I am a true Canadian. I speak all three official languages; English, French and Hoser. I like to swill beer and enjoy the emphasis that a well placed "eh" can incur in a sentence. However the sense of identity in our collective psyche seems to be vague at times.
What defines a true Canadian? In a country as large as ours, I am sure that the answers would be as disparate as as the cultural differences between East and West. How can one travel from Sept-Iles to Williams Lake and still feel that they are in the same country? Perplexing as that may be, there is a unifying thread there somewhere.
I am not referring to the pervasive America bashing that seems fashionable these days. I can assure you, that through many years of travel, that spending a day in Petrolia, PA or Wawa, Ont. is pretty much the same experience.(Tim Horton's notwithstanding). There will be excessive drinking, muscle cars, acid washed jeans and mullets. Much fighting will occur.
Nor am I referring to the dogmatic adherence to spelling rules practiced by our media. I don't need spell check to know that "honour" and "centre" are just plain fucking stupid. It's a constant reminder that a British Monarch is our head of state ( much to the annoyance of the Quebecois).
Who among us can truly understand the Canadian parliamentary system ? A minority government, bunch o' guys harrumphing and hurling insults at each other, a dude in knickers banging on a door with a large stick, the Governor General sitting upon a throne...what is all that shit, and what does it mean?
All I know, is that when I wake up in the morning , I gain deep satisfaction to know that I live in one the most heavily taxed nations on earth. This is probably where the expression "getting hosed" came from.
Having traveled across this country on several occasions, a few quintessentially Canadian experiences have taught me what being Canadian is all about.
1. The Legion.
What could be more Canadian than going to the local Legion hall and have a few beers ? Not being very common in Quebec, my first legion experience occurred in Ontario.
Upon entering I got embroiled into an inane discussion with a grizzled old-timer as to why I should remove my hat. I didn't feel like messin' with my pomp that night so I wore a hat.
The discussion escalated and grew into a heated debate about my fucking hat. Somethin' to do with "respect". I didn't want an audience with godfather, I just wanted to drink beers while wearing my hat.
I soon realized that I was going to lose this argument, so I removed said hat and made a dash to the men's room. A healthy dollop of hand soap and a few creative moves ensured that I did't look like a complete hoser.
My drinking buddy and I found a table and took in the eerie environment produced by lack of music and stares of disapproval from a bunch of old guys wearing medals.
My drinking buddy proceeded to show me how to play shuffle board. All legions have them it seems, those long slippery tables with a bunch of pucks.
Now they don't have none o' that fancy, uppity beer in a legion, dammit. You gotta drink Molson Canadian like man. Getting shithouse plastered on bottles of Molson and sliding those pucks was a lot of fun. I learned the hard way, however, to not ring that bell that they have near the bar.
After many Molsons, we decided to leave. My drunk as a skunk buddy drove the car as I kept a lookout for the OPP.
2. Where's my beer, dammit?
We are a nation of beer drinkers and proud of it. If you ask anybody in Europe for instance, to describe a Canadian, beer, eh, and moose will probably be the top three.
The government enjoys all the hefty taxes that they receive from the prodigious amounts of beer that we consume, yet make it hellishly difficult to obtain.
Quebecois (bless their souls) do not have such hang ups. You go to any corner store before the hockey game, get your cold beer, go back home and watch the game.
When I first moved to Ontario decades ago, I was horrified to learn that I had to go to one of the very few government beer stores.
It was a miserable experience, not unlike I'm sure, the hardy Soviet-era Russian waiting in an 8 hour line up to get potatoes. There were three separate line ups.
I was greeted by surly and possibly deranged government staff as they reluctantly took my empties. The next line up was long enough to give me ample time to peruse the dusty beer bottles on a shelf showing me what brands were available.
I was then corralled into a third line up as I waited for my case of beer. After a while it magically appeared from behind some plastic curtains and noisily rattled down a roller conveyor.
I triumphantly took the trophy -like case to my car, but as I felt around it something seemed wrong, horribly wrong....It was fucking WARM !
This is why snowbanks exist back east, to keep your beer cold of course.
To this very day every province ( except Quebec, tabarnac) has convoluted and archaic liquor laws. Seemingly unwilling to let go of the Victorian values imposed upon us in the 19th century, these draconian laws ensure that it will be as difficult as possible to have a little bit of fun.
Utah has some pretty strange booze laws, but nothing compared to ours. Over the years to present day, they range form separate entrances for men and couples, no standing with a beer, no dancing in the bar, no ordering two beers at once, no beer on Sundays, early closing times, must store purchased beer in the trunk of your car and who knows what else.
