Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Love Town?



Setting
:
Location – The cozy neighborhood coffee shop where Ei and I do most of our work and play. It’s busy today, with lots of customers, loud music, and many delicious drinks.

Time – 5 pm. The day is unwinding, along with everyone’s schedules and inhibitions. At least they should be.

Scene – At the end of a long common table, Ei and I sit with cups of iced coffee. Blond American curls bouncing, we laugh loudly about something (most likely related to sweet potatoes).

Two strapping young men enter from the side door. They’re laughing, too. They walk in to meet two equally happy American females. The laughs stop, but not the smiles.
“Hey Ei.” “Hey Chels.” “Hey guys.”

The four of us know each other well. We have many neighborhood friends in common. We often run into each other, chat in the café, and shoot invisible sparks back and forth.
“How’s it goin’?” “Good.”

The two open seats beside Ei and I are practically screaming. But, in reality, the only audible sound is the music behind us. There’s a pause in conversation.
It gets tense.
“Man, I need a coffee.” “Me too.”
In a flash, the men disappear.

Uh. Wha?

Ei looks at me. Her jaw has dropped a bit. I look at Ei. I don’t see any food on her face. No moles or missing teeth. What’s the deal? I would stand in line for a chance to go out with Ei – you know, if I were into that kind of thing.

Is it me?

The men get their coffee. They’re heading back. Oh ok, maybe they just needed caffeine. Maybe now they’ll make their move! But just as they approach the back of Ei’s chair, a woman with a stroller blocks their way. The men squeeze past on the other side without even a goodbye wave.

Whaaa?

End Scene.

Toronto. How, where, when, and why do people date here? The dramatization above comes from a plethora of nonsensical love stories. (Man shows interest in girl one minute, repulsion the next. Woman turns down perfectly good, reliable partner, for complicated head-case. Man plans a date and stands up woman. Woman perpetually dates the same bad ex. Man and woman are in love with each other, but for some reason neither ever makes a move.)

Now, down South, a gentleman courts a lady – asks her out, pays for dinner, and voices his intentions. So the theory goes. But even in the states this standard is changing. Toronto’s nondescript, elusive dating scene is almost exactly what I experienced in New York City. Maybe all progressive cities are turning into Complicated Love Towns. In this progressive northern nation, is this what two single American women are destined to face? Complicated Love?!

Liberalism and gender equality have evolved hand in hand. Women are no longer expected to be meek figurines. And as their power grows exponentially, tolerance for chauvinism shrinks. Men as a whole have adjusted to seeing strong women - everywhere. Has this made their role change? Have men turned more passive – less assertive? Maybe not professionally – but what about personally? What about when it comes to relationships and dating?

There are many influences that keep our North American societies evolving. From a macro-view, Canada is pioneering forward-thinking policies the U.S. could really learn from. Progress away from archaic customs seems downright healthy.

Here’s the catch.

As much as our countries are evolving (progressing), we’re still raised on Disney movies with strong princes and damsels in distress. Fashion magazines still idolize “classic femininity” (small waist, big eyes, quiet mouth). Let's assume a woman’s attractiveness is based on classic ideals, and that she feels more comfortable being pursued, traditionally, than doing the hunting. If men are growing more passive next to their assertive sisters, how does anyone get together anymore? Will our generation just turn lonely – bitter – sarcastic? Anybody – any ideas? (Eileen - where'd you put our horoscopes for today?!)

Here’s my two cents (cents I should probably save for myself...). If all gender stereotypes fall away, true connections will hold strong. They might even seem clearer. There are people you click with and people you don’t. Man or woman – if you connect with someone (and I do believe meaningful connections are rare), jump on them. If it’s a real connection it will last. If it’s a battle, you probably won’t win. Life’s too short. Don’t give people who snuff you free reign. Don’t let the people who spark you get away.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho, Green Canada




If I had my little way, I’d eat peaches every day…


Millions of peaches… are rolling into Toronto. Sure, down south I’ve eaten many a delicious fuzzy fruit, but I'm stoked for Ontario peach season. Let me tell you a little story about these northern peaches.

