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When Rush sleeps over

Keep plenty of sliced bread, Kraft Singles, and Nesquik on hand; Geddy and Alex’s grilled cheese and chocolate milk hankerings occur frequently and without warning.

Use parental control features on your cable box to block The Discovery ChannelHistory Television, National Geographic, and Silver Screen Classics. Neil will be disappointed, but the remote control will be accessible to all.

Avoid any references to the Hemispheres album cover; all three claim to own the posterior that inspired it and are eager to prove it.

Purchase only one variety of soft drink, ice cream, potato chips, etc.; options only lead to the If You Choose Not to Decide You Still Have Made a Choice Paradigm and nobody eats anything.

Attempt one last time to convince Uncle Barry that coming over and showing the boys those lyrics he wrote to go with La Villa Strangiato isn’t, in fact, “the most wicked idea ever.”

Abandon any hope that Aimee Mann might attend. Despite her collaboration on Time Stand Still, she does not participate in the slumber parties, citing Alex’s “freak-ass” tendency to simultaneously and uncontrollably laugh, cry, and hiccup when overly excited.

Be precise, in advance, about a bed time and prepare to be challenged on the matter by Geddy, who will claim to be nocturnal, a big word Neil taught him in 1977.

Plug in nightlight to assuage Alex’s persistent Necromancer nightmares. Quietly remind Neil not to do “the voice.”

Stocking the refrigerator with three separate and clearly labelled McCain Deep’n Delicious chocolate cakes will ease the intensity of midnight squabbles.

When it’s lights-out, make sure “Just one more song? Please?” does not mean any of the following: The Fountain of Lamneth, 2112, Xanadu, or Cygnus X-1 (Book I or Book II).

Joy, volume all the way up, and let’s order a pizza or something: “Clockwork Angels,” Rush’s twentieth studio album, is released today. 

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Mustard + drizzle is probably my favourite two-word combination in the English language

As if there was ever any doubt, I am extremely excited for the world now that Pizza Hut has unleashed hot dog-stuffed crust pizza onto it. I have to hand it to the Hut’s creative department for encasing the wieners in the crust rather than simply chopping them up and throwing them on top of the whole pizza. I know a guy named Julio who’d be so impressed by this if he was a real person.

What I’m most intrigued by, however, is this “mustard drizzle,” which is, apparently, free. Does that mean it comes at no extra charge or does it mean the mustard drizzle is autonomous, drizzling its way across, around, and/or inside the pizza? I imagine it’s the former that applies but I could really get behind an issue like the enfranchisement of the mustard drizzle. But I guess that would mean we’d have to stop eating it. And who wants to live in a world like that?

Three Gary Carter fragments

I. 1981 All-Star Game: Baseball maps the past

I watched the 1981 All-Star game in a motel room in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. I was nine and my family was down there on vacation. Earlier in the evening, at dinner at a restaurant down the street, I’d tried shellfish for the first time. Baseball maps the past because you can look it up: August 9, 1981 was the day I determined that a plate of clams was the greatest food the planet had ever known.

I remember it was dark in our room – my 18-month old brother was sleeping. The glow of the television, tuned in to the All-Star Game in Cleveland, was the only light. I remember feeling so proud and so sick. Gary Carter was doing a number on the American League All-Star pitchers; the clams were doing a number on my insides. The Kid hit two home runs and was named the game’s M.V.P. This was the first time in my life that I distinctly felt proud to be from Montreal. I think being away from my own living room helped; it was easier to imagine the millions of people in other cities watching Carter’s exploits, representing my home town. We were on the map.

Later, I threw up. And then I threw up some more. And then more again. So much it even came out my nose. You can look it up.

II. Candlestick Park, May 1984: The patience of The Kid

In 1984 I was twelve and we had moved to the Bay Area. I missed Montreal. My dad took me to see the Expos play the Giants at Candlestick Park. We were stopped at the turnstiles because we had a six-pack of 7Up with us. We drank two cans of 7Up each, threw the rest out, and entered the stadium.

The Expos came out in their road baby blues and it felt weird to see that in person. I wanted them to take me home with them.

After the game, I lined up above the visiting dugout with a big crowd of autograph-seekers. It took twenty minutes for me to reach the front of the throng. It was a frenzy of extended arms with pens, baseball cards, and baseball caps. The only Expo left signing by that time was Gary Carter. Sometimes clichés are true: I was twelve years old, I was face-to-face with my sports hero, and The Kid was larger than life.

III. The 1992 season: Restoration

After being traded to the Mets after the 1984 season, and after a year with the Giants and one with the Dodgers, the Kid came back to Montreal to play his last season of baseball with the Expos. The Kid’s final at-bat, the double that sailed inches over former teammate Andre Dawson’s outstretched glove, is well-documented and well-remembered. It was one of the greatest moments in Expos history. I tend to think more of that whole season as a wonderful place in time. Carter’s return to Montreal was a restoration of what was supposed to be. I had experienced my own little restoration when we moved back to Montreal five years prior. I know what it’s like to go home again.

That Gary Carter retired an Expo is of no small significance. I’m 40; I remember the ‘80s. My little brother, the baby who slept through the 1981 All-Star Game in a darkened motel room, got some Gary Carter of his own when he was twelve. By returning to Montreal, The Kid bridged the teams of the early ‘80s for a younger generation. I remember the congratulatory sign my brother made the following year when we went to see Carter get his number retired at Olympic Stadium. He spelled it “CONGRADULATIONS.” Now you can look it up.

So long, The Kid.

This freezer is for my head

Of the 40 years I’ve been around, I’ve lived about 33 of them in or around Montreal. The times I was away occurred in two stints, and mostly in California: 1971-1973, my first two years of life, and 1982-1987, from the age of 11 to (nearly) 16. During the latter stretch, I missed Montreal something terrible. Over time, I found some ways to soothe my homesickness. Better libraries had telephone book collections. I’d find a quiet table and pore over the Montreal Yellow Pages, perusing advertisements for familiar restaurants and stores like Chenoys and Au Bon Marché. When I learned you could call long-distance Information from payphones for free (remember Area Code + 555 +1212?), I dialled up Montreal and asked the operator for the score in the Canadiens’ game. She told me I wasn’t supposed to call for this purpose and proceeded to let me know the Habs were up 2-1 in the third period.

I also used to stick my head inside freezers. They smelled like winter. I detail the discovery of this home-channelling method in “Bay Area Freezers,” a piece I wrote for CBC’s Canada Writes’ True Winter Tales challenge. It’s on their site today as “Pick of the Day.”

On a cold, grey November day in 1982, a week after my eleventh birthday, I stood at the top of our walk and watched my family’s stretch-wrapped belongings get loaded into a big Bekins moving truck. We were leaving Montreal for northern California. I was sad and nervous. I was also, apparently, very fortunate. Maybe it was the time of year, the weather growing ever colder, full-blown winter a mere meteorological dip away, because, as we said our goodbyes, everyone spoke jealously of how I’d be soon sitting on a beach while they’d be soon shovelling driveways. 

Read the rest here.

Dan Duquette is more knowledgeable about baseball than I am

On November 19, 1993, Dan Duquette was the general manager of the Montreal Expos and I was a 22-year old know-it-all fan of the Montreal Expos. On that day, Duquette traded Delino DeShields to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Pedro Martinez. DeShields was the Expos’ very popular but very replaceable second baseman. Martinez was a young fireballer, buried in the Dodgers’ bullpen, in the very early stages of what would turn out to be a fantastic career that saw him win three Cy Young Awards (one with the Expos) and a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox.

Of course I thought this was a terrible, terrible trade. The worst, perhaps, in my entire baseball-watching career.

So, as any self-respecting know-it-all 22-year old should do, I fired off a letter to Dan Duquette. I don’t have a copy of my letter, but suffice to say I let Duquette have it. Culling from every corner of my vast array of knowledge, I let the Expos’ general manager know why it was a terrible idea to trade his starting second baseman for what I thought at the time was merely a middle relief pitcher. I also accused him of lying, because Duquette had stated publicly that he would not break up the core of the team, and I considered DeShields to be as much a part of the Expos’ young, impressive core as Larry Walker, Moises Alou, John Wetteland, and Marquis Grissom were. To Duquette’s everlasting credit, he wrote me back, and promptly. It’s a letter I still have. His reply to a raging, passionate Expos fan was concise, courteous, and absolutely spot-on:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your letter and concern for the Montreal Expos.

Let me remind you how vital pitching is to a championship team. I think you will feel a lot better about our trade after you see Pedro Martinez pitch for the Montreal Expos.

Regards,

Dan Duquette
Vice-President, General Manager

Hearty congratulations to Dan Duquette, who, yesterday, was named executive vice president of baseball operations of the Baltimore Orioles. I wish him nothing but the best and hope that he can pull off another stellar, cunning trade like the one he made for the Expos back in November of 1993. It’s the trade that put that edition of the Expos over the top, making them a team that, if not for the work stoppage in 1994 and all of its consequences, had the potential to win multiple championships. I never wrote him back to let him know, and it’s not as if he doesn’t already know, but, nearly 18 years to the day, let me say it: Dan, you were right.

And thank you.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Happier Times: This photograph by Tedd Church appeared on the front page of The Montreal Gazette on October 9, 1981, the day after the Expos won Game 2 at Olympic Stadium to take a 2-0 lead in the NLDS versus Philadelphia. I was at the game, sitting some five or six rows in front of the sign-wielding Gauthiers, who made a positively educative impression on my 9-year old self. "Bill Lee For Mayor" is a sentiment arguably just as applicable today as it was 30 years ago. And file "Next Stop Houston" under Antiquated But Forgiveable as, at the time the photo was taken, the Astros were up two games to none in the Division Series they'd eventually lose to the Dodgers.

Fuck Blue Monday.

Fuck that 30 years ago today the Expos were but one win away from advancing to the World Series. Fuck that I stayed home from school, only to watch Rick Monday and the Los Angeles Dodgers put end to that dream and to the Expos’ one and only post-season appearance in their history. Fuck that I cried my little 9-year old eyes out. It’s time for some positive thinking for once on October 19th.

Blue Monday was so devastating that it has, deplorably, come to symbolize almost everything about 1981 Montreal Expos. The loss on Blue Monday was so bad, so ruinous, that apart from the image of Warren Cromartie waving the Canadian flag in Philadelphia, we tend to forget all the games the Expos won in the 1981 playoffs. There were three against the Phillies to take the strike-necessitated NLDS (what, at the time, we charmingly called the “mini-series”). And there were two against Los Angeles, two wins in a best-of-five series; as close as they could come without actually taking it.

So instead of spending the 30th anniversary Blue Mondaying all over again, spend some quality time today with, courtesy of baseball-almanac.com, the boxscores of those wins.

And no fucking crying.

October 7, 1981: Expos 3, Phillies 1

October 8, 1981: Expos 3, Phillies 1

October 11, 1981: Expos 3, Phillies 0

October 14, 1981: Expos 3, Dodgers 0

October 16, 1981: Expos 4, Dodgers 1

If you must relive the whole thing, you can find those other games by following links found here and here.