Blackhumouristpress's Blog

November 25, 2015

Between Calais et Marseille

Seth knew he was an atheist at a young age.  Being half Jewish and half Muslim left him no choice but to be an atheist out of fear that he might have developed two personalities, each a different religion and wind up attacking himself.  It was upon the death of his father around the age of ten that Seth’s mother dropped the bomb of his life on him.

“Chaim was a very good man and he loved you like a son…”

“Mom?  Wouldn’t he love me like a son if he was my dad?”

“If he was your dad…  But he wasn’t.”

It was with that conversation that Seth learned that his real father was a handsome Algerian man who spoke perfect French, owned a restaurant and had a thing for Seth’s mother.  Soon after conception, Seth biological father sold his restaurant and moved to France, leaving Seth’s mother with an issue- a pregnancy from an affair.  Seth’s mother led her husband Chaim to believe that Seth was his son and so everyone lived happily ever after.  For about 10 years.

Seth learned to play the guitar and he liked to write poetry.  As he grew older he became aware of the world around him and became more and more socially and politically aware.  Seth had a job at an independent coffee shop where he strummed his songs and read his poetry and held meetings of like- minded people.  These like-minded people protested things like the World Trade Organization, police brutality, gay rights, transgender rights, rights of prisoners and most recently, rights of refugees to live democratically free with all the rights bestowed upon born Americans at birth.  Seth was approached by a French student who happened to be at the coffee shop the night that Seth was performing some of his acoustic songs about bringing refugees home to their home away from home in America.  It was all set up for Seth.  The French student contacted someone who knew someone who was putting together a peace rally to raise money for Syrian refugees living in tents near Calais, France.  Seth was to be flown, fed, paid and put up for a weekend in France for a festival.  Seth would be given a 30 minute acoustic set on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, get paid and return to the United States.  It was a dream come true for pretty much a closet musician who wrote songs that almost nobody ever heard.

Seth arrived in Paris with his acoustic guitar and a back pack.  He wore a pork pie hat and loose clothing.  Seth wanted to try Absinthe while in Paris since he was a huge Hemingway fan.  After several drinks of Absinthe and a discussion with the English-speaking bartender on what life might have been like for Hemingway, Seth was as they say- fucked up.  Seth staggered to the train station and boarded a train for what he thought was headed to Calais on the far north of France near the Belgium border where battles to defeat fascism took place.  Instead Seth boarded a train headed for the far south city of Marseille.  Unbeknownst to Seth, while there was a huge peace rally designed to raise money for refugees fleeing Syria, there was a huge neo-Nazi, skinhead, National Front rally being held in Marseille.  It was at about 2:00am that Seth was awoken from a deep sleep by five British skinheads that were headed south in solidarity with their French fellow racists to be part of huge anti-immigration rally.  They grabbed his guitar case out of his hands and took it out of the case.  It took Seth a solid five seconds to figure out where he was, how he got there and what might be potentially going on.  The five bald young men in boots, tight jeans and bomber jackets studied the guitar.  They knew they were in the company of some sort of hippy, peace-loving American and they were going to make his night miserable if they were correct on profiling him.

“Oi mate…  What ave we here?  A guitar, is it?  Where you headed with this instrument, mate?”

Seth remembered getting his ass kicked by jocks over the years and knew a severe ass beating without any chance of anyone coming to his aid in a contained sleeping compartment could mean death.  Seth played it cool.

“I’m headed to the same place as you…”

The skinheads were a bit perplexed.  This thin smelly American in baggy clothes suitable for a street panhandler in Seattle did not quite look like what was going to be at the far right rally.  They studied the stickers on Seth’s guitar case.  There was a hope sticker with a picture of Obama, a rainbow sticker, equality sticker and several other very liberal looking stickers.

“What’s all this on your case, mate?  Looks loike you ave a strong loike for Obama and rainbows and such.  Did you get all this at skin rallies in the states?”

It was a coy question and Seth rolled with it.  Seth could read the looks on the five young men’s faces and knew the cat was going to have to bark like a dog if he wanted to get out of the dog pound safely.

