Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tuesday Night Binge Drinking

So on my way back from Collingwood yesterday afternoon, I stopped in to see my buddy Dunner at work. We shot the breeze for awhile, and he revealed that he hadn't had a day off since the infamous Sauble Wobble and that he, as a result, was thinking that he might come down to the city for a few beers, seeing as he didn't have to work the following morning. "Nothing crazy, just a few beers" was the way he described it. No problem, I said. I try not to make a habit out of going out on week nights, but seeing as I pretty well had the most nondescript two days of my life this past weekend, I figured there would be no harm in having a couple of Tuesday night beverages.

In case I haven't stressed this point enough in previous posts, I am an idiot.

Really, is there such a thing as going out for a few quiet drinks? Certainly not when Dunner and I get together, and certainly not on Tuesday, which everyone knows is the new Friday (in Karaoke circles, at least). Dunner showed up at my place around 9 o'clock with a six pack of Heineken, and combined with the Lucky Lagers I had stashed in the fridge for just such an occasion, we began drinking at an incredible pace while watching Aaron Hill pull a Jackie Robinson and snatch the highlight of the year award away from Blazin' Blondie, and Lebron James single handedly pull his team back into the series (and yes, I know this dunk is from Game 3 but it was too good to pass up). At one point, Dunner went out onto the balcony for a cigarette, and I went out with him. The topic of conversation turned to drinking (naturally), and we began talking about how we simply couldn't fathom how or why anybody would come home from work and have a few beers by themselves, just sitting on the couch, watching TV... "It's totally depressing", I said. "And it makes you fat", Dunner pointed out. "And I don't even see how that could be fun", I insisted. After a moment of thoughtful contemplation, Dunner offered: "I only binge drink. Really. It's the only way."

I couldn't agree more. 12 beers each on Friday and Saturday night is the only healthy, non-depressing, fun way to do it.

After a few more bevvies and a glass of bourbon, we set off into the Toronot night for Sneaky Dee's (the inspiration for The Lowest of the Low's Beer Graffiti Walls) where we (Sandra had joined us by this point) met up with Anna, hammered back a couple pitchers of Amsterdam and a monster plate the the Dee's world famous nachos, and then had Sandra and Anna decide for us that we needed to go to a birthday party for a couple of dudes named "The Jeffs". We cabbed it up to Bloor and Bathurst, and when it turned out that they were at a different bar way the hell down on Adelaide, Dunner and I decided to pop into one of my favourite old haunts, The Tap, for a quick pint while Sandra and Anna ran around like a couple of chickens with their heads cut off, darting from phone booth to phone booth in an attempt to look for an address to a bar that may or may not have actually existed. It was totally surreal. I needed a drink.

Anyway, just as Dunner and I got our bevvies, the two girls came storming into the bar saying that we needed to leave immediately because if we didn't we would miss "The Jeffs"... Considering I'd never actually met this ambiguously gay duo, it wasn't necessarily the worst thing in the world that we bid our lady friends adieu and settled in for an hour of bubble hockey (the only known such game in any bar I've ever been in - totally old school, with Canada vs. the U.S., and the 3D guys with the disproportionately long sticks... fantastic) while listening to the fantastic array of cover tunes being blasted across the speakers by DJ Poppa Cherry (The Jesus and Mary Chain covering The Temptations My Girl - out of this world).

Anyway, I was in the middle of sweeping the bubble hockey series from Dunner when we got talking to the bartender about the Jays game earlier that night. We were going on and on about how fantastic that Aaron Hill steal was, and how pathetic the Yankees are this year with their $200 million payroll and a lineup that will probably see them finishing behind the D-Rays when it's all said and done. Dunner and I were at the bubble hockey table, and Chris, the bartender, was about 7 feet from us as we continued to rip on the Yanks, discussing at length how we couldn't wait to bust out the brooms the following night, Chris describing how he was at the game the night before with a bag full of jelly beans, holding them up and taunting the Giambino every time he stepped to the plate by screaming that he had his medication and it was time to come get it...

So anyway, we're absolutely murdering the Pinstripers, and these two dudes are sitting between the bubble hockey game and the bartender, and these two guys are keeping pretty quiet, not really adding much to the mass disparagement. The only thing I really noticed about them, to be honest, was that they had this sleazy looking girl with them who started interrupting our little slander session by talking about the Ottawa Senators. Even though we're paying zero attention to her, she begins leaning up against our game, generally making a complete distraction of herself while incessantly trying to change the subject away from the Yankee bashing. We thought nothing of it, and kept ripping away at Steinbrenner's boys as I buried the game winner top shelf.

Ten minutes later, the guys get up to leave, and the one dude hands his credit card to Chris the bartender, and I'll be fucked if the name on the platinum card didn't read: Melky Cabrera... And yep, now that we thought of it, that other gigantic SOB did have a striking resemblance to Robinson Cano...

Classic. The biggest Yankee bashing session of the year takes place with Melky "the bat boy" Cabrera and Robinson Cano mediating the entire discussion. And exactly what the hell were two major leaguers doing at The Tap with an immensely annoying jersey chaser and two drunks battling it out on the bubble hockey battlefield?

Just engaging in your everyday, run-of-the-mill, Tuesday night binge drinking experience, of course.

No word on whether A-Rod stopped by earlier before heading off to the Brass Rail.


I came across a fantastic article about the 50 worst band names in the history of pop music. I have no idea how Johnny Sleaze and the STDs, Buster Hymen and the Penetrators, and Billy Barf and the Vomitones were left out of the top 50, but this is a killer piece of blogging nonetheless. Check it out:

Your Band Name Sucks

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kent Huskins - Dream Crusher

I can’t believe this story isn’t getting more play. In my mind, it’s bigger than the subway series and V.C. back in Toronto and Wayne breaking Gordie’s record in Edmonton combined. Maybe ESPN will pick up this top-notch piece of video journalism to run in the downtime between dog fights at the Mexico estate.

I don’t know many people who admit to being fans of the Ottawa Senators. And that fact shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise considering that the Leafs, come playoff time, generally have their way with the Sens in much the same way that a drunken tourist does with a Guatemalan hooker; which is to say, without expending a great deal of time, money, or effort. But there is one such fan that I know of. The only problem is: this particular fan just happens to be anchoring the third defensive pairing on the only thing standing between his childhood favourite team and what will quite possibly be that team’s only chance to sip from the greatest trophy in all of sports. The drama is unrivalled. The tension: practically palpable. The level of energy in Almonte? It’s frenetic.

One of the greatest moments in the storied lore of “The Oar House”; the finest sports bar that Oakville, ON has ever seen; was the 3-0 dismantling of the Ottawa Senators at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs in game 7 of the 2002 playoffs. There was a line up out the door, and Sully and Jay were giving away shots of Jagermeister like they were tickets to a Toronto Phantoms Arena Football League game. The only soul brave enough to sport those ridiculous Sens colours (what those colours are exactly, I haven’t a clue)? Our boy Huskerdu.

I will never forget the look on his face after the last seconds mercifully ticked off the clock, leaving the boys in blue with a 3-0 triumph and a perfect 4-0 record in series’ versus the lowly Sens in hockey’s second season. The man was inconsolable. I actually felt sorry for him, having suffered through a lifetime of cheering for teams who were perpetually defined by their inability to get over the proverbial hump (the Leafs, the Bills, the XLF’s Memphis Maniax). If I’m not mistaken, after tossing back his third post-mortem pitcher of Coors Light, he promised us that his team would one day hoist the cup (that last part may or may not have happened, but it makes for an interesting segway).

Which brings us to this week. Not only is the town of Almonte divided, but Kent himself must surely be equally torn. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be pulling for the Husker and the rest of the boys in… whatever the hell colour the Ducks wear. But don’t be totally surprised if, in the midst of a 3-3 tie late in the third period of Game 7 sometime next week, Almonte’s favourite son just happens to cough up the puck on his own blue line, allowing a streaking Daniel Alfredsson to go in all alone for the single greatest moment in the history of his lifelong favourite team. ..

But I doubt it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Friday Diversion

Because nobody wants to work on a Friday, especially when the sun is shining, I'm providing links to the best reading I've come across over the course of the past two months. Two of these articles are extremely lengthy, so be prepared. All three come from The New Yorker, which is easily the best magazine in the world. Enlighten yourselves. Enjoy.

Banksy Was Here - This is a fantastic piece about a Chelsea graffiti artist who crosses over into the mainstream. People spend days scouring London looking for his work, and nobody knows who he is. Everybody has a theory, but nobody knows for sure, so he manages to hold on to most of his street cred and make tonnes of dough at the same time. And the slide show of his work is out of this world, particularly the mural done on the side of a security wall in the West Bank. How he managed to draw that up in the middle of the night boggles the mind.

There and Back Again - This is one of the most ubelievable things I've ever read. There's a guy in here who commutes 342 miles every day. That's seven hours of driving to and from work, every day! Apparently there's an entire group of Americans; 3.5 million, to be exact; who are extreme commuters. They travel a minimum of 90 minutes each way, just to get to work everyday. Believe me, if you are reading this in the office, you will feel a whole lot better about your life (unless it took you two hours to get there). I have never been happier about working from home.

Four Short Crushes - Lookin' for love in all the wrong places... Short and sweet, and about as true as it gets.

Also, just a thanks to Richie, who managed to get my little revue of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble on to The Band's web site. Check out the "What's New" section under the date: May 20, 2007.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Sauble Wobble

My fondest memories of the Victoria Day Weekend include the following:

1 Dave Gizzie; presumably in a bid for May two-four immortality; jumping from the top of a sandy knoll in an attempt to clear a flaming wooden out-house (the fact that there was a burning out-house tells you most of what you need to know about what kind of a night it was)as the crowd of two-hundred chanted: "GIZ-ZIE! GIZ-ZIE! GIZ-ZIE!"; making it halfway across the burning structure without incident like a soaring Pteromyini, only to catch his foot on a fiery board at the apex of his leap, which in turn alterred his trajectory just enough so that he was coming down completely off balance to a raucous ovation, landing awkwardly and snapping his ankle in two, his White-Oaks-approved rocker hair soaking up the mud like Stanley Spadowski's mop as the entire congregation of White Sands campground groaned, leaving Bear to carry the man out of the park on his broad shoulders, somehow transporting him to a nearby hospital.

2) Setting our tents up next to "Camp Milton", where they would paint a red "X" on your hand if you were single and ready to mingle (a nineties version of the "keys in the fishbowl" party), and Ronnie deciding to take the ambiguity out of the game by painting his brown Phat Pharm sweater with a gigantic red "X" and sporting it for the duration of the weekend, much to the delight of the single girls in attendance.

3) Having $300 worth of booze taken away by the police about 10 miles outside of Sauble because we were driving like idiots and when they pulled us over, they happily discovered that all of the beer and booze was in Sully's car which had exactly zero people of legal age within its confines, and then watching as they poured all $300 of our long weekend's fun out at the side of the road while Bear and Gizzie flew past in their ride, blaring their horn and laughing their 20-year-old asses off at us. This is the opposite of a "fond memory", for the record.

4) Filling pick-up trucks with couches and anything else that might burn, as Spring Cleaning Garbage Day benevolently coincided with the May long weekend, providing us with couches to sit and drink on all day and night until the last night, where we uncorked the biggest black chemical spewing bonfire this side of Belfast which inadvertantly led to someone stealing Doherty's cooler as I sat and watched from the bed of a pick-up in the wee hours of the morning, unable to move because I was so hungover.

5) Funnelling multiple beers from random philanthropic benfactors of beer as pick-up trucks and U-haul vans leisurely cruised the circuit in the sunset hour, stopping every ten feet to indulge, with tunes blaring from every window and campsite while people howled at the prospect of an entire summer set before them, in the prime of their youth.
Ahhhh yes, the Sauble Wobble.

It's been almost 10 years since I'd experienced the wobble of that White Sands ilk. But in an attempt to get some of that youthful feeling back, we hopped into our time machines, zipped up our forcefields, and headed on up to Sauble Beach for (what was for me, anyway) the last May 24 of our twenties.

And it started off just like old times. With complete antics. I planned on skipping out of work early, hoping to be on the road by 2pm. Of course, something came up just as I was about to sneak out, and the next thing I knew, it was after 5 and I was still sitting in front of my computer. By the way, if you think its frustrating being at work and not being able to escape, you should feel the tension when you're working from home and you can't even leave, to say nothing of your girlfriend and her friend sitting there patiently waiting for you to fuck off for more than three hours. But eventually I was able to put a sweet little Green Roof mini-spec together and get the hell out of Dodge. We hit the Beer Store (24 Sleeman's Original, 24 Lucky) and the Liquor Store (bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon), and were crawling along Queen Street in an attempt to get on the Gardiner... at 5:30. Great planning. Anyway, just as we were about to hit the on ramp, Sandra got the sinking feeling that she'd left the stove on... and I did all I could not to jam a lidless pen through my eyeballs. Of course, there is no way you can go away for four days while believing that you are responsible for your block burning down, so we had no choice but to turn around. Which ended up being not such a bad thing because I remembered to grab the CDs that I'd forgotten, while also checking on the stove. Not on, for the record.

The traffic wasn't so bad driving up 10 because most people had obviously gotten out of work early enough to beat us to it, but Sully and Santos still managed to beat us to Sandra's cottage by about an hour and a half. With the help of the hide-a-key, they let themselves in and began in on the festivities, with Rosco and Dev showing up about twenty minutes ahead of us. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the same cottage where, two years ago, the love of Hibbard and Vee first blossomed (much to the chagrin of some dude named Neil), and where Robbie Doon and Laurie... got acquainted with one another in a room whose wall ended a foot and a half before the ceiling, allowing Sully to get himself a birdseye view of the festivities. Just so we're on the same page.

Reason #1 I could never own a cottage? Aside from the obvious, which is my complete lack of funding, is the fact that I am the least handy person on the planet. My Grandfather was a genius with all things mechanical; my dad fixed everything in the neighbourhood while we were growing up; Ronnie had his own business (albeit briefly) called "The Odd Job Company"; but hand me a wrench and Phillips Head and you might as well be giving Neil Patrick Harris a subscription to Hustler magazine... just mind-bogglingly useless. So I spent the next half hour on the phone with Sandra's dad, trying to turn the water on and making an incompetent ass out of myself in the process. I didn't even manage to get the hot water working because I didn't figure out that you have to actually turn the hot water valve to the on position to get any positive flow... I think I've sufficiently embarrassed myself for now.

In any event, the fire and the barbecue were already in full swing by the time I got the (cold) water running, so it was time to sit down and start imbibing in a serious way. Sandra cooked me up a feast of grilled salmon and cous-cous salad (I suggested hot dogs and mustard, but what are you gonna do), and eventually Ronnie and Amber, as well as Nate and Jen showed up. To be totally honest, I don't remember much else from that night, other than the fact that some random dudes from down the beach showed up when we played Steve Earle (the 19 year olds next door also showed an appreciation for what I consider to be one of the most underrated artists of our lifetime, leading me to believe that the man is long overdue for a renaissance at any minute), and some East Coasters showed up when we blasted Barrett's Privateers ("I wish I was in Sherbrooke now..."). The entire night consisted of drinking and smoking oursleves into oblivion around a perfect campfire on the beach. We were up until the birds were singing, but clearly this was only a prelude. Things were about to get ugly.

