BigO

“I would like to share this with the people in Montreal that are not going to have a team anymore, but my heart and my ring is with them too.”
— Pedro Martinez, upon winning the World Series with the Boston Red Sox, 2004.

I do not follow Major League Baseball. If you were to ask me who was leading the AL East right now, I would have no idea… I would guess either the Yankees or Red Sox and probably be right, but I would really have no clue. If you were to ask me who won the NL MVP last year, I’d say ‘no idea’ and then you would tell me and it would probably be some player I have never have heard of before.

Let me be clear: I do not follow Major League Baseball. I simply do not care. I do not care who won the World Series last year, I do not care who won the Cy Young award. In either league. It does not matter a whit to me. So why, you are probably asking yourself, would I bother making this proclamation, wasting my time writing this screed if I indeed care so little about Major League Baseball? Well, it was not always this way. In fact, there was a time when baseball was my life, my obsession. I have a good memory, see, matched with a thirst for knowledge and a love of facts and numbers, all of which made baseball an obvious choice for a young man of these inclinations. I was also an alright athlete and developed into a decent hitter in time, but all this is beside the point.

The point is, I no longer give a shit about something that mattered more to me than pretty much anything else. The average Friday night for the fifteen year-old version of myself? If there was no ballgame on, there I would be, glass of chocolate milk to my right, bag of zesty Doritos to my left, with the latest issue of Baseball America or Baseball Weekly opened in front of me on the kitchen table. I would pore over the statistics, both major and minor league — something which Baseball Weekly was indespensible for — looking for the next saviour toiling away somewhere in the minors, be it Harrisburg Pennsylvania, Burlington Vermont or Ottawa Ontario, putting up numbers which would someday lead to an MVP-caliber season for the object of my affections:

The Montreal Expos.

It should now be well clear to baseball fans why I no longer care about Major League Baseball. It was not the perpetual, ongoing PED saga, the overinflated salaries or the goddamn New York Yankees. I was – hell, still am – an Expos fan; I will go to my grave a die-hard ‘Spos fan with that ridiculous logo adorning my headstone like the marker of tragedy it is.

My beloved Expos.

I miss them more than words can fully express, that wretched team of broken promises, squandered potential and heartbreak. Sure, after 1994 I never honestly expected them to win a blessed thing, but I could always dream. 1994, in and of itself, was a microcosm of Expo fandom, an exercise in denial and false hope. ‘Oh, they won’t strike.’ Sure. ‘The Spos are gonna win the World Series!’ Yeah, right, pal. What the Spos are going to do is cruise to the best record in baseball then be neutered by a strike, a salary-shedding fire sale and more management changes and empty promises than one would care to remember, all of which contributed to a death which took ten years, culminating in a move to Washington DC.

I am not a Washington Nationals fan.

Sure, they have managed to keep the classic Expos theme of underachieving futility alive, but without any of the style or drama, without any of the arms or bats — because that is the one thing you cannot take away from the Expos: they could always provide other teams, if not themselves, with the building blocks to a successful franchise. Who knew the unfriendly confines of that crumbling concrete behemoth, Olympic Stadium — Le Stade Olypique, or more simply, The Big O — would prove such fertile grounds for world-class talent? Well, Expos fans, for one.

Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Vladdy Guerrero, John Wetteland, Rondell White, Orlando Cabrera, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom — just to name a few.

But all this has been said before and, to those not in the know, will come off as so many sour grapes. So, to fellow Expos fans, I feel your pain brothers and sisters. I feel your pain. To Bud Selig and Jeffrey Loria? May you rot in baseball hell for eternity along with Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and the rest of the unworthy scum.

With that in mind, maybe someday my Expos pain will start to fade and I will be able to sit and watch an MLB game in its entirety without thinking one painful Expos-related thought. Maybe I will rekindle the passion, stoke the embers which may yet lie smoldering somewhere in the recesses of my blackened baseball heart. Maybe I will don some ill-fitting merchandise and sit eating chips, drinking beer and yelling at the television. Maybe my new favorite team will win the World Series and I’ll turn to my future children and say ‘The Expos wouldn’t have done it that way, no siree!’

And maybe that will be just fine.


