Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coney Island the Good

Greetings Friends,

After all the disturbance and mayhem of last weekend, I needed an image of something happy and inspiring; the first thing I thought of was the Cyclone.

As both Canada and the United States get ready to celebrate their independence (has the Queen given her official permission? She is here in Canada as I write this), what better way to get into the spirit than to conjure happy memories of favourite activities and places. All my fellow Brooklynites look forward to the Nathans Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest with relish (pardon the pun). Of course, it takes place at Nathans' location in Coney Island, just steps from the world-famous behemoth roller coaster, The Cyclone

Coney Island has been undergoing a renaissance with the opening of Luna Park, the NY Penn League's Brooklyn Cyclones, and renewed interest in turning the area into a "mixed use" neighbourhood. That's a far cry from when Frank Sinatra, Jr. wanted to turn Coney Island into a gambling pit stop between Las Vegas and Atlantic City. I'm not sure what happened to that plan, but it's now obvious it's been scrapped. Besides, Native American casinos have since popped up nationwide, ballooning America's gambling "jones" into ubiquity. I hear the Shinnecock Indians are thisclose to getting approval to put a casino on their land on Eastern Long Island. That should send seasonal Hamptons residents fleeing like lemmings towards the sea. 

Regardless of the intent, I'm glad Coney Island is rebounding. I spent many a day down there in my younger years, and rode the incomparable Cyclone as many times as I could stand to without horking my brains out. I've seen much nicer beaches in my time, but none can compare to the boardwalk, the Aquarium, the WonderWheel, and of course, the Cyclone. You have to be an urban dweller to understand my affinity to this mini "wonderland" ensconced in the concrete jungle. There may not be an animal safari or parking lots named "Donald" and "Goofy", but it is a magical place; to me, more magical than Tomorrow Land, Space Mountain, and that ridiculous mouse.

Happy Canada Day, and God Save the Queen.


Monday, June 28, 2010


Greetings Friends,

Did this scene really take place in Toronto? According to a gallery of Reuters/Canadian Press photos I found yesterday on Google Canada News, yes, indeed it did. And that is, in fact, a Metro Toronto Police cruiser on fire in the background.

The scene I chose to display here resembles images from garden variety uprisings that could have taken place in any number of "developing" countries. Or, someone forgot to tell the rabid hockey fans in Montreal that the Habs were eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The issues and potential locations aside, I still cannot believe this happened in the city I live in. 

The Toronto I knew as a child was safe; the city I knew was comprised of immigrant communities like Kensington, Downsview, Chinatown, Willowdale, among others. I rode the Bathurst Street bus, by myself, at the ripe old age of 7, to the nearest McDonalds, so I could eat a Big Mac without getting the stink-eye from my grandmother, who kept a kosher home. Sometimes, she even gave me the money for said Big Mac; I guess she didn't care if I ate it, as long as she didn't have to watch me. My cousins and I wore t-shirts that proclaimed "Streak Off!", purchased for us by my aunt at a shop near her grocery store on Baldwin Street, in the immigrant Jewish area of Kensington. We ate "fresh killed" chickens from the kosher butcher down the street from her store, and sucked on Lolas (triangular popsicles) purchased at Toby's Variety store, while we sat on the swings in Clanton Park. Pretty idyllic, huh? It was a long, long time ago...

I can't say I'm very surprised by the violence that occurred in Toronto this past weekend. In some ways, it was to be expected, even though the mayor and the chief of police assured everyone they were ready for it. But, the billion dollar price tag that came along with holding the G20 summit here in my fair city pissed off a lot of people. That's no excuse for the violence that resulted, but, in hindsight, there were many things that could have been handled differently.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted Toronto to be viewed on the world stage as a thriving, successful, multicultural paradise, where banks haven't failed, and commerce is transacted without the scheming greed that has become the norm in other countries. He wanted world leaders to look out beyond the security fencing to see a city where millions of souls from different backgrounds and cultures co-exist in harmony. Someone forgot to tell him that all the residents in the "red zone" were encouraged to flee to avoid the potential inconvenience of not being allowed into their high-rise condos in the event they were deemed a security risk. As I suggested on Friday, Toronto's downtown core bore a striking resemblance to Checkpoint Charlie as opposed to a bustling urban centre. The necessity of that scenario should have made a few bells go off in the prime minister's head, or at least in the heads of his closest advisors.

