Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ottawa in October

“IT IS OCTOBER 17, 2006. A cold rain is falling in a slant along Wellington Street, the lights from cars moving past Parliament Hill washing yellow down toward the parkway along the Ottawa River. It is nasty and miserable and those of us hurrying along the sidewalk are in danger of being splashed from the side as well as having our umbrellas ripped inside out from behind. We are heading this wretched night, heads bowed, collars tight to the chin, to the National Library to hear a panel discussion on what exactly makes a Canadian.

“True story.”

Canadians, Chapter Two, “A Canadian Is…”
by Roy MacGregor

IT’S OCTOBER 17, 2008. This Friday night in Ottawa is crisp and clear and cheery. Happy Canadians, strolling, smiling and laughing, abound on Wellington Street. Parliament Hill’s street lights illuminate Peace Tower—the Maple Leaf lording over Timbit Nation—and reflect off the Rideau Canal, which feeds into the Ottawa River. North, across the watery border and into Gatineau, Quebec, the scene is also serene. Twenty-two kilometers west-southwest, in Kanata, the Ottawa Senators are trouncing the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.

Perfect conditions for conducting espionage. My mission, however, is not yet as clear as the weather; my superior has not yet provided details, only a general directive: Observe. Remember. Wait.

Saturday is another bedazzling day. After a brisk two-hour walk with Fort Collins’s Mr. Hockey (a.k.a. my dad), a hearty lunch, and then a briefing with my wife (a.k.a. The AMHL Photographer), my anonymous superior reveals details. I’m to identify Ottawa’s favorite donut and the city’s favorite Senator. I leave the safe house and return to Wellington Street.

True story (pretty much).

Of the thirteen Canadians I interrogate, two politely decline to answer questions and are released on their own recognizance. The others supply conflicting information: Two select the Old Fashion Plain as their favorite. Everyone else picks a different donut. All but one prefers Tim Hortons over any other donut supplier; the lone exception is vendor-agnostic: She prefers a Honey Cruller, no matter the manufacturer.

Of these eleven respondents, two don’t follow hockey; so I augment my findings about Ottawa’s favorite Senator with additional interviews and information provided by double agents. Two Ottawans select Chris Neil as their favorite Senator. Every one else picks a different player.

In the next week, I’ll release details of these conversations. But for now, do we conclude that the Old Fashioned Plain and Chris Neil are Ottawa’s favorites?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving Day in Canada, I decided an informal ether-based freelance effort was in order. I unwrapped the Ron Hynes cassette from its case, inserted the Newfoundlander’s Cryer’s Paradise into the CSD –ED37 CD all-in-one music machine, and then commenced to conducting espionage.

With Mr. Hynes supplying the soundtrack, I discovered Canadian Newcomer Magazine. According to the publication’s Web site, “The mission of the magazine is to connect the regions diverse ethnic communities in Canada using one voice and language by providing free information, advice, entertainment and encouragement to new immigrants.” It sounds like a stuff introduction to Canada, but one back issue belies this properness by offering a tongue-in-cheek “How Canadian Are You” challenge.

As you might have surmised, I passed with flying colors. Had it not been for questions about broadloom and Upper Canada College (and not knowing that some of the twenty questions have more than one correct answer), I would have aced this entertaining exam.

Regardless, the lessons I learned may abet me on an upcoming assignment. This time next week, I’ll be on a bona fide mission, details of which I’m not yet at liberty to disclose. But rest assured that I’ll update you—if not while at the safehouse—soon after I’ve eluded the authorities, who will no doubt be monitoring my every move.

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving.