First of all, this should be an aside, but I want to write my blog post chronologically not in terms of importance, so this is going at the beginning: I am fucking in love with Porter Airlines. I’ve heard people talk about them the way they talk about SoulCycle and Wegman’s and other cult-y shit, and if we’re going to be honest, my response was always “you whores,” so easily bought for a pack of free cookies and aiport WiFi. But the hype is real. They fucked up our checked carry ons every single leg of our trip, but I don’t even care. Those snacks are incredible. Their flight attendants are the nicest and they have the best outfits. I would purchase one of their tiny, glass, Porter Airline branded cups for use in my real life. I would attempt to live in the aiport lounge of Billy Bishop if it weren’t for the fact seeing the CN Tower and the TD building and the Sky Dome and the roundhouse for those few fleeting moments made me feel like I was getting hit in the stomach with a bag of rocks and I actually thought I was going to cry. Thank God the safe windowless Porter Airlines lounge with it’s endless free coffee was there to comfort me.
I love Canada Day in Ottawa. That’s where I was going, mentally with this post, and physically, in July. I was born there and lived there for a while when I was really little, but we still have a lot of family there and we would go back for Canada Day every summer for years and years. You’d think ‘Murica outdoes Canada with the liquor-fueled patriotism, but I’ve been in D.C. on the Mall on the Fourth of July and it sucked ass. There were five metal detectors for every human, and most of the humans weren’t human at all, but anti-abortion protesters. It was like an apocalypse film with more sandwich boards and pictures of fetuses.
I haven’t done Canada Day in Ottawa since I was seventeen, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or the long absence has put some things into stark contrast, but I had previously not recognized that Canada Day, at least in Ottawa, has maintained elements of an honest tribute to Canadian independence and how that independence was obtained, more than just being a full on rager (though it’s that too.)
Most obviously we have a fucking cannon. My time at U of T raised my awareness of Canada’s ties to Britain as expressed through medieval weaponry, and vibes of a learned Patrician brutality that I kind of fucking love. The cannon’s always been there, but this was the first year I really considered the cannon. It’s 2016, and we’re going to fire off a cannon, in reverence, but also you know, in the context of celebration, near a few thousand people in sequined maple leaf cowboy hats. It’s a little fucked up. I’m not sure if there’s any symbolism to the cannon additional to performing the 21 gun salute, Google turned up surprisingly little. I believe the cannon was given to Canada by the Scots, and I think they fire it into the river. I don’t even know where it goes. But it’s terrifying. The sound of cannon fire makes me believe in some sort of evolutionary… collective subconsciousness… like I know somewhere reverberating deep inside of me are the moans of my ancestors losing their shit over incoming cannon fire and I think I get visions of barns burning down and peasants fleeing because it just awakens such a visceral terror.
So imagine you are taking in the majesty of the Parliament buildings, which are copper-roofed and castle-esque and set on the river. You witness a motorcade carrying the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to the Hill, where they will address the crowd. They are proceeded by a bunch of Mounties, whom despite being highly capable and nearly universally respected, in dress uniform, just look fucking adorable. You smile in delight at this scene, grounded in history, and buoyed by patriotism not yet marred by nationalism, only to be scared shitless by cannon fire. When the ungodly cannon fire finally ceases, a formation of fighter jets appears, not flies, but materializes in formation directly overhead like Will Smith will be sent to kill. Then they are gone. The Prime Minister appears and briefly addresses the crowd, people cheer, there is a red and white sea of good vibes and brotherly love and baby hugging and the promise that in the near-future Metric will play. Then the The Snowbirds in the eerily perfect formation hovering in total stillness over the Hill and the copper roofs and the red and white and the babies as the last whisps of cannon smoke, and then suddenly they are no longer in rank, but have turned towards one another, speeding towards the center in a collision course, until in the final second before the collective destruction of the planes, the Parliament buildings, the revelers, the babies, Metric, they turn upwards rolling onto their backs before plummeting in a freefall towards the ground.
This is how Canada does Canada Day. By rapidly invoking a non-aggressive, warm, humble, patriotism then SCARING THE ABSOLUTE LIVING FUCK OUT OF YOU. They make your heart swell only to crush it under the weight of history and human sacrifice, only to demonstrate that what you’re feeling is the enduring power of the human spirit. This is what makes Canada great, and what we are all experiencing right now. They are fuckers. But they’re not. Then they do it over and over again. Then everyone gets drunk as fuck in public and eats poutine.
All I could think is, this is the 4th of July America wants, but does not have.
So we wandered around for a while, ate the requisite poutine, and the lemonade thing that I don’t know the name of, there’s just always a cart and they’ll squeeze a lemon into an ice shaker with just sugar and it’s delicious. I saw Justin Trudeau bobbing around to Metric which is an image I carry in my heart. A head of state. Bobbing. to Metric. He’s just like us.
