Stompin’ Tom Connors was a true Canadian patriot of the old school, and he celebrated the things about Canada that others dismissed. RIP, Tom.
I say this as a once-proud Canadian: fuck you, Canada. Stephen Harper and his brigade of destroyers, again? A fucking majority? What could you possibly have been thinking, Canada? What the hell is wrong with you?
I know you’re not completely stupid, Canada. In the half of my 45 years that I lived there, I met lots of people who weren’t stupid. My mom, who’s mayor of my hometown: she’s one smart lady. But I’m not going to ask her if she voted Conservative. I fear her response would break my heart.
I don’t want you to apologize to me, Canada. That would be silly. But it will be heartbreaking when you come to me weeping, with fresh bruises across your face, because you believed him when he said he wouldn’t hit you any more, and you went back. Again. For the sake of the kids.
I don’t want to feel a tingle of schadenfreude when I see the smoking, cratered economic wasteland after the Great Real Estate Disaster that is coming, Canada, your people shambling and blistered, draped in scorched rags, clutching the tattered paperwork for your 40 year mortgages, or for you to learn a lesson about greed from that.
I don’t want you to be the nation I so loved when I was a boy, the country I was so proud of.
I don’t want you to wake up and realize that by emulating the worst, you become the worst. America’s so exciting, so vibrant, they have the best drugs and the shapeliest fake tits, the shiniest teeth and the porn, have you seen some of that crazy porn they make down there? And the great big servings of curly fries? Holy shit! Everybody loves America, except that Bin Laden creep, and hell, they finally took him down Rambostyle, right? So all aboard the USA train!
Those boring frigid Scandinavian countries, where they have the highest standard of living, the best education and health care, the lowest infant mortality rate, even — who needs all that? Who wants to be like them, all dour and shivering and strong and secure and beloved, when America! is just next door and has that flashy car and gold tooth?
I don’t want you to look in the mirror and realize you’ve become a disappointment, an also-ran, a minor-key sidekick to a lumbering misguided giant, a mockery of the great men and women who built you. I don’t need you to understand that the toxic Network News American Political Buzzword Culture that has colonized your media and infected your discourse has distracted your people and corrupted your leaders and is destroying you. I don’t want you to embrace the principles that made you great. I don’t want you to take a step back and think about what kind of nation you want to be, and then live up to those principles.
No, wait, what the hell am I saying?
I want all of those things.
But it looks less likely with every turn of the screw that I’ll ever be seeing them.
My two-week visit to back to Canada, by the numbers.
- years since previous visit: 4
- kilometres driven: 3270
- members of personal pantheon of heroes (of 5 surviving) drunk with: 4
- percentage doing better than last time I saw them: 100%
- percentage of them who believe they are dying: 25%
- percentage of them with whom manly tears were shed about one thing or another: 75%
- ways in which I might well have died while rolling ATV into icy bog: 4
- number of beers consumed before said accident: 4
- number of hours before getting some dry clothes on: 3
- number of beers subsequently retrieved from mud under chest-deep icewater: 18
- cameras ruined: 1
- fresh moose carcasses manhandled: 2
- teeth chipped on shot embedded in Canada goose breast: 1
- average price of Canadian cigarettes:$9.50
- approximate price ratio, Canadian/Korean smokes: 4:1
- packs of duty-free Korean cigarettes given away, despite people claiming they didn’t like them: 8
- teeny bottles of maple syrup brought back for coworkers: 11
- number of new cocktails discovered with unrestrained glee: 1
- number of new cocktails discovered whose ingredients cannot be bought in Korea: 1
- car-battery-sized blocks of cheese consumed: 1
- hamburgers eaten: 18
- number of days free of alcohol consumption: 0
- kilograms of weight gain: 3
- unexpected pleasure at returning to Korea, which now feels like home: unlimited
Everybody(1) probably remembers the episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza, newly-single thanks to the timely expiration of his fiancee, celebrates his rebachelorization by lounging sybaritically, half-naked, in front of his TV, with a block of cheese, the symbol of manly freedom.
Jerry: (stares into coffee cup and looks back at George) Problem?
George: The Rosses have started up a foundation, Jerry, and I have to sit on the board of directors.
Jerry: Hey, board of directors. Look at you!
George: Yeah! Look at me! I was free and clear! I was living the dream! I was stripped to the waist, eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery!
Jerry: Before we go any further, I’d just like to point out how disturbing it is that you equate eating a block of cheese with some sort of bachelor paradise.
George: Don’t you see? I’m back in.
Jerry: All because of Wrath of Khan?
Jerry: Well, it was the best of those movies.
[The camera is over George’s head and spins around repeatedly as George screams.]
Now, the furthest thing from my mind is any desire for the demise of She Who Must Be Obeyed. I love her dearly, at least when she’s not premenstrual.
But I’m going to Canada this week, for the first time in four years, for a two-week visit. And the wife, she decided that she wasn’t really up for it this time, and quite happily gave me her blessings to do it alone. We are very rarely apart, and never for more than a couple of days at a time, and though I will miss her, this trip, [this is good]. A fella (particularly one with a past as spotted and a present as buttoned-down as me) needs some time to go stupid sometimes, or at least stupider than usual.
The thoughts of many men — and almost all Korean men, if the nudgey-winky questions of my students and male colleagues are any guide — might turn to matters illicit and concupiscent, perhaps, in such a situation. Not me. I am and always have been a one-woman man, in large part because I simply don’t have the energy that the alternative would require.
Me, though? My first thought (after, of course, sugarplum-fairy dancing spectral images of the dog-choking quantities of quality booze that I’ll be able to drink and fine tobacco I’ll be able to smoke, without the mild concomitant guilt brought on by the presence of a well-meaning but disapproving spouse)?
I pictured myself shirtless, driving a rental car that glorious roadtrippy thousand kilometres between Vancouver and my home town, with Mötörhead cranked up, gnawing on a block of cheese the size of a car battery.
Oh, yes. Oh my.
I may write some updates from the road, if I have the time. On the other hand, I just might have a myocardial infarction. But it’s going to be fun.
1 And I mean that literally, of course.
[Update:] I’m baa-aack. Proof of a time well-had: