Bonne Fête nationale de l’Acadie! / Happy Acadian Day!

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Bonne Fête nationale de l’Acadie! / Happy Acadian Day! Voici / Here is Évangéline par/by Marie-Jo Thério et/and Rosemarie Landry.

Hump Day: ‍Williams tragedy reminds us depression can happen to anyone

Hump DaHump Dayy
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Some weeks, column ideas come easily. Someone rings my doorbell and runs. Someone is rude to me. I do something stupid. I was stressing out about a column idea this week and started writing one of those ‘where has the summer gone’ columns out of desperation when the news of actor and comedian Robin ‍Williams’ death popped up on my Facebook newsfeed like some terrible nightmare.

Initial news reports are that he committed suicide. He had a long history of substance abuse and depression.

I didn’t know him, of course, but he made me laugh more often than anyone. What an awful irony that he was able to please so many people through his comedy and acting while at the same time feeling so utterly hopeless that he took his own life.

Mental illness can affect anyone. The rich. The poor. The big. The small. The tall. The short. The old. The young. It doesn’t discriminate. It can hold anyone in its vicious grip. And while society has come a long way in recognizing mental illness as a genuine disease, it still has a long way to go.

My own family has been deeply affected by depression. My paternal grandmother suffered from depression and there are several of her relatives who have it today. Depression certainly isn’t a new discovery. People were being diagnosed years ago, but using different terminology and treatments that we’d consider crude today.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams

A while back, I’d looked up a number of death certificates of relatives online through the provincial archives. Family depression issues certainly didn’t start with my grandmother. They were passed down to her from further up the family tree – and probably started way before proper records were maintained.

For example, the death certificate of my great-great-grandmother Julienne Robichaud (my grandmother’s grandmother) states that she’d suffered from “recurrent mania” for 50 years and that it contributed to her eventual death. From the location of her death – the Provincial Hospital in Saint John – it was also clear that she was institutionalized at the time of her passing in May 1923. I can only imagine what kind of place it was 91 years ago. Makes me shiver just to think about it.

And since she’d suffered from this so-called “recurrent mania” for 50 years, that meant she had documented (and I assume severe) mental health issues since the 1870s, hardly an era when there was a lot of understanding or meaningful treatment.

But with all we know and the strides we’ve made in openness about depression, it still astounds us when a celebrity like Robin ‍Williams takes his own life. He would have all the money in the world to help himself. He could have the best treatment. The best doctors. The best medication. The best support. But sometimes it just isn’t enough. Depression is an illness just like anything else. We don’t blink an eye when someone rich and famous dies of cancer or a heart attack. But depression? Even I have to admit I shook my head for a minute, wondering how he could not have received the care he needed with all that money, fame and support. The sad fact of the matter is that unless you literally tie someone to a chair and feed them with a spoon, we can’t control someone 24/7.

I’ve known a few people who’ve committed suicide – some well and some not so well. From what I understand from their individual stories, they all suffered from depression and they all planned it. Some had attempted and failed – some more than once. Eventually, though, despite all the support and treatment, that vicious ogre of depression sank in again and they could not be saved from it.

Some want everything hushed. We don’t speak of these things, don’t you know! Actually, the more we talk about it, the more people suffering from depression – and those around them – will recognize the signs and get the help they need. Like everyone, I have my own quirks and issues, but I’m so thankful that depression isn’t one of them – at least at this time. I can’t predict the future. And I hope I never have to deal with it. Just hearing that people feel hopeless is painful to me. I’ve never felt hopeless, even when things weren’t going that great – and I hope I never do.

Robin ‍Williams made so many people laugh. I would make sure I recorded his talk show appearances because I knew he would do something crazy that would leave the host and the audience (and me!) in stitches. He raised tens of millions of dollars for the homeless through his Comic Relief charity work with fellow celebrities Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal. He won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, a great movie.

And he also starred in another film that has been my favourite since the day I saw it in a cinema in 1989 – Dead Poets Society. I was engrossed throughout the movie. The scenery. The friendships. The betrayal. The death scene twist. The heartache afterwards, including an emotional scene where Mr. ‍Williams cries at the loss of his student from suicide. Today, his family, friends and fans are doing the same, but this time in real life.

I also give him credit for bringing cable TV into the Cormier household in the late 1970s. With talk of “Nanu! Nanu!” everywhere in school and Mork and Mindy not being available on non-cable TV, I remember convincing my parents that my brother, sister and I were practically abused children because we couldn’t watch the show. Eventually, we wore them down and Mork and Mindy – and Robin ‍Williams – became part of our lives.

Wherever you are, Robin ‍Williams, I hope you’ve found peace and can laugh again – and thanks for the cable TV.

