Back from Canada

by wjw on November 5, 2008

We’re back from Canada and the World Fantasy Convention. I had very little to actually do at the convention— I was on one panel, and my agent took me to a concert, and other than that I had nothing to do but enj0y myself. So I did.

One morning I didn’t get to sleep till nearly 5am. Good to know I can still do that, and with surprisingly few ill effects.

A few odd things about Canada.

Some of the men’s rooms I encountered had a feature I’ve never seen anywhere in the world. There were the normal stalls for the sit-down potty, but they also featured a stall for a pair of urinals, placed next to each other. Apparently in Canada you (assuming you’re male) and a friend can urinate side-by-side in privacy.

I asked my (Canadian) former editor John Douglas about this. “It’s for privacy,” he said.

“But,” I asked, “how can it be private with two urinals right next to each other?”

“You have to understand,” said John, “that many of our ancestors came from Scotland, and that we are cheap.

Okay, got it.

During the trip, I also got to taste “neo-Canadian cuisine.” Which, you will be relieved to know, does not involve poutine. At its worst, it’s a smallish, perhaps even tiny, amount of protein balanced against a tower of roast vegetables and splattered with a sweet, cloying berry reduction sauce. At its best, it features wonderfully flavored, tender proteins, such as AAA Alberta beef, matched with an appropriately tangy, interesting berry sauce.

At any rate, berries are certainly involved.

Having voted before I left, I was also hoping to get away from the exhausting American election, which was slowly and surely turning my brain into oatmeal. But whenever I turned on the CBC news, practically all their news had to do with Obama vs. McCain. They were obsessed with their neighbor to the south. Canada had just got a brand-new government of its own, and they damn well didn’t care. You had to look in the back pages of the newspaper for that.

I happened to catch the swearing-in of the new ministers, and I noted that the oath delves unexpectedly into the state of their souls. American government officials just swear to do the job, but Canadians have to sincerely swear, and that they will render their opinions faithfully, honestly, and truly. And then they have to repeat the whole thing in French.

In thanks for the wonderful hospitality I experienced in Canada, I’d like to close with a link to this splendid video featuring the Canadian national anthem.

Kelly November 5, 2008 at 5:25 pm

About Canada’s media obsession with US politics — there’s a few factors going on:

1) Our new government isn’t really new, it’s just a continuation of the previous one.

2) Stephen Harper’s government has managed to completely stifle the media. They have realized that a good way to stay in power is to not commit any news whatsoever. It’s pretty damn scary, actually.

3) We’re generally excited about Obama, and if we could have elected him Prime Minister a few weeks ago, we would have.

4) It could be argued — due to globalization, wars, and the state of your banks — that the outcome of this US election affects Canadians more than our own elections.

JBodi November 5, 2008 at 9:46 pm

I’ve never heard of stalls like that in Ontario. Maybe it’s a western thing?

As Kelly notes, Harper’s not new and almost nothing has changed. Harper’s governing style is to paralyze opposition with boredom and hope we’ll be unconscious when he tries to turn the whole country into Alberta.

I don’t agree that US elections are generally more important to Canadians than US ones, but the media saturation does have an effect – and this election had a good story behind it.

Ken Houghton November 6, 2008 at 6:33 am

What Kelly Said. (The real losers in the election last month were the NDP, who likely would have picked up several more seats from the Liberals if it hadn’t been a national election. While the signs were all ABC, the default was to stay with the team you know.)

On the other end from “neo-Canadian cuisine,” we had friends up from NYC this weekend. You can see their restaurant review here.

Suffice to say: Foie-Gras Poutine. I believe there is not a possible English translation of the phrase.

dubjay November 6, 2008 at 7:40 am

Let us =hope= that there will never be an English translation of “foie gras poutine.” Let us hope this substance will never touch our sacred soil.

(Which reminds me of the menu at La Rose de France in Paris, which translated foie gras as “fat liver of cool duck.” Opening the dictionary, apparently, and choosing the wrong meaning of “fraiche.”)

Au Pied du Cochon was a well-known restaurant near our hotel in Paris a few years ago. It specialized in parts of the pig that only French people eat. If I were better at translating French menus I would have eaten there, but as it was, I was too afraid of surprises.

Anyway, do you suppose they opened a Canadian branch?

Ethan November 8, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Yeah, what Kelly said x2.

Ohhh Caaaanadaaaa….

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