06:30:30 am on
Thursday 13 Jun 2024

After the Deluge
Bob Stark

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones..."

Marc Anthony, in 'Julius Caesar' - Act 3, Scene 2

Act One

Shakespeare, man, is Now available in comic book form. How cool is that?

If there is an example of a modern day Shakespearean character ripe for a comic book version, it might be that dagger-to-the-heart wielding dark prince Roberto Luongo, infamous goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks.

For that well-crafted Willie the Shake 'tragic flaw' might I suggest the same traits that plagued Big Julie - ambition and a huge over-inflated ego. Others, for example, the Brutus-like knife-toting pundits in the senatorial media, might propose a more mundane one, a rather porous five-hole.

A Vezina trophy candidate in the regular season, Roberto seems to completely self-destruct in the play-offs. In the final four of five games of the Stanley Cup Finals, 'Louie' couldn't stop a beach ball if someone rolled it to him slowly from the blue line.

Why is the question?

There seem to be cosmic forces at work here. Could it be ancient Gods looking down from Mount Cyprus?

Can one not envisage three witches from 'that Scottish Play' meeting on the heath now that "the hurlyburly's done; the battle's lost and won".

And whom better to play the foil, the good guy, the MacDuff to this tragedy, that happy-go-lucky smiling Buddha, yoga practitioner at the other end of the rink, "flip, flop, fly, don't care if I die" Tim Thomas.

Of all men else I have avoided thee: But get thee back; my soul is too much charged With blood of thine already.

After a glorious triumph on the battlefield a week ago, Friday, when Louie pitched a shut-out at home, the Canucks led the series 3-2, an exuberant 'Macbeth' opened his mouth. He analysed the winning goal. He explained why it was the result of Thomas roaming, out-of-the-crease-style. He then suggested that his own butterfly, tight to the net, style would have stopped the shot.

The hockey Gods pounced. Burnham Forest moved closer to the castle; the jig was up. The Canuck ship was about to crash against the rocks in a tempest of the ensuing media storm.

Let's be fair. What Louie said was completely accurate but there is an old adage that suggests that it is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

The following day at the airport, Louie tried to clarify what he said but merely replaced one foot in the mouth with his other, almost childishly pouting that MacDuff was not sending him enough brotherly love in return for his kingly praise.

When Roberto returned to the scene of his earlier crimes, the TD Gardens, in Boston, for Game 6 and a chance to seal the deal, it was not to be. He had handed the Bruins more than enough food for ammunition to make him eat his words. Thomas did not allow a goal. Roberto let in three softies in the first nine minutes and, finally, mercifully, yanked by his Louie-loving coach, much to the delight to the Greek Chorus, in the stands, both stands. Even the patrons at Rogers Arena here waved their towels and cheered when Cory Schneider tried to mop up the chocolate coloured ice floor.

The 'mob' was already restless, gathering and greasing the rails on which to ship out in a box car a tar and chicken feathered Roberto.

The final game back here in Vancouver was but denouement.... and as the curtain came down, the stage was overtaken by jacked-up, juiced-up, bacchanalian suburban jackals who held their own sacrificial burning inferno end-of-the-world dance.

The party, as they say, was over.

My friend, Rain believes that she can tell when Roberto is about to lose it and go, in local parlance terms, dumpster diving. Louie starts nattering to himself and, I would suggest, cursing, or calling for help, from the three witches.

Rain is right on the money. I told her I wanted her hired by the C's and put in the press box next season. The Louie Watch, that’s her job. She’d phone the bench. "Coach, he's yabbering to himself again; time to put Cory in."

For me, I replied, it is also a bad sign when Louie has big dark circles under his eyes; a definitive omen that he is spent and ready for Dr. Hook. Well, my Roman friends, this is a tough tough market for many reasons. It’s rightly called the place "where goalies go to die.”

Roberto had such promise when he came to Vancouver. The conquering hero, touted as "the best goalie in the world.” Let's face it. He has performed well, most of the time. He is up for the Vezina trophy this year; that's no fluke. But it is the meltdowns in the play-offs every year that cause concern.

The fan base is tired of that. Meltdown, again, in Chicago; shaky in San Jose; absolutely brutal in Beantown. Add to that a rather shabby record in Minnesota and on and on it goes. Is there an out-of-town building where Louie plays well? That is not a question. It is a plea! Someone please tell me!

The powers-that-bean took away the captaincy from him - a stupid move in the first place, quickly rectified.

Then they got him a new goalie coach who changed his style, by making him play further back in his net. It looked to me that that suggestion confused the poor bugger, especially under the heat of play-off pressure. I can't tell you how many times I heard ex-goalies suggest that Roberto was too far back in his crease on many allowed goals. Who knew!