We woke up Saturday morning feeling pretty good, so I decided to start the morning off by going for a ride on Sully's beach cruiser. For those of you that don't know, Sully has a little 50cc motor bike that's decked out like an Orange county chopper. It might be the coolest thing on the planet, and ripping up and down the beach on a sunny Saturday morning is almost more fun than should be allowed (as it turns out, it actually is more fun than is allowed, as evidenced by Santos going for a ride later that afternoon, only to be pulled over by the O.P.P., who informed him that he didn't have the requisite helmet or license for that particular chopper, which meant that he could either walk it all the way back to the cottage, or take the ticket the rookie cop was about to write him. Let me tell you, the only thing funnier than seeing big Santos {approx. 6'3, 270} riding a child's 50cc bike is watching him walk it back all the way from town). In any event, I cruised up and down the beach a few times, and on my final return, I thought it might be funny to pretend to be in a speed wobble. And in case you didn't know, mock-speed wobbles and sand don't exactly mix, which resulted in me dumping the bike in front of everyone at the cottage, ripping all holy hell out of my thumb and my ankle, and leaving me with a bruise on my chest that right now is the approximate colour of Gerber's pureed peas. I am an idiot.

By the way, this is a picture of Sully's beach cruiser with a representation of the combined approximate maturity level for the entire weekend sitting on it.

While still bleeding, Sully and I decided to venture into town because we needed ice for caesars and because Sully needed two packs of smokes and because we wanted to see what kind of a device we could obtain that would enable us to drink more, and faster than the night before. We saw some kid walking down the main street of town with a funnel and knew that it was our calling. We walked into the Home Hardware under the guise of needing a funnel to change our oil, but my Devo-approved cowboy hat must have been a dead giveaway because they weren't buying any of it. After securing a funnel and three feet of tubing, we were at the register all ready to pay when one of the kids working there told us, "Naw, you guys got it all wrong. You need a clip so the tube doesn't come out." Lord love'em. He even grabbed us the right size and tightened it for us. Bob's your uncle. Ronnie was either puking or not puking beside a tree while Amber shopped for clothes (she forgot to bring her bag of clothes - I offered her my gitch, but she said she was fine), and when we emerged with our new toy, he looked like he'd be awhile. The only thing left for Sully and I to do was to cruise up to White Sands for one final victory lap.

I wish this were the part of the story where I tell you that the guy working the gate at White Sands let us in for twenty minutes because we were alumni and helped to make the place what it is today, and we spent the next hour parading around the circuit funnelling beers with 17 year olds with red "X''s painted across their chests, but unfortunately, the dude at the gate said that we had to pay $75 if we wanted in, just like everyone else. Even when we offered our licenses as collateral, he still was having none of it. We vowed to come back Sunday afternoon and sneak in, but to be honest, I completely forgot about that covenant until just now. In any event, we cruised back through town, and with the sun shining bright, the eleventeen year olds were out in full force, bikini tops and short-shorts galore. As Sully pointed out: "Only six hours 'till Vera gets here..." You can use your imagination to determine what he followed it up with.

When we got back to the cottage, we obviously had to break in the new device, which meant that Sully and I each funnelled two Lucky Lagers... did I mention that I was almost 30? Again, we were in a time warp this weekend, so all bets were off. Just as I was finishing my second beverage, the 19 year olds in the cottage next door challenged us to a football game, so it was obviously on. For those of you that haven't been, the beach at Sauble is pretty much the perfect place to play football/baseball/frisbee/horseshoes/bocce ball/Beirut, particularly where Sandra's cottage is, because there isn't all that much traffic (you're allowed to drive on the beach for $10 - sounds like a bad idea, but the natives who run the racket take damn good care of the beach, so it's a pretty decent trade off). So we made up some teams, and just as we were about to begin dominating, my parents showed up. I went off to welcome them, and my team dominated despite my absence (I'm pretty sure Santos, our star quarterback, fell in love with the 19 year old teammate of his in the pink bikini top, but I'm also pretty sure he wasn't alone in that sentiment). My parents came up huge by bringing a pick-up truck bed full of firewood scavenged from the wilds of Dornoch, and after unloading it, I rejoined the game just in time to realize that I'm a shell of my former atheltic self, as I did little more than complain about my groin and drop surefire touchdowns. Kill me. After the game ended, Santos and I went for a sweet dip in Lake Huron, and to tell you the truth, the water wasn't nearly as cold as I thought it would be (Sully and Anna had gone in earlier that morning, to be fair). Ian and Toffan showed up at one point, having made the two-and-a-half hour drive up together despite the fact that they had never met before. Honestly, I would have had a list of topics to discuss like George Costanza before the blind date phone call, but they seemed to get along just fine. I wish I could say the same of Toffan and Sully, but to say that they didn't exactly hit it off would be like saying that the SPCA's bid to hire Ron Mexico as their spokesperson didn't exactly pan out the way they'd hoped (that is a multi-layered joke that flew over the heads of 95% of my readers... and yes, that means that exactly one person got it).

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon sitting around the fire pit, sitting on the roof of the neighbours cottage with the eleventeen year olds, smoking ridiculously large doobies (I held steady to my rule of waiting until after midnight), and funnelling Lucky Lagers. The highlight was getting my dad to hammer one home (my mom might contend this statement), and after that happened, things pretty well began to degenerate. Robbie Doon, Dinner and B*Rad showed up with Tyson, the Rat Tooth's buzz-of-the-year golden lab, and I insisted that they immediately funnel upon their arrival. I had a hell of a time twisting their rubber arms. Tyson the dog had more energy than I thought possible, and the irony of my constantly reiterating "that dog is a fucking animal!" was entirely lost upon me at the time. It just kept chasing the ball over and over and over again. It was like... the complete opposite of us. At one point, my parents decided to go for a walk, and Davie decided to say hello to everyone by dropping his drawers and giving us an epic old man mooning, prompting someone to point out that they saw a squirrel crawling out of my dad's ass. Again, my family proudly puts the "fun" in dysfunction.

One other subplot from this May long weekend is that my parents had never previously met Sandra's parents before. Strange as it may seem, the four of them have never been in the same room together, despite the fact that we've been dating for almost three years. In any event, this very evening was panning out to be their first formal encounter, and by the time Sandra's parents actually arrived at their own cottage, it was mass carnage and debauchery everywhere you stepped... and my dad was taking a prolonged, funnel-induced nap in his truck. I'm not certain if Sandra's dad was more shocked or appalled that I suggested he funnel a beer upon his arrival, but needless to say, he graciously declined the offer. I think Robbie Doon filled in in his stead. By this point nobody was feeling even an ounce of pain, and the sun hadn't even begun to set yet. Somehow, somebody thought it might be a good idea that we get some food inside of us, so we began grilling burgers and dogs, and the ladies threw some salads together, and all was good and right in the world.

As night descended, things just began getting dumb. My dad eventually awoke from his slumber and joined my mom and Sandra's parents around the campfire, but by that point, the funnel had taken on a life of its own. Robbie Doon was in the process of setting a record for funnels in a night (he ended up in double digits), inventing the "Dooner-style" funnel, which essentially involves Ronnie pouring the beer for him from about two feet above the funnel in order to maximize foam content, followed by the empty can being dropped into the funnel so the beer is funnelled "can-in", so that when the tasty beverage is consumed three seconds later, all of the foam and empty can is blown out like from a sperm whale's blow hole, preferably aimed at someone so as to cause an immediate drunken homo-erotic play brawl. In one such skirmish, while Dinner and Ronnie and Dooner and I'm pretty sure Anna were rolling around in the sand near the cottage door with Rage Against The Machine blaring from the speakers, Sandra's dad looked up at his investment (the cottage, not his daughter) and officially disowned me as a potential son-in-law.

Dunner showed up at long last and realizing he had a great deal of catching up to do, decided to funnel an unheard-of five beers in twenty minutes, all of them Robbie Doon style, and some of which may or may not have been captured on film (again, if anyone knows how to convert a movie from a camera into a file that can be linked to from this blog, please, do the world a favour and pass the directions along. I promise you, it will be well worth your while). While Dunner and Robbie were going toe-to-toe, I can remember laughing so hard that I could barely hold the funnel upright. This was easily the best/worst $10 I'd ever spent. By the time the night was over, there must have been at least 70 funnelling incidents, with Sully and Nate posting the best sprint times (two seconds per funnel), Dunner dominating the middle distance race (5 bongs in 25 minutes), and Robbie Doon playing the role of Kenyan, murdering the marathon (an unfathomable 10 bongs over the course of the evening). Even Amber-is-the-color-of-your-energy got into the act, beating Ronnie to the tube (we eventually peer pressured him into doing just one). Anna also impressed the masses, funnelling, say it with me: multiple times.

Vera and her friend Charlene eventually showed up after complaining about my directions and going the wrong way down Route 21 (understandable, and I guess the whole "buy a map and find your way to Sauble" form of directions could have been more detailed, in retrospect), as did Sweet Nate, Jen, Paul (Nate's bro and all around class act) and Paul's girlfriend who is one of the coolest girls you'll ever meet, but for the life of me I can't remember her name. My parents and Sandra's parents eventually left at the same time, and my mom's last words to me (I had the beer bong wrapped around my shoulder the like the heavyweight title) were: "For our party on the 14th (of July), that thing is not welcome". She said this without the slightest hint of humour. She was not impressed with the way the civilized gathering had disintegrated into a tenth grade Lion's Valley bush party...Buuuuuut I think we can probably convince her to do one hit.

At some point, people began turning in, and when Sandra decided to go to bed I knew I was in for a long last few hours. Even though it isn't exactly my cottage, I knew that it would be completely irresponsible for me to just leave it to the wolves. We sat around the fire for awhile and Robbie Doon; while trying to convince us to let him drive home; proceeded to insult just about everyone in attendance (my eternal thanks goes out to Paul Hutchinson, who showed an incredible amount of restraint in light of some poorly chosen words on Dooner's part, and to the softspoken Ian for doing all he could to keep the peace. And to B*Rad for never giving in and giving him his keys). This is Robbie Doon, trying to get home on the beach cruiser.

At some point, Sully decided that the leaking sink needed to be fixed, but when he began taking it apart, the actual sink damn near fell clean off the wall, leading me to proclaim that not in a million years would I ever own a cottage. Some hot dogs got thrown on the BBQ for a late night snack, and then some hot dogs got thrown on the kitchen fl oor for Tyson to chow. There were a few rare cheeses courtesy of Sandra's trip to Kennsington Market, and you can be certain they got absolutely murdered. And the eleventeen year old neighbours had a pretty massive party, and some girl got thrown through a window (pretty funny to hear their Micheal Jackson music stop like the needle getting ripped off the record). And one of the said eleventeen year old girls thought she could help herself to our honour bar (Toff put her in her place - high comedy). And I vaguely remember going to bed with the sinking feeling that I needed to be up by 8 or so to clean the place before Sandra's parents showed up again. The word "Green" doesn't do it justice.

I woke up Sunday morning around ten and went outside to guage the damage. For lack of a better term, it was spectacular. How twenty-five people pushing thirty could make such a mess is beyond me, but there it was. Cans and bottles everywhere, chairs turned over, vomit, the beer bong lying in the sand... It was really quite something. I borrowed some garbage bags from the kids next door and went to work. It was about 4 degrees outside and the wind was howling, and pretty soon I couldn't feel my hands and had to pretty much pick up the cans with my writst because my digits were immobile. Good times. Robbie Doon apologized for his behaviour (par for the course, and oftentimes a highlight), and he, Dinner, and B*Rad effed off for home. The rest of us went out for breakfast and hit up the beer store once again, apologizing to our livers for what we were about to subject them to in the near future.

As green as we were that Sunday afternoon, it was clear that we needed an infusion of new blood. As if on cue, The Bomber pulled up in his new ride. Now, if you had to guess what a Metro Toronto firefighter and two-time charity calender standout ("Mr. March" this year, for the record) would be cruising up to Sauble in for the long weekend, what would you guess? Navigator? Harley? Camero? Where would Smart Car appear on that list? Never ceases to amaze. Perhaps the best picture of the weekend came in the form of Santos and Blake (who arrived shortly after The Bomber in his new Volvo Wagon, having traded in his truck - yes, this was the bizzaro Sauble) squeezed into the Bomber's Smart Car. The two of them combined have to be 12'8 and 525 pounds. Not sure what the car's weight limit is, but that had to be pushing it.

The shitty weather began to clear up, and after The Bomber got a sweet little fire going inside (Holy fuck, let me at that fuckin thing), the ladies engaged in a thrilling game of boggle. We blasted the tunes outside and started an outdoor fire, standing around in our parkas and trying to talk ourselves into commencing drinking once again. When the sun poked its meager rays through the breaking clouds, we figured that it was just about time. It must have been close to four, and when the ladies finally joined us, life was looking good all over again. By the time Ronnie and Amber got back from their little cruise down the Highway of Love (as the road to Southampton will now exclusively be known as), Blake was leading Ronnie in the amply hyped drinking competition 8-0.

When the clouds cleared completely, we were feeling fantastic. So good in fact, that it took zero convincing to begin the highly anticipated Sunday afternoon Beirut tournament. We moved the picnic table onto a flat part of the dune and immediately began pouring Lucky Lagers (by the way, all of the weekend's competitive drinking was apparently brought to you by yours truly). And hence began one of the great afternoons of Beirut that I have ever been a part of, narrowly edging out the Sheenboro festivities of 2001 where Flats and Husker broke Granny Sully's entire collection of porcelain mugs while running the table. This afternoon unquestionably belonged to Team Ramrod, the name that Sully and Blake gave themselves in the midst of their 9-0 run. They killed me and Dunner with a fist full of Sandy McSandersons (wet quarters covered in sand - sure, that's lovely roughage), tore through Ronnie and Santos twice despite some inspiring taunting dances, beat up on The Bomber and Ian, dismantled Vera and Amber, laid the smack down on Sandra and Toffan, and when Sandra's parents eventually showed up with Sandra's aunt and her boyfriend, Team Ramrod had the onions to knock off the duo of me and Sandra's dad (Yes, it turns out the man forgave me for the previous evening's debacle. It's impossible to hold a grudge against a guy after you've been his Beirut partner. And no, I can't believe that Sandra's dad joined me in a game of Beirut either). By the time they were into their 10th game, they were completely smashed, so it came as no surprise that they fell to the dynamic duo of Santos and The Bomber. Before nailing the winning shot, The Bomber vowed to run along the beach naked if they won. Sure enough, being a man of his word, two minutes after the victory, there was the Bomber, in all his glory, in the 7 degree dusk, sprinting down the beach for a sunset skinny, polar bear dip. And as if that weren't enough, on his way back to the house he decided to jump on Sully's beach cruiser and give us a couple of naked donuts. Vintage Bomber. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. All of the dudes were thoroughly impressed... the ladies? Not so much.

We plowed through some fantastic lasagna for dinner, and in the midst of it, some crazy 19 year old dude from California thought it would be a good idea (through much prodding from the Bomber) to try to jump the creek in his dad's BMW SUV. When the thing bottomed out and began smoking, he had obviously earned a certain level of credibility with us, so we invited him to join us for a few beers later that night. This ended up being one of the best decisions of the weekend. He walked back in nothing but a T-shirt, and we invited him into a game of Beirut. I have no idea who his partner was, but he obviously got shellacked. I can't remember what his real name was, but he told us to call him "The Moose". No problem. The kid was a total treat, and he had obviously just broken up with his girlfriend, who he affectionately referred to as "that cum-guzzling whore". This had nothing to do with Ronnie pushing him into it, I'm sure. Anyway, somebody rolled a massive cannon of a joint and decided to pass it around. It became obvious that the Moose hadn't smoked a great deal of marijuana in his short career, because he took the longest, deepest pull on this thing that I'd ever seen. You could actually see his face turning green over the course of the next ten minutes, and then before we knew what was happening, the Mooose was doubled over, puking up his mom's beefaroni on the sand. An epic performance.

We left him sound asleep in the sand for quite sometime before Sandra busted out the sparklers. You would have thought this kid had dropped some serious acid, because when we held the sparklers above his face, he began cawing at them like a newborn in a crib, looking up at the newly installed mobile just beyond his reach. Again, it was impossible to breathe whilst laughing so hard, but in the Moose's defense, if I just woke up and no idea where I was and ten people were holding sparlers over my head like a medieval mating ritual, I'd think it was pretty fucked up myself. In any event, after the sparkler trip, Ronnie got the bright idea to bring the Moose into the cottage. Thirty seconds later, the Moose was vomitting violently again. And if he hadn't made it outside the cottage, I would be a single man.

We eventually walked the Moose the half mile back to his cottage, and it honestly felt like we were on a tour of duty through Vietnam because there were blasts going off all over the place, and people were shooting Roman Candles at us, and screamers were blaring every ten seconds... Sully was running around screaming "CHARLIE! CHARLIE!", and poor Moose was wondering what the fuck went wrong. We eventually got back to his cottage, and he declined our invitation to walk him right to the front door, practically dying as we were to see the look on his parents face. Some other time, some other place, Moose. We'll miss you, and you can be sure, we'll never forget you.

On the walk back home it was just like 'Nam all over again because these random guys were lighting off one of those burning school houses.... easily the lamest excuse for pyrotechnics outside of hitting the + sign on some unsuspecting sap's lighter in high school. The rest of the night consisted of Blake putting on an absolutely epic drinking performance, polishing all 18 of his Buds, as well as an entire mini-keg of Bitburger that Amber had brought up. Sandra (undoubtedly the greatest host of all time for putting up with us) cooked up some serious pies, and we polished the bourbon, along with just about everything else we could get our hands on.

We awoke the next morning and cleaned. It was hell on earth.

Thanks to Sandra and her parents for having us up all weekend. I'm not sure how you do it. Thanks to Dunner for passing the pics along. And thanks to everyone who helped me feel like I was 18 all over again. Because really, aside from the beer-bonging and the Beirut tournaments and the irreversible liver damage, that's what the Sauble Wobble is all about. See you all next year.

By the way, until we get some actual video footage from this past weekend, here is an approximation of what went down. What these guys are doing is at the same basic intellectual level of what we were doing all weekend; when it was all said and done, there was probably the same number of beer cans scattered across the ground; and I'm pretty sure the guy without the shirt on is The Moose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May Day, and the "Let Please" Karma

If ever there was a team capable of coming back from down 3-love; and if ever there was a team capable of an epic choke job...

This video is well worth the 7 minutes invested, if not for one of the greatest calls of all-time by Rick Jeanneret (right up there with Russ Hodges' "Shot Heard Round the World" and Vin Scully's call on Kirk Gibson's curtain to the opening act of the '88 Series), than for the time-machine experience of hearing the names Moog, Lafontaine, Oates, Audette, Hawerchuk, Fuhr, and The Dominator in the blue and gold.

And as for any self-proclaimed Leaf, or even Habs fans, jumping on the Sens bandwagon? You should be ashamed of yourselves. That would be like Poland rooting for the Germans after the seige of Warsaw because they were the European country with the best chance to win the war. If you need a team to cheer for, there's plenty of room on the Ducks bandwagon. I have a reserved seat next to Husky somewhere near the back of the bus. (More on the potential ramifications of Huskins-Sens final if Anaheim can actually manage to pick themselves off the mat after that 5-0 pasting).

One final sports note: as I write this, there are 7 minutes left in the second quarter of the Suns-Spurs game, and Tim Duncan is officially falling victim to the squash-"let please" karma. I know that very few of you probably play squash, but just so you know, when you're running around on the court in your extra tight navy blue adidas shorts, white head-band and Sabo-style perscription goggles, occasionally your opponent will impede your ability to get to a shot, at which point you're supposed to call, "let please". This results in the point being re-done, generally without any questions asked, as a sign of proper sportsmanship. For some inexplicable reason, the ensuing re-do point invariably ends up being won by the player the point should have gone to in the first place. By which I mean: if the guy you're playing calls a "let please", and you both know that he had absolutely no chance in hell of ever getting to the ball, he ends up blowing the mulligan replay somehow, and the guy who should have won the original point, does. Things always seem to even out after a "let" call in squash.

Watching Tim Duncan so far this game, with him knowing there's no way in hell that he should be out there playing with both Amare and Boris suspended (Timmy did the exact same thing they did, running on to the court in the middle of a potential fracas in the second quarter), the "let please" karma is wreaking absolute havoc on his game. Nobody misses this many bank shots, and he's simply too good a guy for his conscience to let him get away with destroying his opposition while feeling guilty about doing so. The man is totally lost out there. He just missed another bank job. Nobody goes 2 for 7 on bankers. Especially not "The Big Fundamental". Look for Phoenix to cash in on the Ewing theory (with a little help from the "let please" theory), and go back to look for Pee Wee's bike up 3-2.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Flash vs. B.J.

This puts Jason vs. Freddy and Predator vs. Alien to shame. I love the closeup of the turtle trucking along with its mouth wide open. I'm pretty sure the thing is laughing.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dunk of the Year

I think I would give just about anything to be in Oakland tonight... And in a million years, I didn't think I would ever write that sentence. Baron Davis might be the only guy on the planet permitted to do the Sam Cassell big-balls-dance. He is that good.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Brush with the Paranormal

Some strange things have happened to me in my day. I remember camping with a bunch of buddies when I was about 18 years old, and long after everybody else had gone to bed, Foley and I were the last two awake, sitting around the camp fire, drinking a few beers, decidedly not singing Save The Last Dance For Me by The Drifters (another entry all together, probably with some title to the effect of: 'Top 5 hilariously destructive things you can do while under the influence'). It had been awhile since any of us had said anything, and I was beginning to get a little tired. And I said as much to Foley. I said, "Man, I just got really tired. It must be close to three o'cl-" at which point Foley's watch made that annoying beep-beep sound, signalling that it was exactly three o'clock.

I have never owned nor worn a watch in my entire life (with the exception of the Ronald McDonald watch I received for three years of service at McDonalds which we definitely don't need to talk about). Not necessarily a huge deal, but it seemed impressive at the time.

About a year and a half ago, we were at the Edleman's on Christmas night. The Edleman's are great people. They are friends of my parents, and they are epic partiers. To give you an example of how much fun they are, one New Year's morning, while sitting hungover around my parents' kitchen table, I asked Uncle Johnny what his New Year's resolution was going to be for this year. He looked at me and, with complete seriousness, said: "I am going to have a drink every day this year". Sure enough, fast forward 365 days, and again we are sitting around my parents' kitchen table, hungover on New Year's morning. I reminded Johnny of his resolution from the previous year, and I inquired as to his steadfastness to this pledge. And he proudly told me that 'yes', he had indeed had a drink every day that year. Multiple drinks, in fact. "Wow" I said. "That's impressive. Exactly how do you plan on topping that resolution?". He again looked at me with that same expression of complete sincerity and said: "I am going to get a blowjob every day this year"... I wasn't present the following New Year's morning to verify whether or not he had kept his promise, but if I were a betting man...

But of course, though this be far from ordinary, I wouldn't exactly classify it as paranormal. What was paranormal, however, was that Christmas night a year and a half ago. My family has a long and storied tradition of making a complete mockery of Christmas. We call it "ruining Christmas", and it is a kind of right of passage, being the one to destroy the sanctity of the holiday for the ones you love. It began with my Grandfather (after a few wee whiskeys during the annual Christmas Eve tour of the neighbourhood) falling off the loft in the garage while attempting to retrieve the presents for his immigrant children, in the process breaking numerous ribs and setting the bar at an impressive height. That tradition was surpassed by my father who once had far too many beverages at work on Christmas Eve and ended up hitch hiking to the wrong church. I'm not exactly sure where he ended up for most of the night, but I'm pretty sure my mom had to wrap all of the presents and hang all of the stockings on her own, trying to convince her children that daddy was helping Santa with the reindeer. She wasn't exactly in a festive kind of mood when my old man eventually got home. And then of course there was myself who, rather than going home for the traditional Christmas Eve of shrimp rings and sausage rolls and Chevy Chase by the fire with my family, one year decided that it would be a good idea to stay at the party I wasn't entirely invited to, eventually arriving home somewhere around 3 in the morning where I slept in the basement and woke in the middle of the night, not to go make sure Santa had safely made it down the chimney, but instead to vomit violently into my sleeping bag (which I had to hide in a corner of the basement for a number of days before ultimately throwing into a dumpster. Sorry mom.). It was on that morning that my sister declared that I had ruined Christmas, the torch having been graciously passed on.

The point of this little anecdote is that, as my family got older, we decided to ruin Christmas together, as one big happy family, by going to the Edleman's every Christmas night to get completely annihilated on beer and Grand Marnier and any other intoxicants that may have been present. It had become our tradition. So it was on one of these nights that someone busted out a deck of cards, and began trying to do card tricks. Of course, when you are as intoxicated as we were, such novelties invariably fail. Thinking it would be funny to get in on the action, I picked up the deck of cards and, without looking, declared: "Ace of Spades", cutting the deck in half and drunkenly holding up... the Ace of Spades.

'What were the chances?' I openly pondered, astounded at my penchant for 'magic'. 'One in a thousand? One in a million?' "I think they're about one in fifty-two" Foley said, "not including jokers".

OK, not exactly George Noory material, I understand, but still... It was pretty fucked up at the time.

And then of course there was the incident with the disappearing-reappearing $50 bill in Buenos Aires, for which I still have absolutely no explanation.

And sometimes I have these weird premonitions. Like when we first moved into the place we're currently living. We have the second and third floors of a house in little Italy, and we were watching Sandra's friend's cat for a week. Sandra was off at work, and I was being the ultimate bachelor by hanging around the house in nothing but my boxers, deciding to make myself a can of Chili for dinner at 10 o'clock at night. I opened the can, poured it into the pot, and put the heat on high, deciding that I'd better toss the can directly into the recycling bin, seeing as it was recycling day the following morning. I walked downstairs in my boxers, and remembering that I couldn't let the cat out, I closed the door to within a quarter inch of snapping shut. The door locks automatically. As I did this, I laughed to myself and thought, 'wow, there couldn't possibly be a worse time for me to lock myself out than right now. I'm in my underwear, I have no phone, no keys, Sandra's at work, the stove is on, and there is an animal in my care. And it is November'. Did I mention that I was wearing nothing but boxer shorts?

Of course, you know where this is going. As soon as I pulled open the front porch door, the air suction snapped my automatically locking door shut, leaving me with no option but to scale the wall of my new house in a neighbourhood in which I know precisely zero of my neighbours, wearing nothing but my underwear in November, and forcibly enterring the premises by way of jarring open a window from my balcony, all in an attempt to keep the place from catching fire because I had the heat on as high as it would go. For the record, the chili was fantastic. And the cat was fine. But there was that inexplicable moment of premonition...

And then there was this unfortunate moment of premonition...

And I can't tell you how many times I've had a song stuck in my head for no discernible reason, only to eventually turn on the radio at some point and have that very song playing, and at the exact part of the song that has been repeatedly playing in my head for the duration of the day, no less.

All of these things can probably be explained in some way or another. Coincidence is the easy one. A memory that projects backwards, making it seem like I had a particular song stuck in my head all day, when really this is the first time the thought has crossed my mind, and it's crossing my ming because I'm hearing the song at that very moment.

The fact that I am a complete idiot is another explanation. Of course it would occur to me to save my work, or to make sure the door doesn't lock behind me when I'm in my underwear and the stove is on high, because really, why wouldn't those things occur to you; the only reason those thoughts stand out is because I was idiot enough not to act on them.

And then there's that whole theory of lives having been previously lived, and deja vu, and your dreams being able to give a vague insight into the future... And then there's the theory of infinity, and the idea that if our galaxy actually is infinite, than there must be infinite planets just like this one that we're currently living on, where everything is exactly the same, right down to the very last molecule, execpt that in that particular world that is like ours in every regard, the idiot typing away at his identical and equally unread blog has spelled the word 'idiot' wrong... but aside from that one difference, every thing else on that planet is exactly the same... Yes, too many late nights tuned into Coast to Coast AM, I know.

But none of those explanations account for what happened to me tonight. I've been trying to figure out the odds on this, and they have to be approximately ten trillion to one. Let me set the scene.

I have a home office. In this office, I have countless books on multiple shelves, old binders full of notes from university, an old van seat that I read in, a big floor lamp sitting on my desk for better light... I also have a bunch of framed photos of me and my buddies. All of the photos of me and my girlfriend are in the living room, but the pics of me and my pals are in my office. Maybe its because she doesn't want them in the rooms where we entertain, but I like to think its because I do all of my creative work in my office, and truth be told, most of my creative ideas come from my friends. Any characters you read about in my fiction are invariably based on the characters I know in real life. For better or worse. This is how I work. All writing is biographical in some way or another, and this is how mine is. That isn't the point.

The point is, about three months ago, I was going through some old photos, looking for some old snaps I have of a deteriorating Asbury Park. In the process of going through these old photos, I found a classic picture of me and my buddy Nate. It was about 6 years ago, and we were up at Skeeter's cottage in Kincardine. It was the middle of winter, there was about 5 feet of snow on the ground, and there was nothing to do up there but to drink massive quantities of alcohol and listen to Sly and the Family Stone albums on a beat up old record player. This is how we passed the entire weekend, and it was grand. Anyway, a picture was taken of Nate and I. It is well after midnight, and we are both drinking Jameson straight up. Nate is in the foreground, drinking Jameson from a white teacup. He has lost a considerable amount of weight since this particular photo was taken. Good on you, Nate. I am sitting beside Nate, wearing a Queen's Golden Gales hat turned backwards, drinking Jameson out of a juice glass. We are not enjoying our beverages. In fact, you might say that we look completely miserable.

It is one of the best photographs I have. There is no photograph that captures the essence of that particular weekend quite like this photograph. I love this photograph so much, in fact, that I took it out of the box of photographs I have and placed it on my shelf, intending to get an appropriate frame for it. It is my favourite picture of Nate and I. That photograph has stood, unframed, in the same place on my shelf for more than three months.

When the weather started getting nice about two weeks ago, I opened the window in my office. It is only cracked open by three inches. I opened the window three inches two weeks ago, and this is how it has remained. Completely untouched. Sometimes a gentle breeze blows through the room, rustling the papers on my desk. It is lovely. I can smell the lilacs in the backyard.

I was doing some work tonight. This is what I do on Friday nights. Sandra works Friday nights, and I have the place to myself. I usually buy a large Starbucks coffee at about 8 o'clock, and I work into the wee hours of the morning. These are my favourite hours of the week. This is what I love to do. (If you want to know what I'm talking about and why I might choose to stay in on a Friday night, read this brilliant article by David Gilmour) And this is what I was doing tonight. Editing a long work of fiction I have been working on for the better part of four years.

As I mentioned earlier, most of the characters I write about are based on the people I know. My friends are characters. There is no denying this fact. I had been working in my office, with the window open (as it had been for two weeks) and the picture of me and Nate sitting on my shelf (as it had been for three months). I had been working for more than two hours. I was on page 8 of 30 of the particular document I am currently working on. In the second paragraph on the 8th page, the topic of discussion in this particular work of fiction is photographs on a refrigerator.

I always write in the first person. This is what I do. I am not necessarily the character in question, but I write in the first person, so it often comes across to people that it is, in fact, me that I'm writing about. But this is not the case. In any event.

As I was editing this particular paragraph about photographs on a refrigerator, I came to the sentance which read:

"One of my favorites was a shot of myself and Sweet Nate -"

- and I swear on everything sacred in the world that at the exact moment that I read the words 'Sweet Nate', I heard something fall off my shelf. When I turned to see what it was, the photograph of me and Nate (the obvious inspiration for the character 'Sweet Nate') was lying face up on the floor.

Is this affecting you as much as it affected me?

I could not possibly make this up. I stopped everything that I was doing and just stared at the photograph. I stared at the photograph, then I stared at my computer, and the cursor bar was blinking at the end of the word 'Nate'. That was more than two hours ago, and I swear to God the cursor bar is still blinking at the end of that word (I am now typing on my laptop, slightly afraid of what might happen if I try to use my desktop). I have absolutely no explanation as to how or why this happened. After two minutes of wondering whether or not I was actually dead and having an out of body experience, I called Nate's cellular phone. I didn't know what I was going to say to him, but I felt like I needed to talk to him. I got his answering machine, and for a not-insignificant-amout of time, I found myself wondering whether or not something bad had happened to him (he has since called me back. He was at the movies and had his phone turned off. He paid good money to see "Blades of Glory", so I guess something bad did happen to him).

I don't know what to make of any of this. Out of everything that has happened to me in my life, I think this might be the strangest. I felt like I needed to write this down, or else I might convince myself that it hadn't happened at all. But it did. And I don't know what to think.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Yippee-Ka-Yay, MotherF%cker

This easily trumps anything Detective John McClane ever did on Christmas Eve. I'm trying to decide what's better in this clip: the fact that C-Balls basically goads a blatantly shit-faced A-lister into dropping perhaps the world's greatest live television F-bomb, or the stunned reaction from the notoriously reserved Swirsk, who provides the viewers at home with a solid two seconds of dead air while trying to decide what to say next. Salami and Cheese. A 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble

After leaving some of my loyal readers (approximately 4 of them) in the lurch regarding my recent pilgrimage to Woodstock, NY, allow me this opportunity to apologize. It's been a hell of a long week, most of which was spent on the road for work. By the way, if you were ever under the impression that it would be a glorious life getting to live in hotels for weeks at a time and being forced to drink every night against your will because it's essentially part of your job; well, I'm just here to tell you that it's not all it's cracked up to be. And yes, that is my excuse for not having anything posted in the past 10 days. And for being disgustingly out of shape. And for being a borderline alcoholic. But I digress.

So anyway, for my dad's 54th birthday, I decided to get him tickets to see Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble. For the uninitiated, Levon was the drummer/singer in The Band. And The Band, of course, are that beautiful concoction of Canadians with a dash of Arkansas soul that started out as Ronnie Hawkins' backing band (then referred to as "The Hawks), eventually getting the nod to back Dylan when he went electric on the 1965-66 tour, and ultimately graduating to become their own act, going simply by the name of "The Band", because that's what everyone had been calling them for years. They released Music From Big Pink in 1968, featuring this little ditty... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Levon doesn't tour any more because he's getting up there (67 isn't exactly condusive to the "sex, drugs and rock and roll" lifestyle) and because he just recently got over a battle with throat cancer. So instead, he does what I think every legitimage, aging rock star should do: he has people come to him. The man lives in a ridiculously impressive converted barn in the hills above Woodstock, and every couple of weeks, he puts on these shows where you buy tickets, drive out to the man's property, pack your trunk full of beer and food, and pretty well get in on a house party with the best damn house band you could ever imagine. I initially heard about this show from my buddy Richie who said that I absolutely had to take my dad down to see it, and it turns out he was bang on.

I left my place just before 6 o'clock on Saturday morning, and ended up meeting my dad, who was making the lengthy drive from Dornoch, at my buddy Dooner's place in Burlington. Dooner is one of the very few friends of mine who is actually responsible enough to have a wife and child, to say nothing of his house with the extra large driveway that just happens to be conveniently located where the QEW wraps around the western edge of Lake Ontario... the perfect parking space for any car poolers heading south through Niagara Falls. The Doon familiy was gracious enough to let my dad leave his ride in their driveway, and we made sure we brought them back a six pack of Coors Originals for their troubles.

We hit up the duty free for a bottle of Bushmills 10 year single malt and a litre of Jameson, and headed off along the NY State Thruway, munching on the killer lunch my mom packed for us (couple of mama's boys, I know). Pretty non-descript ride, but as we were driving south of Albany, we noticed a disproportionately large number of Sens fans, and when we stopped at one of the rest stops for a large Starbucks to bring us through the home stretch, we got talking to them and realized that they were all headed to the Meadowlands for Game 2 with the Devils. We also got talking to the parents of Mike Pelino, who is apparently one of the assistant coaches with the New York Rangers, having clearly taken a step back in his career after becoming the all time winningest coach in the storied history of the Brock Badgers. Anyway, his parents were travelling with all of their son's gold medal rings from his time spent with Hockey Canada. Why, I have no idea, and why they'd be willing to let us pose with said rings is an even a greater mystery, but nonetheless, it's safe to say that this is about as close as my dad and I will ever come to winning a gold medal.

We pulled into Woodstock sometime around 3 in the afternoon, and were immediately taken aback by two things. One being how beautiful the Catskill Mountains can be in the springtime (this was never actually articulated, for the record), and the other being how many aging hippies were wandering the streets of town. The latter, we commented on endlessly. And I guess we expected a few holdouts from the good ol' days; you know, the guys who didn't heed the advice about avoiding the brown acid; but this was surreal. It was like going to Cooperstown and seeing the ghosts from Field of Dreams playing catch in the streets, or arriving in Chicago and buying bootlegged liquor off of the descendants of Al Capone, or waking up in the middle of the night with a car in your living room and Billy Joel behind the wheel. Just too good to be true.

