Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Second Coming

It was a rush to finally get out of my office last night in time to get home to watch Obama’s prime time commercial. I got home in time to warm up the tube by answering the last question on “Jeopardy” and then 30 minutes of uninterrupted bliss while I watched an infinitely well crafted dream, the dream that maybe Martin Luther King was talking about so long ago…

I am cynical by nature, culturally and historically Quebecois have the highest disregards for anything that smells of political manipulation. Although supportive of Obama, I did not know if I could stand sitting for 30 minutes listening to what I thought would be more of the same.

After all I did watch all the debates and have read as much as I could find about this unusual candidate. I did not expect to be sharing a moving television experience with millions of Americans but it was.

When the clip ended, I am not ashamed to say that I had a renewed hope for my adoptive land that maybe we could saved the world as we did with our allies in WWII by saving ourselves and re-creating a great society. I know that life has been getting harder in America in the last 8 years for the middle-class and the under class. The dark days of America have stained the lives of many other countries and we can not ignore the impact that our debacle has had on other nations, we are not standing alone. On 9/11 the World stood with us and we let that opportunity to establish a new world order slip through our fingers. Instead we became obsessed with revenge and with poor leadership invaded Iraq.

We now stand at the proverbial cross-road, we can let our fears and prejudices guide us to retreat to elect another Republican President or we can give our vote and support to a man who has a vision of what we can do to improve not only American lives but the lives of so many other people.

Voting for Obama gives me hope, it makes me feel engage in the rebuilding of our inner structures, maybe we can be part of the dream team which will get our country back on track.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mechanically Impaired

Why did you choose to fall in love with this woman who is so temperamental and not that one who adored you?

Sex is at first plentiful and over the top, she makes you feel as if you are swinging from a crystal chandelier, floating high above the ground. You are falling in love and it is so easy to explain her bad behavior as being “insecure.”

She does not like your relatives, particularly your mother; your old friends suddenly seemed to disappear to be replaced by her carefully edited entourage. She wants you to share all her interests so you become a vegan even though you love meat. She wants you to get a better job; she tells you it is so that you both can enjoy the good life…

She will insists on having a joint account where you dutifully deposit your pay check but she reserves herself the bank given right to keep all her money in a private account, “just in case”, she says. She is of course in charge of the budget because she is so much better at it but she may complain that if you brought your lunch, you could have a much healthier diet and save money.

You may end up putting her through graduate school, college or tech training so she can have a meaningful job. Your life has become perfectly predictable and you ease into a domestic routine which is harmonious and productive. Week-ends are well planned with home repairs, scheduled activities and Sunday dinners with relatives or friends of her choosing. If you want to visit your mother, she will at first make excuses why she can not come but insists that you should go without her. But when it becomes obvious that you are going, she comes along to keep you company. You may think that you are so lucky to have found the perfect mate who is always there for you…but not really.

As long as you do everything she wants, you can be in her favor zone but mild dissent escalates quickly into hysterical scenes complete with nervous twitches, tears and sometimes peaks into hyperventilation.

You sometimes feel as if you can not do anything right unless she tells you. Is this what love is all about?

If love is based on a chemical reaction between two people, why does it often end up feeling as if you are mechanically impaired? Is it that a healthy relationship should be based on kindness and mutual generosity fueled by chemistry rather than chemistry based?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hungarian Rhapsody

I went back to Budapest last month for a business trip. My previous visit dated back to a time where I was married with young children and the Soviet Empire was beginning to crumble. At that time Budapest was a neutral zone where East Germans and West Germans gathered to share a week-end and perhaps make escape plans.

A vivid memory of a bus load of Russian tourists loudly invading the most sacred church in Budapest, St Stephen's Basilica, is forever stamped in my memory. The men walked boldly in front of the altar to take pictures of their group, were smoking cigarettes and were oblivious to the local worshipers stunned by the intrusion. It was a disturbing snapshot but it also predicted that a change would come. The languages that were prevalent were Hungarian, Russian and German. I spoke limited German but it did not matter because Hungarian people are helpful and most patient. It was obvious that trade was slow. Shops that were meticulously maintained had few products to sell. Restaurants which had 20 pages of menu, could only serve goulash soup and chicken paprika. The city of Pest was surrounded by a cloud of smug due to leaded gasoline propelling cars made in the Eastern Bloc. It was a beautiful trip because even tarnished the glory of the city could not be denied.

I had no expectations and maybe it explains my delight in discovering what free enterprise had accomplished in a few years. The immaculate VW Passat taxi which picked me up from the airport was driven by a man wearing an immaculate white shirt and accepting credit card payment, nice when you are exhausted and have not exchange your money into the local currency which is Forint not Euro. My hotel was the same Hilton located in the Castle district but there was a definite service improvement, it was upscale and friendly with an executive lounge serving free food and beverages including wine all day, along with the use of computers with free internet access.

I had to attend meetings outside of Budapest for a few days which also gave me the opportunity to visit a wine cellar which was a new business venture that a young couple had started. We were treated to a wine tasting along with specialty dishes. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the country which was haunted but nothing unpleasant happened, a few whispers, shuffling sounds and cold spots were experienced but no one was possessed.

To get to Pest from the historic Castle district of Buda, we walked across the Danube on the historic Chain Bridge built in 1842 and partly destroyed during WWII by the Germans. It is a great place to take pictures and view both cities. The bus system is extensive and I would have liked to try it but my companion wanted to walk and as it is the best way to see a city, we did, for ten hours! It was a full day of exploration and observation and we found that everything was the same but everything had changed.

