Small Realities

Inside the mind of Lance Schonberg

Jean-Pierre the Lumberjack




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When I was in high school, a friend of mine, French Canadian and fellow military brat, told me a bunch of jokes about a mythical character named Jean-Pierre the Lumberjack, probably translated from French.  None of them were particularly good, several were probably offensive if you were French, and most of them were just long setups for one-liners designed to make you groan.  And yet, twenty plus years later, I still remember a few and can probably find more on the Internet.  My favourite, updated a little for the early 21st century instead of the 1980s, starts like this:

After a long day in the forest, Jean-Pierre sat in the bar with his good friend Reggie enjoying a pint of beer.  Reggie took a long drink, set down his half-empty glass and looked his friend straight in the eyes.  "You know, Jean-Pierre, you always say that you know everybody and everybody knows you."
Jean-Pierre nodded.  "Yeah, dat’s what I say."  He took a big gulp from his own glass.  "I know everybody."
Reggie shook his head.  "Well, I don’t see how that could be true.  You can’t know everybody."
"If I didn know everybody, I wouldn say so."
"Yeah, well I bet you don’t know the Prime Minister."
"Oh sure, I know de PM.  Stevie an’ me, we go way back.  His fadder an’ mine, dey used to go fishin’ couple a times a year."
Reggie shook his head again.  "I don’t believe it."
"No?  I tell you what.  Let’s go to Ottawa.  I’ll introduce you."
So Reggie and Jean-Pierre drove to Ottawa, downtown to the Parliament buildings, and Jean-Pierre took Reggie right to the Prime Ministers office and knocked on the door.  The secretary let them in and as soon as Stephen Harper heard Jean-Pierre’s voice, he came out to see his old friend.  Jean-Pierre introduced the two men to each other and then asked the Prime Minister he had time to go out for a beer.

For the next challenge, we go to Hollywood or New York to meet a randomly selected ultra-famous movie or pop star and for the third, we wind up in the Vatican to see the Pope.  For those of you who have never heard the joke, the punch line is delivered by a random passer by on seeing the two old friends exchange a warm greeting.  “Hey, who’s that guy in white next to Jean-Pierre?”

A few years ago, we moved to the small town my wife grew up in.  We can’t go anywhere in town without running into someone she knows or went to school with or the parent of someone she went to school with or is related to.  Her grandfather was from a very large family so there are an awful lot of people who fall into that last category.

It’s like being married to Jean-Pierre.  Well, a far hotter and girlier version of Jean-Pierre. 

Thinking about it, my childhood was almost the exact opposite of hers in some ways.  We moved every few years.  She has friends she’s known since kindergarten, maybe before.  The best I can do is high school and only a few of those. 

I wonder if I missed something growing up all over the country instead of in one place.  It’s easier for me to form ties, but easier to let them go, too, and even after six years I haven’t really put down roots here.  I don’t know if I expect to.  There’s still a lot of traveling I want to do and we’ve talked over retirement plans that might involve living somewhere warmer (not Florida) half the time.  There’s a certain stability in being Jean-Pierre that I’ll never have and don’t know that I really want because it doesn’t suit my personality.  I need to move the furniture around every so often to make myself think I’m somewhere different. 

But maybe my kids can benefit from some stability early on.  They can all answer the question, “Where are you from?” in a way that I’ll never be able to, and from my view that’s kind of neat.  Eventually, they’ll get to make their own choice on whether or not they want to be Jean-Pierre.  In the meantime, I hope I can show them a few places that aren’t here.


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