Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A New Dawn?

I was 19 years old that summer, it was another one of those summers. We drank and danced and swam and wandered through the woods on crooked uneven paths, we were young and our skin was brown from the sun and when we weren't laughing it was because we had a cold beer to our lips. Those were wonderful days. There was a gang of us that got around together and outside of the centre of about fifteen or so there were a few dozen more who would drop in and out from weekend to weekend, showing up in a backyard or a bar or at the field for an impromptu game of ball or at the union hall where we drank trays of 80 cent draft and played shuffleboard. One of these was a young woman, she was funny and quirky and a bit of a worrier, I remember one time we were playing pool and she was lamenting a number of things and a pal and I laughed and remarked that our biggest worries were whether we'd finish our beers before they got warm (we did, easily) and whether or not we'd make our next shot (I can't remember if we did or not because it didn't matter one bit). Charmed lives we led, charmed lives, far from troubles or cares, mortgages and careers and the fear that having kids brings.

So one Friday night we changed things up and went to our usual Saturday night hangout, an old grocery store which had been converted into an enormous bar. Place was always packed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for years. Beer was relatively cheap and the peace was kept by a pack of steroid jacked bouncers who would pound anyone who started any trouble. In a town (and at a time) where fighting was part of a night out it was good policy and so a night at City Lights was almost guaranteed to be a peaceful one. I had been testing the waters with a woman I had known for a little while and so this night I asked her out and she let me down gently, it wasn't to be. Shortly after this as I drank to drown my (slight) sorrows I was approached by a woman with whom I had had (sounds like a car stuttering) a one night deal a couple of weeks before.

(As an aside when I was married one of the fellows who stood for me was the guy who was the centre of this social maelstrom, the guy who made it happen, the Reggie Jackson of the summers of our youth. Seriously. A year after graduating, unable to find work, he packed up his old jeep and drove to BC, taking our summers with him. I was in Toronto by then but whenever I returned to Sudbury for a weekend I was amazed how it all had fallen apart. He was the man.

Our wedding was in PEI and at the time Frank was actually living in California but he flew out anyhow. He knows the value of a nickel, same as me, so I was always appreciative of the gesture. So at the wedding he stands up and gives a 'speech' that lasted about a half a minute. Basically he listed ten things that everyone should know about me but he did so smartly. He didn't get up and talk about this time or that, talking about some drink addled night I had with some girl here or there. Instead he said ten words or phrases, each fraught with meaning, pausing as this table or that, in on the joke, roared with laughter as grandparents and old aunts blinked with confusion.

I still have that list and one of those comments was simply 'The Nurse'.)

The Nurse was a nurse (!) who I had a short dalliance with that summer, basically it was two one night stands (a two night stand?). What my pals thought hilarious is that she was a head taller than me, for one, and thirty years old, for another.

Thirty, lol. My first morning after my first night over, we were in the shower and I got out and as I wandered her place, snooping, I saw a whack of birthday cards on a shelf. Picked one up and it said Happy 30! Laughed and thought ha her friend is funny. Picked up the next and discovered that either she was thirty or this was some sort of weird joke that all of her friends were in on.

Scary thought. She is now 56.

Scarier thought. I am 45.

In any case she was at the bar again this night and so being a nineteen year old dude even though I had promised myself I wouldn't I did and we headed back to her place. It was sometime around three a.m. that I realized I was a guy with a problem. I had promised my old man, who would have been 54 at the time (ok all of this age stuff is really starting to freak me out) that first thing in the morning we would head up to camp and do some logging.

That's right. The logging we did this past fall was to replace the dock that we built in the summer of 1987. Dad builds them to last.

So I have no money and neither does she and remember this is at a time when bank machines were not on every corner and certainly not in cabs and I don't have a credit card (I got my first credit card when I was 30) and I'm on the other side, literally, of town from my folks' place.

And so I start to walk. And Sudbury, my friends, is not a small town. She lived on the south side and my folks lived on the very north edge, I mean you walked nine or ten houses north of their place, cross the street, cut through a yard and you were in a field and beyond the field was a marsh and beyond the marsh, hills and forest. I had walked this before and I would walk it again but those nights were followed by long sleep ins.

Not this time.

I walked and walked and I walked and as I came down the hill into the small valley where my folks bungalow was built in the late sixties the sky was bright and the sun was peeking out. I stumbled into bed shortly before six am and at seven my old man roused me.


We drove that hour to the landing and I dozed and we took the boat over and I dozed and then we went into the same bay we would go into just over a quarter century later (sounds impressive when you say it that way) and brought down a couple of pines. The difference between then and this past fall was that we stripped the bark off of them before we towed them back to camp and then when we got back to camp we wrestled them onto the cribs before we headed back into town.

You ever try and lift a twenty foot log, greasy as greasy can be, you can't even get a grip on it, out of a cold lake with one hour of sleep and about fifteen beer still working their way through you from the night before?

I don't recommend it. We got it done mind and back to town early enough that I grabbed a couple of hours of sleep and went back out and did it all over again. Oh glorious youth.

But damn.


 Hey I love Eberle and Nugent Hopkins and Yakupov and all the rest but the man, the guy who is the face of this franchise, is Taylor Hall. He is the guy who is going to, for better for worse, define this period of history for the Edmonton Oilers. He is the guy who at twenty and playing injured, drove possession in the NHL on an awful team. He is the guy who is going to go supernova, scoring forty goals as the crowd roars as he powers through the other team, blowing by suddenly weak kneed Dmen, grasping at air, shrugging off giants as he drives the net, determined, consumed by the need to win, the need to score. If he does this then the Oilers will again rise. He won't be the only one to take them back to the promised land but it will be on his back that the journey will be made for the most part.

Or ... or ... he will be Wendel Clark, Eric Lindros, maybe (I certainly hope not) Sidney Crosby. (When I say I hope not I mean that for Crosby's sake. It would be sad to see his career shortened) Wracked by injuries to shoulders and knees, some freak accidents, some the result of a reckless style, until he is just a shell of what he might have been. If this happens then while the kids may still rise the road will become a far more difficult one because this is the kid who is going to make it happen and this shortened season, I believe, will be his coming out party. The lockout allowed him not to hurry back and this my be the best thing for the Oilers about it, they with their bent towards giving a whiff of smelling salts or a shot of whatever it is that kills the pain these days and then sending the boys back out there like back in the day.

Hall is probably my favourite Oiler after the old guard of Horcoff, Hemsky and Smyth. He's a hockey player plain and simple, a bit of a dope sure but with the sense to laugh at his failings, literally. He's the straw as they say. Can't wait.


Anonymous said...

Would you consider trading Eberle for Adam Larsson?

There was a discussion regarding the question and 99.9% said no way.

I'm in the .1 %

Anonymous said...

Hall and Eberle have great chemistry. Both on and off the ice (no homo). There was a Hall piece on TSN a few days ago in which he said Ebs was his "best friend". It's fun to watch. It's fun to pretend to be a part of (the young Oilers know how to tweet). It's fun to cheer for them.

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Black Dog said...

Anon 1 - I would consider any trade but if I were trading Eberle it would have to be for an established top young Dman, a guy like OEL or Subban. I don't know if Eberle is a top guy but I'm not trading him unless the return is a sure thing. I like Larsson but he's not there yet.

Loxy said...

I echo the sentiment posted on your last post. If you ever wrote a book, I'd buy it.

Also, I can't help but love Smid.

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