Mar 2019 17

Day 98

Posted In Blog,The world

St. Patrick’s Day is a good day to break my ‘I won’t write about drinking’ anymore oath. Pagan at heart. 

I went through an Irish phase in my drinking.

Yes, my drinking has eras. Like when someone says they had a ‘Zeppelin’ phase, or a ‘Punk’ phase in their music tastes. Well, my drinking had an Irish phase.

It was the most social and unpretentious of my drinking phases. Certainly better than the clubbing Martini-dating era or sports bar era or the Ad Guy with a triple vodka one.

The Irish phase involved a lot of, yes, Irish pubs around the city. There was a lot of sitting around, which was a nice change after years of being on your feet in stupid clubs, actual conversations and laughter, and the best part – seeing Irish bands. Traditional ones. Asking for U2 would get you killed.

A friend played part-time in one of these bands and a crew of us followed his gigs around town. You didn’t have to spend the whole night, although sometimes you did. But most likely, you’d just stop in on your travels for a pint and to hear a few songs before you left for that thing to meet some girl that might be happening, or not.

Mandolins. Bodhran hand drums. Fiddles. Penny whistles. Stomping.

You’d dance. You know that Tiny Buddha or insert other ‘uplifting woke-sounding source’ quote ‘Dance like no one is watching’? Well, fuck that. You’d dance like everyone was watching, cause they were. Cause you were in front of the stage. Twirling some stranger. And no matter how bad you were, they were cheering you on. The Titanic was going down, we were locked in 3rdlower class steerage and having a party, and loving it.

Songs of heartbreak, struggle, good times, being broke, England being a fucking dick, a good fish haul at sea. Even I longed to see Ireland again sometimes and I’ve never even been there.

Pro Tip: If the song ‘Fields of Athenry’ is being performed as a slow, sad ballad, you’re not supposed to yell out “Oh baby, let the free birds fly!” like in the faster interpretations. You get frowned at. Severely.

Anyhow, there’s something honest about real Irish pubs like that.

Every night was St. Patrick’s Day.

It made March 17th sort of a day for the amateurs. But I get it. Fun era.

 

 

Mar 2019 15

“Stephanie of the what?” Apes. Large, ground-dwelling primates. Keep up, please. Sheesh. Part 1 of this tale is here for all 3 of you readers.

 

Present day. He makes a phone call.

“Mom, do you remember my friend Stephanie when I was a kid?”

“Who, dear?”

“Stephanie. When I was really young. Lived on our street. We took her to the zoo.”

“Was she the one who ate paper mache paste?”

“No, that was Emma.”

“Hmmm, I don’t remember her.”

Six year-olds should not be worried about their soulmates being ripped apart by primates. They should be doing six-year old things. Like playing with LEGO, or spreading germs, or wondering why Ernie is trying to score a hit of letter ‘S’ from some shady guy in a raincoat.

But we don’t choose our burdens.

The night before the zoo outing, he strategized.

How to save Stephanie.

Perhaps he could invite someone else to the zoo instead. Adam, or Caroline. He wouldn’t mind if either of them were ripped to shreds. But no, it was probably too late for that.

Praying. Would praying work here? What good was all that kneeling at the side of the bed and asking God to bless so-and-so before sleeping if you couldn’t ask for a solid now and then for yourself? But he had asked for a puppy and still, nothing. No, God was decidedly unreliable.

Could he just avoid the train? Yes. No train ride, no Stephanie being thrown off of train. There. Done. Of course, his sister could downshift into pushing her into the Ostritch pen or something like that but he’d take his chances.

Zoo day. His mother’s sedan awaited on their driveway. They were ready to embark. Stephanie floated down the street, like on a skateboard. Sensible shorts and sneakers. Great animal-gazing attire. As he and Stephanie climbed into the backseat, his sister, Barbara, looked at him and mouthed the word ‘Dead’ to him as she pulled her finger along her throat. They buckled up and away they went.

 

At the zoo, they saw bats hanging upside down. Lions that did nothing but lie under the trees, looking tired. Monkeys did their job of flinging poo at the glass towards them. He watched Barbara carefully.

And after lunch, his mom said “Why don’t we go on the train?”

“Yes, let’s all go on the train” said Barbara.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Honey, don’t you want to see gorillas?”

“No, I don’t want to.”

“Let’s let Stephanie decide,” said Barbara. “Stephanie do you want to see gorillas? Up close?”

“Yes. Very much.”

“Mom, I don’t want Stephanie to die!!!”

“What? Honey, no one’s going to die. We’ll all be perfectly fine. Don’t be ridiculous.”

