It was the Ungame and this time the question was for Jon: “Describe your father in three words.”
“Big nose,” he started out. The other two words, I somehow blocked out.
Then I had to answer the same question about my own father.
“Old. Tough. German.”
Which is what Jon will be facing, someday. So, careful son.
And don’t mess with us in the World Cup, either.
We have an old tube TV in our Canadian home, so as soon as I got Jon back from his Lego Camp yesterday we moved the couch right up to it, our faces against the screen to watch the big Germany – Brazil game.
By the time the pizza came it was already 5-0 and the only thing left to celebrate was our family’s German roots – my parents were Germans who immigrated to Canada where they then met; I myself, in a twist of Froese Family history, was later born back in Berlin, where my mom came from.
I’ve been back to Berlin several times over the years. After travelling there when I was a young man to do some street mission work with down-and-outers, I thought I would return later again and continue that work for much longer.
Instead, life took me in another direction, into a reporting life back in Ontario.
But one fine spring, it was three years ago, I did return to Berlin for something just as meaningful — with My Bride and our three kids, where we visited places like the graveyard where my mother is buried, and where we saw my Tante Eva, my mother’s sister, my only remaining relative in Germany.
Of course, it was also good for the children to be reminded that other people in other parts of the world look just like their Old Man, and, I may add, not unlike a player or two on Germany’s soccer team.
“Hey, that guy looks like me!” I yelled to the kids during yesterday’s big game.
“No,” said Hannah. “Only when you were younger.”
Of course, we’re predicting a German win of the World Cup in four days, a fine birthday gift for myself — the following day is the date of my birth in Berlin those many, my children would say, MANY years ago. In Germany, or German homes in Canada, there can never be any other World Cup prediction.
I do have some sympathy for Brazil, however, and some years ago I was in Belo Horizonte, site of yesterday’s German drubbing of the Brazilians, invited to that part of the world to speak to youth on the theme of Journalism in our Time.
From the vault, here (or here with an interesting photo from Yemen), you can read the Hamilton Spectator piece that tells the rest of the story, that I was also in Brazil for some cosmetic surgery, yes, for a new face.
Please tell my son.
A face only a mother could love
(Hamilton Spectator – January 9, 2006)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – So it’s a new year, time for everyone to eat less, exercise more and finally start yoga. I’ve decided that a better way to a new me, however, is to visit a plastic surgeon and get a new face.
My current face was never really big with the girls. But now my two-year-old daughter is pointing toward my nose and a fresh zit and asking, “What’s that on your face, Daddy?”
Now, faces are interesting things. Too pretty and you can’t trust friends. Too ugly and you can’t find work. Faces need to be just right like Mama Bear’s bed. And thanks to modern face technology from France and a glut of plastic on the world market from Pamela Anderson’s last mammoplasty, that’s now possible.
Cheaper plastic surgery is driving supply, while longer lifespans push demand. This is so mod. In Rome, with all those parties and wars, folks died shortly past grade school.
In the plague-filled Middle Ages, things weren’t much better. But now, thanks to inventions like hand soap and bran flakes, we can keep chugging until the queen writes to say we’re 100.
A new face will become just another way to keep up. Yeah, baby.
My pick from the pool of options is the brand-Euro metro face. It’s square-jawed and hardpowered, but still sensitive. For me, born in Berlin, it’s perfect. Strangers around the civilized world, and even in New York City, have already told me years ago that I resemble former German tennis star Boris Becker.
Of course, a new face needs a new name. Stay true to yourself here. For example, I can use Boris.
Or Thommy, my designer name from kindergarten. Or Jak, for JAK, not to mimic the mystique of JFK, but an acronym for my Arab pen name Jamil Abdul Karim. I won’t use Mr. Chamberlain, my wife’s maiden name. Strangers phoning our Hamilton home call me this and it kind of bothers me. Unless it’s the bank.
To find that special face and name, you’ll want to travel. Or if you already have them, travel to show them off. I suggest Brazil, a place already well known for its perfectly shaped butts. They’re called, and I’m not making this up, bum-bums. A Mecca of cosmetic surgery, Brazil also has 700,000 Avon ladies, an Amazon force larger than its army, placing Brazil second in world Avon sales behind only the much larger and richer United States.
Yes, Brazilians take faces seriously. So I’ve been in their voluptuous country, through Miami in a kind of vanity warmup, to speak at a university about things like truth in journalism. But, between you and me, now I’ll visit a plastic surgeon in the bush who’ll call my daughter to say he’s fixed everything.
Now, there are dangers to this. First, be careful where you show off your new look. Visiting the wrong places, like really dirt-poor parts of the world, is like tossing your pearls into the latrine.
In my experience, lacking basic skin-care, many folks in developing countries simply don’t understand things like image.
You know whom I mean: people with weathered, leathery skin, looking twice as old as they are, having faces with character, if not integrity. Facial crevices and folds are OK, I guess, if they hide zits. But if you’re really serious about a new you, don’t get confused with the pursuit of something as out-of-fashion and tenuous as character.
The other thing is, whatever you do, be careful at airports. I’m already envisioning security at my return flight to Canada.
“Yes, Mr. Froese? I see you’re using your German passport today. Your nose is smaller than in this photo.”
“Why, thank you. Oh, and please, call me Jak. I mean Thommy. No, no, Boris, please.”
“Is this not your passport, sir?”
“Well, it’s for the old me.”
“Then it’s not for the present you, the one wanting to board this plane?”
See the potential complications? But don’t worry too much about this. The style of your response is more important than its substance. Just be cool. Relax. And show everyone that you love the skin you’re in. Whatever it might be made of.