Canadians

Hockey season will be upon us soon. Now all this spare time I’ve been so productive with can be properly spent staring at the television in angst. Thank god…I found myself watching Strange Brew just for the evil robot hockey scenes. When it got to the part about the flying dog I felt shame.

In case my fellow Americans are wondering what hockey is, it’s what Canadians do to make money, move to the states and marry beautiful American women. That’s right, just like in the famous Canadian song. Except in the famous Canadian song the Canadians rear back from the beautiful American woman and their ghetto scenes and war machines. Then they grunt, unhhhh. Like a Canadian James Brown.

Moving to the States is also the only way Canadians can win the Stanley Cup, which they then take home for a week, fill with Molson and invite over their friends. Once it’s drained of beer and retrieved from the bottom of the pool, the Canadians return to the States to play more hockey. And now that NASA doesn’t need that arm thing on the space shuttle anymore, playing hockey in America is the only way Canadians can make money.

Whatever happened to that Space Shuttle arm thing? Did the Canadians take it back?  Maybe it’s up in Toronto, in the Hockey Hall of Fame, now the Hockey and Space Shuttle Arm Thing Hall of Fame. I’d go see it actually. Wayne Gretzsky, Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, the arm thing.

Lorne Greene was a Canadian.

Leslie Nielsen was also a Canadian.

Bachman Turner Overdrive was several Canadians, plus some.

William Shatner is Canadian. And Neil Young. And Joni Mitchell. I never really liked Joni Mitchell. I alluded to that in a Brick’s Picks column once. Said something snide and forgot about it. Some old hippie sent me an angry email. Really angry email. Called me a young whippersnapper. It was some of the only hate mail I ever got. Until the time I said something nice about Esperanza Spalding winning the Grammy and I got angry emails from Justin Bieber fans.

Justin Bieber is a Canadian.

So were John Kenneth Galbraith and Oscar Peterson. So are Rick Moranis and Joey Shithead. And so was the beautiful blonde lady I saw in a movie about car crashes. She had no facial expressions. In a car crash, no facial expression. Having sex in a car wash. No facial expression. Another car crash, no facial expression. Having sex in a junk yard, no facial expression. Or maybe there were facial expressions but she was so blonde, blonde everywhere, that I couldn’t see her eye brows. No eye brows, no facial expressions. Huge eyebrows, huge facial expressions. That’s why Italians always seem so excited and Swedes make those dull Bergman movies.

Most of the Hanson Brothers are Canadian.

Ya know, I got a box from a Canadian once. I can’t remember what was inside. Not the Stanley Cup, that much I know. And not the space shuttle arm thing, because that was still up in space helping and flexing and grasping. Maybe it was a record album. Maybe a fruit cake. I don’t know. I do remember that the box was stuffed with pages from Toronto’s alternative weekly. Kind of like the LA Weekly but without all the ghetto scenes and war machines, or any American women at all, actually. Lots of Canadian women, though, and Canadian men. Not pictures, just their personals ads. I unkrinkled the pages to see what was happening. There were all these people looking for partners into bondage and whips. Dominatrixes and golden showers. I swear, hundreds of ads, all from horny, kinky Canadians. Some countries are into ghetto scenes and war machines. Others like to spank and pee. You can see the advantages. Wars lay waste the land, whereas Canadians can get by with a few rolls of paper towels.

I asked a Canadian friend of mine about that endless personals section once. How it went on for page after page. About the bondage and the pee. Oh yeah baby, she said, that’s how we roll.

She blamed it on the long winters.

I better stop now. I have Canadian friends, all of whom played hockey and can hurt me. And out-drink me. And who make more money than me. In American dollars.

And in what war did Canadians beat the shit out of Americans?

It was the War of 1812, Alex.

And Alex Trebek is a Canadian.

Manon Rheaume, all five feet and seven inches of her. And if you have to ask who she is, you're not Canadian.

Manon Rheaume, all five feet and seven inches of her, is a Canadian.

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Jazz Critics Awards

My favorite music columnist ever was Bob Tarte, who never let the fact that it was completely untrue get in the way of weaving an odd story into what should have been a collection of world music reviews. I mean he’d still review the cds, but the reviews would be worked into a strange narrative that sometimes was true and sometimes flat out bullshit. No matter. He wrote well, was funny as hell, and never met a genre he didn’t like.

One Sunday nite I was putting together the week’s Brick’s Picks and man what a dead week. It happens. I tried over and over to write a column that didn’t bore me to tears. No go. So I decided this was my Bob Tarte moment. And here was my opening paragraph:

Well, the Jazz Critics Guild had their awards ceremony, perhaps you saw it on TV. Stars galore, and world famous jazz musicians, and Hef and all the girls. Paparazzi and autograph seekers and Joan Rivers on the red carpet, trashing all our clothes. Billy Crystal couldn’t make it, but fill-in Ricky Gervais was sweet as pie. Quite the gentleman. Boney James grooved but unfortunately no one could understand anything he said the jive was so thick. Great hat, though. The presentation went on all night, and every critic went home clutching his Lenny except yours truly. Couldn’t even win the Tallest Jazz Critic award (who knew Kareem was reviewing jazz now?) All the critics left with their statuettes, Joan Rivers gushing and all the rock writers green with envy. Empty handed, I left for the after party. It was a drag. Kept getting mistaken for the bouncer.  Eventually everybody wound up in the recording studio under the pool at the Sunset Marquis laying down “We Are the World” in different time signatures. I couldn’t get into it and split for the Rainbow, got into an argument and was beaten up by Lemmy. This town will break your heart. 

I submitted and forgot about it.

A couple days later I get a panicky email from my editor. URGENT!!! Call me ASAP about column!!!!!!! So I called him. It was the first time we’d ever spoken actually…in fact he was one of the only of my thirteen editors at the LA Weekly to ever hear my voice. And to this day he’s still never met me. None did, I think, except the first couple. I preferred being the mysterious cat who turned in copy no one there could understand without ever being seen. That way they didn’t bug me and I didn’t demand they pay me what I was worth. (Writers got paid then. We didn’t yet owe it to our readers to write for the sheer privilege of having them read us. I have actually been told this, more than once.)  Anyway, my editor was freaking out bad. He said my first paragraph didn’t make any sense, and the other editors–his bosses–freaked. Apparently they couldn’t tell if it was real or not.  Maybe they were freaked out about lawsuits. Ricky Gervais would get all uppity English and sue. Joan Rivers would say something perfectly awful. Lemmy would beat them up. I have no idea. But my editor killed the lede. He editor was effusively apologetic. I think they expected me to throw a writerly tantrum. I guess we do that. But I just said no problem, I just made it all up anyway. It was a dull week. He sounded bewildered but relieved.

Hell, I said, I just thought it was funny. He didn’t. He would now, as he’s no longer there, but being an editor at the LA Weekly at the time was like working for Stalin in the 1930’s. A people’s hero one week, a non-person the next. All traces removed. At least the bullet to the back of the head was metaphorical.

Anyway, when the issue came out that Thursday the offending paragraph was excised, as I was told. In its place was the following:

“It’s awards season and even the Jazz Critics Guild got in on the red-carpet action.”

Which means they believed it. I don’t know who exactly–was it my editor (which I doubt), or the editors above him, or Stalin him or herself? I have no idea. But whoever it was, they believed it. The Jazz Critics Awards, the Jazz Critics Guild, Ricky, Joan, Lemmy, all of it. Even “We Are the World” under the pool ar the Sunset Marquis. I liked to think they fell for the whole bit, hook line and sinker.

I said to myself I can retire now.

And I did, a year later.

Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing

(2012)

It just dawned on me that if I hadn’t stopped writing the Brick’s Picks jazzcolumn I could have used my LA Weekly cachet to score some righteous press passes to the Los Angeles Kings victory parade on Thursday. 

I spent seven years writing that goddamned column. I spent twenty years a devoted Kings fan. I hated writing Brick’s Picks…maybe not at first but by the end it was nothing but misery. And you had to be a masochist to be a goddamned Kings fan all those years. Sure jumping on the bandwagon in ’92 was great, but staying on meant getting used to the cellar, humiliation, failure, pitying looks from Canadians or insults from people from San Jose in those fey teal jerseys. It meant watching your team finally make the playoffs only to be swept–swept–in the first round. And then doing the exact same thing two seasons later. It meant only once making it to the second round.  It meant watching the owner go to jail for counterfeiting old coins. It meant watching Rob Blake and wondering why the hell he was still here. It meant saying goodbye to the Great One when he left for a shot at a cup. It meant Lakers fans who had no idea who or even what the Kings were. It meant trying to believe it every time they said the miserable failure of  a hockey franchise was in a “rebuilding phase”. It meant feeling kinda sorry for Bob Miller but never saying so. It meant being a little heartbroken when Warren Wiebe died. It meant watching the Mighty Ducks win the cup. It meant not being sure what was lonelier, being a Kings fan or a jazz fan in Los Angeles. And not caring. Because I loved jazz, and I loved hockey. So what if sometimes it felt like nobody else did. 

But if I had known the goddamn Kings were going to be Stanley Cup Champions this year after one of the most improbably glorious post-season runs in NHL history, I would never have quit the Weekly. I’d still be there, grinding out the column every Sunday night and hating every second of it. I would have done it because I could have called in some favors and gotten me a couple passes to the press section and watch this silly-assed parade. I would have so loved that. I could stop watching the end of Slapshot and being jealous of the extras cheering like mad for a fictional hockey team.

So this is the first time I have regretted quitting my gig at the L.A. Weekly. It’s a dumb reason, I know.  And it’s a selfish reason, I know that too. But it’s a good reason. You see, the Charlestown Chiefs have won the championship of the Federal League. Yup. Finally. And all that stuff before, the failures and disappointments and the what-the-fucks?…well, who cares. It only makes this year even better. Amazing. Miraculous. Great. Just great. Beautiful, even.

Oh…and my second favorite team?  The New Jersey Devils. Now what are those odds?

OK…..and I have another confession, and now that the Kings are Stanley Cup Champions it’s not so embarrassing. Well, it’s embarrassing, but not so pathetic. You see, I have only been star struck once in my life. It was a couple years ago, at the height of my hipness. While leaving the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at LALive (press passes with free everything, of course) I run smack dab into Luc Robataille. Luc. Ohmygod. I said–and I quote–wow, you’re Luc Robataille. He said yes I am. I tried to say something hip and knowledgeable but nothing came out. Just a few incoherent syllables. He nodded and walked on. I said to my wife–and I quote–that was Luc Robataille. She said yes I know. I told everyone I that week that I had met Luc Robataille. They said who? Except for Kings fans. They said wow. And then they said Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc.