Tag Archives: Canada

Happy belated Canada Day

Happy belated Canada Day! I’m so sorry I forgot. I feel like such an idiot. And it’s not even like I have a good excuse. Sure, I was busy over the weekend, but I wasn’t up to anything at all yesterday. I just hung around the house and watched TV. And then right before I went to bed I was messing around on the Internet and I saw something about Canada Day and I was like, shit, I forgot. I forgot about Canada Day.


And like I said, it’s my own fault, all right, I’m taking full responsibility here. But there’s plenty of full responsibility to go around. Like why isn’t this stuff on TV here? I mean, yeah, we don’t live in Canada. But it’s so close. I’m closer to Canada than I am to Florida, and I have to hear about it on TV every time somebody does something crazy in the sunshine state.

Last year I wrote a piece about Canada Day (it was actually on Canada Day, I had my shit together last year) about how much I love Canada, and Canada Day. And some guy wrote me a message back saying how he’s so sick of Americans thinking Canada is a joke. I was offended, and so I ran a search of his IP address, it was from St. Louis, Missouri. Last time I checked, St. Louis is totally not in Canada.

Canada had a big year with their Olympic gold in men’s hockey. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it to the World Cup. So that was kind of disappointing. I remember when the World Cup started, I looked through all of the qualifying countries, totally surprised at Canada’s absence. Is soccer popular in Canada? Do they call it soccer or football? Or something else entirely?

I hope they make it to the World Cup someday. I hope that they make it all the way to the finals. And the other team to make it to the finals will be the USA. That would be the coolest World Cup final of all time. USA vs. Canada. A World Cup entirely dominated by two North American countries that don’t even call it football.

And the best part would be, both teams would refuse to play. They’d go out on the field, sure, but they wouldn’t touch the ball. The clock would run and extra time would be given and finally they’d get to the penalty kicks. But nobody would budge.

It’s a win-win. I’m not sure what the FIFA rules say regarding a stalemate, but maybe they’d just continue the game indefinitely, refusing to call it a match until somebody scored a point. And so it would be like an armistice, a perpetual state of America and Canada being indefinitely in the World Cup finals.

Or, they’d call it a tie and we’d both get to win. Maybe it would foster a greater sense of brotherhood and camaraderie across the US/Canadian border. Maybe our elected officials would say something like, why do we have this border anyway? Don’t the many things we have in common outweigh our differences?

And we’d form one country, a North American superpower. And we’d probably have to get rid of Canada Day, sorry, but don’t worry, we’ll get rid of the Fourth of July also. We’ll start a new national holiday, for a new nation. (Americanada? Is that too easy? We’ll think of something.) We’ll put it somewhere in the middle, like July 2nd, or 3rd. I don’t know how we’ll decide which one, neither is perfectly in the middle.

Maybe some sort of an exhibition soccer match? No, that would only drive us further apart. Maybe we’d just make it a two-day holiday. And if Americanada Day happened to fall on a Wednesday, meaning a Wednesday/Thursday holiday, most bosses would probably just make it a five-day weekend, because what would be the point of making everybody come in only for one day?

My grandmother wasn’t scared of bugs

I’ll never forget the time my grandparents took my brother and me up north when we were little kids. My grandmother was originally from Canada, and so this one summer, I think it was like 1993 or 1994, we drove from New York to Ontario to visit some of her relatives.

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They always spoiled us, the way that only grandparents can, crossing all of the normal boundaries that made up our regular lives back home. I remember, among other things, my grandfather enlightening us that “goddamn” technically wasn’t a curse word, and so regarding my parents’ rules regarding foul language, well, goddamn it, we could say “damn” as much as we wanted.

Or the Super 8 Motel we stopped at overnight, somewhere near Corning, New York. I look at a Super 8 motel now and it’s like, well, it’s nothing special, it’s a cheap place to break up a long drive into two days. But my grandparents made even a dumpy motel room into something special. They rented Batman Returns for us to watch, way too graphic a movie for two little kids, much more adult than any of the Disney movies we watched back home. And in the morning we woke up to chocolate éclairs, an unheard of dessert breakfast to start us off for that second leg of the trip.

But the memory that stands out most happened before we ever crossed the border. It was in the backseat of their sedan, I can still picture the scene unfolding in real-time through my head, all of the sudden my brother and I noticed a buzzing, it was coming from right behind us. It was a wasp, and when I think about it still, I can’t come up with any explanation as to how this thing got in the car, and why it was so quiet for such a long stretch of time.

Because we were two or three hours on the highway when this thing started freaking out. My brother and I panicked, throwing ourselves against the opposite end of the car, unable to even make out words to describe what was going on. My grandparents just kind of looked at us for half a minute or so, they couldn’t figure out what was up. But one of us must have choked out something like, “A bee! A wasp!”

And I don’t know, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I remember this thing being bigger than just a bee. I can see a light brown body, that giant middle section, a crooked stinger clearly visible under the blur of its frenzied wings. My grandfather spotted the source of our screaming before my grandmother did, and I can remember him letting out a non-expletive of his own as he slammed on the brakes and pulled over to the shoulder.

The only one who maintained any sense of calm or composure was my grandmother. As the three of us scrambled to jump out of the car, Grandma rolled up a piece of newspaper and jumped headfirst in the backseat, swinging away. I couldn’t even comprehend such courage, but after three or four whacks, she emerged from the car, holding the squashed source of our fears for us to see before telling us to get back in the car.

“Those bugs are more afraid of you than you are of them.” I think she called us a bunch of sissies, or ninnies, or some other old-fashioned word you’d only ever get called by your grandmother. And that always stuck with me, whenever I had to deal with a bug, even if I couldn’t get past my own fear, I knew that my grandmother wouldn’t have had any problem showing an insect who’s boss.

Grandma, thanks for all the great memories, I’m so lucky to have had such an awesome thirty years with you in my life. I’ll miss you a lot, and every time I get freaked out by a goddamn bug, no matter how big, I’ll think about you while I swallow that lump in my throat and look for some newspaper to ready my attack.

One time I got overrun by hundreds of spiders in Canada

When I was a little kid, like eight or nine years old, my grandparents took my brother and me on a road trip to Ottawa to hang out with some of our Canadian relatives. We were in town during Canada Day, and one of my cousins rented out a hotel suite downtown for a big party. The place was huge, I remember lots of rooms, a giant balcony overlooking the city, it had the perfect up-close view for fireworks.


Everyone was having a great time, but, and I remember this vividly, as soon as the sun set, all of these giant spiders started crawling out from everywhere, from under the furniture, from inside the vents in the ceilings. I’m not even exaggerating, there were hundreds of them, big brown ones, probably the size of a quarter, and they took over the suite. The balcony got hit especially hard, it was like you wouldn’t notice them, not just by looking out the window, because their dark bodies blended in with the night sky. But by shifting the view, or just by walking close enough, you could see they were an omnipresent force, hanging from their invisible threads, it looked like, if they wanted to, they could have covered the whole sliding door in a sheet of thick webbing.

I’m creeping myself out just thinking through this twenty-year-old memory. Actually being there, a little kid in a foreign country on a hotel floor that was being slowly overrun by spiders, I was freaking out big time. But what could I do? I looked around, all of the adults were acting like it was no big deal. I gave my grandma a nervous face and she dismissed my concerns, like I was being a baby, like I shouldn’t be afraid of a few spiders.

And now looking back, I still don’t understand what was going on. Because if I were there right now, of course I’d be scared, at the very least I’d be visibly uncomfortable, squirming around, swatting away at imaginary itches and tingles I’d feel across my body. What was going on here, are Canadians exempt from the near-universal fear of a spider infestation?

Or was everybody just being super polite? I’m having this imaginary scenario play through my mind, it’s my Canadian cousin, he’s in the hotel lobby booking a room with the receptionist. “Well sir, our standard rooms do fill up pretty quickly, especially on Canada Day,” and he’d be like, “I see, well, I guess I’m looking for something kind of affordable. What are your standard rates?”

And she’d lure him in, “Actually, we do have an executive suite available, it’s got plenty of room for all of your guests, plus there’s a great balcony overlooking the center of town. The rate is exactly the same as any of our standard rooms.” My cousin would be skeptical, “I don’t know, this sounds a little too good to be true. What’s the catch?”

Of course there would be a catch. “You see sir, the suite, again, it’s fantastic, but there’s a little bit of a spider problem.” And maybe my cousin would hesitate. But that’s a hard offer to pass up, suites are expensive, surely a group of adults would be able to handle a few spiders. “All right, I’ll take it.”

Cut to the party, people are inches away from being devoured by arachnids, but nobody wants to hurt my cousin’s feelings, after all, he was the one nice enough to pay for the entire party. It would be extremely rude to mention the spiders, or even acknowledge their existence. So everybody put on a show of having a great time, all while trembling on the inside, counting down the minutes until it was OK to make an exit.

I don’t know, I have trouble believing the accuracy of these old memories, even though I can still see them, congregating in spider clusters in the corners, by the legs of the furniture. Maybe my traumatized childhood mind embellished what actually went down. Who knows? But for real, there were a lot of spiders. I’m not making it up. Sometimes I still get nervous in hotel rooms, even if I’m nowhere near Canada. I’ll run down to the receptionist right before dusk, I’ll be like, “You guys don’t have any sunset spider problems, do you? Because if you do, just tell me, I won’t get mad, I promise, I won’t even ask for a refund, I’ll just leave, you can still rent out the room. Just, come on, no spiders, right? Promise?”

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day everybody! I’m an American – well, technically so are Canadians, we all live in North America – so I always wind up just not giving July 1st any serious thought. And then July 4th comes around three days later, it’s this whole huge USA bonanza, and sometime a few days after that, something pops in my head, hey Rob, way to go, idiot, you forgot about Canada Day again.


Not this year. This year I’m giving all of my Canadian readers a reason to keep reading this blog. And maybe I’ll even gain some new Canadian readers in the process. I’m just picturing my neighbors to the North, they’ll be settling in for a nice night of patriotic celebration, maybe they’ll get bored with the same-old, same-old, and they’ll turn to the Internet, they’ll type “Canada Day” into Google for ideas on some fun Canada related activities, and maybe this blog post will show up.

If you’re a Canadian, and this is your first time here, I’d like to say, welcome. This is an American web site, so you’re kind of, almost visiting the States. Every time I’ve been to Canada, I’ve noticed how Canadians always refer to the US as just the States. And I always think, huh, that’s a funny way to refer to it. But then I also think about my time abroad. While I was living in Ecuador, everybody called America the States, myself included. I don’t know why. I guess maybe when you’re living in America, when you’re in a state, it doesn’t make any sense, but once you leave, maybe you forget where it is, or how to describe it, so you’re like, you point to them, you know, the States, those ones, somewhere over there.

Look at me, I’m trying to write a whole blog post dedicated to Canada, to Canada Day, and here I am spending the majority of my words talking about America. Sorry, I can’t help it though, that’s just us Americans by nature. Even though, let’s be real for a minute, even though I’m being a little America-centric, and despite the fact that I’m being the bigger person here, admitting that I can’t stop talking about the US, what the hell Canada? Why did you guys make your independence day so close to ours? It’s like, OK, we have the Fourth of July, that’s great, and I hate to say it, but we were here first. And then you guys are like, oh yeah? Well we’re going to have an independence day too, and we’re going to preempt yours by three days. Three days! It’s your own fault that I keep forgetting about Canada Day every year. Maybe if you did it like in October, or September. April would have been a good independence month. Just something that we could have looked at, apart from our own independence and been like, huh, Canada Day, let’s drive up north and check that out.

But with our own celebration a mere three days away? It’s unlikely that any Americans will be caught dead north of the border on July 1st. We have too much planning to do over here, what with the procuring of fireworks, asking our parents to borrow their giant cooler for the weekend, and they’re like, “Again? Every year with you. Why don’t you just buy your own cooler? Why don’t you start acting like an adult? And another thing, when are you going to start paying for your own cell phone?” and you’re like, OK mom, OK, and then you just sneak into their backyard when they’re out walking the dogs and you just borrow it without asking, and maybe if you don’t return it, after a while they’ll get a new cooler, an even bigger one, and then when you finally decide to return the original, maybe you’ll borrow the new one, take it out for a spin, a cooler upgrade.

Wait a second. What if that’s your true intention? Canada, I hate to even lob such a dirty accusation your way, but are you having your Fourth of July on July 1st in an effort to keep us away? Because yeah, we’re loud at parties, and sure, if you look at us funny, we’ll probably get into some sort of a fight, but we’re still bros. You can’t just have a huge national celebration and decide that we’re not cool enough.