Now, in the aftermath of this disastrous weekend, Toronto is left torn open and bloodied, instead of basking in the glow of international celebrity. Cars were burned, bricks were thrown, windows were shattered; teargas was deployed for the first time in the city's history, and hundreds were arrested. That's about as far from a rousing success as it gets. The pugilistic American in me isn't surprised that all this went down. Sadly, I've become used to the fact that New York City morphed into a militarized city-state after September 11. The sight of cops in riot gear, toting Tasers and M16s is one I very quickly got used to. Military personnel patrolling Grand Central and Penn Stations became so common that their fatigues blended seamlessly into the bustling business-suited masses who were scrambling to get to their trains. It was the "new" normal. I hate that expression, but there is no better way I can think of to describe it. Toronto will now have to find a new "normal" while it waits for the spectre of photos like the one above to fade from the minds of local residents and the international community. Stuff like that wasn't supposed to happen; but it did. It saddens me greatly, and I hope that, when all is said and done, there will be some significant lessons learned. I'll try not to get my hopes up too high.

***Today's edition of The Bitch and Fail commented that the violence and destruction was not as bad as in other cities. Must there be any at all?***


Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't Go Near There!

Greetings Friends,

Before I moved to Toronto in August 2009, I spent 8 months in suburban Washington DC. While I was there, I did the usual tourist stuff: the Mall (Tysons Galleria, Pentagon City, oh, and that big white pointy thing with blinking red eyes), some of the Smithsonian museums; I even saw Marine One drop off President Obama on the White House lawn. 

My favourite destination by far was the newest DC museum, The Newseum, which happens to be located on Pennsylvania Avenue, right next-door to the Canadian Embassy. If you consider yourself a news hound, like I do, despite my rampant snarkiness and criticism of the media, this is definitely a place you want to check out. 

Some of the most interesting artifacts you'll find at The Newseum are sections of the Berlin Wall, and a Checkpoint Charlie watchtower, exactly like the one pictured above. You can read current newspapers from all over the world, and view all different kinds of interactive exhibits. The most impressive items are, without a doubt, the Berlin Wall sections and Checkpoint Charlie. Yeah, they're just hulking pieces of concrete, but it's what they represent that really blows me away. Either you're in, or your out; Communism 101.

I was originally going to snark up a storm about what's been going on here in the Toronto area this week. Right now, the G8 leaders are gathered in Huntsville Ontario at a swanky resort, and tomorrow, they descend upon the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the G20 summit, which for all intents and purposes, has brought most downtown activity to a grinding halt. At this very moment, downtown Toronto does bear a striking resemblance to a DMZ, with razor wire, hurricane fencing, law enforcement in riot gear, frozen zones, you name it. What more can I possibly say about it that hasn't already been said? Ok - one little itty bit of snark: I believe all non-life threatening surgeries at Toronto hospitals have been cancelled for the next 6 months due to the reallocation of tax dollars for the over-the-top G20 security measures. Of course, I am joking. Or maybe I'm not...

Interesting things are always happening here in Toronto. The Pope, the SARS epidemic, the use of Toronto city streets as  plausible stand-ins for New York City, and we even had an earthquake the other day. No, it wasn't the rumble of a subway train, trust me. I'm about a mile from the nearest subway station and the earth definitely moved under my feet this past Wednesday. Having never felt anything like that before, I was pretty freaked out.

What could possibly top the G8 and G20 summits? The Queen will be making an official visit to Toronto next month. I doubt the security will be as intense for her as it is right now. After all, she's a sweet little old lady and she always wears such cheeky hats in public. Who would even think about harming her? Good thing Henry VIII is centuries dead. But you never know. 

Have a wonderful weekend. And to quote the President of the United Federation of Planets from the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: "Avoid Planet Earth at all costs".


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Bitch and Fail

Greetings Friends,

You don't need to sit on a phone book to realize newspapers are practically extinct (so are phone books for that matter). For the past 10 months I've been reading The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's national newspapers, almost daily. It's a toss-up between watching CBC's The National news broadcast or reading The Globe and Mail. You don't need to do both because if you watch the previous night's National, all the major news stories appear in the following day's Globe and Mail. Neat, huh?

