Thursday, 19 May 2022

SAINTS PRESERVE US


About Last Night


Chaos reigned supreme in Calgary Wednesday.


Yesterday evening Alberta Premier Jason Kenney won his party’s leadership review by a Sunday morning hangover whisker. His speech in Calgary following the announcement of the result was short and something of a shock, he abruptly resigned his post. His United Conservative Party (UCP) is destined to remain a deeply divided entity with a provincial election just 12 months hence. Party officials feared they couldn’t win it with him; perhaps they can’t win it without him.


Kenney’s immediate fate is unclear. He could stay on as premier until the UCP holds a leadership election. The party could appoint an interim leader and placeholder premier in the meantime. Conceivably, Kenney himself could stand as a candidate in the UCP’s leadership election. All of this as the Alberta body politic cycles into election mode. In the short term, Albertans will be represented nationally and internationally by a person citizens did not formally choose.


The tiny list of Kenney’s obvious and potential successors is blood curdling. Both Danielle Smith and Brian Jean are former leaders of Wildrose, a defunct breakaway party formed because the Progressive Conservatives were just too danged progressive. The talent in Kenney’s cabinet is thin. No minister has presented as his de facto Number Two, a dauphin. Kenney was something of an autocrat, prideful enough to keep the spotlight on himself. Though he whined about how Canada’s myriad of constitutional documents impinged upon his powers, he was canny enough to keep his views on some social issues to himself and therefore out of the public forum. For the most part, the church did not impede nor direct the state on his watch.


Kenney, after demanding God to bless Alberta, closed his conciliatory and concessionary remarks by urging Albertans to get on to what really mattered, round two, game one of the Flames and Oilers National Hockey League (NHL) playoff across town. That game was Iggy Pop hockey, a real wild one. Fifteen total goals when analysts insist there should be no room to move. Open ice is a rare commodity this late in the second season. Calgary hung on to prevail 9-6.


The venerable Canadian Broadcasting Corporation streamed the game live, no charge excepting annual federal income tax dollars. The match was one of those rare conversion tilts. A new or indifferent hockey viewer might well wonder what they’ve been missing and may become a fan. The nature of the sport suggests the possibility that there will be many more future games as engaging as last night’s. Hope is on offer.


Yesterday evening’s UCP invitation-only deflated, failed redux coronation suggests the party will continue to tweak its dogma, get that populist whistle pitch perfect. Eligible voters can expect the UCP 2023 campaign platform to be planked with inarticulate talking points, shrill ones, generic ones like anger and complaint. This, this is on offer for one of Canada’s “have” provinces (the price of oil is up – war is very good for a commodity-based boom and bust economy). May the saints preserve a majority of Albertans from the reconfigured UCP.


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of all things Alberta since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

SAINTS PRESERVE US


Tonight, Tonight, Tonight


Sometimes things just work out this way. In this particular provincial instance, it might be for the best.


The Edmonton Oilers visit the Calgary Flames tonight for their opening match in the second round of the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs. Both teams got through the preliminary round, gutting it out for the full seven games. The provincial rivals have not faced each other when it really matters since 1991. All of Alberta will be watching.


Meanwhile, the governing United Conservative Party (UCP) will announce the result of its leadership review. That process should have been done and dusted during a weekend convention in Red Deer before Easter but a surge in paid party memberships created unwieldy logistical problems. The ballots will be counted today under the scrutiny of Deloitte, an auditing firm with offices in Edmonton and Calgary. Premier Jason Kenney formed the UCP in 2017 by luring the right, the righter, the rightest and the righteous into his Ford F-150 clown pickup. Seating’s been cramped – even with the extended cab. Another guy who also believes in the sanctity of traditional Christian families and the tar sands wants to take the wheel. All of Alberta is waiting to fasten seatbelts.


Even casual readers of the sports pages must now be fatigued by “Battle of Alberta” repetitions and it hasn’t even started yet. Remarkably, the NHL hasn’t registered the phrase as a trade mark and sold a sponsorship: Scotiabank Battle of Alberta with superscript circle Rs and TMs. Because the Flames and the Oilers are the last Canadian teams left in the tournament and one of them must lose, it’s a sure bet one or more hockey scribes will lament the diminishing odds of “Lord Stanley’s mug returning to its rightful place in Canada.”


The UCP is fragmenting ahead of tonight’s vote result. The Buffalo Party has been formed to advocate for Alberta’s rightful place in Canada – or outside of it, whatever; they don’t know. The tenor of politics here is petulant teenager: angry, alienated and inarticulate. And that’s just within the UCP’s existing rank and file, miraculously and temporarily swollen by the stakes of power, incoherent ideology as lash-out complaint. It’s a safe bet that Premier Kenney will keep his job, maybe just. He’s a plump, huggable teddy bear with a shiv.