Before I moved to Toronto, I put down a deposit for a room in a shared home – a prime Craigslist find, with 9 roommates, no locks, no keys, and no rules. Well, turns out communal living isn't really my cup of tea (..
.Ei, I'm not sure if that guy's a new roommate, somebody's friend, or a street busker...)

When I first arrived at my new digs, I pushed open the unhinged front door to meet my surprised - and eager - landlord.
“You must be Chelsea! Welcome! Perfect timing! I was hoping you’d get here today! Hey, I could really use your rent money! Right away!”
“Oh. Hi. Uh… Now?”
The friendly Canadian proprietor smiled down at my Greyhound-blurred eyes.
“Yeah!”
“I only have American money.”
"It’s ok, I’ll give you a tour of the neighborhood bank! Let’s go! Here, take a peach!"
He grabbed a peach from a side-table basket and chucked it at me. As he turned me around, pack still on my back, to head outside again, I bit into the heavy, ripe fruit.
Ok - it was a strange moment. I was questioning my sanity - the decision to move to Canada - this northern breed of Americans... But, that's not the point of this story.
Ahem - I’ve spent time in Atlanta, but I’m not from Georgia; it’s safe for me to say: that was the best damn peach I’ve ever tasted.

Those *open-minded* friends had a unique Canadian existence. No one I've met before or since comes close. That said, their liberal views - perhaps pushed to the extreme - stem from a common progressive Canadian mentality. This progressive nature may be the root of today's subject: Canadian gardening. Whereas, in The States, hoses and hoes (
Get your mind out of the gutter, Ei!) are reserved for the elderly, gardens in Toronto grow equally high in all yards. College students dig alongside professors. Chefs weed next to bartender friends. You catch my drift. Who knew Canadians had such green thumbs. (Tongues, too!)

Despite the differences that unfolded between my roommates and I (
Did Steve just skin a raccoon?), I admired their free-loving devotion to the earth. I had no idea a hairy anarchist could be a encyclopedia of vegetation. And for all its kinks, my transient home had one saving grace. Its big, warm, fragrant, shared kitchen. It was a luxury to pass through the house and smell new and delicious meals every time. Our overgrown and headstrong garden of a backyard produced many a tomato-sauce, pumpkin pie, and broccoli soup. With the exception of the frozen-pizza-enthusiast DJ, every other roommate put my chef skills to shame.

The city of Toronto happens to be built on some of the most fertile land in Canada. People have told me this is why so many garden here. Nice try. If that were true, New Jersey's rich, "garden state" soil would be producing a state of horticulturists. Is produce-enthusiasm and eco-awareness an actual cultural difference? Is it a true piece of evidence we can put on our list?

If gardens aren't tall enough signs for you, let me conclude by turning to the streets. Public trash cans in Toronto combine recycling, garbage, and COMPOST. Everyone I know here has a compost bin. (
Ei - Do you know any composting Americans? Get out! You do!?) Produce is on the proverbial Canadian brain. Is that why obesity is less severe here – heart disease is less rampant – smiles are more charming?

This post made me hungry.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Long Distance Birthday Party...

Happy 4th of July, America!

We love you.

Ei and I just celebrated your birth with some wonderfully forgiving non-Americans. No poutine this time. Just good ol' fashioned BBQ food. Followed by cake and apple pie (Yes, guests were required to eat both).

Ah, elastic waist band...

Newsfact for the day: 'My Country Tis of Thee' and 'God Save The Queen' are sung to the same tune. Emblematic prizes for anyone who can get to the bottom of this.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canaday!




My country tis of thee - Oops. Oh beautiful for spacious - Oh man.

Sorry! OHH CANADA!


Happy Canada Day! This is so exciting! Fireworks! Corn on the cob! Star spangled - I mean, Maple spangled banners! A Declaration of In- (What, Ei! What do you mean it's not about independence? It's July, it's a national holiday, there's a parade... And Amelia said Canadians love BBQs...
But -
Well fine, smarty pants. What is it then?

What?! I was about to grab a coffee! I don't have time to research this!
Sigh...)

Oh, Canada, hello again. And
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! That's right, I know all about your "slightly different" national holiday. Go ahead, ask me about Canada - or should I say Dominion - Day!

Canada Day, known as Dominion Day until 1982, commemorates the day, in 1867, when two British colonies united to form: CANADA! It's similar to America's Independence Day - both celebrate documents and acts solidifying our democratic nations. However, instead of memorializing a divorce from its parents, Canada celebrates a peace-loving nativity. On the fourth of July, the states had just ended a blood-filled revolution against Britain. But on July first, Canada was on course for a less confrontational union. The British/North America act of 1867 started it all. Canada took its time - Easy does it! - parting from the Brits. Finally, in 1982, with the act that changed Dominion Day to Canada Day, Canada gained full separation from England. Ahhh. At last Canada could change its constitution without Britain's approval. And the gentle separation paid off! They're still the best of friends. In fact, this year the Queen's flying to Ottawa to celebrate!

So, what do Canadians do on their special day, you ask? Well, it's one of those vaguely distinct customary differences that make Ei and I check our sanity. (
BBQs, parades, political speeches - It's just like the fourth of July - But something's different - People are less drunk, less abrasive, less red-white-and-blue - Am I home - Am I abroad - Chelsea wake up, you must be dreaming!!!) We plan on going out into the field to pinpoint Canadian pride, first hand.

And hey, Americans, in case Canada's coolness is starting to put any of you to shame, there's a dark detail I must mention. Quebec isn't a big fan of Canada Day. The Francophone province, traditionally opposed to most national movements, has long advocated its independence from Canada. Black sheep? Don't ask me! All I know is it makes me feel a little more at home to witness family drama on a holiday.

Here's to you, Canada. I hope we both have wonderful celebrations right next door to each other this year. I wish I could go to Detroit or Buffalo where they're having three-day, dual-country festivals. T
hat's the way to do it. We're all family - no one, and no holiday, is better than the other. Let's all get loud and friendly and hot and eat something salty off a long pointy stick.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One, Two, Buckle G-Hundred and 20 Shoes



Canadian WORD OF THE DAY: CELSIUS

Celsius is a newfangled kind of degree. Canadians like to use it to measure heat. You might hear one say: “It’s gonna be a hot one today – 29 degrees!” Don’t worry. Most Canadians are actually very intelligent – not crazy. 29 degrees Celsius converts to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot, indeed.
Warning: arguments over Fahrenheit/Celsius may lead to mile/kilometer, feet/meter hostility.

...................................................................................................................................

Sometimes Ei and I forget we live abroad. Not this week. This hit me after I called a friend from home. The summit on every Torontonian's mind this weekend almost didn’t even come up.
“Oh yeah, the G20. How was that?”

Hm. I know I already posted about the G20, but a lot has happened in the last few days. And no, Americans, this post isn’t a jab at you. Media coverage has been as unpredictable as the personal opinions I’ve encountered. Outside my (somewhat alternative) Canadian circles, I’ve seen a range of reactions to the weekend – from apathetic, to enraged, to disheartened, to oblivious.

More than 900 protesters were arrested over the course of Toronto’s G20 summit. Violence, emotion, tear gas, and vandalism changed the city atmosphere. Saturday, Ei and I kept safe on the west side of Bloor. Meanwhile, the entire city core shut down. When we walked east – just a few blocks towards downtown – we could smell smoke.

News aired the blow by blow of events – "FIRE!" "DANGER!" "VIOLENCE!" "ACTION!" It seemed evident what was happening (broken windows, police cars on fire, bomb threats), but we wanted to know why. In the aftermath, personal stories have started filling the gaps. Accounts of first-hand witnesses paint a more complex picture: protesters of all kinds (organized marchers, peaceful clowns, singing choruses), police outnumbering civilians (tear gas, rubber bullets, a horse-trampled-bystander), and over-packed, under-equipped holding cells for the detained.

Out of anger, a public inquiry into Toronto’s G20 is now under way. Police are suspected of instigating protesters, accused of trying to justify their $1 billion budget. As details surface, Canadian newspap
ers are telling more and more. However, the time for worldwide first-impressions has passed. U.S. news mostly glossed over the events - highlighting violent protests and arrests. American commentary is largely angry at “reckless” protesters. But they've only seen one viewpoint. Sure, officers were there to do their jobs, but civilians had a right to be there, too. They were vocalizing their beliefs. What about the peaceful citizens who were arrested, tear gassed, and trampled in the mix?

Misinformation is dangerous. Impassioned
issues deserve to be seen clearly. Whose faces were behind the Black block bandannas and what was their message? Where is the coverage of Tibetan marchers, trying to fight for freedom? Why were hundreds of people arrested, and why weren’t their stories told? When protesters are labeled reckless – when police are called violent – snap judgments are perpetuated. The G20 exists to instigate change. So do protesters. Well, change starts with communication. In a continent that promotes free media and speech, every voice has the right to be heard.

(Hey, Ei - Hello! I'm just talkin' to ya! Bla bla blaa...)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Episode #2 Poutine


Hot off the press, the newest episode of Americans in Canada.
Ever heard of Poutine?
Jump on in!


CLICK ME!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

G-20 Sum'tin



To all Americans in Canada: Warning - You are under alert.


Ah, I feel like I'm home again.

A few days ago, Ei got an email from the U.S. State Department (
Oh, U.S.A., you bald mother hen.).
Message: U.S. Citizens! From now until June 28th be wary of travel in Canada! Especially Toronto! Due to the G8/G20 summits in Huntsville and Toronto this week, there will probably be huge protests and mobs of raging anti-Americans! We're bumpin' up our security, but... you never know! Why not go to Maine instead!
(
Ei deleted the actual message... but that's the gist of it.)


Well, U.S.S.D, my friend, you managed to lure Eileen back home for a vacation, but I'm still here. Bring it, G20.

As we speak national leaders are descending on Canada, escorted by legions of security guards, reporters, and protesters. Like a nose full of pollen, Toronto's about to get congested.

Traffic - by air, road, and foot - will be rerouted, as officials rope off the downtown core. Many national attractions and restaurants will close. Sporting events and theater (
ahem, Theatre*) productions have been rescheduled. The entire University of Toronto has closed for the week to protect students from protesters.

Hm. I'm pretty vulnerable right now. I'm in Canada's danger zone, without even an American sister's solidarity. Anyone looking for a target will spot me - I must stand out like a sore thumb. I mean, I might as well tattoo the American flag to my chin. How can I fly under the radar? - Avoid the subway? Stay inside? Hitchike to Buffalo? (
Eileen, where are your schemes when I need them?)

Wait - No. NO! I can't give into fear. Must look - on - bright - side.

OK. This will be a pleasant week. I'll be able to enjoy my quiet neighborhood without venturing downtown. Who needs the business district? And - hey! - looks like I have no class this week. It's almost like I'm on vacation, without having gone anywhere.

Yeah. Yeah! What was I worried about? I've survived bigger warnings. Come to think of it, D.C. and New York were always at least at Code Orange. And let's face it - from everything I've seen so far, Canada is much better at... well... peace.