DE

I don’t watch much television lately: I only have one channel. Two if you count Radio-Canada, but I don’t since I only understand roughly 38% of what I hear on there and, luckily, my cognitive functions only respect the majority vote. So I watch Global, but let me be perfectly clear about this: I find their prime-time programming trite and boring, their everything-else programming to be garbage and, worse yet, their “local” news to be staffed with what appear to be Albertans, with their tacky Texas-lite fashion sense and honking, adenoidal accents. Plus, I can’t stand having to see Kevin Newman’s face every fifteen minutes. Peter Mansbridge, now that’s where it’s at (unless you happen to be Wendy Mesley). I never thought I’d miss the oft overwhelming smugness of the Mansbridge in full effect as much as I do — those dulcet tones breaking the news of horrible events, always delivered in the manner best suited to the material, always softening the blow with a certain je-ne-sais-baldness. But most of all, I miss the way he drawls out Geeeoooorrrgge Strombo’s name in that half-mocking, half-affectionate, all-hilarious nightly outro on the National. Say what you want about the Mansbridge, but these are all qualities sorely lacking in Kevin “Receding Hair Line” Newman. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to gain any respect in the world of primetime network journalism, you have to commit, son. None of this half-assed shit. Bald thyself now!

But where was I?

Global sucks, right, and I probably shouldn’t kick them while they’re down but I can’t help it. You see, they have a show called Harper’s Island. I’ve never watched this show, have absolutely (overused word? I think so) no idea what it’s about, nor any desire to change this. The thing is, I’ve gone about inventing my own story for Harper’s Island. It’s quite simple and it can play out in my head whenever I want, no mere slave to network programming, no more suckling at the teet of sponsors. Here’s the premise: Steve Harper, the casual, fictional version of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, owns an island. How? Well, he’s an economist. Those guys know shit about eekanahmix. Do you know how much money someone like that makes? I have no idea, but this one makes enough to own an island. It’s not a huge island, per se, but it’s big enough to make quite the entertaining spectacle of watching a bookish, socially awkward man hunt (mostly) innocent people with a high-powered rifle and anything else at his disposal. Ten lucky contestants – each week! Steve likes to keep busy, but it’s no walk in the park. For one, the island is haunted by the ghost of Chuck Cadman, who works to thwart Steve’s every move by appearing to the prey, warning them every time the soft blue menace settles in for a headshot. Then there’s the kidney stones: every time Steve makes a kill, he is bent double by crippling abdominal pain, leaving him prone to attack. Well, prone-er. Most of the contestants are invalids, former shut-ins and bad children. That’s right, KIDS! And you better smarten up or you’ll be making a trip to Uncle Steve’s island. Not that you won’t have a fighting chance. In the name of fair play, the prey are, shall we say, riled up a bit prior to their release into the wild. Get their blood pumping, a warm-up. A frenzy! The invalids are withheld their emotional and physical validation. The RC shut-ins are ruthlessly denied Mass For Shut-Ins while the non-RC shut-ins, who aren’t really bothered by this, are slapped around by hired goons. And the kids? Well, they get a glucose-fructose iv and a headfull of Sunset Yellow FCF. Then, just as the melee is reaching it’s violent apex, the doors are thrown open to the outside and everyone stops dead for exactly one second, a siren sounds, causing the havoc to resume, and four mounted RCMP in full regalia arrive to herd the prey into the forest with aid of sharpened-pool-cue lances. No tasers here, bro.

Then the fun begins.

Steve, a true connoisseur of the hunt, does not go for any Cheney-style turkey shoots. Granted, there’s always those four or five confused prey who end up milling around outside the compound walls after the Mounties leave — usually Maritimers looking for hand-outs, or at least that’s what Steve tells himself so he can sleep at night. They’re the first to go, plucked off one by one. Sometimes he does it from inside the compound, sniping from the roof under cover of dark with the aid of an infrared scope. Sometimes he lets Jason Kenney do it. Other times, when feeling like more of a man of the people, Steve’ll go outside and get up close and personal with a gold-plated Desert Eagle and a claw hammer. After that it’s into the woods, Steve’s very own Forest of Arden, but with a lot more killing and a lot less courtly love. This is no comedy of manners, people — this is a bloodbath! Harp — that’s what his friends call him, well, they’re actually the editorial staff of the National Post, but that’s the closest thing he has to friends — stalks his prey like a red-eyed beast whose blood runs Tory blue, like your mother’s horny, alcoholic divorcee friend stalks fresh meat at the local country bar on any given Wednesday through Saturday night. Like someone who really likes killing things and, boy, does he get some killing done. Even when the specter of Cadman shows up, Steve just throws an envelope of cash in his general direction, tells the ghost to eff off and continues on his way, shrugging through the flora and fauna, brushing burdocks from his sweater. Headshot here, child dashed on the rocks Piggie-style there. Then it’s back to the compound for milk, egg salad sandwiches and bible study.

