Here I iz in Canaduh... I mean, here I am in Canada, eh? As I had stated in part I, we do say "eh" a lot and are unabashedly proud of that fact. On a day-to-day basis, life in Canada is pretty much the same as your average day in the USA. Yes it's cold, but no more so than a January night in International Falls , MN. It is no small coincidence that 90% of the Canadian population lives within an hour of the US border. This fact has created the long-standing tradition of cross border shopping to get cheap beer and even cheaper factory outlet clothing. Life is good and everything is cool, cool that is , until you want something cool or out of the ordinary. These requests are usually met with blank stares from the red-shirted clerks at Canadian Tire.
(Side bar for my non-Canadian friends. Canadian Tire are big stores which are franchised. They used to sell tires decades ago, but now, along with overpriced tires, they mainly sell junk that is made in China and fix automobiles. They seem to hire mechanics that never graduated and charge a lot of money for the privilege of having one of these illiterate chimps work on your car. Sort of a cross between Costco, Target, Wal-Mart and Honest Zeke's Car Fixin' and Moonshine Supplies.)
I don't wish to convey the impression that I don't like it here. Socialized medicine and mighty fine beer are indeed good reasons to live here. One has to realize, however, that the place is virtually empty. 30 some odd million in a country second in size only to Russia. That's a whole boat load of some mighty empty spaces with a bunch of small towns who are situated literally in the middle of nowhere ( Google Wawa, Ontario just for the hell of it). Should one have the inexplicable desire to there, it is relatively easy. There is a bumpy, two-lane horse trail called the Trans Canada Highway, and it conveniently goes through the middle of every single one of these small towns.Whenever the need would arise for me to drive Canada to say, Houston TX, I was always reminded that the suspension on my car wasn't busted as soon as I would hit the Interstate south of the border.
Whenever I would be rolling on the myriad of Interstates I would always stop at truck stops and marvel at their sheer size. I remember stopping at one particular truck stop in Utah. I walked in to the store that was located at the front and was amazed by the bewildering array of strange and wonderful junk food that I had never heard of. I must have looked lick a hick as I stocked up on twenty bucks of cholesterol-laden snacks and a couple of American flag bandannas. There are no truck stops in Wawa Ontario. There is one place that sells greasy chicken. As you slip and slide on the even greasier floor, the locals will eyeball you like they would a moose in the sights of a high-powered rifle.
We do however, have a few large cities in Canada. One of them is called Toronto. Or T-zero as we call it. Torontonians seem too think that they are the cultural and financial epi-center of Canada when in actuality, Toronto is sort of like New York run by the Swiss. About as exciting as Gary, Indiana on a Sunday night. Toronto's province, which is Ontario, still has the Union Jack on its flag as do several other provinces. The grumpy lookin' dude on our money is actually the Queen of England. Canada is indeed a country with an identity crisis, and this is why it is deemed perfectly acceptable for men to walk around in public wearing kilts.
Canada's governmental structure is a Parliamentary one very similar to England's, but my American friends need not be perplexed. As archaic and convoluted as our system of government may be, our politicians are just as full of shit as their American counterparts. The only difference is that they get to hurl insults at each other in a large room while a dude sitting on a throne holding a large gold-plated stick keeps an eye on them and makes sure they don't "fuck".
One of the rules that our politicians came up with ( at great cost to the tax payers I'm sure) is the dreaded Canadian Content or Can-Con for short. This states that 30% of TV and Radio broadcasts must be Canadian. The government run CBC has some of the most boring crap ever broadcast perhaps eclipsed only by Soviet-era propaganda cartoons. The music, don't even get me started on the music. As far as my musical tastes go, there isn't much on commercial radio that is worth tuning into, but if you want to hear some really bad Country music, Can-Con can help you with that. If you want to hear some truly horrifying music, tune some radio stations in rural Quebec ( which has their own set of content laws). You ain't never been truly skeered until you've heard a Johnny Horton tune sung in French.
All this would explain the existence of Celine Dion and Nickelback. You have Can-Con ( and Quebec) to thank for that. Before I go much further, I must apologize on behalf of all the Canadian people for foisting these musical travesties upon you the world. As for the existence of the medieval and homo-erotic Cirque Du Soleil, I have no explanation for that one. Bad drugs might have been involved. Their head office is built on a quarry that was filled to the brim with garbage. Maybe they were breathing all those methane fumes.
Which brings me to the fact of being greasy and Canadian. It's just hard to get cool shit in Canada. Yes there are greasers in Canada, not many, but we're out there. Every large city has a small contingent and we are all faced with the same dilemma; where to get good hair grease. The drug stores only sell that chunky Dax in a red can. Being an American company, Wal-mart has Murray's , which not sold anywhere else ( strangely enough Wal-Mart sells those steering wheel knobs which were banned in Canada years ago). The Ace combs sold here are not Ace combs, but some cheap-ass knock off which are the equivalent of running 20 rusty nails on your scalp. The only way to solve this problem is to order these supplies from the USA. I get all my greasy stuff from New Jersey, but sometimes take a trip to Everett WA. There is a large store that has a Mexican specialty section and it is almost a religious experience for me as I see row upon row of Tres Flores next to Guadalupe candles.
If you happen to be a Canadian hot rodder, for the most part, you will be shit out of luck. There are a few speed shops in my neck of the woods, but Canadians still haven't gotten over muscle cars. If you want big fat cheater slicks, chrome accessories for a '74 Plymouth Duster, fur for your dashboard, an 8 track player, or a plastic name plate that actually says "muscle car" , yep, they have that in stock. Should you ask for parts for '48 Flathead you will be met with blank stares or maybe the dudes behind the counter think you are referring to your haircut. It is interesting to note that the aforementioned Canadian Tire still sells those bolt conical blue lights and those dumb gas pedals shaped like a foot.
I think that a little road trip is my near future. I'm running low on Tres Flores, I need some new American flag bandannas, I have a strange craving for cheese-flavored snacks that glow in the dark and I could sure use a real American Pabst. I'll be stopping by an authentic taco truck on the way down and I will try to figure out who the presidents are on that money that is all the same color. I might blare some country music on the radio secure in the knowledge that I won't get any dirty looks. I might stop by a bar where they have padding for your elbows on the bar and I actually get to mosey up to it. I just have to remember to not say" Gimme a beer, eh?"