Late last year (snort. I crack myself up) I went to The Land Up Over, also known as Canada. The Great White Something-or-other. (NOTE: There was no snow. None. Also no polar bears or igloos. Damn.) I hadn’t been there in FIVE MONTHS, which is odd considering its ridiculous proximity to me, something like 30 minutes. From my house. To the border station, where I get (politely, because this is Canada, after all) invited inside to discuss my “situation.”
This time, I was helped by a 5-foot tall guy with a French accent, who shrugged Gallically at me when I said I might be staying there 10 days or so. Ten days? What is zees ten days? You not like our charming contree? No? Okay, zhen I stamp zhis. Be on your way. And he stamped my paper and I handed it to the guys outside watching a drug dog sniff the inside of a car’s engine and was on my way. Of course, this was Christmas Eve, but it was a far cry from the last time when my car was searched THREE FREAKING TIMES and my papers were copied and I was yelled at by a woman in a strawberry blonde ponytail wearing a bulletproof vest.
I was really really really looking forward to the won ton. There’s a place on Broadway just east of Main that has the best won ton IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. I am not kidding. It has scratched white Formica tables and exactly zero ambience. Decorations do not exist here. Two surly Chinese women truculently wait tables of serious lunchtime eaters. They set big bowls of broth down on the tables, each bowl containing exactly five of the most delectable won ton ever to exist, filled with fat prawns and tasting like what I always knew perfect won ton taste like. I was so looking forward to going there once, or even twice, in those ten days.
The place BURNED DOWN.
The roof was charred across the entire building that housed a pizza joint and who knows what else (I only had eyes for won ton), and a chain link fence kept passers by from getting too close. A tiny woman walked past us as we stood in the street, staring unbelievingly at the charred remains of won ton perfection. She turned to me. Her black eyes were tiny, like buttons. “Monday last,” she said in an eastern European accent. “In the morning.”
“I hope no one was hurt,” I thought to say. That was beyond her language capabilities. Hurt. She shrugged. “Monday. In the morning.
Last year at Christmastime it snowed buckets, feet upon feet of whiteness. We threw snow and each other, shaking it off branches into the backs of one another’s coats, melting snow dripping down our backs. Someone made a real live igloo (SEE???) at the park down the street and we crawled inside it, grinning.
This year, no snow. Christmas Day was relatively warm and unsesonably sunny, so we hiked up and down some back trails at Lighthouse Park. A tree had cracked in the middle, leaving shards standing sharply upward from what was left of the trunk. Someone had come with a chain saw to move the tree off the trail, and had made a little bench from one end of the fallen log. Nearer the lighthouse, and on huge rocks jutting into the northern part of the harbor, the rest of Vancouver gathered, a chaotic chorus of languages, no one bothering to speak in the hushed tones that such a place of beauty cries out for.
It turns out that I am sensitive to noise. I have said before that I can hear a cat’s soft footfalls on carpet from several rooms away, so the plumbing sounds overhead at all hours of the night kept me from sleeping. Year before last, when the place was my home for awhile, I would get up in the night and read downstairs, away from the gurgling and clicking and toilet lid dropping.
I forgot to go to Lush and restock my dwindled supply of Karma soap.
I now have a huge handful of Canadian change, because I keep forgetting that the big ones are worth $2 and the other big ones are worth $1 and you can use this for money. To buy things with. So now I have like $20 worth of change.
We won’t talk about the price of gas. But it’s in liters, which is a trick of some sort.
I have still not been to a Tim Horton’s. I know, I know, hard to believe.
I do, however, now own a toque*. And I really like it.
*There appears to be some debate, even among Canadians, about the proper way to spell the word pronounced “tewk”, which is actually a hat. But I’m sticking with “toque”. And at last I understand what Bob and Doug McKenzie were singing. Five golden TOQUES.