Sunday, 29 November 2020


A Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The other day Ann and I were in a shop. Must’ve been a grocery store because lately, well, we don’t get around much anymore. Pandemic paradise for a couple of cranky misanthropes. Anyway, we heard a Christmas carol. I realized I was nanoseconds away from a psychotic meltdown. It’s only November for fuck’s sake and we’ve other things to worry about! I willed myself to read the Nutrition Facts label on a tin of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. Breathe, oh by gosh, by jingle. Do the directional floor arrow decals matter if I’m standing sideways? Where’s Ann? She’s got the list. I foresaw the caption to some stranger’s iPhone Facebook video: “Boomer dude loses his shit in baking aisle!”

The “Catch-22” about mental health is that if you’re worried about your upper storey state of affairs, you likely needn’t be. God knows American author Joseph Heller understood irony. Still, ‘tis the seasonal disorder season, the blue, blue nights before Christmas.

Come November in the northerly latitudes everything that dies is already dead. The month has been coloured by the somberness of Remembrance Day for more than a hundred years. Dreary November portends an even darker December, lower light and shorter days. And no libertarian nutjob alive in 2020 can recall such a lethal hoax being sold to the masses by the global elite as covid-19. AIDS and SARS were beta tests for laboratory synthesized scourges, way beyond fluoride in tap water. 

Wednesday was sunny and only two below. Ann suggested we take advantage of the unseasonable weather and string up the Crooked 9’s exterior Christmas lights ahead of our usual schedule. I don’t even like to contemplate temporary Christmas d├ęcor of any sort until at least mid-December and everything must be rebinned and back downstairs in the storage room by the second day of a new year.

Alberta has sunk to a grim nadir. A wild rose-coloured glasses view of the province’s energy industry has created a confounding boom and bust complacency for generations. Extreme climate events are now mundane, everyday. Covid-19, to date a crisis ineptly managed by government authorities, supplied the blindside knockout punch; sweet science need not apply. Ann and I wonder what merits inbreeding and home schooling bring to public office.

Our exterior festive display is exceedingly modest. A zigzag garland of red and green lights affixed to ten feet of black wrought iron porch railing. The wreath is getting somewhat tired, the red ribbon has been bleached pink and the Stewart tartan bow is as faded as Rod’s talent. The cabled candy cane came from this century’s five-and-dime, a dollar store. Our lights went on early the other night, November’s final Friday. Godspeed to a miserable month. 

Light is a powerful symbol, a universal trope of hope. There will always be a candle in the window, a star in the sky or a shimmering glow at the end of a tunnel, beacons in the dead of night or the dead of winter. Ann and I are aware that this holiday season will easily qualify as the strangest in our lifetimes. Come 2021, I believe we’ll leave our lights up for an extra week or two.                  

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of enlightenment since 2013. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. The second wave is here and winter is coming; you’ll need a distraction.

Sunday, 22 November 2020


A Letter from Paul to the Covidians

Thus it came to pass there was a great plague upon the land which lasted a quarter score of seasons as everything turned, turned, turned under Heaven. The reign of Odious Rex Vulgaris was a scourge upon the green Earth. Then came the pandemic. The petulant and childish king cried out in anger as he could not wash the blood of multitudes from his stubby, orange hands.

Yea, even as Mitch of Kentucky and Jared of Kushner licked the tassels of their sovereign’s stylish Italian loafers, Odious Rex Vulgaris raged in his rented, gilded palace. He fired his most trusted acolytes because they could not understand the emptiness and cynicism in his withered soul for they had little faith in the Pharisees of QAnon and Info Wars. Melania, the sultry Balkan Queen of Very Expensive Consorts, and Ivanka, Princess of Wal-mart Jewellery, went shopping. Donny Junior, the heir apparent, realizing both the absence of enlightenment and the teachings of Christ in the void of his father’s raisin heart, dispatched hastily penned screeds to the leaders of hostile foreign powers and private offshore banks asking for the grace only they could bestow upon the patriarch and himself. Indeed, there was evil in the White House Rose Garden or at least on the other side of the unscalable and unclimbable multiple sets of temporary barriers.

Lo, though mired in his despair, even Odious Rex Vulgarus understood he must keep his covenant with his people, about half of them anyway. Alas, there was no sign from God on the lush fairways of Virginia, just a scorecard to be fiddled with. Verily, maybe, the pollster oracles spoke falsely of the Chosen One with his Proud Boys standing by.

The vox populi echoed with the words of the prophets. The first words came on the archangel wings of the Byrds: “I’ll probably feel a whole lot better when you’re gone.” And a Motley Crue of Samaritans, Philistines, Nubians and Romans gathered outside the Pennsylvania Avenue gate of the shining mansion: “Don’t go away mad, just go away.” Light shone down from the heavens, and the people (about half of them anyway) saw that graciousness, dignity and common sense were rays of hope. Thus it came to pass, eventually, that Odious Rex Vulgarus, blinded by the light, fell off his high steed whilst travelling along the road toward a second term of global chaos.

Peace be with you.                       

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of apocrypha since 2013. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. The second wave is here and winter is coming; you’ll need a distraction.

Friday, 6 November 2020


Waiting on a Fiend

Tim and I have been friends for at least fifty years. We grew up together in Montreal, streets apart, went to the same schools. We liked the same music; we liked the same clothes. We both lived in Calgary, AB for a time. When we weren’t in the same city, one of us would always accommodate the other’s visit, business or pleasure. Reunions were always fun, sometimes staggeringly so.

