Monday, April 12, 2004
Back in the Bronx
Richard and I got back to the Bronx last night at around 11pm, which was pretty good given I don't think we left Ottawa until 2.30 or thereabouts -- we had brunch in the newly cleaned-up Rockwell's in Merivale Mall (the mall was otherwise closed due to Easter Sunday).
Of course, right now I'm supposed to be working on my poststructuralism paper, which is going to use the case study of residential schools in Canada as a clear example of why Derrida's conception of justice & ethics & stuff is better than Rorty's. But, meh, it's more fun just to post on my blog & check email & all that sort of stuff.
It was fun to be in Canada, even just for the weekend, but it was kind of strange to be there with someone who'd never been to Canada before. I kept feeling that I had something to prove, as if Canada could somehow be totally grasped in one weekend.
Often I'll tell people that I'm from Canada, & then specify that I'm from Ontario (generally I just say Toronto, no offense to Ottawa, since more Americans know where it is). What's amusing is what will come next. "Oh, Canada's beautiful, I was in Vancouver once." Or, "Canada's lovely, they're really nice in Banff." Or, "My wife and I were once in Nova Scotia, it was incredibly beautiful." Obviously all of these places are geographically quite distinct. And it's kind of people to greet my Canadianness with a general affirmation of the beauty of the country -- I'm not offended at all, obviously, just amused. I've never been to Banff or Cape Breton Island, and I've only been to Vancouver once, and yet I then feel the need to affirm their statement.
"Oh you'll love NYC," this woman on the Greyhound bus once said to me, as I was heading to the Big Apple for the very first time "It's just like downtown Canada... all the big buildings...." She'd been to Toronto, once, for Caribana.
I guess Americans travelling through Europe may feel the same way. "I'm from the US." "Oh, New York, that must be exciting." I've had Americans complain that all Europeans seem to think about with regard to the US is LA and NYC, and maybe a little hint of Texas -- the Midwest, for instance, seems to entirely slip below the radar. And I'm learning more and more about the possible virtues of the South...
So Richard and I were wandering around Montreal, and all I wanted was for everything to be perfect. I wanted "Canadianness" to radiate from the ground and the skies, to enthrall and seduce him into loving "Canada." But how is that possible? Every place is just one place... nowhere else in Canada is just like Montreal (geographically or attitudinally), so why did Montreal matter so much? Similarly with Ottawa.
I guess that's why we have CBC and Tim Horton's. Our small, possibly hopeless, attempt to encapsule all of Canada, and to express it in unity. (Though of course I realize that the West doesn't have as many Tim's, and that there's a longstanding dispute about whether the CBC is too Ontario-centric...)
Is driving along 40/417 from Montreal to Ottawa while listening to Ottawa-Toronto playoff hockey on the radio somehow paradigmatic of a Canadian experience?
Is having vinegar on fries?
Go Leafs go.
jane 1:50 PM [+]