“This case…  I bought this from a music store just before leaving the US.  I went to a pawn shop and bought it for really cheap.  I told the guy I needed a sturdy travel case for my guitar and he came up with this.  I literally bought this thing yesterday to make the trip.  I haven’t had time to take all the bullshit off that was put on by someone who used to own this.”

“No worries, mate.  We ave ands…  We can elp you with that…”

As the young men picked at the stickers with their thumb nails, took drinks from a bottle and became rowdy, one of them demanded Seth play them a song that he was intending to play at the rally.  Seth convinced them that he once was part of a Ska/Reggae band and was now a solo artist from the states who was for Donald Trump, sending Mexicans home, telling gays that they cannot get married and so on.  Seth was pretty convincing and he kind of needed to be.

“Shit…  Look at shit that Obama has got us into…  Trump is the answer to everything that’s fucked up in America right now.  I’m tired of the gays, ghetto rap, illegal immigrants, feminist, Obama loving liberal shit…  Yup, it’s time for a change.”

“Roight, mate…  So play us a li-ool something you came up with that you are thinking of playing in Marseille.”

Seth was quick on his toes to create something out of nothing.  He modified a strummy folk song he wrote called, “Bring Them Home” into a fast Ska tune called, “Send Them Home”.

It’s time to stand up and do the right thing maybe the white thing

They’re fucking here due to the Arab Spring and here’s the next thing- Send them home,

Send them home! We’ve fucking had enough- Send them home.

 

It was catchy and danceable and the English skins loved it.  One of them asked him to play another song.  Seth became nervous.  He blew his load on that one little ditty and didn’t quite have another bullshit song in him.  The thought suddenly came to Seth to sing The Marseillaise, the national anthem of France.  Seth learned it so that he could strum it and get everyone in Calais to sing along and then because they were as close as you could get to Great Britain, the national anthem of France would morph into, God Save the Queen.  Seth busted out another Ska beat and began to sing in French.

 

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons! Marchons! Marchons! Qu’un sang impur Abreuve nos sillons!

God save our gracious Queen Long live our noble Queen God save the Queen Send her victorious Happy and glorious Long to reign over us God Save the Queen!

The skins listened to the recognizable song in French and sang along to their own national anthem with arms around each other, drinking and shouting. When they arrived in Marseille, Seth was whisked up to a stage that Skinhead bands shared for the weekend long festival. The drunk British skins demanded that between sets that Seth be allowed to play his national anthem medleys and his anti-immigrant song. A barstool like seat was set up for him on a stage looking out at thousands of people. Seth was buzzed again from drinking with his new “mates” and played the songs without thought. The crowd of thousands began to gyrate to the song doing a Ska dance called a “skank”. It was surreal. Seth finished and was patted on the back and hugged. He drank with a bald girl with black lipstick at the festival who eventually fed him, shaved his head and fucked him several times in her hotel room. Seth woke early the next morning to find a bunch of skinheads laying around the hotel room on floors and couches. Next to him was the girl who made love to him and then another guy on the other side of her. Seth gathered his things and slipped out without awaking anyone. He bought a ticket for Calais and arrived a day and a half late. Seth was the second to last performer to sing his folk song for the refugees and those supporting the refugees. Seth looked out at the crowd of thousands who had smiles and were attentively waiting to hear his song, “Take Them Home”. Before going into the song, Seth pulled the microphone closer to his mouth and jokingly said a few words first.

“If you’re an American in Paris… Don’t drink Absinthe before departing for Calais… You might find yourself shaved bald on a train headed to Marseille instead… Long story but I’m here now…”

 

