Thursday, 30 June 2022


Why Not YYJ?

Well, gee, last week Ann and I travelled beyond Edmonton’s city limits signs for the first time since covid squeezed our world shut like a crammed suitcase. Greater Victoria isn’t exactly New York or even York but Vancouver Island’s airport is just 537 miles away, tolerable for our first masked flight and distant enough to change the backdrop from prairie to Pacific. Baby steps through the chaos of Canadian airports struggling with not-quite-post-pandemic pent-up demand.

Each successive trip to a familiar place is a different experience. Why return otherwise? There are the constants: family, friends and landmarks. This excursion had a peculiar elapsed time quality because Ann and I had finally disembarked from the Crooked 9’s front porch and not just for a matinee movie or an off-hours meal out. After touch down I felt out of sync and out of place, as if I’d dozed off watching The Flintstones and woke up to The Jetsons.

Victoria, home of the Canadian navy’s Pacific Fleet, is actually an extremely quaint port, more cruise ships than freighters. Yet it is oozing beyond its natural confines near the tip of a hilly island. Ann remarked that there seemed to be too many cars, too many people. Barring traffic, Colwood a separate municipality where Ann’s older brother and his wife live, isn’t that far from Victoria proper anymore. Colwood’s few streets are lined with million-dollar homes thrown up within the past four years. They struck me as conventional starter homes, placeholders for young families with larger aspirations.

Bulldoze half a mountain, build a mall and the condominiums will come. Langford is exploding just beyond Colwood. The sheer retaining walls supporting the overlooking residential units reminded me of the deeply dug defensive fortifications surrounding the star-shaped citadels in Quebec City and Halifax. If the future suggests the past albeit in earthquake-proofed sub-divisions, present and delightful constants remain in the provincial capital.

I called on my longtime friend Peter who lives in an elegant and solid Victorian home in the Cook Street Village. We met in high school. He was a transferee to my semi-private Jesuit institution; his parents tired of his smoking up every morning break in the public system. We bonded over extramural football and music, alcohol and soft drugs too. This particular fine morning in Victoria last week we listened to the Rolling Stones and sipped craft beers. Peter, by virtue of a career which synced perfectly with his environmental activism has probably contributed more to society than he has taken. There remains unfinished business for him whereas I am the enemy Albertan, an ineffectual centrist dandruffed with Oreo crumbs following three decades-o-rama in advertising. But we can still talk about the Chicago Cubs, Chrissie Hynde, Miles Davis and growing up in Montreal.

Peter said, “Please excuse me for a moment.” He left the room and returned momentarily with a squat, shallow jar. I thought of Noxema, Vicks VapoRub or some sort of jellied exotic berry. He unscrewed the lid. I gazed at a marble of blonde hash. “Smell that. Does that not bring you back?”

“Oh, man. I love that smell. God, yeah, it takes me back. You can buy it here?”

“It’s just another form of THC.”

“Whoa. I haven’t smoked in years; I’d just turn into a giggling puddle of goo.”

“We can’t have that – it’s not even noon.” Peter smiled: stainless white teeth, no cigarettes. “I used to hide this stuff from my parents and now I hide it from daughter.” Plus ca change.

And there is always baseball somewhere in the summertime. The Father’s Day attendance at the Victoria HarbourCats game was announced as 3127. My guess the capacity of Royal Athletic Park would allow for just a few hundred more. The municipal facility was inaugurated in 1967. The diamond is 310 feet down the lines and 390 straightaway. If the outfield fence is moved, the grounds can be reconfigured for football, soccer and rugby. This accounted for an awkwardly situated grandstand beyond right field. To my delight, the concession and toilets underneath it became something like my personal fiefdom; my own private ballpark.

The HarbourCats play in the short season West Coast League, Edmonton is an expansion outlier. Their logo depicts some sort of critter resembling an annoyed seal. Just a guess. Still, it looks great on the cans of team branded lager brewed just up the Malahat highway in Duncan by Red Arrow. I was also charmed by a jury-rigged patio behind first base, a red double-decker, open-topped inner harbour tour bus. Various food trucks were parked behind it. Amenities down the third base line were equally as busy and enticing.

