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How $150 Became More, Thanks To John Lennon

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34 years ago today, John Lennon was shot dead. It sucked then and it sucks now. Below is a re-posting of a story I wrote a few years ago that, although unrelated to that dreadful evening and the days that followed, has a definite Lennon connection.

Years ago, through an autograph dealer in New York, I bought a little Rolodex-style Barclays bank card for $150, a card that had once been issued to John Lennon. This little card stated that anything under $200 in Lennon’s account could be withdrawn by his two lawyers without permission, but over $200 must be authorized by Lennon.

The card was signed by Lennon and the two lawyers.

I held onto this card for quite some time, but decided at some point to see what someone might pay for it, so I put an ad in an Ottawa paper and wondered what kind of offers might come up. Soon after, the phone rang.

It was a fellow in Ottawa who said he knew what the card was, he was a big Beatles collector, and said he had once played in David Peel’s band in New York, a band Lennon had jammed with and had produced Peel’s “The Pope Smokes Dope” album. He asked me if I would be willing to come to his place and have a look at what he had, and maybe make a trade. So I went.

The guy’s apartment was jammed with Beatles memorabilia, worth a large fortune for sure, and I could tell he really wanted my card. But if I was going to make a trade,  what he was offering better be good. And it was.

He showed me about half a dozen sheets of Lennon’s hand-written lyrics of songs from the “Sometime in New York City” album, and suggested that if I wanted, I could choose one if would part with the card. Oh yes, I thought. I’ll definitely do this.

I chose the song “New York City,” written by Lennon in pencil, with his little caricatures of himself and Yoko drawn on the sheet along with the lyrics. I was more than happy to make this trade.

It wasn’t long after that when my wife and I, just making ends meet, thought our dingy old basement would look fabulous if it was gutted and renovated. Our house was small, we had two young kids, and living space in the basement would double the size of the house. It was a lovely thought to have such an addition, so I made the decision. I’d sell the Lennon lyrics.

I sent a copy of it to Sotheby’s in New York, and they asked if they could see the real thing to assess it properly, so down it went by courier. Soon after they wrote back and said yes, it’s authentic, and they put a possible selling price of $2500. I knew that in the near future Sotheby’s would be holding a Lennon auction, the timing was right, and the basement needed serious work, so I told them to go ahead and sell it.

It sold for $7000.

I know what you’re going to say. Imagine if I sold it today, it would go for much, much more. But $7000 was a big score for us back then, it had only been a $150 investment in the first place, and we were happy. And the basement ended up looking like a million bucks, with new furniture, a new televison, and lots of shelving to hold my hockey and Beatles collections.

Eventually we sold this house, got a fine price for it, definitely because of the new basement, and moved to Calgary. And the extra money we got from the sale allowed us to buy a beautiful place in Cowtown, which I was able to enjoy for a solid three years before my wife left me.

The Curtain Closes

And just like that, it comes to a crashing halt.

Blanked 1-0 in game six at Madison Square Garden and the Canadiens’ season closes way too soon. We wanted more but I guess fans of every team except the Cup winner want more and don’t get it.

It was a game where the Habs had a blanket thrown over them almost from start to finish, a game they never found themselves truly in, a game where passes were off, they were checked into the ground, and the flow never flowed.

The Rangers tightened things up so much, Montreal, fighting for their lives, could only muster five shots in the first, eight in the second, and just five in the third when they should’ve been pulling out all the stops.

The attack was non-existent. So was pressure on Henrik Lundqvist. And the Rangers move on to the Stanley Cup Final and the Canadiens say their goodbyes in the next few days and spread out to different corners of the planet.

It’s a tad shocking as I pound the keyboard with two fingers. We had so many hopes and dreams that ended before they were supposed to. It sucks when the hopes and dreams don’t pan out.

This also isn’t  a night to say this guy didn’t do this or that guy didn’t do that. It just wouldn’t feel right.

It’s a night, for me at least, to look back and appreciate the terrific season the Montreal Canadiens gave us. One of only four teams left standing. How great was that?

Carey Price was on the sidelines, Dustin Tokarski stepped in, and the goaltending never lost a beat. But against the Rangers in this game especially, the team in front of Tokarski looked to have run out of gas while the Rangers still had a full tank.

In the next six months there will be some tweaking, some guys gone, a couple of young defenceman will find themselves with regular jobs, our kids like Alex Galchenyuk and Michael Bournival will have another valuable season under their belts, and PK Subban will get signed and continue on his road to the league’s best d-man.

We can get into changes and non-changes in the next while. It’ll be interesting to see what Marc Bergevin decides to do. I just hope Dale Weise, who had only signed a one-year contract, is in the plans.

We missed Weise’s character in this game six because of John Moore. Who is John Moore again?

This run has made our guys better. The experience is invaluable. Next year they’ll be one of the elite teams, one that when playoff time rolls around, they’ll be be a force and that parade will be much more of a possibility.

I’m truly proud of them. They gave us a great year, but they just aren’t quite there yet. Next year they will be because it’s a large and strong nucleus that make up our Montreal Canadiens, and the near future looks extremely bright.

One final note before it’s lights off. As I mention every year when the Habs season draws to a close, I don’t go away. This blog carries on throughout the summer so please continue to stop by.

Tomorrow’s another day. It’s also my weekly beer day at the local pub!

 

 

Good Old King Of Hockey

I used to have this on video and I remember a few years back (quite a few years back) when my dad and I watched it and we got a good chuckle, even though it was supposed to be a serious drama.

It’s the great old film ‘King of Hockey’ from 1936, and it involves the star player of the New York Violets, Gabby Duggan, getting involved with some gangsters who want Gabby to throw the big game.

To add to the drama and suspense, Gabby goes blind for awhile, which throws a wrench into his hockey career with the Violets, not to mention his love life.

The one scene that stands out for me more any other, and the one which made my dad and I chuckle hardest, is when Gabby stickhandles down the ice with one hand on the stick and with the other he gives a nice, long wave to his girlfriend in the stands.

If you don’t want to know how this hockey classic ends, please look away now……..(Gabby thwarts the gangsters, wins the game, and gets the girl).

A Brief Habs-Sens Recap

The Canadiens and Senators clashed three times before tonight, and how did things go?

On Nov. 7th in Ottawa, Montreal dropped a 4-1 decision , their fourth straight loss in November, because for some reason they had stopped scoring  – just seven goals scored in four games.

Sound familiar? Currently they’ve scored seven goals in their last five games.

On January 4th at the Bell, two goals from Daniel Briere and one from Brian Gionta wasn’t enough because with the the game tied and just 19 seconds remaining in the third period, P.K. Subban took a hooking penalty and Ottawa ended it on the power play in overtime.

On January 16th in Ottawa, the Canadiens finally solved the Sens, although it took overtime to do it. And the fact was, the boys were terrible on this night. They had jumped into a 3-0 lead in the first but by the time this period would draw to a close, Ottawa had replied twice and it was a 3-2 game.

For the rest of the night, it was all Ottawa and only Carey Price standing on his head kept his team in it. Finally in overtime, P.K. scored the winner and celebrated like crazy, making the talking heads at CBC and Habs-haters everywhere aghast at PK’s enthusiastic celebration.

I thought it was a justified celebration on PK’s part. After what had happened twelve days before when he was in the box and the Sens won it, and the way they had played so well in the first period of this game and then completely fell apart, it was only right that P.K. was joyful.

Cherry, Stock, Habs haters and Sens fans etc. didn’t get it, naturally.

Tonight is the fourth meeting between these two and it’s time for the Canadiens to start scoring. And it’s time to show some superiority over a team nine points behind them in the standings.

 

 

 

 

Big Moment For Cam

My grandson Cam is five and he started hockey this year in Nelson, BC.  He struggled because he’d never skated before, but he kept at it.

I got this Facebook message from my daughter Shannon the other day, and here’s what she said:

“So proud of my little Cam…with a rough start to the season and the only kid on the team who could barely skate, he was awarded the “Super Sport of the Game Award” for outstanding effort and sportsmanlike conduct! He was so happy that the coaches recognized him and told him how great he is.”

Cameron

The Band

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A lot of artists have touched my soul over the years – the Beatles, Dylan, Van Morrison, Springsteen and a bunch more.

And then there was The Band, four guys from southern Ontario and one from Arkansas, and I loved their tight, down home style, with three of them taking turns singing, and two of them, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, singing like mountain men-turned Ray Charles that would turn ears and heart to tender mush.

The Band, known first as the Hawks, who honed their craft under the strict eye of Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, the wild frontman who’d brought drummer Levon Helm to Toronto from the deep south and created the seed that would become a full blown and beautiful flower.

Gradually the five would find each other, and they soon became the tightest of the tight, paying their dues in every strip joint, honkytonk bar, and redneck tavern from Toronto to Montreal, Detroit to Memphis.

While still known as the Hawks, they would back Bob Dylan during his world-wide tours, and which would end when Dylan was recuperating from a motorcycle accident.

But make no mistake, this was no ordinary backup band. This was THE Band. It was destined that they branch out, find their name and identity, and let the public into their world that for the most part had been behind Big Pink doors, their communal house in Woodstock.

After The Last Waltz in 1976 at the Winterland in San Francisco, which was filmed as a Martin Scorcese film, the five of them never performed together again, although they kept going, whether it was solo or in pairs, or simply as The Band minus Robbie Robertson.

In 1985 my first wife and I went to Gerde’s Folk City in New York’s Greenwich Village, a tiny club famous for the fact it was where Bob Dylan had made his first NYC appearance, back in ’61. Richard Manuel and Rick Danko played that night at Gerde’s in front of us and about 50 others, and at one point in the evening, bluesman Paul Butterfield got up and joined them.

It was a true highlight of my life that goes beyond words.

In 1986, Richard Manuel hanged himself in a motel in Florida. Rick Danko died from heart failure in 1999.

I once saw drummer Levon Helm play with his own band at the Nickelodeon on Yonge St. in Toronto. He died from cancer in 2012.

Garth Hudson, the classically-trained genius, is thankfully still alive. Virtuoso guitarist Robbie Robertson is too.

I loved their music then and I do today. Back hills soul, rock and rhythm and blues. Four guys from Ontario – Simcoe, Stratford, London, and Six Nations near Brantford. And one from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas.

The Band. Perfect name, perfect music.

 

New Blades!

I bought a new pair of skates today. CCM beauties on sale for thirty bucks off the regular $95. (And then they gave me a $15 gift card!)

Who gives a flying Wallenda? you ask. I don’t blame you. I’d ask the same thing.

But it’s the first new pair of skates I’ve owned since I was fifteen years old and had saved some money, hopped on a bus to Toronto, made my way to the C.C.M. factory where I’d heard you could buy Tacks that were fitted to your feet (they weren’t, but anyway), and I took them home, covered them every few days with leather protector stuff, and laced them up when it was time for me to be a smallish yet shifty right winger.

That was the last time I’d ever bought new skates. Any others along the way were given to me. The last pair I owned were left outside for a couple of years and they turned to powder.

But today I have a new pair, which I’m going to break in at the outdoor rink down the street. And when my company rents the ice in February, I’m going to lace these new things up and get out there and be a smallish yet shifty right winger once again.

New skates. Darn right.

Now I need a stick.

 

 

 

Big Cash Down The Drain

A 2012 Sportsnet magazine has been hanging around at work, with an intriguing article in it that I’m going to show a sampling of.

And if you say what a lazy bastard I am, copying from a magazine, you’re probably right.

But maybe you’ll think it’s interesting! Like I do!

Mike Tyson (boxing) – won more than $400 million but filed for bankruptcy in 2003 with debts of $27 million. Blame cars, pet tigers, and a $2 million bathtub.

Terrell Owens (football) – Owes $107,000 a month in child support and mortgage. He still had to spend $10,000 a day to drop the $80 million he made since ’96.

Darren McCarty (hockey) – bankrupt due in part to gambling and divorce – and was recently seen working in a Detroit pawn shop on a reality television show.

Lenny Dykstra (baseball) – Made millions in baseball, now in prison for grand theft auto. The interim was a wild mess of bad business deals, bankruptcy and lawsuits.

John Daly (golf) – How does one lose $60 million gambling? In 2005 Daly celebrated a $750,000 tour win by dropping $1.5 million at the slots.

Antoine Walker (basketball) – Earned $110 million in his career; filed for bankruptcy in 2010, owing $12.7 million. Charged with writing bad writing $1 million in bad cheques.

Latrell Sprewell (basketball) – Turned down a three-year, $21m deal in favour of….never signing another NBA deal. Money sense that gets two homes and a boat seized.

Michael Vick (football) – Made $37.5 million in 2005. Owed $20 million by 2009. Buying his brother a new luxury car every year probably didn’t help.

Rollie Fingers (baseball) – Grew an $8m fortune in MLB (and a priceless ‘stache). Bad business deals (horses, wind farms) and tax trouble ended in bankrupty.

Allen Iverson (basketball) – After earning $154 million in his basketball career, he was recently ordered by the court to pay a debt of $860,000 to a jewellery store.

“By one estimate, 78 percent of NFL players go bankrupt or find themselves in severe financial distress within two years of retirement. Reports also suggest that within five years of retirement, 60 percent of NBA players are broke.”