Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Day Blow

I am a pretty big Hemingway fan. The Sun Also Rises is one of my favourite novels but more than anything I enjoy his short stories. He was a master of the art form. One of these stories is Three Day Blow. Its pretty typical Hemingway. Two young men drink a bottle of whiskey as the beginning of a storm rages outside. They talk about ball and fishing and whiskey and girls. Its great stuff.

Last week the boy and I ventured up north to help my old man close the family camp. (In Northern Ontario we call cottages camps.) September and October have been ridiculous in our household. Three birthdays fall over just over three weeks plus we are winding up summer activities and starting fall activities and school. And Jenn was finishing up her training and then running her second half marathon. She killed it by the way, cutting ten minutes off of her time from her first one, which she ran five years ago.

So when I told Dad we'd come up and give him a hand little did I realize that our window to get this done would be a three day one. That's all once everything was taken into account. What a life, eh? And nearer the end of October than the beginning. Still the weather looked good, highs of fifteen and sunny in the forecast just a few days beforehand. A true Indian summer.

But then just a day or two before the forecast abruptly changed to cold and rainy, as Gord Downie would say 'outside its cold and shitty', my Dad apparently thought about calling and telling us not to bother. We would have come anyhow. He'll be eighty next year and while he would not admit it, its probably best for him to have company when he heads into the woods.

My old man would fit in well in one of those old Hemingway stories. He'd be perfectly happy heading into the bush with a sleeping bag, a fishing rod, a knife, some apples and a bunch of onion sandwiches. Nothing better to him than being in the middle of nowhere.

The boy and I rose at 6:30am and a half hour later we were on the road with our one small bag and his lifejacket. A lot different than when we're taking three girls along. Then its like preparing to assault the Atlantic Wall and free Europe from the Nazis for all of the planning and gear. ;)

We made great time and so it was not long that we were loading the 14 foot for the trip across the lake. The boy hauled gear from the truck to the dock without a complaint and then we bundled him up and started across into the drizzle and cold wind. Reminded me of when I was a boy. We made that trip rain or shine every weekend, usually Friday nights right after Dad got home from work.

We got to camp and unloaded the boat and started the wood stove. I've talked about camp a number of times. There's no electricity and no running water (although they've rigged a pump and a water tank so there is water at the kitchen sink. Beats hauling buckets up the hill) and no toilet. Your heating is a wood stove and your lights, stove and fridge are on a propane tank. As I worked to get feeling back into my fingers the boy says to me:

When are we going to get to work? We're here to work.

So apparently laziness skips a generation or the boy is a Calvinist. We headed down the hill and my old man asks me if I want a beer and I say apparently happy hour has been postponed, nodding to the little guy, and so we get to it.

We put the canoe in the shed and put away the outdoor furniture and took apart the gazebo. We cut up an enormous poplar that the beavers got last winter and tacked old stovepipe around another that was their next target and we split wood and stacked wood and hauled wood through the woods. We emptied the water tank and towed the floating dock to the leeward side of an island so that the ice would not take it away and we winterized the 9.9 and put it away. It was difficult work in a lot of cases with two adults and my old man said a few times that it was a lot easier than when he was there alone.

Holy shit I could not even imagine.

It rained incessantly and the temperature dropped to just above freezing and at night we huddled under a pile of old blankets which kept us nice and warm until morning when we had to face the fact that the fire had gone out.

We ate sausages and eggs and stew and soup and chili and ham sandwiches. Once we called each day we sat in the dim light cast by the propane lamp and had a few beers and talked while the boy sat and listened or fired a ball into a little hockey net or read or amused himself in other ways. And after he was off to bed we talked into the night until we hauled our tired bodies to bed and my old man remarked on the makeup of his grandson and how he worked right beside us, not complaining, and how he wished he could see him when he was a man.

And that little aside, thrown into the conversation, was a poignant moment for me. Its been a grand decade for me, marriage and a house and travelling and three wonderful children but I lay awake later and realized that this coming decade will probably see me laying both of my parents into the ground.

Oh man that's tough. And I thought to myself that I should try and enjoy these moments as best I can but the fact is I could not have enjoyed them anymore than I did.

It was a fine time.


This season has seen a nice start for the Oilers. I think its surpassed all of our expectations. In nearly every game they have outchanced their opposition or they have been in the ballpark. The biggest surprise has been the goals against but the club has been full value in limiting scoring chances. The goaltending has been good. Tom Gilbert has been outstanding and Ladi Smid seems to have settled in as his partner quite nicely. Ryan Whitney's return from injury and Potter's emergence have added a little more calm on the blue and Andy Sutton has been better than expected. The result is a lot fewer fire drills in our own end.

Adding to the success has been the addition of Belanger and Smyth. Belanger has been fantastic on the dot and Horcoff has done better without having to handle every draw of importance. Smyth and Horcoff have handled the toughs along with Ryan Jones (!) and they ate Richards and Gaborik's lunch on Saturday. With Belanger and Smyth Renney is finally coaching, matching lines and giving the appropriate players the appropriate zonestarts.

The end result has been a far tighter defensive ship.

And of course the PK has been wonderful.

Health has a lot to do with it too with only Hemsky and Hordichuk out now. Up front there is serious depth for the first time in years. We suspected this might be the case but its playing itself out so much so that Gagner finds himself on the wing and Omark in the pressbox and while you may not agree with these moves its not like either is completely ridiculous based on results so far. And when Hemsky comes back the fight for lineup spots is going to get even tighter and when is the last time that the Oilers could say that?