July 31, 2012

Rendezvous in Chicago

Filed under: Ethnicity,humor,Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 10:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Lena came from a small town you never heard of in the south of France.  For as much as most French seem to look down at the United States, Lena was quite taken in by the pop culture, brashness and general oblivious naivety of believing that Americans believe they are the smartest, trendiest and most free in the world.  Americans to most French, were like that middle of the road, slightly above average looking woman at a party that truly believes she is the hottest thing in the world and believes that everyone wants to be with her or emulate her.  Lena loved Americana.
            Lena decided upon Chicago to spend her time in the states primarily because her admiration of Ernest Hemingway and Frank Lloyd Wright who both lived in the village of Oak Park, some six miles west of the center of downtown Chicago. 
            Lena ate hot dogs with all sorts of foreign things on it and ate foie gras and sipped white wine in the bleachers at Wrigley Field as she tried to speak English to two fat former frat boys that identified themselves as former University of Notre Dame students.  One of the fat Americans had a tattoo of the fighting Irish symbol on his chubby arm that resembled a leg.  They bought her a beer and jokingly told her how much they appreciate French fries.
            Lena listened to Jazz and Blues.  She did tours and visited museums that had better French impressionist art than they had in France.  It was on a Sunday that Lena decided to take the green line from downtown Chicago, through the heart of darkness which is Chicago’s west side.
Chicago’s west side is about as third world as you might find in North America.  There are no grocery, department or drug stores between Ashland Avenue and Austin along the green line that follows Lake Street from west to east.  Lena watched black people, Americans of African descent and thought about the suburbs of Paris where Africans rioted and trashed their own neighborhoods.  A white far right Jean Le Pen follower who was a police commander, insulted the African immigrants on a bullhorn by refusing to address black men with the polite “vous” form used among adults in France and used “tu”.  Tu would be used for children or someone you are really familiar with, not to be used with angry, unemployed Africans by a white cop.  Cars burned and businesses were looted.  The west side of Chicago resembled the Paris suburbs to Lena.
 Zombie looking street walkers with missing teeth and track marks,  hooking up with suburban white men in Volvo station wagons with stick figure decals of a husband, wife, two children and a dog, holding hands.  Black men filed in and out of liquor stores tucked in between store front Baptist churches and barber shops.  Lena was startled by a middle aged black man who plopped himself down in the seat next to her.
            “Look miss…  I was jus let out of a half way house not far from here, see this is the picture of where I was.  I am jus looking for some change to help me git a meal.  Y’all could be a really good American by giving jus a little bit to help me git by.”
            Roger sat in a seat near by wearing large framed glasses with a .44 magnum tucked into his belt line.  Roger loved movies like Walking Tall and Taxi Driver.  His bald head was white and shiny and he glared at the panhandler who was shaking the attractive young white woman down for pocket change.  Roger spent all of his free time preparing for the apocalypse or a coup d’etat against the first black president in the United States.  Being 100% disability from inhaling burning oil in Kuwait, Roger spent his days lifting weights, taking target practice and practicing martial arts.  Roger lived alone in an apartment in Oak Park and rode the trains waiting for a chance to intervene between a robber and a rider.  Roger saw his chance.
            “This is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
         Leviticus Jones looked at the man wearing a trench coat, pointing a hand gun at his head and didn’t worry much about the prospect of dying.  Life on earth had been hell for Leviticus so the afterlife couldn’t be all that much worse.
         “Bitch…  I will take that mutha fucking toy out yo crazy white hands and stick it up yo ass.  Keep pointing that shit at me and see what happen to yo crazy shit, motherfucker…  Ma’am, scuze my French.  I am a good Christian man but when push come to mutha fucking shove, this nigga ain’t bout to turn no other cheek.  Do unto others befoh they crazy ass do the shit to you.  That in Proverbs or some shit like it…  This yo last chance to pull that gun way from my heed.”
         Leviticus sprung to his feet and grabbed the barrel of the gun before Roger could discharge it.  The two men rolled around with a loaded gun.  It was just like in the movies.  One bullet went through a window and another ripped a hole through the wall the size of a golf ball before a black woman pushed the emergency button to alert the conductor of a problem.  The conductor walked up and grabbed the gun from the two struggling men.  He threw the black man off of the train and said nothing to the white man.  The black woman who pushed the emergency button questioned the conductor.  The conductor looked bored and bothered.
         “You throw a man off who was accosted by this here man off the train with out calling the po-lice?  Foh yo information, this here man pulled the gun.  You black as night jus like me, jus like the man you done thrown off the train an you assume some brother pulled the gun…  Shame on you.  Shame on you foh jumping to conclusions and shame on you foh not calling the po-lice.  This man, this white man here is the damn criminal.”
         Roger walked into the next car and then opened the door and escaped.  Lena was visibly shaking and crying at the display of Americana that Europeans hear about; racial incidents involving guns.  Lena asked the people on the car to hug her.
         “I need one of you to jus hug me…  Please… Anyone?”
         The angry black woman, a quartet of gay men, a Filipino au pair and a young white male college student, all ignored Lena’s plea.  A young black man who had just worked ten hours cutting vegetables at a five star restaurant and was looking forward to seeing his young daughter and wife stood and embraced Lena.  Nothing was said.  Lena grasped the stranger’s shoulder and cried.  The young man in a white chef’s coat, sat holding Lena until she exited at Oak Park Avenue, walked north towards Hemingway’s childhood home.  Lena thought about the song from Westside Story and began to sing.
         “I want to live in America, everything is good in America.”

