Vancouver
4 min

Oh, Canada

By the time I got to Boston

Credit: Xtra West files

I spent most of the last couple of months on the road-the Yukon, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal. (never got warmer than minus-20 the whole ball-crawling time, when they say wind chill factor next to the canal in Ontario, they truly mean that it is actually minus-45 fuckin’ degrees jesus kee-rist Celsius).



I was acting all butch and told my fellow lady writer friend that it wasn’t so bad, only two blocks and only half of it with the wind in our face and now I feel bad still about the two white spots of frostbite that appeared on her lovely face once we got inside the diner and took our scarves off.



I landed in the middle of a peace march in New York that took my breath away as I rounded the corner of 42nd Street and saw more humans than I have ever witnessed in one place at one time and felt the possibility of peace sounding under all of our feet, despite mounted cops bashing hippies and barricades squelching us each and every block to try and keep us from marching all at once for reasons of national security. Over the sound of bullhorns and helicopters you could still hear the Sailor Moon radio duct-taped to the little girl marching next to us and the crowd moved to make way for her and her dad and the stroller. I hung out with four women from “across the bridge” (their term, not mine) and one of them whooped at one point, and then squawked, “If I was 20 pounds lighter, naked, and stoned on LSD, this could be nineteen fuckin’ sixty nine.”



I woke up the morning after that to the fourth largest snowstorm ever to hit The City since they started keeping track.



Twenty-four inches of fluffy white stuff fell and silenced the noise and blanketed the dirt and smell of piss and for two days it was a wonderland. I dug two cabbies out of drifts and saw a snowplow stuck. I watched guys snowshoeing up Park Avenue and cross-country skiers on the news in Times Square. There were kids building igloos in Alphabet City, and gang members ganging up to shovel the sidewalks in the projects and lift little cackling Jewish ladies over the giant mud puddles that collected in every culvert and curb.



Frat girls frolicked in thongs and garbage bags on snowdrifts. You couldn’t get a bus or cab for two days, and a fella with a shovel had a hard go figuring out which lump was his SUV needing a dig out. It was grand, and for the first time the self-righteous Yukoner in me felt smug and at home in a city that has terrified me since Whitehorse first got satellite TV in the early ’80s.



By the time I got to Boston, though, I was over it. I had no clean laundry, I had bought or traded too many books and my bags were heavy. I needed luggage with wheels. I missed my dogs so much I actually started to like cats for a few days there. I had packed only polyester shirts and ran out of deodorant and refused to pay what turned out to be 10 bucks Canadian for deodorant that didn’t match my fancy French cologne, only available at the Bay. I wanted to go home. I cared not for any more fancy buildings or monuments. I didn’t even want to go to dyke night in a place I had never been.



But then they had Canada Night for my gig at New Words bookstore in Cambridge. Now I’m not whining, but it is sometimes not so easy to be a Canadian storyteller in the land of the brave. You have to explain things like Celsius and toques and gun control to an uninterested crowd.



You can’t get a decent cup of tea to save your life, even in Boston, where they have experience. You have to hang out with US citizens. They talk like that to all the waiters.



But for one night in one place in Massachusetts , if you were Canadian, you got in free to the Gendercrash reading series. If you were a Canuck, you got bumped to the top of the list for the open mike portion of the festivities, and if you read a poem or story about Canada, or a Canadian, you got a free pass to the next one. There were Canadian facts and Canadian snacks, which rather quaintly consisted of maple syrup, cheezies (the hard ones) and Smarties. Did you know Smarties were only Canadian? I didn’t. Or cheezies? So are Coffee Crisps.



The host was a large-breasted bookstore owner, who emceed wearing only black boots, a Canadian flag and my donated Yukon Girls Kiss Ass T-shirt that they auctioned off for $100US and the buyer got to strip it off her while the Canadians in the audience sang our national anthem.



I sat with a contingent of Nova Scotian lovelies, one who knitted socks through my set, and the columnist with the silver black hair. The columnist had taken me earlier that day to her horse ranch and did my laundry. The sock knitter turned out to be a math whiz and took me to her shared apartment and made me tea, real Red Rose from home. She heated up the pot and re-boiled the kettle before she poured. There was cream or evaporated milk in a can. I had just finished my last gig, and everybody stood up, not a dry eye in the pack cuz of my story about Frances. Just when I thought life could not get any better, the Nova Scotian knitting math whiz apologized and said, “I have got to get out of this thing,” and smoothly stripped off her sweater, T-shirt, undershirt and fancy breast binder to reveal a lovely, home grown matched pair of 38 double Ds.



I said the only thing that came to mind. The only thing appropriate under the circumstances. The only thing a boy could say when face to um face with such a situation.



“Oh, Canada,” I said. “Oh, Canada, indeed.”