Because we’re not that different, you and me. You being all Canadians. Me being, well, just me, I guess I can only speak for just me. And I’m actually in the unique position of being both American and Canadian. What I mean is, my grandmother is from Quebec. That’s enough, right? How come you guys haven’t offered me dual-citizenship yet? It hardly seems fair. Israel would have given me dual-citizenship if my grandmother were born in Jerusalem. Just think about it. I make great dip for parties. Ahem. You know, like national holidays. Ahem. Like Canada Day. Come on just invite me to Canada Day! Please! Not one Canadian is going to invite me to Canada Day? That’s such bullshit! I’ll invite you here for the Fourth. All of you, you can come stay in my two-bedroom here in New York. Let’s keep relations good, Canada. I promise I won’t break anything. I promise I won’t blast my Toby Keith or forget to separate the recyclables from the rest of the trash or honk my car horn in suburban traffic. It’s just that, you guys drive so slow! What the hell! What are you looking at? Huh? You want to fight? Huh?

Sorry Canada. I got a little carried away. Most of that fight just there was in my imagination. We Americans have such colorful and vivid daydreams. Anyway, look at the positives. I didn’t make one “eh” joke, I didn’t take a cheap shot at how polite you guys are. I just want you to love me, Canada. I just want the President of Canada, or the Prime Minister, or whatever, Stephen Harper, or Steven Harper, I have no idea, he’s been in charge forever, like way before George W. Bush, I just want Mr. Harper to send me a glossy eight by ten photo, have him sign it, something like, “Hey Rob! Canada loves you! Love, Canada!” Because I love you Canada. Happy First. Does anybody say that? Happy First? I’m saying it.

Bonjour Montreal

I just spent the weekend in Montreal. Everybody speaks French. They speak English also, but French is the primary language. Someone told me that there are all sorts of strict laws mandating everything to be written in French in an effort to preserve its identity, I guess from being swallowed up by the rest of the mostly English speaking continent.

You walk into a store and it’s bonjour, and I never know just how to respond. Because everybody speaks some English, I don’t want to respond back with bonjour, because I don’t want to then give the impression that I speak French. They might then say something else in French, probably more than just a hello, probably a whole sentence. And I don’t know any French, none at all. So then I’ll have to get all awkward and say something like, “uh … sorry, I don’t speak French,” and they’ll be thinking, “Well, thanks for making me waste a whole sentence in French. Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

And sometimes they never even give you the opportunity. Sometimes there is no hello, it’s just right into the French. Like somebody might approach me on the street and ask me a question. What’s the best way to respond? It’s definitely not to make a pained face and then stutter something out in English.

But I really don’t want to come across as arrogant. Even though most of the people there know English, I don’t want to just barge into a situation and impose my language. It all just stems from the fact that English, my native tongue, it just happens to be this quasi-universal means of communication. So where it would be crazy for somebody to approach me in New York and start talking in a foreign dialect, that’s eventually what I’m going to wind up doing abroad. Because yeah, it’s an advantage, and yeah, ultimately it’s the only way I’m going to be able to communicate.

On previous trips to Montreal, I’d get a little anxious after a while, like I’d rather not talk at all. But what am I going to do? It’s not like I’m going to stay totally silent. This time around I practiced a trick, where if I were greeted in French, I’d respond with the same greeting in French, and then immediately start talking in English. “Bonjour/Hello,” like so fast that the other person wouldn’t really have a chance to make it awkward or difficult.

I figured that I covered all of the problems that I was talking about earlier. I wouldn’t be ignoring their French but I wouldn’t really be participating in it either. I guess when I say it like that it still sounds kind of arrogant, but definitely a little less arrogant. It’s kind of like I’m acknowledging the French, paying my respects.

I’ve also heard that if you’re from the US and you speak French, if you try to speak French to a French Canadian, they’ll just switch to English. But that seems like a huge stereotype, and even as I’m writing this paragraph it sounds like a stupid generality. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s true. I don’t know French.

Also, how big is the difference between French spoken in Canada and French spoken in France? When I try to look for an answer on the Internet, it’s always people writing stuff like, “There’s a huge difference,” without really elaborating. Is there an equivalent in English? Like American English as compared to New Zealand’s? Like how dramatic are we talking?

I’d like to abruptly end by talking about how cool Montreal is. The food’s great. The people are really friendly. And yeah, even though it sounds like a foreign country, everybody speaks English. It’s a real win-win-win. Go see for yourself. Tell them Rob sent you. Tell somebody that. And they’ll just stare at you and say, “What?” but they’ll say it in French.