The Sudbury Gig

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In early 1972 I was a dazed and confused 21-year old living with a few friends and strangers in a rented house on Edith St. in Toronto. It was a fine party house, where we got our kicks from drinking wine, cranking up the music, and making immature wisecracks to the couple in the nearby bedroom who just wanted be alone.

It was also a serious dead end. I was a high school dropout with a pathetic grade 10 education, with no car, no girlfriend, no money, and no future. I had pretty well nothing, except for maybe a cool jean jacket and several face pimples.

One day, while walking along Bloor St., I saw a sign in a window that read ‘Toronto Bartenders School’, and within a day or two I was enrolled and shaking, stirring, and pouring like crazy. It was almost like going to college. A two-week long college. One that accepted bums.

We learned how to make about a hundred and twenty different drinks and cocktails, which seemed ridiculous, but that was the course and I was in it to graduate. But there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d remember more than about twenty in the real world. There was a reason I was a dropout.

It was a couple of interesting weeks, though. Our teacher added egg whites to the coloured water so it would make a foam head on drinks, and he dazzled us with the way he would demonstrate, because he’d been a bartender for decades and we were raw rookies.

When the course ended, I was asked if I was interested in working at the Holiday Inn in Sudbury, where a job had just opened up. I said sure, and away I went. Just like that.

One moment I was down and out on Edith St., eating cereal for supper, and the next, off to a job up north where I wasn’t going to get dirty, and with drunken females all over the place!

In Sudbury I rented a room at the YMCA across the street from the Holiday Inn, and soon after reported for work at the two bars in the hotel – Dangerous Dan’s, a raunchy and incredibly busy hard rock joint, while on the other side of the wall was Flanagan’s, an Irish pub that featured lounge acts. I wore a red vest with sparkles, a white shirt, black tie, and black pants with a red stripe down the sides.

The first thing the bar manager had me do was pour two pints of beer from an automated push button draught dispenser, and I confidently grabbed two mugs, held them under the taps, pushed the buttons, and checked out the ladies. Several seconds later the manager bodychecked me and grabbed the glasses, because I had them upside down and beer was all over the place.

That fall the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series unfolded, and through some serious switching of shifts I was able to see all eight games on various TVs. I bought my first car at this time, a second-hand Toyota Corona, and on my first date with the lovely Joanne from Flanagan’s, we got in the car and the piece of shit wouldn’t start.

Joanne was magnificent, with a body to stop traffic, but she ended up living with the bar manager for some reason. I still have scars.

I was eventually fired from my job after a carload of buddies from Orillia came to visit me, rented a room in the hotel, and caused so much commotion that the hotel manager, who was Italian, showed up with security, knocked on the door, and when one of my buddies answered, he shouted “Holy &%^$, it’s the Mafia!” I happened to be in the room at the time, which the manager wasn’t crazy about.

Months later, after being forgiven, I was back at it, but not for long. The hotel chef and I suddenly quit, hopped in his car, and for whatever reason, drove to Vancouver.

I came back (to Orillia) in a year or so and was busted for possession of marijuana, but remembered what a fellow bartender and his wife had said while in Sudbury. They were moving back to Ottawa and told me that if I was ever there, I’d have a place to stay.

So right after my court appearance, where I was given a conditional discharge, I hopped on a bus to Ottawa, stayed with my friends for awhile, and eventually found a job and a wife, helped produce two kids, became a tractor trailer driver (which I ended up doing for a big part of my life), and stayed in the nation’s capital for 17 years before moving on.

It all seems so long ago.

I wonder how Joanne is doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Guy Semin

Right winger Alexander Semin, recently bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes, has been picked up by the Habs for one year and 1.1 million. Cheap like borscht, unless you live in the real world of course.

With Semin, we’re just gonna have to wait and see. The former first-rounder scored forty goals once upon a time, while last year he managed just six. He’s known as a talented enigma, somewhat polarizing like many of his fellow hockey-playing countrymen, and when you read fans’ comments throughout the web, you see that a bunch think it’s a fine deal with nothing to lose, while plenty of others feel he’s a bum who might be better off selling vodka in Vladivostok.

Semin is 31 years old, has nice size at 6’2″, 209 pounds, and over the course of 635 NHL games played with Washington and Carolina, notched 238 goals and 275 assists for 513 points. Definitely decent numbers, aside from last year’s miserable showing, and now it’s time to pull up his socks once again and help our boys. He joins Gally, Dale Weise, Devante Smith-Pelly, and fellow new guy Zack Kassian on the right side.

It’s all fine and dandy because he’s cheap, but it’s still tough for me to shake the image of his fight with Marc Staal back in 2009 when he slapped away like Liberace on the ivories. Look it up. I can’t bear to, now that he’s a Hab.

It was pathetic and I never wanted this guy on my team because of it. And now he is.

I’m working on this issue though. I was never a great fighter either, and if I was a lousy fighter, who am I to criticize another lousy fighter?

And maybe, aside from fighting, he’ll help.

 

Power Struggles

On Tuesday, July 21, much of Powell River will be experiencing a scheduled BC Hydro power outage from 8 a.m to 6 p.m.

This is the notice we all got, and which has sent ripples of fear throughout.

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An apocalypse. Total darkness, except that it’ll be during the day. Warm beer kegs, closed bars, thawed TV dinners, dripping ice cube trays, melted popsicles. No internet or television. For ten full hours we won’t even know what Donald Trump has said next.

But don’t worry about me. Unless you want to, of course.

Because of this power outage, I’d like to direct this to the Montreal Canadiens front office. If you try to email me about the stick boy job during these blacked-out hours on the 21st, I won’t get it because I’ll be cut off from the rest of civilization. The way pioneers were back in the 1980s, except they had TV then.

The best thing to do is phone. Or email me the next day. Or write me a letter like Sam did (except for the saying no part).

Busted For Being Too Young

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This month marks 48 years since I was busted for breaking curfew on the Sunset Strip and had to spend a week in a Hollywood juvenile hall before getting kicked out of the country.

The Summer of Love, 1967, and I was 16. I’ve written about this before but had said I was 17, which was wrong. Although I suppose it doesn’t make much difference.

I’d taken a train from Orillia to Vancouver, sitting in a seat for 3 1/2 days, not old enough for the bar car, and from Vancouver found my way to the border where officials phoned my mom back home to make sure I wasn’t running away. From there I hitchhiked to Los Angeles.

I kind of remember the trip south. I didn’t have much money, and I slept in my sleeping bag in fields near the highway. I’m sure I also cursed my two buddies in Orillia several times for backing out at the last minute.

Eventually a potato farmer in an old truck picked me up, in Oregon I think, and we drove all the way to Watsonville, CA, saying almost nothing to each other as we sailed on down the highway. He didn’t care about my story, and I didn’t care about potatoes.

I guess it was just a day or two later that I made it to L.A., and the first thing I did was take a city bus to West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip, because that was where it was all happening.

It was where the infamous riots on Sunset Strip had begun the previous fall, and where clubs that lined the colourful street regularly hired bands who would some day find themselves in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The riots arose after people who lived and worked in the area didn’t like the idea of so many long-haired kids hanging around. Police got involved, there were arrests and lots of commotion, and kids got clubbed in the head and banged around. I feel mighty confident in saying that the world “pig” flew around quite a bit.

Not long after, after things had calmed down, I showed up.

Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ describes a bit of the situation, which you can see and hear below.

The problem with the riot is that a 10 o’clock curfew for those under 18 was ordered. I knew about this curfew, but it wasn’t something that seemed to matter. I didn’t have a lot of places to go anyway, and walking the streets was what I did, regardless of what time it was.

I almost know the exact date when I got busted, after searching the internet for  “Paupers and Youngbloods at Whisky a Go Go”, which was the night it happened.

The Paupers played at the iconic club from July 14 to 19 of 1967, opening for different bands on different nights. I saw them with the Youngbloods on one of those nights, and was promptly busted while walking down the street afterward, which was probably around the midnight hour.

The cop handcuffed me and took me to the local station where I stayed the night behind bars, and the next morning they moved me to a juvenile hall with big walls, where I wore inmate clothing, had to get up way too early, took classes in U.S. history, played cards in the dormitory, and I had no idea how long I’d be there for. It truly sucked, and I was such a lousy card player.

One morning, while eating breakfast with my new buddies, somebody called my name out and took me to get my street clothes because I was going back to Canada. My parents had sent money for a ticket, and an employee from the prison drove me to the airport and saw me right to my seat on the plane.

Several hour later the plane touched down in Toronto and I made my way up to Orillia. My parents told me they weren’t mad at me and that was that…..

….until the fall of 1968 when I went to England for much of the winter, to the Atlantic City Pop Festival in the summer of ’69, hitchhiked across Canada three different times, and did all sorts of things, legal and illegal. I probably worried my parents sick. At least I like to think they were worried.

And one last thing to mention about my time on the Sunset Strip. I’d been staying wherever I could, and it was around this time that Charles Manson and his girls were beginning to set up shop in the L.A. area, including hanging around the Strip. All it would’ve taken were a couple of friendly young Manson ladies offering me a place to stay and lots of loving, and I easily could’ve ended up in some seriously wrong company.

I guess getting busted for breaking curfew might have been a good thing. Although it didn’t seem so at the time.

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Sunset Strip in Hollywood, at corner of Clark street in Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 1966. At right is Whisky a Go Go, well-known night club. (AP Photo/HF)
Sunset Strip in Hollywood, at corner of Clark street in Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 1966. At right is Whisky a Go Go, well-known night club. (AP Photo/HF)

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Kassian East, Prust West

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As you probably know, the Canadiens have sent Brandon Prust to the Vancouver Canucks for big and tough right winger Zack Kassian and a 2016 fifth-round round draft pick.

The 24-year old Kassian not only has good size (6’3, 214 lbs), he’s also tough as nails, although Prust, 31, is no slouch himself when it comes to providing heart, soul, and knuckle sandwiches.

I also temper my feelings by remembering how I thought George Parros would add an important dimension, although Kassian does have some offensive skills to go with his muscle.

Good luck and thanks to Brandon Prust. He was a fine player for the Canadiens and in many ways a leader. And welcome, Zack.

What concerns me is how Prust’s girlfriend Maripier Morin is coping, as her home and career is solidly entrenched in Quebec, and she did mention on Hockey Wives how she dreaded the day Brandon is traded.

It has to be tough for all concerned, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to say a few private words to Maripier. So please don’t read.

“Maripier, I’m only a few hours north of Vancouver. Call me if the move becomes overwhelming. Maybe when Brandon is on a long road trip.”

 

My Brother Sends Some Pics

My brother just sent me these photos, at the bottom, from his vacation in London, England.

Important photos, because they’re of the Beatles’ iconic Apple offices at 3 Savile Row, where John, Paul, George and Ringo came and went, where they tried to help struggling artists and sometimes pretended to work, and where they sounded tight and together when they played on the rooftop in January of 1969.

I was 18 and with my buddy Robin in London that winter of 1969 when the Beatles played on the top of this building, but we had no idea and only found out about it later.

I’ve told this story before, but when Robin and I were in London, we knocked on the door of these Apple offices one day and when a woman answered, I asked if the boys were in. She said no, and on we went.

But we gave it a shot at saying hello to the Fab Four. And who knows, if one of them happened to be there he might have invited us in and I might have met Pattie Boyd. And she and I would’ve flirted and most likely ended up in the sack when George was busy in the studio arguing with Paul.

Below that, my brother’s camera shot from good ole Carnaby Street. Although this trendy street, in anybody’s ‘Swinging London’ conversation, was at its hippest peak in 1966 and 1967, Robin and I were there a year later, around the 17th minute of its 15 minutes of fame . We didn’t have money for bell bottomed trousers and polka dot shirts anyways, and Twiggy and the Shrimpton sisters had most likely already moved on.

At the bottom of the photos, Robin and I in London during that winter of 1968/69. I’m the one on the left, looking kinda goofy. It kind of makes me wonder if Pattie Boyd would’ve flirted with me.

Robin contacted me only a short while ago and it blew my mind as it’s been many years since I’d heard from him. He lives in Surrey, BC now, is a musician who goes by the name of Snazzy Rob, and has 4 CDs of standards from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, which he sent me copies of. He plays all the instruments and sings, and the music is soothing, fun, and very cool.

Robin I had a great trip to England, even though we slept standing up in a phone booth one cold night in Coventry, and in a homeless shelter in London on another. But as memorable a trip as can be.

And below the others, the ship we sailed on from Montreal to Liverpool, the Empress of England.

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Price – Like We Knew He Would

A sharp looking, bow tied Carey Price took the stage at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to collect three biggies at the 2015 NHL Awards, and only one question remains unanswered. Why didn’t wife Angela smile more?

Price collected the Ted Lindsay Award for outstanding player as voted on by other players, the Vezina as league’s best goalie, decided by the 30 GMs, and the Hart Memorial Trophy for league MVP, voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Serious awards indeed. And now we wait to see if Pricer rides a horse into the lobby of Caesars Palace later on tonight after getting down at Bill’s Saloon where Big Elvis sings nightly. At least I think the big guy is still going strong. He looked slightly out of shape when I was there five or six years ago.

Price also shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Chicago’s Corey Crawford for fewest goals allowed during the regular season (189).

Way to go, Carey. How come Angela didn’t smile more?

If I could produce the NHL Awards, I’d change two little things. The  laugh attempts and the music. Show clips of Stanley Cup wins and throw in some Slapshot, and most of the room, and us at home, are happy.

Instead of cue cards and awkward silliness, go for the important stuff, like the Jonathan Pitre segment. The young fellow suffers from a rare and painful skin disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa, and members of the Ottawa Senators, including Bryan Murray, came on stage and gave him gifts like a trip to next year’s All Star Game in Nashville.

Memories to last his lifetime, which, like Jonathan said on stage, could last until he’s 100.

Every year I hate this awards show. The entertainment sucks. Forget the laughs. Forget the music. Am I dead inside?

Rob Riggle, also known as obnoxious real estate agent Gil Thorpe on Modern Family, gave his all, I suppose, and I don’t want to be critical of this fellow. It must be a helluva tough gig. You get up in front of a room full of hockey players and executives and see how you do.

It’s gotta be a tough crowd to say the least. They just don’t laugh a lot, these hockey people. Not in a place like that. Maybe at the golf course or a father-son banquet.  Maybe if Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stepped in. Or Jim Ralph or Dennis Hull.

Chris Daughtry, from American Idol a few years back, sang with his band and not one goosebump showed up on my skin. And when he ordered everyone to stand up, they did. Only they didn’t want to.

Daughtry ordered the room to “get up. I mean it, get up”, and so they did, They stood there, of course, with a serious lack of swaying or bic lighter lighting, and I think it was only Ted Lindsay and Glen Sather who shook their booties and did a couple of splits in the aisle.

I hate when bands order us to stand up. We’ll stand up if we want to. And it’s usually when we like the band. So shut the %$#& about standing up, Daughtry, you mediocre, ultra ordinary American Idol fourth place finishing arena rocker.

A serious lack of cleavage was noticed throughout the proceedings. There were glimpses of it on the red carpet, but the wives and girlfriends in their seats within camera range were all buttoned up. It was a disappointment that ranked up there with P.K. Subban not winning the Norris (Erik Karlsson did).

Speaking of Karlsson, his dark-haired girlfriend was a ravishing beauty. Va va voom! And during his speech, he mentioned that when he gets home every night, she always treats him the same. I’ve been wondering about this ever since.

All in all, a normal NHL Awards Show that featured not a whole lot, aside from Carey Price winning some monumental awards and the Jonathan part. We’re proud of our goalie, and for me I thought he was terrific when he spoke about encouraging First Nations kids to be all they can be.  Way better than Chris Daughtry singing and ordering everyone to stand up.

On a personal note, I can relate, in my humble way, to what Price experienced on this night, having also captured an MVP award and various other big time honours during my life.

I just don’t like to talk about it much, but just this once I’ll bring it up.

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My New Old Mitts

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I read somewhere that’s it’s a certain gene in one’s DNA that makes you want to collect things. Either you have it or you don’t. I have it.

I’m happy to have it, although I’m not interested in modern day stuff. And although I feel that collecting isn’t as important as being a doctor or Habs stick boy, it’s better than shooting crystal meth or hacking computers or any number of things that aren’t good at all and you can’t put on your shelf and look at.

The mitts above are from the 1950s, and if you have the gene you might like them. If not, your life is an empty and meaningless shell and probably isn’t worth living.

Just darn fine mitts and they look great on my shelf. But I also thought that showing a beautiful model wearing them would be good. And it was easy to find a beautiful model.

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Well I Woke Up Sunday Morning

It’s Sunday morning and although the grass needs cutting, I can’t get out there and do it because a little baby is sleeping. What a fantastic excuse!

Nathan Beaulieu has signed a two-year contact with the Habs, at a million per. Great to  have this done, it doesn’t break the bank, and it should inspire the young fellow to be all he can be and ink a whopper in a few years.

It seems like only yesterday that we debated the idea of who would win a full-time job first, Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi, but Beaulieu came through with his skating, puckhandling and poise, while Tinordi lagged behind because of his tentativeness with the puck. But we can’t give up on the big fellow, mainly because he’s a big fellow.

And regarding Beaulieu and his dad’s assault charge in 2013, it came to light only recently that the two had heard someone at a party saying Kane’s blog sucked and they naturally took matters into their own hands. “Nobody says that and gets away with it,” said papa Jacques Beaulieu.

The Leafs have signed former Leaf Wally Stanowski to a one-year deal. Stanowski, 96, says he’s anxious to suit up as it’s been awhile, and if someone can help him onto the ice and then off again, he feels he should be at least as mobile as Dion Phaneuf, and probably a better fighter.

Below, Wally at a recent press conference. “With Montreal inking Beaulieu, we felt this signing was necessary to keep pace,” said Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. “All we ask is that he quits smoking.”

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Other tidits: The Chicago Blackhawks have taken a 3-2 series over Tampa Bay, the Arizona Coyotes are in building lease trouble, and NBC’s Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus says playoff beards should go.

It’s hard to know which is the most important of the three. Probably the Cup Final, although as a Habs fan, any playoff passion has been squeezed out like that last drop from a bottle of Four Aces. And then, of course, the Coyotes situation, which everyone should be used to by now, and which could possibly end with Quebec getting their well-deserved team.

But the beard thing is definitely important too.

“I just don’t like the beards,” said Lazarus. “You can’t see their faces. Although, for that very reason, it was good when Brad Marchand grew one.”

For me, I don’t know what to think. The Rocket and Beliveau never grew playoff beards. What about that?

Below, Lazarus at his recent press conference, explaining the beard problem.

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