What I've been noticing for a while is the profound negativity contained in the pages of this venerable publication. It should be called The Bitch and Mail, or maybe The Bitch and Fail. The writers Bitch, and the paper Fails to provide any objectivity. Make sure you take your SSRI meds before reading it, or else you'll need to call the suicide prevention hotline.

The paper does manage to redeem itself once you move past the main section. The Bitch and Fail's sports section is very reminiscent of the snarky British sports sections that crucify footballers and rugby players across Europe. Except in The Bitch and Fail, hockey players get both barrels on a regular basis. Actually, that goes for all the Canadian newspaper sports pages I've read.

What I love best is how amped up the snark gets when it comes to popular culture, movies and certain aspects of Canadian culture. Their movie reviews contain so much piss and vinegar it's a wonder the American studios bother releasing their films in this country. I know Roger Ebert still wields a pretty sharp poison pen, but he can get away with it. Here, it's just garden variety snark. The same goes for books, music, food, you name it. It always seems that whatever it is they're writing about, The Bitch and Fail manages to diss just about all of it. Except Sarah McLaughlin. She's exempt; she could sing "Happy Birthday" 10 times consecutively, slap it on a CD, and The Bitch and Fail would gush incessantly. She's now a 42 year-old divorced single mom, in addition to a Canadian music icon, so she deserves praise no matter what.

As for my own snark, this is my blog. And this is my forum, on which I am able to share my snark, my sarcasm, my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams, my shameless plugs for the stuff I write. You either read my stuff, or you don't. The vast majority of the planet doesn't even acknowledge my existence. But, when you plunk down your hard earned loonies for that double-double and a newspaper every day, by gum, you should get your money's worth. Or maybe you should just buy gum instead. Journalism is in such a funk between the utterly ridiculous 24-hour television news cycle,  and the sadly diminished and failing print media, that it is closer to extinction than any of us would like to admit. Gone are the days when I would ride the New York City subways with my talented fellow riders who were able to fold and read The New York Times with such impressive skill. Individuals like me, would surreptitiously attempt to read those papers over the shoulders of those talented folders, because I can barely fold a napkin, let alone a copy of The New York Times. But, I digress; newspaper folding is a lost art form, along with returning phone calls and being a courteous driver.

On Friday, I will unleash my snark on the city of Toronto, and the "Checkpoint Charlie" security measures in place for the G20 summit.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Where Do You Draw the Line?

Greetings Friends,

I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend.

The past few weeks have been interesting from a work perspective. I completed a huge copy writing project for a new Canadian payment processing company and am in the middle of a few more interesting projects. One in particular is for a pharmaceutical distributor here in Toronto. He doesn't have a huge inventory, but what he does sell is um, rather personal. And it has me simultaneously grossed out and giggling like an 8 year-old schoolboy performing the classic armpit fart manoeuvre that always leaves 'em laughing in the living room.
A person of my advanced years who is attempting to make a living as a writer, probably shouldn't be giggling her head off while writing copy for hemorrhoid treatments, laxatives and feminine hygiene products. But, since I work alone, I can't help it. I'm not doing it in a cruel or malicious way, nor do I find humour in the particular afflictions these remedies attempt to cure. The thing is, when you work alone, you can be as un-PC as you want, and no one will be the wiser. Except, of course, if you take to the great electronic void and share it with the rest of humanity.

Years ago, a friend of mine wanted to get me one of those romance novel writing kits so I could pen a bodice ripper for the Harlequin set. Never happened; I had to draw the line.

If I had it in me, I'd love to write one of those sprawling 1,000 page epics like Gregory David Roberts' Shantarum or Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth. Those are some killer reads. They were two books I was sad to finish, because they captured my imagination in such a way that I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe. Except, I wanted to stay; I never wanted to leave.

In the meantime, I write what I need to write, and immerse myself into fiction when time allows. Regardless of the topics, I still enjoy what I do, and take great pride in whatever the topic is, whenever I "visit" my work online. Next up is copy for a Garra Rufa fish massage site. Don't ask; I'll tell you about it soon enough.

See you on Wednesday.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Get a Real Job

Greetings Friends,

We all know that reality TV is unavoidable at this stage of the game. You can't wear out the buttons on a remote control without stumbling upon a reality show on any number of basic cable channels, as well as the major networks. They're everywhere - they're taking over like Godzilla tried to take over Tokyo.