I was painfully aware that just a block from the downtown park’s gates were a safe injection site, a storefront outreach centre and a street ministry. However the atmosphere inside suggested a small town fair staged in a less dreadful era. The game itself had a storybook element too. Victoria’s starting pitcher was a hometown man, 35-years-old, a roster round up body. He pitched a complete game, the first one I’ve seen at any level since I played summer slo-pitch. The visiting Coquitlam Angels scored just one unearned run.

Victoria, Vancouver Island was something of a dress rehearsal. We’ve also conditionally booked a longer trip and a longer stay on Prince Edward Island in August. Neither Ann nor I are inclined to patiently navigate the Mobius strip maze of bureaucracy and disease that now constitutes Canadian air travel. Still, I happily paid too much for a HarbourCats cap at the ballpark because I felt good and I was thrilled to be there. I’m now utterly determined to pack it coast to coast, ocean to ocean. Hello, YYG! We hope.      

 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 to find your preferred format and retailer

Monday, 13 June 2022


The Sum of All Fears

I read history. I keep abreast of international events. I understand cause and effect, unintended consequences, action and reaction. I grasp the connectivity of all things. Life’s rich pageant continues to unfold with little or no impact on me and I appreciate my relative good fortune. It’s a rare day when a news story breaks my heart and compels me to wail at the inhumanity of it all. Germany is dangerously short of beer bottles.

According to a New York Times story reprinted in Friday’s Globe and Mail, the crisis is a result of a nasty confluence of global events. Germans, like Canadians, pay a refundable deposit on beverage containers of all kinds. This is foreign policy to many Americans as most states have not tabled such socialist legislation; RETURN FOR REFUND WHERE APPLICABLE really doesn’t apply in the United States. There are too many glass bottles out of circulation in Germany and anxious brewers have learned that making up the shortfall is expensively problematic. The factors are myriad.

Germany’s empties have not been thrown away. They do not litter the shoulders of the autobahn. They’re not missing, no milk carton pictures required, they’ve just not been returned. Germany’s initial pandemic measures included lockdowns and restrictions, especially on public gathering places, nightclubs and beer gardens. Beer drinkers stayed home. The accumulated empties were stored and have since proliferated into the national errand from hell, one to be put off again and again.

Fabricating glass requires extreme heat, energy. Supply from Russian giant Gazprom has been a little tricky these past 110 days or so even as commodity prices have skyrocketed. New bottles are no longer available from Ukraine, those factories are closed. Germany’s European Union (EU) partners, France for instance, have their own domestic requirements. Beer, whether it’s bottled in new or recycled glass containers, must get from vat to market. Fuel costs are high. Germany also suffers from a dearth of truck drivers. This particular pickle mystifies me. Britain’s post-Brexit fiasco vis-à-vis international borders, bureaucratic regulations and EU-accredited lorry drivers at least made some kind of insane “Boris in Wonderland” sense.

A compounding problem in Germany is laughably and logistically mundane. Crates of beer must be stacked on wooden pallets for shipping. There is a world-wide shortage of wooden pallets. I don’t believe they’re missing so much as stuck inside steel intermodal containers aboard gridlocked freighters floating outside the world’s major ports, jockeying to be unladed. The Globe recently ran a story about an Ontario firm that manufactures pallets. That’s all it does. It cannot keep pace with demand; it cannot ship enough shipping pallets. The problem is not the factory’s inefficiency. Ownership has been mourning wood, the limited supply and inflated cost of its base raw material.

During the pandemic pause homeowners elected to renovate their properties as there was no place else to go for a holiday. This additional activity in a curiously robust real estate market in the western world, low interest rates amid high demand, developers developed and builders built, mortgaging the future. Suddenly lumber wasn’t just a key incidental, something to be ordered a day or two before a load was required on site. The resource became as elusive as Lewis Carroll’s Snark.

World events, none of which are ever positive, have always seemed comfortably remote to me, distant abstractions. News of this looming German beer catastrophe, a knotted string result of so many related factors, has served as something of a wake up call. It could conceivably happen here. It could even happen to me.                

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

Monday, 6 June 2022


That Powdery Midas Touch

My eyes are not limpid pools. They are choppy lakes. My nose is blocked yet it runs like rainwater through a downsnout. My right ear is blocked. All I can hear is the odd teasing pop of a canal trying to dredge itself. I’m inhaling a steroid that used to be only available by prescription. I’ve a hunch its benefits are somewhat offset by my 25 Player’s smokes per day habit. My head is heavy though I’ve experienced no recent personal sorrow.

Ann’s seasonal suffering has been slighter; her blue eyes sting from time to time.

The pollen is the colour of the yolk of a hard boiled egg. When the breeze is up great evil looking clouds of it drift off the evergreens; I imagine mustard gas wafting over no man’s land. The expansion grooves in the city sidewalks are caked with collected pollen, precise markings of surveyors’ spray paint indicating underground gas lines. The entire neighbourhood seems as jaundiced as my worldview. Our blue Honda evokes Tom Wolfe, a kandy-kolored sulphur-flake boxy Japanese import baby. The tongue on our Rolling Stones “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” doormat needs scraping; naturally I recall an obscure Some Girls B-side: “Everything’s Turning to Gold.”

For five months every year our front porch is the busiest “room” in the Crooked 9. The kitchen regains its rightful place once I commence marking up the wall calendar with reminders to change the furnace filter. Ann and I have been alternating turns sweeping off the front porch; it feels like a quick puff on a cigarette winter ritual. I insist I’ve not been shirking: “I did it 15 minutes ago, I swear. Honest.” 

Ann’s figured out a more efficient method while she waters the front garden beds and pots. She sets the garden hose water wand on fan and rides herd over the yellow powder. Ann drives the pollen across the charcoal slate tiles and underneath the black wrought iron railings and over the edge onto the brown dirt or grey cement.

The pollen has not been this prevalent, for better or worse, since 2017. Maybe, 2018? We cannot remember that particular lusty month of May. Was that particular summer short or long, wet or dry? Did we have a Richard Harris “Camelot” autumn? Was the ensuing winter harsh or mild? We don’t know. The mystery is what the plants and trees know. We’ve received some sort of message that neither one of us possess the expertise nor memory to interpret. Anyway, I’m half deaf and Ann blinked; I think we missed it. Meanwhile, we will wait and wonder.          

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

Wednesday, 1 June 2022


Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition

A few months ago a Canada Post carrier delivered a paper-thin edition of the Yellow Pages business directory to the Crooked 9. “How quaint,” I thought as I dropped it into the blue recycling bag. I was reminded that certain venerable documents must be reconsidered in modern times as artefacts. Some tenets have lost their leases in the twenty-first century.

The cornerstone of Great Britain’s unwritten constitution is Magna Carta, a contract signed by King John in 1215. Nobody in fair Albion gives a toss about the rights of feudal barons any longer. Canada’s patiently and peacefully assembled Constitution is an amalgamation of the British North America Act (1867), the Statute of Westminster (1931) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). While the whole is as imperfect as any human construct, it was assembled step by step, each one building upon the other, and nobody’s up in arms about it. The key here is that the governing principles of these two democratic countries have gently evolved. Progress was not hindered by sacred stone etchings.

A piece of unaddressed admail delivered last week, a 62-page digest, intrigued and then infuriated me. Bearing Precious Seed Canada seems to be the Ontario branch office of the First Baptist Church/Bearing Precious Seed of rustbelt Ohio. The glossy front cover reads: CANADA GOD KEEP OUR LAND. The back cover quotes the justifiably obscure fourth stanza of “O Canada” which reads about as “Onward Christian Soldiers” as a mediocre English Canadian lyricist could ever hope to get.

Now, I get very fucking annoyed when I perceive fragments of nationalist or patriotic sentiment, viper pit entwined with fragments of scripture. My math adds up to a holy rolling trucker convoy dog whistle. Half of Americans need not evangelize their intolerant Christian, conservative, Republican Party fuckheadedness in my country when “pop” culture spillover is slang for a gunman doing his work. You hypocritical prim-lipped fucks are in no position to preach salvation or freedom to me. Fuck off.   

