Saturday, 26 February 2022


A Parliament of Porch Pirates

Sometime last summer I noticed a squashed squirrel on the road in front of the Crooked 9. I sincerely hoped it was the bastard who’d shredded the hood liner of Ann’s 2008 Honda CRV. Justice! I wasn’t inclined to scrape it up. Let that rotting corpse be a warning. A lone magpie swooped down to investigate. Another one joined it. A few more strutted up to the buffet. Before long all that was left on the asphalt was a stain, a Springsteen lyric: “Man, that ain’t oil, that’s blood.”

I’ve reluctantly come to accept that the monster house directly across the street from the Crooked 9 possesses some positive attributes despite my critical eye. Its construction predates the current trend to subdivide traditional residential lots in order to squeeze a pair of skinny infills inside generous lines. So, mercifully, the view from here is not a matching pair of structures that resemble ersatz commercial buildings or military installations. The monster home’s design and colouring suggests an oceanfront cottage and we’ll take that Carly Simon, Cape Cod affectation over a rococo palazzo or a California ranch bungalow hooded by Spanish roof tiles any old time. I suppose it’s relatively tasteful for something that doesn’t quite mesh with the existing postwar residential architecture in a landlocked northern town.

It has too many windows; but if their shapes weren’t a home-schooled child’s educational toy array of squares, rectangles, circles and ovals maybe I wouldn’t notice them. Pythagoras must be spinning in his cylinder. But what really dances me to the edge of sanity is the octagonal home security sign on the inside sill of a square window. Red alert, it’s never on its proper edge. Ann’s a bit more sanguine about chaos. To me it’s like roadkill, I can’t look away.

The household sees more deliveries than a maternity ward. Friends don’t drop by so much as FedEx, Purolator and UPS. Groceries and prepared meals are dropped off almost daily. There’s always an Amazon box on the porch. All in all, a lifestyle a bit too modern for us, a bit too cloistered. Ann and I don’t know these people beyond their given names and casual, silent waves.

Earlier this week we were listening to an amazing compilation of New Orleans jazz and r&b called Take Me to the Mardi Gras. As I was about to photograph its sleeve for the edification of my fellow Facebook music nut group members, I glanced out the living room window. Two cartons of groceries were being hefted onto the open porch of the Martha’s Vineyard mansion. Sixty-eight minutes later I was ruminating over my next selection. I’d played Elmore James and Willie Dixon the week previous; maybe some Jimmy Reed or Sonny & Brownie? Otis Blue? The Very Best of Al Green? What would Ann prefer? I glanced out the living room window again.

The scene across the street could’ve been staged and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A very excited parliament of magpies had swarmed the porch and the unattended groceries. I went outside to get a better view. I snapped the tab on a chilled tin of schadenfreude; I nearly asphyxiated myself whilst smoking and laughing at the same time. I called Ann outside to enjoy the show. I’ve never been a swift study and so it took a while before my sense of common decency was activated. I eventually decided to cross the street and prorogue parliament.

The grocery order had been picked and then packed into corrugated merchandising trays, open top and front. Retailers may slide one onto a shelf or stack a bunch to create a display; great idea when used as intended. The carnage was remarkable. A paper sack of sugar was torn open, but it was the fate of the pork chops that gave me pause. The Valu-Pak! was busted open like a suicide bomber’s vest. Slabs of pink, well-trimmed, thick-cut meat where scattered everywhere, on the porch, the stairs, the front walk. The magpies ceded enough territory to allow me to ring the doorbell. No response.

I walked back to the Crooked 9. The birds returned to their picnic. We were posed with a new dilemma, the terms of further engagement. We’d no contact information; these neighbours were anonymities on the community league’s “block chain” chart. Ann phoned another neighbour, the Nosy Buddhist, figuring if anybody had a number, he would. He thought he just might. We delegated the rest of the do-gooding to him. I’d grudgingly done my part and, anyway, it was time to change the music. I settled on the Staples, something uplifting about how we’re all in this together. 

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of neighbourhood curtain twitching since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit to find your preferred format and retailer.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022


Talking Baseball?

The fundamental promises of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms are “peace, order and good government.” Modest and sensible aspirations for a normally dozy democracy peacefully unified by a jigsaw assembly of British provinces in 1867. These basic tenets were not evident in the nation’s capital in recent weeks as orchestrated chaos enveloped Parliament Hill.

The “trucker convoy” protested persnickety pandemic protocols. Canadian covid messaging remains woefully inconsistent throughout every legal jurisdiction. Even as Alberta trumpeted a wide open “best summer ever” Quebec meanwhile imposed a curfew; sort of a national “Q’est-ce que fuck?” for long haulers. Though Canada has signed a revised pact purporting free trade between it and the United States, our largest trading partner, the countries’ rules and regulations aren’t always in synch. Free trade within Canada’s borders remains a weather dependent draft document. Moving freight around this continent is challenging at the best of times.

No single industry, business or worker has had an easy time of it these past two years. My first thought about the trucker convoy was “Get in line; we’re all fatigued.” Of course it didn’t take long for a simple demonstration of pandemic frustration to turn weird. We live in an age of whinge and whine. Social media has rendered civil discourse and rational discussion as archaic and arcane as Socratic Method. Digital platforms provide wonderful pulpits for those bent on fomenting or inflaming dissent. The trucker convoy metastasized into a “freedom convoy.” Protesters unfurled their Confederate and Nazi flags, inflated bouncy castles for the super-spreading amusement of the would-be new world order’s indoctrinated and uninoculated brood. Why does the far right wave loser symbols, and put their children at risk and even deploy them as potential human shields should the riot squad come calling? Awkward branding.

Last spring I re-stained the back steps of the Crooked 9, as I always do. I work downward from the door to the garden path. Because I was home alone and at the back of the house, I was careful to ensure the front door was locked. Last year unmasked anti-vax protesters gathered in front of hospitals across Canada blocking their emergency entrances. You’ve got to get into the ICU to check out. This month those sympathetic to the plight of international freight haulers blockaded crucial border crossings in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. Some were armed; I mean heavily armed, American militia or high school shooter armed. I was not a member of my high school’s debating society either.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is something of a charismatic milquetoast, the type of weak kneed liberal his philosopher king father would’ve despised. A wise man without the power to reason away what a fool believes. According to disparate freedom convoy sources, the Prime Minister is the bastard son of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, a communist and a war criminal. I submit that he’s really just an ineffectual leader who lacks ethics and good judgment.

Last year’s snap election was predicated on the virus: this Trudeau’s government’s relatively successful management of the international health crisis vis-à-vis Canada and the logical demonization of those citizens hesitant to take their medicine; it’s insane to deny the effacing effects of ten billion global jabs. Wedge politics is like a perfect isosceles triangle, there’s no right side to hammer on: I pound, you pound, we pound and they pound - until everybody’s tired and fed up. The final poll tallies reflected this, Trudeau was not granted the comfortable majority of Liberal parliamentary seats he sought and expected.

Protests are subjective assemblies. Is upgrading and twinning an existing pipeline along an existing right of way bad? What about logging old growth rainforests? In these days of universal complaint, protests not only draw police presence but anti-protest protesters. Matches meet gasoline on Tindr. With downtown Ottawa invaded and occupied by fascist clowns and locals becoming increasingly annoyed, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Trudeau was self-isolating, having exhibited covid-like symptoms. This convenient dereliction of duty was akin to the Prime Minister’s decision to go surfing on Canada’s inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

I wasn’t the only person shaking my head as the days added up to weeks. The White House telephoned Trudeau. President Biden wasn’t so much concerned with the Prime Minister’s whiff on peace, order and good government (never issues in Washington and a backward capital K if you’re scoring along at home), but the millions of dollars evaporated by stalled trade. International standards decreed Canada a failing state. Then and only then did Trudeau invoke the Emergencies Act, a cuddlier 1988 update of the War Measures Act which was infamously invoked by his father during the 1970 October Crisis (“Just watch me,” a double dog dare); a risky and reluctantly undertaken political maneuver for the embarrassed and scolded head of a minority government.

The Emergencies Act allows the federal cabinet seven days of carte blanche clampdown in the interests of peace, order and good government before the House of Commons and the Senate may vote on the merit of its utilization (it passed). In this case its enactment was a last resort shut down of a populist street party that never should have been permitted to be thrown in the first place. Yet the lunatic fringe seems well organized and well funded even though its message is lobotomized drool. I don’t worry so much about its hateful flags as its rallying around false ones: I wonder in whose interest it might be to exploit a wedge in an apparently fragile and poorly led western democracy’s increasingly divided society. Fun and games.

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of paranoid political snark since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit to find your preferred format and retailer

Tuesday, 15 February 2022


Something in the Air

Ann has two weather apps on her iPhone. I have a third alternative on my iPad. Every morning we select the day’s forecast we most prefer. We’re no more logical than a cat who assumes the weather outside the front door must be different than the weather outside the back door and vice versa. January is like November, a month that seems to pack a sixth week.

Come February the mood around the Crooked 9 begins to lift beneath a seemingly inflated and bluer sky. Ann plays the solar chariot races on her weather apps; any day now sunset will be after five o’clock. Talk about happy hour. There’s an array of grocery store primroses in four-inch pots on the dining room table, colours of spring. It’s time to gently pry open those eye-catching packets filled with a few seeds of promise now displayed on many retailers’ power aisle. We’ve been saving egg cartons throughout the winter, recyclable germination vessels.

There’s a tantalizingly suggestive ring of green grass around the mossy base of one of our white and black birch trees. There’s a jerry can of gasoline in the garage for the old Honda mower, and I’ve made a note to purchase a litre of four-stroke motorcycle engine oil to lubricate its motor. I want to move Ann’s three massive, soil-filled terracotta flowerpots off their winter storage porch platform. I can barrel roll them to the stairs but the next few steps are trickier. That reminds me, the stairs leading up to the back door need to be re-stained. The task is an annual rite but this season’s freeze and thaw cycle has been particularly robust making our winter conditions icier than normal. I’ve been wearing cleats for outside chores and they’ve chewed up the planks. 

Dawn lit up the horizon on Saint Valentine’s Day, a rosy colour. Outside the air smelled clean, refreshed, as if someone had opened a window on our world. I was sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette in the chill on the front porch, breathing all of it in, girding for another grim session with the headlines in the morning newspaper. I rolled my shoulders, shaking off that sloped winter hunch.

Two skunks, their bushy tails up, ran down our neighbours’ front walk at cartoon velocity. I’ve never seen a skunk do anything other than shuffle or waddle under moonlight, not exactly silver streaks these nocturnal critters. Even the magpies gathering twigs for their nest high up in the mountain ash above the power lines paused to cast their beady eyes on the mating race. The skunks cornered the city sidewalk and scampered up the driveway two doors down. They did another frisky lap. I laughed. Spring! Their third lap was a varmint variant: they came my way.

Very recently certain family members politely requested that I not swear in the presence of our granddaughter. I do tend to use curses as commas should the conversation turn to current affairs, the Montreal Canadiens or fucking everything else that pisses me off. As the skunks approached me, I exclaimed, “Oh dear!” They came to a sudden stop and then turned tail. I ditched my cigarette and coffee and ran back indoors, where Ann and I have spent the past few months anyhow.

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of advice for smitten lovers since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit to find your preferred format and retailer.

Friday, 11 February 2022


“Rock Show”

In our petite portion of the great cosmic swirl that is the Milky Way, we orbit our sun between our elliptical neighbours Venus and Mars. These two planets were also the title of Paul McCartney’s sixth solo album, released in 1975. It’s an important record in his catalogue if only because his previous one, the justifiably massive Band on the Run, may have played back in his mind as a mixed blessing, a world-wide hit but perhaps an albatross too.

A close personal friend and confidante quickly dubbed Wing’s new album Penis and Mars. Oh, the rapier wit of 15-year-old boys; alas, nearly five decades later I know it by no other name. As for the actual title, I have no idea whether McCartney is referencing our solar system, alluding to our two traditional human genders or had simply found Mars a particularly easy proper noun to rhyme. For all I know, all of the above. I mean I had no idea “Blackbird” that lovely and fragile song from The Beatles was about the civil rights movement in the United States until he said so.