Normally, I avoid the majority of these so-called reality shows, but I did admit to being hooked on a few of them. What really burns my toast is the sense of entitlement these people seem to feel; the whole world should treat them like they're legitimate celebrities instead of average joes that got plucked out of oblivion by some lackie from MTV, VH1, Bravo, Lifetime, et al. They're even referred to as reality "stars", further legitimizing their status via categorization; like movie stars or television stars. I'm sorry, Kate Gosselin and those "real" housewives don't belong in the same category as Alan Alda or Mary Tyler Moore, or even John Ratzenberger, the guy who played Cliffie the mailman on Cheers. Now, they were stars.

What further twists my knickers is that these reality people actually think wearing wireless microphone pacs and being followed around by cameras is their job. Most of us don't have to deal with the hassle of trying to live life in front of a camera. Thank goodness. But, these people seem to revel in it. Why? Because it beats the hell out of having to go to work every day.

Having spent a good portion of my adult life as a corporate working stiff, I will admit that my return to academia in 1999 was a veritable paradise compared to the office jobs I held. I worked with quite a gallery of oddballs; from cookie cutter, Bonfire of the Vanities obsessed Connecticut WASPs, to a certifiable woman from Bensonhurst Brooklyn, who used to glam up every night for her sardine-packed ride home on the B train, and a Long Island co-worker I couldn't help but refer to as (never to her face), "Queen of the White Trash Kingdom". Yeah, it's all very snarky and judgmental, but from everything I've been told, the workplace has gotten exponentially more loony since I left. And I say with profound sincerity: you'd have to drag me back to it with a grappling hook in my mouth.

I'm all in favour of making an honest living. This blog is part of mine. If it wasn't for some pretty incredible circumstances, and a few extraordinary individuals, I wouldn't have this forum to share my thoughts. Life can be serendipitous, and it can be downright cruel. And there's no such thing as a free lunch. You get where you get by busting your ass; not teetering on a pair of 5 inch stiletto heels clutching a Blackberry and a thousand dollar handbag, or cruising around in a Land Rover looking for some rehearsed disaster to find you while the hired help tends to your children. That's not my reality. Is it yours?

One of my favourite lines Michael Douglas utters in the movie Wall Street, is: "This is your wakeup call, Buddy. Get to work." Gordon Gekko and Bud Fox's work wasn't at all legitimate, but I agree with the sentiment. Now it's time to get back to work.

Enjoy your weekend.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sweet & Salty

Greetings Friends,

Lately, I've been on a sweet and salty kick that I believe has turned into an obsession.

I've always loved the pairing of something sweet with something savoury; or salty. It depends on the combination. The offer of a last meal before my execution would probably be a tuna fish sandwich, a bag of potato chips and a glass of chocolate milk. If possible, my choice of bread would be a cinnamon raisin bagel. Mind you, I would make this request only if a Peter Luger steak was not an option.

My friends over at Perfume Posse are sybarites; not only do they love their fragrances, they are major aficionados of many things - including chocolate. Well, especially chocolate. I believe it has to do with heightened sensory perception. Reveling in gorgeous fragrances is not all that different from savouring fine wine, food, and chocolate. There are countless varieties with varying cocoa content as well as the addition of elements you'd never expect; like red chiles, sea salt and bacon. Yes, you read that correctly: bacon. Vosges makes a dark chocolate bar that contains applewood smoked bacon. I have yet to taste it, but I plan to. Isn't it true that everything is better with bacon?

For more pedestrian treat, try Subway's new Orchard Chicken Salad. It's similar to Waldorf chicken salad, but their version has apples and cranberries, and no nuts. It's positively dee-lish with lettuce, tomato, black and green olives and banana peppers.

Lindt's Fleur de Sel dark chocolate and Piment Rouge dark chocolate are sublime; and only about $3 a bar. I spotted a bar of the Vosges bacon chocolate at the very chi-chi McEwan food store here in Toronto for $10.99. Even though my friends and relatives think I'm totally off my rocker and will threaten to have me committed, I'm going back for a bar. And I don't think I'll share. Maybe my sweet/salty kick is a reflection of my personality; I can be sweet when I want to be, and salty when I want to be. I just gotta be me!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Stressed Out

Greetings Friends,

It's a cliche, I know, but what can you do? Cliches can invade your life when you least expect them to.

