Thursday, July 19, 2007
- Levon Helm, "Ophelia"
Yeah, I know that Robbie Roberston wrote those words, but Levon sang them so beautifully that he gets the credit this time around. So here's the deal. This past weekend was the first annual BBQ/Campout/full court Basketball tournament/Canadian Beirut Championships/Bonfire/Kegger up at my parents place in Dornoch, Ontario. Needless to say, it was a party for the ages. One of the best nights I've had in a long time. And I had my digital camera out snapping pictures all day and night, prepared to document everything in an epic blog entry for everyone to read and reminisce about, allowing them the opportunity to wonder aloud whether or not they actually did all of those pictured doing in their ridiculously drunken states.
And of course you know where this is going. I needed to reformat my camera for work so that future photos of mine wouldn't take up so much space when I tried to email them. What I didn't know, until about two days ago, is that reformatting your camera erases your entire memory card. Who would have ever guess. And it doesn't even give you any kind of a warning (a simple "are you sure you want to delete every fucking picture on your memory card?" would have sufficed). One minute it was there, and the next it was just... gone. I felt like Chazz Palminteri about three minutes after releasing Verbal Kint from his holding cell at the end of "The Usual Suspects".
Of course, I hadn't saved any of these pictures yet, and when I took it into the camera place, they told me that if I'd just simply deleted the photos (which, it should be noted, comes with the paraphrased aforementioned warning), it would be no problem retrieving them. But if you didn't know any better and tried to reformat your camera? Sorry, there's no way of ever getting those back.
So that's where we stand. The moral of the story, as always, is don't ever trust me with anything more technologically advanced than a pencil. But more specifically, don't ever try to reformat your camera. And especially if you haven't saved your pictures first. That last point should really almost go without saying. Almost.
Maybe at some point someone will forward me some photos worth posting, but in the meantime, I'll be kicking it old school, sans photographic evidence, trying my best to describe for my loyal readers exactly what those irretrievable images once portrayed.
The first shot that we lost was one of my sister's boyfriend, Blake, out sweeping the rain off the basketball court at about noon on Saturday. Blake had managed to score 2 basketball nets from some underpriviledged kids' home in Guelph (I'm not exactly sure whether he told them he was taking them, or if he just kind of backed his truck up in the middle of the night and loaded them up, but when I arrived at my parents place on Friday night, there they were. I didn't ask any further questions, thereby absolving myself of any guilt by association). Anyway, Blake set them up, full-court style on my parents cement driveway, and we were all set for the mother of all full-court games.... and then it began pissing rain. This was our attempt to clear the court. Of course, as soon as we were finished sweeping all of the water off, the skies opened up again and it rained for another four hours...
The next great photograph that disintegrated into the realm of digital nothingness was a classic 70's style basketball team shot, where all of the guys who participated in the full-court extravaganza (the skies cleared beautifully for 2 hours, allowing us the opportunity to show off just how much our talents and bodies had deteriorated over the past few years) gathered for one of those old-school poses, with Dennis, the defensive stopper, kneeling in the middle, ball in hand. The 3-game series was an epic battle, with Santos and Blake doing the dirty work and battling all afternoon under the boards. D-Hibb quickly rounded into a shell of his highschool form, taking over at times and carrying his team for long stretches. Rosco was his Thornhill-blacktop-dominating self, hitting outside jumpers and showing flashes of brilliance in moves that a soon-t0-be-betrothed and self-proclaimedly-out-of-shape-Jewish-man should never even attempt. But for my money, it was Sully who stole the show, displaying the kind of hustle and motor that you just can't teach, and showing us the kind of Tremendous Upside Potential (TUP) that would have ESPN's own Chad Ford absolutely salivating.
Some other highlights from the display of athleticism: Ronnie consistently knocking down outside jumpers and showing us all why he was the NWBL GM of the year back in 2003; B*Rad having to pull himself out of the contest after ten minutes due to what Al Michaels would categorize as "a lung"; every time Skeeter attempted a wide open shot (we very obviously weren't guarding him), his teammate D-Hibb screaming "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" as the ball invariably sailed wide of everything but oxygen; none of us being able to walk the next day because we're so pathetically old and out of shape.
The next snap that would have appeared in this blog if not for my stupidity would have been one of my cousins; aged 9, 11, and 13; intently watching the Beirut action and taking it all in. Seriously, I'm pretty sure my uncle is going to kill me in six months when he comes home from work to find his pre-adolescent children screaming "DRINK THAT YOU LITTLE COCKSUCKER!!!" while pounding back their dad's stash of Sleeman's, just like their elder cousins taught them.
Other highlights: Two of my cousins (Thompson, 11, and Rachel, 9) jumping on the Team Ramrod bandwagon after they knocked off a previously unbeatable tandem of Ronnie and B*Rad, and subsequently living and dying with every one of Team Ramrod's shots, going so far as to create a song and dance for every time they drilled a cup; James (13), keeping it real with team Hutch and Hibb, and absolutely loving the fact that that his boys eventually knocked off the defending champs; teaching James and Thompson how to properly change a keg of PBR. And for this last corruption, I'm pretty sure I'll be writhing in hellfire for quite some time. But damn was it funny.
Another great irrecoverable image was one of Team Jean Jacket. Yes, the Bryan Adams Tuxedo All-Stars were in full effect, with me and a friend of my parents, both proudly sporting the full length Denim formal-wear, who managed to run the table for the remainder of the evening. Now, it is a little known fact that I'm one of the worst Beirut players in the history of the game, but lucky for me, my boy Pete (I'm pretty sure his name is Pete, but we were well into the second keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon by this point, so it really could have been anything) was a master quarters player back in the day (late 70's - early 80's), absolutely carried me. I was good for two cups a game, my boy Pete just annihilated everything... including a team which consisted of Auntie Marcella (or, as my dad has begun to refer to her: the hottest Grandmother on earth), my playing partner's girlfriend, and MY MOM.
That's right, there was no letting up on Team Cougar, despite the fact that their combined drinking game experience amounted to my mom disgustedly watching us funnel Lucky Lagers two months earlier up at Sauble Beach. Team Jean Jacket was firing on all cylinders, meticulously picking the ladies apart like the consumate proffessionals we are. There was once a picture of my mom chugging a mugful of PBR with Sweet Nate making his old-school Sweet Nate "I can't believe what the fuck I'm seeing!" face in the background, but alas, that too has gone the way of the Dodo bird. I think this particular loss hurts the most. I guess there's always next year.
After the Beirut Tourney, we all headed over to the campfire that Rick had graciously built (it had stopped raining for good by then, and we were left with a beautiful night. I had some beautiful shots of everyone gathered around the fire (there were probably 40 of us). We sang happy birthday to Evelyn Sullivan (hard to believe that young lady is 60), and as we passed the bottle around and smoked cigars, I'm tellin you, Lorne was in his glory. It was the most fun I've had in a long time. Skeeter was his glorious old self, falling over his chair as he stood, deciding then and there that it was probably time for him to hit the hay (he managed to stumble back to the tent which he shared with Ash and Jax - total stud). At one point, my sister busted out her guitar and played 3 tunes for us, prompting Santos to turn to me about halfway through the first song and rhetorically ask: "Are you fucking kidding me?!?". Yep, she's gotten pretty good over the past few years. Maybe it was the PBR, and maybe it was the company of some of the greatest people on earth, but I found myself on the verge of being choked up. My eyes may have been perspiring slightly, but that was probably due to the fire being so hot.
When Blake passed out sitting in his chair beside the fire, it capped a spectacular marathon of drinking for him. Besides my Mom and Dad, nobody put more work into these festivities than our boy Blake. He brought the kegs and the hoops. What kind of a party would it have been without him?
Thanks to my mom and dad for hosting and for putting so much time and effort into the first annual Dornoch-a-palooza. And of course Ronnie and Lisa and Sandra and Amber also had a big part in pulling it off. And what the hell. While we're at it, I even managed to help out here and there, fixing the broken hoop, setting up the professional-length Beirut table, and dominating the BBQ for a solid hour and a half.