He’s always been a foot taller than me and so I’ve always had trouble keeping up to him: oh, he’s got the latest Stones album, guess I better get it; oh, he smokes Player’s Light, guess I better switch brands; oh, he’s got a girlfriend, guess I better try and get one; oh, he bought Mission stereo speakers, guess I should buy a pair… There have been little victories: if we’re out drinking Tim has to flood the urinal long before I feel the need.

My friend laughs at me because I’m a Rolling Stones completist: Hello, Pot, this is Kettle calling, can we talk about Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young? Sure, sure, put the phone down while you get yourself a cigarette and a beer, long distance calls are almost free in this day and age.

A couple of weeks ago Tim wrote me to crow about the red silk Stones tongue covid-19 mask he’d just purchased. I thought, What a maroon, what an ultra-maroon. But his note prompted me to conduct a mental inventory of my Stones stuff. First and foremost is their music of course: the vinyl, the CDs, the 45s, the 12-inch singles, the cassettes, the box sets; and then the tour programs (we saw the ’81 Buffalo show together); the tour posters displayed in the Crooked 9’s basement; the 1983 fan club package and all of its contents; the embroidered badges, branded cigarette lighters, the fridge magnet and the metal buttons; the t-shirts, socks, rural Alberta formal fleece pants, caps and the flammable acrylic tongue Christmas nerd sweater; the books and hoarded magazines and God knows what else I’ve squirreled away and forgotten about. Tim’s father, a Quebec superior court judge, a lovely, charming man, gave me his copy of a Canadian legal digest detailing Keith Richards’ 1977 Toronto heroin possession court case. Of course I still have it.

I know that when the hand of fate knocks me down for good none of this Stones stuff will mean anything to my survivors. The ephemera of a misspent life. By any measurement of Stones fanaticism, I’m a relatively sane specimen. Yet I was irked because Tim had a pandemic Stones mask and I didn’t. This nugget of knowledge began to eat at me, hurt my guts like hot stuff.

A close friend of my sister’s is a designer, an interior architect. His Montreal firm won the contract for No. 9 Carnaby Street, the new Rolling Stones department store in London’s Soho district which opened last September. I’ve met him a few times. I don’t know him very well but I like him because he’s enjoyed my three novels. So, for me and the Stones, mainly Mick I suppose given the nature of the enterprise, I’m talking two degrees of separation; we’re like this. That’s why the band bombards me with e-mails inviting me to shop their wares.

I was online the other night. I placed a Stones non-medical plague mask in my cart. Not a red Italian silk one like Tim’s, just a simple one, painted black. I thought, Gee, a single purchase seems so counter-productive and since I’m here… Well, didn’t I transform into a curious crow in a land of shiny objects? I loaded up with stuff I wanted but didn’t need, a ‘Goats Head Soup’ lithograph and the Spanish version of ‘Sticky Fingers’ with General Franco-dictated cover art and more, hoping to hit the ever-elusive free shipping bingo. Thanks, Tim. Some day, my friend, there will be a reckoning.               

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of petty bitterness since 2013. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. The second wave and winter are coming; you’ll need a distraction. 

Thursday, 5 November 2020


Game On (and on)!

Apparently, the Stanley Cup may be awarded and a World Series won if nobody’s there to see the final game, the ceremony, watch it on TV, or even care. Had the onset of this particular November resembled the ones to which I’ve become accustomed over time, my attention would now be turning to the final few weeks of the Canadian Football League schedule. Our modest loop’s playbook was overly complicated in 2020; no team played a single down.

The Grey Cup championship remains stalled at 107, the 2019 final. And so, in the spirit of Marcel Proust and as a nod to les temps perdu, Ann and I decided to treat Tuesday’s American presidential election as the big game: beer and bar food in front of the television. When watching sports we want see-saw drama, white knuckle entertainment. This particular night we wanted to watch a rout, a landslide. No nail-biting overtime.

The Constitution of the United States of America is a noble and justly venerated document. Despite its many amendments, it remains at its core an eighteenth century mission statement. Like the Bible, Magna Carta or anything published by Alvin Toffler or Faith Popcorn, the constitution reflects the times of its authors. Some things should no longer apply. And yet it remains the Saint Peter rock of a twenty-first century schizoid democracy.

Consider the Second Amendment (with or without the comma – language and usage evolve), the one about the right to bear arms (,) and form militias. Having won the War of Independence, General Washington disbanded the Continental Army. Naturally the thirteen nearly sovereign states should be allowed to fight back should the British, the French, the Dutch, the Spaniards and the Portuguese come sniffing around the New World again.

These newly and tenuously unified states realized they’d require a singular figurehead to represent their interests around the globe. A man to provide an American face and wield some central authority, but not so much as to trample states’ rights. The people (at least those souls who qualified as people) would choose. Checks and balances were assigned to the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of the nascent federal government. Some of these regulations are now hopelessly archaic.

The eleven-week gap between election day and the president-elect’s inauguration reflects a time before telegraph wires, railroad steel and the fabled Pony Express. Nor does the United States utilize the scrutiny of an overarching and objective institution like Elections Canada.

Our fun night is now playing out longer than a cricket test match because none of those American boys in breeches and powdered wigs ever imagined that the results of an election in a far-flung land could be tabulated in hours instead of weeks – provided all interested parties are on board. Adherence to the old ways, insightful then and ignorant now, is fraught with unintended consequences. And so Ann and I will stay on our couch for another day or two cringing at absurd reality TV. Here we are now, entertain us. Pass the fiery wingnuts.          

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of politically-charged sports commentary since 2013. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. The second wave and winter are coming; you’ll need a distraction.