August 3, 2009

Wine with the Prime Minister

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackhumouristpress @ 4:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

After 225 years of French rule in North America, a battle on the Plains of Abraham ended all that. A general for the British by the name of Wolfe, defeated a French general by the name of Montcalme at the Battle of Quebec in 1759. At the Treaty of Paris in 1763, New France was named Quebec. France was left with two islands near Newfoundland. The British sought to have all French inhabitants assimilate into British ways. In 1774, fearing that the French citizens of Quebec might team up with George Washington and company, the British passed the Quebec Act which recognized French law, language, culture and the Roman Catholic Church. Assimilation was impossible after the passage of that act. French culture continued in Quebec.
In October of 1995, the 30th to be exact, the future of Canada as we know it presently, was being decided. The province of Quebec was voting on a referendum to decide if Quebec should be a sovereign nation. Two weeks before the casting of the vote in Quebec, the sovereign vote was ahead in the polls by nearly five percent. The night of the election, everyone was on the edge of their seats, in Canada only.
93% of eligible voters turned out to vote making it close to 4.7 million voters in Quebec. 53,498 people out of 4.7 million were the difference in Quebec becoming a sovereign nation and seceding from Canada. Most of the 53,000 people were foreign born non-French and non-English speaking immigrants. For the Parti Quebecois, it was a defeat to be sure. There to this day are grumblings and strong feelings in Quebec about going it alone where French could be spoken by French without having to ever speak English. Where stop signs would forever say Arête and any Americanized, English words would and could be abolished once and for all. The preservation of French culture would have been mandated by law instead of the French and English that now exists in the province of Quebec. Not very interesting? Not many people took notice outside of Canada at the time and today not many know that the future of Canada was being decided the day before Halloween in 1995. But this really is not the story. The story is the story within the story, which is usually the case. It’s not the substance that mattered it was the drama and tension as a result of the referendum.
To protect his identity and to keep me from being sued, I have altered the name of the Parti Quebecois member of the Canadian House of Commons, representing an area not far from the Ontario border in Quebec by the name of Etienne Cadeau.
Etienne was short and portly. His dark hair was receding and he had a large gap between his two front teeth. Etienne had a gift for being able to talk to anyone about anything and seem interested. It is a trait which is necessary to be a politician.
Mr. Cadeau was born and raised in the Atlantic coast city of Gaspe not far from where Jacques Cartier planted a cross for France back in 1534.
Etienne’s father was a fisherman and his mother raised nine children. Etienne was an above average student who went to Laval in Quebec City and became a lawyer. While is college, Etienne met and married a woman by the name of Jeanette who was born in the city of Gatineau, not far from the nation’s capital of Ottawa in the province of Ontario.
Mr. Cadeau left the Liberal Party to join the Bloc Quebecois in 1990 and became a member of parliament representing a region of western Quebec. Things looked good for those that wanted sovereignty for Quebec. Mr. Cadeau saw himself as a possible candidate for the first president of the Republic of Quebec. He could be the French George Washington and forever live on coins and paper money. The night of the election, Etienne watched the results from a bar that was frequented by French Canadian politicians and other various separatists. On the wall were pictures of Rene Levesque and Charles de Galle, the French Canadian flag and the words, “Je me souviens” which translates to mean in English, I remember or I remember my French heritage.
As the hours passed, Etienne and others became more drunk and disappointed. Etienne sat at a table with other MPs of French extraction that were looking forward to a new nation for North American Francophones. It became clear late in the evening that the referendum had been defeated by a 50.6 to 49.4 percent. One percent of the province was the difference. Etienne was so upset that he threw down his Canadian money with the English queen on it and staggered out into the night. The air was cold with a hint of winter that was about to come to that part of Canada. Etienne got into his Citroen that he imported from France and drove towards the bridge that would take him across to Ottawa where he lived during sessions of parliament.

Bill Stowe was a descendant of people who once lived in the colony which became the United States of America. They were loyalists and wanted to remain loyal to the crown. After the colonists gained their own country, Bill’s ancestors moved north. Over the course of two hundred years, Bill’s family never bred much with people over other persuasions. There was a Dutch woman and a Flemish Belgian man who married into the Stowe clan. For the most part, they were of Anglo-Saxon stock.
Bill had played hockey and was a stand out in the Ontario Hockey League until one too many concussions sidelined his career and forced him to seek other means to an end. Bill became a police officer in the OPP or Ontario Provincial Police.
Bill grew up in Ajax which was about 50 kilometers from the city of Toronto. Upon being hired into the OPP, Bill had to move to Windsor near the Detroit border and then all the way to Cornwall near the Quebec border. It had been five years that Bill had been living and working for the OPP near Ottawa. Bill liked Ottawa.
Bill sat sipping Tim Horton’s Coffee and talking to a fellow trooper on the citizen band radio about their men’s league hockey team that was taking a trip to Calgary to play against other police teams from all over Canada and the United States. The team to beat were the Mounties from near Edmonton. They had won the tournament three years in a row. This year, Bill’s team got some fresh blood. Two young rookies just got done playing in the Ontario Hockey League and were more than capable of helping the Ottawa OPP.
Coming off the bridge that leads from Hull, Quebec to Ottawa, Ontario was the black Citroen. The Citroen’s wheels screeched as Etienne cornered. It was on Queen Elizabeth Street that Etienne cornered too fast and slammed head on into a lamppost. Bill had followed the screeching Citroen with Quebec plates, ever since the bridge. Etienne sat banging his head on the steering wheel of his car that was cleaved right up the center of the car. Etienne was able to start the car again. He put it in drive, thinking that he was in reverse and knocked the lamppost down onto two other parked cars. One of the parked cars had just some dents on the hood but the second one had the ornamental head of the lamp, resting on the front seat of the sedan after it had ripped through the windshield. Etienne got out of his car and kicked and punched as he swore in French. Unbeknownst to him, Bill walked up and flashed a light in Etienne’s eyes. Bill spoke first.
“Sir… Don’t move. I want to hear from you what just happened,” commanded Bill.
“What happened? I will tell you what appened… We lost our chance to be our own nation by less than one percentage point. Eef we aad won dee referendum, ah would not be eer raht now speaking to ahn English speaking cop een fucking Ottawa… Fucking dumb English prick,” said an inebriated Etienne, while staring at the light of the flash light.
“Sir, I need to know why it is that you were driving so fast that you lost control of your vehicle. Calling me names is not going to help you right now, eh? I need to see your driver’s license…”
Etienne had set his wallet down on the chair besides where he was sitting at the bar in Hull. Nobody would steal the wallet and it was probably being held by the bartender at that moment. Etienne let the officer know what had happened.
“Ah can geeve you the name and number of the bar een Hull. Ah left eet on a chair next to me… Een any event, I ham a MP. I leeve on Queens Street when I ham not leeving en Quebec,” said Etienne.
“Sir… I’m going to have to take you in to custody,” said Bill.
Etienne did not go down without a fight. He swore and punched Bill. Bill could be heard on the radio, calling for backup. Three other troopers showed within a minute to detain the member of the House of Commons. Later that morning, under the light of day, Etienne was released from OPP holding pen. Reporters from papers all over Canada as well as the CBC camped out to get a comment from the drunken driving Member of Parliament. Etienne refused to speak English. In French he made a statement in the form of questions. Here is the English translation;
“If I were an English speaking member of the House of Commons, would I have been arrested? Do you believe this is another symbolic statement by government officials that the French citizens of this nation will always be second class citizens within Canada? You need to answer these questions. The people of Quebec have voted by the thinnest of margins to remain part of Canada and who were the 50,000 who put the no vote over the top? Not French speaking citizens of Quebec whose lineage dates back three hundred years to France… That’s all I can say right now…”
A sharp witted columnist who had a syndicated column in English language newspapers throughout Canada commented on the incident. That more than anything else, fuelled the smoldering fire. In Quebec, separatists began to smash windows of businesses that had English sounding names. A five second film clip showed a group of separatists singing in French and burning the Canadian flag. The scene looked more like the taking of American hostages in Iran than something that could have happened in Canada. It was at that point that the prime minister had to step in.
Jean Chrétien, the 20th Prime Minister of the country which is Canada, tried to calm the situation. Luckily for Chretien at the time, there were no reporters around when he was told about the situation. He did say in French, “ Il est tres stupide…”. It wasn’t clear if the situation was stupid, The drunk member of parliament or the OPP police officer. In either case, the press was not present to hear the prime minister. The situation escalated without any help.
Jean Chretien, understood that even though the referendum had failed, the country could still be in crisis due to an individual incident that was quite symbolic; French discrimination from an English heavy hand. Chretien had invited the two men in question to meet on the Plains of Abraham to drink a bottle of wine from the province of Ontario and another from the province of Quebec. Red wine would be drunk by the three men from each province in a dark wooded room that overlooked the St. Lawrence River from the Chateau Frontenac. Bill Stowe, Etienne Cadeau and Jean Chrétien sat in the room and discussed the whole situation and the situation that occurred from the situation. Before both bottles were finished, the conversation turned to ice hockey. Bill graciously declared that Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was probably the best hockey player to have played the sport even though in his heart bill believed it to really be Gordie Howe. Etienne declared that the best player was difficult to declare but that it might have been Gordie Howe since he was able to play professionally into his fifties even though Etienne really believed the best of best was Maurice Richard. All men declared by the end of meeting that they would do all within their abilities to keep Canada intact. Seven years later at the invitation of the prime minister, Etienne and Bill watched Canada win the gold medal for Canada. The two men with lumps in their throats, stood as the national anthem played. Both men sang the words in their own languages as the flag was raised above all others in Utah. It was a proud moment for Canada. Oh Canada…

After 225 years of French rule in North America, a battle on the Plains of Abraham ended all that. A general for the British by the name of Wolfe, defeated a French general by the name of Montcalme at the Battle of Quebec in 1759. At the Treaty of Paris in 1763, New France was named Quebec. France was left with two islands near Newfoundland. The British sought to have all French inhabitants assimilate into British ways. In 1774, fearing that the French citizens of Quebec might team up with George Washington and company, the British passed the Quebec Act which recognized French law, language, culture and the Roman Catholic Church. Assimilation was impossible after the passage of that act. French culture continued in Quebec.
In October of 1995, the 30th to be exact, the future of Canada as we know it presently, was being decided. The province of Quebec was voting on a referendum to decide if Quebec should be a sovereign nation. Two weeks before the casting of the vote in Quebec, the sovereign vote was ahead in the polls by nearly five percent. The night of the election, everyone was on the edge of their seats, in Canada only.
93% of eligible voters turned out to vote making it close to 4.7 million voters in Quebec. 53,498 people out of 4.7 million were the difference in Quebec becoming a sovereign nation and seceding from Canada. Most of the 53,000 people were foreign born non-French and non-English speaking immigrants. For the Parti Quebecois, it was a defeat to be sure. There to this day are grumblings and strong feelings in Quebec about going it alone where French could be spoken by French without having to ever speak English. Where stop signs would forever say Arête and any Americanized, English words would and could be abolished once and for all. The preservation of French culture would have been mandated by law instead of the French and English that now exists in the province of Quebec. Not very interesting? Not many people took notice outside of Canada at the time and today not many know that the future of Canada was being decided the day before Halloween in 1995. But this really is not the story. The story is the story within the story, which is usually the case. It’s not the substance that mattered it was the drama and tension as a result of the referendum.
To protect his identity and to keep me from being sued, I have altered the name of the Parti Quebecois member of the Canadian House of Commons, representing an area not far from the Ontario border in Quebec by the name of Etienne Cadeau.
Etienne was short and portly. His dark hair was receding and he had a large gap between his two front teeth. Etienne had a gift for being able to talk to anyone about anything and seem interested. It is a trait which is necessary to be a politician.
Mr. Cadeau was born and raised in the Atlantic coast city of Gaspe not far from where Jacques Cartier planted a cross for France back in 1534.
Etienne’s father was a fisherman and his mother raised nine children. Etienne was an above average student who went to Laval in Quebec City and became a lawyer. While is college, Etienne met and married a woman by the name of Jeanette who was born in the city of Gatineau, not far from the nation’s capital of Ottawa in the province of Ontario.
Mr. Cadeau left the Liberal Party to join the Bloc Quebecois in 1990 and became a member of parliament representing a region of western Quebec. Things looked good for those that wanted sovereignty for Quebec. Mr. Cadeau saw himself as a possible candidate for the first president of the Republic of Quebec. He could be the French George Washington and forever live on coins and paper money. The night of the election, Etienne watched the results from a bar that was frequented by French Canadian politicians and other various separatists. On the wall were pictures of Rene Levesque and Charles de Galle, the French Canadian flag and the words, “Je me souviens” which translates to mean in English, I remember or I remember my French heritage.
As the hours passed, Etienne and others became more drunk and disappointed. Etienne sat at a table with other MPs of French extraction that were looking forward to a new nation for North American Francophones. It became clear late in the evening that the referendum had been defeated by a 50.6 to 49.4 percent. One percent of the province was the difference. Etienne was so upset that he threw down his Canadian money with the English queen on it and staggered out into the night. The air was cold with a hint of winter that was about to come to that part of Canada. Etienne got into his Citroen that he imported from France and drove towards the bridge that would take him across to Ottawa where he lived during sessions of parliament.

