Thursday, February 19, 2009

Family values

One of the last times I was talking with Doris, she mentioned that she had been talking with my Great Aunt Bertha. (That woman has to be 200 years old by now) It would seem that she has been looking into the Scottish portion of the family.

I was a little surprised by this. I know a fair amount about the French side of the family. On my father's side we are Pelletier's and Rivard's. On my mother's side there are the Mallette's. I am aware, though not knowledgeable about the Abenaki ancestry. My great grandmother on my father's side was full blooded Abenaki and according to Doris there is plenty more native blood on both sides of the family.

There is however, also the Brown clan.

In the past, we have never discussed the Brown's. In large part this is due to my grandfather, Carroll Brown.

When Florence Mallette met him in 1919, he was a strapping, handsome redhead, fresh home from the war. One thing led to another and over the objections of her parents she married a Nova Scotia Scot, who was also a protestant. Believe me, this was a big deal back then.

As is turns out, this was not the wisest move Grandma ever made. While Carroll may have been handsome and strapping and redheaded, he was also a hopeless alcoholic and a spendthrift. By the end of 1926, when my mother was still an infant, Grandma heaped further disgrace on the family by wisely divorcing Carroll.

Flash forward to the present day and for some reason things are being glossed over. Forgive and forget seems to be the watchword and the older generation seems to be embracing their Scots ancestry. According to Bertha, aside from the Brown's there is also a branch of the family called Stewart. She of course claims these are the royal Stewart's. Other than the fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie was another hopeless and useless drunk, I have no reason to believe that this portion of the family was ever anything more than a group of drunken sheep thieves, who managed to get themselves deported to Canada by supporting Charles Stewart's claim, rather than actual descendants of the Stewart dynasty.

But I decided to be a sport and check out Scottishness. A kilt seemed like the place to start. I now have verified that the cheap bastard gene is definitely French.

I googled men's kilts, went to a website in Scotland that sells kilts and not wanting to be pretentious by choosing the Royal Stewart tartan, I went for the Brown family tartan. In order to go about authentically un-bifurcated, I would have to be willing to part with, in the neighborhood of, 400 dollars. And that's just for the kilt.

It seems that you cannot just put on a kilt. You also need a sporran, a sporran chain, a kilt belt and a kilt pin. After that there are the kilt hose and flashes. This is just for the casual look. I shudder to think what a formal outfit would cost.

Pained to the very core of my cheap bastard French soul I did take a look at what I would call the "Ready made from the waist down Scotsman kit". This it would seem is the economy answer to heritage reclamation. The basic outfit includes everything one would require in order to turn yourself out in some sort of Rob Roy fantasy.

There are a few restrictions. Instead of the rather snazzy clan tartan, you are confined to a not unpleasant blue plaid. There is also included in the package, a Jacobite shirt, which it appears there is no escape from, sporran, sporran chain, belt (who knew there were special kilt belts) buckle, brogues, fake Sgian Dubh, kilt pin, kilt hose, flashes and last but not least, a kilt hanger.

All of this totals up to 417.00 US. I have no idea what the shipping charges would be. There is the option to eliminate a few of the accessories. For instance, I could do with a little less authenticity and remove the Sgian Dubh, the brogues and the kilt hanger. This got me down to 330.00 and change not including S&H. As I said however there is no escape from the Jacobite shirt, which I can say with no reservation I would not be caught dead in, whether it be public or private and could do quite nicely without paying for.

All this feels a bit excessive for a man who is willing so scour every discount outlet in the Boston area if necessary looking for bluejeans, since I consider paying any more than 20 bucks for a pair of jeans is highway robbery. So, for someone that has never celebrated Burn's day, eaten haggis or done a highland fling $330, not to even think about over $400 seems more than excessive. In my defense I can say that, no stranger to making a fool of myself in public, I am not worried about looking ridiculous by wearing a kilt. Actually, aside from being a bit on the bowlegged side I have pretty nice gams. In some ways there is an appeal there, since I would think that kilts would be quite comfortable. I actually can think of a certain other blogger, who I am told by credible sources turns quite a handsome figure in a kilt. For me the thing is that I doubt I would make a credible looking Scotsman.

I don't have the complexion for it for starters. As far as I can tell, all of the Brown's and Stewart's are susceptible to sunburn, whereas I tend to go from a sick looking olive in the winter months to a distinct brown after being exposed to a refrigerator light for a few minutes. I am not worried about meeting the height requirement. Grandpa Brown, while built like an ox, was not a tall man. In all honesty, I look more like Jacques Bonhomme than I do a Jacobite so I am not sure anyone would be fooled into thinking I looked like I harkened from the British Isles.

Besides it is also much less expensive to embrace my Quebec heritage. I already have a hat with earflaps, and a plate of poutine with a couple LaBatt's is substantially less expensive than a kilt. It will also not induce nightmares of my Quebecer ancestors rising from their graves to admonish me for pissing away that much money on a piece of clothing that I don't think any of them would be entirely pleased with.

But, in the spirit of embracing all of my ancestors I am willing to compromise and by mathematically reducing my Scottish blood from on quarter to a fifth and get my Scotch on in the form of single malt. Preferably, Glenlivet or Laphroaig.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Once more round the dance floor

Once again we celebrate the anniversary of the day that marks the first of the many times I have disappointed Doris. This particular instance was when, in 1955, I refused to be born on Valentine's Day. (Even then I was operating on gay time.)

Yes kids, in spite of a misspent youth that was largely characterized by drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse as well as having lots of man sex that made the Baby Jeebus cry, I have against all reason made it through 54 years.

I should warn you that I am planning on hanging around for at least a while yet, like some small, pestilential and persistent weed.