Friday, March 1, 2013

Little House on the Prairie in Winnipeg by Margaret Ullrich


Sunday's Academy Awards had a salute to James Bond.
Fifty years of hearing someone saying "Bond… James Bond."
And fifty years of listening to Bond theme songs!
It was great to see Dame Shirley Bassey belt out the Bond classic Goldfinger.
This year's Skyfall was a nice Bond song, too.


Let's hear it for James Bond, the spy who came from Winnipeg.
And let's not forget Canadian Ken Taylor, the real hero of Affleck's movie Argo.
In Hollywood, if it's a choice between history or entertainment, guess what wins.
President Jimmy Carter was on Piers Morgan's show recently.
The former US President said that the credit should go to the Canadians who staged and set up the whole rescue.
So there!  Where would Hollywood be without Winnipeg and Canada!!


Thirty-six years ago, on March 1, 1977, we were having another moving adventure.
Nothing as exciting as what you'd see in a James Bond movie or in Argo.
We were staying in Winnipeg.
We were just moving from our apartment into our second house.


But we were thinking about moving to something slightly bigger, less funky.
We were definitely settling into Winnipeg's West End lifestyle.
Freedom, seeing the sights, travelling…  Oh, yeah, travelling.

In late December 1976, we had decided to go to New York City.
A week in Manhattan, then a few days with each set of parents.
My parents lived in Queens, Paul's were in East Hampton.
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Hauling three suitcases, we took the bus to the airport.
We also had our dog Peaches in a large metal cage.
Peaches was more relaxed about the flight than I was.
This was my very first plane ride.
I had knocked back a couple of drinks before leaving our apartment.
We had brought something to help Peaches, too.
Paul tossed a big ham bone into her cage before she rolled down the conveyor belt.
She never looked back.


When we arrived in New York Pop drove us from the airport to the hotel.
He thought our plan to stay in Manhattan and see shows was a waste of money.
We lied about a nonrefundable deposit and he took us to the hotel.


Peaches wasn't comfortable being walked in the Big Apple and tended to shake.
A guy asked if she was alright.
Paul explained that the noise and traffic made her nervous.
The guy nodded and said they made him nervous, too.

We invited Ma and my brother and sister to join us in Manhattan.
We had never seen the city as tourists.
When I was a kid Ma had taken me shopping in the 14th Street area.
Our Sicilian relatives had introduced her to what they called Jew Town.
That was when we first moved to America in the politically incorrect year 1950.
Anyway, we took the train from Flushing to browse around 14th.
Then we walked to 36th to go up the Empire State Building.

We also took my family to see Neil Simon's California Suite.
Pop said it wasn't his kind of thing, but he went along with it to be with his family.
The divorced parents' problem was basic sit com material.
Pop did laugh at Jack Weston trying to hide a prostitute from his wife.
My parents didn't quite know what to make of 'The Visitors from London'.
This wasn't the family friendly play that Simon's Barefoot in the Park had been.


Paul and I had forgotten about driving in New York.
Whenever Pop stopped, some guy would run to our car, smear Pop's windshield with a dirty newspaper, and then ask for a buck.
Yeah, right…  He was lucky Pop was allowing him to walk away.
Pop's driving was more suited to the European traffic style.
At third avenue the light was changing from yellow to red.
Pop floored it to get us - more or less in one piece - to the 59th Street Bridge.
Seat belts be damned, his five passengers went flying into each other.
Our family's drive home morphed into the car chase in The French Connection.
We were stuck under the elevated IRT trains and everyone was in a rush.
"Popeye" Doyle and "Cloudy" Russo could've learned a thing or two from my Pop.


We had decided to spend Christmas with Paul's folks, New Year's Eve with mine.
Paul's Dad enjoyed Peaches' company while we escorted Paul's Mom to her church.
To me, the visit and the church service made for a quiet Christmas.
Picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos doing Christmas with her in-laws.

Then we went to visit my folks.

Pop still wasn't happy about our having left British Columbia.
Thanks to the slump the BC economy was in, our house hadn't sold yet.
It was a sign, right?
He had a great idea: We would move back to our house in British Columbia.
He'd buy one of the farms near our house.
The farms were reasonably priced, especially when compared to New York prices.
Oh, and we could keep an eye on his farm whenever he felt like travelling.
A little gardening on a few acres, some animal feeding... 
Pop wanted a couple of cows, a goat and of course, some rabbits... 
Well, we could use the exercise.

Paul explained that Bulman Brothers didn't have a branch in British Columbia.
And we were getting settled into Winnipeg.
Pop had to accept that we weren't going to live by his plans.
My brother George taught us how to do the latest dance, the hustle.
We mixed some drinks.
We all got a little drunk.


A few days after we returned to Winnipeg our house in British Columbia was sold.
It didn't take us long to find a house just a few blocks from our apartment.
The agent apologized about it being on a busy street, with all the traffic and noise.
Traffic?  Noise?  If she only knew.
The house was right across the street from a Catholic church.
It was a sign, right?
So we bought our little house on the prairie.
All in all, Pop took the news as well as we had expected.


In Neil Simon's California Suite the divorced Dad accepts what's best for his child.
In Nia Vardalos' Greek Wedding "Gus" Portokalos learns Windex doesn't cure all.
In Laura Ingalls' Little House Pa Ingalls learns that sometimes he is wrong.

Even Sean Connery - the original James Bond - had parenting problems.
His Professor Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had been an estranged Dad to Indiana.
Senior saved Junior's life by calling him by his name 'Henry' for the first time.

Maybe being a father is a learning experience.
Learning to bite the bullet, and going along with it to be with his family.

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