Let us be clear. The craving ego of Roberto, fed by those around him, is the problem. His psyche is so stuffed with self-praise and self-importance that he's in. Never mine the sleep doctor/therapist; get him on a couch, bring him to Clobber Landing for a little heart-to-heart.

Despite never having won the Holy Grail, our new GM, not without his own ego problems, decided to anoint Roberto with a twelve year no trade contract and pay him more than a princely sum for his work. Our coach, AV, is another fellow who seems to suffer from the ego thingy, since coming here, the same year that Roberto did. He seems to believe the sun, which comes out o'er the mountains, first shines up and out of Louie's behind before it graces the rest of us.

The turning point in the series for me was Game 3 when AV left him in when it was 4-0 going into the third period. Boston scored 4 more goals and knew at that point that the first four weren't flukes, thus got their confidence. and won four of five games.

In his post-mortem comments, a rather subdued Luongo admitted that he had learned a lot about himself. He also said the pressure was mental, not physical. In that regard, ex-goalie, HNIC analyst, Kelly Hrudy, whom I saw near the Rowing Club, walking along the Seawall on Wednesday afternoon, nailed it by saying that there has never been a player anywhere, any time, who has had so much pressure on him to win.

He is the the lightning rod, the sacrificial lamb... but one can not help but blame that partly on his own character trait(s). Add a fan base that has awaited deliverance from the desert for 40 years and you have a toxic combination ripe for explosion.

One thing I have learned in life is that it is never too late to grow up. Slowly, albeit painfully, Louie is taking the hard steps to learning; well, how to be more like super tramp Tim Thomas. Crisis? What crisis. 

It certainly wouldn't hurt if the 'faithful' here, all honorable men, stopped whispering in the Senate corridors, blades in hand, ready to tear deep into Julie's toga, demanding, like jilted Shylocks, their pound of flesh.Will Roberto stay in Vancouver. He said yesterday while cleaning out his comedy of errors equipment from his locker that he wants to win the Cup, here.

Some will demand, wish for, a trade. But like all tragedies, the fly in the stew is that ridiculous 11 year, no trade contract. Still, as my hockey pal Norm suggests, maybe Louie will ask for a trade...somewhere closer to home.... somewhere with less pressure on him. I suppose that's possible and I would therefore suggest maybe Tampa Bay, a team in Florida where his family lives, and a team that is a step or two away from the big prize themselves.

The GM somewhat hinted yesterday that unless a spectacular offer comes along for current back-up and blue chip guy Cory Schneider, the latter will get more work here as we move forward... maybe hinting or tipping his hand, moving more to the ever-growing two-goalie trend in the NHL.

This year, this play-off series, it was, rightfully so, Louie's to win or lose... and he lost. Next year, it might be Cory's turn to deliver the long-promised, long hoped for, silverware.

Just watch for when Louie lips are moving, to no one in particular 'cept himself, and he's sporting them dark circles under his eyes... it'll be Cory time.

In a final, or perhaps an ongoing, insult, the Boston media will not let a sleeping fallen hero/dog lie. Last night I was watching a bit of the baseball game between the Red Sox and the Brewers... from Fenway Park in Boston. The Brewers' short stop muffed a play, allowing the ball go off his glove and out to the outfield, resulting in another run crossing the plate for the home team. The Boston Red Sox announcer opined "he played that one just like Roberto Luongo.”

It will be a long short summer for the brooding Roberto, but perhaps enough time to read a little Shakespeare.

Enter Prospero. Now my charms are all o'er thrown, and what strength I have's mine own, Which is most faint: now, 'tis true..... release me from my bands with the help of your good hands: Gentle breath of yours my sails must fill, or else my project fails, Which was to please..... Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant, And my ending is despair, Unless I be relieved by prayer, Which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardon'd be, Let your indulgence set me free

Meanwhile in a kingdom far away, MacDuff and the teddy bears are having their picnic, their parade and poppa bear, Tim Thomas, chirps to the crowd, "let's go have some fun.”

Marc Anthony sails off in the sunset for foreign lands, hoping to poke Cleopatra.

The pipers play. Flourish. Exeunt.

Act Two

"Is this Heaven?" "No, it's Iowa." (From the movie 'Field of Dreams')

The voice in the void speaks in a corn field : "If you build it, he will come."

It is Saturday afternoon. I just finished watching one of my all-time favourite movies, Field of Dreams. The movie is baseball as myth; baseball as redemption; baseball as healer; baseball as hope; baseball as re-birth. The move treats sports as a spiritual messenger, of sorts.

The older I get the more I become fascinated by the ancient lore, the archetypal themes of light and darkness, of good and evil, of decline, fall and re-birth. 

