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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Verklemmpt

Verklemmpt - A Yiddish word meaning overcome with emotion or choked up. 

It’s a new and weird feeling to support the party in power after having lived in Alberta all my life.  And so I found myself paying $100 a ticket to attend a fundraiser in Falher, Alberta.  Falher is just south of Peace River and very close to Donnelly if that helps.  We were late.  I’d had to ask directions from a couple of guys in “The Source” who were only too happy to help.  We’d driven into town on the wrong road.  If we’d come in past the giant bumble bee we would have driven right past the Knights of Columbus Hall.  The interior is a big open space with a stage on one end, kitchen at the other and glaring florescent lighting.  I spotted Rachel's body guards before I spotted her.  I got the same surreal sensation I get spotting any celebrity.  It’s like, “Hey I know you,” and I’m about say hi and then with a jolt I realize, "you don't know me from Adam. " That must have been the look I gave an older gentleman on Saltspring Island as I was walking up the narrow staircase that led to the bar.  He said “hello” and out of politeness, I said "Hi," in return.  "That was Valdy,” says a friend. 
Ms. Notley is very petite and wears high heels to compensate.  The smile you see her wearing even when being confronted was ever present.  She was friendly mingling with anyone who cared to talk but I didn’t approach; couldn’t think of anything to say.  
“Dinner” was meat in a bun.  Long, rectangular tables lined in rows resembled a cafeteria fashion.   We sat at a table toward the back where a couple of guys were enjoying a complementary bottle of water.  Someone had failed to apply for a liquor license so I decided on the complementary coffee. 
One of the gentlemen who enjoyed his food and the other his cigarettes easily fit the Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy stereotype.  Being the north, it didn’t take long to connect our two degrees of separation.  The larger gentleman had four boys and I’d taught at least three.  Nice kids then, probably decent men now.  That’s often how a teacher gets his bearings on a stranger.  “Oh, you’re the father or mother of so and so.”  He told us he’d once been a fisherman on Slave Lake but those thieving provincial biologist had ended the commercial fishery.  They're worse than the mafia he tells us. Compensation for his fishing license had been promised by the provincial Conservatives and now, that the NDP was in power, he was looking to them to fulfill that obligation.  Unlike me, he had reason to talk to Rachel and he’d take that opportunity after the speeches and before she left. 
Ms. Notley, the feature performer of the evening, began her talk by extolling the virtues of the MLAs who'd spoken ahead of her; Debbie Jabbour who'd been elected by her peers, deputy-speaker of the house, Danielle Larivee, Municipal Affairs, and Ms. McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy.  She told us that the businessmen in Calgary had been verklemmpt when they’d heard of Ms. McCuaig-Boyd’s appointment.  Not only was she from the north, but she wasn't a business person.  Describing the Calgary businessman as verklemmpt, I found hilarious however the audience did not.  I looked around my table and then the hall for anyone else who might have found the comment at least bit amusing.  Nothing. 
The word "verklemmpt" was the main feature of an old SNL sketch called “Coffee Talk,” starring Mike Myers, Madonna and Rosanne Barr.  Linda, Mike Myer’s character was the host of “talk.” Liz Rosenberg played by Madonna was her friend.  They were both New York Jews with a proclivity for introducing Yiddish phrases into their conversation. Rosanne Bar was Liz’s flatulent mother visiting from Miami.  In this particular episode, the focus of their discussion was the movie, “Prince of Tides, nominated for seven Oscars however none of those was for the movie’s director, Barbra Streisand.  When Linda starts discussing the grievous “injustice,” done to Barbara, she announces that “it’s so unfair.  Now I’m getting emotional.  I’m getting a little verklemmpt.”  She tears up, apologizes and asks the audience to “talk amongst yourselves.” 
With that one word, Ms. Notley had described a different kind of reaction the business men of Calgary to Ms. McCuaig-Boyd appointment than I would have expected.  I was thinking, angry and outraged but verklemmpt? Then I got to thinking about one of the many circumstances I had experienced injustice.  
It was May of 1990 when a conversation with the Assistant Superintendent for the County of Beaver elicited similar emotions. After only one visit to my classroom, he’d decided that my contract with the division was not going to be renewed. I was outraged. When I called him unprofessional, he got so angry I thought he was going to hit me. There wouldn't have been witnesses.
Losing that job might have been one of the best things to ever happen to me however, at the time, it seemed disastrous. Nicola had left her job to raise Jordan, our one-year-old daughter. Pregnant with her second child, Nicola's plan was to stay at home with our this child as well. When I learned that the guy who'd started teaching at the same time was being retained, I gotta say, I got a little verklemmpt.