Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Grandmother

I went to a friend's Birthday celebration yesterday and missed the phone call my parents made to inform me that my grandmother, Jean Beekman, had passed away on Sunday night. In fact, I did not get the message until this morning. The message did not come as a shock, as her health had been steadily and painfully declining for some time. A sudden affliction of mouth cancer more than two years ago had left her with no choice but to be fed intravenously. This severely limited her mobility as she had to be fed three hours for every meal every day. My grandmother was a woman of great strength and courage, but she was only able to hold off the effects of such a prolonged battle for so long.

The entire ordeal was very difficult for my grandfather, especially in the last few months. My aunts and uncles and my mother also had quite a bit of pain and worry. Her death, which occurred peacefully while she was sleeping, relieves the pain of watching her suffer. Although we have comfort in knowing she has moved on to a place of incomparable joy and beauty, we still mourn the loss of the joy and beauty she brought to our lives. She survived the Depression and the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, she struggled alongside her husband to cobble a life together in a new land, she reached a level of assurance with the English language that few immigrants master, she raised five children, found great joy in spoiling all eight of her grandchildren, and she even had the opportunity to hold her first great-grandchild, Owen Langelaar. My grandmother was a Scrabble champion, a great chef, a loving mother and grandmother, and a woman whose strength of spirit was only surpassed by her love for her family and friends.

Grandma, I miss you so much.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


This is a poem that has no purpose
beyond promoting the use of Sherpas
for international climbing expeditions
to avoid search and rescue missions

Mount Everest is the highest point on earth
in height, this mountain has no dearth
it is 29,035 feet into the air
that's 8,850 metres for those who care

Mr. Edmund Hillary climbed its face
back in '53, and found his historic place
in history as the first man to the summit
without freezing or dying in a plummet

This brings to mind our friend, George
whose frozen body was found in a gorge*
What lesson can we learn from Mr. Mallory
Who remains a footnote in a museum gallery?

Hillary was successful for one good reason
and it was not his choice of climbing season
it was the Sherpa he brought, Mr. Norgay
Yes, Tenzing got Edmund up all the way

Whereas Mr. Mallory died tragically,
Mr. Hillary made it almost magically
with that Sherpa pushing him to the sky
and making sure that he didn't die

This poem really did not have a purpose
beyond promoting the use of Sherpas
for international climbing expeditions
to avoid search and rescue missions

*not really, but call it poetic license

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Song of the Moment: Daniel Lanois - Jolie Louise

Yesterday I went to see Matthew De Zoete in concert again. If you haven't heard his music you can take a gander here: Matthew De Zoete
De Zoete has a song called Mathilde in which he sings in both French and English. Of course, the song is mostly in English, but it reminds me of Daniel Lanois' song "Jolie Louise." Lanois has produced music for such greats as Ron Sexsmith, Bob Dylan, and U2. This often overshadows his own solo work which is also quite good. Daniel Lanois was born in Hull (now Gatineau) but moved to Hamilton, and so he has been influenced by two cities close to my heart. Enjoy the Franglais.

Jolie Louise

Ma jolie, how do you do?
Mon nom est Jean-Guy Thibault-Leroux
I come from east of Gatineau
My name is Jean-Guy, ma jolie

J'ai une maison a Lafontaine
where we can live, if you marry me
Une belle maison a Lafontaine
where we will live, you and me
Oh Louise, ma jolie Louise

Tous les matins au soleil
I will work 'til work is done
Tous les matins au soleil
I did work 'til work was done
And one day, the foreman said
"Jean-Guy, we must let you go"
Et pis mon nom, y est pas bon
at the mill anymore...
Oh Louise, I'm losing my head,
I'm losing my head

My kids are small, 4 and 3
et la bouteille, she's mon ami
I drink the rum 'til I I can't see
It hides the shame Louise does not see
Carousel turns in my head,
and I can't hide, oh no, no, no, no
And the rage turned in my head
and Louise, I struck her down,
down on the ground
I'm losing my mind, I'm losing my mind

En Septembre '63
kids are gone, and so is Louise.
Ontario, they did go
near la ville de Toronto
Now my tears, they roll down,
tous les jours
And I remember the days,
and the promises that we made
Oh Louise, ma jolie Louise, ma jolie Louise

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Ridiculous Story

. . . I warned you, it's ridiculous.

. . . If you go beyond this point you will expose yourself to a new level of ludicrity beyond made-up words like "ludicrity"

. . . ok, then, I accept no responsibility

"I would like a book," the woman started, "A book with a blue cover."

The round-headed man at the desk stared at her blankly as a photocopier hummed somewhere behind him.

"Um, Sorry, I guess that's pretty generic," she admitted as she fiddled with her purse strings uncomfortably.

The man continued to stare ahead blankly.

"Well, there's a mystery in the book and there's two brothers who are trying to solve it," she added helpfully.

The man blinked, but otherwise remained impassive.

"They're twins named Joe and something," she continued.

The man's head moved imperceptibly, his leafy hair rustling in the breeze of a humming fan. His hair sprouted from the top of his head in a strange greenish colour which the woman attributed to a bad hair dye.

"The author's name is Dixon, something W. Dixon," she mused as she nervously chewed a long fingernail.

The man's face was a stone wall.

"Franklin! That's it, Franklin!" she laughed, "Franklin W. Dixon . . ."

Her voice trailed off as her sudden inspiration had not inspired anything in the brooding bulk in front of her.

"So maybe you can type the name in your computer and tell me where to find it," she pointed at the computer beside him helpfully.

His stony gaze didn't even flinch.

"They have a friend named Chet and he drives a Jalopey," she offered, an edge in her voice.


"Franklin W. Dixon! Type it into your computer, you moron!" she yelled.

"Excuse me, ma'am, but I resent your tone," the man muttered almost inaudibly.

"Well, I resent you sitting here like some kind of brain-dead tuber while you collect money from the municipal government," the woman jabbed a red fingernail two inches from the man's impassive face.

"I don't work here," the man breathed.

"Then why, might I ask, are you sitting at the librarian's desk?"

"I dunno," the man mumbled.

"You don't know?" the woman queried sharply.


"Are you a, a, ehrm, uh," the woman was speaking gently now, "addicted to drugs?"


" . . . so . . . why are you here?"

"I dunno."

"What's your name?" the woman asked slowly, carefully pronouncing each syllable.

"People call me Brassica Rap L," the man intoned.

"That's an odd name," the woman said in an over-friendly way, the tone many adults reserve for the mentally handicapped or extremely young.

"Not really," the man said, "I share it with millions of others."

"I find that hard to believe. This is the first time I've heard it," the woman shook her head, looking at the expressionless man with a mixture of pity and outright confusion.

Suddenly the man's round forehead became a deep shade of purple, "Maybe you should remember that name the next time you so casually feed my brethren to an overgrown cow!"

The woman jumped back, startled by the sudden animation of the man, "what?"

"Say the name! Say the name Brassica Rap L . . . savour the name of the vegetable you so calmly allow your livestock to consume," the man snarled, his bulbous nose red and his large nostrils flaring like tap roots.

"You're crazy!" the woman gasped.

"Am I?" the man growled, "or is your mind having conniptions at the very idea of a tasty bit of creamed turnips with gravy covered steak or stewed turnips a la francais or some mashed turnips with a side of stuffed turnips smothered in goat cheese? The only crazy person is the one who would think it harmless fun to consume a helpless vegetable."

"You think you're a turnip?" the woman asked incredulously.

"You did not think it so ridiculous to call me a tuber a minute ago," the man argued.

"I-I . . ." the woman stuttered and then trailed off.

"By the way, your book can be found in the adolescent literature section," the man offered.

"Thank you."

Who deh?