Monday 31 May 2010


French and I went to church together when we were teens. Our attendance was a bit hit or miss, but when we were both present we usually caused some hi jinx. We'd clap off beat, make up new actions for songs, or create actions to songs that didn't have actions, we also would balance hymn books in elaborate stacks, and more often than not sleep. French always said "that he came for the girls".

I was thus very surprised to see French at church on Sunday. I haven't seen him darken the door of a church since he was 18 - (he is 39 now). French had on a white shirt and a black tie, he sported a tweed jacket that I recognized as his father's (it fit a bit big on him), his pants were rumpled, and he had on his standard Chuck Taylors. He sat down with my family. He barely looked at me out the side of his sunglasses. I noticed that there was a cigarette behind his ear, and I could smell a warm boozy scent.

He waited for a bit and said: "I felt that I should live in community today".

I just said: "sure".

A few moments later he said: "I could use some baby therapy". My wife handed over my 6 week old son. French sat there for an hour just thinking and holding the baby. He never even stood for the hymns.

At the benediction he handed back the baby and slid out a side door.

Tuesday 25 May 2010


I saw French on the weekend; wheeling around the market on an ancient 10 speed. This is a system that he has had in play for many years.

He couldn't always keep the Mustang on the road, so he'd revert back to his bike. You'd often see him on an old, dirty, junky bike. French would snag old bikes from people's garbage, or pick one up from Bruce Fish. You'd see him ride up and then unceremoniously just lean the bike against a tree, drop it in an alley, or even just roll it down a ditch. He'd retrieve it later and bike home.

His theory was that he didn't have to lock it up; it was totally stress free bike "ownership". French actually found it funny when his bike would be missing or wrecked by vandals. He'd just round up another and be on his way. He has never paid for a bike...or a lock.

At one point he had three "junk-cycles" hidden around the town. He'd always have access to transportation, be it a 10 speed, an BMX, or a rusty mountain bike. Some bikes he'd have to stop with his feet Flintstone style. He'd roll up and lament the lack of brakes. Other times you'd see French with a 2-4 balanced on the handle-bars, heading out for the night. It was a great system.
I'm thinking of making this a junk-cycle summer.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Graven - Spring Tour - Anecdotes

Graven - and the Zaphodic night.

Matty pulled out his well stickered guitar - strummed a few chords. Ben followed with a some quick banjo licks. Brandon plug in - you could hear the electric pulse, and the smooth flow of feedback. I've seen and heard this before, but something was different. There was a sonic beat flowing over and through the sound and weaving into the song. St. Cat was there - riding his stool - king of the the drum kit. It was a great show.

Graven did good -the bachlorette party girls surged forward and flung garter belts toward the boys. The just strummed harder and better than ever.

SQ slowly drifted to domestics - he shunned the imports for the bitter bang of a cheap 50. Fisheye followed suit, and Dox popped a few more caps off some quarts.

We kept our eye out for French all night. After the show I saw his bike outside of the Barefax strip club. I waited for a bit and Sweaty and French came out. They had meant to go to the Graven show, but they'd stepped in for a peek at the peelers - and got distracted.

I gave Sweaty a lift - (he crashed on my couch before heading back to the Falls tomorrow).
We saw French moments later. He had a stripper sitting on the handle bars of his dirty old bike, weaving through the drunken market crowd.

Monday 17 May 2010

Cigarette Run

French got me started on cigarettes.

He'd always have packs of various little mini-cigars (Colts). We'd spark these at parties. And he used to sell American cigarettes out back of the school (Marlboros). Also, his dad hand cranked his own cigarettes with a little rolling machine. His dad would crank them and say: "I'm getting my exercise". Somedays we'd smoke those.

In gym class we had to do this run called "the run". It was a 4 mile course up a dirt road. We would run down the road to the train tracks, that were up the top of a hill, and then turn around and head back to school. Somedays we'd take the whole period to get it done. Other days the gym teacher would ride behind us in his Chevy Bronco and yell and honk at us; on those days we'd actually run.

French held the school records for "the run". French would put on his beat up Chuck Taylors, run to the tracks, smoke a dart, and then run past us heading back the other way laughing like a maniac. Every year, on the day of "the run", we'd see him at the top of the hill blowing smoke rings waiting for us to catch up. This convinced me that smoking was okay.

I quit cold turkey 15 years ago, but every once in a while I'll crave one those bitter American Cigs that French prefers.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Mustangs, Mixed Tapes and Making Out

I was looking through French's journal from high-school and came across a list of songs entitled Mix Tape for the Honeys:

Try - Blue Rodeo
More Than Words - Extreme
Don't Know What You Got... - Cinderella
Every Rose Has It's Thorns - Poison
Angie - Rolling Stones
...and a Tonne of Phil Collins

Weird mix. I remember asking him about this tape. His response was that it was a "deal sealer". I asked him to explain further. He said: "That when he was cruising with the honeys he'd put it on and the honeys'd be happy, maybe even think they were in love".

French had a 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet - the tape was just for back-up I guess. I had a 1986 rusty Honda Civic, or my grandpa's Chevy truck with a comfy bench seat.
I needed to get a mixed-tape of my own.

Monday 3 May 2010

French, Fists and Cottage Rock

We gathered a fine group of lads for the latest Graven show on Saturday: Japan Dan, Bill "Double Fist" Henry, the Dox, Old Ollie, and Sweaty.

Things got warmed up early with Texting Mackenzie - a little power trio from Guelph. Sweaty musta yelled "Gay-welph" a dozen times; laughing like it was a great new joke each time.

Graven hit the stage - we hit a few more Baltikas.

Matty was in fine form. Yelling, whooping, humming and singing - then dashing in some Gord Downie like improvised lyrics. At times he pulled out some Plaskett-style falsetto; all the while pumping out original Graven vibes.

A noted irony of the night was watching a fine creative band sing, and in the background, through the window, hordes of teen dancing queens lined up to get into some throbbing club.

Sweaty was anxious all night because French never showed up. After the most excellent show we all headed out to the street. There was French with his guitar, harmonica, and an open guitar case. He'd been playing just up the block; busking a few bucks from the kids lined up outside the dance club.

French plays pretty obscure songs. Turns out the kids gotta little sick of hearing Fred Eaglesmith tunes all night. This big lad tried to push his guitar case closed. French handed Sweaty his guitar, grabbed the goon and twisted him up tight and quick into a brutal wrist lock, tossed him down to the sidewalk, then stepped on his head and packed up his gear.

A couple of the goon's buddies tried to step in. Double Fist surged forward snarlin'. Dox held him back by the collar. Lucky he didn't slip outta his coat.

Japan Dan snapped a few pics. French picked up the goon and kicked him the ass for good measure.

Dox spoke to the goons and his pals: "Don't you boys have a home to go to?" The look on his face said more than his words.

Matty handed the head goon a Graven CD and they shuffled off down the street.