Being once again involved with the on-line dating circus, I find myself having to recall and describe parts of my life that had fallen out of my normal, everyday consideration. I have had a very interesting life, not so much for multiple adventures as for its richness and variety of ordinary experience.
Oh, there have been national recognition awards and such. Glad to have been so recognized, but they mean nothing to me now. One experience that recently came to mind when a woman asked me what it was like to have lived in Ottawa follows below. I sometimes think of it as the “Incident at Pink Lake.”
My wife (now ex-wife) and I moved from New Haven, Connecticut to Ottawa in August 1970. We found a delightful, affordable, two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor that opened onto an NCC park. We began to adjust to new ways of doing things. Visiting the LCBO in order to buy a bottle of wine was a strange experience. No product was on display at all! Instead, one encountered counters with lists, order forms and stubby pencils attached to chains. I won’t go on with description here. Suffice to say that it all felt like you were engaged in some kind of private, dirty act that was somehow accepted and sanctioned by officialdom but only if one felt sufficiently guilty about it in the process. I was then further surprised that Canadian wine tasted not quite as good as Kool-Aid! Thankfully wine makers have completely remedied that issue and now Canadian wines are excellent!
Where do we go from here? Okay. Buy French wine, an easy adjustment to make.
One morning in October, our radio alarm came on and the first words out of the announcer’s mouth were, “I’m terribly proud to be a Canadian this morning!” Immediately, my mind said, “Uh-oh! What terrible tragedy has occurred?” Patriotic breast-beating always takes on that ridiculous tone. The announcer went on to say that we were then under the War Measures Act and that there was much to discuss and reveal about what that would mean to everyone.
In general, it seemed to mean that if you were not a member of the FLQ terrorist group or a member of a similar group advocating terror as a way for Quebec to quickly achieve independence, then you were expected to go on about your life as usual. We did too. But because Ottawa is the seat of federal government and the place where international embassies are located, we found that army jeeps and weapon-carrying soldiers were omnipresent. To many Canadians the sight was unnerving, but before I came to Canada I had been at many anti-war protests and had encountered lots of shows of military force. I’d joke and say it almost felt like home, but I would be disingenuous in making such a claim. My sanguine attitude was based more on my having seen it all before.
Days passed, terrorists and others were rounded up, some arrested, some questioned and released. My wife and I just kept our ears attuned to what was happening but were largely untroubled by events as they unfolded.
The weekend came. We had to be careful with our money because only my wife was working. My teaching credentials were being evaluated by the slow-moving Ontario Ministry of Education and joe-job places were reluctant to hire me because I had too much education. I did what I could but had no regular work by October. I suggested that we simply go for a drive to see the autumn leaves in the Gatineau Hills across the Ottawa River in Quebec. Lovely! Here we were, slowly cruising up and down hills, around scenic bends in the road – that did feel just like home in Connecticut. Everything seemed to be in a red and gold leaf splendour.
I crested a hill and as the hood of our car came down on the other side, I saw an army truck and jeep with several soldiers scrambling to retrieve their weapons and one of them already had me in his sights! That was unnerving! I had encountered many U.S. soldiers before but had never had a weapon aimed directly at me. Soon, two soldiers had me so targeted and a single soldier walked slowly toward our car while the others took cover positions.
The calm soldier simply came up to the car, looked inside pretty much the way a border guard might and asked what we were doing there. I explained exactly what we had been hoping to do. That seemed to satisfy him and he signalled his squad to lower their weapons. Then he told me that the road had been closed and that I should make a Y turn and go back the way we had come.
I later learned that we had unwittingly stumbled upon Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s summer cottage at Pink Lake where Trudeau and his cabinet had gone for security during the insurrection.
Today of course I treat the incident as quite a hoot, because I can honestly claim that I was present at Pink Lake, while Trudeau and his cabinet were there during the FLQ Crisis! The claim of course is misleading, but true none-the-less!
It is amazing to me how many incidents not so unlike this I have had in life and now I have a blog in which to report them too!
Thank you, Plenty of Fish women, for asking me to explain myself so many times! Thank you, Marianne, for asking me about my experience of Ottawa!
If Bing Translate has this right, “Il était doux de vous demander.”