror. My hair was just the way I’d wanted it when I was 16. Trouble was, it was grey and I was 60. I resembled country singer Kenny Rodgers without the plastic surgery, tight little piggy eyes, and he’s dead.

I’d last sat and chatted with Paul my barber in late January when I was still 59. Around the time I was due to arrange my next appointment, the world had taken a weird and sudden wet market turn for something worse than the worst. Now, spring was in the air and so I telephoned Paul, desperate to see him. He said, “Geoff, I’ve decided to retire. I’m 76-years-old. And this covid thing…” I thanked him for his services and told him how much I’d enjoyed sitting in his chair because I realized during our conversation that I saw him more frequently than I did some close friends. After I hung up I thought, “Swell, got to find a new barber during a pandemic and then break the butcher in.”

While out and about on neighbourhood errands I ducked my head into Paul’s former shop. From the doorway I asked Amal the owner if she was prepared to look after Paul’s old customers. She said she was but I’d need to wear a mask. I said, “Swell,” and snatched one of her business cards from the reception desk.

I contemplated the new reality for three weeks - a simple haircut would now cause me the same stomach squirming agony as a trip to my dentist’s office. Two things happened in the meantime. First, waves of civil unrest rolled across the United States and splashed onto other western democracies. Prejudice, murder and disease are bad, bad things and best not combined. Somehow I became an Internet meme. I was the unmasked man at the demonstration waving the SHORT BACK AND SIDES placard, ready to blow a 50-amp fuse, agitating for a trim.

Second, a writer I know and with whom I attended university sent me a digitized picture he’d snapped of me during our early days together. His lens shutter had clicked in my Montreal apartment in 1983. A candid shot dating back to when I was confident and knew everything there was to know and my opinions were always right and the world seemed full of promise and a fine place to be except for the Cold War. I’d no idea what was to shake down after that moment and throughout the next 37 years, ooh la la, but my hair looked great, very rock ‘n’ roll.

(I wish I could somehow mail that boy a letter from the future.)

Thursday I sat in Amal’s chair for our first time, masked. She hovered behind me, masked, and examined my skull. “Does the hair over your forehead not grow?”

I muttered muffled, “It’s possible that I may’ve attempted some self-styling.”

Amal made one of those noncommittal yet critical noises. Bit of a poor start to a new relationship. She set about snipping the tufts of my hair scissored between her index and middle fingers. She told me a little about her family, her son and his wife, and her husband. Amal expressed her concern about the near future, flu season without a covid-19 vaccine.

My mask slipped off. I said, “Jesus!” And then I added, “Sorry.”

“That’s okay. Do you trim your eyebrows?”

I said, “Uh, erm, yeah, generally, sometimes.”

“Would you like me to trim your eyebrows?”

“Are you suggesting I look like an owl?”

Amal laughed. “It comes with your haircut.”


Once I returned home I inspected her work closely. One sideburn was a quarter-inch lower than the other. Elastic ear strapping was one pandemic challenge I’d never even considered. Amal had cut my hair differently than Paul used to despite my same rote instructions. I sort of liked the result; I thought my new ‘do befitting of a trusted, fake news television network anchor: earnest, thoughtful, groomed and sophisticated.

The boy inside my head said to the man in the mirror, “Jesus, what happened to you? New look? I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, but, man, you’ve gotten old.” When I talk to myself, little is left unspoken.            

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of navel-gazing since 2013. Don’t sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, stay safe.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020


Radio and Rain


I adore violent thunderstorms. It’s a pleasure to sit outside on the porch alee to wind and watch the sky split open. I gauge the delay of the crack! - a noise that frequently reminds me of a wooden baseball bat interrupting the path of a speeding leather ball – and hope it’ll be a big one, a bit too close for comfort. My heart’s palpitations always seem to synch up with the flickering of the interior lights.

Rain has fallen on Edmonton these past few days. It wasn’t the apocalyptic, Dylanesque “hard rain” but the sort Ann’s father would have called “a million-dollar rain.” Rain that soaks into the ground and doesn’t runoff; rain that irrigates and doesn’t drown. It makes a soothing sound. Outside one of our bedroom windows, the one by my side of our bed and over my night table and its stack of books is an upended wheelbarrow and a couple of overturned washtubs. I never close the blind completely because if I twist my head at a certain angle I can see a patch of sky through the foliage. When it rains and provided the temperature’s right, I like to leave the window open so I can listen to the water pattering through the leaves and tattooing the metal. I can hear the trickling free-flow through the downspout into the water barrel. There is peace in the wet darkness. All that’s missing is a baseball game on the radio.