Now that’s what I call TV!

You can have your Big Brother, your Deal or No Deal, or any other number of shows designed for halfwits. Me? I’ll take Harper’s Island. There are no winners, no losers and no annoying douchebag hosts. Nor is there any Mansbridge.

But I can deal with that. I can deal with that for Uncle Steve.


1919_eclipse_negative

‘Awww, don’t be a hater, maan.’

No? Why not? Negativity happens to be my existential P.F.D. Would you rather me drown in this sea of bullshit where I so often find myself suspended? Would you rather I plaster a chemical smile across my face and pretend as though everything is fine and dandy in this piss-filled wading pool of a life we aimlessly flounder about in, placated with rubber duckies, booze and porn? I shall do no such thing! The day I surrender my negativity is the day I give myself an icepick lobotomy.

Positivity is just another marketing ploy, just another irrelevant remnant of those sell-out hippies who now make up the top ten Fortune 500 Ponzi scheme hall of fame, just another residual stain from the sweaty armpit of entitled, simpering Judeo-Christian claptrap which serves no purpose other than to attempt, in vain, to assign nebulous meaning to an essentially meaningless life fueled by money, celebrity and death when the truth is staring us all in the face; a religion that serves no purpose other than to reassure the average jerkoff that those terrible things they did on the weekend won’t really matter on judgement day — so why not go out and do it all again next weekend without thought-one given to consequences or the myriad horrible potential deaths awaiting us at every turn?

For this is the essence of life: avoiding death. Positivity keeps good old death at arm’s length, convincing us it is the stuff of myth, an anonymous enemy.

Positivity! Ha! Rejoice children!

For it is a virus more virulent than any bird, swine or slug flu. Positivity saps the mind. Positivity is the enemy of critical thinking, the bane of common sense, the great softener of intellectual edge. Positivity is lazy. Positivity sleeps through the alarm then presses snooze for an hour and a half. Positivity gives it up on the first date and makes it burn when you piss.

Positivity needs get itself to yon nunnery.

In case you’ve misunderstood me, let me be clear about this: negativity is the pinnacle of human emotion. It is natural, good and – to quell the fears of the lily-livered among us – not mutually exclusive from morality; negativity does not have to be amoral. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with morality, existing as it does on a plane entirely removed from such base concerns. Negativity is an essence.

Negativity is not blood in the streets.

Negativity will make you happy, will make you forget how much of a loser you really are because you’ll be too busy concentrating on the losers all around you — and they’ll be doing the same, all the while envisioning a world where they might be happy. A world much better than that in which we currently hang our collective hat, sweat-stained and dandruff-flecked as it may be.

Negativity is dissatisfaction, the fuel whereby the phoenix gains upward mobility, the stepping stone to self-respect, autonomy and great hair.

Negativity is a pillow: hug it, maan.


David Adams Richards

I haven’t met many notable writers. In fact, I’ve met only one. Even then, it wasn’t so much a ‘meeting’ as it was an ‘alienating.’ I have a knack for that sort of thing. Why discriminate based on fame or notability? That’s what I say. Of course, I didn’t say a blessed thing upon meeting Mr. David Adams Richards: one of the finest living writers in the English language. And probably other languages too. But that’s not the point.

The point is, I met David Adams Richards at a book-signing a couple of years ago and behaved in a manner befitting an asshole. I was living in Miramichi that summer and got word he was appearing at a local bookstore to sign copies of his then latest novel, The Friends of Meager Fortune. I had yet to read it and decided to drop by after work to pick up a copy and maybe chew the fat with the man himself. It didn’t quite turn out that way. You see, I can be a rather awkward young man in most social situations.

I froze. Solid.

There he was, sitting at a table chatting pleasantly with an elderly lady who had probably known him since childhood, but here I come, destroyer of worlds in ill-fitting shorts and ugly sandals.

The bookstore was empty save the table’s occupants and the clerk, busying herself with godknowswhat behind the counter where another man leaned casually, nursing a mug of coffee. I made my way down the aisle, trying to look interested in a book on display in the comedy section so as not to appear too aggressive. It was too late. He had already seen me, ambling aimlessly along like a tranquilized chicken with its head cut off. We met eyes. The lady turned around to acknowledge me, cut her conversation short, shook his hand and rose slowly from her chair, making her way past me with a smile and a nod.

I sat down.

And there I was, face to face with a man whose words have often left me inspired, awed and depressed, but always in a cathartic way. I was near panic, but showed a steely calm. What do I say? What do I do? Do I ask him cliched bullshit about inspiration and integrity in the face of an ever-increasingly illiterate and apathetic public? God no. Should I mention that I write too? No, that would be ridiculous. He probably gets that all the time from every Moleskin-toting jackass on the block. Besides, what have I written? A lot of crap. Has any of it been published? Well, no, of course not. So I said nothing and sat like a bump on a log, a barnacle on the arse of time grinning like a halfwit with my hands on my knees, wringing the fabric of my shorts as though they were my only lifeline back to the place from whence I came. A place where I had never met David Adams Richards. A place where I had slightly more than average confidence in my ability to function as a generally normal human being.

I feigned a smile.

He didn’t smile back. He stared a hole through the back of my skull then gestured at a pile of novels to his left.

“You want one?”

Of course I want one. I need something to show for this spectacle of quiet suffering.

“Uh, yeah. Yes. Please.”

He plucked one from the top of the stack and opened it. Still, I said nothing. Small talk? Not happening. What do I say? What do I do? Nothing. He’s waiting. What was he waiting for?

“Your name?”

Of course, my name!

“Uh, Kirk. Kirk Williams.”

Shit. I should have used a fake name. Shit, I should have used a fake me.

He scribbled something, closed the novel firmly and pushed it across the table at me and sat back in his chair looking expectant and, possibly, confrontational. That’s what I quickly told myself, silent the while, sitting there like some ignorant d-bag. This guy hates me. I interrupted his maternal bonding session and for what? This. That’s what. I put the chase to his pseudo-mom only to sit here, stealing oxygen. And still, he stares. Why is he staring? Probably because I’m sitting across from him. Why can’t there be more people? A lineup, like a mass or holy communion: here’s your autograph, you’re a good egg, now off you go. An assembly line of cursive gratification. Thank god I didn’t say that out loud. All I managed was

“Thanks.”

And up I got. But instead of leaving with a shred of dignity intact, tail between legs as it was, I wandered to the counter, nodded pleasantly to the clerk and browsed the high-end chocolates. Then I proceeded to engage the man with the coffee in a spirited fifteen minute, multi-topic, free ranging philosophical discussion on everything from potatoes to toe jam. All the while, no one else came in. David Adams Richards sat alone at his table looking confused and maybe a bit pissed off. After a couple of minutes, he got up, gathered his belongings and said his goodbyes to both the clerk and the man with the coffee.

I stood on, grinning like an idiot. He’s leaving. You’ve just met one of your favorite writers and you’ve acted atrociously. Now is the time to make amends. Say something. Say “I read your book, you magnificent son of a bitch!” and hope he gets the reference. Say, “Sorry for being such a miserable wretch.” Say anything.

But no.

There I stood, stock still and mute, slack-jawed grin firmly in place as he approached, meeting my eyes briefly then looking away with what I imagined to be a look of utter contempt. He walked past me as though I was not there and how I wished for the ground beneath to give way and swallow me whole.


krs-one
‘How many MC’s must get dissed

before somebody says don’t <beep> with Chris?’

