Monday, April 4, 2011

Canada and California

I've got Joni Mitchell on my mind. Her and California.

But my heart cried out for you,
Oh California coming home
Make me feel good rock’n'roll band
I’m your biggest fan
California, I’m coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues

TLOML and I are killing time in San Fran while we wait for our NY place to become ours. We walked down California Street yesterday and Joni strummin' and croonin' 'make me feel good, rock and roll band' and 'California coming home' was swimming around in my mind.

I wonder if when I'm in NY I'll feel like Joni on that park bench in Paris. Probably not. Because I won't be lonely and I kinda like a city where the streets are full of strangers.

The other reason Joni is on my mind is the sheer number of Canadians I see in this city. That's right, as in 'I drew a map of Canada, oh Canada! with your face sketched on it twice'.

I know they are Canadian because they are adorned with maple leaves. And sometimes wearing Canadian t-shirts too: Winter Olympics, Montreal Jazz Festival, Toronto or Vancouver souvenir t-shirts. It's a pretty safe bet that anyone wearing a Canadian souvenir t-shirt is actually Canadian. Which can't be said of many other souvenir t-shirts in the world.

When I visited Vancouver I noticed maple leaves on everything from paving stones to the MacDonalds' golden arches.  Canada must be the only country which has insisted on such a requirement, surely? No opportunity to brand something as Canadian has been overlooked.

In my experience Canadians are obsessed with being Canadian. They are disproportionately proud of anyone Canadian who has achieved international fame. Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, I mean, wouldn't you keep that quiet, if you were Canadian? But no, they want their famous countrymen to be clearly identified as such.

Canadians clearly brim with  national pride. Which is sort of sweet of them.

Unless you accept the more cynical explanation, which is that they just don't want to be confused with Americans. TLOML told me a funny story about asking to be served in an Oxford college bar, after last orders. Bear in mind this was during the Bush II era, when US popularity was taking something of a nosedive in Europe. He and his American buddy tried to charm the barmaid and eventually she succumbed and said
'Where are you from?'
'Canada,' he blurted out, knowing somehow the truth would be the wrong answer. He was right.
'At least you aren't American' said the barmaid, relenting with a sigh and serving them their beers.

Yes, there clearly are times it pays to (pretend to) be Canadian.

I'll leave you with lovely Joni singing California, on a strange (Canadian?) guitar. I had to look closely to confirm - those are not maple leaf shaped cut outs on her instrument.

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