One of my favourite and most vivid Expos memories is “The Reggie Sanders Game,” the time, early in the 1994 season, when Pedro Martinez was perfect for seven and one-third innings at Olympic Stadium. It was the first of many occasions that I saw Martinez pitch live, but this one remains the most special. I remember little things about that night, like Lynn getting on the scoreboard just before the game began, when she had gone to say hello to her brother and his fiancé, who had tickets down in the VIPs. I remember the black and white checkered blouse Lynn wore and the sceptical smile that appeared on her face when she saw herself up on the jumbo screen. I remember that we brought tin foil-wrapped sandwiches in a brown paper bag from the sausage place on Monkland to eat for dinner during the game; mine with sauerkraut, hers without. I remember still being a little angry that they’d traded Delino DeShields, my favourite player, for Pedro Martinez. I remember being won over by this skinny 22-year old, by his performance and by his guts. I was also 22 years old. Of course I did not know at the time how great Pedro Martinez would turn out to be, but it sure is nice to close my eyes and see it again, the Hall of Famer as a young man.
I couldn’t be more pleased that “The Dad was Drinking” is in the running for this year’s 3Macs carte blanche Prize. It’s also great to be among some very talented fellow finalists, Larissa Andrusyshyn (whose work I’ve admired for many years, going all the way back to the Wednesday’s Child days at Ciné Express) and Sheryl Curtis and Elaine Kennedy. None other than Lisa Moore is serving as juror, and the winner will be announced at the QWF Awards Gala on November 18, 2014.
Update: Congratulaions to Elaine Kennedy and Sheryl Curtis, winners of the 2014 3Macs carte blanche Prize for their translation of “It’s Late, Doctor Schweizter” by Didier Leclair.
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.”
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 Kong”
will be up on Tuesday, November 5 is up now. Congratulations to the other finalists!
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.
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 Channel, History 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.
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?
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.