“We have chosen The Gospel according to John & the Book of Romans, the two books of the Bible that most clearly define the Gospel or Good News of God for mankind to help you on this journey. They are from the King James Bible. The trusted Word of God in English since 1611.”

Now, you know that last sentence amused me. I’m certain those British scholars working with imprecise Greek and Latin translations of the original Aramaic and, wait for it, God knows what other tongues, nailed it; the King James version couldn’t be a tome of babble, Babel, could it? Should you take that book of fantastical stories literally, well, why not British poet Robert Graves’s elegant translation and retelling of The Greek Myths (1955)? True, there were more gods in the pantheon than elements in the periodic table (air, earth, fire and water), but still, it was all so real at the time.

There’s no saving grace for the most contentious and infamous afterthought ever penned in a brave new world: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America dates from 1791. It really wasn’t meant for these times.

According to reliably sourced statistics printed in The Globe and Mail last week, the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers as of 2020 was firearms. Guns kick car accident and covid ass. Cancer can be beaten.

The Second Amendment was an entirely sensible addendum to the mission statement of a new country just 11 years into its great experiment. General George Washington had disbanded the Continental Army in 1783. Some of its legions were minutemen - armed civilian volunteers or “Militia.” The Great Powers of Europe still had various toeholds in the New World. Flintlock possession allayed two fears residing within the expanding republic too, those of “Indian” uprisings or slave rebellions.

Now, I figure those Founding Fathers, more concerned about checks and balances vis-à-vis states’ rights versus the overarching concerns of an outward-looking federal government, believed they nailed a pretty straightforward item on their agenda. I can almost hear the Staples office supply chain advertising slogan: “That was easy.”

The Globe last week published a Top 20 list of mass shootings in the USA since 1982. They are ranked by body count, like bullets on a Billboard music chart. Should you wish to slay and compete, you’ve got to beat 11, the lowest bar. Five double digit slaughters have occurred in Texas, an open-carry state whose legislature sits for 140 days every other year as per the Texas Constitution. This is state government as prostate exam. There’s not a lot to mess with in Texas excepting women’s and voters’ rights. Worth noting too is that the rate of carnage across the entire United States has accelerated since 1999, a year that loosely corresponds with the rise of social media. I am not suggesting a direct correlation of cause and effect, though I suspect a well-armed psychopath, whatever his motives, doesn’t have to search very hard to find a like-minded soul who will offer nothing but encouragement and a convenient conspiracy theory to pair nicely with the planned rampage.

A close friend of mine recently decided to sell his glider bicycle, one of those gearless machines with reverse pedal brakes. He placed an ad in Facebook’s Marketplace field. In 1999 he would have bought a half inch in our local newspaper’s classified ads section. I have always believed a free and independent press is a key pillar of democracy. Those grey pages were the original speakers of truth to power because their main source of revenue was derived from people like my friend selling a bike, readers, subscribers and small businesses engaging one another in the classifieds. Splashy corporate and government advertising campaigns were gravy.

You, my dear reader, probably haven’t had newspaper ink offset onto your fingertips in years. Newsstand copies are skimpy considering their cost and, anyway, the news, fact-checked, edited and presented in a coherent manner, is 15 hours old. You’ve got an app (I hope). Still, you do not dismiss traditional journalism as “legacy media” and comb the internet (internets maybe, fuck if I know any more) for more agreeable “alternative facts.” When newspapers were fat and universally accepted to be quite objective, there was always a Catholic column in the classifieds.

Thoughts and prayers, and, oh, deliver us from evil: Saint Jude is the patron of lost causes. The messages in the classifieds were always the size of that slip of paper you find in a fortune cookie. And they always read the same: “Thanks for favours received.” They have gone the way of the Yellow Pages. Man, I pray a few other reams of paper will curl into irrelevance. And their toxic social media equivalents too. I’m not advocating censorship in any form. I’m pleading for an understanding of various screeds within their contexts, the knowledge of what they were, and then moving on, upward and forward into the great beyond.       

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