– KRS-One

Chris likes hip-hop. Chris loves hip-hop. He quotes the above passage, uncredited, twenty times a day. Like a verbal tic. Like some pathological mission statement. Until recently, most evenings would find the lad down the pub, busting his rhymes — well, his rhyme — to a less than appreciative crowd since, after all, knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everyone, with the emphasis on ‘nearly’ swaying personified in that of our dimwitted hero.

Too drunk to stand, he takes the mic. Rather, he tries to take the mic — every five minutes of every Wednesday night hip-hop extravaganza peopled mostly with university students too young to have ever heard Big Daddy Kane and people looking to have sex with university students too young to have ever heard Big Daddy Kane. Chris would count himself among the latter, although his rhyme scheme would lead one to believe that his preference for sexual partner would probably have to have a child or, at the very least, be with child.

Here he goes.

‘How many MC’s must get dissssed!?
before sumbuddy says dohn fuck wit Chrissss?
don’t fuck wit Chris motherfucker!
Leave you with a black eye motherfucker!
I’m a bad motherfucker, motherfucker!’

And so on, until he either falls off or gets dragged off stage, pitched unceremoniously to the wet floor fairly shining with broken glass and bodily fluids, his patterned hoodie soiled with the sheer joy of it all. He loves his hoodie. It makes him look like a meth dealer or a half-assed mall skater/snowboarder. Whatever, man. It’s his ‘fit. He wears it with pride. Ignorant pride. Suburban, WASP pride. The pride bestowed upon the idle and shiftless by well-heeled, well-intentioned but ultimately inept parentage. The sort of pride that gets one such as Chris through his twenties with little more to show for his ‘efforts’ than a string of misdemeanors, a couple of OD’s and a hangover that will last for the rest of life. But he’s got one hell of a home-remedy.

His folks love him.

‘He’s a good kid.’

He only beats his woman when he’s drunk, after all. Hell, he even held the same job for two whole years one time. Good kid, that. And he doesn’t smoke crack, just blows the occasional rail. If we can keep him away from serious trouble, we can reward all his hard work with a business of his very own. A retail operation of some kind, bankrolled with our savings. Until then maybe we can ship him off out West where there’s enough easy work and soft-ish drugs to keep him occupied for the next few years. The difficult years. Hell, times are tough. Right? Honey? Times are tough for kids these days. Our Chris, he’s a champ. He’s the best.

He’s not a rapist. He just likes rough sex. He’s not a loser, he just plays the wrong games. Hell, times are tough. It’s tough being an upper middle-class Caucasian. He’ll come around. God, I hope he does. We spent enough money on hockey gear and road trips and video games and sneakers and clothes and booze and cops and judges and lawyers and food. He owes us. The little fucker.

He owes us.

But still, he grabs that mic. Still, he spits those lyrics on a Wednesday night. Still, he beat a bitch ass when she get outta line. And he drinks and he yells and he bitches and he whines. He freaks it. Grabs the mic and cold tweaks it. Son. So you know you better run, cause when Chris is on the mic motherfuckers get done. And you know it. But still you can’t show it. He grabs that motherfucker and he stone cold owns it. Motherfucker. And if you got beef, you can go ahead and grind it, form it to a patty in a pan and cold fry it.

Bitch.

And I’m a get mad pissed,
but how many MC’s must get dissed?


Ownership

01Mar09

I own a home. I can wreck the walls, I can fuck the paint
up. I can do whatever I want and not give a single shit
about what a landlord has to say and who has to pay
because I know it will be me or my wife or future wife.

And I don’t care.

I do not care. If my roof leaks I will deal with the mold.
I will deal with the fallout without picking up the phone.
I will pretend as though my life has changed for the
better without ample reason outside a mortgage.

And I don’t care.

But maybe I should. Maybe being thirty one years old does
matter. Maybe debt is the determining factor between
something and nothing. Maybe credit is God and bad
credit the Devil. Maybe my guitar will stay in tune.

But I don’t care.

And it’s cold. And it’s windy. And it’s lame. It is all these
things and more. I read it in a flyer and I heard it at the
family reunion and I bought a pile of shit at the store.
It was half-price, fifty percent off and two for one.

But I don’t care.

Do you?


Naked East

26Feb09

The folks at Naked East, a blog dedicated to New Brunswick writing and culture, have been kind enough to publish one of my stories, ‘Our Game’ — so check them out!