Archive for August, 2010


I last left you with my account of the difficult start to my vacation and the news blackout I experienced and enjoyed. There’s still no news. It’s still August, so let me carry on, bypassing the incident where I found the tikki idol in a cave, and jumping right to the end of my trip out west.

It was 12:30am, on a Westjet plane at Calgary International Airport. Sleepy. Feeling very sleepy. The plane is just starting to back away from the gate, when a large man interrupts the stewards’ presentation of the safety precautions. He apparently decided that his heart could not be counted on to make the entire flight without incident. That will require a wait for paramedics to arrive and take him off the plane, and more of a wait for his luggage to be found and removed. I’m thinking that this means certain death for the rest of us: the plane will crash and this guy will proclaim that the hand of God saved him. Why am I thinking this? I do not know. I had not seen Inception as of yet, but it was true that this idea stuck like a virus once it was there. And the stress caused me to crash into a sudden deep sleep.

Let me share my dreaming. I understand, now that I’ve seen the movie, that I might be able to plant some seeds in the subconscious of somebody, and alter reality in the process. I can only hope.

The dream begins with the voice of Blane Harrington in my headset. The Chris Bosh personal appearances tour has landed him, and his alter-ego of no repute, a guest spot on BBC radio, announcing the time signal. “At the sound of the long tone, like a wolf released from a cage, following ten seconds of silence, the time will be 8am Greenwich Mean Time”. The ten seconds of silence stretch out for what seems like forever. It seems like ten seconds in dream time equals twelve minutes in real time. While waiting for the final long beep (or will it be a howl?), I fall into a dream within a dream. I’m sitting on the windowsill of Bryan Colangelo’s office. He’s speaking to Maurizio.

“We’re in the fourth quarter now. We need to make something happen.”

“Take it easy Bryan. It’s August. It’s hard to make things happen in August. There’s just not much to act on right now. I think I heard Charles Barkley kidding around and talking about coming out of retirement, but other than that-”

“Barkley…He played for the Suns…And he didn’t even need Steve Nash to get his numbers…And he called Bosh a punk. I’m intrigued with the idea.”

Colangelo removes his black onyx cufflinks, and rolls up his sleeves. The stone is set in silver with it’s eight sides coming to a sharp point. Gherardini observes the sudden seriousness the discussion has taken and interjects, “he weighs well over 300 pounds”.

“Bingo! We need a guy that takes up space in the paint so that Andrea can shift over to the 4.”

I walk over to the desk, pick up a cufflink, studying it’s edges, while thinking. “And he never professed to liking defense so it’s a perfect fit.” Oh shit – I guess in dreams you always think out loud.

“Well that clinches it then. Make it happen Maurizio. Make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

That didn’t work out so well. Maurizio grimaces and comes at me. I don’t have time to set down the cufflink. It’s time to run, and run hard. The halls of the ACC office building twist and turn at odd angles. I squeeze through a tight space where the walls converge, leaving Gherardini behind me. And now I’m on and endless Penrose staricase, with different members of the Raptors Dance Pak leading me up and down simultaneously, their beaming faces offering no hint at the impossibility. I suddenly see myself sitting on the plane, waiting for the ten seconds of silence to pass. I’m well into the fourth quarter myself now. I should try to make something good happen. I jump into the center of the stairwell and my fall is broken by the giant inflatable Raptor mascot in the courtyard between the ACC and the new Real Sports complex. I run into the bar and sit in a booth next to where Jay Triano is drinking a pint of Guinness and talking on his cell phone.

“Just be sure you know that we need you Jose. You’re still a leader on this team, and I can still try to manage minutes so that you and Jarrett can both have a big impact. But I can’t lie. It’s going to be hard to have both of you guys on the court together now that we have Leandro as well. I’m trying to think of a way to have all three of you playing down the stretch, but it’s a tough one.”

I walk over to his table and use his notebook computer to locate a website featuring a guy that grafted his twin brother’s arms onto his chest as a form of body art. Triano looks and makes his icky face, the same one he makes in those 30-point blowout losses. But the idea has been planted. There’s no turning back.

“Wait a minute Jose. I might have something. What if we found a way to implant your hands onto Jarrett’s head? Just your hands. I have to admit my first thought was to stick both of your heads onto Jarrett’s body, but that would be asking a bit too much of Jarrett. This way your arms and legs will be equally useless, but you’ll still be able to live a pretty normal life while providing inspiration to millions. Give it some thought now Jose. It will likely require some cutting-edge stem cell transplant techniques to allow the hands to be accepted by Jarrett’s scalp, but if we can get it done it will allow for your greatest strengths to combine with Jarrett’s. With some work he can get your hands clapping while he’s defending. He can use your hands to signal a successful three-point attempt. And if he needs to tie his shoes as the shot clock is winding down, he’ll have some place to keep a hold of the ball. I always love the idea of having guys with good hands out there in crunch time, and this will give us an extra set. Give this a chance now. We’re going to need everyone to make a sacrifice if we want to win anything this season. This would offer the best example I could ever imagine. Honestly – I think I must be dreaming. I actually must be dreaming…”

Triano grabs the cufflink from my hand. He sets it down on its pointed edge and spins it on the table. It begins to wobble slightly. I panic and pick up the piece of jewelry. I feel the stone against the palm of my hand and direct the spike of silver into Triano’s forehead.

I feel a jolt. The plane is taking off. I hear Edith Piaf in my headset. Am I out of the dream? Is anything real? The state of the Toronto Raptors does not offer much help in delineating the fabric of reality. I might get stuck in this shared dream experience for another full season. I might see Colangelo repeating his pledge to move forward as a team that averages 50 wins per year. I might see Triano convincing his players to See, Believe and Achieve. If they can Believe they might See, but Believing might require some Achieving first. If only they can think they are climbing the stairs when they are actually descending as well. Eventually so many years of deception will crumble away and leave the right ideas to take root. But I might also grow old and lonely within this dream. I’ve been a fan since the very inception, and now? I’ll just have to take a leap of faith.

Any Abyss

Earlier this month I was on something of a vacation, visiting family out west. During the flight out to Calgary I came across a magazine article that featured the following lines of Baudelaire’s poetry:

Once we have burned our brains out, we can plunge
to Hell or Heaven – any abyss will do –
deep in the Unknown to find the new!

From Calgary, my wife and I (and three dogs) drove to Canmore, where we picked up my Sister and Dad and headed to my brother’s place, about an hour across the Alberta/BC border in Golden. We made it halfway through Yoho National Park when all traffic stopped. Minutes passed. An hour passed. Nothing. We dipped into some of the beef jerky we had picked up in a small resort close to Lake Louise. Another hour went by. No sign of anything. Just a long lineup of cars sitting in the summer sun in the middle of a mountain range. People started to walk down the shoulder a ways. Some stepped out onto the empty stretch of asphalt that ran alongside us, looking for some answer. My wife had Mochi, the nutless wonder, doing some tricks on the side of the road to keep people entertained for brief moments. The time passed along and it got to where everyone wondered if we’d ever get back to the everyday movements of modern life.

And there was an aspect this that I enjoyed. This was something of an abyss, that lied somewhere between Heaven and Hell. We were deep in the Unknown, and I guess finding the new was a possibility, but simply not knowing was pretty good on its own. Enough time had elapsed for us all to figure out that somewhere ahead there was a good bit of death and destruction. Certainly, knowing about that was not going to be helpful. The not knowing was actually ok. There was no cell phone reception; no radio signals of any kind; no way of finding anything out. Just trees, and rocks, and sky. And it was actually ok.

It was around the time when the ugly figure of a long-horned pine beetle landed upon the windshield, that I thought of the Raptors. And no it was not in relation to the certain, horrible crash at the end of the long line of motionless vehicles. The deaths of real people should not be equated with my expectations for a basketball team. OK-OK, there was a millisecond where I wondered at the possibility of Bargnani severing an arm, but that was both ludricous and just unhealthy. Mostly, I just found myself happy not knowing anything that might be happening to my hapless team. Not only did I not know, I had absolutely no means of knowing anything. Bryan Colangelo might be admitting that he was wrong to say the team was evolving without giving equal time to Creationist theories. Jose Calderon might be getting interviewed and responding with his classic “we just need to get better” line. Chris Bosh could be tweeting about his trip to a pet store. I’d probably still miss that if I was back at home, but now I was absolutely sure that I would be missing that, and there is no denying the allure of the absolute. I started to get drunk on the absolute sense of not knowing.

I would have no way of seeing any youtube video, of reading any article, of watching any tv appearance, of receiving any ESPN broadcast in any form. Bosh could be singing You Don’t Send Me Flowers with Babs – I wouldn’t know. He could be standing in for one of the regulars in The Puppetry of the Penis show. He could be taping a stupid human tricks segment for Letterman (not where you defecate more than your own body weight Chris! No! Not that! It’s my idea! It’s my big chance goddamit – you’ve got Lebron!). He could be communicating with Emperor Penguins. He could be making a cameo appearance on the Young and the Restless. I would remain oblivious. He could ride a cow up one of the mountains that surrounded me, and shout “I’VE GOT MILK” through a megaphone, and the bears would likely get him before I noticed anything.

A part of me wanted to stay.

Four hours in and something finally moved besides the sun and the shadows. We would head towards Golden again. We would eventually come across a stretch of road scrubbed clean and now sudsy in the rain. From deep in the Unknown I would eventually be able to see the new that awaits this basketball season. It probably won’t resemble Heaven. It could very well resemble Hell. But it will be basketball all the same, and in that sense, any abyss will do. When the chatter and clatter and noise starts up, in my mind I will take myself back to the middle of Yoho, between the Rockies and the Purcell Mountains. And know nothing – as usual.