Monday, March 19, 2018
My brother, 18 months, April, 1953, I'm guessing, on our balcony on Randall in NDG and a Google Maps shot of the same place these days. That's Cote St Luc Road in the background. There were houses on that street in 1953. Soon, they were torn down and apartments were built in their place.
This family photograph has a story. My father took the picture. In fact, he took a series of them. First my toddler brother climbs on the chair, falls off the chair and is crying on the deck and then this aftermath.
My father was a man before his time, chronicling the event without interfering in it.
I always felt these photos to be weird. I thought it reflected a certain coldness on my father's part.
But, I'm guessing, it's just a guy thing.
I'm sure his Brownie camera couldn't take pictures in succession like my Samsung Note. It was a simple machine, I recall, one step over the cardboard box with the pinhole we made in school.
I'm not born, yet.
I will be born here or, more precisely, in the Catherine Booth Hospital nearby.
My mother always told me I was born 'over a shoe shop on the corner of Oxford and Monkland, where her widowed mother lived with daughters Cecile and Florence in around 1950 until her death in 1951. A place that is now Patisserie de Nancy and has been for ages.
I wonder why.
Her sister Florence still lived on that corner in 1954 according to Lovell's Directory. So, maybe she got confused.
Thanks to Lovell's Directory, I can trace where my grandmother lived from her marriage to Jules Crepeau, Assistant City Clerk to her death: Amherst, then St Denis then St Hubert. Then Sherbrooke Street West, then Harvard, then Oxford.
First an UP trajectory, as her husband, Jules, rises up at City Hall and then a DOWN trajectory, when he is forced to resign his post as Director of City Services in 1930. He bought this pretty house with his huge pension but lost all his money with investments before THE CRASH.
He invested unwisely, hoping to leave each of his five children 100,000 dollars. Really!
He was a brilliant civil servant, with a mind like a steal trap, (Freudian slip) not above taking bribes, if his enemies told the truth, but a useless businessman.
His brother, Isadore Crepeau, VP of United Theatre Amusements, the company that built all the beautiful Montreal movie palaces in the 1920's, 'fell' out of his 7th story office window on St. James in 1933.
The city stopped Jules' pension in an emergency measure in 1937. He was run over by an off-duty policeman on ROYAL when he lived on Harvard two weeks later, breaking a leg. He would die from complications a year later.
My mother, well-educated and totally bilingual, went to work as an stenographer. In the 40's she worked for RKO Movie Distributing on Monkland. In 1954, while pregnant with me, she was still working there, at least part-time as a typist. She often talked about what a bummer it was to have to work while heavy with child. Her husband was working as an accountant during the day and taking courses toward a CA at night.
So, it must have been useful having a sister who lived nearby.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
My automsomal DNA confirms my brother's Y DNA
The verdict is in. Well, sort of. My bio father is very likely a Jewish guy, a mixture of Mediterranean Jew and Russian Jew.
FT DNA is still working on my brother's Y DNA haplogroup, but it is likely J M 127.
That explains the messy ethnicity wheel from Gedmatch!
My totally 100 percent French Canadian comes out British/Irish and a bit Iberian (also Sephardic Jew) and Italian, like most French Canadians. That mixed me up a lot, initially.
(On my half-brother's chart of FT DNA, my French Canadian mother comes out British and his Yorkshire father (the man who raised me) comes out European. LOL.)
This J-M127 haplogroup is huge in the Russian Caucasus - and also in the Mediterranean.
It's still possible my bio-father is a Sicilian, or Maltese, but the Jewish father scenario makes much more sense.
My mother would easily have had contact with Jewish men in 1954. Her boss at work was Jewish. If he was a very tall Jewish man, he's the one! He certainly has the right surname for these haplotypes on my brother's chart.
So, when I attended elementary school in the 1960's, where most of the students in my class were Jewish, I was genetically a cousin, although I practiced no religion. When I had to fill in forms I put Anglican in the religion box, because my Dad said he was Anglican. My snarky older brother wrote "I worship Thor." He was close, he has ancestors who worshipped Thor.
All very odd. (I remember a teacher asking me if I was Jewish or Gentile (for holiday purposes) and I didn't know what she was talking about.)
My messy ethnicity wheel.
My son tells me not to get 'emotionally invested' in this investigation. He thinks I am looking for my father. I am not. I had a father I loved.
I've read some accounts online of people who have found out something similar and they've been gobsmacked. Not me. I am looking to find out 'who I am', the reason I took the Ancestry test in the first place. I am curious.
Besides, the past is the past. You can't get mad at dead people. It's a bloody waste of time.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Babies and Butterflies. What a nice combination.
As in hardly any sunlight!
At such times, going back in time seems a good thing to do.
Yesterday, my husband and I drove to Montreal's Botanical Gardens to see the Butterflies Go Free exhibit in one of the old Victorian-style greenhouses that are open in winter.
Butterflies and babies galore! Very pleasant, indeed.
My husband, the builder, remarked on the cost of keeping these greenhouses warm in the cold Montreal winter.
"Yea," I said. "Greenhouses like this were designed for English winters."
Now, the butterflies (and babies) were the best thing about the exhibit. A fine idea, this.
Tropical plants hardly hold any fascination for us moderns, who can visit the real thing, or see it on the Internet.
Well, I did find the spice exhibit most interest: cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cardomon, etc. Everything I cook with today, to spice up my life.
And this series of greenhouses, built in 1931 I just learned, were made for walking (Ikea style) and not for sitting.
Butterflies emerging from cocoons, like something out of a sci-fi movie.
So, it was my grandfather's nemesis, Mayor Camillien Houde who built these greenhouses or the advice of a flower-loving priest.
In 1931 my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, former Director of City Services, won his lawsuit against Houde, who, in 1930. had promised him, in a private conversation, ahem, a huge pension of 8,000 a year if he 'retired' - and then the Mayor had gone back on his promise. Thus the lawsuit.
My grandfather coasted on this enormous pension (which made him the second highest paid person at City Hall) until 1937, when the City stopped it with an emergency measure during the dark days of the Depression.
Two weeks later my grandfather was hit by a car on Royal Street in NDG in Montreal by an out of work constable. His leg was broken.
My naive mother, only 16 at the time, believed all her life that it was indeed an accident. "I remember the constable was very sorry."
Everyone else in the family suspected the truth. My grandfather was almost certainly targetted. He had probably threatened someone at City Hall when they had retracted his big pension. He knew so much, after all, about City Hall. He had perfect recall, too; a mind like a steel trap.
This 8,000 pension very likely had been hush money.
Grandpapa Jules died a year later, in 1938,of complications of the x-rays, it is believed. I doubt that he ever visited Montreal's Botanical Gardens. (Or, maybe, someone did bring him there in a wheelchair in the early days.)
A funky installation that I will copy this summer in my garden. I have many such chairs. And if I plant the right flowers this year, I might attract some butterflies, if there are any still breeding in these parts.
Friday, March 2, 2018
Friday, February 23, 2018
Amphora tobacco. My father smoked it in a pipe. I will never forget how it smells.
Maybe the Blue Jay has replaced the robin as the harbinger of spring.
I always feel on-hold this time of year.
My memory isn't what it used to be and it was never that good. Of course, that scares me. Except that I'm not sure if my memory is going. Just because I can't instantly recall the name of every actor on TCM. Celeste Holme!
Being married doesn't help. I think we're typical, always accusing each other of things like "You never said that!" "I never said I'd do that."
Anyway, I decided to test my memory by learning a poem every two days. I chose e e cummings, because he's a favorite poet and his poems are not easy to memorize.
Half nonsense, half haiku. All social commentary.
So, I learned a new poem: Anyone lived in a pretty how town. All while watching TV, the Olympics or tennis. Got it down in a short time and then put it away in my brain's long term memory place. Two weeks later, I tried to retrieve the poem. I missed a few words, but remembered, say, 90 percent. Not bad.
But, I realized, the pretty cockeyed poem floating around in my head made me happy. It pushed out the crap that often floats around in my head as in "Why did my mother say that to me in 1971."
"I sing of Olaf, proud and strong?, whose very heart recoiled at war, a conscientious object - or. " That e e cummings poem has been in my head since 1971. We kids loved e e cummings in high school. It was the era of draft dodgers and the Vietnam war. Especially the one He Said. She Said.
I more recently learned he supported Joseph McCarthy.
I more recently learned he supported Joseph McCarthy.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
This is a capture from a resort in Croatia, live stream.
To get myself through the winter, I like to live stream scenes from beautiful places in Europe (SKYLINE Webcams), while I eat my breakfast and drink my morning coffees.
Italy is my favorite place to go. Positano, Genoa. The Spanish Steps of Rome. And I don't have to spend a cent.
It's winter in Italy, too, so no tourists.
My favorite scenes are like the one above, a beach and a mountain.
There's something comforting about such a place. I imagine that in our collective unconscious a place like this felt safe.
Safe from invaders.
I live near Hudson, Quebec, and part of that little town was once named Como, after the beautiful Italian resort.
Como looks like this -in the summer.
It's a very pretty part of Quebec. Indeed, I read an account from a 18th century book that claimed this locale to be one of the most scenic in the province: this place across from the Lake of Two Mountains, mountains that are mole hills compared to that Croatian peak in the pic at top.
Also across the lake from this pretty park is another mole hill that is a pine forest and a Mohawk burial ground and the cause of the Oka Crisis a couple of decades ago.
But the beauty of Hudson by the lake doesn't stop me from wanting to visit Italy. Especially in the winter.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
It's one of the most beautiful streets in the world, says a professor on a MOOC I am taking about sustainable cities.
The same professor says the best measure of how much a city will grow in the future is its January temperature.
That doesn't speak well for Montreal, where I live.
"Why can't I have grown up in Aix en Provence?" I ask myself. (It's always sunny there :) And my ancestors are from that part of the world.
I wudda been happy there.
Homages to Cezanne are everywhere in this city, apparently. The beauty of the city didn't help him. He couldn't get away faster, away from his rich father, to Paris. And the sun didn't help him. He was manic depressive.
The statue at Place Ville Marie in Montreal. In Spring and Autumn Montreal is great.