So they got on the train. They took their seats. Stephanie peered out as the train left the boarding station and rollicked along the track, suspended above something that approximated the terrain of Africa.

And then, Barbara, sitting a row ahead of them, slowly turned around to look at Stephanie.

“Look,” Stephanie said. “Gorillas!”

But he didn’t look. He only looked down, clutched Stephanie’s hand and didn’t look away.

As long as he could see her small hand in his, feel its weight, she was there. She was alive.

But is that what happened? Or perhaps, did Barbara turn around to face them, all gates of hell and evil furnace in her eyes. And did she rip a doll he called Stephanie, right from his hands, and fling it over the side of the train, as he shrieked and it helicoptered down into the trees, disappearing below?

Or did Barbara turn around to face them, yes, with all that above evil stuff in her eyes, and then he, himself, lifted Stephanie up, legs kicking as his mother looked in horror at what her child was perpetrating and he threw her over the side as he thought “If she is to die, I owe it to her to do it myself”?

He doesn’t remember the car ride home. He doesn’t remember seeing her again.

Today he wonders, did Stephanie exist at all?

Memory, like love, can be ripped apart, thrown from a moving train.

 

 

Mar 2019 11

 

When he tries to recall Stephanie, he immediately thinks about gorillas.

And vice versa, too. Even now, more than thirty years later, whenever he sees a gorilla, whether it’s in a documentary, or ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie, or even the famous Nintendo Donkey Kong, Stephanie still comes to mind.

She was his neighbourhood crush when he was six years old.

It’s not that she looked like a gorilla. Well, actually he can’t really remember her face at all. So he guesses it is possible she did resemble a gorilla. But he recalls that she had short blonde hair, and was rather slight. Although he likes to think that even then he was more about the person inside rather than looks, it would’ve been unlike him to be attracted to a large herbivorous ape. Not his type.

He vividly remembers other girls he had a crush on during this period. Claire, and her sun-dappled freckles. Nora and her dark eyes and hair that flipped up at the shoulders. Japanese Kaida, with her short pixie cut and intense stare.

But Stephanie is a swirl; her face, a big, mottled blur.

This is probably because all of his six-year old focus was not on her, as much as it was on saving her from being eaten by gorillas.

This took a lot of energy.

We go back to a summer. No school. Lazy days to fill with activities, and his mom announced she was taking him and his older sister to the zoo on the weekend. He was allowed to bring one friend.

So of course, he did what any six year old in love would do. He invited his beloved. A mom phone call was made, and Stephanie’s parents wisely blessed the union. It would be a lovely wedding story someday.

In the days leading up to the outing, he started to plan it all in his head. Stephanie, you look lovely today. What a delightful sundress. My, how the sunlight does dance in your decidedly non-gorilla eyes. It is like this beautiful and unmatched summer day only exists as a failed attempt to outdo your dazzling beauty. The animals will be the ones who talk about what they saw today. Six year old him was still a romantic.

It would be perfect.

Except for his sister. Four years older, although what does evil care with number of orbits of the earth? She had other plans that she shared with him when no else was around.

“Your girlfriend, Stephanie?”

“Ya, isn’t she great?”

“At the zoo, I’m going to throw her off the monorail train and she’s going to get eaten by the gorillas.”

It’s true, there was a state-of-the-art monorail train at the zoo. He had seen pictures in the ads.

“Noooooooo, don’t!”

“Yes, I am. She’s going to die.”

There was regular sibling mean, like eating your piece of cake, or punching you in the face when parents aren’t looking. Or even telling you you’re adopted. But this went over the line.

Murder. No way. Barbara couldn’t possibly be serious. But then again, she did crush his Batmobile with her bike.

He decided this warranted a family dinner conversation. But it had to be subtle. He waited a good 14 seconds into dinner.

“Mom. When we take Stephanie to the zoo, Barbara says she’s going to throw her off that train that’s there.”

There. That oughta do it. Love wins again.

“Oh, honey, that’s just ridiculous. No one’s getting thrown off of any train. We’re all going to have a great time.”

Across the dinner table, Barbara ate her buttered corn niblets and smiled at him to show the futility of his attempts to save his girlfriend.

He thought of Stephanie’s waifish form in Barbara’s clutches, raised high above her head and then being flung from the train, disappearing into the canopy of trees below, to her fate. Ripped apart by gorillas. More limbs than she even possessed flying everywhere.

Good lord. He realized she was going to get away with it.

