Thursday, 30 December 2021

NONSENSE VERSE


The Greek Alphabet


Classical antiquity

Is mostly Greek to me

I was not an Alpha dog

Just another working cog


Phi Beta Krappa

A photo of Frank Zappa

And Chi goes with Sox

Chicago baseball talk


Oh Epsilon Epsilon

William Faulkner read you wrong

His was not the Tau of Pooh

Piglet Tigger and little Rhoo


Good gosh Omicron

On the heels of Delta’s dawn

Hell I wasn’t ready

For a virus so unsteady


Curses on this life of Pi

Gamma rays make me cry

I can’t cope one more Iota

Pour me another vodka soda


Upsilon and down the hatch

Got my third Moderna batch

A must avoid this social stigma

Though the letter I sought was Sigma


Alas now what can I do

Sans a muse for Nu and Mu

Although maybe La(m)bda

Could sound like La Bamba


Letters Theta and Eta

Rhyme with crumbly feta

And what about Xi and Psi

Do they Scrabble qualify 


But Catherine Zeta-Jones

Michael Douglas moans

I now so dread Omega

Like a song by Suzanne Vega                   


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of painfully poor poetry since 2013. But my novella Of Course You Did is the Platonic ideal of that particular literary form, honest. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer. 

Thursday, 23 December 2021

A FAN’S NOTES


“Two of Us”


The Beatles have been top of mind of late. The corporate entity which has lived on since the group’s desultory dissolution in 1970 has always been canny. Get Back and its reanimation of Let It Be follows other select album anniversary reissues, new compilations, Anthology, the stereo, mono and Capitol box sets, Love and of course the excitement surrounding the band’s calculated and staggered debut on compact disc way back in eighties. Elvis Presley Enterprises can’t compete.


When I was a boy I assumed A Hard Day’s Night and Help! were documentaries. I couldn’t have told you what a documentary was back in the mid-sixties, but all movies seemed to be made in one take, without scripts, sets nor editing; any scene on celluloid rang true to my unsophisticated eyes and ears. They were just moving Kodak photographs; I possessed no disbelief to suspend.


My mother’s elder sister was a remarkable woman. As a teenager Auntie Mag believed her destiny lay in a convent. She instead found her calling as a Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson; from time to time she modelled the latest fashions in photo shoots for her ad agency’s clients. In her spare time she studied piano and painted. One of her works, a still life of yellow tulips, hangs in the Crooked 9 – not because Auntie Mag painted it but because it’s a remarkable work of art. Hipper than my mother, Auntie Mag took me to the cinema to see Yellow Submarine upon its release. She loved the Beatles; she could appreciate how the Fab Four were “lifting latches,” opening doors. Following the movie I was treated to a delightful discourse on the nature of design, the film’s usage of primary colours and its fluid animation technique, so very different from the classic Bugs Bunny and crude Saturday morning Beatles cartoons I was used to watching. All a bit beyond my grasp at the time but the information filtered through over the years and consequently has never been forgotten. The established world need not be so established in its ways.


“Two of us wearing raincoats/standing solo in the sun.” The Beatles breakup was staggering news. Perhaps my first experience with grief – an ill-fated family cat aside. I thought they were four best friends, the way I was best friends with a couple of boys who lived on my street. The tomboy sisters who lived on the corner were devastated. I’ve still no idea how they managed to stretch their weekly allowances to stay current with the initial spate of solo releases.


The fourth Beatles feature film was Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be. My Auntie did not take me to see that one although she’d no issues with me, then aged ten, seeing Little Big Man. No, Let It Be was something else. Let It Be was midnight repertory showings and the realization that some sort of life beyond high school wasn’t so fantastically distant. Old enough to buy cigarettes, and probably a six-pack – provided the corner shop owner wasn’t too fussy about selling beer to spotty kids.


My high school was situated on a university campus in Montreal’s West End. Depending on my mother’s marital status, school was either three or two bus rides away. Friends lived in neighbourhoods other than mine. My city was opening up. Cinema V was on Sherbrooke Street West in Notre-Dame de Grace. It faced NDG Park, a big, green and heavily treed recreational space about the size of two city blocks. There was plenty of cover, the lighting didn’t much illuminate the paths and benches. We’d gather there well in advance of show time to hang out, hoping to catch a buzz. Teendom did not come with a user’s manual. People dated, but I don’t know that any particular couple ever went out alone on a weekend night, the gang was omnipresent.


At the time (and sometimes still do), I thought the Beatles were much cooler after they ditched their band uniforms and costumes. In retrospect, I believe letting themselves go as a unified visual entity manifested their inability to take care of band business as a unit following the sudden death of their manager and confidante Brian Epstein in the summer of 1967. “You and me chasing paper/getting nowhere.”


Let It Be was a downer. But it was never boring. Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same was boring and Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii was really boring; the pot and hash didn’t work. To see the Beatles as themselves instead of acting as Beatles in a Richard Lester film was amazing. The Savile Row rooftop finale is still mind blowing, exhilarating, that penultimate party drink before one too many. Nobody, not me friends, not my Auntie, would ever see them perform together again. That is a shame because had there been a will there would’ve been a way, but the two principals were “Sunday driving/not arriving” and that was obvious to them as “Writing letters/on my wall.”


The Beatles recorded and released about ten hours of music. With Get Back, director Peter Jackson distilled some 50 hours of footage captured by Lindsay-Hogg down to eight. While he certainly emphasizes the tedium of creativity and studio work, Get Back is never boring. And Jackson tells a different story from Let It Be - although George still comes across from their dysfunctional universe as overly sensitive and a tad precious.


“Two of Us” to me was never a nostalgic day tripping ditty about aimless motoring, P.G. Wodehouse, those warm and fuzzy years before the Hun invaded France. It’s always been about John and Paul. There’s a wonderful sequence in Get Back when they run through the song in Goon Show voices, perhaps inspired by a visit from Peter Sellers. When it comes time to really get down to it, the childhood friends lock eyes and wavelengths. John and Paul sing in harmony as well as the Everly Brothers ever did and to each other like Sonny and Cher dueting on “I Got You Babe.”


“You and I have memories/longer than the road that stretches out ahead.” And there it is: from the bus shelter in the Penny Lane roundabout, the Star Club, Shea Stadium and Sgt. Pepper, they’ve done it all and the future, for whatever reasons, many reasons, proffers no promise. Fans and viewers like me are again left with heartaches, those 1970 pangs revisited, albeit restored, remastered and reissued. Bittersweet memories refreshed.                   

 

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of memory and musical musings since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is widely available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer. It costs a heck of a lot less than Sir Paul’s new book

Friday, 10 December 2021

SAINTS PRESERVE US


Hey Joe


Our collective human consciousness vibrates throughout the atmosphere in mysterious ways. You need to have your antenna up; you need to be tuned in. My latest bout with synchronicity has been mildly alarming as it concerns camels – and not the cigarettes. God help me, sometimes the cosmic switch is best left in the OFF position.


In 1973 Top 40 radio listeners had the misfortune of being constantly exposed to the cringingly wretched “Midnight at the Oasis.” Maria Muldaur is still a well regarded folk and blues singer and so her biggest hit still sounds anomalous, a career asterisk unlike say, Paul Anka’s execrable “(You’re) Having My Baby” from the same year, that ditty a fresh turd atop an already stinking pile.


“Midnight at the Oasis” is a sort of Middle Eastern erotic fantasy: Rudy Vallee as the sultan maybe, Scheherazade with a hippie hash pipe, more Justin Trudeau’s prep school Aladdin than Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. Regardless, the fistful of sand in the Vaseline jar is undeniable. I’ve heard “Midnight at the Oasis” twice on the radio this past week. Me being meGeoff, I’ve been wandering around the Crooked 9 warbling my own lyric, “Midnight at the oasis, bring your camel to bed…”


Who knew things could get more bestial? Thursday morning’s newspaper carried an Associated Press story, datelined Dubai, United Arab Emirates stating that dozens of camels had been disqualified from a Saudi Arabian camel beauty contest. The busted cheater creatures had been injected with Botox and hormones, and had been subjected to other cosmetic alterations including facelifts.


The kingdom’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival is an annual celebration of Bedouin heritage and culture, an affectionate affirmation of the old ways, much like Calgary’s annual Stampede. Its US $66-million prize pot is nothing to spit at. I am not mocking tradition here, but I must be permitted to snicker at the excesses and parallels with the West. It’s human nature to judge and compete: bodybuilders, Miss America contestants, gymnasts and figure skaters. You will find lipstick on a pig at an agricultural fair. Triple Crown contenders get a little something extra in their feedbags. Dogs go to spas and get stupid haircuts. Records, movies, hotels and restaurants are awarded stars.


But Botox for camels? Lips like Jagger. Rubberized, expressionless faces featuring impossibly white teeth. Disturbing anthropomorphism. Kardashian camels.


I reread the article. I put my pop art Who coffee mug down on the countertop, too struck to sip. I re-reread the article. I shook my head and looked to my right. The Crooked 9 is an old school household; it cannot function without the oversized kitchen wall calendar and erasable, magnetic board hung beneath it. I stared at the white rectangle imagining a movie screen. I saw Maria Muldaur bedding down with cigarette mascot Joe Camel. An artificially enhanced narcissist like him, I know the type: the kind of critter who’d place his ashtray on Maria’s belly.           

 

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of rational thought in a world teetering on the brink of madness since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is widely available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.

Friday, 3 December 2021

OF COURSE YOU DID


Local Hero


Last August Ann noticed a small item on her Edmonton Journal feed. The paper was set to launch a column on the local literary scene. I made a note of the writer’s name and his e-mail address. Of Course You Did had been available since July. I’d not been comfortable arranging a formal launch, masked inside an enclosed space amid this pandemic. I needed some publicity beyond Facebook.


I dislike doing readings and public speaking in general. I always feel like Big Joe Turner’s love child: shake, prattle and droll. The irony is after nearly 30 years in advertising, self-promotion is anathema. Charlotte Bronte scribbled, “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.” Whatever messes I’ve made in my life, I’ve always known my creative impulse is pure, I simply hope to be read.


Because I’m too pedantic and persnickety about language to reach out to anyone unless they need a hand, I instead contacted the columnist – following a week’s girding, working up the nerve to steel myself for yet another rejection. His reply was encouraging because I was surprised to receive one: “No promises.” Fair enough.


In mid-September Of Course You Did was the subject of a complimentary albeit brief review in the newspaper’s “Book Marks” column. My novella was described as “twisted time travel” which played out as “a tragedy in three acts.” I thought maybe I could leverage (pardon the ad jargon, the word I really should use is “exploit”) the positive notice with bookshops which are understandably reluctant to stock titles by poor-selling unknowns. I sent out some feelers. With Canada’s largest chain I was up against throw cushions and votive candles; I lost.