For example, in Greek mythology, Icarus attempts to escape from his earthly bounds by flying with wings made from feathers and wax. Despite his father s caution not to soar too close to the sun - reach too far - the young, irresponsible, flighty, Icky, in full-breasted yo Dude, watch this! bravado, refuses to heed his dear papa s wise consul. Doing tail-spins, back-flips, and wheelies, ever closer and closer to the great yellow orb, the wax in his wings begins to melt, creating a "Houston we have a problem" situation critical and the unlucky Icky, pays the ultimate price of youthful folly, and crashes to his death; Icarus rising and falling. 

If you build it, it must or will also surely crumble. The Yin and Yang, the birth, life and death cycle that befalls everything, the Ebb and Flow of the ocean tides, the Waxing and Waning of la Luna. El Dorado as an illusin, the mythical dream, the Holy Grail one seeks a whole lifetime without attaining.

What happens must end. The Buddhists teach of impermanence and suffering. What happens must end. Perhaps if I re-write it again, it will not fade; foolish Icarus.

Though one may try to catch a falling star, put it in one s pocket and try not to let it fade away, watch out. In a few minutes, your pants will catch on fire. It just seems inevitable that one goes to sleep on the dreams provided by the stardust sprinkled over you by Tinker Bell, but end up, after the midnight hour, face to face with Freddy Kruger.

In the real world, Barack Obama found his own field of dreams in Iowa. Alas, he subsequently discovered that which glitters is not gold, but more Goldman-Sachs. Dreams have a way of imploding. After dreams die, the scavengers move in to feast on the carcass.

Of course, the most recent example of when and where dreams go to die was here, in Lotusland, moments after the local heroes, the Vancouverr Canucks, lost the seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup finals. Even while play was winding down, it was evident the final nail had been banged into the team s coffin. The dream extinguished. The final footm, climbing onto the ledge of Victory Mountain, was amputated; thrown to the howling hungry dogs. 

DEisgruntled fans began their Icarus-like spiral downward by tossing objects, mostly empty beer bottles, at one of the huge outdoor screens. The turmoil continued and increased in various parts of the downtown area with the burning of a Bruin s bear, the torching of a cop car or two; all of which eventually led to more bashing and crashing and burning, and the late-night looting of several downtown stores - Sears, London Drugs, The Bay. 

The so-called riot was in full bloom. To me, it was more of a photo-op mug-fest for a seriously brain dead, overly inebriated mob. The downtown party-to-be not only ended, but hijacked.

Yahoos, of all sorts, set cars aflame. Yahoos who, contrary to the gospel according to the Canucks organization, included many Vancouver fans; who, contrary to the official state-sponsored propaganda, were not exclusively anarchists ; who were, contrary to the right-wing media, not exclusively losers  who had bad parenting and who should be thrown in jail for a long time, and, presumably, hung from their toes.

The yahoos acted aggressively, foolishly and selfishly, for the sheer excitement and self-aggrandizement of the Facebook moment. Contrary to the equally left-wing nutter pontifications that tied it all up, nice and neatly, as some kind of nihilistic there is no future Generation Z generation, downtrodden by unemployment or MacJobs, duped by multi-million dollar advertising and corporatism, acting out their societal angst and desperation by mimicking the violent nature of the game of hockey itself. Again, it seemed, in the eyes of the religious media, the world was ending, with Armageddon and rapture nearby.

Even at Rogers Arena, fans greeted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman greeted with a chorus of boos and flying bottles. Thel misslesn allegedly thrown, came not from the upper level, the cheap seats common holding drooling herds, but from the Lower Bowl, ostentatiously decked-out and adorned patrons, rich enough to be able to afford replacing their recently hurled drinking vessels and contents therein.

As everybody knew where, when and what had happened, I am amazed at how fast and ubiquitous the mighty pens and tonsils of the pundits swung a knightly sword through the maze and had the definitive answers about who and why of the story. In that regard, I recall the popular sci-fi television show, The X-Files, filmed here in the late 90s. Dare I suggest, taking my que for the show, that "the truth is out there somewhere.”

There is little doubt everyone is a little bit right in the analysis. Still, there s a relative stunned silence from some at the media head-quarters, since it has been discovered that one of the hooligans, one of the first to set a cop car gasoline tank on fire with a rag and a lighter, was a 17-year-old high school polo star, from an upper class family and home in Maple Ridge. You could almost hear the noise and see the smoke rising from the pundits speedy get-away cars as they were shoving their fists around the floor-shift trying to jam it into reverse! Ah, so it wasn t all just twenty-something degenerates with baggy pants and mental baggage!

It is also becoming a bit dangerously murky around the edges concerning the issue of how well the city planned as well as the police and BC Transit were for this Satanic ritual s eventuality. This does not excuse the yahoos involved but there were hundreds of cops on the streets during the Olympics; the police seemed out-numbered the other night.

I must say, as many have, I thought the cops on the street did a decent job under the circumstances. Let us not forget that they faced thousands of hockey fans who, if not participating in the criminal acts, acted, willing or not, as a protective shield. Kudos also go to the firefighters, spat on and jeered, as they tried to do their work. The mind boggles. It is probably one thing to deal with a huge mob, but an entirely different deal when the mob is booze-induced to the point of complete personality breakdown.

I have to take you back in time, for more perspective. In 1982, the Canucks went to their first Stanley Cup Finals. They weren t supposed to be there and, as expected, the New York Islanders clobbered won in four games. Alas, that was the year when coach, Roger Neilson, put a white towel on a hockey stick, during the semini-final series in Chicago. He wanted to symbolize surrender to the referees, who seemingly had it in for our team.

In 1994, the Canucks once again startled the league by coming from seventh place to face the mighty New York Rangers. This time it was game-on . After falling behind 3 games to 1, the C s rallied, winning the next two games and sending it back to Game 7 in the city that not only never sleeps but a city that had been awake at nights day-dreaming of a Cup. Some have argued that the C s should have, would have won that game and the Cup but got hosed by the refs - cause the NHL needed desperately for a big market US team to win that year. Some will suggest that, once again, the ice tilted and the Canucks went, continuously, to the penalty box, but the blue shirts hacked and whacked them with impunity. Does this sound familiar 2011 hockey fans?

There are many, including at least one top radio broadcaster here who believe in their hearts that the fix was in again this year.... that it had been pre-ordained by Betty and the Boys that Boston would win Lord Stanley s hardware.

I sure one could make a good argument, when reviewing the tapes, how it appeared, on most, if not all, nights, the Beantowners were getting away with bloody murder, especially after the whistles had blown. Whether or not any of that leads one to a legitimate conspiracy theory that might stand the test of judicial sanity clause investigation I do not know. What is more important here however is the deep-seated perception among many Canuck fans that such a conspiracy of intent to sabotage the Canucks exists, and has existed for a long time. Once you plant the seed, it is more than easy to find evidence to back the claim.... to grow the twisted tree.

I conclude therefore that this perception, continually fed by some in the media, continually fueled by and between 40 years and counting frustrated fans, MAY have contributed to the post-game celebration under the imaginary mental subtext mantra, we was robbed .

That said, let me clarify that it is also true that some of those participating in the looting and car burnings would have done so if the team had won the Cup, or if the event had been a televised debate between Karl Marx and Mickey Mouse. The anarchists among the throngs did have, and came with, an agenda, part of which was to start the fires and incite the already drunken ID-iots to do their silly-bugger stuff.

The police boneheads in control of planning acknowledged as much, but seemingly took no pre-game precautionary steps to help possibly prevent such an outbreak. At the Olympics and at Canucks home games security guards at the gate check your backpacks et al. If you have a AK-47, you re probably only going to gain entrance if you promise to use it only on the opposition. There is a discrepancy in what the top cops, the mayor and other government officials are saying about the incident. There seemed to be some mystical belief that, since all had gone swimmingly for several days, and previously with the Olympics last year, all was swell and peachy in the Garden of Eden. In that regard however, for the past week or so, it had been a magical time here in the rain forest of Stanley Park. 

A few images are necessary to offset those that dominated the telelvion screens over the 24 hours after the riot. All of us marveled at the sheer numbers of cheering fans downtown. It was staggering amd beautiful. Over a hundred thousand attended, on some nights, a city without cars; human feet outnumbering the cracks in the pavement and sidewalks. The primal homeland, the Savannah, reclaimed.

As I was awaiting a friend at Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal the day of Game 5, there was. a boat load of people getting off the ferry from Nanaimo and on to the buses headed downtown. It was 12:00 noon, five hours before game time. 

Everybody in that mass of happy human cargo had some kind of Canuck regalia or special talisman on each person. People had been keeping the same daily rituals; as to not jinx the home team . I always set my TV volume to 11 and sat in the middle of the couch.

All were of different ages, sizes, and races, and social status. The various tribes of Canuck hockey the nation, rich and poor, were about to gather around the mega-sized electronic aquariums, four of them, set-up in the downtown of Vancouver, to cheer their warriors on into battle against the invading foreign barbarians from Beantown. 

The war paint and the chanting said it all: Orcas vs Bears. A fair fight, unless your side was stuck with Free Willy or Gentle Ben. Spirits were high that Friday night; if the C s won, they d be one game away from the Holy Grail. One game is sSixty minutes for the Cup. Expectations, like young Icky, were rising.

Here are a few more images. At music camp at Camp Alexander in Crescent Beach a small contingent of the tribe assembled to watch Game 2. At the game s beginning, I got a bit teary-eyed watching and listening to a roomful of people singing "O Canada." Later that evening, my friend Rain, dressed in her HNIC sweater, started singing at the Saturday night concert "the good old hockey game is the best game you can name," with everyone, save maybe a few head-scratching Yanks form Washington State, joining in.

Rain is a Vice-principal at a local public school here. For the last week and a half, every day she has played the Stompin Tom Hockey Song over the PA. "After a few days... most of the kids were singing along and you could hear kids singin it on the play ground and in the halls as they walked to the library; by Monday we were having a contest to see which class had the most kids singing. Eventually we had a school total of 454 out of 517.”

A week later, after music camp weekend, on the deck of a pub qua restaurant on Bowen Island, for that important Game 5 showdown, two recently arrived South African women, twins, were blowing on horns, wearing Canuck jerseys with the Sedins names on the back. Even the tourists caught-up in the madness.

Later that same evening, after the Canucks had won, on driving home, we saw two young kids, circa 6 years old, standing on a hillside outside their home, each holding a replica Stanley Cup over their heads. As the Master Card commercial says, some things are priceless. I don t think I will ever forget that. Without the aid of renewed acid hitting the brain fan, I had a flashback to when Stomper and I were young nippers watching our first Stanley Cup series.

Hockey, despite its flaws, does draw us together, no matter our ages. I have spoken before of the Facebook appeal for the C s to win one for Mac, the 93-year-old father of a musician friend.

The agony of defeat is most bitter for the aged among us who desperately want one more flight to the sun. We young fry can don their hockey gear and hit the hot summer pavement for a little street shiny and recharge both their batteries and dreams for next year and per chance polish those paper-mache Stanley Cups.

Perhaps, as the left-wing bloggers suggest, it is a terrible sign of our modern condition/culture that it takes a bunch of millionaires beating the crap out of each other while battling over a little piece of black rubber to draw us around the tribal campfires. But maybe the beast that is hockey lopes towards Jerusalem in order to help tame the savage beast within us all. Okay, so sometimes the magic formula doesn t work and blows up in our surprised chemistry set faces.

I am also not oblivious to the fact that the NHL is a multi-million dollar business with many piggies supping at the trough, amassing disgusting personal fortunes. It is believed the owners, of the Canucks, accumulated, I like that word when referring to money, over 40 million dollars durings the two-month play-off run. It is therefore understandable that some people are a tad upset that said owners, as far as I have heard, have not openly offered any money to the city to help off-set the costs of either the clean-up, nor for the ongoing outdoor downtown celebrations that took place in their honor. One might conclude this is the reason that the organization keeps stupidly stating there were no Canuck fans among the holligans.

I am also not oblivious to the fact their richly paid slaves sakte onto the ice ponds to be concussed or otherwise battered and beaten in the service of many of their lucre-crazed masters. The players, many do not realize, still do not directly make any money for the play-offs. There are performance incentives and so forth, but no actual salary. If that has changed, someone please correct me. The code is firmly ritualized and bowed down to by all - this is a man s game; wimps need not apply. The legendary Bobby Baun once scored the winning goal on a broken leg. Injuries are not an excuse; injuries are, regrettably, a badge of honour.

It may well be a rather sad statement on our society that we spend so much money and eyeball-time on hockey. If ya held a rally to solicit funds to supply decent books to the downtown Library, you d draw only money-challenged flies.

And yet, there is something profoundly heartening to witness the peons, ridiculous clad like colour-blind circus clowns, waving their flags, engaged together in a profound moment of civic pride, engaged in the universal dreaming, in the universal hope that flows eternal in the human blood, that a victory by the few translates into the victory for all. Sport is spiritual messenger.

Alas, for the Canucks and their fans this year, too much perhaps was at stake. Too much expectation, pumped by an equally magical season and one game from victory, with two games to reach the goal, grasp the Grail and then disaster struck, both on and off the ice. We stopped dreaming and started believing; blinded by the light and flew too close to the burning sun. We awoke to sweep up our ashes in the morning.

If I take any comfort from the ensuing tragedy of the nighttime torchers, it is in the immediate rebirth of the city. Many of the members of the so-called no future Gen Z-ers not only tried, albeit mostly unsuccessfully, to defend their city in the heat of battle but showed up the next morning to help with the clean-up and post thank you messages on police cars and/or write on the wooden boards put up to replace the broken windows.

Today people were serving pancake breakfasts outside The Bay, while others were singing and chanting. The much accused and lamented social media tools are actually helping to condemn the condom-escaping sperm mutations and bring them to justice. Some of the guilty are so caught-up in their own Realty TV show, they ve been bragging about their adventures on Facebook! Like dudes, that s like posting "wanted dead or alive – me." Well, I do feel sorry for those with such low self-esteem that the biggest thrill/accomplishment in their young lives is jumping on a burning car, or pilfering a purse from a Sears store. "Like, take my picture, even if I m, like, acting like a complete tool." 

It’s sad, very sad. Still, he or she who has lived in glass barns in their own youthful pas may toss the first tomato. Everyone is united by reclaiming the city, we won’t, can t let the pinheads win. We’re not going to take it, as the song goes. 

My hope is that the guilty are sent a quick universal message. They must pay, in monetary terms, for the damages done. 

In attacking,with the motivation to crush capitalism, corporatism or whatever the anarchists program targetted, I never understood exactly what it is they hope to gain by such actions, other than the ironic result of diverting more public funds away from the much needed social programmes, already starved by a lack of government will, that they seem to act for in the first place. 

As well, their reckless actions perhaps will cause businesses to downsize, further, in order to pay for the restoration of their premises. 

If, as some suggest, the culprits should do community work as well, go for it, with big huge signs pasted on their butt-hole-exposed backsides saying "Sorry, I pissed in your Cheerios."

I would hope as well that maybe the city should have some kind of civic pride day. Let us plant the seeds, let Icarus rise from the ashes, let us once more reach for that wondrous saviour sun. Let us seek once more the Holy Grail!

Let the voice from the void once more speak in the Iowa cornfield, to us all.

"If you build it, he will come."

Act Three

"Oh Canaduh... what's wrong with you".
The Subhumans, Punk Band from Vancouver, circa 1979-81

Yesterday, I marked the 15th year anniversary since I embarked on a three month posting to the Western front as part of her majesty's, perhaps not so, civil service. I earned your tax dollars informing you when you called, or wrote, that I couldn't help you, everything de-regulated due to the advent of competition. Lucky you, you now had supposed lower rates to pay for communication services and better customer service when you needed help directly from the companies themselves. Best I could do was to send you a Fact Sheet that outlined how, if you were not happy with one company, there were many options, other companies who could provide the same service at the same, still ever-increasing, unregulated rates. When you called your service provider to complain about service, you had several options - numbers to push - and were put on hold till your children were grown-up and leaving college. When you finally got through to someone, it was more than likely you'd be talking to someone in a foreign country, working ten hours a day, mostly at night because of the time difference, for minimum wages and few if any benefits. In addition, you could now watch the same television show several times a day, week, month, year not only on one television channe, but 400.

The battle had mostly been lost. The corporate barbarians were at the gates. They were sitting at the kitchen table dishing out the slop forced down an unsuspecting public's throat.

Being unable any longer to help people directly increased the already festering dissatisfaction with government and its workers in general, thus laying out the red carpet for the corporate thieves and their government cronies to preach the gospel of lower taxes and less government. My sense of it all is people actually want more government, that is, a government that helps them, that curbs the excesses of the corporate storm troopers who, with some excellent exceptions, are more and more interested in the bottom-line rather than the rising waterline. When one explained the benefits of competition to Canadian "consumers     and more so that I couldn't help them, the inevitable, almost daily vitriolic cry, was "what do you do anyways?" It’s a good question, with no answer, so I retired.

Now, when the current government talks of downsizing government to get that deficit down, nobody raises an eyebrow because we've lost the perception of what government is there to do for us. With scientists at Health Canada and Environment Canada muzzled or fired and we all shrug, "What do you do anyways?" The current government psychobabbles it all by using the term "attrition," we'll lower government expenses, not by laying-off workers, but through attrition - retirement. The Boomers are leaving, with a lot of Gen-Xers waving goodbye; finally, the buggers are going; those positions aren’t replacable, certainly not by union-paying government jobs. 

Looking at the bright side, once all those new prisons are finished, full of marijuana puffers, you'll be getting your pension cheques and other mail sent to you from Kingston Pen and others. Anyway, June 1996, long before the Tar Sands were black ooze on our international environmental reputation. 

For those who do not remember, or never knew, I lived in Vancouver once before, from 1979 until 1981. Since Ottawa did not have an NHL team at the time, I became a Canucks fan and have been one ever since. Therapy has not deterred me from that support. This explains much, does it?

During those two years, as a 'musician' trying to break new ground, the times were a-changing. The New Wave British invasion was well underway with Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker, the Police, and others leading the charge. Moreover, the punk scene was in full swing and duck. The Sex Pistols, The Clash and others. Moreover, here in "no fun" Vancouver, the underground was buzz-cocking with such bands as D.O.A - led by the always intriguing Joey Shithead, the Pointed Sticks, the Subhumans, the Circle Jerks, and, my favs for name alone, the Braineaters. 

A recent documentary on those times and the groups and groupies who filled them is quite clear that the Vancouver punk scene was extremely influential, inspiring such yet to be born bands as Guns ‘n’ Roses and Nirvana, as young rockers from Seattle made their weekend voyages to The Smiling Buddha, the home club of punk music here. 

Henry Rollins, ex-Black Flagg leader, claims that the main difference between Vancouver bands and those from L.A or the US Coast was the politics involved in the lyrics. The US bands were into booze, drug, and girls; the BC boys and girls were on about more serious socio-political topics. "Oh Canaduh" and other songs by the Subhumans talked about the loss of jobs, the destruction of the environment, and other issues of the day, well, then and now. 

We were on the cusp of heading into the Reagan, Thatcher, Mulroney years and, in hindsight, these bands were our canaries in the workers coalmine. Like the bands that followed - and in historical tandem with the roots of rock'n'roll - punk and associated forms of music, appealed to disoriented, disillusioned youth looking for an outlet to express their deep-seated fears and frustrations... and heck, to just have a little frantic fun escaping into the void with the Voidoids. The youths of the nation were more attracted to the fever-pitched, off-key, rants of Johnny Rotten and Richard Hell or Gary Useless aka the Subhumans, and Joey Shithead (D.O.A.) than listening to the last gasps of the Bee Gees and ABBA. The “Rocky Horror Picture Show” verus the “Sound of Music,” is a good example. Loser gets a night at the Biltmore Hotel with Mary Poppins.

Since your faithful reporter was in his early 30s at the time, as written in the gospels according to Abbie Hoffman, I could no longer be trusted. Yet, I do recall a few nights - one at a party in the then abandoned, condemned Manhattan Apartment complex at the corner of Thurlow and Robson where many 'squatters' made their, well, stand; playfully bashing and banging into other dancers in the living room's Mosh Pit. The Punks are scarce in these parts nowadays; the Manhattan got the ole upscale Reno. People bulldozed and blown-up more than buildings most times.

Many of the participants in these bands came either from broken homes in the suburbs or from art school. One band hired a woman bass player, on speculation, just several hours before a performance; they had originally planned to just have a cut-out of Sid Vicious beside them on-stage. This gropu is the The Braineaters, created by a group of local artists from Emily Carr Institute.

In 1981, the punk scene was slowly deteriorating. There were real fights breaking out in the mosh pit, the violence, at times, escalating to serious levels. In addition, according to many of the still living band members, heroin made its inroads onto the scene and claimed many victims, both on and off stage.

I tell you all that to suggest that, if one looks closely at the historical record of Vancouver, there has always been rebelliousness to youth in Vancouver. Moreover, many of the violent outbursts here have had some political legitimacy. For example, since my arrival in 1996, there's been APEC; anybody remember the pepper spraying of legitimate protest? The Riot at the Hyatt featured that man who hailed from Shawinigan, Jean Chretien. 

The events of last week therefore aren’t an oddity. There was no hiding behind any "it couldn't happen here" mantra. Maybe the dynamic has always been the tensions between a hard rock, punk rock, freedom loving harbour town and a Victorian tight-ass city with too many rules, too intent on protecting the establishment and its cronies. 

It is an odd place. If you screw the province out of money by influencing Via Rail deals and then cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees, you get off scot-free. If you're a drunken Indian, you can lie in an alley to die. 

You can suck back the Courvoisier or snort a little white powder off the mahogany table in the safe haven of your multi-million dollar home in Shaughnessy or you can steal a Bic lighter and fire up your pipe for a little crack cocaine down in the Downtown Eastside. There's no difference in intent; no real difference in personality: one's has money, the other doesn't. Everybody is trying to face the same final frontier.

Maybe every 'society' has its darker underbelly, but the pendulum between 'good and evil' does swing wide here on the coast. This is the birthplace of Greenpeace, but it also gave rise to 'Direct Action' and the notorious Squamish Five, which included Gary Useless from the Subhumans, and several bombings, including Litton Industries which was supplying the US with cruise missiles. 

For every peace-loving tree-hugger there's some millionaire slim dog drug dealer shooting innocent bystanders in restaurants. For every Tai Chi practitioner in a park, there’s some off-their-meds street person doing his or her own strange dance exercise movements.

Vancouver is a place where we proudly claim heroes, such as Terry Fox. Terry Fox campaigned to save lives. Alas, we also shrink into terrible shame and disbelief at serial killer Robert Pickton who wanted to end them.

There has been more than one incident in recent years when the shooting or tasering has been on the other foot. It's hard at times to sort out the good from the bad. If I ever made a movie about Vancouver, when the screen was full of pepper spray, burning cop cars, someone snorting coke during his or her happy home or shooting up in an alley, my soundtrack would be Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun.”

Now, making one of thee worse segues in modern journalism, let me do a final wrap on the hockey season.

"The Stanley Cup is coming home, to Canada and Vancouver." Oh dear hockey fans how we all wish that pronouncement had been ecstatically uttered by Jim Houston or even Bob Cole with an additional "whoa baby" for good measure but, it was spoken by an announcer for the Boston Bruins.

Home to Boston, the Stanley Cup, are you kidding me. This is the final insult. Well, to be honest, not really. Boston, as an original six team, has a long-suffering fan base that extends from New England up through the Maritimes.The roots of hockey in that part of North America are extremely deep.

The depth of admiration for the Bruins, in the old colonies, is imponderous. Boston hockey fans, in 201,1 outnumber Red Sox fans in 2004 for the championship celebratory parade. Recall that the Red Sox ended an 86-year drought. Well, maybe the weather on parade day was better.

For the final game, in Canada, HNIC registered something like 8.5 million viewers, a record. In the US, NBC/Versus attracted 8.7. Obviously one must take into consideration, when comparing those numbers, the vast difference in population. Hockey is an ever-growing option for US sports fans. While the game is still very much restricted to those markets that have teams south of the border, and depends, in part, on their play-off appearances/success, it reflects again, for me, that Canadians should no longer cling, like zebra muscles. to a sinking ship of state.

It is time Canada to give up ownershi' of the Cup. It's affecting our national psyche. The last refuge of a losing Canadian hockey fan was reflected by those cited the number of Canadians that Boston had vis-a-vis Vancouver, as if, subtext, that is the reason the Bruins won or maybe that there was some vestige of honour left for Oh Canaduh.

One only has to look back at the World Juniors Championship in January. The Russians scored five goals in the third period of the Gold Medal game to the chagrin of thousands of Canadian fans in the arena, awaiting a coronation. The Russians spoiled Team Canada hopes at the World Championship a few months later. 

The Russians, you must remember 1972, the Summit Series, was almost 40 years ago. Players from overseas have played in the NHL for years. Many have already retired. Borje Salming, one of the first from overseas to don an NHL jersey, began his career for the Leafs in 1973.

What I suggest is park it. Yes, it is our game and the Cup a donation from our Governor General, Lord Stanley. Still, it is time to grow up and be like our young Beavers out there, "sharing, sharing, sharing.”

Let us celebrate our donation to the world instead of believing we have some kind of God-given right to winning the Cup because we have hockey in our DNA. To meet that challenge, I must admit the puck stops here. It is clear how much Gary Bettman tries to increase exposure of hockey in the US. It is also clear how the NHL continues to sell its soul to corporate America. Nothing represented that more than the NHL Awards show, broadcast from that hockey hotbed Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Here are a few low-lights from that evening. 

The host mangled Steve Yzerman's name, followed closely by two television stars from some unknown American television sitcom who could not quite pronounce Lady Byng, which sounded more like 'Lady Binge,' which might be more appropriate perhaps given the setting. Sinking further in their own ignorance of the game and its players, the winner apparently is some guy called Martin St. Lewis.

It got worse. 

In reviewing the nominees for the GM of the Year award, the producers put up a picture of Steve Tambellini from the Oilers, who, last I checked, is not the twin brother of Mike Gillis who, of course, was the real nominee.

In-between awards they had a country singer spouting something about beer and having a good time and later some hip-hop group dressed in white suits dancing and prancing and singing about girls and partying. Both segements sponsored by some NHL corporate-friendly entity.

We even had to suffer through one presentation... by... wait for it... Donny Osmond who admitted he didn't know much about hockey, then read script from the tele-prompter, making him sound like an expert panel member from TSN. Good grief, Where's Wayne Newton when you really need him.

The icing on the cake came halfway through the show when they presented the King Clancy Award for leadership and humanitarian contribution. By some strange, Orwellian twist of fate, the US Army sponsors the award. Just to ensure no one missed the point, members of Uncle Sam's forces came down on ropes from the ceiling as others marched onto the stage. Electronic flags waved in the background. Award winner, Doug Weight, espoused the normal hand over heart thank you for all the troops are doing to keep us safe mantra. The segment totally over-whelmed the rest of the award show. By the time they got to the MVP, the award of the night, the air had gone out of the party balloon. Nobody really cared. It was like the Best Animation Short given more hype and exposure than the Best Picture of the Year at the Oscars.

I sucked it up and stuck it out. Next year I'll be more prepared. I'll rent a movie.

To finish this missive, the NHL Draft is happening. We're 12 weeks away from next season and maybe watching the Leafs bringing the Cup home. Keep your ice in your glass.

Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.

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