 

——

In case you can’t sleep, wondering how it ends… Part 2 is here

 

 

Mar 2019 08

 

 

I kind of think the best thing men can do today is to just shut the fuck up.

Let women celebrate each other.

Maybe the other 364 days of the year are a better time to speak up, Chad.

 

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

Mar 2019 07

Look closely at the assassination of character that the Liberals are trying to put upon Jody Wilson-Raybould as they deal with the SNC-Lavalin affair. It’s so old school Canada.

If you know me, you know that besides my undying love for hockey there is nothing that makes me more Canadian than my love for Canadian Politics. For the record, I despise hockey but my fascination with the politics in this country run true.

It’s not just my thirst for frothy but polite debate amongst the elected in the House of Commons that fuels my passion. It’s also a curiosity about how one could ever govern such a bizarre nation. How could one set of rules possibly serve every region and the disparate needs that have evolved within them, some based on geography and others from seeds officially planted in 1867? French-Canadians, Maritime concerns, the Alberta oil industry, First Nations, spoiled brat Ontario, and the obvious list of what Canada is on the surface goes on.

And then, we talk of Canada being a place where you can immigrate to and retain your identity. Religious, cultural, and relatively recently, sexual identity as well. We’re not the ‘melting pot’ like our neighbours, we savour every distinct flavour to add to our mix.

Attempting to be government for this crazy experiment is comedy just waiting to happen, and it does evolve constantly. Lately, daily.

Last week on Facebook, I contended that the SNC-Lavalin affair would possibly expose just what the real Canada might be under our hockey-loving and polite exterior. Maybe it would show the great divides we have between French Canada and the ‘Rest of Canada’, the Liberal ideology and the Conservatives’ one, and the haves and have nots. After seeing our ugly, maybe we could accept this is who we are, and where do we go from here? There is still an opportunity to show the world a true model for what a society ‘could’ be, a work in progress going in the right direction. What I didn’t say explicitly, and I wish I had now rather than being vague about it, was that it might expose Canada’s relationship with First Nations peoples.

I am in no way an expert, or even I admit, mildly familiar with the history here. And that also, sadly, makes me very Canadian. In school we read stories of the noble Wilfrid Laurier, Jacques Cartier, and oh yes, also the pemmican-eating original people here who just rebel and cause trouble.

Did you watch or listen to Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony in the House of Commons last week? Whether you cared about any of the content or the ‘scandal’ itself, it was easy to conclude that Jody Wilson-Raybould carries herself with a strength, dignity, and pride that goes beyond the oath she took to serve Canada. Something more was going on here. Just revisit her opening statement about being a truth-teller and from a long line of matriarchs.

She was basically putting not just her reputation on the line, but also those of her family, and the culture that shaped her. Talk about pushing all your chips into the centre of the table.

And yesterday when Gerald Butts revealed that Jody Wilson-Raybould refused the cabinet position of Minister of Indigenous Affairs as she was shuffled out of the Attorney General’s role, he says he was shocked at first but should in hindsight, have known that was insulting to her. And no, of course it wasn’t punishment for not towing the party line, and putting someone in the position who would.

She has dedicated her life to opposing the Indian Act and they were putting her in charge of administering it? Fuck. That’s a slap in the face. I think they knew exactly the message they were sending. Where are the real attempts at reconciliation, as were promised instead of just serving the powerful and wealthy under the table?

Something stinks here as much as the mould in schools and the drinking water in First Nations communities, and I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with how the Liberals are trying to cover-up a special relationship with a large corporation (they are not new in government, sadly) by trying to take down the character of Jody Wilson-Raybould in saying she interpreted interactions differently than they did. A lawyer being told she should see their different interpretation of the law. That’s fucking rich.

What we have here now is a they said / they said situation.

Whose side do you believe?

Neither Gerald Butts, nor Jody Wilson-Raybould were under traditional ‘oath’.

I know who I believe. The chips, and what someone is risking by pushing into the middle of the table, don’t lie.

Regardless, Canada will continue to rollick along somehow after this. Regardless of what government is in power. The question is, what kind of Canada do we want? What kind of society do we want? Is it impossible to please everyone? Probably. But can we find a way to do what’s right and serve the basic dignified needs for all of us? Where is this elusive ‘greater good’?

This is really the heart of this whole affair. Look beyond the talk of ‘jobs’, partisan fury, hiding behind ‘what is really the law?’. There are multiple fractures being exposed here across a huge country and its specific group interests, that we need to look at and try to repair. We can’t rely on just our elected politicians to do it.

A desire to find a middle ground without conflict is so… Canadian.

Perhaps a good old hockey brawl indeed has its place.