Hockey is a meaningless distraction, as is all sport, but it’s not without engagement. The Flames and Oilers will change Alberta’s casual conversation for the next ten days or so. This change is welcome. Really, really welcome. One team will advance, progress. There will be more hockey talk. For a time, the spittle-laden invective of UCP infighting and debate over the party’s archaic platform of sepia-toned regression will be flooded out by the power plays most Albertans truly care about.


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of all things Alberta since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.

Monday, 16 May 2022

NONSENSE VERSE


Will You Give Me No Peace


Fuck you I say fuck off

I couldn’t give a toss

Lanyard ‘round your neck

Shilling utilities on spec

Piss off from my door

Don’t knock on it no more

Running down the hall

Another bogus robo call

Credit card security

Home computer impurity

Used clothes for charity

Disease donation solidarity

Contribute to the misery

By making poverty history

Art gallery membership

Even though it exhibits shit

And you my China doll

You make no sense at all

Very stern but a little fresh

Mandarin via Bangladesh

Canada Revenue gift card taxes

Sheriffs due armed with axes

Can’t you all just let me be

It’d really fuckin’ please me             


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

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

A FAN’S NOTES


James Taylor with Jackson Browne


Ann and I spent a mellow, mid-tempo evening in the company of two seventies musical giants. Ann has always enjoyed James Taylor’s music and has previously seen him in concert. A few years ago we attended a scaled back Jackson Browne theatre show together. This hockey arena double bill, upper tier scrimmed, and originally scheduled for more carefree, pre-pandemic times, should have flipped headliners. We decided to buy tickets late last week. I thought the performance would make a fine finale to Ann’s May Day birthday and then Mother’s Day and, anyway, our faded social skills off the property require refreshing.


Neither sensitive wimp had anything to say to me during their primes. They sang from an easy listening place where I wasn’t. I’ve since come around more than a little bit, with caveats and conditions.


My nephew, 32 years my junior, dropped by for a visit on the weekend. He was going Monday night too. He asked me if there was a definitive James Taylor album he should be familiar with by curtain time. Ann would say Mud Slide Slim.


I said, “You know, he’s one of those guys where all you need is the Greatest Hits.” It’s a Boomer staple, on the same shelf as the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.


The irony of James Taylor, singer-songwriter, is that three of his biggest hits are covers of the Drifters, Marvin Gaye and Carole King. They are low key love letters but he doesn’t inhabit them the way Aretha owns “Respect” or Joe Cocker owns “Darling Be Home Soon.” Then again, I can’t imagine anyone else covering his material like “Mexico,” “Fire and Rain” and “Country Road” except for maybe a drunken amateur in front of a midnight campfire.


Taylor took the stage dressed like Tom Joad in his rumpled Dust Bowl Sunday best. He is a strikingly tall man. Ann leaned into my right ear: “He was wearing the same clothes last time I saw him.” He showered the people with his greatest hits. All of them. While some of the arrangements have been changed from the overly familiar, his voice has not. Taylor confided that though he’s been clean for decades, he understood he performed for the majority of his audience, “people who are still fucked up.” Why, thank you, sweet baby James, I guess heroin and mental hospital stays combine to form a sort of grandfatherly clarity.


My nephew wanted to know about Jackson Browne. I said, “It took a while but now I really admire his songwriting. So, yeah, there’s definitely a couple of albums of his that are worth having.”


If Taylor is a singer-songwriter, Browne is a musician-activist. Being harangued by employers, politicians, priests, professors and California rock stars with one nostril never suited my temperament. To Browne’s credit he informed the audience that he’d been watching YouTube footage of himself for “research purposes.” He said his song introductions and explanations ran long and he ultimately told his video self to “shut the fuck up.” Amen, I’ve thought that for the longest time. Rumours from the last century allege he may’ve rehearsed that line on his various domestic partners.


The couple seated to Ann’s right asked her who Browne was, they’d never heard of him. They were younger than us, but, man, Ann and I looked way better, a bit more fashionable too. Buying a t-shirt at a show and then wearing it immediately at said venue is frightfully gauche. I whispered, “If ‘Doctor My Eyes’* doesn’t hook them, nothing can. They’ll think ‘Take It Easy’ is an Eagles cover.”


Following the 1979 “No Nukes” concerts in New York City, Browne tried to walk handsome and hot down E Street. “Boulevard” came out more John Cafferty and Beaver Brown than Boss. It will never, ever be mistaken for “Dirty Boulevard” by Lou Reed. Still, it’s got that crunchy Fender sound I love so much. Browne didn’t play it nor did he do his version of Little Steven’s “I Am a Patriot.” His more recent material, not that Ann and I had heard a note before last night, blended nicely into his set. “Downhill from Everywhere” from just last year rocked far beyond “Boulevard,” the road paint blurred.


Conversely, Taylor rued that his latest album, yet another American songbook syllabus, had landed in the marketplace “like a baby being thrown down a well.” Taylor, of all people, should’ve realized they’d all been done and redone; he’s been there before in so many understated and somnambulant ways. He did play one pleasant enough jazzy obscurity from the collection as the screen behind the stage displayed a Merrie Melodies cartoon about cats in college. Mercifully, he let those other old dogs lie and stuck to his own.