Be sure to be there next year, when the festivities will fall on the Granddaddy McCallum holiday of them all: July the 12th.
In the meantime, keep me away from all electronic devices. I am an idiot.
Friday, July 13, 2007
By no means is this little purlieu a political forum, but this Todd Snider video was way too good to pass up. When I was down in Cleveland, one of my best buddies was an ultra-conservative, right wing republican. In fact, I'm pretty sure he is presently campaigning for Fred Thompson (note: the last sentance was not intended to be a punch line). One of the best guys you'll ever meet. Salt of the earth. But we could not have been on more opposite ends of the political/moral spectrum.
As we got to know one another a little better, he began calling me "Al Gore" and "Liberal", and by virtue of my being Canadian was immediately deemed the class pot smoker. I didn't really have a nickname for him because he was about 6'5, 250, but we did have many a late night drunken symposium on the merits of the Global Warming argument, how every Republican argument is based in fact alone, and why his boy Fred will almost assuredly be the next President of the United States of America (I'm not sure how he felt about my case for Oprah Winfrey '08, but let's go ahead and assume he would have violently contested the idea).
Anyway, I'm pretty sure the two of us dropped a couple of quaaludes one night and put this video together because it could not be more bang on with regards to where the two of us stand. High comedy.
And hey, if me and my Fred Head buddy could get along as well as we did, being as far apart on the issues as we are, can't just about everybody else find some kind of happy middle ground? See you at Woodstock, man.
Some fantastic reading from this week's issue of The New Yorker to help you pass the last four hours of this Friday afternoon:
A great short story by Stuart Dybek called If I Vanished. If you are reading this blog, you will enjoy this guy's writing. I couldn't help but think it read like something I would write (except, you know, better). It ends with a beautifully cold-hearted kiss off, reminiscent of that brilliant Hemingway line that extinguishes Brett and "The Sun Also Rises".
There is also a great piece in there about a meteorite landing in someone's bathroom in Freehold, NJ, with plenty of fascinating information about Meteor Crater in Arizona that Skeeter and I didn't get to see on our whirlwind tour of North America because it was "closed" (I'm still mystified by how someone can "close" a meteor crater). Unfortunately, that piece is not available online yet. I'll post it when it is.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
In a perfect world, you’d have a table that was approximately nine feet long, and a tall stack of those uniform red plastic beer cups, but it’s possible to make due with whatever is readily available, provided that throwing boundaries and minimum beer requirements are adjusted accordingly.
The game of Beirut is normally played in two teams of two, and the object of the game, aside from getting enormously drunk, is to sink all of your opponents’ cups. The fundamentals are a lot like basketball in that each team is trying to shoot an object through a sphere, but in Beirut you’re using a quarter instead of a ball, and you’re shooting into a beer cup instead of a meshed hoop; and the purpose of Beirut is to get everyone as drunk as is humanly possible rather than keeping track of the total number of points scored in order to determine a winner, so when you get right down to it, it actually isn’t like basketball at all. The only thing you really need to remember in Beirut is that whichever team sinks all six of its opponent’s cups first, wins.
Friday, July 6, 2007
Seeing as I dropped science after being forced to dissect the frog in the tenth grade (still having nightmares about the stench of formaldehyde), learning the myriad components and intricacies of the various low-sloped roofing systems available didn't exactly come easily to me, meaning that there wasn't a great deal of time left over for creative endeavours, despite my suggestions to the class that we all break the ice by getting together to compose a poem about the equiviscous temperature of Type IV asphalt. But as you might well imagine, that idea didn't really fly. I guess roofers just don't dig haiku.
In any event, Cleveland is a pretty sweet town, and there is definitely a weekend's worth of fun to be had if anyone is interested in hitting it up for two or three days. But before I get into all of the good times and merrymaking, I would be remiss if I didn't mention something that rubbed me the wrong way about the place. Now, maybe it's because I live in Toronto, one of the most multicultural and racially-integrated cities in the world; or maybe it's just because I'm naive and believe that we've come along a lot further than we actually have; but driving through the various neighbourhoods in Cleveland's east side, I was absolutely shocked by how racially divided most of that city is. Honestly, you can drive for thirty blocks without seeing a white person in some neighbourhoods, and then cross some kind of a threshold and go twenty blocks without seeing any black people. It's totally surreal.
