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.
"....the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)
"The day after my 80th birthday, which overflowed with good wishes, surprises and Covid-safe celebrations, I awoke feeling fulfilled and thinking that whatever happens going forward, I’m OK with it. My life has been rewarding, my bucket list is empty, my family is thriving, and if everything ends tomorrow, so be it.
"Not that I expect to do anything to hasten my demise. I will continue to exercise regularly, eat healthfully and strive to minimize stress. But I’m also now taking stock of the many common hallmarks of aging and deciding what I need to reconsider."
--Jane E. Brody, my pal in the NYT newsroom, oh, a few years back, in the Personal Health column, Sept. 13, 2021.