I dread the idea of attending a concert in this day and age. A ducat used to be had for a couple of hours of part-time work. Now a fan is forced to contemplate skipping a weekly mortgage payment. There remain the lurking spectres of terrorist acts and aerosol disease droplets. What’s worse though is the prospect of mingling with middle-aged sad sacks much like myself whose Fitbits are pretty much, you know, digital updates of complimentary funeral home wall calendars. I’ve been listening to Penis and Mars frequently recently and it is evocative of a time when my palms were hairier than my now IHOP-senior-discount-worthy nostrils and ear lobes.

I can’t go back, but the anthemic “Rock Show” has taken me halfway there. To mix allegories, allusions, analogies and metaphors, the song is more cartoon than documentary. Colour photographs in Circus magazine, black vinyl and radio ether, but, good God y’all, to actually go to a show! “Rock Show” spoke to me and for me; it expressed stuff I was too inarticulate to explain to anyone, let alone myself. And those fantastical tickets came with reservations, even then “Silly Willy and the Philly Band” sounded suspect. And what and where on Earth was “The Concertgebouw” anyway? Maybe the song’s enduring charm for me is its “Get Back” coda chatter, “Put your dress on, we’re going to the rock show….I’ve got tickets…”

Queen was a band that made me cringe. I thought they were too bombastic, too over-the-top to be taken seriously. Like Kiss, but better musicians. Of course, flamboyant excess is the sole ethos of rock. If I still recorded mix tapes, I’d follow “Rock Show” with “We Will Rock You.” These are trite songs but they are inclusive and self-aware, Wings and Queen are having a one-sided conversation with their audiences: “We get it.” The lines of communication were somewhat open, though neither one could lay a bloody finger upon Alice Cooper’s megachurch greeting “Hello Hooray.”

There’s a lyric fragment in “Rock Show” that always suggests Ziggy Stardust to me: “In my green metal suit I’m preparing to shoot up the city…” I don’t know why; Bowie’s resplendent in a quilted sky blue spacesuit on the cover. Then again, there’s a green door to his left. Maybe I saw a photograph in Hit Parader. But who could understand adolescent alienation better than an alien, a little green man?

I suppose that prior to the rise of punk, Alice, Wings and Queen were democratic in their own remote rock stardom way, a couple of chords and a catchy catch-all phrase. Pete Townshend of the Who has always fretted about his band’s relationship with its base (“Long Live Rock,” “Join Together”), but the other contemporary aristocrats, the Stones, Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, were too messed up and self-absorbed to care.

Duke Ellington wrote “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” in 1940. McCartney covered this jazz standard on his Soviet Melodyia release CHOBA B CCCP in 1988; pipes of peace and all that although I’ve a hunch Comrade Putin didn’t part with any hard earned KGB rubles to acquire the disc. Around that time I punched out of the night shift and hustled the few blocks to the Montreal Forum hoping to buy a couple of advance McCartney tickets. Their cost would’ve equated to hand-bombing a few skids of goods from the back of a truck, a couple of hours of pay topped up with a night premium. Well, didn’t the end of the line which I’d just joined rub up against its start: Ste-Catherine to Closse to de Maisonneuve to Atwater and back to Ste-Catherine. There was no way I’d be “sitting in the stands of the sports arena, waiting for the show to begin.”

McCartney, fittingly, was the last big rock show I attended. The price of admission was eye-watering. But it was him - albeit long past his best before date. Scoring an ounce and swilling strawberry wine - or any teenage-flavoured hootch, or any seventies rock show behaviour - was out of the question in this post-9/11 paranoid nanny state era. I suppose all these restrictions imposed sans irony by aged baby boomers blessed by a bit of influence and power serve a sort of purpose: experience has taught me that nasal vomiting is unpleasant; its bile burns sensitive internal tissue on its way up and there’s no escaping its smell.

Was that an amplified Liverpudlian accent or the slack jawed clacking on an old man’s cosmetic dentistry? McCartney’s rock show delivered plenty of nostalgia because that’s all he’s got left to sell. Beyond the time travel fuelled by his remarkable song catalogue, I experienced further, unexpected pangs from my, perhaps, ill-spent and liberally squandered youth. The venue’s staff, most of whom were half my age, sported dark uniforms offset by tennis ball green safety vests. They were dutifully diligent as they went about enforcing the landlord’s rules, provincial regulations and municipal bylaws. I did not appreciate being treated like a teenager again. 

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of pop music musings since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit to find your preferred format and retailer