Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fuzzy Canadians

Image courtesy of

I haven’t crossed the 49th parallel since July. But make no mistake: I’ve continued to spy on the Northland.

These covert operations come in various forms. First, I’ve been reading Canadians, Roy MacGregor’s colorful commentary on a nation’s fuzzy identity.

Early on in the book, MacGregor describes a scene centered by Pierre Trudeau’s passing:

“…At one crossing a woman held up a cherry paddle, a rainbow-coloured voyageur scarf tied carefully around it. At another, a man held up his country’s flag with his country’s perfect flagpole: a hockey stick…Construction workers crawled free of the hole they were digging near a culvert to stand in respect, the yellow front-end loader behind them stilled, its scoop raised in its own serendipitous salute.”

MacGregor’s coverage of Timbit Nation is as expansive as the country’s geography. From popular culture to fictional entities to sports, including references to Red Green, Anne of Green Gables, and the Grey Cup—MacGregor paints, as the best-selling book’s title continues “a portrait of a country and its people.”

I’ve referenced the book (which also includes one chapter dedicated to hockey) in my conversations with Canadians. Most didn’t recognize the prolific author’s name or his best-selling book.

Nor do they have the slightest clue about what Mats Sundin will do. Return to the Leafs? Become a Ranger? Retire? I doubt MacGregor—or Sundin himself—knows.

A book and a telephone have connected me to Canada. So has the media. I’ve contemplated the standing ovation for Sox outfielder Jason Bay, the less-heralded arrival of ex-Canadien Michael Ryder to Beantown, and the continued character development of Satchel Pooch, the Canadian dog in Darby Conley’s (not a Canadian) comic strip, Get Fuzzy.

My conclusions from this collective espionage? Americans are not threatened by Canadians but don’t quite understand them either. But then again, Canada doesn’t know itself either. I understand MacGregor’s contention that Canada is a conundrum: After much self-inspection, Canada has both an inferiority complex and an inflated ego.

Confusing? Read the book. Or maybe explore the links I’ve added to the site.

As for me, I’m eager to finish the book, talk to more Canadians on the phone, read the comics—and to cross the border again to continue my research.