But, we are a hardy bunch. We will get our beer. If there is a hockey game on there will be a plan as detailed as a military invasion in place. Beer strategy, if you will. A good Canadian never runs out of beer. As a Canadian beer drinker you will "bleed the moose" when there is a commercial on and if you are lucky, you will see "many beavers".
Take off, eh, and gimme a beer.
3. La Cabane A Sucre
If any of you have ever visited Quebec, you are probably aware of this long standing tradition. It is held in the spring when the Maple tree sap begins to flow.
These events are usually held in huge log cabins and you will be fed quivering slabs of ham, eggs, 120 decibel fart inducing mounds of beans and it will all be doused with maple syrup.
Once you have eaten, the drinking will begin, but in Quebec, you can get beer in quarts. That is the proper Quebecois way of drinking, ostie. Oh no, you do not pour it into a glass, you drink straight out of the bottle, what's wrong with you, sacrament?
The band will start up with traditional music called "des rigodons" and after many quarts of Labatt you will be whipped into a frenzy to the strains of 'La Bastringue".
It will then be time to drunkenly stumble into the woods where they are making the maple syrup (sirop d'erable, siboire). They pour the still hot syrup directly onto snow banks where it immediately congeals. In your drunken stupor, you will eat a few pounds of this chewy, incredibly sweet stuff and it will make you thirsty.
More Labatt, colice ! , because it's now time to don your Ski-Doo suit. At this point there are about fifty drunken snow-mobilers rarin' to go. The roar is deafening as the engines are fired up ( all Ski-Doos in Quebec have built in cigarette lighters). The crowd takes off into the woods in a cloud of blue 2-stroke smoke, cigarette fumes and a haze of bean and Labatt farts.
Some Ski-Doos will have intimate encounters with trees and, seeing as this is spring, at least five of them will have to be fished out of a creek.
Good times, tabarnac! Next year, you do it all over again.
As a Canadian, you will experience some things that are uniquely ours, what truly sets us apart from the rest of the world. A note to all my American friends, I am sorry if the following won't make any sense to you , but I urge you to come on up for a visit and you will understand.
Here's a few Canadian observations.
1. You will shovel snow like a mofo. Yes the stereotypes are true, it's cold as fuck and it snows a lot. You get up in the morning, shovel your car out of a snowbank and go to work. If you are lucky enough to have access to an outlet, your block heater was plugged in. Ice road truckers my ass, that's just an average daily commute.
You have a large snowbank in your back yard and there are beers chilling in it. You stand outside in your t-shirt while it's ten below and retrieve said beer from snowbank as you proclaim " it ain't that cold."
You also know the immense satisfaction received from pissing in a snowbank and after six beers, writing your name.
There is a law requiring radio stations to play 30% Canadian Content. You're gonna hear Bryan Adams whether you like it or not, and April Wine is still playing ad nauseam. This is why every hoser worth his salt is always ready to proclaim that "Neil Peart is god."
If you wanna get your ass kicked in Quebec, just try slagging Celine Dion, (don't get me fucking started).
3. There is a Cowboy border.
There is an invisible line somewhere down the middle of Canada. On the western side of the line it is acceptable, and even cool, to wear cowboy hats and western boots. The line is not in Quebec as I found out very long ago. I bought a pair of real pointy Justins in Calgary many years ago, and upon my return to Montreal was greeted by many strange stares.
4. The CBC scares me.
5. Your gonna get hassled by Canada Border Services.
6. There are approximately 300 rockabillies in the whole country.
7. You know all the words to " What do you do with a drunken sailor".
8. You buy beer and smokes with your GST refund check.
9. You know that Toronto is like New York run by the Swiss.
10. You know where all the beer stores are and their hours of business.
11. You can eat a whole box of Tim-Bits.
12. You know all the area codes in Canada.
13. As 90% of Canadians live within an hour of the US border, the cross border shopping trip a Canadian ritual. $10.99 for 24 cold Pabst? Sign me up !
14. Nobody really knows the words to the National Anthem.
15.If the Canucks lose, you automatically become a Canadiens fan.
16. You've been known to " Give 'er."
17. The West Edmonton Mall owns more Submarines than the Canadian Navy (true).
18. You've used a Canadian flag as a curtain at least once.
19. You got drunk in the bush at least once.
20. DID I MENTION BEER?
A happy Canada Day to all !