Hump Day: Late night doorbell-ringing: harmless prank or vandalism?

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

When your doorbell rings at 11 p.m., you would expect to find a friend standing there with tears rolling down her face announcing that she’s just left her husband for leaving his underwear on the floor – again.

Or someone who’s been in an accident in front of your house needing help. Or an alien who’s landed on your front lawn and wondering if you’re in the mood for a scientific probe where the sun doesn’t shine.

A couple of weeks ago, it happened to me. (No, not the alien part – I mean the doorbell part.) Anyway, it’s 11 p.m. and I’m working away in my home office and I hear the ding dong of the front doorbell. Of course, it freaked me out – because nothing good can come from a doorbell ringing at 11 p.m. It’s not as if the lottery people would be standing there with a big fat cheque waiting to tell me that the non-winning ticket I tore up yesterday and threw in the trash was really a winner.

The doorbell has rung at 11 p.m. about six times before, I believe. The first two times were years ago when a certain neighbourhood kid was causing trouble. Three other times, it was the same pizza delivery guy who couldn’t read a map. I won’t tell you which pizza shop he worked for, but let’s just say I never want to play dominoes again.

The third time Christopher Columbus the pizza delivery guy rang the doorbell and banged on the door (within about five seconds of ringing the doorbell), I was not amused and he knew it. He had the street number right. Unfortunately, the street itself was wrong. I didn’t exactly give him a tongue lashing, but it didn’t take him long to figure out I wasn’t pleased. He high-tailed it out of my driveway pretty fast and sped off to his intended destination a couple of streets over.

Another time my doorbell rang late at night was some young lady who was stoned out of her gourd. She’d left her bicycle at the curb, walked up to my front door, rang the doorbell and then when I answered, asked if I had a light for her cigarette. Because, you know, that’s a perfectly sensible thing to do in a quiet residential neighbourhood at 11 p.m. I think my answer was perfectly clear when my head split open and the hounds of hell came out. It didn’t take her long to get back on her bicycle. (Please note: Even stoned people can run fast if they have the right incentive, i.e. hounds of hell.)

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk working away when I heard,‘Ding dong!’ My heart skipped a beat and then the dog started barking her furry little brains out just to make sure I knew someone was at the door. Yes, dear, I hear you. The entire planet hears you. Dead people hear you. Now, stop yapping and come protect me when I answer the door to what is most certainly a major threat to my safety – perhaps some escaped madman with a chainsaw waiting to turn me into filet mignon.

alienI approached the door and turned on the outside light, expecting to see a shadow of someone there. Didn’t see anything. Maybe the guy was kneeling down and hiding his chainsaw – you know, so as to trick me to answer the door. Or maybe the alien – who I assumed would be quite short – was standing there with his little glow-in-the-dark bow tie and a bouquet of flowers to ask me nicely to come over to the UFO for my probe.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and opened the door. No one was there. No Christopher Columbus with his wayward pizza. No lustful alien. No strange girl tripping on drugs trying to bum a light. Eventually, I figured out that I’d been ding-dong ditched – the classic pastime of generations of young males who get their jollies ringing the doorbell and then running away.

I went online right away to see if anyone else had been visited. Eventually, I discovered that there was a crew of teen males roaming around ringing doorbells. I did manage to see a couple of them when I looked outside. They were walking very fast – and started running when they noticed that I’d seen them. And trust me, they were old enough to know better – at least 16 or 17. These weren’t pre-pubescent pranksters.

I decided to call the police to let them know. No, I didn’t expect mass arrests or anything – nor did I call 911. I just called the regular dispatch number. They actually were quite helpful and sent a patrol out right away. About 30 minutes later, the police called back and said they hadn’t found the dastardly ding-dongers.

What surprised me, though, was the reaction of some after I posted it online. A few told me I was overreacting. Some said the kids should be left alone because, “It’s what kids do.” And how dare I ruin their fun? Really? Are you kidding me?

Well, how about the senior citizens who they scared the daylights out of by ringing their doorbells at 11 p.m.? How about the young children who were awakened? How about the people who needed to get up early the next day and who needed their sleep? Are they really expected to put up with some yahoos roaming around the neighbourhood at 11 p.m. and trespassing onto their properties? I don’t think so.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not as if anyone died or anything. The police told me when they called back that they did see evidence of minor vandalism from the gang roaming around, but still. I just don’t get how some people were just so lackadaisical about it – pretty much implying the idiots had the right to do it.

No, they didn’t have the right to do it. They didn’t have the right to come onto my property. I just don’t get it. I could be disappointed in the idiots who were doing the deed, but I think I was more disappointed in the adults who thought they had the right to do it.

Happy New Brunswick Day! / Bonne Fête du Nouveau-Brunswick!

