Favourite short stories

The finalists for this year’s Quebec Writing Competition named their favourite short stories in a post on the CBC’s QWC page. Some guy talks about Ernest Hemingway’s “The Three Day Blow” like it’s the best thing since “The End of Something.”

The Three Day Blow

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“Salut King Kong” shortlisted for 2013 QWC

I was extremely happy to learn that a story of mine is a finalist for this year’s Quebec Writing Competition. “Salut King Kong” is from the project I’m currently working on, a collection of linked short stories about the suburbs called Dreamers and Misfits of Montclair. The ten shortlisted QWC stories have been appearing online, one per day, since the beginning of last week, along with a Q&A with each of the authors. “Salut King Kongwill be up on Tuesday, November 5 is up now. Congratulations to the other finalists!

2013_QWC_Finalists

Uproarr Womyn

Jian Gomeshi conducted an excellent interview on Q this morning with the great Kathleen Hanna. It brought me back to the early ’90s when my brother Mike and I were writing Cob zine. Cob chronicled the world of Swill(TM), a totally fabricated music scene in which bands vied for media attention through elaborate public relations stunts and image-making. By Issue #2, with a nod to the Riot Grrrl movement, a parallel scene had surfaced in our fictional world: Uproarr Womyn.

Uproarr Womyn were fed up with men “controlling all of the guns, all of the money, and most of the record contracts” in Swill(TM). Bands like Bikini Thrill, Equal Tights Amendment, and Fifth Nipple were taking control of their own destinies and putting out the music that they wanted to make by doing it themselves, all the while reflecting their feminist sensibilities. As usual in the world of Cob, however, charlatans surfaced who only wanted to cash in. Enter the band “Bosom Buddies,” a duo claiming to be women espousing their own brand of feminism (“sexual revolution with chivalry”) but who were really two men in makeup and wigs.

Writing as “Julie Bronski” of Bikini Thrill, this was my tribute to the Riot Grrrl movement. From Cob #3, which we did in (I think) 1994, “Uproarr Womyn: Mad as Hell at female impersonaters (sic)!”

Uproarr-Womyn

How I discovered gravity in 1977 in a Tim Hortons parking lot

Do you remember the assumptions you made about the world when you were a kid? I thought there was a little man inside my stomach that ate all the food that I stuffed down my gullet. A friend of mine recently told me she thought the whole world was in black and white in the old days, not just photographs and movies. I started watching baseball in 1981; I thought the Expos were going to make the playoffs every year. When you don’t have all the facts, you make sense of things as best you can.

Here’s a story about my discovery of gravity when I was five. It appears on CBC.ca’s Canada Writes site, as an entry in their “Close Encounters With Science” challenge. There are doughnuts.

This Melnick call-in is twenty years old today

On September 17, 1992, the Montreal Expos faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second of a short two-game series at Three Rivers Stadium. Coming off a Chris Nabholz win over Bob Walk the night before, the Expos were just three games behind the Pirates for first place in the National League East with 17 games remaining in the season. The 1992 season was the beginning of, if not for the strike that would wipe out everything two years later, a renaissance for the Expos. Under the tutelage of the wily Felipe Alou, who had taken over as manager on May 22 after the team stumbled to a mediocre 17-20 start under (General) Tommy Runells, the promising young Expos were making life difficult for the favoured Pirates much later in the year than anybody expected. Though nothing would be decided mathematically on this night, everybody knew all of Montreal’s post-season hopes rested on this game. Win, and the Expos would move just two games behind the Pirates with two more head-to-head games to come later in the month at Olympic Stadium. Lose, however, and the Expos would drop back to four games out of first place with very little schedule left.

In September of 1992 I was twenty years old. I was living on the corner of Monkland and Old Orchard in N.D.G., in a second-floor apartment above the Monkland Tavern. I had no cable, so at game time I made my way downstairs with my brother Mike and a few friends to take in the game on the Tavern’s television. In those days, the Monkland Tavern was still a tavern, with simple wooden tables and hard chairs. The windows were set high in the wall, up near the ceiling, to keep prying eyes from knowing who might be inside enjoying a tall Molson. There was only one bathroom in the place; women were permitted to enter – it was 1992, after all – but facilities were shared.

We were so excited that night. We were giddy about our team. Young stars like Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, and Delino DeShields were meshing with veterans like Tim Wallach, Spike Owen, and the unforgettable Gary Carter, back to round out his career where it had begun. On the mound, Dennis Martinez was the ace, and newcomer Ken Hill was making us all feel good about the Andrés Galarraga trade. The bullpen was shaping up to be a beast with the young set-up man Mel Rojas and rising closing star John Wetteland. I’ll always remember how, a minute or so before the first pitch of the game, my friend Dickles turned to me and said, “I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”

The game turned into a 13-inning affair, with the Pirates coming out on top. We were devastated, and made our way back upstairs to my apartment. We needed some therapy, and assigned my brother to call the doctor: Mitch Melnick.

At the time, Melnick was the host of (if I remember the name of the show correctly) Sports Phone on CJAD, the late-night sports call-in show. What ensued was the kind of strange call that made late-night Montreal radio so great. While Mike and Mitch conversed about the issues of the day, the rest of us evoked the ghosts of Expos past by screaming out the names of players like Warren Cromartie, Bill Lee, and Woodie Fryman. The tape is old and the audio contains a drone, but it’s possible to make out the whole thing:

Convinced a real humdinger of an Expos party was going on, Mitch asked for our address and hinted he might just stop by later. After a couple of hours had passed, and a few more Molsons had been consumed, we were sure he wasn’t coming. So convinced we were of being stood up, that when the intercom buzzer rang near three o’clock in the morning, and the voice downstairs announced, “IT’S THE POLICE,” we collectively shat our pants. Thinking it best to get out in front of whatever trouble we were in, I opened the door to my apartment and took a step out into the hall to greet the cops. I felt relieved and completely idiotic when Mitch Melnick appeared around the corner of the hallway.

Mitch brought the late Mark Rennie along with him, “for protection.” We escorted the two announcers to the living room, sat them down, and offered them beer, which was disappointingly warm (why it was warm, I cannot remember or understand, except to remind myself I was twenty). There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, which Mitch did away with when he spied my computer screen and quipped, “Gee, guys. Sorry to interrupt your Jeopardy! game.” Mitch and Mark hung out for about an hour, regaling us with tales of the sordid underbelly of the Montreal sports and radio scene (“Yes, Ted Tevan really does eat every single meal at Chenoys.”).

Fast-forward twenty years and Mitch is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon, the best radio show in Montreal, on TSN690. As I mark the anniversary of this particular call, it hits me: though he’s been on the air longer, I’ve been listening to Mitch Melnick for twenty years. That’s half my life. Melnick’s voice is as much a part of the soundtrack of my life as any of my favourite musicians are, some of whom I’ve been listening to for less time than I’ve been listening to Melnick. Which makes what appears to be the impending end of TSN690, a station that Melnick practically built from scratch, such a fucking shame. I just hope that when the station goes, Mitch doesn’t. His talent is too vital a talent for this city to lose. And I’m pretty sure I still owe him a beer, a cold one this time.

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.