Tuesday, 23 February 2021


Coffee and Cigarettes

When Fahrenheit and Celsius agree to meet and shake frostbitten hands at 40-below, baby, it’s cold outside. Late last week the city, squinting and a little stiff, emerged from a voluntary extreme cold lockdown. Saturday was a particularly fine and mild day. Sunday was even better as thermometers had jumped 47 degrees since the onset of the polar pandemic.

Yesterday, Sunday, I took my morning mug of coffee outside and sat down on my half of the Crooked 9’s front porch tête-à-tête for the first time this year. I lit the day’s first cigarette. There were no human sounds on the street. There were no distant human sounds, engines, sirens nor car alarms. I listened to the birdsong, mostly sparrows and chickadees. I heard a woodpecker tock-tock-talking to the bark in a birch, fir or willow somewhere close by. My cigarette smoke burned psychedelic grey, my lung-filtered version bluer; my black coffee in its black mug steamed as it cooled, slack ropes of ghostly vapour.

Favourite coffee mugs are sentimental pieces of crockery. They make the contents taste better. The Rolling Stones’ lolling tongue logo first appeared in 1971 with their eponymous record label launch. Their first release was the ‘Brown Sugar’ maxi-single with two tracks on the B side (‘Bitch’ and a live version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Let It Rock’). That’s 50 years of branding to date. John Pasche’s original design has since been tinkered with, tampered with, and tattooed through the decades. My mug is musical, 16 variations of that tongue. Say “aah” and I’ll tell you the album or the tour. 

My good mood had been preset on Saturday afternoon. I’d swept the winter grit out of the garage and then I’d tried to scrub the salt stains from its cracked and pitted concrete floor. Chore done, I played Into the Music, Van Morrison’s last essential album, his masterpiece from 1979. I believe its title is a subtle affirmation of ‘Into the Mystic’ from Moondance, Caledonia soul. And I spun that record with enough volume to flood the property with poetry, doors and windows open. Turn it up! “Can you hear that sound? It’s the troubadour coming to town.” Hark! The cranky Irish mystic heralds the coming of spring!

My sixty-second winter has weighed particularly heavily, but this is the oppressive nature of an invisible pathogen in low light. It’s all too soon for a harsh season to pass, but my weekend soundings in the dead of this diseased winter all seem promising. There’s nothing quite like a decent cup of coffee and a cigarette or two enjoyed on a fine morning. 

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of new age mysticism since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is coming in 2021. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021


Severe Unplanned Unintentional Impact with Ground

It’s been a strange 11 or 12 months for many businesses. Airlines don’t fly. Cinemas don’t screen films. Restaurants don’t seat diners. Hotels host no guests. And then there’s Bombardier Inc.

The publicly traded though family-run company was once the beacon of Quebec Inc., a surge of locally owned and operated businesses that surfed a profitable wave of nationalism in the wake of the province’s late 60s Quiet Revolution. Bombardier was formally established in 1942. It manufactured snowmobiles (its original raison d’etre), motorcycles, busses and light rail carriages. The company then reached for the sky on the wings of its CSeries passenger jet whose innovative design was miles ahead of any craft on staid old Boeing’s drawing boards. Bombardier does not make any of these things any more.

Bombardier stock is no longer a key indicator on the TSX, the Toronto Stock Exchange. I don’t pay much attention to my investment portfolio. That is work best left to savvier people than me and I don’t begrudge them their fees. Anyway, I know myself and so I know that should I become obsessive about my holdings, I’d be really obsessive, like a teenaged Catholic boy with unfettered access to porn. Nonetheless, when my 2020 summary statement arrived in the mail, I scrutinized it, praying a portion of my future wasn’t beholden to the dog stock of a debt-ridden and failing company (on a somewhat related note CargoJet has been doing very well of late).

Recently, Bombardier announced that it would concentrate on its ceaselessly pared and newly designated core business: luxury executive jets. Then it sold its Learjet brand. Gee, that move didn’t leave a whole lot of product to manufacture and sell. This was an instance when a long established and carefully cultivated corporate brand should have been leveraged to mitigate perceptions of disastrous mismanagement. But Bombardier no longer possesses the cachet provided by such an invisible, invaluable and intangible asset.

These are green and lean times. So, imagine the near-impossible, a corporation or celebrity willing to splurge on a new private jet instead of renting flights on an existing one. Lear remains the Rolls Royce no matter who owns the brand (see Indian motorcycles). Cessna’s in the game, respected, synonymous with safe and reliable small planes (pilot error notwithstanding). The third option is a Bombardier Challenger, the last desperate all-in high stakes gambit of a doomed company. Hmm. I know for sure what I wouldn’t buy.                  

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of business writing since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is coming soon.  So is spring. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right.

Saturday, 13 February 2021


Invisible Loads

Funny. You don’t realize what weighs you down until it doesn’t weigh on you any longer. This is a very different feeling from coming to finally appreciate someone or something only after they’ve been irretrievably lost. New knowledge is always enlightening, but in the latter case you’re reminded that some things are best left undiscovered. Relief always beats regret.

I often stand and stare out the window of our back door. If I’m not there, I’m likely standing on our front porch smoking a cigarette. From time to time Ann will come up behind me, place a hand between my shoulder blades and her other on my chest and then abruptly adjust my posture. One of those invisible loads again.

Late last fall, during a fortuitous break in the weather, we had our furnace replaced. The essential consumer durable had aged long beyond its limited warranty. It didn’t run on natural gas so much as repairs and prayers. Has it always shaken the Crooked 9 as it gamely tries to fire itself up? Has it always rattled like that? Eventually you come around to the conclusion that your furnace shouldn’t sound like a V2 rocket launch. With our new unit quietly humming along through Edmonton’s current covid-extreme cold snap, I now realize how much our old one oppressed me with worry. At the time, that was just the way things were, I didn’t want to know any better. I denied mounting evidence of a potential catastrophic problem although Ann and I bought a space heater just in case because we had learned the hard way that we were ill-equipped to cope with our previous catastrophic (and expensive) problem. These days I only think about our new furnace on the first of the month when it’s time to change the filter.

Another one of my psychic weights has been alleviated too. I’ve ceased fretting about the neighbouring elephant thrashing about south of 49. The politics of the United States of America are off my radar. That only took five years. Another country’s business isn’t mine, but things went a little haywire next door. Now what? Oh, the aggravating assaults of the weekly Economist, the morning Globe and Mail and the blue screen news apps. I’m sure neither Ann nor I fully grasped how deeply der Trumpenfuhrer’s tentacles of illiterate tyranny had invaded the Crooked 9. What now? The gauche, odious vulgarian has since gone the way of his commuter airline, his university, his vodka and his frozen meat. My only worry now (and I can easily manage this one) is if that orange buffoon goes to jail, is he too obese to safely hang himself without damaging his cell's gilded fixtures? I’d like to know as it’d be another load off my mind.             

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of musings since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is coming in 2021. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. The second wave along with its more virulent cousin is here and so is winter; you’ll need a distraction.