* If you’ve a proper stereo, I mean one with speakers that move air, blast this song, turn it up! I don’t know that I’ve ever heard such rich, fat production since. The piano and the congas sound fantastic. Jesse Ed Davis (Taj Mahal) on guitar; Crosby and Nash chiming in on the choruses. The lyrics are great, suicidal existential angst muted and fairy dusted by soaring music. “It’s later than it seems.”           


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

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

A LONG WAY FROM MANY PLACES


Recurring Engagement


“Oh, my boy,” as Elvis might’ve mumbled from the stage; I’ve been keeping this blog current for almost a decade now. I have written satire and wretched verse. I have covered politics, business, history, sports and music. I’ve tried to promote my attempts at contemporary fiction. I have dwelled upon the fleeting absurdity of existence and continue to do so. And the weather. As Shelley actually wrote, “Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”


I envisioned Dispatches from the Crooked 9 as a genuine magazine. A compendium of what captured my scattered attention that particular day or week, which would in turn, I hoped, engage some of my readers some of the time. Nobody cares about everything and, anyway, I tend to flit about. A particular joy for me has been chronicling Ann’s and my travels. There’s always another world unfolding beyond the civic boundaries of the Crooked 9 and our neighbours’ eyes, and a reflective green highway city limits sign. I don’t take many photographs when we’re away, but I always pack a child’s Hilroy exercise book and a few pens; I prefer to scribble my impressions.


We have booked our first trip since covid walloped the world. A short flight to a comfortable place. I’m so excited that a trip yet to be taken counts as travel writing. Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, has always struck me as a very clich├ęd, veddy British place. At one time it was an important Royal Navy station, a check to the ambitions of Imperial Spain and the American ideology of Manifest Destiny. The Butchart Gardens suggest Kew, while the grand old Empress Hotel still serves high tea to Royal Doulton dowagers.


Victoria is home to Ann’s big brother Jim and his wife Shannon. The four of us are good friends, so much so that Ann and I have become friends with their friends. Jim is a retired accountant who loves to cook. On a visit our way he insisted on making macaroni and cheese, another dish to serve at a large, outdoor family gathering. I was almost pained watching him measure the ingredients so precisely. He didn’t count out the elbows per cup individually, but, you know, an internal struggle to refrain from doing so was evident. Shannon, a self-described “hot mess,” neither hurries nor rushes, no, Shannon “snaps a garter.”


The small grace of returning to a different place multiple times is familiarity. Ann and I enjoy ferreting through Victoria’s bookshops, one of which, Munro’s, is legendary among Canadian bookworms. There’s a record store in Fan Tan Alley that’s an absolute musty must for me. I’ve kept in touch with a high school and college chum who now resides in Victoria’s hippest neighbourhood, proximate to mile 0 of the Trans-Canada; we used to spend hours together earnestly dissecting the meaning of Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel songs, time well wasted. In Jim’s and Shannon’s company I cannot help but think of the Beatles and Lou Reed because we four go day tripping, doing the things that we want to. And oddly, shockingly, shock and odd, there are a few preferred pubs we make a point of frequenting.


The West Coast League (WCL), a baseball loop, has recently and somewhat absurdly expanded to Edmonton. I’m now aware of its existence. While Ann and I pondered visiting dates convenient for all and flight availability, I tracked our plans against the scheduled home games of the Victoria HarbourCats (not a typo, don’t get me started). Ann always enjoys a couple of hours at the ballpark on a sunny afternoon or warm evening. I always get a little extra kick watching baseball in an unfamiliar venue. Royal Athletic Park is a few blocks off Government Street, so not too too far from the water. We noted the club would welcome the Coquitlam Angels on Father’s Day.


Good hosts always ask visitors if there’s anything in particular or special they’d like to do. Good guests normally demure. While chatting with Jim and Shannon over the speaker phone I said, “Well, there’s a ballgame on the Sunday afternoon.” Worst case scenario was that I’d make my own way and meet up with the others afterward. That prospect didn’t bother me, better than examining pottery or local crafts, signed and numbered prints of frolicking orcas. We ended the call. They phoned back an hour later. They’d bought a dozen tickets; everybody in their Victorian circle was game.


I began to conceptualize this blog when Ann and I were in Parksville on Vancouver Island. We kept extending our overnight, one-off off season stay. I’d go to the desk each morning to book just another night. Jim and Shannon had recommended a casual resort to us, cabins and seclusion; a beach like boots – made for walking. I was reading Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men at the time, a borrowed, second-hand copy. I wondered where the book had been, it was a long way from home and many other places. Where might it go next?


My Victoria is a city strangely out of time. I’ve written about it in the past. Today I’m writing about it in the future. Come June I suspect I will write about it in the present. I’m covering a lot of the familiar, the same old ground, but how I wish, how I wish, Ann and I were there now. Then again, the HarbourCats won’t be playing yet.             


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