This column brought to you by the letters T&S


Blue Skies: by Vance Gutzman

I’ve been jonesing really bad, man, but finally got my fix. Scored big time, did I.

That wasn’t a question, otherwise those five words, interspersed with a comma, would have been followed with a question mark.

And I’m here to tell you right here and now that there is nothing more disconcerting in the world than being followed by a question mark.

Cops? No problem.

The cops can follow me around all the live-long day (and for that matter, night, which lives just as long as day, especially in the southern hemisphere) and I’ve got no problem with that because I can lose them easily enough through the use of complicated run-on sentences, interspersed not just with commas but also bracketed information, possibly accurate, about the equinox.

Yeah, Hemingway, the sun also rises, but it’s equally true, you pretentious two-faced fart, that there is nothing more disconcerting in the world than being followed by a question mark.

Question marks are way harder to lose than cops because question marks are comprised of two components. Curlies atop and balls at the bottom.

No, I’m not referring to that dirty movie you downloaded when, after all those long, miserable months of being stuck inside the house with the wife and kids, Stage 2 of the pandemic finally came along, places of worship were allowed to re-open, and you packed the family off to church bright and early ere that first Sunday morn’, while you yourself stayed home, supposedly to “catch up on some work” when, in fact, all you really did was get your flock off.

If, in fact, that’s what you think I was referring to well then, sir, I question your morals and if it wasn’t for the fact I’m not a narc I’d strongly suggest the cops follow you around for a change instead of me.

????? is what I meant by curlies atop and balls at the bottom, and when I said that question marks are harder to lose than cops it’s because the curlies can separate from the balls and then there’s, like, two of them out there chasing you around, with strength in numbers, coming at you from either end.

I also question Hemingway’s moral sagacity (hence the reason why, earlier there, I called him a two-faced fart) because he lobbied hard for America to stay out of World War II and then, no sooner did America actually enter the war than there he was, making a killing from his stories as a war correspondent, and glorifying the bejeezus out of the whole thing.

Hemingway started his writing career as a reporter for the Toronto Star, and in a roundabout way that’s where I started this story as well.

Because I can’t get the damn thing anymore.

This after getting the damn thing (the Toronto Star, that is) nearly every damn Saturday of my adult life.

Why did you get the Toronto Star nearly every damn Saturday of your adult life, you ask with curlies atop and balls at the bottom?

Well, not for its editorial policy, which is several shades to the left of even the Communist Manifesto, and there’s me who thinks the sun sets and yes, also rises, on Stephen Harper who, much to the wife’s consternation, I also like to call “Oh, Stevie, oh, Stevie!” aloud at night when I’m dreaming about what might have been had only he managed to secure a second majority government.

No, I get, or used to get, the Toronto Star on Saturdays for four sections contained within that weekend edition.

The Wheels section, so I can look at all the cars and trucks I can’t afford to buy. But a boy can dream, can’t he, even about things other than Stevie?

Followed by the obituaries, not because I’m morbid (depressive, yeah, the wife can vouch for that, but not morbid) but because I like to read about lives well lived.

Followed by the comics, both to give me a little boost after reading about all the dead people, and also because it’s amazing how, after all these years, both Dagwood Bumstead and Marmaduke remain relevant.

Leaving the sports section to savour at the end.

Full disclosure – I don’t play sports.

Not the summer sports like baseball or football because, as the wife is fond of pointing out to me when I’m chasing our big damn fool of a dog around the neighbourhood, I run like a girl.

Nor the winter sports, like hockey, for I can’t skate worth a damn on account of my weak ankles.

Shapely, yes, but weak, and they proved to be my undoing when I was working the mean streets of Toronto.

I mean, you try wearing stilettos with weak ankles. Curlies atop and balls at the bottom, indeed.

Oh, sure, I tried coping mechanisms but I’m here to tell you right here and now that fishnet stockings and Birkenstocks do not an evening ensemble make.

I’m running on like a girl here, yes, but what I’m trying to say is that I read a lot and always have.

In this line of the work (the writing of words, that is) proficiency in the reading of words is considered a valuable skill-set.

Or it used to be, anyhow, until those durn computers came along and ruined everything.

And for all my adult life I enjoyed reading the Toronto Star. Until that is, the Toronto Star stopped selling the Toronto Star at all retail establishments here in the Ottawa Valley.

Pre-covid, and without explanation.

Well, lawdy, lawdy, what was a boy to do, curlies atop and balls at the bottom.

I mean, it was easier for me to kick heroin in the past (you try wearing fishnet stockings for a living without being on some kind of hard drug) than to go cold turkey on the Toronto Star.

But I’m here to tell you right here and now that, just as surely as Stage 3 of the pandemic means people will have even more opportunities to send their families into the outside world so they can stay home and watch questionable movies, things are looking up, and not just because of the questionable movies.

There’s a guy here in town, see, who knows a guy out of town, see, and this guy from out of town, see, can buy the Toronto Star in Ottawa for the guy here in town, see, and then the guy here in town, once he’s finished reading it, passes it onto me the next day after he’s finished reading it.

See? Yes, but it’s blurry.

I never thought the day would come when what used to be the simple act of purchasing the Toronto Star of a Saturday morn’ here at The Confectionery would devolve into a complicated hush-hush blackmarket kind of deal.

I’m reminded of the guy in a trench coat, lurking in that alleyway off Sesame Street.

When Ernie walked by the guy would say, sotto voce, “Pssst, hey buddy, you wanna buy the letter S?”

And innocent Ernie would reply, in a much louder voice than the guy wearing the trench coat, “The letter S?”

At which point the guy wearing the trench coat would hush Ernie down.

“Ssshh!” he’d go, and then drawl out “Yeah, that’s right, the letter S.”

And then, sure enough, the guy would open his trench coat, revealing the letter S, dangling there somehow and, as promised, available for purchase.

I don’t know if Ernie ever bought a letter S off that shady character in that alleyway off Sesame Street. Nor for that matter how much the letter S cost.

I do know it’s a sad state of affairs when it’s easier to buy hard drugs here in the Ottawa Valley than it is to purchase Canada’s largest daily newspaper at a convenience store.

It raises a lot of question marks for me, and if you muppets at the Toronto Star are reading this, rest assured that, as soon as I can lay my hands on a trench coat at Value Village, I’ll be coming soon to an alleyway near you, bringing Snuffleupagus along with me for muscle.

For you see, I can always lose the cops, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find papers.

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