My childhood home in Montreal was south-facing. Downtown was on the other side of Mount Royal. My bedroom was at the front of the brick semi-detached. The space was narrow. The door opened inward. The first thing you saw was the unheated clothes closet jutting from the outside wall and beside it, a recessed window over a nook which just allowed for an elementary desk and an inaccessible bookcase. An iron hot water radiator hung low on the common wall. There was only one place to situate a single bed in that compromised rectangle, the smallest room in the house for the youngest (and smallest) family member. The plaster walls were painted sky blue, soon to become the base colour of the Montreal Expos’ road uniforms. I’d wanted navy but my dad, the resident housepainter, didn’t share my claustrophobic vision. The ceiling was white and the bowl of the central light fixture was often black dotted with dead insects.

Our front porch was firmly anchored to our brick house but it was constructed entirely of wood. It was a fine place to sit on a folding aluminum lawn chair with fraying strapping on a warm and rainy evening with neighbours, when the mosquitoes were particularly active, watch the street life through a mesh of summer screen. We removed our boots in that unheated space in wintertime. The upward slant of the red shingled porch roof wasn’t quite flush with the ledge of my dormer bedroom window. The window was sash and its storm shutters opened outward. Their hinged plane was covered by a sheet of tin.

Periodically that miniature rooftop table was percussed by bursting raindrops. The relentless drumming was anthemic, magical. I would lie in bed at night and look out my window and listen to the rain. The after hours sky wasn’t static. Rain, snow or weather fine, there was always the needle of Montreal’s meter, as regular as an atomic clock: the searchlight beam emitting from atop Place Ville-Marie, the downtown cruciform skyscraper that is as elemental to the cityscape as Jacques Cartier’s cross on the peak of the mountain. I’d drift off counting photon rays shooting into space at a velocity of 186,000 miles per second. Once in a while the modest pleasures of the night would blossom into a bliss I’ve rarely experienced since, but conditions had to be perfect.

The big city light was a constant, always combing the navy blue sky. Mercury rain had to be beating an imprecise rhythm on the grayish tin sheet. The pixie dust was the Expos playing baseball on the radio. The ideal broadcast was a road game from the Pacific Time zone, first pitch around bedtime, long after darkness had fallen in Montreal. I knew that Dodger Stadium was situated in Chavez Ravine – wherever that was in relation to the sprawl of Greater Los Angeles – and Candlestick Park in San Francisco was often cold and windy. The San Diego Padres, expansion brethren of the Expos, sported disgusting plugged toilet uniforms, yellow and brown.

I’ve never particularly enjoyed televised baseball. It’s too one dimensional. The video director shows me what he believes I should watch, one facet of the diamond. Baseball is best viewed on the radio because my imagination pictures the entire ballpark. I can see the infield in or at double play depth; I can see the outfielders shifting for a dead pull hitter. I can see all of these things because I’m listening to a conversation about a game whose languid rhythms allow for casual chat and informed asides.

Dave Van Horne, the play-by-play announcer, had radio hair – that is to say a rug and plugs in case there were cameras. The colour man was Duke Snider, a laconic Californian and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, a power hitter who had starred in centre field for the Brooklyn Dodgers during their literary glory years (Roger Kahn’s ‘The Boys of Summer’). He was old school and there was a subtle prickliness about him because his rank of royalty in New York’s baseball echelon was a mere dukedom. Willie Mays played centre field across the river up on Coogan’s Bluff and the Yankees had this phenom from Oklahoma named Mickey Mantle.

Duke’s wit was dry, parched. I remember one game when the Expos were being shelled and they’d run out of pitchers. Van Horne asked Duke what the team should do in a situation like this. He said, “Well, Dave, you can’t punt.” And Duke was a storyteller. When time allowed, and baseball allows for plenty of time because it’s not on the clock and nothing or very little happens inside the foul lines for what seems like a lifetime measured in innings, Duke would reminisce about the glory of his times. I got to know his friends and teammates Jackie (Robinson) and Pee Wee (Reese). Together we went to spring training in pre-revolutionary Cuba and barnstormed Japan; I never left my bed.

There’s some kind of grace in a million-dollar rain now and then, listening to it, watching the sky. All that’s missing these days are the Expos and my childhood. The rain remains a comforting constant.
 meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of memoir since 2013. Don’t sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, stay safe.