Instead of wallowing in stress, celebrate it. Have a Big Mac, fries, two apple pies and a Coke. At least you'll keep the pipes clean while you cope with whatever is stressing you out. If that doesn't work try White Castle. When all else fails, there's always White Castle. 

See you on Wednesday. 


Friday, June 11, 2010

Soccer Mania

Greetings Friends,

The Stanley Cup has barely had a chance to recuperate from its hangover, and now it's on to World Cup soccer. Congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks for their win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Honestly, I'm pleased they won after an almost 50 year drought. That's a far cry from how I felt back in 1994 when the New York Rangers broke their 54 year-long winless streak. I hate to say it, but I must be mellowing with age. I think I can manage to put my fury on hold until October, when the Toronto Maple Leafs embark on what will likely be their 44th consecutive season without a championship.

In the meantime, it's World Cup madness here in Toronto. Everywhere you go, there are pop-up stands on street corners selling flags and other accoutrements to showcase your love of country. Flags are flying in front of houses, from cars, bars and restaurants. Today is just the first day of the tournament, but the excitement is sure to build steadily over the next few weeks. I really enjoy observing the city whip itself into a frenzy over this game. The only thing soccer-related that whips me into a frenzy is a picture of David Beckham in his underwear. Not really, but I needed some way to work in Becks, since he's hurt and will not be playing.

Other than David Beckham, I'm really not a soccer fan. I'm not a "Soccer Mom" or even a hockey mom for that matter, but I will admit the global fascination with this game is pretty intriguing. It's pretty hardcore here in Canada given the large immigrant population, as well as the celebration of multiculturalism in this country. Granted, things have gotten a bit hot under the collar on the topic of immigration over the past decade. But from a can't-we-all-just-get-along perspective, sports can be a balm that manages to smooth over the rough stuff; at least temporarily. It's not like during the Cold War when the US and the Soviet Union where at odds over everything from nukes to hockey. It's nice to see the world come together during an event like this; until the soccer hooligans start acting up - then, all bets are off.

Toronto has always been a venue for large gatherings and significant events. Later this month, the G8 and G20 summits will be taking place here, along with Caribana, the largest annual Caribbean festival in the world. I remember when World Youth Day came here in 2002 - Pope John Paul II visited cottage country, and thousands of pilgrims made their way to Downsview Park to see him. It was pretty incredible to see that large of a gathering take place with such peace and dignity. I'm not so sure what will happen if Greece and Italy end up squaring off for the World Cup title. I'm not certain that would even be a possibility, but just in case, I won't be having Greek food on the Danforth that day, or heading up to Woodbridge for some gelato. In any case, fly your flags proudly, and may the best team win.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vote for Me!

Greetings Friends,

First, I have to give kudos to March over at Perfume Posse for providing the inspiration for the image. I adore Bloom County.

One of my ghostwriting projects was entered in an article writing competition, and I am shamelessly plugging myself by asking for votes. I make no promises of "change", nor do I aspire to be another "Joe the Plumber". All I'm asking for is your vote. Please. If not for me, do it for Opus. 

Cast your vote for Thinking Outside the Bot here.



Monday, June 7, 2010

Why Read When You Can Watch?

Greetings Friends,

I hope everyone had a nice weekend.

I'm over my hockey mania and resigned to seeing the Stanley Cup Finals go 7 games. Part of me would like to see the Philadelphia Flyers win, further proving that Peter Laviolette is a legitimate coaching entity the New York Islanders foolishly threw away. But good for him; Long Island has become a wasteland for many reasons besides their sucky hockey team.

Today, I'd like to talk about books made into movies. There have been some silver screen gems that have done justice to the printed word, but there have also been countless wretched attempts made, turning phenomenal books into horrifically bad films. Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities stands out as the granddaddy of all bad book-to-film adaptations, and there are many others. The best, in my opinion, are The Godfather (I & II), and Martin Scorcese's version of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. There are more, but these three top my personal list.

