Category Archives: canada

top eight things I really want to discuss at the expat party

Tonight is the Canadian Association of New York party at the Canadian owned Dirt Candy.  This is a restaurant that usually hosts informal Canada nights on Mondays anyways, so this just seems to be a super-sized one.  I am very much looking forward to spending time with other Canadians.  I’m going on my own, assuming once I get there, as I am at any Canadian expat bar, I’ll be welcomed.  Still, to ensure I do not backtrack into my socially awkward self, I’ve come up with a list of conversation starters that aren’t the deep, serious discussion of Socialism vs. Capitalism and Common Good vs. Individualism that I’d love to have with anyone else living here.

8.  Did any of us know as kids that the Man in Motion song is actually the theme song to St Elmos Fire and not just Rick Hansen’s theme song?

My husband failed to get my reaction of OMG RICK HANSEN this last time we heard this song in a bar.  I TOLD HIM SO.

7. WTF is with softwood lumber trading being a thing again?  Is this, much like Chinese steel, something Trump used himself to build his hotels and then decided to heavily tariff once he didn’t need to purchase it anymore?

6. If the crappy American bands are doing shows, like Better than Ezra opening for Counting Crows, why isn’t there a tour with the CLEARLY SUPERIOR Canadian bands of the same era? Actually, where are Our Lady Peace these days, anyways?

AS CLUMSY AS YOU’VE BEEN THERE’S NO ONE LAUGHING

6. We are all still sad about Gord.

Canada literally shut down when Gord Downie died.  

5. So when someone says “lovers”, every Canadian’s knee jerk reaction is to say OH IN  A DANGEROUS TIME, right?

4. Alias Grace.  Wasn’t it an outstanding interpretation of the book?  How did it manage to be both psychologically disturbing and aesthetically beautiful at the same time?  Do we think Netflix will make anything as good with the $500M they’re investing in Canadian content?

3. Also in Canadian made TV…how the hell did Heritage Minutes beat out Degrassi on the Canadian most memorable TV brackets?

2. Why exactly are we all still in this country, run by a madman, where individualism and individual rights are prized more highly than the common good?  Have we not all considered going home to Canada, where our laws function on the side of greater society, and where our Prime Minister tries to set a positive tone to unite, not divide, the country? Oh, wait, I totally meant to NOT get into this…

  1. Seriously…the Most Memorable TV Thing!

 

 

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and us remains impossible

One of my favourite hobbies is Moping About Vancouver.  This is partially an Early Twenties Nostalgia thing, because who doesn’t look back on their early twenties and see it in candy coloured light and want to soundtrack it and idealize it and frame that time up in Lucite as The Best Time Ever?  (High school, for the record, is somehow always the worst, even for people who didn’t seem to hate it at the time).

My moping over Vancouver is not entirely nostalgia though.  Vancouver really is a fairy tale city.  It’s unbelievably beautiful, set in a break in the mountains on the edge of the ocean.  I mean, look at the photos on the tourism website! It’s a city of glass that looks like a science fiction city on the edge of the natural world.  Yet it still has miles and miles of old neighbourhoods with only Craftsman houses to be seen.  The sky is laced with fir trees in winter and cherry blossoms in spring, so many of the latter that the blossoms pile up in drifts in the gutters in March.  I don’t know how so many movies have managed to disguise the city (hint: USAToday boxes).  And in the time I lived in southwest British Columbia, Vancouver still had the counterculture allure of the West Coast cities, all of the hippie culture my mother’s generation brought with them – now a parody of itself from Lululemon on down, but still very much in earnest in 2003.

Now, I’m realizing, Vancouver was a fairy tale city.  Article after article shows up in my feed about how people my age are leaving the city.  And over and over I hear the same line: that people are breaking up with Vancouver.  That they’re leaving it the same way they would a lover.  That it’s the end of a relationship.   I hear this as a Matt Good track off, well, “Vancouver”.  I know you, so you know me…but us remains impossible.

(I especially appreciate how nostalgic people are for early aughts Vancouver as a time before the housing crisis got ridiculous.  It was certainly trending towards ridiculous in my West Side world, although I could likely have slipped over the border of Main Street and had a very different experience)

A few weeks ago, I was comparing travel notes with another mom from Ben’s class. I’d taken Ben to Switzerland to visit a friend from Vancouver; she’d taken her family to Vancouver to visit a friend she knew from Brooklyn.  She was raving about the city, how beautiful it was, how great the food was, how much she had enjoyed it, without realizing that I was from British Columbia.  When I mentioned that I had been in Basel for the wedding of a friend from Vancouver, she said, “I didn’t know you were from there!  Why would you ever leave?”

“Well, it’s like New York housing,” I explained.  “Only with about 60% of the wages to pay for it.”  That’s usually the point where people look actually shocked.  And by “people”, I mean “people from New York”, which is about as expensive as you can get in North America.  No one here will blink at paying $1,000 a square foot to buy a chunk of Brooklyn, but only if they make money proportional to it.  The idea of not making that money and still having to pay that rate for housing is terrifying.  I shudder even thinking of it.

I still stalk Vancouver more than I ever have any old relationship.  I read Doug Coupland books  (and, briefly, jPod the TV series) and listen to Matt Good Band albums and mope.  I watched the entire run of Continuum for no reason other than the fact that it was the Vancouver-iest thing on TV, nevermind that it literally made no sense by the third season.  I’ll occasionally even check out the twenty year old tech of the KatKam (“Hello freighters nestled in the bay!”).  I read Ben Good Night Vancouver until he knew it by heart.

And like most relationships, I regret deeply the missed opportunities.  I regret that I didn’t take the time or opportunity to know the city better, that I never lived anywhere in Old Vancouver, on the East Side, that I always stayed in Kitsilano where it was familiar, where it was close to my friends and the university and looked a lot like my actual home of Victoria.  I regret that I didn’t learn Vancouver the way I learned Los Angeles when I moved there, that I didn’t study the city and its development and change, the waves of immigration and extremes of society that built the city on that chunk of flattish land between the Fraser River and the Narrows.  My sister bought me Vancouver Was Awesome for Chrismukkah a couple years ago and I’m fascinated seeing the old city, one so like Victoria, one I only ever saw ghost outlines of under all that futuristic glass.

And yet, I have no intent of going back to make up that time with the city.  I’m not looking at job listings or apartment listings: even in the days after November 9th, 2016, I looked at Toronto, because I only wax nostalgic and I’m actually extremely practical and pragmatic.  Still, going back isn’t out of the question, either: the exchange and the equity in my Brooklyn apartment would allow us to purchase something at 20% down.  If Paul and I both had jobs, we would probably be OK.  Not great, but OK.  Our quality of life wouldn’t be much different – we’d save less for retirement and Ben’s college, we’d pay more into taxes instead.

I still recognize that “if we had jobs” is a big fat IF though.  I left to find a career in the first place, and Paul’s work is specialized enough that it is challenging to find a fit for him in the Tri-State area, much less on the edge of the world in a country he’s not a citizen of.  Nothing’s impossible, I’m told, and yet I feel like for us to have the same sort of ease of life we do in NYC, the same sort of careers, the same sort of income to housing ratio, I have to tell my former city, I’m sorry, but us remains impossible, Vancouver.

I also remind myself when I’m moping that I love living in New York City.  I grew up in BC, but this is my actual ancestral homeland, as proven by the fact that overall pushiness makes me a perfect fit for NYC.  I have a career type job in marketing, in the epicenter for my industry.  I experience and learn so much here every day that I would never have learned in my safe corner of Canada.  Right now, much of that is about how completely fucked up America is, but at least I am learning something and spurred into action by it, which is a lot better than complacency, idleness and stagnation.

I remind myself that I left British Columbia to See the World, which, at the time, consisted of Living in Los Angeles.  Now it consists of Living in New York With The Occasional Trip to Europe.  I look at Manhattan when I come back across the GW Bridge each day, at the towers bathed in golden light, and I think, this is my home now, and I know the two boroughs I spend the most time in as well as I ever knew Vancouver – and I still have barely scratched the surface of New York City and of America and of all the things I can be curious about and learn and experience here.

(Oh, and I also left on a sort of quest to find my True Love, which actually took less than two years of the thirteen since I left.  I assume if I had wanted to go back, I would have taken my husband and retreated by now.)

Over the last few years, my moping has been taking on a different sort of nostalgia than it did when I was a homesick twenty six year old in West L.A.  Now, as I read article after article about people leaving Vancouver, I realize I am moping over a Vancouver that is gone, that in reality, what remains is a city my friends are abandoning for the suburbs, for Vancouver Island, or for Canada’s other cities where they can afford housing for their own growing families.  My family have moved to Toronto; my friends from UBC have scattered across Canada.  Vancouver has become too needy, too high maintenance, too much for any of us.

This isn’t a Vancouver phenomenon, obviously.  It’s the same thing that’s happened here in New York, to TriBeCa, to the East Village, to downtown Brooklyn, to even the north edges of my neighborhood in Prospect Heights.  But even though I live in New York, and have had to watch Brooklyn’s neighborhoods bleed out their neighborhood culture from a thousand luxury condo cuts, I grieve for Vancouver more.  Now it’s changed so much, I suspect I wouldn’t be able to love the city the same way even if I had a magic opportunity to go back with the same sort of quality of life I have here.

There are dozens of posts about the Vancouver housing crisis from people who didn’t leave in 2004.  This is my love letter, my own sadness, my own loss at the city I called home, a slightly idealized, candy coloured look at a place I lived in when I was twenty-six, that I left because I was going to outgrow it, even if I hadn’t already.  The reasons I left will always be good, and the decision to leave when I did will always be the right one (it’s given me a career and a husband and a son and a ridiculous adventure of just being American) but that isn’t going to stop me from moping at an expert level for the version of the city I left in 2004, and over empathizing with every breakup article.  Oh Vancouver, us remains impossible.

 

I have to stop reading the comments

I have to stop reading the comments

Do not ask me why I read the comments. It is always a mistake. Whatever the topic now, it manages to devolve into a set of crystallized black and white beliefs from the Left and the Right. This year’s crop of holiday messages has been the worst yet, as people have used those as jumping-off points to insult and express their dislike of the politicians posting those good wishes.

It’s impossible to see good in any comments anymore. The right jumps in to say that we Lefties are all “libtards” (officially my Most Hated Term Ever) and refuse to see The Truth about the Current POTUS, and/or His Associate Hillary Clinton and/or The Current Canadian Prime Minister. That “truth” is usually that that the “libtard” in question is wearing blinders/corrupt/biased in ways that are MUCH worse than their counterparts on the Right. If only us lefties were smarter/less fooled by MSM/more willing to admit it, we’d realize the leaders we chose are awful in their own right and that we are too stupid/selfish/elitist to choose REAL leaders like Current Right Wing Extremist. (Oh, and also, Obama is a Muslim/Trudeau hates Christmas)

The Left states that the incoming President is racist/going to get us all nukes/corrupt, and that the outgoing POTUS/his associate Clinton/current PM Trudeau is the best, classiest leader that ever was or could have been and NO MATTER WHAT they are definitely better than PEOTUS/past PM Harper. They would like to cite a lot of racism and prejudice that the Right is responsible for, and would like to also cite Russian hacking/Russian affiliation/Russian arms race as a factor.

What frustrates me the most is that neither group is playing on the same playing field. They are each shouting horrible insults at each other in knee jerk reactions of hatred that require the mental gymnastics of lumping each and every person into the same category. I do genuinely believe that there are many more incorrect facts and honestly just plain wrong beliefs by the Right, and that a lot of people with single-issue reactions (ie. this week’s “Obama is the WORST EVER for not using his veto to help Israel” crew) are lying to themselves and/or believing outright false news in order to make themselves feel better about the fact that A Possible Nuclear Winter Is Coming And It Was Fairly Elected In.

The Right continues, when sane, to announce that Obama was the Worst President Ever because of one or two things he did wrong; the Left continue to exaggerate Trump’s less concrete (and therefore more easily dismissed) problems to stand on a platform of Righteous Indignation and Moral Superiority.

How about this?

  1. The Left will focus on actual, well written statements. Not “Trump Will Get Us All Killed”, not “Trump Grabs Pussies”, not “Trump is Racist”, but “Trump has Business Conflicts Of Interest and had Bob Dole broker a call with Taiwan for his own hotel empire’s growth, thereby risking our relationship with China.” Or “Trump is pandering to a Christian population and is expressing vocal support of policies and laws that are in direct conflict with our Constitution”. Or “Trump isn’t attending security briefings but apparently has time to watch SNL.” Or even “Trump’s entire cabinet bought their positions and will never have the country’s best interests at heart over their own business kickbacks.” (This is my favorite because I really can’t handle having decisions over minimum wage made by a fast food CEO, or decisions on our foreign relationships made based on what’s best for Exxon)
  2. Perhaps we could also politely suggest that the Right put the same amount of fucking effort into digging up dirt, corruption and shadiness among Trump and his ridiculous excuse for a Cabinet that they did into finding all that circumstantial evidence against Hillary to believe she was corrupt. If they’re all so great at seeing through the screen of decency that Obama and Clinton throw up over their shady backdoor dealings, maybe they can apply that superpower to the new League of Supervillians that will be running the country? Insulting Hillary and telling us about her corruption is moot right now, maybe those watchdogs could look for corruption in the administration they somehow thought would be less corrupt.
  3. The Right will stop the absolute wall of hatred they throw up at every possible opportunity, like posting those stupid “crying laughter” emojis, saying that the Left is whiny, or calling us “libtards”. I hate “libtards” because it’s a generic insult calculated to be offensive, and I hate being called “whiny” because I don’t like the President Elect and insist on expressing my distrust of him and his coterie of 1%ers at every possible opportunity. You know what’s whiny? The government of North Carolina disenfranchising the state by taking all legislative power away from the democratically elected governor. Or, for that matter, continuing to complain about losing the Civil War for over a hundred and fifty years. Being “loyal opposition” to a PEOTUS you don’t trust isn’t even in that league.
  4. The Right will also stop citing proven false statements like Obama being a Muslim, Planned Parenthood selling fetus parts, LGBTQ being a “lifestyle choice” or climate change being a myth. Science exists, please stop denying it.

What we should do is just all talk about why we are so fucking emotional about this. I know why I’m so emotional. Every single member of Trump’s cabinet will make decisions that are bad and wrong for me, my family, my community, my city and my country. Most of all Trump’s policies on climate change will put my beloved hometown underwater within my goddamn lifetime. And to add insult to injury, my NYC income tax is now paying for security at Trump Tower because the PEOTUS won’t even live at the White House. Do you all realize how much that is taking away from my son’s school budget? DO YOU?!?

This is what I mean about emotional. I perceive these things as genuine threats to me & mine. Insulting me though, does not serve to help. And me insulting other people who believe in Trump because they are upset that Obama chose to stab Israel in the front today (JESUS BARRY REALLY?!?) or who genuinely believe that Trump is the choice for bringing back jobs to their small towns is not going to help in much the same way.

And that’s just America. I am deeply afraid for Canada, and afraid that the culture I grew up with and so strongly believe in — that of diversity and mutual respect and being just plain nice to people — is being eroded as people begin to take on American-style exaggerated blanket statements as mantras so they may justify adherence to a slate of politics they may or may not entirely agree with. For example: justifying the concept of “screening for anti-Canadian values” and saying that “67% of Canadians agree with it” [sample size or survey too small to make this accurate, btw] because you don’t like the Liberals fiscal policies are two totally separate things from the Conservative slate In Canada, we do not have to have absolute partisan politics with prejudice and insults the way we have in the USA. The fiscal conservatives in Canada should be perfectly capable of saying, “I don’t like Trudeau’s carbon tax but I do like how he is willing to work with pipeline companies,” without having to go into personal insults and undying loyalty to the Ghost of Stephen Harper and/or The Threat of Kellie Leitch and their racism — or, worst of all, saying things like “we need a Trump.”

Canada has been divided East vs. West before, and we do not need to follow America’s shitty example of being divided Rural vs. Urban now. It’s fine for those who do not like Trudeau to post that their Christmas is fiscally bleak because they don’t think his financial policies for the country make sense, but to constantly say he is a corrupt pretty boy out of touch with reality is making those statements far less part of a Loyal Opposition and far more part of a Knee Jerk Partisan Loyalty — or really, just Being A Jerk.

So that’s why I have to stop reading the comments. It literally sets my heart racing to be impersonally attacked, to have the leaders I support and believe in and the service they have done to their country reduced to insults so that those on the Right may continually believe in 100% of their political slate and their extremely poor choices. Claiming climate change doesn’t exist so you can be completely on the Conservative Train isn’t necessary. It’s OK to not agree with the entire slate of stupidity, and it’s OK to say that Obama did a good job of climate change legislation even if he wasn’t a friend to Israel.

It also makes my blood sugar spike to read the pandering and retroactive re-writing of history to eliminate things like Clinton or Trudeau’s pay-to-play fundraising. Right now I am also disappointed about the glossing over of Obama’s policies on Israel (REALLY BARRY YOU WANTED TO BE A DICK ABOUT THAT INSTEAD OF FORCING A SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENT?!?!?!). But I do think the selective perception and fake news is a more common phenomena on the Right as we see this increasing psychological phenomenon of justification and self-placating regarding an extremely bad decision to elect and support Trump. This is why we see the walls grow more absolute and the statements less truthy with time. This is why seeing the right wing trolls really upsets me because they are so illogically and unnecessarily mean, and they especially come out when the Left make emotional, sugarcoated and/or panicky statements.

Perhaps we could all agree to make more logical and polite statements on the Internet as a first step to healing the divide between the two Americas…and what will, if we don’t stop it, become two Canadas as well. That would make me more likely to engage in productive and intellectually challenging discourse, instead of being outraged and responding in a non-constructive way. It would also be nice to be able to make statements on the Internet without worrying about being attacked, as I am posting this on Medium, because I know ultimately, I will get comments from people who do not agree with me about one political point or another and will argue about it.

Just, if you must argue with me, please do not call me a libtard, or insinuate I am whiny, or that I am ignoring the fallacies of the Democrats/Liberals. I may not be as familiar with all those fallacies — but I’d be willing to hear logical statements about them. Saying Obama is the worst, most divisive president in history though and ignoring the legacy of economic and environmental good he did in his last eight years of service, however, is not going to make me listen. Calling the current PM “Trudope” or insulting his hair is not relevant to an argument against his tax policies or foreign aid distribution. Just stop. Please. And allow me to read the comments once again.

Oh, Canada, I miss you

I am Canadian. It’s who I am, and its part of me. It isn’t just where I’m from, but the whole belief system I grew up with. It’s that little shift from democratic capitalism to democratic socialism, that little extra degree of politeness, of equal rights, of being able to believe in a little more fair, just, and kind society. Canada isn’t that ideal, of course – but those are the things I believe in as Canadian qualities. There’s a lack of cynicism, a belief in just being nice, that pervades Canadian culture. We are the cultural mosaic. We are the source of indie rock. We export laughter in the form of comic actors.

And we export kids like me who find it far easier to work and live on this side of the border. But that is what it is. As Metric is singing right now, “is this my life? Or am I breathing underwater?” Most days, I don’t think about the fact that I’m out of Canada, that I’m far from home. Other days, I stop to think about it, and it is like being suddenly underwater. It’s like being hit and pulled under by a wave, the realization that I’m so far for home, and sometimes, very lonely. Canada is so comforting to me because its home, it’s what and who I am. I see all those waving flags, that sea of red, those maple leafs, and I miss my country.  I miss those shared reference points with people who come from the same place that I do.

The question is, how do I express that to my son? How do I tell Ben that he is Canadian, and make it mean something?

I can tell him, you are Canadian, this is our music, and put on CBC3.

I can tell him, you are Canadian, this is our culture, and find Canadian children’s shows for him.

I can put him in Scouts to try to find an organization with Canadian values: kindness, loyalty, community, the outdoors.

But I can’t give him that sense of being Canadian, of pride in Canada, that comes from growing up on Canadian soil.

Sigh.  I pay small prices, here and there, for the life I live.  Because it is good, but it’s good because of who I’ve become being in the States.  Maybe someday, Ben will go back to Canada, for college, for a job.  Maybe someday, he’ll learn why I am so proud to be Canadian that I had it inked on my skin.  Until then, I just have to hope that Canada stays the idealistic nation it was when I was growing up.  Or that it goes back to being that idealistic: one people, of all cultures, joining hands from sea to sea… to sea.