Bill Stowe was a descendant of people who once lived in the colony which became the United States of America. They were loyalists and wanted to remain loyal to the crown. After the colonists gained their own country, Bill’s ancestors moved north. Over the course of two hundred years, Bill’s family never bred much with people over other persuasions. There was a Dutch woman and a Flemish Belgian man who married into the Stowe clan. For the most part, they were of Anglo-Saxon stock.
Bill had played hockey and was a stand out in the Ontario Hockey League until one too many concussions sidelined his career and forced him to seek other means to an end. Bill became a police officer in the OPP or Ontario Provincial Police.
Bill grew up in Ajax which was about 50 kilometers from the city of Toronto. Upon being hired into the OPP, Bill had to move to Windsor near the Detroit border and then all the way to Cornwall near the Quebec border. It had been five years that Bill had been living and working for the OPP near Ottawa. Bill liked Ottawa.
Bill sat sipping Tim Horton’s Coffee and talking to a fellow trooper on the citizen band radio about their men’s league hockey team that was taking a trip to Calgary to play against other police teams from all over Canada and the United States. The team to beat were the Mounties from near Edmonton. They had won the tournament three years in a row. This year, Bill’s team got some fresh blood. Two young rookies just got done playing in the Ontario Hockey League and were more than capable of helping the Ottawa OPP.
Coming off the bridge that leads from Hull, Quebec to Ottawa, Ontario was the black Citroen. The Citroen’s wheels screeched as Etienne cornered. It was on Queen Elizabeth Street that Etienne cornered too fast and slammed head on into a lamppost. Bill had followed the screeching Citroen with Quebec plates, ever since the bridge. Etienne sat banging his head on the steering wheel of his car that was cleaved right up the center of the car. Etienne was able to start the car again. He put it in drive, thinking that he was in reverse and knocked the lamppost down onto two other parked cars. One of the parked cars had just some dents on the hood but the second one had the ornamental head of the lamp, resting on the front seat of the sedan after it had ripped through the windshield. Etienne got out of his car and kicked and punched as he swore in French. Unbeknownst to him, Bill walked up and flashed a light in Etienne’s eyes. Bill spoke first.
“Sir… Don’t move. I want to hear from you what just happened,” commanded Bill.
“What happened? I will tell you what appened… We lost our chance to be our own nation by less than one percentage point. Eef we aad won dee referendum, ah would not be eer raht now speaking to ahn English speaking cop een fucking Ottawa… Fucking dumb English prick,” said an inebriated Etienne, while staring at the light of the flash light.
“Sir, I need to know why it is that you were driving so fast that you lost control of your vehicle. Calling me names is not going to help you right now, eh? I need to see your driver’s license…”
Etienne had set his wallet down on the chair besides where he was sitting at the bar in Hull. Nobody would steal the wallet and it was probably being held by the bartender at that moment. Etienne let the officer know what had happened.
“Ah can geeve you the name and number of the bar een Hull. Ah left eet on a chair next to me… Een any event, I ham a MP. I leeve on Queens Street when I ham not leeving en Quebec,” said Etienne.
“Sir… I’m going to have to take you in to custody,” said Bill.
Etienne did not go down without a fight. He swore and punched Bill. Bill could be heard on the radio, calling for backup. Three other troopers showed within a minute to detain the member of the House of Commons. Later that morning, under the light of day, Etienne was released from OPP holding pen. Reporters from papers all over Canada as well as the CBC camped out to get a comment from the drunken driving Member of Parliament. Etienne refused to speak English. In French he made a statement in the form of questions. Here is the English translation;
“If I were an English speaking member of the House of Commons, would I have been arrested? Do you believe this is another symbolic statement by government officials that the French citizens of this nation will always be second class citizens within Canada? You need to answer these questions. The people of Quebec have voted by the thinnest of margins to remain part of Canada and who were the 50,000 who put the no vote over the top? Not French speaking citizens of Quebec whose lineage dates back three hundred years to France… That’s all I can say right now…”
A sharp witted columnist who had a syndicated column in English language newspapers throughout Canada commented on the incident. That more than anything else, fuelled the smoldering fire. In Quebec, separatists began to smash windows of businesses that had English sounding names. A five second film clip showed a group of separatists singing in French and burning the Canadian flag. The scene looked more like the taking of American hostages in Iran than something that could have happened in Canada. It was at that point that the prime minister had to step in.
Jean Chrétien, the 20th Prime Minister of the country which is Canada, tried to calm the situation. Luckily for Chretien at the time, there were no reporters around when he was told about the situation. He did say in French, “ Il est tres stupide…”. It wasn’t clear if the situation was stupid, The drunk member of parliament or the OPP police officer. In either case, the press was not present to hear the prime minister. The situation escalated without any help.
Jean Chretien, understood that even though the referendum had failed, the country could still be in crisis due to an individual incident that was quite symbolic; French discrimination from an English heavy hand. Chretien had invited the two men in question to meet on the Plains of Abraham to drink a bottle of wine from the province of Ontario and another from the province of Quebec. Red wine would be drunk by the three men from each province in a dark wooded room that overlooked the St. Lawrence River from the Chateau Frontenac. Bill Stowe, Etienne Cadeau and Jean Chrétien sat in the room and discussed the whole situation and the situation that occurred from the situation. Before both bottles were finished, the conversation turned to ice hockey. Bill graciously declared that Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was probably the best hockey player to have played the sport even though in his heart bill believed it to really be Gordie Howe. Etienne declared that the best player was difficult to declare but that it might have been Gordie Howe since he was able to play professionally into his fifties even though Etienne really believed the best of best was Maurice Richard. All men declared by the end of meeting that they would do all within their abilities to keep Canada intact. Seven years later at the invitation of the prime minister, Etienne and Bill watched Canada win the gold medal for Canada. The two men with lumps in their throats, stood as the national anthem played. Both men sang the words in their own languages as the flag was raised above all others in Utah. It was a proud moment for Canada. Oh Canada…

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