Right now, the zeitgeist has whipped itself into a froth over the Twilight saga, which has replaced the Harry Potter frenzy of yore. I own the Harry Potter books - the British versions, but have yet to read them. I've never seen any of the movies, either. This Twilight business has me a bit perturbed because it seems to be establishing a precedent that dismisses the act of reading as a monumental waste of time. Again, my opinion rules the roost here, and I can't help but think these vapid little vampire-romance flicks are giving the young'uns an excuse to forgo the printed word. Yeah, the iPad and Amazon's Kindle are wreaking havoc in the publishing world right now, but are people really reading that much? Family, friends and acquaintances of mine are avid readers, but I'm not too sure about the "Tek" generation who seem to have forsaken books for movies. Why read when you can watch? Why lug around an actual book when you can download it off the Internet and carry it around on your impressive gadget? It's so very Zen.

I find being surrounded by books to be "Zen". I would rather read a book and never see it made into a movie. I would also never attempt to write a screen adaptation of any book, be it my own or someone else's. There are plenty of screenwriters making a great living in Hollywood, and I'm sure that once they are compensated for their time, they really don't care how big of a box-office bomb their effort turns out to be. Without sounding sanctimonious, I would care. The problem today is that the almighty dollar is what's actually wreaking havoc on the publishing world. Why blow $30 on a hardcover novel when you can wait until the movie comes out? You can go see the move and pick up the DVD for about what it would cost you to buy the book. And I'm not even taking the electronic option into account; I'm doing my level best to ignore it.

I will also try my best to ignore the ongoing Twilight mania. What sticks in my craw, though, is the fact that reading skills are being compromised in the name of Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson. Maybe if I was 20 or so years younger I'd feel differently. There's an updated version of The Karate Kid coming out soon, and I'm wondering instead, what the hell ever happened to Ralph Macchio? 


Friday, June 4, 2010

The Nebbishy Little Hobbit from Queens

Greetings Friends,

Another post about hockey today.

Some interesting goings-on in the hockey universe these past few days, and I can't resist the opportunity to comment. Albeit, this is one time I wish my words could reach a larger audience; say, readers of The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, or even the hockey bible, The Hockey News. Right now, this is my only outlet so, here goes:

I despise NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. And I want to smack Hockey Night in Canada's Ron McLean for being such a nice Canadian boy. The two spent eight contentious minutes together during the second intermission of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Bettman brought his Texas sized shoulder chip with him, and McLean couldn't turn off the nice-guy persona for half a second. Ironically, the next day, Ron McLean played a key role in rescuing an individual from the Delaware River, whose ill-timed suicide attempt interrupted his lunch with Don Cherry. Kudos to him for playing the good Samaritan while Cherry stood by "supervising". But, the night before, he couldn't even save himself from the wrath of a nebbishy little hobbit from Queens, who has been ruling the NHL with an iron fist since 1993.

One thing I've learned as I've gotten older, is that sometimes it pays to open your mouth. Ron McLean has a few years on me, so he should know that. I am so sick and tired of watching (or listening to) flummoxed sports commentators lobbing up softballs to the league bigwigs. No one, with the indirect exception of HBO's

Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel has never confronted the big cheeses of any of the four major North American leagues with the tough questions. For example, Gumbel sat in his chair on the Real Sports set and berated deceased former NFL Players Union chief, Gene Upshaw, for his heartless treatment of debilitated, retired NFL players. He never spoke to Upshaw directly. Major League Baseball's Bud Selig pretty much got to skate through the whole steroid scandal, and I don't think the NBA's David Stern has been seen or heard from in years. Conversely, little Gary Bettman holds court with the media on a regular basis; he even hosts his own satellite radio show on XM. But, every time someone tries to get him to weigh in on the nitty gritty, he turns into Vlad the Obfuscator, and effectively blows off those questions with the fortitude of someone swatting black flies in cottage country.

Hockey is a great game. It is Canada's pride and joy, and Bettman makes no bones about his resentment of that. He does everything within his power to prevent deserving Canadian cities from acquiring franchises, instead letting teams languish in absurd places like Nashville, Raleigh North Carolina and Phoenix. He will sweat blood to keep them there instead of admitting it was a mistake for them to exist in the first place. Yet, the NFL has exercised its "my bad" reflex, by yanking teams out of poorly performing markets under cover of darkness. At least they are very choosy about who they admit to their "Good 'ol Boy" ownership club, as opposed to the NHL, which has been known to sell teams to scam artists. Hello? John Spano?