We went to the Supreme Court which was offering free tours. We always go to the Children’s Museum which is also always open and free and hands down one of my favorite places on earth, but the rain wasn’t holding off, and I’m glad it didn’t, because the Supreme Court was awesome. The line was out the door even when it was raining. Normal people. Normal, 19+ people. How cute is that. The Supreme Court is art deco and covered in 10+ types of marble chosen to symbolize Canadian diversity, or as I suspect, being a baller. There are duplicate witness stands and translation booths in courtrooms with zero functionality, built solely to respect art deco’s principle of symmetry. Our tour guide was a very harsh Quebecoise with glasses. I loved her. 90% of the justices in the Supreme Court look like extras from Night Court. Fun facts!
Then we really did get stuck in the rain. Like, bad. Huddled in a bus shelter with a family of 12 and two crying babies watching sheets of water blow up an empty street as every once in a while a group of teenagers with no umbrellas decides to say fuck it and just starts sauntering around. It was fucking cold rain too, not some glorious refreshing Summer downpour type shit. COLD. WINDY. RAIN. We moved from the bus shelter to under a construction girder for a while, then found the lone capitalist vendor who had thought to go in the mall and buy ponchos and upsell them. We got to the Rideau Centre but it was beyond packed, like masses of exhausted drench rats wrapped in plastic ponchos just lying on the floor and leaning against phone banks like when they depict a ship full of immigrants sailing to Ellis Island, just kind of half-alive, not sure if they should just start praying for the sweet embrace of death. Thank God the Nordstrom bar had been a frequent topic of conversation, the one thing my family can agree on is the Nordstrom bar is great (spoiler: it is) because my Mom’s friend thought to see if we could get a table and dry off for a bit, and between the fact Nordstrom was pretty empty anyway, and the third floor was really empty, because no one gives a fuck about menswear, there was no one in that motherfucker. It really was a perfect port in the storm. We were even near the good bathrooms, with the lounge and the milk-pumping sweat hut and the fully enclosed stalls. The bathroom that we all deserve. It was heaven.
They had this grape and white wine cocktail that was AMAZING. I usually steer clear of wine cocktails because I am a learned woman who knows it’s lowering my liquor to mix ratio, while costing more. I can’t do math but I understand there is only so much liquid that will fit in a cup. I believe in capitalism (see: response to poncho man) but I have my limits and my limits are $16 for an ounce of mid-shelf vodka. But fuck it, it was Canada Day and I was relatively dry and I was in a bar with no screaming children and a comfortable distance from a good toilet so Goddamnit I drank that wine and it was DELICIOUS.
But we couldn’t sit around drinking all day, because we had to find Beavertails. I always wonder if you live in close proximity to a Beavertails if they lose their charm. It’s always in my top 5 of things I want to do while in Canada, but I could see how fried dough could quickly become ordinary if it was always there. I’ve thought maybe people only want them on Canada Day, but I think the stand is open year round. MYSTERIES. Regardless, that bitch was lit. Honestly, simple pleasures in life, bread + cinnamon sugar + lemon wedge, omfg.
We left after that but got to watch the fireworks from my Mom’s friend’s house. Fireworks are even better when you don’t have to hustle for a seat or find a spot for a blanket and can just run down in your pajama pants with your shoes half on and your drink still in your hand. It was nice because it had just stopped raining and the pavement was still wet and the trees were still dripping and it added to the ambiance. It’s my unbiased opinion in terms of the fireworks of capitol cities, Canada has the U.S. whooped too. U.S. may win in terms of quantity, we’ll light fireworks for any occasion and I’m alright with that, fireworks are like, the essence of American patriotism, but Canada wins for quality/intensity of display hands down. I hate how many colors are in the 4th of July fireworks (not a joke about diversity, though clearly there is one there.) What the fuck am I supposed to do with green? A green heart? Go fuck yourself. I want three colors, 1. red, 2. white, 3. blue, and I want them to be unyielding. I want a wall of unending fire. Canada does that. You get red and you get white and you get them both for an unceasing 15 minutes or so of borderline terror, as they, much like the cannon, are set off uncomfortably close to the Parliament buildings. I like that. This is want I want.
The next day we went to a friend’s cottage, and by cottage I mean gigantic house that is on a lake that is not lived in full time. I had spent days psyching myself up to cottage. No one understands my plight. While I would prefer to be in a temperature controlled environment, I am also deeply pale. Deeply pale, with big pale eyes that get all watery and irritated in bright sunlight. I burn instantaneously. I get heat rash indoors if it gets over 74 degrees. Post-4pm, I am a mosquito beacon. Once bitten (or touched by any number of plants) all of my skin gets a thick, itchy feeling. I am allergic to virtually all sunscreen. I was not built for the outdoors.
So it required a lot of mental fucking gymnastics to get myself to this cottage, even if it turned out to be an adult party house, and goddamnit I was gonna wilderness. I was going to hack my way through some brush like a white, white Rambo.
So I spent an entire day on a dock looking for a muskrat that never materialized.
I don’t even know what a muskrat is, to be honest. But I was told they were numerous, and when I looked them up on Google they looked like cute wet ferrets. There were beavers. There were snapping turtles (meh.) People fished. I literally saw one (1) sunfish. After I was lent polarized sunglasses after I was taken pity on for just starring into the water for eons. NOT A GODDAMN MUSKRAT. No beavers even though it was OUR NATION’S HOLIDAY WEEKEND and there was a BEAVER DAM STARRING AT ME and I WAS PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY PREPARED TO FIND A BEAVER.
I did drink a lot and eat a lot and find out I am terrible at darts. I shot at empty Stella Artois tall cans with an Airsoft riffle and enjoyed it a little too much.
We went back to Ottawa, and we have a flight we need to leave at 4AM for. So I decide I’m going to shower and get dressed, and basically nap in my clothes for a few hours before we have to leave. I’m in the bathroom, packing my stuff up that I left on the sink, and out of the corner of my eye, a tiny, tiny spider rapels down to my shoulder. I fucking hate bugs. I think people misunderstand the nature of my bug hatred. I’m not afraid of spiders. They represent a violation, an affront to the beautifully vacuum sealed container I wish to live in. I’m more violently angered by spiders, and their constant reminder perfection is not possible and I can never fully control my surroundings (! how’s that for psychological issues.) But my Mom’s friend’s house is a beautiful, loving and respectfully maintained WWII duplex. There are original leaded glass windows, with original ornate ceiling registers. With authenticity comes spiders. So I pour that fucker down the drain, and get in the shower. I’m getting ready to turn off the tap, when wouldn’t you know, but that fucking thing is dangling around near my stomach. Now it’s war. I stand under the jet of water for an extra minute to make sure it is fully dead. I grab a towel, and walk into the room I’m staying in to change. I’m drying off my shoulder, when wouldn’t you know BUT THAT FUCKER IS HANGING OFF THE TOWEL. JESUS CHRIST. It’s just too small, I must not be crushing it hard enough. I grab the spider in the towel, and ball that thing up like I was trying to create a diamond. The entire force of my existential rage is going into this towel. I throw it on the floor, and I walk to the other side of the bed where I’ve laid out my clothes and start getting dressed.
There is a tiny spider dangling in front of my eyes.
I know the jig is up. There is no way that even undeceased spider had the time to climb onto the ceiling, spin the line of a web, and crawl back down.
The ceiling is covered with thousands of tiny white spiders.
I have never gotten dressed so quickly in my life. Then I just stood in the hall for a few minutes, feeling utterly paranoid, trying to figure out how to go downstairs and share the fact that, uh, your house is infested with spiders, to my Mom’s friend who I love, who had a work exam first thing in the morning, but was still going to get up at 4 and drive us to the airport, and this was the night there was a suicide attack on a restaurant in Syria that killed 400 people, we were watching that on the news, it seemed terrible to complain about a bunch of spiders. And really, my family things I’m so dramatic anyway, I knew the second I said “a bunch of spiders” even if it proved to be literal, I was going to catch a ton of flak.
But there’s really no way other than “uh, the room upstairs is filled with tiny spiders… like… a lot of tiny spiders.”
So she had to vacuum the ceiling. They were all in the bathroom too, hundreds of them, just flocking to the light over the vanity, dozens more suspended in mid-air. Hands down one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen. I never did find out what the deal was, I’m assuming they were baby spider…”hatchlings,” God, sorry spider enthusiasts, you know a creature is fucked up when its children are called hatchlings, and also I’m not really sorry.
I ended up sleeping in another room, and by sleeping I meant trying to sleep while trying to work through the spider trauma and having pre-flight anxiety now further stoked by a very recent and very horrifying instance of terrorism and watching a promotional introductory episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race on an iPad because the WiFi wasn’t working and that was what I had, damn it.
But obviously we got back. I am living in the Porter Airlines lounge. My entire family put on sweatpants at like 3pm and watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest then like, 12 episodes of Big Brother we needed to catch up on. Also our Uber driver was Afghan and spent the 45 minute ride inquiring into our views on ISIS. He was decidedly against them, but it was still much too intense a conversation to have with a stranger who is driving after you have been awake for 24 hours. I think I want to take the crappy $12 shuttle next time.