Whenever I hear the Canadian national anthem, the first thing I think about is skaters, moving in place near center ice, fidgeting until the puck is dropped.
I think of the heart, the core, of a country, a sport, a way of life. I think of great nights in Montreal and Vancouver and Edmonton, the Stanley Cup waiting in the wings.
I hope this does not seem condescending. There are a lot worse things that could pop into mind for a country.
Saturday was Canada’s 150th birthday. I did not realize this version only became official in 1980.
The second thing I think about is music. Again, this a high compliment. I think of k.d. lang’s album “Hymns of the 49th Parallel” – she aces Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – and Neil Young and The Band and Joni Mitchell and all the other musicians known around the world.
Really, that’s enough right there.
As the birthday approached, I thought about Dave Semenko, the enforcer on the great Oilers teams, who passed the other day at 59. And I thought about Kate McGarrigle, of the McGarrigle Sisters, who passed in 2010 at the age of 63.
In tribute, I put on “The McGarrigle Hour,” a collection of folk and pop with Kate and Anna and also the talented extended family, which became our family.
I thought about my friend’s mom from Montreal who always reminded me who Lady Byng was (on hockey’s sportsmanship trophy) and I thought about the family in Victoria with the garden and lawn bowling and music, and I thought about my e-pal Bruce from near Hamilton, who sends me bird photos from his window, and reminds me about the good medical care up there in the deprived wilds of the frozen north.
I thought about the grand old gent, Camil Des Roches, publicist extraordinaire of the Canadiens, who gave me my first tour of the Forum in 1984, and sent me cassettes of Danielle Oddera, singing Jacques Brel.
I thought about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, wading into a gay parade in Toronto recently, practicing inclusivity.
(I admit, my mind also wandered to Emmanuel Macron of France and Angela Merkel of Germany, but I could not afford to go down that melancholy path.)
Mostly, I thought about the good neighbors to the north, going their own way, doing fine.
Joyeux anniversaire. Happy anniversary.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.