English was spoken instead of Russian, businesses and shops displayed their wares with pride. Buildings were renovated, restaurants offered variety of dishes and if you chose to sit outside on their terraces, as we did, all offered warm blankets to cut the September chill. It was cozy to eat lunch overlooking the pedestrian traffic going in and out of St Stephen's Basilica which was again treated with reverence and respect. It was a liberating trip, I found myself succumbing to the charm of Hungary all over again as I did many years ago in a previous life, ghosts can be friendly but they are only a pale reflection of what you can experience if you choose to stay in the present.

Gate to the ARTS Museum

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Elections Quebec Style

I received a note from Zannie, one of my sisters that simply said, “for us it is all done.”

I was intrigued and called her immediately. I had to know what did she meant?

In my family we are not to comfortable with transitions, we jump right into the core of the matter. “What is all done?” I asked her.

She said, “Our elections! What else? We have re-elected Harper. It took less than two months, no bombardments of political ads, no robot phone calls and it was relatively painless and inexpensive.”

I said, “I know, I read in the Montreal Gazette that again Quebec distinguished itself by voting for anyone except the major parties.”

“Bien oui, she said. We love to have a minority government, it prevents abuse. Besides we in Quebec do not trust a strong Federal government lead by Anglophones to understand our culture.”

“Well, Mom did vote for Harper in the first election and he is from Alberta, you could not get more Anglophone!”

“True, she conceded, but you must remember that soon after we took her in to see if she was beginning to show signs of Alzheimer?”

“Yes, that is true, we both laughed, and the doctor said that she was sharper than most people.”

“Harper wanted to change many of our rights, and here in Quebec, we are socialists and proud of it. Why else would we vote for the Bloc Québéquois, a party who can not win in the Federal elections since it only represents Québec”

“Let me guess, you voted for them?”

“Yes, I did and so did Denis and Francine, Catherine, Nathalie, François. Pierre and Sylvie probably went with NPD as did Mom and Valerie. Pat and Martine, I am not sure maybe they went Green?”

I said with envy, “so many choices.”

“So is Obama going to win, she finally asked me,”

“No doubt, he will win the popular vote, I said. But not sure about the electoral college.”

“What’s wrong with Americans? Why are they still using this archaic process? I really don’t get it. This is the age of information, it should be based on each vote”

“Maybe this a way to keep the capitalists in power legally?” I replied.

Maybe that is the true reason to keep that process, it worked in 2000. We rolled over like lambs and accepted a legal decision which has now been challenged by hidden facts such as dumping ballots and voter intimidation as well as eliminating perfectly valid ballots.

I do hope that this time, justice will prevail and that the winner will be the deserving.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Beer Drinking

One of the greatest pleasures of summer in la Belle Province of Québec is to discover small neighborly places to eat and drink with friends and families in a casual atmosphere. My brother Pierre and his girlfriend Sylvie introduced me to a small micro brewery in the south shore community of Chambly about twelve miles from Montreal.

“Bedondaine et Bedons Ronds” has a unique style with its collection of beer memorabilia and its shelves of beer bottles lining its walls. It is also a beer museum which offers tasty and original brews.

But what appealed to me is that it is the story of a small Quebec entrepreneur, Nicolas Bourgault who matched his interests and passion for beer with a lot of hard work to start a business which became a success. It took a lot of planning with business and advanced brew master courses and also the much appreciated help of family members and friends as well as grants from the Quebec government.

The old garage was converted into a brewery which is part bistro and part pub and is located in the historic district not too far from the hiking trails and bicycle paths that bring in patrons in quest of refreshments.

Their signature beer is called L’Ensorceleuse but there are so many choices with unusual names that it is impossible to only try one. How can one resist “L’Amère Veilleuse”, ie. The Marvelous, “ La Dernière Brosse” ie, The Last Bender or " Sème Ta Graine” ie. Sow your Wild Oats.

All of these beers are created by Nicolas and his employees to bring joy to the palate of the most demanding beer drinker. My brother Pierre fits the description having sampled micro brews for many years, he has adopted Bedondaine as his favorite brasserie in a province where beer is serious business.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Disruption in Strongsville OH

I noticed in my small Parma Heights community that political signs are landscaping a few yards but overall the participation has been minimal for such a disputed race.

Not so in Republican rallies where an herd mentality ignited by an agent provocateur successfully raised its ugly ignorant head last week in Strongsville. The crowd waiting to see McCain was being “interviewed” and the comments were far from respectful to Senator Obama’s run for the Presidency.

Shame on people who feel that the best way to increase their blog traffic is to provoke and antagonize crowds of McCain –Palin supporters. I really can’t see the advantage in cultivating discord and hate.

I am an Obama supporter, I feel that he is the candidate who can energize our economy, unite our nation and be trusted to bring the best people in his administration in the pursuit of excellence. After so many years of an administration that feared independent thinking and progressive ideas, which resulted in one of the most mediocre government in the story of this nation, Senator Obama’s ability to obtain support from the best and the brightest is uplifting. I finally have hope that we may have an opportunity to create a strong integrated society where citizens will be respected on their merits and social contribution such as dedicating themselves to their families, taking charge of their communities, taking pride in doing the best work that they can do and pursuing knowledge and happiness in even strides.