Dear old Dad

He wanted naught

In his books of essays “Figures in a Landscape”, Paul Theroux has an essay about his Dad; I have read this piece many times over always hoping that I could do justice to my Dad even half as well as Paul Theroux. Alas there is no way.

However, my Dad certainly deserves my best modest try.

Dad was a third generation Canadian. He was born into a very destitute family in Montreal, and the poverty into which he was born affected him all his life. He was for many years an angry man, with a terrible temper. This temper, fueled by the years he was dirt poor as well as his horrendous marriage to my mother, was his worst flaw. I have long forgiven him for that.

My Dad had no brothers or sisters. He was an extremely dedicated son. Both of his parents were chronically ill for 14 years and Dad visited the Royal Vic Hospital twice a day for over a decade. The entire burden fell on his shoulders and he bore it like a trooper. He never ever complained. I am sure that the overwhelming burden fueled his anger.

My Dad barely finished high school. He was too poor to get a university education. He did not read a lot, except for the Montreal Star. He did not have an academic mind, yet he was an exceptionally bright man.

My Dad was a fighter pilot in World War 2, a professional football player for Montreal Alouettes,  a designer of ladies lingerie, a salesman and a late life entrepreneur who opened his own very successful business at 61. He retired at 70 and lived like a king with his South American wife, who spoke Spanish to her kids, which drove him crazy. “Estella, how about a bit of English, for Christ sake`.

My Dad had a wonderful sense of humor; He could make anyone laugh at anything, almost at the drop of a hat. He loved hearing jokes, telling jokes and watching comedy. He was a very funny man.

Phil was a man of extreme contradictions. He did not speak one word of French (he could not learn languages at all), and he resented language policing in Montreal, especially at his business. “I served in the RCAF, so I am not about to agree with someone telling me what language to speak, for Christ’s sake”. Yet my Dad added, “If I were French, I would ban English completely.” And he meant it.

Dad also used to tell me about his bombing missions over Germany, of which he was proud, adding that “you need to go to Germany and learn not to adopt any of my biases. Christ, if we all adopt our parents` biases the world would be an ugly place”.

My Dad always, always, stood up for the little guy-the parking attendant, the gas pumper, the newspaper man, the milkman, the cashier. Once we went to fill up gas and the attendant was drinking coffee inside and slow to move, and my Dad said, “I don’t blame him-who the fuck wants to pump gas when it’s 30 below”.

My Dad had something to say about almost every politician-Kennedy was “a stick-man from way back, and his father was anti-Semite”. Nixon was “the poor bastard who got caught.” The Queen of England “did not run away during the war but she stayed put and joined the war effort”. Dad claimed that “Khomeini needs to be knocked off because he is dangerous”. Dad always voted for the Liberals. The New Democratic Party  were “almost communists”; the Conservatives were “not good for minorities ” and the Social Credit Party (that favored printing money to cover the deficit)  were a “bunch of raging lunatics”.

Dad loved watching boxing on TV. “Hey, let’s open the idiot-box to watch two people beat the shit out of each other”, he would say to me on Saturday night. Sometimes, he would ask me if I would agree to have “the be-Jesus kicked out of you for a million dollars”.

My Dad was an atheist, through and through. He would often refer to religion as “that religious shit”. Our home was not kosher. I was sent to a Protestant school. Not a Jewish school. He showed no respect for any Jewish tradition. Yet when his Dad and his Mom died, he went to pray at 5 am every single day for 11 months “to show some respect, for Christ’s sake.” Then he added, “When I croak, you don’t need to do that”. I would come with Dad almost every morning during these mourning periods. He would joke with the rabbi or cantor (every day as we arrived, he told the cantor that he was a “pure heathen“), and often complained that “breakfast would be better if there was some bacon around”.

Dad of course went to synagogue on the Day of Atonement, and gave me a transistor radio so I could keep him informed of the sport scores. “Don’t let anyone catch you listening, or I will disown you”. I asked Dad why he went to synagogue to atone if he did not believe in God, and he told me “just in case I`m wrong“.

My Dad did not have good hearing; he claimed it was not his problem. He was scared of doctors and admitted it. He was petrified of dentists, and insisted that no anesthesia be used, because “no fucking way anyone is going to put a needle into my mouth”.

Dad smoked two packs a day of Export A and subsequently developed emphysema and throat cancer. When the news came out that smoking causes cancer, Dad claimed that it was a “communist conspiracy”, but may have “a grain of truth” to it.

Although Dad was very unhappily married, he wanted naught.  He was very tall, he was handsome, and he was a ladies’ man. He was extraordinary charming.

