It took several years before life took on its full grunginess, which included a bad experience standing for office in the Quebec provincial election in 1998 in Westmount. I garnered only 648 votes, running in the middle of the pack—though still higher than the Socialist Democracy man with 224 votes, the Natural Law Party fellow with 130, the Communist with 89 and the Peoples Front fellow with 56.
That came after my forced resignation from the Suburban, following a hard-fought battle for a year's salary as a financial settlement. As the editor, despite my supposed role as "eminence grise" in the party—a status shared with my then wife, Miriam—I had been excused duty from running as a candidate. Not that I coveted the role, thinking that it was unwise for journalists to enter electoral politics unless they were already clearly on the winning side of a popular controversy, as D'Arcy McGee was in the 1860s. Journalists are valued for the interest their news and views generate. To be a successful politician one must engage the voter's trust. This is a different task than engaging a reader's interest. Both journalist and politician pontificate on public issues, but to be successful they do so to achieve very different ends.
I remember an incident at an all-candidates meeting years earlier, when during a Q&A the sitting city councillor I knew and liked took a question from a woman who asked: "What are you going to do about popcorn that sticks to children's teeth?" To which he replied: "Thank you very much for that question. You can be assured that I will look into this very serious matter."
Afterwards, I asked him privately how he could possibly consider that a serious matter. He shook his head and said that the woman thought it was serious problem, and she probably brought a few of her friends to the meeting, "so why lose a few votes by making light of her concern?"
But now there was no Suburban editorship to shield me from running. Miriam had been excused duty to pursue her doctorate and was mired in baby care, but now she had completed her PhD in philosophy, so we both had to shoulder our responsibilities and become candidates in the party's darkest hour. The Equality Party, vociferously opposing bans on English as the language of signs and the language of work, was in the doghouse among our own constituents because of bad behavior by all four of our elected members.
Miriam had a far better chance than I. Partly because she spoke fluent French and would wow all the English voters with her unparalleled verbal and linguistic dexterity, but mostly because the former Liberal Minister John Ciaccia, who would have been a shoo-in, suddenly retired after holding the Mount Royal seat for 25 years. The Liberals had to hastily draft a Molson's Brewery executive to fill the slot. We were sure that Miriam could beat him, or at least make a strong favourable impression at the traditional debate usually held by the local district newspaper. So certain were the Liberals too, it seemed, that they induced the TMR Post to cancel the debate for some obviously spurious reason, spiking the one gun we had.
I got a committee room going in Westmount on Sherbrooke Street, decorated our car with posters and fitted it out with loudspeakers, and with a few party loyalists we sallied forth. It was pathetic. We were also riven with Liberal infiltrators. One came in with scads of money for our campaign, thousands of dollars from nowhere. The guy, a crude and rude fellow whom nobody knew or trusted, was refused after one of our old-timers acquainted me with the campaign financing rules. There was also an in-house guy who was assiduous about keeping office hours but refused to do anything outside the office. I wasn't suspicious at first; there was so much to do and only me to do it.
But I came up with a sound strategy for all-candidates meetings. My tactic, which I commend to all, was to have my people not ask troubling questions to opponents, but direct softball questions to me, thus maximising my time and minimising theirs. My gang stuck with the plan, but the in-house guy asked a pseudo-hostile question to the Liberal, Russell Copeman, who won the NDG seat in the end. He easily parried the question and then took the opportunity to launch a speech of his own. At the time I was filling in for the NDG candidate, the party leader Keith Henderson, a Vanier College professor. I had someone tell the in-house guy that he was no longer wanted on the voyage.
Things had begun to sour at the Suburban as various Equality Party-like initiatives began to fail. At first, they showed great promise. One was the "poison pill partition" movement. I did my best to get this going despite my indifference to Quebec independence, figuring Anglo-Quebec had enough power to make or break an independent Quebec and could improve our fortunes by improving theirs—if they restored Anglo Quebec rights as they existed in 1970. Canada, complicit in our demise, fawning constantly to the demands of the federal French in order to keep them federal, would then be powerless in an independent Quebec—and, more importantly, too indifferent to subvert our efforts to defend ourselves in Quebec itself. Anglo Canada free of Quebec would then be reinforced by a huge English-speaking majority and would undoubtedly engage in an attritional purge of the federal French—in short, doing exactly what the French had done to us in Quebec.
But the fear of separatism was so great that it moved most Anglo-Quebec voters, so I went along with gusto. Within our Equality camp we successfully marketed "poison pill partition." The "poison pill" aspect being that if Quebec could separate from Canada, then Anglo-Quebec could separate from an independent Quebec. This caught people's attention. The quisling Gazette, with its notions of asymmetrical federalism and asymmetrical civil rights, raised the specter of South Africa, where lurid horrors were surfacing at the time, while we at the Suburban likened the process to the 1979 separation of the canton of Jura from the canton of Berne in Switzerland, complete with its micro district referenda on territorial trading formulae to deal with border areas, which sounded thoroughly Swiss and civilised.
This won magical support after several meetings at McGill University's law school Moot Court and a monster meeting in the Bonaventure Hotel. This was particularly glorious when it transpired that then Prime Minister Jean Chretien, leader of the federal French, supported our argument insofar as its undeniable logic served as a club to bash the separatists.
But when that high point faded, the cause faded, and plans to have a three-day conference to deal with "uncertainty" faded too. While most agreed intellectually with the "poison pill" argument, no one of any financial standing was willing to risk anything beyond uttering a few supportive quotable quotes. And standing up risked more "uncertainty"—the constant fret of the 1990s—that would only depress house prices before they could sell out and join the Anglo Exodus. And among Anglos, there were many employees of the state-funded MUSH—museums, universities, schools and hospitals, not to mention a vast corps of translators and interpreters, who may have been paid by the private sector but whose raison d'etre was based on regulatory requirements or compelling corporate fashion to translate almost every document available to the public, all the while ignoring the popular outcry for such services to be available only "where numbers warrant."
The next big thing where Equality forces again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory was the Eaton's boycott. The Toronto-based Timothy T. Eaton Company was the biggest department store chain in Canada. Bringing that to its knees would have won national attention to the Anglo-Quebec cause, despite every effort of the mainstream media to block news of Anglo-Quebec complaints. The death of Eaton's could not be ignored. The boycott was sparked by Eaton's announcement that it would remove English signage from its stores, anticipating the deepest desires of francophone forces despite the fact that 80-90 per cent of its shoppers were Anglo-Quebecers.
Alliance Quebec, the federally funded anglo rights group that supported these repressive language laws, was now taken over by a former Gazette and Toronto Globe and Mail journalist, William Johnson, who openly supported our cause. As soon as this happened the AQ was no longer a shill for federal policy. While it was no longer run by the oligarch, it was still infiltrated by the Quebec Liberal Party.
AQ-like organisations had been established across the country since the 1970s to promote the use of French in English Canada, and supposedly to promote the cause of the "linguistic minority" in Quebec, but its covert mission was to assist in the Frenchification process by minimising Anglo-Quebec protest together with the quisling Gazette, the Canadian Press bureau which depended on Gazette news feed, and more importantly, the federally licensed radio and TV stations that kept a lid on it too. When the locals unseated the federally approved oligarch, most of the federal funding was withdrawn. Then came a mysterious fire at AQ headquarters, and all its files were lost.
I had reprinted the body of leader Bill Johnson's plainly anti-French but still relevant Toronto Globe and Mail columns in the Monitor a decade before, so we had every reason to believe he was a good guy.
A bizarre incident occurred before Bill Johnson took the AQ helm, involving my being pulled from my car by the RCMP and questioned for more than an hour. The background was a biker war between the English-speaking Hell's Angels and the French-speaking Rock Machine who were killing each other in a series of attacks and counterattacks, which Montrealers tended to regard with indifference, being long accustomed to gang warfare over the centuries. But when one of their bombings killed a child, there was an outcry, and a tripartite RCMP-Sûreté du Québec-Montreal Police body was set up to deal with it. The fact that a Hell's Angels bar was just up the street from our home at Marcil and Sherbrooke was incidental.
All this would have played no part in this story except for the fact that an unrelated spate of lurid daubings of anti-Anglo slogans started to appear on various doors, bus shelters and walls in Westmount, the traditional Anglo-Quebec residential area, known throughout Canada as such.
The problem was that lurid pictures were appearing on the front pages in Toronto and across Canada. The last thing the federal French wanted was the image of Anglo-Quebecers being oppressed by the French. They had to establish a narrative in which the English threatened the French. Then at least the rest of Canada could say: "A plague on both your houses!" So they invented something called the "Anglo Assault Group." The only evidence of its existence was a single page press release. I cannot remember much of its contents, other than the paragraphing and the style were that of a professional press release writer, but the content was not at all like anything an angry Anglo-Quebecer would write.
The authorities deemed this such a serious affair that they were setting up a tripartite multi-police force unit along the lines of the biker gang unit to deal with what was presented to the media as an apprehended insurrection.
I was leaving work to do something local when two Mounties grabbed me from behind and we went back to my office and sat down for a chat. I assured them I had no interest in terrorism if only because I knew it would not work. My idea of military action was to try to get the disbanding Gurkha Rifles in Hong Kong to join the independent municipal security forces, a prospect that both amused and pleased them.
I said theirs was a phony operation to have the narrative change from French attacking English to having them attack each other. The Mounties were either age 45 or nearly there. One was a corporal and the other a constable. I was familiar with the RCMP's "up or out" policy: If you haven't made sergeant by age 45, you are out. So this assignment was the lowest of priorities for the RCMP.
The most significant part of our exchange was about the Anglo Assault Group press release itself. I said that I was not an expert on very much but, having received 100 press releases a day for years, I was about the most reliable source they could find on the subject.
I did not have a Quebec Liberal Party press release at hand, but I had long noted the similarities between theirs and those of Alliance Quebec, one of which I did have, along with the Anglo Assault Group press release. They noted the similarity of styles and were convinced. On leaving, they volunteered that Alliance Quebec were the ones who accused me of being the source of this.
Johnson led the Eaton's boycott, and it went well at first. I attended the large demonstration at its flagship store on St Catherine Street, across the street from Christ Church Cathedral. But it also drew a large demonstration of separatists across the street. Leading our side in an ugly chant was Len MacDonald, part of the quisling old guard of the oligarch.
I would have had us instead sing plaintively "We Shall Overcome." The French on the other side of the street, perhaps more numerous than we, were careful to front a half dozen well-dressed black Haitians. That's when I suspected a Liberal Party hand in this. While the French were described as separatists, and perhaps held a banner or two trumpeting this, they were not opposed to our wanting to close Eaton's, as they saw it as a bastion of Anglo-Canadian power. They wanted it closed too. I suspected Liberal involvement because the Parti Quebecois would never have thought of fronting black Haitians like that. This was done to counter the false accusation of "ethnic cleansing" we were stupidly making against the French. And it had gained wide currency among Anglo-Quebecers from news of atrocities in the Yugoslav conflict. The French were guilty of "linguistic cleansing," sure enough, but had no thought of ethnic cleansing; they just wanted to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of English in Quebec. The white majority on both sides were from pretty much the same racial stock, the French hailing from Normandy and Brittany, Celts and Norsemen, and the English were much the same, hailing from the British Isles.
Miriam and I drove out to Eaton's in the suburban Fairview Shopping Centre to join a goodly throng demonstrating outside, while I walked through the store to see how the boycott was holding up. There was one lady, a Liberal shill I suspected, appearing to shop in the vast concourse; she made a disparaging remark about the demonstrators outside in the otherwise deserted store, bereft of all but counter clerks.
I rejoined Miriam with the glad tidings. Johnson was about to make a speech. The last thing we wanted was an afternoon of speeches, having done our duty for God and the Queen; we drove home to enjoy the rest of the weekend in high spirits.
No sooner had we opened the door than we rushed to answer the first of several phone calls. Bill Johnson had called off the Eaton's boycott, they told us in astonishment. We were flabbergasted. All was going so well. Eaton's was on the ropes and we were nearly there. We would move on to Simpsons and then humiliate the Hudson's Bay Company.
Calling off the boycott turned out to be the substance of the speech Miriam and I had ducked. When we finally got Johnson on the phone, he said he had to call off the boycott because the separatists had joined it. This was unconvincing. It sounded more like he had to call it off because it was opposed by the Liberals—whence his Order of Canada came. Things were never the same between us.
Trouble began for me at the Suburban when a new general manager, a tubby but muscular fellow called Julian Hecht, arrived. Except for my first short-lived GM, this was the first Jewish GM, and it meant an end to the outreach programme, that is, an end to any notion of the Jewish community leading Anglo-Quebec as I had hoped it would. Hecht signalled a change from our fighting for civil rights to being thoroughly politically correct. He even objected to an editorial I wrote precisely because it was not "politically correct."
I was quite flattered in that, in all likelihood, he had copied the term from me. I make the extraordinary claim of being the first to use it in Canadian public print. Not that I claim to have coined it. That honour goes to Allan Bloom, as far as I know. I took it from his book The Closing of the American Mind, which I had read some years before, and used the term in recalling my work for Radio Canada International (RCI). This comes to mind because of a letter to the editor from a senior RCI producer in response to my column. He wondered whatever I could have meant by the term. It was amazing how quickly it caught on.
More distressingly, how often it was assumed, as Hecht did, to be a term of approbation rather than one of censure as Bloom intended. My mother-in-law, Faigy, saw it as a rule for making nice, not caring if it restricted the scope of one's thinking, fortifying my notion that women have little use for freedom. What they want is security. Famed philosopher Charles Taylor, who was Gretta Chambers's brother—all within my mother's social circle—made an ominous statement on the topic, saying that one should rightly narrow the range of acceptable opinions, a notion that gave academic respectability to political correctness, which I loathed for all the reasons Bloom did.
Julian Hecht cast himself in the role of "coach" and even organised editorial meetings with the entire staff, demanding we undergo various sketchily defined missions that seemed to involve getting "tomorrow's news today" and "news of the future."
Throughout these final years, I was inspired by Flavius Maximus, the Roman general, who faced Hannibal. Not being powerful enough to attack the Carthaginian army, he saved Rome by retreating over rocky ground to break up the feet of the attacking elephants. Figuratively, I did the same. Doing exactly what Hecht wanted, and when "his" projects failed asking him what he wanted to do next, asking what I could have done any better? With all his other work dealing with the sales force, his editorial ploys and gambit only existed to make my life difficult to induce me to resign. He certainly did not want them to boomerang back to bite him. So he gave up on that form of attack. Everyone knew what was going on. I simply told Joel Goldenberg: "I do war. My mother raised me that way. She taught me grace under fire."
At first, it was just Julian. His little insults, calling me "Mr Chips," as I was now over 50, often arrived by bicycle, and seemed to be outmoded as was the character in that 1939 British movie, Goodbye, Mr Chips. There were other putdowns too, to embarrass me when he could. "Insensitivity is its own reward," I would tell friends, fancying myself as an armadillo, an armoured rat that could resist anything. I knew I had to go, but not without a financial settlement, and I would pursue a wrongful dismissal case to the full extent of the law.
Hecht and Amos Sochaczevski then allied with Joyce Lapointe, my nominal deputy. She never liked me and would be glad to be rid of me. But when she shouted at me in an insubordinate manner, defiantly walked away from me as I was talking to her, I gave her my best sergeant-majorly bellow "JOYCE!!!"—which rang through the building and alarmed all hands from stem to stern. This shook her more than anyone. Mine was a fair imitation of a Canadian Guards sergeant major's bellow, which I had long admired and longed to deploy.
Joyce made a huge fuss of the incident and managed to get a meeting with the owners, who now appeared to include only Amos Sochaczevski and Julian Hecht. Amos's brother Avi Sochaczevski had become increasingly absent. But while Joyce fussed a lot, when the event was deconstructed, all they had was one shouted word "JOYCE!!!" directed towards a defiant subordinate, and such does not make a rightful dismissal under Quebec law. By this time, I also put a lawyer on retainer, a fact made known to all.
At some point they threatened Joyce's job, too. I then made it clear through parties, henceforth known as "Switzerlands in the building," that I was open to forming common front with her. And a common front was instantly forged, and Joyce and I got on as never before, much to the horror of Hecht and company. Before, they had internal strife chugging along on autopilot; now, whatever internal strife they could muster they would have to cook up themselves. People were amazed at how well Joyce and I were getting on. There were jokes about us running away together.
Hecht and company then had us draft fitness reports on each other, though I was not told of hers on me, just to write one on her. I was only mildly critical, expressing a desire that she would be more cooperative than she had been but also noting things had much improved in recent weeks. But Joyce took the opportunity to condemn me utterly, thinking that this might be the way to get rid of me. But I was never to see it because I did not hear of its existence until months later, when it featured in the various manoeuvres around a wrongful dismissal suit—not mine, but hers.
One day I was called into Hecht's office and was asked if my resignation could be had for $45,000. We agreed on a year's salary. I asked to remain for another month, and I would subtract a day from each week so control was transferred to the staff in an orderly manner.
