Canadians say the Darndest Things


My father was born in Welland, Ontario. He never returned, got to know it. Yea as a kid he played pond hockey; that is until a puck broke open his forehead. But that was in Utica. I don’t know where I found my love of hockey but by 1990 I started visiting Canada to see professional games.

Fantastically friendly people, I knew that from teammates, who had immigrated south. Canadians can be in the shower with a bald guy and ask with total sincerity “you got any shampoo?” (Who can make this shit up, especially when you’re the bald guy.) Canadians are that natural; that funny.

Now over a decade living in New England I own Canadian property. In 2006 we did our annual July camping vacation with the kids in Nova Scotia. We’d check out the parcel, since I bought it online.

As usual, we forgot that we’d have to camp with campers. It became obvious once again that people who camp for vacation are those people who can’t afford hotels or they are not allowed in them.

Campers have fortitude though. They drink into the night around the camp fire. Without much entertainment, fire is trumped by stargazing. Stargazing then conquered by beers. It gets louder, rowdier, cutting into the quiet enjoyment of other campers.

It’s no different in Canada as the States, except for the accents. But that’s not why they’re so naturally funny, even when riled, ready for a fight.

And so it was as the piercing morning cry of an unhappy toddler, cut through the thin vinyl tent walls of hung-over adults on air mattresses. I was clutching that wailing toddler when some angered anonymous Scottish-Canadian accent yelled into the dawn “MIND YOUR BAY-BEE!” To my horror suddenly another anonymous brogue replied, “SHUT YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH!


What a volley! Prickly Canadians, they’re as funny on ground as on ice.

Hours later a medium-sized, muscular mustachioed man in a ratty, faded ball cap approached me. I knew it was one of them. Demurely his brogue spilled, “I just wanted to apologize for my foul language this morning. “Those assholes give NO-va SCO-tians a bad name”, as he pointed nowhere.

Keeping a straight face I accepted the apology, explaining my toddler’s mother “went to the showers. She hadn’t slept well” (leaving off that she was kept up by all of you last night).

One would think they would be considerate of children. Kids were running wild all over the campground.

A majority of the campers were vacationing from homes less than five miles down the road. Winters are long. Canadians have space and they need space. Their kids were running, swimming, biking, screaming – mostly unsupervised throughout the roads, playground and pool.

One young man in particular madly peddled through the dirt roads, braking, power sliding, kicking up rocks at cars, campers and tents every day. Confidently on his BMX he played chicken with moving cars. Unwittingly he was a Canadian Dennis the Menace; Canadian kooky and cocky.

I responded though like a foreigner.

I chastised him after he damn near catapulted head-long into tents. Later that day walking from the office, he saw me and ran over, “you’re American, uh?

I agreed.

All of ten years he asks, “what’s it like being a Super Power?” I hesitated a reply as he added, “my dad said you’re going to be fighting wars a longtime.

Chuckling, I stopped. I said, “you’re dad’s a smart man. I think he’s right.
With that the kid nodded and ran off.

I thought of him today. I wonder what his dad’s telling him now.

My hope is that Canadians never lose their sense of humor, energy and comfortable innocence. They have an acute sense of proportion, perspective. It’s simply tough living with some neighbors at times.


Memories of the Queen


Maybe marriage is really special. Certainly it’s still held in high esteem.

Not a week since our sixteenth anniversary, I’m still receiving the loveliest notes, congratulations. But please, I know people who’ve been married longer than many of my current friends’ have been alive.

These people scoff at sixteen years. They see it and double down on us. Some sent us congratulations.

I think I see why those old friends scoff at any marriage celebration under twenty-five years but I’ll admit it from my short experience, I don’t know what all the hubbub is about? Maybe they know this as well.

It seems from a distance that their marriages are on autopilot. Perhaps that is how you achieve 35 years together? I feel we’ve hit stride, maybe because I married later in life; maybe it’s really more about aging.

I don’t know if we’re quite on autopilot but we move across a floor well. In tandem. A team and as arduous as it is, it feels easier than when we were younger.

Surely every day holds new challenges, constant anxiety, doubt.

Then you have children, which compounds and complicates your union. But as I stand in the walk-in closet of this century old, depreciated seaside home, marriage feels right; more than simply putting another 20 years on my life. Together, we always work it out, get by somehow; that is how the others have possibly made it.

I look down at my bureau. The Queen’s looking back at me stoically. You know, that portrait of the Queen on Canadian Notes. Sturdy unlike my house. Regally confident, unlike how I often feel. Clearly seeing what’s ahead for us all, while I can barely see pass the end of each month.

She reminds me of how far I have come and how I should chin up and feel proud. In fact, she reminds me of a night decades ago, maybe it was Windsor, Ontario; perhaps it was Montreal. My girlfriend at the time and I were on a nice holiday.

She had accepted my request to marry one night yet we hadn’t set a date and by the next year, she ran off with an art student from Philadelphia. She returned. We were trying it again.

Anyway, she was at an ATM in the vestibule of some bank in one of those fine cities when I heard a terrified scream from inside. I dashed in from the sidewalk to find her standing, hands to mouth, as if punched in the stomach, yet more horrified.

“What is it?” “What’s wrong?” I implored bent at my waist trying to look between her hands into her twisted face. She cried, “the machine stole my money. My money’s gone”. I reached to my right, pulling out 300 dollars in fifteen denominations of twenties, Queen staring gracefully a glance.

“You’re in Canada!” I said. “It’s real money! What did you think you were going to get?”

I forgot all about that night; lucky I didn’t marry her.