Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bike Traffic - Friendly or Fr-Frightening?


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.

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canadian Winter? Psshh!

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?