By this time, we all got wind of a big fight between the brothers. It was clear Avi was not one of my tormentors and had largely disappeared from the Suburban as Hecht asserted his editorial role. Then we got word of an "asset split" between two brothers and that the newspaper was solely in Amos's hands. His son Michael Sochaczevski, who had been gazetted in the masthead as publisher since I had been there and now had his MBA, was an increasing presence at the Suburban, though he had little to do with me.
I remember after the meeting when they agreed to a settlement looking up from my desk after an hour or two of uninterrupted work. I said to Joel Goldenberg: "It's stopped."
"Harassing fire," I said, explaining that Hecht always wanted me to do something, look up something, include something else, anything that would disrupt me.
It was over. I felt a peace palpably for the first time in years.
The one denouement worth appending here was Joyce's wrongful dismissal suit. This is when I might have read what Joyce said of me in her fitness report. It was sent to me by the owners weeks after my departure and just after I was asked to appear as a witness.
Miriam read it, but all I wanted to know was whether its delivery was calculated to effect a change in my testimony. She said yes, that it was hateful and highly negative and delivered so I would turn against Joyce in her suit. So I told Miriam to put it away and that I would not read it before the hearing.
The situation reminded me of those movies in which the bad guy provides the good guy with information that causes the good guy to do something to his disadvantage that gives the bad guy the upper hand. I sensed such a gambit was at play and I would resist it.
* * *
Having completed her PhD, Miriam had been campaigning to get a teaching job almost anywhere in the world that would have her. I had no job prospects in Montreal myself and it seemed best that I find whatever I could wherever she landed.
About this time there was a chance for a teaching post at the University of Ottawa, but at the price of engaging in another French-English battle in that bilingual institution. After our election defeats, we both longed to get out of a Canada that seemed to reward evil, where Liberals acted in an illiberal way. It reminded me of that Orwellian 1984 scene where protagonist Winston Smith is being told under torture in Room 101 that 2 plus 2 means anything the state wants it to mean, which would make banning the use of a language perfectly liberal if the Liberal Party says so.
After a series of job talks at the American Philosophical Association in Boston, Miriam got a one-year appointment teaching her brand of philosophical Wittgensteinian-Humism at Grinnell College, in Grinnell, Iowa. At this point I was relegated to being a househusband, which I discovered was no big deal, even running the biggest house I had ever occupied.
I got the kids, ages 5 and 8, to do a good deal of the housework. From the very beginning domestic life had taken on a mock military air accompanied by marching bands of the Royal Marines and the Brigade of Guards. Even changing diapers, there was a drill to it. I would sit on the toilet seat, place the baby on a towel on the floor before me, and in a series of drill moves I got the whole thing done by the time I sang, "I've Got Six Pence, Jolly, Jolly Sixpence." My theory, borne out in practice, was that the kids knew the inevitability of what would happen and how long it would take, so cranky resistance collapsed and never got beyond a few initial moans when I started singing.
It was "Captain Von Trapp with laughs," I said. My methods were as much despised as my results were admired. What's more, when the kids were off duty, they could do what they liked as long as they did not bother me or the neighbours or draw the attention of the police. Hannah, age 8, was designated the Grenadier, the most senior of the regiment of footguards, and John Joseph the Coldstream, the second most senior. And because the Grenadiers had buttons in "groups of ones," Hannah got one hug at bedtime, and because John Joseph was a Coldstream, with "buttons in groups of twos," he got two hugs. The order of precedence ran to everything, good and bad. The Grenadier got an unwanted bath before the Coldstreamer, and ice cream treats were doled out in that order as well.
Our currency was capitals. In Montreal part of the bedtime routine was stopping at a world atlas, and we would learn the capitals and rivers. So to get an ice cream or a pizza, they would have to give me three or five capitals, with lots of jokes like Vanilla, Moshorse and Musrat, and quips, the best of which was "Egypt me and Iran."
At 8 a.m., the kids would form up before the "wrong room to right room" cleanup. Form up, right dress, stand at ease, at which I might mention any changes to the orders of the day, have them come to attention and then give the order: "To your duties march!"
The first part of "wrong room to right room" was having each one of the working party, which included me, given their own patrol zone and bring anything in the wrong room to the room where it belonged. Then work was divided between the "wet" and the "dry." I did wet: dishes, toilet, bathtub and mopping. John Joseph mostly put away toys and stowed things found on the floor, and Hannah made beds and did the sweeping. All the while the Royal Marines band played on, until the Navy anthem Hearts of Oak sounded and it was time for them to kit out for school.
In the afternoon, there was adventure training—climbing trees and jumping into piles of fallen leaves, with which we were generously supplied. Or there were rainy day projects like drawing pictures with coloured markers on 8"x11" sheets of paper with each representing a century, starting with Ancient Egypt. The kids drew pictures of period costumes, pyramids, camels and the like and we taped them to the wall. It was more a lesson for me than for them, as I came to appreciate, having drawn a half dozen tiresomely similar Ancient Egyptian pictures. The kids, when asked to do yet another, became mutinous, and I realised that covering the ground of Ancient Egypt from 3500 BC to 350 BC would involve forcing the kids to draw more than 30 pictures of camels, pharaohs and pyramids to get us to Ancient Greeks, which would have only involved four centuries. I remember one of Hannah's efforts before we abandoned the project depicted a camel with five legs climbing up a pyramid, to which I appended the caption: "Five-legged pyramid-climbing camel (model discontinued)."
My wife preferred to do the cooking if I did the washing up. It was a relief to do it, because with the exception of the classics chairman, with whom she ran off two months later—in an
extra-marital affair that was so like that depicted in the film Educating Rita—our frequent dinner guests were the usual leftist academic blowhards. They were easily defeated in argument because they seldom if ever had to defend their position against a rightist attack. I should have been a little more aware that expressing pro-Bush views at the time of the Iowa Caucuses was doing Miriam no good. While I found solace doing the washing up, I still got into trouble at the Faculty House, where after a few beers I delighted in butchering all comers in what was a target-rich environment. I found them ignorant laymen beyond their own specialties. No one who drank at the Faculty House seemed to teach anything I was interested in. I heard that the president of the college was an expert on the Blackstone Commentaries, which I had devoured two years before, after reading David Hume's History of England. I was a Blackstone fan, entirely embracing his concept and principles of English law, as I am today. I would have cheerfully audited the president's course had he offered one, but he had given himself over to administration and research, I was told.
Grinnell College was interesting from the perspective of journalistic history because it was Horace Greeley, the publisher of the New York Tribune, who told the Rev. Joshua Grinnell to "Go west, young man." And that's where he ended up. He or his fellow travellers named the place Iowa City. But it is not to be confused with today's Iowa City, which took the name once Grinnell abandoned it.
There were a couple of employment false dawns. The internet was at the dial-up pre-Google stage, and while I tried to get online work, nothing quite worked out after a couple of near-misses.
My big failed project looked promising at first. This was my contact with the substantial weekly Grinnell Herald-Register, with its 2,500 circulation. I had noticed in 1963 when I poured over newspaper statistics in the Editor & Publisher Yearbook in my copyboy days at the Gazette that a Canadian weekly needed to get to a 5,000 paid circulation level before it could become a daily. American weeklies only needed 2,000 to do the same.
I spoke to the acting publisher, an attractive 35-year-old woman, Dorothy Pinder, who seemed far more gown than town, as the divide loomed like the Berlin Wall between the college and the 8,000 souls of the municipality. Ms Pender had been educated in Poland and had recently returned to her family, who owned the paper. She was intrigued with my idea and saw no harm in my doing further research. My plan was to drive to Iowa towns with daily newspapers with circulations of 3,000 or less and talk to anyone there who could tell me how the "tiny dozen" papers were doing, their problems and their prospects. With the Bush Republicans rounding out his first term and unemployment down between 2-3 per cent, things were looking up at the time.
Ms Pinder was a sophisticate who would have been at home in Montreal or New York. While I was disappointed in not encountering a political fellow traveller, a fellow Bush supporter, she was receptive to my plan of using the internet to gather news. It was a new idea at the time. It would have been news exclusive to the Herald Register, news that would interest the faculty and professional staff at Grinnell College, perhaps expanding circulation by 500 copies.
My scheme involved doing what I had done with Parliamentary Hansards in Canada, but this time accessed instantly from the Congressional Record and the State of Iowa website, giving the newspaper state capital and D.C. coverage, but of a local nature, as we would focus on what local representatives were saying and doing in the Houses and Senates as well as in legislative committees. My pitch was this: As we spend so much time worrying about the people we elect, perhaps we should pay attention to what they say once they are elected as revealed in the verbatim transcripts in the Congressional Record, and the state house journals.
She was intrigued. I produced a couple of stories, one about Senator Charles Grassley and another on train speeds, relevant to the town as a freight train trundled through Grinnell—and through the campus too—at least twice a day. But after hemming and hawing, she wasn't going to do anything and so that came to an end.
My other adult activity was delivering a monthly Boer War column I provided free to a small magazine in Huntingdon, Quebec, called Dialogue, an old ally in Equality Party days. I had tried and failed to get more remunerative publication, but there were no takers. My effort was about Canada's participation in that war, which resulted in the Canadian Army's first-rate reputation as a fighting force internationally. It was a major conflict in which Canada proved itself against a worthy foe, besting British forces much of the time, and at a crucial moment turning the war around from a losing into a winning proposition at the Battle of Paardeberg Drift. It was important to the Canadian Army and important to me, but sadly, to no one else. Each segment was to be published exactly 100 years after the events described. This was a taste of the first one, appearing in September, 1999:
100 years ago this September
Canadians battle a foot-dragging Liberal government to fight the Boer War
By Christy McCormick
A century ago this September, as a war in South Africa began to smoulder into flame, Canadians were enthusiastic to enlist despite efforts to stop them by Liberal Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
The Boer War (1899-1902) had similarities to today's conflict between French and English in Canada. South African anglos suffered official suppression in the Transvaal. They were refused English schooling and the vote. Afrikaner courts seldom sided with them against a Boer and they were forced to buy all necessities from official agents who charged exorbitant prices. . .
* * *
Then, gently as a thunderbolt, I learned that the woman I loved, the mother of my children, no longer loved me. She wanted me out. Hired a lawyer to speed me on my way. She owed me $6,000 in various loans drawn from my mother's estate, over which I had power of attorney, and an additional $4,000 to give me a start. Her father, Michael, said I should get nothing, and she should leave it to lawyers to fight over what I should get and how I should get it.
So I urged her to consider my guerrilla PR scheme, in which I managed to secure email addresses of a wide range of APA (American Philosophical Association) notables and proposed to tell them the cheerless tale of treachery followed by the question of whether such a woman should be hired to teach ethics, which was how she was marketing herself in preparation for the end of her one-year tenure at Grinnell. I also threatened to send a professionally written newspaper story in the third person, with her photo, to student and local newspapers in the very cities where her best hopes of success lay. Not that I expected anyone to publish these heart-rending tales, but I did plan the story and picture to be followed up with repeated pleas for publication to more and more people in the locality, so it would be passed around to other local notables so people could be warned. I asked her to see what her father thought of my scheme. Anyway, upon reconsideration, I got the $10,000.
Miriam was anxious I did not reveal our troubles to the kids, but I had seen the film Pollyanna, which—despite its schmaltzy reputation—presents harsh realities of cruel betrayals. If Hannah could handle that, Hannah could handle what had happened. The question was whether she wanted to go with me. She said No in a way that indicated the hard truth that her mother had the power and I had none. She at 8 had reached the age of criminal responsibility, that is beyond the age when one could be deemed too young to know right from wrong. John-Joseph, at 5, had not reached that age. I would have taken him had his sister wanted to go and been willing to take on the 2i/c role, which I knew she was capable of performing. They were trained and could be trusted. But they had to be willing and Hannah was not. Thus, John-Joseph would have to be consulted in three years.
Then they all cleared out for Christmas in Montreal, and I gutted the house of my mother's furniture and sent it into storage at Meldrum the Movers in NDG.
Thence to Montreal, where the Abrahams, summer Meadow dwellers, were most helpful, lending me a car and putting me up for the few days I was in town removing various valuables from Miriam's family's Girouard house. I was supposed to go out with the children, which I agreed to do to facilitate the extraction of my mother's stuff, mostly china and glassware. Once done, I took the pair over to the Abrahams, where they played with their 7-year-old boy for an hour or two, until it was time to bring them back.
On my return, I rang the buzzer instead of walking in unannounced as I used to do. Miriam answered, making her first appearance that day, indicating a desire for a bittersweet goodbye, but I turned away and went back to the car. I wanted never to see any of them again. Miriam pursued me on foot, and said something, but I got in the car and slammed the door in the only public display of anger I allowed myself throughout the ordeal.
I never saw her again.
Four Musketeers Ended Up Fighting Each Other