Thursday, September 24, 2015

Those Who Don't Learn History Etc Etc Etc

We were out east for our annual trip, talking to someone I can't remember who, and Jenn remarked that 'we like to have a good time'.

 This is very true.

 The first time I had a drink the clan had gathered somewhere up north along Superior, probably White Lake, which was our go to camping spot, middle of nowhere what the hell. You could drop your line in anywhere and pull it up and have a nice pickerel on the hook. We used to find a remote island with a decent beach and would set up camp there for a couple of weeks. The rest of the clan that lived in Northern Ontario would set up camp near the public landing. There would be my Dad's brother Don from Wawa and Raymond from Timmins and his sister Darlene from the Soo. We had all the north covered.

 Talk about a group that liked to have a good time. It reminds me of when I got married and my old man got up and made a lovely little speech, two minutes tops. He opened with 'We McLeans are a quiet peaceful bunch' and then he grinned and paused while this statement was met with laughter and clinking of glasses and farting from the tables where our family was gathered (I think they may have also gutted a waiter for kicks) and hooting and hollering from those friends of the family also gathered, while the Sandersons and Gilmores, a fairly serious and teetotalling bunch, looked on in horror and wandered what Jenn had brought upon their houses.

 This was standard stuff and I think that this type of reaction has been going on for generations as we McLeans infiltrated the society of clearer thinking people. God bless my dear departed cousin Spencer, the first doctor in our branch of the clan, his father, my uncle Roy was the second, anyhow Spencer always got a kick out of a saying I had, that we Goulais McLeans were not far removed from when the McLeans came howling naked out of the moors. He loved that line.

 Truth though, the aforementioned Roy, the quietest of the brothers McLean, was known as 'Crazy Roy' by his sons and their friends and the man holds a doctorate in education.

 So there you go.

 Anyhow it was summer and the clan had gathered, I had just finished grade 9, and my cousin Barry and I were playing crib in his dad's camper and he pulled out a bottle of vodka and away we went. By the end of it I was wrecked, man oh man and away I went.

 Truth was I didn't pick up the drink again until the end of grade 10 and then year after year I started pounding back more and more and more and more frequently. We'd bomb around town in Bruno Wennerstrom's van, going to house parties and dances at different ethnic halls, the Polish and Croatian and Serbian clubs, careening through the snow covered streets looking for a good time. Homemade wine and Canadian Club straight and whatever else we could get a hold of and somehow year after year we got away with it for the most part. My parents, like most of my friends' parents, were strict but also naive. They were partiers but my Mom in particular was late to the drinking game and so had no idea that her quiet straight A golden boy son was getting his drink on every weekend.

 And then in grade 13 I got caught. Can't remember the details. Mom stayed up one night, her Spidey sense was likely tingling, I came in a little drunk (I was only about 115 pounds when I graduated high school) and she got me. I bullshitted, first time etc etc. She wasn't happy but no biggies and then the following Friday she waited up for me again (dirty pool!) and bam we have a pattern.

 The next morning I came into the kitchen and faced the music. My Mom was on a full out rant (and what's hilarious is she is the calmest person I know next to my old man) and my Dad looked up from his toast and coffee and gave me a look I never will forget, shaking his head slowly, a look of disgust on his face.

 And I realized that he wasn't mad at me for drinking. His look was one of contempt because I had been dumb enough to not hold off for a week or two and had instead been caught. And now he had to hear my Mom raging and there went his quiet weekend and certainly she was saying to him when I was out of earshot that it came from his family, his old man was a drinker, probably learned it from his own father back in Goulais, what the hell would you do there but drink anyhow, especially in the middle of winter you may as well have been on the moon and Dad's grandmother famous in Goulais lore for putting on a good time for her neighbours on Saturday nights, these farmers and loggers in the middle of nowhere gathering in the Polly's kitchen for drinks and song and good food. My Dad and his brothers followed suit to varying degrees and his sister is famous for starting her evenings with what she calls a martoonie, one time we were up for a wedding in the Soo and stayed with her and my Uncle Bill. We got in and my aunt mixed a martoonie for her and one for Jenn and ten minutes later Jenn whispering 'I can't feel my face' and was out in the garage having a smoke with my aunt, Bill not having any of that in the house, a retired fighter pilot, neat and trim but he, having married into this family, happy to fire them back as well.

 So he had to listen to that, my Mom coming from reasonable money, stern English ramrod straight father and her mother's side French Canadian Timmins upper class, I know that 54 years ago they looked on in horror at my parents' own wedding as the McLeans drank the bar dry and hit the dance floor.

 My poor old man, just looking at me, shaking his head in disgust thinking 'man oh man, you are one dumb son of a bitch'.


Justin Schultz had himself a night last night apparently, he was new and improved!!!

Now I am sure that Norris figured something out this summer or at least someone in his camp did. With the Oilers handing out long term deals like candy he has probably realized that if he doesn't get his shit together he's going to be Andy Delmore or some such. From the halycon days when he looked like the future of the blue he has now been passed by Klefbom and Nurse is coming and the Oilers went out and got Reinhart and of course the last two summers have seen Fayne and Sekera hired as well. If the Oilers hadn't blown it with Petry old Norris might be looking at the pressbox right now and getting cut loose as soon as the Oilers are able.

 So the writing is on the wall for the former darling, he plays D like, well he doesn't play D to be honest, making the same mistakes over and over again, all the while lollygagging about, to make it worse, and not providing a lot of offence, which is supposed to be his forte.

 So yeah this is it for old Norris, his last shot at it. If it all falls apart he is still a very wealthy young man of course but his career in ruins after such promise is a sad conclusion to all of that.

 I don't put much stock in preseason and Schultz's rambunctiousness last night, while nice (wow he actually has a pulse!) won't mean a thing if he can't figure out how to pick up his man. I guess this is where McLellan comes in. If he can't get a damn thing out of Schultz then the latter is a goner, probably begging for work next summer, maybe getting a shot a la Cam Barker, soon to end up playing in Zurich.

 I joke but of course the importance of Schultz cannot be overplayed. If he is able to get it together and reach his considerable potential of a few years ago well then the Oilers will have another young top four defenceman and things will be looking up, we're talking playoffs or close to it. If he fails well then it's another year up the track and he's a goner and other teams are going to look at him as damaged goods (ie even McLellan could not make a player of him).

 Up until now he has shown the learning curve of a certain young man we all know and love. That same young man was not discouraged. He learned that there is more than one way to skin a cat and that was to sleep over at his buddies on weekend nights. Here's hoping that Norris can turn it around and become a hero like that young man of many years ago.


Anonymous said...

LOL, Thanks for a very well written piece. I agree on your view of Schultz. I also believe that the arrival of a RHD in Gryba, (while a stay at home, PK Dman)can make Schultz expendable. I am liking the Griffin/Big Earl pairing as a solid 5/6 until Griffin is ready to move up to the top 4 and welcome Nurse as Gryba's partner. Just the way I see it. By the way, I happen to live in White Lake, On. (if the same one) and love the pickerel.

Murat said...

Instant classic, this post. If anyone ever asks me who my influences are and I start going on about Steinbeck and Hemingway and Mitchell and McLean they might think I'm a little bit sauced or a little bit crazy but there is just so much goddamn humanity in what you write Pat that I can't help but laugh the whole way through.

You have Schultz pegged I think. There are two things happening: 1) He seems to have gotten a clue, at least mentally, that he needs to get a clue. The whole gym thing, the comments re: his short term deal, the leap to protect his partner. 2) He's still not great shakes - knowing that he needs to get a clue is not the same thing as knowing where his man is in the defensive zone.

There is enough cause to hope for improvement but just enough reality so that it wouldn't be shocking if that improvement doesn't come. It's a bit unfortunate that the D roster is built such that the gamble of Justin Schultz is such an important one but the new management seems to know what it's doing. Whatever they decide in the long run, at least it will probably be defensible based on results.

Oh and: WTF is Hall - who I love dearly as players go - going on about with 70 points and Norris talk? Good god, man, have some restraint.

Black Dog said...

Anon, it very likely is the same White Lake I imagine, lot's of good and crazy memories from those days.
Not a bad view of how things may shake out although they need to cut NN and or Ference loose to (or have one get injured) to fit Reinhart in there.

Murat - thanks my friend you are too kind

I didn't catch that Hall quote but maybe he's just taking the piss ';) christ let's see if Norris can cover his man first as you say, right?