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Wishing all my fellow New Brunswickers a very Happy New Brunswick Day!

Hump Day: Hurry up and wait, but don’t jump your place in line

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I’ve accepted my fate. I’m not even worrying about it anymore. The gods seem to have it out for me. No need fighting it. No need getting angry. It’s out of my hands.

Arriving early somewhere does me no good. Something always goes wrong or there’s a delay of some sort. For instance, a friend of mine and I decided to have supper at a popular all-you-can-eat buffet. We went to a movie beforehand and then hopped in our respective vehicles to head across town to the restaurant. So far, so good.

I got there before him. Since we’d attended a matinee, it was still quite early – just after 5 p.m., as a matter of fact. We wanted to avoid the throngs of early-dining seniors and tourists who would most certainly be arriving by the dozens at any moment. I sat down in the restaurant’s lobby and waited. Then I waited some more. I really couldn’t go in before him because he’d likely never find me and I’d planned on treating him anyway.

At first, the crowd seemed pretty reasonable. I noticed a few people wander in – a mixture of seniors and tourists. All were headed toward the restaurant. I was trying to avoid having to wait in line, not that it would be the end of the world, but why wait in line when you don’t have to? I waited some more – and some more again.

What I didn’t know was that my friend got caught up on an urgent telephone call on the way over to the restaurant. Not the end of the world, but I was wondering where he was and was growing impatient. I knew it would be happening at any moment.

What’s ‘it’ you ask? Well, ‘it’ is the internal radar of every senior and tourist that tends to go off like dynamite and send an invisible signal across the city that it’s time for supper. You know how birds tend to migrate in groups? You’ve seen those big flocks flying overhead, right? You wonder how they know when and where to fly, right? Well, that instinct to migrate also exists in seniors and tourists – except that it’s the instinct to head to the all-you-can-eat buffet on a weekend.

While I was losing patience and waiting for his arrival, I heard the low grumble begin in the air and the vibrations in the floor – kind of like what you hear and feel when you put your ear to the track to check for an oncoming train. (At least that’s what they do in the movies.)

Then it started. Every senior and tourist imaginable began descending on the restaurant. Senior couples dining alone and with friends. Carloads of them, sometimes – six or eight a time. All of them walking slowly and methodically and appearing seemingly from nowhere in the lobby. In the movies, the zombies utter, “Brains! We want brains!” At the restaurant, the throngs arriving en masse at the same time walked in a trance-like fashion with their arms held out in front of them while moaning, “Buffet! We want the buffet!”

Well, now, by then I was just beside myself. We could have had a sweet spot at the front of the line. We would have watched the restaurant owners weep as they saw both of us arrive. We’re both big guys. Whenever we arrive together at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the owners usually beg us to leave them a few crumbs for the others. We just tell them to hide the children and pets for their own safety and keep everything nice and fresh, especially the expensive stuff.

When my friend eventually arrived and we got a table, a lot of the good stuff was already picked over and we didn’t get our jollies making the owners cry. They were already crying. I don’t know how all-you-can-eat buffets stay in business. If I owned a restaurant that offered an all-you-can-eat buffet and I saw my friend and I walk in, I’d just point a loaded crossbow at them and say, “How hungry are you? Can you outrun this?” Twang! I’m usually never that hungry. Good way to learn how to run fast, though.

The same phenomenon goes with me and cash register lineups. I’ve just come to accept that whichever lineup I pick will have some sort of issue. Someone will need a rain cheque or will challenge the price of something, slowing up the line. Or they’ll be yakking on the phone. Or they’ll decide to get into a deep conversation with the cashier. Like the late, great comedian John Pinette used to say in his act, “Get out of the line!”

Whenever I’m in line at the cashier and another one opens up next to me, I make a point of ensuring the person in front of me gets the opportunity to go there first. Often, they’re very grateful and will move ahead to the new line or will simply thank me and head over. By the time I’m done being Mother Teresa, however, the person in back of me has skipped over everyone entirely and ran over to the new line.

Some good cashiers will put the line-jumper in their place and politely put me to the front, while at other times (translation: most of the time), they’ll simply say nothing and leave it up to me to have a conniption. I never do. I want to, but I never do. Basically, if you’re in that much of a rush and don’t have the common decency to wait for others to go before you, then fill your boots. That doesn’t stop me from imagining you getting into your car and the entire thing exploding into a fireball like something you’d see on The Sopranos, but in the end, it’s no big deal. Karma will get you somehow.

If you’re like me and cursed with permanently finding yourself in the slowest line no matter where you go, it’s just better to accept your fate. There’s not much you can do about it. Besides, it’s kind of fun imagining how the person who cut in line at the just-opened cashier will surely meet their imminent demise. Kaboom!