Last weekend’s Journal declared Of Course You Did “one of the most memorable books of the year.” My strange little story was “both heartwarming and gut wrenching.” I’d somehow managed to scribble one of the local literary sensations of 2021. I felt good that Saturday morning, something like a slough shark in a rain barrel. I experienced about one fine hour of exquisite egoism. Ann said she wasn’t sure she could stand the company, her domestic proximity to celebrity – a fair comment from a very patient person who read and corrected six drafts. I replied we might have to renovate the house so my head could fit through the door frames; as it was I was trapped in the kitchen. That was just as well because the breakfast dishes needed washing and the food scraps bucket under the sink needed emptying. And anyway, the song on the radio was still a baddie and outside the low, late November weather was still sun-proofed. Besides, those worrisome prostrate dribbles of mine aren’t going anywhere any time soon.


Still, ‘tis the season. I can’t think of a better Christmas gift for a loved one than a slim volume of fiction by an obscure Canadian writer and a regional one at that. Of Course You Did is available in three formats from multiple retailers including Amazon, Apple Books and Barnes & Noble; the book is also available to the trade through the Ingram wholesale distribution company. But, wait! There’s more! Check out www.megeoff.com.          

           

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of tentative self-promotion since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is widely available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer. Relentless repetition is “frequency” in ad jargon

Thursday, 25 November 2021

SAINTS PRESERVE US


A Tale of Two Provinces


Where do I begin? Me, a twentieth century schizoid man living in an increasingly divided country. I lived in Quebec for 30 years. I was born there. Its politics ultimately drove me west. I’ve lived in Alberta for 30 years and a few hundred days. Its politics are driving me crazy.


Quebec politics are always insular intellectual exercises. There’s always an undercurrent of a sort of put-upon nationalism, a festering resentment of both history and modern times. No surprise then that the author of Quebec’s first draconian language legislation was a psychiatrist (New Brunswick is Canada’s only officially bilingual province although the entire country is officially bilingual, sort of). Around that time, during Montreal’s summer Olympics hangover and the rise of punk, a cabinet minister, a minor poet, was arrested for shoplifting. His transgression wasn’t a crime; his action was interpreted as a Quebecois cri de coeur because he tried to rip-off a Harris tweed sports jacket (English) from the Eaton’s department store (English) on Saint Catherine Street West (English). A later premier, a former colleague of the men mentioned above, a corpulent buffoon, was such an Anglophile that his speech was literally peppered with Oxford-y-morons: “By Jove!” He preferred brandy and cigarettes over ethnic groups.


Quebec is currently governed by the Coalition Avenir (future) Quebec (CAQ), a conservative populist political party that did not exist when I lived there. Alberta is currently governed by the United Conservative Party (UCP), a conservative populist political party that did not exist when I moved here. Alberta and Quebec are the feuding twins of the Canadian federation, born just 38 years apart, resentful of one another, and alienated from everybody else. They’re special. They say they “want to change the Constitution, well, you know…”


News from Quebec last week was more of the usual, and, as always, charmingly bizarre. Premier Francois Legault has convened a committee tasked with discovering why hockey is fading as his province’s major religion. La Sainte-Flanelle, the holy cloth, is moth-eaten, les Canadiens suck. The obvious solution is the firewagon √©lan of French-Canadian players – if only these young people would lace up their skates and make the National Hockey League (NHL, LNH in Quebec). Just a hunch, but I suspect his committee’s findings will allude to the grassroots expense of the sport and an ever-growing global talent pool. The game has grown as the league has bloated. Still, if the Canadiens drafted Quebeckers only, as they generally did when they held exclusive territorial rights to the province up until Canada’s 1967 centennial and the LNH’s great expansion which doubled the size of the loop, they couldn’t be any worse than they are now.


Just to be clear: Universite de Montreal offers a comparative theology course centred on the worship of the Montreal Canadiens. Though there can never be an exact flashpoint in time, historians usually date the conflagration of Quebec Nationalism with the Richard hockey riot of 1955. NHL President Clarence Campbell (English) suspended the Rocket (French) during the playoffs (very bad). The greatest children’s book ever published in this country is The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier. Possibly the greatest animated short ever produced by Canada’s National Film Board is The Hockey Sweater. The plot is very simple. Mister Eaton (English) via his mail-order catalogue mistakenly sends a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater (Protestant and very English) to a boy in rural Quebec. The boy’s teammates, opponents and the priest refereeing his outdoor hockey games are not impressed. The boy goes to church (Catholic) and prays to God for a million moths to eat his new blue sweater (wool).


(Carrier’s Our Life with The Rocket is one of those delightful books that belong in every library if only because it defies classification. Between the boards it rates with The Game (Dryden) and The Game of Our Lives (Gzowsky). It is a novel approach to a twinning of biography and memoir, even in translation. My copy is shelved proximate to a history of Canada, some works by Leonard Cohen, a history of the fur trade and a biography of Samuel de Champlain.)


Once Albertans elected the UCP in 2019, Premier Jason Kenney convened a committee tasked with exposing the shadowy global forces conspiring to bring Alberta’s energy industry to its knees. This think tank of coyotes is not to be confused with the UCP government’s Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), a “war room” birthed to spin pro-fossil fuel propaganda. Anyway, its final report was released a month or so ago, a year late and a million dollars over budget. The gist of it was that Alberta had run smack into the niggling inconvenience of free speech and modern times; Mother Nature’s sons are gunning for everyone.


The UCP last weekend held its annual general meeting. Fittingly, the venue was a casino. Economic indicators suggest the coal-black marble spinning on Alberta’s boom-and-bust roulette wheel, crafted in 1947 at Leduc No. 1, is teetering over the black after seven years in the red. Demand for natural gas and oil has risen as have the prices of those commodities. Shadowy global forces work in mysterious ways. Weirdly, this increasingly good news may prove to be something of a mixed blessing for Premier Kenney.


Quebec has always been governed by a culture of complaint. Confederation being relative, Alberta is just finding her voice, learning to whine. The big national snit regards the nature of federal transfer payments. Various levels of government in Canada oversee various jurisdictions. Foreign policy is left to Ottawa; education and health care are left to regional capitals like Quebec City or Edmonton. Transfer payments are federal monies apportioned amongst the country’s ten provinces and three territories. The current distribution formula is complex and was crafted in part by Premier Kenney during his tenure as a federal cabinet minister. The national dole is intended to ensure citizens, no matter where they live, are able to receive a base level of services. Wealthier provinces don’t require handouts. Quebeckers consider transfer payments from Ottawa a birthright. Premier Kenney has convinced many Albertans that federal accountants simply walk into his provincial treasury and give all those shrinking petro-dollars to Quebec. It’s a compelling fallacy because the biggest problems in Quebec at the moment are: the fragile state of the mother tongue, the nature and role of religious symbols in a newly secularized society, and hockey (which I suppose includes both of the above).


Premier Kenney faces other challenges. The Wildrose Party did not exist when I moved to Alberta nor does it exist now. It flared like a gas well fire for a time, the result of a schism in the traditional Tory establishment; the Progressive Conservative Party was just, well, too darned progressive. Brian Jean, its former leader and former federal cabinet colleague of Premier Kenney’s, has emerged creature-like from the tar sands tailings ponds up north near Fort McMurray. He wants the UCP nomination for his riding and he’s gunning for Premier Kenney’s job. And he has allies. There will be a UCP leadership review in April 2022 and Albertans will go to the polls in 2023.


When Jason Kenney formed the UCP from the dregs of Alberta’s conservative cohort, he politically euthanized Brian Jean. Though Premier Kenney is utterly bereft of any quality suggesting leadership ability, there are few better backroom operators. Yet somehow, Brian Jean has managed to sit up in his coffin, a dream come true for Alberta’s left of centre New Democratic Party (NDP) and the official opposition in the legislature: “Please God, let that primordial beast crawl through the firebreak surrounding ‘Fort Mac’ and slither down ‘Highway of Death’ (a busy single lane for all types of heavy traffic through boreal forest) into our capital city.” At the casino last weekend, incoming UCP president Cynthia Moore (no relation) handed out “UCP United” buttons, a bad portent although her acronym usage reads better than “United Conservative Party United.” When unity is perceived as a concern it’s because there isn’t any.


Perhaps this week Premier Kenney shares a resentful if grudging kinship with Premier Legault? Any talk of the right wing is best confined to hockey.  


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

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

EDMONTON EXISTENTIAL


November Is Poor Posture Month!


I hate November. I wish it was like February, a short month. Ancient Romans and early Christians just couldn’t get it right. How hard would it have been to reshuffle a few days?


The wind was up Sunday morning, needles like spatters of boiling water. The sky was the colour of the underside of a saucepan lid. When the ice fell from the low sky it crackled on the dead leaves like a campfire, but without the glow, the heat, the bad guitar and off-key singing. Thirty days of grey, a prison sentence of limbo before winter comes.


The ultimate aftermath of every blessed thing is death. The overarching sound of November is Remembrance Day, ceremonial gunfire and the bugler’s “The Last Post.” Faith is hard to keep when the neighbourhood resembles a battle zone the morning after, a defoliated and devastated wasteland. As the last Byronic poet Mick Jagger sang, “The fields is mumble brown and fallow, and springtime takes the long way ‘round.”


November makes me flinch. It’s a full month of those fractal nanoseconds I’ve experienced in bicycle crashes, car accidents and on a football field or hockey rink, that dreadful flash of awareness as I was about to be laid out knowing it was going to hurt and it would keep on hurting the next day too. November snow is hard little flecks, not the fluffy stuff wafting feather-like in moonglow to reinforce latent feelings of goodwill toward all and accentuate whimsical outdoor Christmas decorations.


Sneakers and some snazzy walking around shoes have been tucked away. Rubber gardening clogs have replaced the snow boots on the basement storage shelf. The billed caps I wear constantly, one for indoors and one for the great wide open as property lines permit, are seasonal and so football (which replaced summer baseball) is switched out for hockey. Toques and mitts (the right one still crusty with last winter’s snot) have migrated upstairs. The jackets in the hall closet have been rotated out to make space for heavier coats – including that ratty green one I’m not permitted to wear beyond the boundaries of the Crooked 9.


I’m convinced winter coats are patterned differently from their more temperate and more stylish counterparts. Their cuts encourage poor posture, stooping, hunching. When I shrug my way into one of mine, my motor reflex is to slouch, shrink. It’s automatic.


Weather here tends to roll in from the north and west. I watch the sky from the front porch. Monday morning was eerily calm, as if all the shooting had suddenly ceased. The snow came around lunchtime, gritty little pellets. I swear I witnessed the exact moment when they stopped melting on contact with the warmer ground and instead began to accumulate. It snowed all day. It snowed all night. It’s still snowing now, two hours after an invisible sunrise. It’s all a bit deflating. And it happens every year around this time; sixty-two Novembers and counting. I may bend, but I will not break and shrivel into an old man although my old coats smell a little musty.    

                      

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

Thursday, 11 November 2021

THE MUSTER POINT PROJECT


A Slight Return on Many Favours


The Muster Point Project is the eponymous debut album of the Muster Point Project. Not to repeat myself, but the Muster Point Project is the latest guise of my friend of 30 years, Kevin Franco.


Kevin is not one of those guests to rest an elbow on the mantelpiece, his back to the wall, at a cocktail party filled with strange invitees; he was born to mingle and he knows everybody.  I called him “The Ticket Fairy” when I lived in Calgary. “Kevin, the Stones are coming.” “I know, leave it with me.” He’s also a restless entrepreneur which means I’m never quite clear about how he earns his living. The lone winter I skated with his midnight shinny team Kevin’s nickname in the dressing room was “Sparky.” A recent venture was positively Dylanesque, the marketing and artisan manufacture of boots of Chilean leather.


Kevin introduced me to Wilco. He promised the CD of A.M. would blow me away. He was right. A song on that album reminds me that I’ve spent a lot of time in Kevin’s various vehicles, always on the passenger side. There was always a glorious noise emitting from grilles in the dash or doors. Snippets anyway, two minutes of Blind Boys of Alabama or Taj Mahal before he punched a button to change the tune. It took me 15 years to track down Gregg Allman’s “I’m No Angel” based on a lyric fragment about tattoos I heard for the first time in Kevin’s car. He’d recorded the cassette and was still at a loss: “Come On in My Kitchen?”


This sort of music is the soul of The Muster Point Project. This is folk music in every sense of the term, certified genuine indie, written and recorded by an antenna on the great northern plains. How my friend managed to sit still long enough to compose and lay down nine tracks built around his guitar chops mystifies me. Probably pandemic productivity. Still, Kevin has probably and unknowingly spent his entire life to date working up to this, his first album. His second one will be a much trickier proposition.


Kevin being Kevin of course, The Muster Point Project is available as an eight-track cassette immediately because he’s just not wired to wait patiently in line for a vinyl pressing. Kevin has asked me to write the liner notes for his eventual black circle release. I hope that comes to pass, a fair exchange as he designed the cover of my first novel Murder Incorporated for Falcon Press. Kevin has always championed my writing - then again, he’s a speed-reader. Muster Point Project tracks are streaming on YouTube, digital downloads and more information are to be had at www.musterpointproject.com.                        


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

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

SAINTS PRESERVE US


The Self-importance of Being Edward


I love dynastic dirty laundry, the soiling of the elite. They’re just like us! Sort of.


Rogers Communications rivals Air Canada as one of Canada’s most hated companies. Yet both are as essential in this country as regular dental appointments and FIT tests. Rogers delivers wireless and media. Air Canada (a former Crown corporation) delivers passengers. Their respective business models work – most of the time. Both companies are public, and are notorious for their misleading messaging because they’re big enough to over-promise and under-deliver, and shrug.


Since the death of company founder Ted in 2008, it seems the Rogers family is coming apart at the genes. Son Edward these past couple of weeks has stared down his mother Loretta on Toronto’s Ted Rogers Way; and his sisters Martha and Melinda too. It’s Canadian Shakespearean, cell phones instead of daggers, eh? The 5G realm must be subjugated. Competitors Bell and Telus lurk in Birnam Wood or perhaps beneath the Gardiner Expressway.


I do not pay a single cent for any Rogers service. I do keep half an eye on one of its neglected assets, the Blue Jays baseball club, and that’s only because the Montreal Expos are no longer with us. My investment portfolio includes shares in Rogers, but unlike those family members who hold almost all the voting class A shares in trust, I’m not a player. I check the standings from time to time.


I read a lot. In my experience business books tend to be as interesting as human resources questionnaires. They’re rife with platitudes lifted from a Nike ad campaign and sprinkled with paraphrased passages from The Prince and The Art of War. There’s usually a dollop of Ayn Rand on top. If I’ve read three or four in my time, I wonder if Edward Rogers has read even one.


There must be volumes on how to stage a corporate coup out there in bookstore land. Should you be plotting to regain control of your family company’s board of directors against your family’s wishes by ousting its current CEO without due process, it’s probably wise not to ass-call your intended victim during the planning session; just a thought. And the last thing you need to hear is your two sisters telling you, “Mom’s going to kill you when she finds out.”


I’m compelled to surmise that Edward the Usurper’s leak was abetted by a Rogers product malfunction compounded by user error. God, I hope so. And now I’m praying for that day when Air Canada’s CEO is turned away at the departure gate because his airline overbooked his flight.                 


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

Saturday, 6 November 2021

SAINTS PRESERVE US


Words Have I No


The Rolling Stones last month re-released 1981’s Tattoo You, arguably their last great album (nothing afterward came close and I’m not sure it rates with their stone classics). The gold for someone like me is the nine tracks on the bonus disc. I was reminded of the Some Girls (originally released 1978) reissue, again an entire album alongside the original. The vault music included with both dates from around the same era. I’ve never considered the Stones an overly prolific band; the reissues of their initial trio of Rolling Stones Records albums were augmented barrel scrapings. Tattoo You itself was an assembly of discards and outtakes.


These past two decades both Dylan and Springsteen have released enough shelved material as to allow fans to piece together forked road career paths for His Bobness and the Boss, glimpses of a parallel universe. It’s all akin to constructing the Beatles album that never was based on their debut solo albums: George gets one composing credit, maybe two; Ringo one vocal, a novelty number; Lennon and McCartney have a tug of war over primal scream therapy angst versus stripped down pop.


After Mick Taylor abruptly quit the Stones in 1974, fallow years plugged by greatest hits collections and live albums became the norm. God, you know, if they just could’ve gotten themselves together enough to release a hybrid album of the Some Girls and Tattoo You bonus tracks, I believe I’d now be typing that proverbial messianic clich√©, “their best since Exile.” It’s no small joy to be deafened and agape, blown away 40 years later by what is essentially the same old stuff. What can I say?


I’d prepared notes for another 500 words in this vein, that is until alternate realities collided this week in Dallas, TX. QAnon cultists Tuesday gathered on that city’s infamous Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and book depository and all that. Later that evening, the Rolling Stones’ 2021(!) “No Filter” tour touched down at the Cotton Bowl. Apparently, this pair of unrelated events shared a bizarre commonality, one John Fitzgerald Kennedy Junior (1960-1999). Bear with me.


QAnon members believe the United States of America has been taken over by a “deep state” cabal of paedophilic cannibals who hang out in a pizza parlour in Washington, DC. The pizzeria is easy to find because there’s just one item on the menu and it’s served with just one topping. A very recent former president, an odious vulgarian – a Republican too, not a Democrat – walks Woody Guthrie’s land with ennobled vengeance in his tiny, raisin heart, for he has been anointed by Jesus (good Christ!) to smite the Satanists. Are you still with me? I’m not making this up.


In my world, Q is the fictional British secret service quartermaster always ready for a cameo in the James Bond novels and movies. Q may also be the recurring Loki figure in Star Trek: The Next Generation. It has since come to light that Q could also be JFK Jr., the Q in QAnon. It seems the late lawyer and journalist, the boy forever saluting his assassinated father graveside in Life magazine, has been in hiding since his death in a plane crash. John-John was supposed to reveal himself at Dealey Plaza before assuming the vice-presidency of der Trumpenfuhrer’s new regime. Damned if JFK Jr. didn’t pull a Mary Jo Kopechne and not surface – well, to be fair to Uncle Teddy, her corpse did. Is my narrative, my summation, coherent enough? Because, wait for it…


QAnon acolytes are not stupid people. They’re thoughtful in a charming batshit crazy way. On the other hand, they’re carrying, weapons or ideology, probably both. The savvier social media conspiracy cranks among QAnon quickly figured out that John-John wasn’t entirely cool with the crackpot Dealey Plaza deal. Instead, he chose an alternative stage for his second coming, the Cotton Bowl with the Rolling Stones. “Please allow me to introduce myself…” The truth is way out there, but certifiably genuine: JFK Jr., clad in a Keith Richards mask, handled half of the band’s glorious guitar noise. Of did he course.               


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

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

HUMAN WRECKAGE


Awkward


I have read the Old Testament as presented in the King James Version of the Christian Bible. I’d been led to believe that edition constituted a work of literature. Verily, the prose begot boredom. Perhaps the holy nuances were lost in yet another translation based on other translations. I hate putting down a book just halfway through, but you know…. Life is short; there are far more interesting books to read.


At this time of year, just before Albertans make like Cher and turn back time, the light is slight and Autotune cannot change the low register dirge of the spheres. Saturday morning was darker than my sense of humour. Invisible to one another, Ann and I enjoyed our day’s first cup of coffee and cigarette together on the front porch of the Crooked 9. Hot orange glows in a toxic fog. The frosted leafy decay in the air smelled better, sharp. We listened for rustling, coyotes, hares, porcupines and skunks.


Caffeined and nicotined, we went inside and turned our attention to our ritual Saturday morning pleasure, The New York Times crossword puzzle. There were a couple of gimmies in the grid, STREET MUSICIAN and SPY NOVELIST DEIGHTON. Another clue read, SETH RELATIVE TO ADAM’S AND EVE’S OFFSPRING. Forgive me, Father, I’ve long forgotten my catechism; there were Cain and Abel for sure.


Ann said, “Adam and Eve had children?”


Oh, my woe begotten, pagan baby, let me pour you another cup of coffee. You’re not quite in full solve mode. It’s still dark outside, seems earlier than it really is.


It’s some kind of misappropriated miracle that many people with influence and power read the Book of Genesis as fact. Honest to God, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway makes more sense. Institutionalized ignorance is worse than disease because diseases may be treated, sometimes cured, or even eradicated. Blind faith overlooks a lot of illogical suppositions. Should the creation myth of Adam and Eve be true, homo sapiens did not come from a good family.


Mom, an afterthought, the weaker sex made from the first man, was one bad apple. One of her rowdy kids was the world’s first murderer, fratricide at that. And Mom and Dad would necessarily have had some daughters, you know, just to keep the first family’s ball rolling. Talk about dysfunctional, all of us the progeny of incest. Of course, that could account for the endless tragedy that is human history; life’s rich pageant.


Ann slid off the kitchen stool, hunched her shoulders and set her face in a frown. I could imagine the dowdy overcoat. Ann proceeded to imitate her father, an educated man and a voracious reader, mimicking the lipless handbag draggers who constituted the religious constituency in the small Alberta town where she’d spent her formative years. We had one such pinched and prim lady in our neighbourhood who petitioned the community league to cut back the shrubbery in our central park because God only knows what teenagers might get up to in the shadows. Her Baptist Sunday school taught curtain twitching.


The Times Seth solution was THIRD. I’m uncertain how much begetting Adam did once the Tree of Knowledge revealed the pleasures of the night to Eve, that little vixen. Still, Seth’s sibling bride must’ve been child number four at the very least.          


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

Friday, 29 October 2021

EAT ME


A Packaging Pickle


Ann is not infirm. Nor am I. But sometimes we need help. We have opposable thumbs and we have learned how to use tools.


I’m perfectly capable of opening a book, magazine or newspaper. At times I must lick the tips of my index finger and thumb. Boxes are generally easy. Sometimes we use a retractable knife. CDs and LPs usually have a seam in the cellophane. Breaking the factory seal on the lid of a bottle or a jar can be more problematic. Sometimes I wear a rubber glove to enhance my grip; sometimes Ann employs an adjustable wrench. A rusting “church key,” an old-fashioned bottle and can opener is forever utile. Blister packs are aptly named.


I love pickles. Seasoned with garlic and dill, preserved in brine. Pickles are versatile, condiments, garnishes or sides. The best pickles in the marketplace are a brand called Strub’s. These sour babies aren’t grocery aisle goods, none of that “refrigerate after opening” stuff. No, they ship chilled and must be displayed for sale in a cooler in the delicatessen or meat department. Strub’s is the elite of commercial pickles, the Platonic ideal of a baby cucumber.


Ann and I have never had a serious disagreement, except maybe over pickles. She likes those sweet, bread-and-butter slices, mixed jars with cauliflower and, God help me, gherkins. C’mon. They look nice enough on a hors d’oeuvre tray I suppose, beside bites of sausage and cheese. A member of my high school clique used to refer to his penis as his gherkin, and, you know, blue balls and all, I never thought Catholic girls would go for a tiny, shrivelled green thing. I will never get past that image.


When I was fully engaged in the advertising industry and social media hadn’t yet reached its permanent state of the terrible twos, one of my agency’s clients, a snack food manufacturer, desperately wanted in on the evolving digital conversation. Naivety suited this western Canadian company. They couldn’t quite grasp that they’d opened a forum for complaints as opposed to compliments despite having accumulated years of warm, down-home brand equity. In my experience, silence was always the ultimate accolade; nobody could be bothered enough to bitch and moan, and who would waste their time on the positive, a testimonial.


I don’t engage with consumer brands on Facebook because I don’t want advertising popping up on my friends’ news feeds implying an endorsement, “Geoff Moore likes this.” And yet, these companies seek feedback. The savvy ones understand that solicited kudos don’t constitute consumer outreach. The truly important information is each and every criticism, meaning that a dozen other diatribes were left unwritten, unsent.


Ann and I have written askance to Bick’s, bemused by its decision to stop making onion relish. That stuff combined with a Strub’s pickle on a bratwurst, hot dog or hamburger was just, oh my God. Ocean Spray no longer brews up Cran-Ruby, a cocktail or fruit beverage which did not constitute a juice designation. I fumed, but couldn’t be bothered to complain. These past six months I’ve not been able to find diet Dr. Pepper anywhere and so I hesitate to enjoy the 500 mL bottle on the door of our fridge because it could very well be the last of its kind. I haven’t got around to sending the company a note.


Strub’s has changed its packaging. Its pickles no longer come in jars but squat plastic tubs. The new format is something of a breakthrough. The new containers may be reused for leftovers or lunches, Rubbermaid or Ziploc style. They tuck away nicely in our fridge. But they’re almost impossible to open. Ann and I have tried knives, pliers and third parties – visitors from a covid cohort household.


The other day Ann said, “I’m writing to Strub’s.”


The reply from Canada’s Eastern Time Zone awaited Ann when we awoke the next morning. The trick, illustrated by five photographs, is to utilize the wrong end of a teaspoon as a lever. The label on a tub does not mention this pro tip. Safety tip: NEVER USE A KNIFE! Saints preserve us, the e-mail reply also contained a link to a YouTube instructional video. Clocking in at less than ten seconds, it is more informative than the average Ted Talk.


People generally don’t sweat pickles unless they’re in one or preserve them. Strub’s is presenting as a responsible company. Strub’s is attempting to reduce the weight of its packaging, make it less fragile – shipping and logistical issues - and reusable. Like its products, innovation can be bumpy. Strub’s initiative, beta flawed as it is, isn’t quite as modest as it appears. Excessive and disposable packaging in the food industry, driven by shelf presence and safety concerns, has long been an environmental bugaboo. True, jars are recyclable and may be reused to store nails, screws and nuts and bolts, but the rule of thumb when I worked in the grocery business was that one damaged item in a case, a broken jar, a dented tin, erases the entire resale margin on the remainder. So, progress, of a sort, modern times.    


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

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.

Monday, 27 September 2021

EDMONTON EXISTENTIAL


Signals and Symbols


They are rare birds in the city. Ann said that when the raven alit on the top rail our entire fence wobbled. Moments later I saw the beast on an angled piece of one of our downspouts. It was the size of a Canadian football with a head and a scythe for a beak, its wingspan constrained and knock-knock-knocking under the eaves. It was shiny black like Superman’s hair, complete with cyan DC Comics highlights.


The biggest birds Ann and I have marvelled at as they’ve flitted around the Crooked 9 are pileated woodpeckers, the largest of that species. They’re vertical birds, designed to cling upright to tree trunks. Bald eagles fly too high for our point of view. We sometimes hear great horned owls in the night. Ravens are dirigibles, unleaded zeppelins whose song remains the same, “Nevermore.” Even our local magpies were intimidated; a parliament of those prancing, squawking, puffed out toughs will generally take on all comers, cats and dogs included.


It’s impossible not to be at least a little po-faced as summer fades into fall. Yet it’s still that lovely and brief Hemingway time of the year: Ann and I get out of bed as the sun also rises. Dawn’s cloudy blazing swatches of horizon colour, hues of red, orange and yellow, accentuate the beautiful decaying leaves of our trees and shrubs; the sky curls on the lawn and the walk, drifted down to Earth. The air smells different, a little more pungent. There’s a refreshed clarity in our neighbourhood star’s lower light, everything we can see seems a little sharper, as if some cosmic lense has been wiped clean and adjusted minutely.


Mornings of late have been no small grace. Ann and I are still able to take our coffees outside. Our mugs steam on the front porch tete-a-tete. We are cozy in our Neil Young godfather of grunge lumberjack flannel shirts, collars up. The pages of our newspaper sections rustle in concert with the shrivelling leaves. The birds are active: some are year-round residents; Canada geese are squonking south; arctic nesters layover on their flight paths north. For one blessed hour there is peace, no motors, no sirens, just gratitude for a sense of low-key contentment in spite of everything else unfolding out there. It’s all good. Winter’s coming though, it’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.


I suspect this will sound a bit bizarre, but sometimes I imagine Richard Harris in shining armour clopping down our street astride a warhorse warbling, “By order summer lingers through September…” But Camelot was as idealistic as Eden, wasn’t it? As misguided a faith in the fantastically unattainable as a failing cult serving cups of funny tasting Kool-Aid. Nothing lasts, be it a moment, an hour, months, years or an era, good or bad.


I like to wear caps, baseball style ones. Berets never suited me. Only two English speaking people have ever rocked the French look, Groucho Marx and E Street’s Miami Steve. But I’ve smoked enough alcohol and drunk enough cigarettes to know that the Existentialists got life’s innate absurdity right enough or close enough for rock ‘n’ roll. Our unbidden existence is akin to raking leaves on a windy day: a futile exercise, but not entirely without result. When I’m working on our lawn with a fan rake in a breeze, I can choose between Sisyphean despair at the uselessness of it all, rake up and do it again, or be dazzled by the beauty of the fall. Still, it’s somewhat disconcerting to be conscious of the beady gaze of a lone raven as I go about my meaningless business. 


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

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

HUMAN WRECKAGE


Have We Got Neighbours?


The nosy fellow across the street likes to sit on the front porch of the Crooked 9 and update Ann and me about what’s going on up and down our street. A few doors away, the home renovation of our local, convicted sex offender seems to have stalled; perhaps the pandemic has disrupted the global supply chain of dungeon fixtures. The neighbour to our immediate right hasn’t spoken to us for years – discounting a few obscenity-laden screams; we’re right up there with the sky, her adult daughter and her weird black dog cross-bred to bark anxiously. When her blinds are up we note that her Christmas tree is a 12-month, decorative fixture – and has been for a decade. She is of a peculiarly obese shape, her knees, her hips, her lungs and her heart have to work awfully hard while her mind is on vacation.


Ann and I have always kept things together.


The brand new, two-storey, curiously commercial-looking skinny home to the left of the Crooked 9 sold this week. All conditions are off and we expect new neighbours casting their shadows upon us by next weekend. Consequently, I’ve been dwelling on the nature of neighbours, Robert Frost and fences, all those posts and boards, gates and latches. I suppose new neighbours are akin to a choking hazard toy in a cereal box, a sealed pack of baseball cards or cancer: you can’t help wondering what you’re going to get.


I’ve come to terms with a biker bigwig moving into a fortified clubhouse. Incidental and opportunistic crime in the neighbourhood would plunge to zero. On the other hand, neither Ann nor I wish to be remembered as gang war euphemisms, civilian collateral damage.


Should we not be blessed with professional criminals who abide by a code of professional conduct, we’d settle for introverts or snobs – people likely to keep to themselves. Maybe our new neighbours might let their taste in music do their talking over the fence; Ann and I are more Warren Zevon and ZZ Top than Zamfir. There could be disputes, or not. We can only speculate about the value these strange folks place on the creative arts and its implied aesthetics, after all, they just slapped down a million plus on a home more suited to house a suite of medical offices as opposed to a family.


God forbid they’ll be garrulous. Life’s too short to gab at length about nothing. I hope they’re not passionate about weird stuff like Amway or Scientology. What if they prove to be extremists, right wing-nuts or trigger warning-happy leftists? A good neighbour is a burned-out cynic with a whit of wit.


Ann and I together keep our eyes on the street. We are front porch sentinels. Truth is, not a lot goes on and keeping watch might be a lonely job except for the fact we’re both mildly misanthropic. Cars enter garages, the segmented doors close; nobody uses their front doors. Nobody receives visitors or hosts Saturday night parties. The neighbourhood seems to exist in some sort of Stephen King prison dome, food and water rations driven in from the “outside.” Humanity’s rich pageant is hired help: housecleaners, lawn care and snow removal crews and dog walkers.


I don’t believe this strange and insular world Ann and I observe so acutely stems from pandemic life. I suggest its roots lie with the advent of digital television signals, the proliferation of the internet and their spawn, the iPhone. Real life selected an upgrade to version 2.0, departed our avenues and streets, bought the server farm. Of course, dwelling inside “the internet of things” costs money and nobody carries cash. When in 1987 the Royal Canadian Mint launched the loonie, I surmised our dollar would lose some of its value. I was not referencing global currency markets, I meant the average person’s perception of its worth, the denomination’s migration from billfold to change pocket. Money has become an abstraction since then. Binary code has evolved into fingertip prime numbers. Goods and services are delivered with the touch or swipe of a screen.


This weekend we’ll greet our new neighbours with a liberal sample of Ann’s baking. My hunch is that we won’t see much of them after this casually awkward attempt at introductions - and not just because winter’s coming on. Our neighbourhood has defaulted into digitized agoraphobia; remote work and home entertainment are investments that demand confinement. I suspect our new neighbours’ expansive and irksomely elevated rear deck may never be more than dead space, the way apartment and condo balconies are utilized mainly for exterior storage.


The convicted sex offender’s property abuts an immense black cube. Ann and I refer to its residents as “The Borg;” engagement is futile. There’s a woman who lives farther down our street, just as the asphalt begins to curve, who I ape with my not-too-bad impression of a smiling horse or perhaps a member of Britain’s royal family; sometimes Ann and I never need speak. All I know for sure about our new neighbours is that we will anoint them with a nickname, a descriptor or a mimicked signifier. Welcome to our street. We don’t judge, we just observe.              


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