Monday, October 5, 2009

Anything Is Possible In New York City, Except...

New York City is the kind of place where dreams are made. Sometimes shattered. Perhaps you've heard stories of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island? With only pennies in their seasick pockets they found fame, fortune and happy lives through hard work, raw talent and the uncanny ability to jaywalk without being creamed by a taxi.

Ellis Island opened its Yankee doodle doors to immigrants like Irving Berlin, Charles Atlas, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin, Walter Elias Disney and Albert Einstein. These draft picks changed the face of America for the better, not unlike what the spud-ravaged Mulroneys did by putting down their dark pints of Guinness and emigrating to Canada. Lucky us! It's estimated that forty percent of Americans can follow a family member's footprints back to the island of Ellis. It's estimated that 88% of Canadians would like to leave their footprint on Brian's ass.

It must have been an incredible experience to have left Europe on a boat, crossed the cold and heartless North Atlantic, and then to have seen the welcoming site of the Statue of Liberty. My parents left Great Britain when it was still semi-great, in 1958, boarded a ship called the RMS Sylvania and sailed to Quebec. They did this with a one year old and a three year old, and just a few ounces of pound notes in their pockets. My, they were brave to have left parents and family, some of whom they would never see alive again. I couldn't do it, but I'm glad they did. I love my Canadian life.

Do you have family members who left the old country? Have you given much thought to their experience and how their decisions have affected your life? Are you thankful? Perhaps this Thanksgiving you'll have more on your plate to think about than just turkey, like Turkey. Or Israel. Or England. Or Austria. Or Germany. Or France.

There was no Statue of Liberty, with her mighty torch, to greet my parents when they sailed up the St.Lawrence River. The seigneurial land grants, which spawned the farms lining the river, were symbolic and historic in their own early Canadian right. Smoke, which billowed out of Quebec's factories, spoke of a prosperous new world. Smoke that poured out of homes suggested that someone was smoking in bed, likely René Lévesque. There was no equivalent to Ellis Island in Quebec, though I'm sure my parents have vivid memories of their first day in Canada. Thankfully there were no Buttonhook Men to greet them....

Beware the Buttonhook Men (excerpted from

Doctors checked those passing through Ellis Island for more than 60 diseases and disabilities that might disqualify them from entry into the United States. Those suspected of being afflicted with a having a disease or disability were marked with chalk and detained for closer examination. All immigrants were checked closely for trachoma, a contagious eye condition that caused more detainments and deportations than any other ailment. To check for trachoma, the examiner used a buttonhook to turn each immigrant's eyelids inside out, a procedure remembered by many Ellis Island arrivals as particularly painful and terrifying.

For all the adventures I've had in my life, I've yet to do anything as epic or daring as what my parents did. Or as eye opening as their Ellis Island counterparts.

If you take a look at the image posted above, you'll see the symbolism in my photo that is epitomized in New York City. It takes dreams and marries them to imagination. It turns Humpty Dumpty into Superman, with a bit of artistic license. Anything is possible in New York City, except finding a pair of 33"/36" pants.

I can fully understand how ambitious people, who manage to put their fears in their back pockets, can come here to make their mark in the world. It really does feel like a place where anything is possible, except windsurfing. You could be the next Maria Callas or Donald Trump, if that's what you want, but you could never be the next Robby Naish and that's why I must return to my dreamy Maritimes.

1 comment:

  1. of course it can also turn a quick read of the butoonhook men into "beware the buttock men" which is probabaly due to the back-to-back posting with the naked cowboy