With a $1 billion price tag and run-o-the-mill summit controversy, the G20 has brought the most political turmoil I've experienced in Canada yet. But apparently, lo and behold, there's also some pride for this week. Fine by me. Canada deserves to be respected as a world power. Host to the winter Olympics, it's dressed up nicely for the spotlight. I picked a good year to jump on the bandwagon!

Before I take cover underground, I'd like to add one more thing. Canada, as you become more high profile, please don't change. In particular, don't let your chatty older brother rub off on you - "WARNING! ALERT! CODE RED!" Sure, "homeland secuirty" is important. But what happens when it produces more phobias than security? - when it marginalzies people from other homelands? Canada and the U.S. were founded by immigrants. I love the principle that anyone can feel at home in either country.
Honestly, Canada I've been more than impressed by your integration (
Ei, should we send field notes to the motherland?) As an outsider and a traveler, it's nice not to feel like an alien...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

EPISODE 2 TONIGHT, LIVE

Tonight at 8: Episode 2 - rough cut - airs on Radio Cure Radio.

Come hungry. We're digging into poutine.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Love America Too!




I love Canada.

Whenever I make something into a theme song , I make damn sure it’s true.



But I love America, too.

No matter how much I love a new home, it will never replace home home.

My parents just came up to visit for the week. (Stay tuned to Sunday’s podcast for an earful of those two!) It seemed like they were here for a microsecond. And they almost didn’t make it.


Two days before they were supposed to leave my brother checked into the hospital. He tore his esophagus after choking violently on his lunch. Jokes aside, this was obviously a serious injury. But, George Clooney be praised, he’s O.K., and as long as he sticks to a liquid diet for a while he’ll be back to normal in a few weeks. (
Hm, think poutine’s mushy enough, Ei?)

“Back to normal.” My life has a very fortunate default setting. With family safe, everyone at home again, I can keep watch on them from up north.


Well, I have a confession. I’m not my gung-ho-Toronto, eh-hoser-loving self today. Maybe I’m just under a little cloud. Maybe I’m a little homesick.Is that the bane of being a foreigner? One of the aspects of Toronto I’ve come to love is being part of a multicultural community. Various cultures integrate and collide all over West Bloorcourt. I wonder if all immigrants feel far away from their roots at times. Do they struggle with assimilating too little - or too much? Or is Canada’s progressive culture enough to put most immigrants completely at ease?


Ei just got to see her family, too. Her brief but beautiful tour of home, took her there and back, smoothly 'cross the border. Behind the wheel of her rental car – coffee in hand – pedal to the metal – married to the road and her itinerary – she conquered the trip like a marathon runner who doesn’t sleep. Old friends. New friends. Family. Milkshakes….And back again. (
You blasted Sweet Potato Banana on the open road, didn’t you, Ei?)



It’s bittersweet to see loved ones – to have a reunion with an expiration date. And let’s scale “homesickness” down from immigration and national borders. Even moving a few hours away from someone is long distance. In today’s techno-crazy blogosphere, it’s “easy” to stay connected. The world is globalized and best friends chat from across oceans. This accessibility lets us get lazy. When we’re a click away from each other at all times, do we really connect meaningfully? Some people are diligent, thoughtful, thorough emailers. But what if I don’t have time – or need twenty pages to actually explain my life?

I realize my whiny contradictions. I chastise blogs – in a blog. I complain about technology… on the internet. I appreciate the world-wide-web, and take full-advantage of its net. But no form of contact replaces seeing, hearing, hugging, or smelling (
Ei, remind me to talk to you about your new deodorant…) someone in person. When I get homesick I miss America - her people - her Fahrenheit - her mountains - her miles - her freedoms - her jokes - her traffic - her honkers - her Chipotle - her obesity - her obscenity - her trash bins. Nothing will replace being there. What’s an American in Canada to do?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Squishy Mushy Gravy Fries



Canadian WORD OF THE DAY: Poutine

Squishy, mushy, gravy fries originating from Quebec. Canadians LOVE this hefty snack. Not for the weak at heart. Or the lactose intolerant – these babies have cheese curds. Warning: do not consume with the same zest as French fries, unless you enjoy being cleaned bottom-side-out by a five-pound brick.

…………………………………………………………………
……………………………….

I fear today’s entry might spark some rivalry amongst readers. In efforts to dissuade the yee old battle Ei and I often pretend doesn’t exist (We love Canada! All Canadians love Americans!), let me start with some field notes.

Americans have a hard time pinning down a national cuisine. Pizza? Italian. Spaghetti? Italian. Chinese food? Chinese. F
rench fries? French. (What Ei? Nice try – no one’s gonna fall for the ol’ “Friench fries are really American” trick.) Sure we can claim burgers n’ dogs – many do enthusiastically, meat juice trickling down their chins. As vegetarians, Ei and I are just another strain of American weirdos with unidentifiable - probably un-American - tastes (Next 4th of July, I call seconds on the corn on the cob!).

There is an upside to not having a core “
American” cuisine, though. It’s a reminder that our individual meals are all stewed in the big U.S. melting pot; America, land of the mutts.

Well, Canada is a bit of a mish-mash too. Especially Toronto. When I walk the ten blocks from my house to Eileen’s, I cross the compartmentalized, concretized countries of Korea, Greece, Ethiopia, Italy, and Portugal. Think they face a similar culinary identity dilemma? Oh Canada, you better believe it.

Enter: Poutine. The emblematic, bald eagle-esque, traditional Quebecois/Canadian dish. From its name you might imagine a meal quite similar to how it actually tastes – warm, soggy, starchy, blobby. But to Canadians, poutine is like George Clooney on a plate. He’s unmistakable. He’s everywhere. He’s adored by die-hard fans. When I first tasted it, I held my tongue – partially because I was afraid to ignite a cross-culture war – partially because, had I shifted the tepid glob of gravy fries, I might’ve puked. Since then, a soft spot has started growing in my heart (if not my mouth) for the soggy snack. How could it not when it means so much to my brothers here? Poutine, the golden star in every greasy Torontonian spoon, is real Canadian food.

Now all that brotherly love junk I just mentioned? All that stuff was true. Don't forget it.

Ok, here goes.

The International Poutine Eating Co
mpetition took place in Toronto last weekend…


The championship winner… was… American.

Heh.

Sorry Canada. It pains me to report that the only gold medal you can claim your own – the one, genuinely beloved North American rock star that was yours and not the states’ – was symbolically stolen from you Sunday:
Hailing from Chicago, Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti inhaled 13 pounds of poutine in ten minutes, blowing native participants out of the water.
You got ahead of yourself, Canada. You let your hunger, your love for poutine, carry you away. You organized a competition to celebrate your national cuisine without considering your chiseled American competitors. Your eyes were too big for your modest stomach.

Let’s face it, no one can match the American gut. This wasn’t the first time you were overshadowed by the girthy figure of our United States - (What Ei, I’m in the middle of something? Yeah, I know they have a lower rate of heart disease, and…
Ok…
Well…
Yeah…
..... . . . . . . . . . )


Heh. Ok – Americans, when I said “girth
y” I meant…
I mean.
Uh.
Oh man.

Let’s take a quick break everybody.
(Ok Ei, what the hell. I know somebody should be embarrassed here – but who? I’m so confused.)


Well, Canada, looks like maybe yo
u didn’t lose this round. Crisis averted – no black eyes today! Alrighty well I’ve got loads of field notes to transcribe – gotta run – see you guys next time! Cheers! (Yeasurewellcoveracheersnothertimeon
WORDOFTHEDAY!
)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bike Traffic - Friendly or Fr-Frightening?



Canadian
WORD OF THE DAY: Toonie

Toonie is Canadian slang for “two bucks.” Canadians like to let loose when it comes to money. U
nlike in the states, paper money comes no smaller than five-dollar bills (which are actually a cheerful shade of sky blue!). Ever wonder why all Canadians have extremely bulky, jingly pockets? It’s because they’re carrying a load of one and two dollar coins. The one-dollar coin was created by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1987. During the official government christening, a rather lighthearted officer stepped up: “One dollar? Let’s call it a loonie!” Nine years later, in the same vein of silliness and for lack of creativity, the toonie was born.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Know what also c
omes in twos? Bicycle wheels!

I’ve never lived in a city with so many bikes. Supporting the theory that Canadians are more environmental, economic, and healthier than Americans, I’ve seen many more cyclists in these parts. Sure, when I lived in New York there were bikers galore – likely true for Portland, San F
rancisco, and many other progressive cities – but cities are anomalies. And even if I’m just making a convenient assumption, I’ve never seen a group of bikers comparable to the pedal-pumping bike hoards in Toronto.

Last summer, Ei was a bike fi
end. She was riding her two-wheeler like a pro. No hands? You bet! No helmet? Yes-sirree. (Right Ei? Yeah, that’s right!)

I hope this cushion is fluffy enough for you, because here comes the blow.

August 16th
Ei was hit by a drunk driver. When I met her, my friend’s right arm was weighed by a very lady-like cast. (I’ll hand it to her, even wrapped in plaster she’s still got more fashion sense than I do.) Little did I know, the trooper was hiding dozens of injuries under her cute fall coat – bruises, fractures, cuts, phobias. No I’m not talking about her hatred of cucumbers. (How can you not like cucumbers? Oh come on that makes no sense. What? Yeah, but avocado and peanut butter happen to be damn delicious! *Stay tuned for more information on a delicious Americanadian recipe!*)


Ei’s ordeal only just began when that driver – who would subsequently drive away, crash into a line of parked cars, flee on foot, and then get caught – hit her. The real battle began when the hospital turned her away for being an uninsured American. (Stay tuned for our coverage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship Tour: U.S.A. vs. Socialized Medicine - in Canada!) Months of physical, mental, legal, and financial recovery have been grueling. Every week we celebrate Ei’s slow progress towards being able to give a full thumbs up. I try not to take it personally when she responds to my enthusiasm with a thumb at half-mast. To think – how many thumb wars have become dust in the wind…

As bike season returns again, the hoards have re-emerged. Old bikes, new bikes, bikes built for two… (Remember that really attractive couple we tried to push over on Bloor?! Haha, I know.) Unfortunately their existence, their sheer number is not the subject at hand.

The link between Ei’s accident and our lives in Canada is the number of Torontonians I know who’ve been hit on their bikes – against car doors, driving while drunk, squeezed out of bike lanes, thrown off a pothole…

National news has picked up on it. Protests have been organized. Maybe I’m uninformed (Quite possible, right Ei? Hm.), but I’ve yet to see this extensive bike-crash coverage in the states. Are bikes crashing in America and being ignored?
Or is it an issue brought on by a country with more bikers?
And if there are more bikers here within this progressive atmosphere – why the hell are they all getting hit?

Our personal connection makes this issue pertinent – we're already drafting the cue cards for a future podcast.
Somehow a feisty American has been made to fear the magic of Canada by bike.
Why?

Click here for an animation Ei made while recouping from the accident: Bike Animation

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canadian Winter? Psshh!


Canadian
WORD OF THE DAY: Tim Horton’s




Tim Horton’s is a small mom and pop coffee shop - frequented by about 3 million Canadians a day. Friendly little place where you can sit down to a cup o’ Joe and doughnut for no more than a
toonie (for more info stay tuned to WORD OF THE DAY). All good Canadians are put at ease when they pass a Tim Horton’s, knowing, just inside, is a kitchen like mom's, and an old mustached cashier woman (like mom!). Insiders tip: watch out for their blended iced coffees – known to hit the bloodstream with the same force as crack.

…......................................................................................................................................

Ah, ice.
That brings me to today’s subject.

Canadian winter. Otherwise known as the reason number one Ei and I were crazy to want to move to Canada. Up north it's not just cold. Snow doesn't just flurry. To Canadians, the half-inch snow “storms” that shut down the D.C. metro are a pathetic excuse for a joke.

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Ei was pretty prepared for winter when she moved here. I, on the other hand, was terrified. When I first arrived, late last summer, it was already on my mind.

August quickly turned to September and I rushed to Value Village’s coat rack. September became October – I invested in some long johns. October became November and I stocked hats, socks, mittens, scarves, and bubble wrap. I was proactively peeing my pants. Snow up to my waist piled in my mind’s eye. Ei prepped me for the tricks of the natives – toques, coffee shops, underground paths.

And then December hit. Hit D.C., that is. Toronto had sunshine, D.C. – snowbanks. I went home for the holidays to a winter wonderland, and returned to a mild and ice-free city.

January – blizzard number two for the states. Yet another in February. Word on the street, my poor countrymen’s grocery stores had been completely cleared of stock. They were shaking in their poorly insulated boots. I felt very far from home. I also felt happy. Canada had the last laugh again.

Did the same strange wind that brought me to Toronto keep all the snow away? Will next winter bury us –force us to burrow through the city like mole-men?

In the mean time, what will I do with my new turquoise onesie?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Two Americans Land In Canada, A Strange Journey Begins



“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwa
rds.” -Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking Glass
Carl Jung spoke of coincidence – of synchronicity – as unrelated events that happen together in an unlikely context, which carry meaning for their observer. Oracles, psychics, and your neighborhood palm readers find value in coincidence, too, likely believing they signify you’re on the right path.

But what if you’re not on a path? What if you’ve somehow stumbled into a new city, looking for direction, and are suddenly bombarded – one after another after another – with undeniable, kick-you-in-the-crotch coincidences? What then? Are you crazy? Is it a full moon?

Ei and I are two creative documentarian-types – a documentary filmmaker and an anthropologist writer – of a rather lost generation, wh
o found each other in Toronto, Canada – lost, but happy too. Independently, we both landed in Canada at random, and met amidst equally strange storms of coincidence.

To be honest, 90% of our friendship is spent reassuring each other we’re not crazy – both of us place meaning in coincidence, and neither of us has had the ability to sculpt what the universe has dumped on us.


And on top of being unable to interpret all our bizarrely linked events, we’re navigating through a bit of a fog.

You see, as an American I feel Canada is more than my neighbor. He’s my brother. I feel at home – at peace – in Toronto, inexplicably more than perhaps any other city. And yet our countries are not the same. Canadians are not Americans. Americans are not Canadians.
"You have no rights here."
-A friendly Canadian immigration officer (a story for an
other time...)
The thing is, since we’re so close, the differences sneak up. What makes us American? What makes them Canadian? Those differences, they’re crafty. Most of the time they’re invisible. Actually, it’s quite possible they don’t exist. This uncertainty is where the insanity-factor comes back in.
Is flipping the bird in public a Canadian thing – or is that guy crazy – or am I crazy – EILEEEN!
I can’t speak for Ei, but I sure am glad she’s here. (Aw, wait – Hey, Ei! Aren’t you glad I’m here? Yeah? Ok, thanks.)

What’s different? What’s the same? And why are all these damn coincidences happening?

We’re starting this ethnographic record to make sense of our lives in Canada before it makes us insane. What kind of brothers are our Canadian friends – are they ten times smarter, kinder and more resourceful than us? Or are they seconds from unmasking themselves as mice-torturing American haters?


We hope documentation helps our adventure. But either way it’s an adventure we want to share. Sometimes we’re homesick. Sometimes we’re embarrassed of home. Most of the time we’re a little confused. But I’ll promise you this, we’re always up for a good crispy samosa.