Monday, October 24, 2011
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.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:00 PM