Friday 23 December 2011

Christmas with Dad

My dad was a church elder, so we were always there early...especially on Christmas Eve.  I'd sneak out and linger by the doors and wait for French, Pancake, Sweaty and Bruce Fish.  Pancake's dad never came near a church, Bruce Fish's dad was out on the road; French and Sweaty's dad was a different case altogether.

Every Sunday he'd drive up to the front of the church and drop off his kids and his wife.  He always insisted that they attend.  Then he'd drive over to the Tim Horton's or some days to the Lee Hotel if he could convince them to open the taps.  He was always late picking them all up afterwards.

One Christmas he drove up and dumped the kids out, but this time French just stood on the curb and looked in the passenger door window.  French's dad looked back at him, he looked back at his son and eventually I could see him sigh.  He parked the car around the corner, and then walked back to the church.  He was wearing jogging pants, and a leather jacket over his Montreal Expos t-shirt. 

French's dad came to that service and sang every carol.  I've never seen them all look happier.

Friday 16 December 2011

Pond Hockey League

As soon as we could find a frozen pond, or even a big puddle, we'd start the annual Pond Hockey League.  We usually played on a pretty small surface, so it remained pretty exclusive. 

In one of our most memorable games French beat me, Sweaty, and Pancake.  It gets worse; the day he beat us he had his arm in a sling.  He'd broken his collar bone in a wrestling match.  He showed up with one arm tucked inside his jean jacket.  He was just too fast on his skates (and Pancake was a brutal goalie).

Bruce Fish usually sat on the sidelines, as he'd often get hurt.  When he did play with us he'd use really beat up skates, and he'd shove phonebooks up his pant legs then tape his jeans.  Most days Bruce Fish would forget about the game and just skate around.

French showed up to one game with a whole bag of extra gear for Bruce Fish.  He'd gone to a couple of local rinks and rooted through the lost and found.  Everything was mismatched, but Bruce Fish looked pretty sharp with shin pads, gloves, Bruins socks, and proper skates.

I believe that Bruce Fish and French were the champions of the Pond Hockey League that season.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Fred Eaglesmith - Johnny Cash

I have learned how to play virtually every Fred Eaglesmith song.  I have a large binder bursting with his lyrics and chords.  Somedays I'll pull it out and sing song after song.  My kids could sing the lyrics as toddlers.

I first saw Fred because I went to the Edmonton Media Club to see Willie P. Bennett.  He was playing mandolin and harmonica in Fred's band.  I ended up buying two CDs and seeing Fred play many more shows over the years.  I started to learn how to play his songs the next day.

On his new album, 6 Volt, there is a song called "Johnny Cash".  I love the song, and want to learn to play it, but in the song Fred sings "that we let Johnny Cash down, and where were we in 1989?"  There is truth in those lyrics.  I was in high school listening to heavy metal.  When Rick Rubin partnered with Johnny his popularity soared.  I bought all the American CDs, and went back to the older catalogue too.

Fred also sings "too bad about all that religion."  Johnny led me back to God with his lyrics.  Johnny's faith is so steadfast.  I don't find him "religious" as much as "relational". 

Religion is a tough sell these days, but what about faith...Johnny Cash faith?

Fred Eaglemsith - Johnny Cash

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Ribera Steak, Jackets and Karaoke

One summer French got a chance to go to Japan to wrestle.  He had a great amateur background, but was just getting into pro-wrestling.  He had met a promoter in the winter, and he'd liked French's style.  He had called French a real shooter.  French thought that it was total bullshit until he got a plane ticket to Japan in the mail. 

When he got to Japan he wrestled two matches and then the promotion got shut-down.  He went to the dojo on the third morning and there was a chain around the door.  French barely any money, and no way back home.

He went next door to a tiny karaoke bar.  French was wearing a Ribera Steak House jacket.  The shady promoter had taken him there on the first night.  French made the promoter buy him the iconic jacket.  With the satin jacket he looked like a big time wrestler.  One of the locals bought him a drink.  This lasted all day.  French eventually started singing karaoke.

He knew all the songs, and was a pretty good singer; and with a few drinks he became a performer.  People started asking for requests.  French said: "nothing says request like 20 bucks".  For a minimum 200 yen he'd sing any song.  French ended up staying on from April until September.

A lot of people I know go to Japan to teach English.  French went there to wrestle, but ended up being a karaoke sensation. 

French must have been good.  He paid that years university tuition up front.  Every now and then I'll see him out with his blue satin jacket.