Thursday, September 10, 2009

O' Canada or: The Canadian Kilted Yaksmen, Pt. 2

Events like these seem to fall into the category of “You Had to Be There.” Now YHTBT moments are the bane and dread of every writer, reporter, and drunken storyteller the world over, but in the context of Canadian tourism, it’s actually brilliant. You have to be there. Really. Go now. There’s just something about the place that makes it feel like it’s all a U.S.-themed amusement park. Take Disneyland, and mix it with what I imagine New York City must have been like before Giuliani cleared out all the nudie-bars. Now to one side of Donald Duck Avenue is L.A.-Land, and to the other is Mayor Mickey’s New York, except now Mickey is homeless and asking for change to buy his daughter and her dog their meds after losing his job and house.1

1. I swear aliens were also involved. It was amazing. We gave this homeless guy money twice that weekend, just for his creativity. Unfortunately, Canadian quarters are the same size as their $2 pieces. I knew I’d confuse them in my pocket when handing them to a homeless guy, and sure enough this is what happened. He was very surprised–almost as surprised as I was–and thanked me profusely. Hey, it’s not like I could have asked for change back.

The problem with theme parks is that they’re like light beer or diet soda: the flavor’s just a little off. Aside from outrageously overpriced soft-drinks and confusing maps, I’m sure any biracial Chinese-Norwegian couple would be a little offended at how they’re portrayed in the “Small World” ride. Assuming L.A. is Pepsi and New York is Coke, Montreal is Diet Cherry-Vanilla Dr. Pepper. But every Coke-drinker needs a splash of citrus-scented saccharin to revitalize our tastebuds every once in a while.

Our first stop past the border after such a long drive was to get gas. A station just inside Quebec, offered “Petrol” at just $1.32 per gallon. But not really. It was $1.32 Canadian per liter, which apparently translates as, “pay out your ass expensive,” and despite a quick-conversion table laminated at the front desk, the attendant was not mentally equipped to give Canadian change for American cash. We spent the next forty minutes figuring out that after you travel between countries I-8-35-7-B-whatever becomes Autorut 18, and along the way deciphered new and interesting street signs2. We also decided to tell everyone how we’d “hit a buck-fifty” on Canadian highways, because we found kilometers so damned amusing.

2. I still maintain that one actually meant “No Station Wagons.”

We found the hotel with relative ease, considering we were in a different country and all the street signs were in the wrong language. Now the Hotel Sainte Denise is a small establishment. The three of us had originally booked a room for four to five people, and this meant that we got a room with two twin beds and a pull-out sofa. The room also had a full private bath and tickets for comped breakfasts, which included the most bizarre take on cinnamon toast I have ever come across. It was essentially a large, home-made cinnamon roll, cold, cut through the middle and arranged like a sandwich around what I think was some sort of mixture of warmed-over cream cheese and icing, topped with rocks of pure Columbian cinnamon. It came with juice and water from expensive, unlabeled, blue Absolut bottles, which coincidentally also made up the table’s centerpiece.

What really grabbed me about the hotel was the television. The TV itself was of absolutely nothing remarkable. It was a generic, brand-name unit, bought in bulk and stocked in every room of every hotel in the universe. However in Canada, TV is amazing. The first thing we did was find the French-Canadian equivalent to MTV and relax after the long drive up. We watched an animated show about sixteen year olds at their local (French) mall and tried to guess what the show was about3. Soon we were watching The Ashley Simpson Show with French subtitles, still trying to guess what it was about, even though the entire show was in English. Finally, we were treated to an afternoon of Pimp Mon Char, avec Xibit, and it was possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen on television.

4. This show was later shown briefly on Nickelodeon and more recently on Cartoon Network as 6Teen. It's hilarious.

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