Sometimes, being a sports fan is a blight on the psyche. Often times, I ask myself, why do I care? The players and the leagues don't give a toss about their fans, as evidenced by the increasingly frequent labour disruptions, and prolonged (or lack of) negotiations necessary to settle them. Why should I  feel bad for unionized athletes who make millions, when I can't afford to go watch them play in person? And when the nebbishy hobbit who runs the league collects his tithes and traipses merrily on his way, it pisses me off even more. The juxtaposition of athletic prowess and die-hard allegiance barely makes sense to me anymore. It has become a one-sided relationship with the die hards giving all, and the powers that be not giving a crap.

Earlier this week, a couple of Canadian individuals organized a "Quit Facebook" drive. They urged Facebook users to delete their accounts in protest of Facebook's irresponsible handling of their personal information. I don't know how many people participated, but the irony is, you can't delete your Facebook account. You can only deactivate it. Once you become a sports fan, you're in for life. Try as you might to quit, you can't. You can sometimes "deactivate", but it never lasts. I've deactivated my Facebook account twice, and both times I've gone back.

Think; and have a great weekend.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lord Stanley, A Long Time Ago

Greetings Friends,

I'm going to wax rhapsodic about hockey today. It's my blog and I can wax if I want to.

There are three things every legitimate hockey fan should be able to do. First, you should be able to recite the dialogue from Slapshot verbatim. Second, you should be able to sing the Canadian National Anthem, even if you are an American. Third, you should believe that the Stanley Cup is the closest you'll ever get to the mythical Holy Grail. Why? Because.

The Stanley Cup, or, as it was originally inscribed, the Dominion Challenge Hockey Cup, was given to the Dominion of Canada by Lord Stanley of Preston, Canada's Governor General from 1888 to 1893. I'll forgo the storied history of the chalice in favour of what it means to hockey fans: it is the Holy Grail of our game.

The Stanley Cup stands head-and-shoulders above the trophies awarded to other major sports champions. I may be a bit biased, but anyone who has ever seen the Stanley Cup in person will agree with me. It lives, it breathes, and if it could talk, the stories it would tell would be epic. I like to think that when it's sitting atop its pedestal in the Hockey Hall of Fame here in Toronto, it holds court in the middle of the night when there's nobody around. The pencil-etched plaques bearing the images of former players, referees, journalists and builders all come to life and they sit around unraveling the yarns of yesteryear. I love those types of stories. I am a hockey fan who has no choice but to live in the past, because the last time my favourite team had their mitts wrapped around the Holy Grail was almost thirty years ago. In fact, the first time they won the trophy was May 24, 1980.

I'm referring to the New York Islanders. My former team, my former life, my former champions. I was 13 years old on May 24, 1980 when the Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime to win the Cup. It was the most ecstatic I've ever felt, and sadly, I doubt the ecstasy I felt on that day will ever be felt again. I came pretty close to it in 1986 when the New York Mets won their first championship since 1969. But, I was also insanely jealous of my boyfriend, who was there at Shea Stadium to witness the glory in person, while I had to watch it on television.

The order of my sports fandom will always be hockey first, baseball second. Unfortunately, both the Islanders and the Mets have struggled mightily since their days of championship glory. As disappointed as I am in the Mets' lack of success, the Islanders' plight is akin to a mortal injury. There has been a metaphorical hole in my heart for so many years that I have just about given up. I no longer live in New York, but these days, that's no excuse to abandon my team. The reason for my abandonment stems from all the ancillary idiocy that has surrounded the team for more than two decades. Inept ownership, incompetent management, and local political corruption has stripped the Islanders of every fibre of glory they could lay claim to. It's all gone, and it saddens me beyond consolation. I have no choice but to walk away.

I'm overdue for a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame. When I go, I like to visit with the Cup, and run my fingers over the engraved names of my favourite Islanders players. I will gaze at the plaques of Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Clark Gillies, Al Arbour and Bill Torrey. Their names mean little to most Canadians, but these Canadian men brought much joy to this Canadian girl when she lived in America. It was a joy that will never be recaptured, but the memories will always live on.

This year, Lord Stanley's Cup will wind up in the hands of either the Philadelphia Flyers or the Chicago Blackhawks. Each player on the winning team will get to take it home for a few days, to do whatever it is you do with the Cup when it is in your possession. Typically, the Cup will make public appearances in players' hometowns, go on a few fishing trips, be used as a punch bowl, and whatever else giddy hockey players, their friends and family members can think up to do with it. The stories will no doubt be priceless. What I wouldn't give to hear them.