Now we all know that Khabibulin is not going to be up where he is right now forever but its also true that sooner or later the percentages up front are going to start working too and they are going to begin to start to score some goals.

And things could still go sour especially if some key guys go down.

And the next twelve months is going to see a lot of key decisions - Hemsky, Smyth, Omark, adding to the D. Wrong moves could set it all back.

But you know what? There is a bit of blue sky shining through that gloom. And that is not too hard to take.


Anonymous said...

Great story. Great pictures.

Hemmertime said...

Always love reading your blogs. One of the few I'd read even if didnt include sweet fk all about the Oil

Murat said...

I remember the first time I read "The Sun Also Rises". I was 19 or 20 or something like this and when I finished the novel I threw it down in a huff. "What's so good about this?" I exclaimed. "The quote in the preface basically tells the whole story!"

Then I read it at 25 and holy fuck. What a well constructed novel.

As for your post, this: "And after he was off to bed we talked into the night until we hauled our tired bodies to bed and my old man remarked on the makeup of his grandson and how he worked right beside us, not complaining, and how he wished he could see him when he was a man."

Worth the price of admission (like a healthy #83, or a hot redhead bartender who knows you by name.)

Willis has a great post up today showing how the underlying numbers have improved but they definitely look unsustainable to me. It's kind of a shame they gave away points in winnable games because they're not going to be dominant on D and special teams all year.

That said, it's definitely a happy start and one worth appreciating.

Back on the literary theme: "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'" - Kurt Vonnegut. I'd say it applies to your post and your poignant weekend.

Anonymous said...

I love these stories. So much!

quiltmom said...

It is hard to see our parents grow older and recognize their/ and our own mortality. It is another touching piece that you have written- My bet is that your son will remember the time he went with his dad and grandpa to break up camp. Priceless memories.. A story worth telling and remembering..
Anna McCurdy

Black Dog said...

Thanks everyone for the kind words.

Anna - I certainly hope that he will and also that this may be the first of a few of these trips, if we are lucky. Certainly a wonderful time.

Black Dog said...

Murat - great quote

When it comes to the Oilers I read Willis' work as well and its certainly interesting. The good news is that while some of their numbers aren't sustainable I would submit that that would apply to the present lack of offence as well. I think they are a ways away yet but this season should be a little easier to take.

Love The Sun Also Rises. Read it every year. Just perfect imo.

And thank you again for the kind words on the post.

macaotim said...

It's my birthday tomorrow and my old man, who is an artist and an academic, suggested that we go hunting. He has never shot a gun, never killed anything and never expressed a desire to do so. I am not much of a hunter myself. I have a shotgun and a German Shorthaired Pointer, but I skateboard a lot, drink import beer and I don't have a get the picture. Anyway, work's been hard, #2's on the way (soon) and we just moved back to N. America. So, Dad's overture was just what I needed.

Dear Old Dad - into his 70's now - suggested we travel to the old farm south of the city...he still owns the land and rents it to a good family friend. When the soles of his loafers and my Vans touched the black earth it marked 4 generations of our clan hunting on that very hunk of land. What a treat. Dinner at the neighbours, the Oilers game on the tiny TV in the motel, breakfast at the gas station (I can't make this shit up)...all of it a blessing.

Times like I wish I had more times like these!

Thanks for the post. Dog. Reminders of what's important are good for the soul.

jono said...

My cousins helped my folks install a lift on the front deck this summer and me a province away and useless. This mortality thing is a downer, but I suppose it is the way of things. I think I'll give my dad a call.

Excellent article as usual BD, loving the blue sky shining through the gloom these days myself.

Adam said...

Pat I've been reading this blog for years and though I rarely post you've got to know that you're absolutely killing it on a regular basis. I remember when I first discovered the Oilogosphere, I would hit up everywhere at least once a day and I used to skip your segues and jump straight into the Oil analysis. Nowadays there are only a few places I go to (here, Tyler, Copper and Blue) and believe me, I'm kicking myself for skipping through your stories before.

I remember you mentioning that you were talking to someone about turning all of your ramblings into a book. Any word on that? I know I'd buy it.

Black Dog said...

Happy Birthday Tim and congrats! Sounds like a great way to celebrate.

Thanks Jono.

And thanks Adam and yes I am looking at turning at least some of these stories into something, probably self publishing it. Just need to put it together - if/once I do then I'll let everyone know and make it available to those who want it.

Alex said...

I would buy one of those books in a second.

Your stories and the way you tell them always make the day better, today's in particular. It's such a wonderful suprise reading about two things so seemingly unrelated, but fulfulling at the same time.

Your writing is fantastic, please keep it up. I know that there are many who read every post, enjoy them immensley, but never comment - I count myself among them.

One of my favorite blogs running! Thanks again.

Pete. said...

I'll add to the chorus of praise. You've been on a roll of late in general, but this was a particularly good post - maybe one of the best. (The best include a Remembrance Day post from a couple years ago, and the eulogy for the dog, which I can't bring myself to re-read, but was great).

Black Dog said...

Thanks guys.

macaotim said...

I'd like to think I'd buy a book and recommend it to friends and family. Which friends, and who in the family, will hinge on the number of stories containing masturbation antics. ;)