I have no idea how the city got to be that way, or why anybody would ever want a city to be that way, but I guess it's just like Frankie D says: "it is what it is". Not much you can do about it from this end, except to be thankful that you live in a place where all people can not only co-exist, but benefit and thrive from that happy co-existence.
One other note about the city of Cleveland. I came across this article in the Cleveland Scene (
What city planners are proposing, in an apparent attempt to revitalize a once prosperous part of town known as "The Flats", is that all of the city's "Gentlemen's Clubs" be moved to the same location along the East Bank of the Cuyahoga River. This new "Adult Zone", city officials contend, would become a place for out-of-towners and conventioneers to congregate.
What those same city officials fail to mention, obviously, is that this same "Adult Zone" will undoubtedly become the number one destination for out-of-towners and conventioneers to go to have their asses kicked by people brawling in the streets while trying to avoid the spray of .45 shells during the nightly last-call moving target parade.
Honestly, do the words "Pacman Jones" mean anything to these so-called “city planners”? Just think about the types of people that go to these “Gentlemen’s Clubs” late at night: drunk, testosterone-fuelled dudes who, by virtue of their very walking out of the strip club, are decidedly not getting laid. And I, for one, should know; I’ve been one of those guys on a number of occasions. We’re about as close to “Gentlemen” as Mike Brown is to coaching greatness.
It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to project the implications of having, say, six rip joints worth of drunk, testosterone-fuelled dudes who aren't getting laid, all spilling into the streets at the same time, looking for a way to pass the time while waiting in vain for a slew of cabs that may or may not arrive... What could possibly be a more volatile situation than this? A Klan meeting at Caribana? Maybe? I can't even think of anything else that comes close.
If the good people of Cleveland want to revitalize The Flats, they should think about putting some kind of public transportation system in place so that revellers don't have to drink and drive in order to get to and from the area, which has all of the potential in the world to become a riverfront hotspot once again. Either that, or offer the abandoned space at a discounted rental rate for all of the artists who won’t be able to afford to live in Coventry Village much longer, thereby allowing things to prosper organically over time. But an "Adult Zone" on the East Bank? I think I’d rather have R. Kelly host my kid’s birthday party.
Anyway, these were the highlights of my three weeks in Cleveland:
An absolutely magnificient place to see a ballgame. As some of you may or may not know, I have an unnatural fetish for two things (aside from those other "natural" fetishes that we need not get into): waterfalls, and ballparks. I've travelled all over North America, checking out the likes of Wrigley, Fenway, Yankee Stadium, the old Tiger Stadium, what was once Pac Bell (San Francisco), Seattle... if I'm in your city and you have a pretty little jewel of a yard, you can bet your Barry Bonds approved tube of flaxseed oil that I'll be there drooling all over it, cursing out the city of Toronto for building the Skydome when they could have easily built themselves a Camden Yards. And Jacobs Field was no exception.
Not getting to the old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland to sit with the other 700 fans for a Jays/Indians game in the late '80's is one of my great regrets in life, so I wasn't taking any chances on this night. I got to the park about an hour before the game and took a self-guided walking tour, checking out every angle, talking to the security guys about the intricacies of the yard, and marvelling at the beauty of the place. Their version of monument park, hidden behind the batter's eye in dead center is something that gets no media play but is something to behold if you get the chance to check it out: Satchel Paige, Bob Feller, Cy Young... This team has had some serious tallent on the hill.
Anyway, my company hooked us up in their box behind the Indians dugout for the night, so as the game went on, things generally disintegrated to near gong show status, what with the open bar and all. There were only a few of us who hung around until the bottom of the ninth, and we were treated to the first walk-off homerun I can remember being present for, courtesy of backup catcher Kelly Shoppach. I have no idea who this dude is, but he was kind enough to let us in on the "mayhem".