My Dad was a caring father most of the time and a very loving father for most of his later life.  He was a dedicated grandfather who taught his grandson to drink beer and swear. He bought his granddaughter lots of pink dresses! He loved my late wife very much. `She ain`t no housewife, but she is a wonderful woman`.

The longer we both lived, the better our relationship became, and we enjoyed many many good years together. At times, I miss him terribly.

 

Phil and his grandson

Drying his granddaughters’ hair

76 years old!

Dear old Dad

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Remembering Lizzie

Lizzie had the most beautiful smile I had ever seen; and although she was an exquisite woman, I remember her smile most of all. And her voice.  Lizzie had a soft, mellow and slightly deep voice.

To be honest, I remember more than her voice and her smile. She was something else.

I met her in Spanish 200 at McGill, which I had chosen that as my 3rd language requirement. So had she. Over the next three years, we slowly moved from speaking English to speaking Spanish, which both of us did quite well.

Lizzie and I used to meet before class started and  would continue talking after classes ended. I don’t even remember what we talked about. But we talked for hours and hours over the years.

“Do you know who you are talking to?” asked Paul, as we ate at the student union. “She was the most popular girl in school, and she has been seeing this guy Steven for over 4 years. You don’t have a chance”.

One of the things Lizzie and I talked about were concerts at the new Places des Arts. I had seen her there with the aforementioned Steve. I had been with Paula.

Lizzie and I agreed that “wouldn’t it be nice if we saw a concert together” and we never did. As my studies at McGill  ended, I was back in Israel doing my MA and she had gone to grad school.

I was living in Kiryat Yovel, Jerusalem in a student dorm, along with a German PhD student named Hans who was studying the commonalities between Yiddish and Hebrew, and  an agriculture student named Uri, who was almost never in the flat.

One day, I got an aerogram from a McGill friend who stated, by the way, that “Lizzie W from McGill Class of 70 was killed in a car accident on the way to Ottawa. Do you remember her?”

Some people loose their memories with age. I have a memory like an elephant. And when I think of Lizzie 50 years after I met her in Prof Stagen’s Spanish class in Peterson Hall, Room 120 at 1000 AM, I wish my memory was not as good as it is.

 

 

 

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C’est moi-about me

                       Georges

I am 69 year old OD Canadian-Israeli consultant, specializing in acute global diversity, post merger integration, interfaces between HQ’s and their “remote offices” and working with senior managers/teams to acquire global competency.

I work with Fortune 500 companies, family businesses, start ups, individuals and Boards in India, the Mid East, Europe, China South East Asia and North America.

I am appalled by  the western bias of OD and hope that before I die, I can make a difference to rework OD’s value to global organizing.

I am an atheist, left wing yet realistic, disgusted and politically isolated. I am a  political stranger in my homeland.

I am multi lingual, educated at McGill (Montreal) and Hebrew University (Jerusalem).

I was a runner for many years. Now I walk 12 km a day or swim 40 laps.

In my spare time, I read voraciously, study Middle East history, take care of Georgie-boy (my dog), and avoid television. The latest books I have read are the Automobile Club of Egypt , all of Steinbeck’s novels, and the biographies of Nixon, Reagan and Johnson.

I am a great fan of Radio Swiss Classic, and never miss the daily  Haaretz and the weekly Economist. 

I author the Gloria blog, which saves me mental health charges. I am a nonconformist, an acquired taste and in some ways, a “most peculiar” man.

Part of  family has been in Israel since the beginning of the British Mandate in Palestine after Word War One. The rest of my family comes from England and Montreal.

I have 4 grandchildren, Daniel, Johnny, Maya and Rona, and I had a real British grandmother.

 

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Remembering Hyman Bernard

There is no one else alive who remembers Hyman Bernard, or more accurately, Hyman Ber Schwartz. And I ain’t so young either, and although I have not begun to pack my bags, I feel this is a good time to share what I remember. For those readers who like small short stories with happy endings, this is the time to stop.

Papa Hymie (my grandfather) was the youngest of three children. His brother , Uncle Jack, and his sister, Auntie Ida, lived in the British Mandate of Palestine in Raanana, which they founded. Hymie, born in Hamilton Ontario where his father was a ritual slaughterer, never joined Jack and Ida in Palestine. As a matter of fact, my grandfather was not involved in Judaism or Zionism. (Nor was my father, who was a total atheist).

My grandfather was very much like a character from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath-dirt poor, uneducated, a bit crass. He smoked like a chimney and swore like a trooper. My Dad Phil used to sing me ditties that “I learned from Papa Hymie”.

In the great recession, my grandfather had no money and no food. He left Montreal for a few years to work in the States, so he could send money to my grandmother (Sadie) and my Dad, an only child. My grandfather came back  after the recession as a broken man. In the period when Papa was in the States, my father and grandmother lived with 12 other very poor people in one room, sharing a toilet at the end of the hall for the entire floor. Papa felt guilty and useless for no fault of his own.

When I was born, Papa Hymie used to pick me up and walk me in the stroller on rue Draper. I was told that this was the only thing that made him happy, except smoking.

He worked as a menial clerk in a storeroom at Reitmans, a job he obtained through family connections. Papa got cancer when I was very young and they amputated his leg. I was not told about this, but when I came to visit him at the Jewish General or the Royal Vic (I don’t remember), I noticed that there was only one leg under the blanket, and I was sitting where the other leg should have been.

Papa came home from the hospital, coughed all the time; he was in severe pain. His bother Jack came to visit him from Israel in the late 1950s; those were happy moments. I have learnt that Papa had sent Jack and Ida blankets and food, in 1956, due to severe shortages in the emerging State of Israel.

I was visiting my grandparents one day on 5350 Victoria (corner of Isabella) when Papa could not take the pain any more. I remember him being carried away on a stretcher, and then learning about death for the first time.

For many years, I resented being asked to “bring me my leg”, but not any more. I named my son after him, Amir Haim. And I myself often pardon myself for being gruff and very down to earth, because it runs in the family.

And I do wish I could have known Papa a bit more.

My son- some similarity?

 

 

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I’m old enough to remember

Miss Montreal

  1. In grammar school, we needed to stand when the teacher entered the room, and wish her good morning in harmony. “Good morning Miss Scott”. Then our nails and collars were examined.
  2. In grade 3, we were given a nib pen with a bottle of ink, an extra nib and blotting paper.
  3. Spelling correctly was really important. So was handwriting. I even remember being castigated by a British teacher (Mr Blackwell)  that my handwriting was like “a fly out of an inkwell”.
  4. Maurice Duplessis  was premier and would probably never die.
  5. Bad behaviour at school was punished with the strap. 5 were administered for reading girly magazines.
  6. We read the defunct Montreal Star. Pat Pierce, the TV critic, had a patch over her eye.
  7. There was an Alouette truck selling cakes all summer. long You hailed the truck and it pulled over to the side. I loved the chocolate cake with vanilla cream inside. 15 cents.
  8. We all were forced to learn Latin because “it teaches you to think”.
  9. We needed to submit a weekly book report, every single week, all through school. Thankfully, Ms Williamson, the librarian with the memory of an elephant,  had great recommendations.
  10. You arrived at an airport 20 minutes before the flight.  TCA served great food on very short halls.
  11. Bus drivers called out the name of stops in English and French. St James Street-rue St Jacques. Rue de la Montagne, Mountain Street. Terminus, tout le monde descende svp- Last station everyone get out please.
  12. Sometimes we were waved through the Canada US border because the guards on either side did not want to work outside in the cold.
  13. Garland terminus was still in use.
  14. Women could not wear short pants in public because it was illegal in Quebec.
  15. Sex lessons consisted of Mr  Paul Hecht showing us two skeletons and explaining that, 9 months after copulation, a child is born.

Garland Terminus

TCA

 

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George swallows a fishing hook

On a fishing expedition

It was warm and sunny; a perfect Tel Aviv spring day last Saturday. George and I went to the beach where he was unleashed and allowed to run free for two hours

As we walked on our 12 kilometer walk, I listened to Radio Swiss Classic and George played with other dogs, took an unauthorized dip in the cold Mediterranean and feasted on pitta, kebab, steak bones and what have you left behind by the night crowd before the cleaning squads had arrived.

After two hours, George and I headed home. At the first stop light, I noticed a fishing line hanging from his mouth. I thought it was just stuck in his teeth so I opened his mouth and saw it was not attached to his teeth. I gave a pull and nothing happened. George felt no pain at all; he was wagging his tail and licking my hand.

I was worried sick however. I drove to  the vet, Dr Yuval, whose clinic is open  and fully staffed on Saturdays. Dr Yael, the duty veterinarian, made several efforts to extract the line and when that failed, she took an X-ray. “It’s not good. He needs urgent surgery. I will call Dr Yuval to come in to operate. It will take time. He is up north”.

Dr Yuval was tending to his vineyard in Zichron, which is an hours drive from the clinic. Within 40 minutes, Yuval ran in, and George was put under the knife to extract the fishing hook from the muscle where his esophagus meets his intestine. The surgery took a long time. And I watched it on a monitor, feeling that I just cannot let him go though this without me being as close as I can.

Under the knife-George’s stomach

I was terribly  upset before during and after this incident. I also felt guilty for unleashing George and trying to pull out the fishing line.I told myself  that I wish that  this was happening to me and not to George.

“Go home and come back at 9 pm (in 7 hours)”, I was told.

Take me home

As directed I returned to the clinic, shaking like a leaf. George pulled himself to his feet, although he was certainly not wagging his tail. That’s for sure.

After a course of antibiotics, tender loving care, half a chicken a day and a few pain killers, George has fully recovered, playing Frisbee, having great sex with his favourite  pillow and begging me to replace his dog food with yet another roasted chicken.

Thanks to Dr Yuval and Dr Yael.

אין כמוכם

Back to normal

 

 

 

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About Harry

harry

When Harry died, I was six years old. How can I ever be expected to forget a grandfather who taught me the love of words?

In his bedroom (he slept alone and was totally estranged from my grandmother) Harry had a huge Webster’s’ dictionary in a glass case. I would come into his room, sit on his lap and he would read the dictionary to me for hours on end in his British accent.

Harry was deaf, so when I repeated the words he read to me, he did not hear what I was saying.

My Dad claimed that Harry was not deaf, merely that he had “checked out” of listening to everyone talk. Harry claimed to have lost his hearing in the British army, yet there is no record of Harry ever having been in the army. As a matter of fact, there is no record of Harry’s birth, and he was born in England, where good records are kept. Some rumors are that he and his two brothers were plucked out of an orphanage and given the name Foreman, or Frohman, or Fireman.

Harry owned a gym on the fourth floor of the Medical Arts Building in Montreal on the corner of Sherbrooke, where  Cote des Neiges becomes Rue Guy. I used to go there Saturday mornings and watch him train boxers. Strangely, I remember the phone number of the gym-Fitzroy 4022.

Uncle Al, Harry’s brother

Harry’s  brother and my Uncle,  Al Foreman, was a boxing champion both in England and Canada. I remember my Dad telling me. “you don’t wanna fuck around with Uncle Al, or even Papa Harry, to be on the safe side”.

Outside of Papa Harry’s apartment on Decarie corner of Queen Mary there was a Lowney’s (chocolate) billboard, in red. The letters would light up one by one- L O W N E Y S- and then one word- Lowneys.

Papa Harry “never had a pot to piss in”, said my Dad. Yet the less money he had, the more clothes he bought. And he used to parade up and down Sherbrook street with many, many many of his girlfriends. There was one special girlfriend I never met, but I do know that it was a major love affair that lasted many years.

Papa Harry spent many years in Egypt, and told me many stories of the desert, especially about a nomad named Sookie. Harry was to teach me a bit of Arabic. He also read me a story about a gun battle between Sir Sholton Knot and Sir Knoltan Shot. Papa Harry explained to me that the shot Snot shot shot Knot, so “Knot was shot and Shot was not, notwithstanding”

He died when I was five or six. (Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.) A heart attack got him “in one fell swoop”.

“He was a most peculiar man”.  And I do believe he was not deaf.

1200px-Medical_Arts_Building

From wikipedia Édifice Medical Arts

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Gloria Ramsbottom-Lemieux

gloria

I created a fictional HR manager named Gloria Ramsbottom-Lemieux two years ago.

Gloria is a woman. This may shock PC readers. I try to be correct, but not politically correct. We know that most HR managers are men and CEO’s are women, don’t we?

Why did I create Gloria?

There is a new generation of HR managers that “upset” me. They suffer from an overdose of slogans and screw the masses,  dressed up as “HR business partners”.

Low in the intellect department, they overdose technology, serving as running dogs of the status quo, refusing to confront the powers that be,  just to preserve their seat at the table.

They prefer motivational speakers to tackle issues of the immensely complex human condition at work. Everything needs to be wow, or wow wow. Or nice.

Gloria is my own grotesque version of such an HR manager, created “in line with my core value of anger management”. Laughter beats tears.

On Dec 5th, 2014, Google agreed to allow me to monetize the Gloria site, based on traffic and content.

Those who were with me on the OD list serve (where Gloria began her career) may understand how happy I am.

Gloria’s blog can be found at ramsbottom-lemieux.blogspot.co.il

Here is a link to her biography.

Let there be no doubt. Gloria and all characters in the blog are inspired by real situations. Gloria as a person, however, is a fictional character. Many people believe she is real and she gets fan mail.

 

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