Anyway, we checked into our little bed and breakfast, and immediately got that Del Griffith-Neal Page feeling as we walked into our entirely pink room that was aptly named Tiny and Willy's Bunk. Yep, father-son bonding at its finest.

In keeping with the rainbow-flagged theme, we took a lovely stroll through town, stopping in to art galleries, cafes, real estate agencies and bookstores alike, all the while looking for a suitable veggie platter and a decent bottle of wine... OK, that came out all wrong. But most of it is true. Woodstock is such an artsy kind of place that you can't help but to somehow become a part of it. (For the record, the number of times my dad muttered "what the hell do they put in the drinking water here?" in obvious reference to the disproportionately large number of well endowed women walking the streets: 46) I eventually settled on a twelve pack of Rolling Rock, a near mint vinyl copy of Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey (written in Woodstock), and an hour long pre-show nap.

We woke in time to secure the aforementioned veggie platter for the pot-luck, and drove up Plonchmann Lane sometime before 7. Of course, I forgot to bring the directions and the address so we drove right past the place at first, but we eventually got parked, cracked a few beverages, and began soaking it all in. It was pretty hard to believe how much food everyone brought. They had what amounted to the place's garage set up for food and drinks and merch for sale, and there was a solid three tables worth of munchies. The best part was how blatantly obvious it was which food items were brought by whom. Tasty, homemade goodies and rare, aged cheeses on dried fruit preserves: the guys who were there with their wives. Bags of chips and store-bought veggie platters: the dudes. Good times all around. Actually, somebody brought a platter smoked ribs and they disappeared in less than one minute. They were easily the best ribs I've ever tasted.

The inside of Levon's place is nothing short of breathtaking. It's an old converted barn, but it pretty well feels like the world's coolest loft, with ridiculously hight ceilings and every single beam exposed, with every bit of wood shiny and clean. There's a massive stone fireplace along one wall, a flat screen plasma hanging on the wall in the elevated "living room" area, room enough to entertain a couple hundred people, and pictures downstairs which could easily pass for a who's-who of sixties rock and roll. And the place doubles as a recording studio. After seeing Patty Griffin at Trinity St. Paul's in Toronto earlier in the week, I didn't think I'd actually find myself in a better venue four days later, but here we were nontheless.

The opening band was called Bow Thayer & Perfect Train Wreck, and they definitely got the house rockin'. Bluesy, rootsy, country. Beautiful songwriting. It's a tough gig trying to open for Levon when it's still light outside, almost nobody is (overly) drunk yet, and even fewer people have ever heard of you or your music, but they did a fantastic job switching it up, with the lead singer going from guitar to banjo to ukulele and the drummer keeping a perfect, subtle beat all the while, soft when he needed to be, bringin' it home when called upon. By the time the lead singer pulled out the ukulele for a slow lament of a tune near the end, he had the entire audience eating out of his hand. If you're ever in Vermont and get a chance, try to check them out.

After the Train Wreck, my dad and I headed back out to the parking lot for a few more refreshments (by now, I had figured out that it was possible to fit 3 Rolling Rocks into two plastic cups) and a long-awaited outdoor piss break. By the way, Levon's place is built right up against a swamp, and I honestly think that the frogs were louder than the music. It was easily the loudest forest I'd heard since the Peruvian Amazon.

By the time we got back inside, The Alexis P. Suter Band was on the stage, and we were treated to some serious blues. Alexis is a total throwback to the days of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. A deep soulful voice, and a serious appreciation of the way the blues should be sung. Her larger than life stage presence and stature is best described in one of her songs when she belts out: "People pushin', steppin' on my feet / Had to stand 'cause I can't fit in those damn seats". A whole lotta woman, and an even bigger voice. Another highlight was a slowed down version they did of The Beatles Come Together. My dad had disappeared to the bathroom upstairs at that point (another wildcard highlight of The Ramble: when you take a piss at The Ramble, you're pissing in Levon's bathroom, complete with his shower and all of his toiletries right there) and he was feeling the tune so much that he just stayed upstairs for the rest of the set... I honestly thought he was in the shower, trying out Levon's loofa.

By the time Levon and his band came out, we were pretty well feeling no pain, and had made friends with a couple of die hard fans - one who had seen this show once before and was content to shout out the name of every song before they even began playing it (the fact that he was roughly the size of a bald-headed Robert Gallery kept me from pointing out how annoying this habit of his was); and the other who was a dead ringer for Colonel Sanders. Levon brings a special guest up to play with his band every show, and on this night, his guest was Jimmy Vivino, of Conan O'Brien fame. As the large man beside me continuously pointed out, Jimmy V is A MONSTER on the guitar. Hard to argue with the man.

You always hear people talking about the sound quality of a show, and whether or not the venue has decent acoustics... and to tell you the truth, I really had no idea what they were talking about, assuming that one venue was as good as the next and that the sound quality was as good as the guys playing the music. But having this show take place in a recording studio, and in front of only about a hundred people with a cast of all-world musicians, I can now honestly say that I know what it means to have perfect sound quality at a show. It really couldn't have been any better.

Some of the highlights from the show included a house-rockin' version of Ophelia, only the second or third song in, but a song that both The Colonel and I simultaneously announced was worth the price of admission alone. Rag Mama Rag was fantastic, Fanny Mae was just as good, and when Levon took the mandolin and strummed Springsteen's Atlantic City, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven (although, just for the record, I put Atlantic City in the same kind of category as Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone and Don McLean's American Pie, in that the album versions are so perfect that any live reproductions, although a nice homage, just don't measure up). They did another ridiculously great song that I'll never know the name of, but I can tell you that the back up girls kept refraining "I wanna know" and "yes, yes, yes, yes" as Levon sang "Pick me up and stand by me"... It was definitely the best song of the night, and if I ever learn the title, rest assured it will be added to the Eric Foreman record collection.

One of Levon's buddies got up on stage at one point and did a perfect version of The Beatles Saw Her Standing There, complete with McCartney air guitaring and the textbook "hope we passed the audition" finale. Jimmy Vivino did a breathtaking rendition of The Long Black Veil, and even though I've heard that song a hundred times before, it has never meant as much to me as it did on this night. It could have been the setting. It could have been the company. And it could have been the 10 Rolling Rocks. But I had goosebumps the size of golf balls, and it was perfect.

The boys finished with an all-in rendition of The Weight, and before I knew it, we were out in the parking lot, drinking beers with The Colonel as he told my dad to go fuck himself for looking so young (the Colonel received tickets to the same show for his 53rd birthday - if I'd had to guess, I would have put him at not a day younger than 67). I'd had more than enough to know that I was in no shape to drive, and my dad was only marginally better, so we decided we'd trek it back into town, it being only about 2 miles and a beautiful spring night. The good people of Woodstock did well to live up to their reputation of being all about peace and love, because more than a few of the drunken revellers leaving The Ramble offered us a lift. By the time we made it back to Tiny and Willy's Bunk, we were entirely content and completely spent.

We woke up at a decent hour the next day and walked back up to Levon's place to pick up my car. Now, not that I expected everyone to be as responsible as us by refusing to drive while under the influence, but I was a little shocked when we got to the parking lot and mine was the only car left. I guess they haven't exactly implemented that RIDE program in the Woodstock area yet.

All in all, it was an unbelievable experience, and there really is no way to adequately describe it. If you're any kind of a music fan, this is an absolute must do. There's no way to be closer to better musicians, or to experience a show in a better setting. And as far as father-son experiences go, this is one we'll remember for a long time. Thanks to Richie for turning me on to The Ramble in the first place, and a special thanks to Marcel at for all of his inside tips.

If you wanna check out The Ramble in person, you can score tickets at Levon's site: