Independence at What Cost?

Rene Levesque

As I begin to read the above gentleman’s memoirs (Rene Levesque) founder of the Parti Quebecois party and premier of Quebec from 1976 to 1985, I cannot help but compare what is happening in Catalonia in Spain to Quebec back in 1981 when this leader almost  made Quebec a sovereign country.

The year 1976 for me was the year I graduated out of high school. We lived in a predominantly English speaking part of Montreal called the West Island which included Lachine where I grew up. In June I graduated and during that Fall the Parti Quebecois was elected to run the government. With this separatist party the main objective was to separate Quebec from Canada mainly to preserve it’s language and culture that they felt was being swallowed up by not only Canada but with the giant United States sharing the same continent as well.

Up till the time I graduated out of high school we didn’t take French class too seriously. There was no need to as long as we thought we just had enough to get by to get a job wherever we felt like. I knew some French but hardly spoke it. I was surrounded by English speakers insulating me from having to thoroughly know the second language at the time.

That is until the PQ got elected. Almost overnight the main language became French and English was the second language. Head offices moved out of Quebec in droves and Montreal which at the time was the head office headquarters of so many companies packed up headed down Highway 401 to Toronto.

The PQ passed a law that all storefront signs be only in French. Any storefront having an English sign would be fined. Customer service jobs had to speak both languages fluently. They used to enforce this by sending spotters to stores of which one complained that my Mother could not converse in French. She was let go because of it.

Families moved out of the province who could not speak the French language of which mine was one of them. The following year 1977 saw Bill 101 passed in the Quebec legislature making French the only official language. In courts, places of business, and other public service jobs it was you had to speak French or good bye. In fact it was okay to hire people who just knew French and not English.

Anyone who immigrated to Quebec had to go to a French school. Slowly English was being wiped out and that West Island enclave of which I was a part of was becoming more French day by day. A lot of my friends moved as well to different parts of Canada with their parents.

I did the yo-yo thing moving back and forth between Montreal and Toronto. Finally when I did want to settle there I took a French course paid by the government in 1987. It took a while for me to learn French  but then I moved on after anyway.

The PQ posed the question on May 20 1980 referendum to the people of Quebec. The government was disguising the separation part by the term sovereignty association with Canada. This made it sound a little less final. In other words vote yes and we will start right away with the federal government to separate and begin our new country but we will still maintain all the benefits we have now even if we do separate. In other words it would be like a son or daughter moving out into their own apartment but Dad and Mom are still going to pay the rent and cook for you on a nightly basis.

I remember moving back from Toronto to Montreal when all this was going on but unable to vote because I was not a resident of Quebec for the past two consecutive years. They were worried of an influx of people to move back to vote no I suppose.

Happily the PQ lost the referendum garnering only about 40% of the vote as I recall. People went to vote and thought about it real hard. It was a democratic risk. It could have torn Canada apart. Our dollar was sinking fast, investment had stopped coming in, unemployment was creeping up, and inflation was rearing it’s ugly head. Probably was not the best of times to call a referendum. People did not want more uncertainty.

Besides that the French were having their way having  passed laws like Bill 101 to preserve the prescence of their language. Wasn’t that all they wanted in the first place? Quebec today still gets the most transfer payments from the federal government. Separated that would stop. Sovereignty association it would not be.

So Catalonia right now wants to separate from Spain. The majority speak Spanish so language is not an issue there. It is a hub of business being a larger province within Spain, much like Quebec was back in 1976. Barcelona is a mecca for tourists and business investment. The Catalans were once an independent and autonomous state with their customs and culture. They still have them.

They just held a referendum when only 42% voted but of those a whopping 90% voted in favour of a split from Spain. Spain none to happy about it are trying to arrest the leaders of the independent leaders. The big guy fled to Brussels for a while.

The Spanish government is calling the vote illegal and is fighting the result. The people are up in arms protesting for their right to separate.

Well as I like to say the referendum is easy to do. At what cost though? If Catalonians separate no handouts anymore from the Spanish government. They will have to exit the EU and join under Catalonia which probably will cost them. New trade agreements will need to be worked out. There will be I am sure a lot of people who will want to start their country a certain way. Power will go to their heads. Will they have to relinguish their Spanish passports? Will they want to make Catalan their official language?

All I am saying here it is easy to declare your own country but not easy to start it. People generally find out they had it just as good the other way. Much like Quebecers voted in 1980. Hey we got what we wanted so why go down that path?

Brexit is another disaster. Sure let’s get out of the EU and find out that the EU wants a $100 billion on getting out. Rip up all the trade agreements and start all over. Have fun Theresa May on that one and already people are regretting the vote.

Sudan did not do well when they split up into North and South. Now the South is starving for a crumb of bread. Funny though I do not hear much of North Sudan.

Yes we always get those rogue people who lust for power who want to create a country of their own so they can lead it and go down in history. Telling people things will be better. It is a long road though. A long way down before they see up again. Meanwhile life goes on and all the separatist get older and their taxes get higher with it.

Right now I am happy Quebec did not separate. Twice they had the referendum and lost. The second one by the narrowest of margins. Separation is an afterthought here now. Yes we still have a few in Quebec who dream of the day but back in the month of May 1980 we could have been very close to the beginning of the end for Canada.

Thank heavens people voted with their brain instead of their emotions.

Relaxation Time

It’s difficult to get used to but now I am on long term disability. Of course I can return to work when I get better but it appears that will take a long time to the bewilderment of the doctors. They cannot fix what they cannot diagnose.

I am trying to spread out the bi- weekly transfusions but feel somewhat listless. As soon as my medication ended for my mouth’s cold sores, two days later I started getting them again. So back to the magic mouthwash for comfort.

The weather is getting colder so I am dressing up nice and warm.

I am glad I am not working. When this is all over with my age nearing 60 or more I would not be hired by too many people anyway.

Retirement came soon.

What I do not miss in the service industry is the mental preparation I would endure to get ready for the shift.

Whether it was going to be a slow or busy night I had to be ready like every night was a busy night. I left anything that was bothering in the car. I made sure I had enough mise en place for the shift. Clearly thinking, I wanted to be 100% in control.

When I worked on the ships every meal service was “showtime.”

Waiting on tables takes a lot of physical and mental energy. Now that I do not do it anymore I do not miss it.

That part of my life is over. What I do to keep busy are odd chores, lots of reading, and cook dinner for our boys.

The days go fast by. It’s too bad I haven’t any diagnosis of what it is that I have.

Right now what I really enjoy is watching the hockey on Saturday night.

You gotta appreciate each day and the little things. Especially for me. The little things keep everything in perspective.

1992 in Monte Carlo

After All That

Yesterday Soley (my wife ) and I headed off to Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton fully expecting to hear more of my probable bone marrow transplant. I think it’s been since March that we have been hearing of the transplant because whatever they try my immune system does not seem to improve. Immunoglobulin IVs , Neupogen does not seem to budge my neutrophils or white blood cell count.

So the doctor comes in and said that she could not get approval for a bone marrow transplant because they are still not 100% sure. They are not sure it is the problem.

She explained my cells act like a freeway with no cars in sight but all the dealerships are full of cars. I have a lot of cells the biopsy showed 80% in fact and all in regular shape and appearing healthy.

So I asked what about my neutrophils count at 0 and my white blood cell count at 0.9? She said usually people with that low count have about three months to live unless action is taken. Their immunity is so low they catch infection and die. In rare cases such as mine I can go on living for years with low blood counts.

Bottom line is the bone marrow transplant is a big deal and it would be awful to go through all that and still have the same result. That I get.

Another add on is my liver biopsy which I was led to believe was reassuring showing no concern the second one I had showed more cellular lymphoma cells. It is a mild cancer that can be treated with oral medicine. So we have to keep an eye on that now.

So does this mean I will never need that transplant? No one knows for sure but I think I have to be near death’s door to get one. They will not do it if my cells all appear healthy. Like I have heard before they are just lazy. Only work when they have to. The doctor said in the past 9 months I have had no infections of any kind. I asked what about the sore throats and she said that was nothing. Normal stuff.

Basically they cannot diagnose what the problem is coming from. That makes convincing a board of a transplant pretty difficult.

She said stay off work and in three weeks come back after they have looked at the liver biopsy and bone marrow biopsy more closely.

Meanwhile I still go for the bi-weekly bloodwork to check on the hemoglobin to see whether I need a transfusion. My goal now is to start working on getting that up higher so I do not have to go as often.

In conclusion the doctors are baffled like the one in Guelph was and for three years the one in Orangeville. This is probably something I have to live with indefinitely but my hopes of this going away with a transplant are faint. They will be monitoring me though should anything starts going haywire.

At least we found out about the liver. That could be the problem not the bone marrow. It could be causing the problem but at this moment anyone’s guess is as good as mine.

If you are confused about all this it appears the professionals are as well. I am learning as I go also.



Why I Dislike Membership or Credit Cards With Annual Fees

Today I received in the mail our Costco card rebate of $71.61. It is not a great deal over a year but the gas is less expensive so we fill up there and some of the stuff like toilet paper and cat food are really good deals so we buy from Costco.

At the same time we receive the reward though we are told that our membership is due and will be automatically billed on our credit card September 1st. That amount comes to $120 for the year.

Listen I am not complaining but they mention that the $71.61 cannot go to pay off some of the membership fee on our credit card. We have to spend it in the store.

Shouldn’t you have a choice as to whether you want to pay down the membership fee or like they want you to do and spend it in the store. I know shopping at Costco to redeem your reward you have to spend that amount and not a penny less or they will tell you they cannot give change on a reward coupon.

Maybe I am being picky but why do credit and club member cards make you pay their membership fee separately instead of applying your cash reward to it? Well it is obvious of course they do this to cover the cost of their reward coupon to you.

Some credit cards have that $120 annual fee so you can have flight insurance or air miles toward your next flight. But I do not fly on a weekly basis for anything to add up.  Unless you are a traveling salesperson most people go one year to the next without flying then that annual fee pops up again. I had one of those cards one time and discontinued it.

If you have a credit card like that many times the interest rate might be a little higher so you better pay off the card monthly or else they will soon get back any savings you might have had taking that cheap flight on that expensive vacation.

Cards with fees are out. I will keep the Costco card though. Cash is better compared to points to take a flight  I may never take.

I Can Always Tell When I Need a Top Up

Since I have been off sick I can always tell when I need a transfusion.

Tomorrow I get my blood work done and it will probably show low heamoglobin. Then a couple of days later I will need a top up.

As well they will be checking for iron. As the transfusions add up so does the iron. Too much can be toxic.

I met someone last night who had an autocylus transplant. That is when they take a few of your own blood cells in a biopsy. Then they fix them up. They give you the chemo , kill the cells in the body then introduce the repaired ones.

He was in the hospital 4 weeks then had to live near the hospital within 3 minutes.

He said I’ll be fine as long as I don’t  catch a cold or I’ll die.

Good advice I guess!

My mouth seems to be a big problem. I suffer from recurring cold sores usually just one at a time that last for a little over a week. Well I just got rid of one now I have a sore on the right side of my mouth that hurts when I eat on that side or brush my teeth. On top of that my gums bleed when I brush my teeth.

So I made an appointment with the dentist to check my teeth and gums. I got to get the go ahead from my doctor first though to make sure the dentist doesn’t give me anything that may worsen my blood results. With the low immunity I have it would be tough to fight a cold right now.

Do Not Make This Mistake if You Leave Your Country


Back in 1991 I worked in Jasper Alberta. I worked there a full year then left to go on the cruise ships to work not coming back till 1996 to work in Canada. It was not Jasper I returned to but Victoria, British Columbia.

In 1988-89 I worked in Switzerland when I left Montreal and then in 1990 I worked in England and again in 1993.

Skip 1987 because I went to school all year to learn French. So except for that one year in 1991 when I worked in Jasper I worked internationally you could say gaining lots of experience. Ten years and nine of them away.

However if you have no network when you return to your own country, and maybe this is only Canada because I don’t think the U.S. thinks like this, you can have all the experience and education in the world but unless you have a reference locally you will start from scratch at the bottom.

You will go into interviews and they will see you have management experience and have worked in fine places but unless you know Jerry across the street and they can call him up, forget about it.

So have fun traveling and learning but before you return about two years ahead of time start making some contacts where you want to settle when you come back. There was no internet when I returned so it was doubly difficult. Get on Linkedin and start making friends because even though they are miles away from you now when you get back you want to be able to give them a call. Keep them updated. Make a plan.

I thought when I returned it was going to be easy. It wasn’t. I remember a lot of employers just sitting on the fence interviewing me over and over again not coming to any conclusion. I couldn’t wait much longer I had to put some food on the table. So I returned to waiting on tables.

Sad but in this industry I should have stayed in Europe. I had more contacts there than I thought I would need in Canada.

Don’t make the same mistake!

My New Blog

With the deletion of my former blog entitled “waiterextraordinaire” I have come up with a new blog. This is it!

Since I am a waiter no more, due to an indefinite amount of time on sick leave, I have started this blog so I can talk about different things and thoughts that come into my head. It was getting harder just to talk only about the restaurant industry.

I will talk about that once in a while of course because after 38 years how can one totally ignore it but I plan on talking about these trips to the hospital and also some other thoughts that spring to my head.

So stay tuned. I will try to post every day.




Not What We Thought

Well after a year everyone has figured out the spleen has to go. For nine months they thought I needed a bone marrow transplant but lo and behold the last bone marrow biopsy showed the marrow is full of healthy blood cells.

I mentioned way back in February that it probably was my spleen. Oh no they thought because my blood results couldn’t tell them what I had. Well if your spleen is almost 3 times the normal size and it’s not letting the liver do it’s job it probably appeared more obvious to me than them. I don’t know.

Was supposed to have the surgery the 18th but they bumped me back to the 25th cause some people needed surgery more than I did. Oh well, I hope that was a one off.

Now despite being away from work on disability it does feel a bit like retirement. Physically I would like to do more things but I find if I do a few things I can hardly wait to rest.

The other night there was an open house for kids entering high school. I took my son and it lasted for 2 1/2 hours. It was well organized. The only thing I found was about halfway through I just wanted to go home. My back is out cause of the seats and thank heavens touch wood I didn’t catch anything. I can feel the hemoglobin low.

Now you think cause I have been off work for almost 7 months I would be itching to get back. Not really. So I am thinking why does a retired person want to keep working anyway? In their whole life haven’t they come up with an interest or hobby they would like to pursue?

At this present time I am voraciously reading books that are really interesting to me. Would I rather be working than reading a good book? Hmmm..

You know what I think it is that I never worked for only the money. At the end I was physically no good anyway so the money wouldn’t have mattered.

If you read my book you will notice it was always about the life experience. Switzerland, England, cruise ships, Jasper in the Rockies etc..Did I make scads of money? Not in your life!

Some people want to wait till they retire. I get it. Then what would happen if I waited. Here I am 3 weeks before my 59th birthday and I go for transfusions every 2 weeks. Hopefully the spleen’s removal will release all the good cells.

So I am content and really settled.

Let me say this as this may come as a surprise. All those places I went to in the book were never on my bucket list. I never thought in school about seeing the pyramids. A friend and I decided to go to Europe one day sitting on his balcony. Our budget was $15 a day.

Never would I have been able to afford the air fare or cared to put it on a credit card to go. It would have taken me months if not years to pay it off. I remember buying some furniture and television when I moved into an apartment at age 24. Took me 12 monthly payments to pay it off.

So I had nice furniture no life.

What got me to those places was the excitement of the work experience which happened to take me to some cool places. I got really good.

It’s all about knowledge. I guess if I had Facebook back then everyone would have got sick of 12 photos of a different place everyday. I don’t know.

So what I did was live on limited possesions. Just a suitcase and my books most of the time.

So in ending this blah blah post just remember put the life experience before the money. You will be happier. Do it for yourself cause no one else will give a shit what you do.

In the end I bumped into a wonderful wife and 2 great boys. Didn’t see that happening either.

The wife wants to go to Paris so we should do that when this is over. That’s about it and see our kids grow.

That’s all over and out.

Almost 4 Months off Work


Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It is that time of year for me which seems the less stressful. The other holidays seem to be too commercial for me whereas this one all anyone cares about is the dinner. In Canada we celebrate it the second Monday of October which I prefer because if it was closer to Christmas then there would be all the sales going on. Here we do that on December 26th which I do not partake. Besides it my oldest son’s birthday that day and the last thing I want to do is shop.

Coming up on the 17th it will mark four months that day since I left work. Since then it has been blood transfusions every two weeks plus a couple of liver biopsies and a bone marrow biopsy. I am going through all this so they can check me all out before I undergo a bone marrow transplant. It’s not cancer but my immune system is not working well and my number are quite low at 0.9. My red blood cell count is low as well as my hemoglobin and platelets. There are a couple of other things down as well. My neutrophils are at 0 which help fight infection as well. The doctors say I am a conundrum as the cause of what I have is not certain. With these tests and things they have prescribed to me nothing seems to jump-start my blood cells. I just have lazy blood cells.

So I left work so I could file for long-term disability. I am glad I did because getting it all done is taking a long time. I am still getting the forms in and there is a four-month waiting period before it comes through. On my profile here it says that I should be getting the bone marrow transplant sometime in August but that has been put off till January. The second liver biopsy was requested because the pathologist wanted more tissue to examine. Last week I got word that everything appears to be fine. At least nothing to be concerned about. With results slow to come in now it is October and it will probably be not till the New Year when I get the transplant. I would rather them make sure everything was a go before it begins. We do not want organ failure while doing the transplant. So I am expecting a call from the doctor this week as to the next steps.

Being off from work for the past four months hasn’t been easy. Although I do not believe I can work if I had to right now as I tire easily but also there is one time I was sick late September with a sore throat and cold that caused me to lose 11 pounds. The antibiotics take a long time to work because the immune system doesn’t do much to help. I get cold sores a lot in my mouth with my lips and tongue getting the worst of it. When I get them on my tongue it hurts and makes it difficult for me to talk. Sort of rules out being a waiter. Now with winter not that far away I have to be extra careful not to catch the flu. I will make sure I wear a smock over my nose and mouth to prevent any germs that may enter.

The four months have seemed a lot longer. I cannot say I miss serving tables but I do miss the social interaction I had with my co-workers. I miss the jokes, sarcasm, and spontaneity. It goes without saying I miss the income as well. When you are working in a profession for so long it is difficult. I worked in places that most people would just love to go and vacation. I met my wife because of the business so  I guess everything I have is due to the hospitality industry. The people I had the opportunity to meet and work with was simply outstanding. People from all nations. I do not think I can say I was ever really stressed out looking back. There was always work and when you left work there was your own life to follow.

I know it meant a lot to me because on my last day after saying good bye when I walked out the door I actually stopped for a moment. I got emotional for a minute because it was not in the forecast. I knew I had this blood problem for a while but thought I could work through it. It happened fast when the wheels started to fall off.

Now I wait for now January. I make sure I do a good walk each day, eat well, and get plenty of rest. I do some chores around the house so the day moves fast.

I want to be as good shape as possible for what lies ahead…




What’s The Hurry?

Since I have been on sick leave from work for close to two months I have noticed a few changes in myself and things happening around me. At the same time it has helped me understand why retired people act the way they do and for good reason.

You see when I was employed what  I did during the day revolved around work. I worked as a waiter in the evening so during the day I would rush around to get things done then hopefully have a bit of time to rest before my shift started. Now that I do not work I do not have to rush as much similar to a retired person.

Two things I have to say that I have noticed since I stopped working.

One is I eat a lot slower. Whereas once I was always quick to eat now everyone has finished and I am still at the table chewing longer and taking bigger gaps before the next mouthful.

The second thing I have noticed are the drivers. I was always one if I missed an exit or made a wrong turn sure I would get a bit choked at myself but I would never try to make a U-Turn in the middle of traffic to save a minute. In a span of 15 minutes I saw a car try to make a U-Turn in the middle of downtown and stop short of slamming into a right of way oncoming car. Just after that on a left turn I saw another car pull the same stunt. Why do people for the sake of saving a minute try to kill themselves or others instead of just going to the next street and turning around and doing it safely?

But now I know why retired drivers drive slower and can get on everyone’s nerves. It is because they are not in a hurry like the working folk. That explains why I tend to now drive more relaxed and less of a hurry.

So I eat slower and drive more relaxed. Therefore I have more patience with experiences that are delayed. They do not bother me at all. If I go to a restaurant I am there to enjoy it rather than hurry with my meal and get out.

In the old countries they take their time doing things. No hurry it will get done. Maybe not today but it will get done.

I like that way. Rather than wait to retire or be away from work for a couple of weeks vacation we should all live like this. Just take it easy.

What’s the hurry?






What To Do About Trump?

It has been over six months that he has been the President of the United States and outside of his base he has not won over any new supporters that is for certain.

If I was the news media though I would just report on the news and forget about the tweets. I would definitely boycott the press media conference because that is full of denials and who knows if that person that use to be Sean Spicer is telling the truth anyway.

The more reporting that is done on his tweets  the more Trump loves it and so does his base.

Let the Senate judicial hearings and FBI do their job on the Russian meddling in their election. Investigate quietly without broadcasting every little thing that happens. It provides the distraction Trump loves.

Let Trump’s failure on repealing and replacing Obamacare take over the news. Let his failure to endorse the Paris Climate accord take over the news and why that was a colossal mistake. When trade renegotiations take place in August over NAFTA  and he tries to rewrite deals that will cripple trade within his own country take the front of the news. These are the failures that will get him in trouble when it comes to re-election, not his tweets.

What about his tax reform that hasn’t got started yet or his infrastructure promises that have yet to take flight. Broadcast that and ask the questions why.

Right now it’s Trump that is in control not the news media because the news media is not focusing on Trump’s inaction on so many things he has promised.

What about his cutting funding on women’s issues and the effects that it is happening right now. Start interviewing those people instead of trying to outwit Jeffery Lord on CNN.

That will turn things around. Start reporting on issues that affect everyday working people and forget his tweets.