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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

American Discretion is Advised

[WARNING: this blog is for the nostalgic Canadian only. American discretion is advised.]

i am t.i.r.e.d.

it's nothing like what the body on the other side of the bed must be feeling, but this is my blog.

[sorry, world'sgreatesthusband.]

this second transplant is tougher; i am older, and recovering. if you don't know what from, you've got
2 years of blogs to catch up on.

this morning i just lay there, struggling to get up. i suppose it doesn't help that we are back into our beloved late night ritual of addictive, multi-episode TV-watching. DAMN you, Dexter! i have to seriously debrief from watching a serial killer have hot sex with a sociopath by reading a couple of chapters of Kathy Griffin's biography before i can turn out the light at 2:45 am.

yup. getting up ain't no easy task. so i reached for my other Higher Power—the one i should not grab before i pray—the Almighty IPHONE, and did a quick scroll down the Facebook news feed. i don't know what i thought i would be able to read. i was half asleep and my glasses had fallen on the floor somewhere between the Trader Joe's "Some Enchanted Cracker" i'd been munching on before i drifted off and my plastic mouth guard with the back right molar section broken off. trust me. you want to get with THIS in the morning.

but something did catch my eye. this.

"10 Things Canada Does Better Than Anywhere Else"


the first one on the list to catch my eye was #1.—"apologizing". i rolled my eyes. "oh, here we go again," i thought, "making fun of Canadians for saying "sorry" too much and the funny way we say it! sooo freaking original CNN!" but then something inside me started to twitch—like the singular feeling when the first snowfall of the season flutters down...

so i continued to scroll.

on November 18th, 1996, when we climbed into our cherry-red Toyota Tercel and crossed the border from Windsor, Canada into Detroit, U.S.A., i was DONE with Canada. D.O.N.E.. at age 28, i slapped my hands together with a few dismissive claps, and never wanted to admit that i missed Canada in any way, shape or form ever again.

from my very raw, unpolished perspective, everything Canada had to offer was gray—which is the unfortunate default on any given day in Toronto in November. the only way you will catch "a drop of golden sun" is by flipping through a travel magazine.

my small family had dismantled—to Death, Denmark and that City Where it Always Rains. i had known Disease and Disappointment. it just felt like Canada had nothing left to offer me. All Roads Pointed West to The Golden State. 

[i didn't know then that all roads point inward.]

this morning, all roads pointed toward Facebook.


this is true. we apologize A LOT.  i actually observed a friend of mine microwave a Tupperwear container full of chili too long, then apologize to it. i'm not kidding.

my own experience with apologizing runs more along the craftier lines observed by the article's author. in the past, i often apologized because i wanted to get something. now, i apologize because i want to give something.

overapologizing isn't not annoying. that is to say, it's TOTALLY annoying. but, would i rather have the woodpeckering, abrasive "you know what i mean? you know what i mean?" that peppers the American vernacular? or the insistent humility that drops too easily from every Canadian's mouth?

um, the latter. 



it's a running joke in my wee family of 2: 

"well, my dad died when i was 10." 

cue the rolling of Kevin's eyes.

it was my trump card over it ALL. before the trumpee's kidney donation trumped the trumper.

[you follow?]

because even though i went to private school until i was 13, we were not rich—my mum, my brother and i. the "where do you SUMM-AH?" question was answered with a quizzical tilt of my head and an awkward, "uh...my brother and i had a picnic in High Park?"

we never had a boat, a yacht, a cottage...or a lake.

but, as i mull #2., i remember. i recall my first boyfriend and the way his family referred to their "farm." it was no "farm." there were no crops, no migrant workers, no glue strips littered with flies hanging over the breakfast table. it was a cottage three hours north of Toronto, near a town called Parry Sound; a stunning lake front property they shared with another family. it was escape from humidity, florescent lights and the subway at rush hour. it was long talks on the rocks by a water so still you swore it had frozen. but our summery teenage dream was alive— with warm breezes by day, and sultry hot air by night, that refused to release us until dawn.

ah, now i remember Cottage Country. 


well, this is easy. i was in some of these.

with Melissa Gilbert in ""The Shari Karney Story"
with Dana Delany in "The Margaret Sanger Story" 
and with Kate Jackson in "What Happened to Bobby Earl?"

[to name a few.]

every one Toronto posing as various American locales.

but what WAS a trip—literally and technologically—was kicking back to watch a movie while visiting my mother in Denmark. suddenly we're screaming, "there's AM! there's AM!"—my dear friend AM from Newfoundland, whom i'd met in Toronto, appeared on the TV screen in a movie shot in Vancouver, posing as Seattle, as we Canadian ex-pats living in Los Angeles, watched it in a living room in Copenhagen.

oh, the magic of television.

#4. AIR

when we first told everyone we were moving to L.A., the reaction was one of two pressing concerns:

"aren't you afraid of the drive-by shootings???"


"but, what about the SMOG???"

well, the irony is that Kevin took allergy tablets every day he lived in Toronto, and hasn't taken one tablet or puff of an inhaler since we moved to Los Angeles. me? i don't notice a difference in either city.

i think it's fantastic that Canada ranks as having the third cleanest air in the world, but if that means i have to live up in the Arctic Circle to enjoy it, i'll pass.

i don't need to work on my lung capacity. i'm looking for the deflate valve in my hot air tank.

on both sides of the border.

[maybe this round goes to the Americans.]


i used to LUUUV to brag about how many funny folk hail from the Great White North. 

and i was never shy about recounting the 2, count 'em 2!, times i co-starred on "THE KIDS IN THE HALL."

[Dave Foley loved running around in a dress!]

because let's face it, living above a country that is convinced you want to become the 51st state, you have to develop a serious sense of humor.

that and all that fucking snow.


don't get me started. don't even get me started.

at one time i could arise at 6 am and knock out 40 newspapers before nibbling at my anorexic-tendencies breakfast of 8 orange segments before school. i adored my paper route. it was nostalgia by nostril. my route, by bicycle, would take me with leisurely pedals past the Cadbury Chocolate Factory along Dundas Street West. the wafting elixir of chocolate, mixing Wonka-style with the burgeoning blossoms of spring, was too much for this teenager who was already on the edge of some EMOTION by 7 am. 

the chocolate was the thing.

there's a reason we smuggle Mr. Big's back from Winnipeg. there's a reason why i savor the Caramilk bar like truffles from Northern Italy. and there's a reason why messing with the size of Smarties almost constituted a "NEW Coke"-type, country-wide anarchy.

and then there was the meltdown i had in front of our refrigerator when Kevin returned from Scotland with 20 Cadbury bars stashed under his kilt.

"well, we'll just freeze them." he rationalized, head cocked in confusion.

[hello. have we met? i am your wife.]


4 chocolate bars and one stomach ache later.

i warned you. just don't get me started.


i've had one experience skiing.


i was 11 and went up to Blue Mountain, a ski "mountain" [read: very big hill] north of Toronto—nothing compared to the Whistler's and Banff's of Canada—with my friend, C. and her family. they were pros. i was not. in fact, i had no experience, but was pushed down the slope by my friend's dad who told me to "use my poles". as i gained momentum, i became absolutely terrified. i had no idea what to do. i wanted out. before i reached the edge of the first crest, i deliberately keeled over onto my right side and fell onto my snow-pant cushioned bum. 

i did not use my poles.

traumatized, i never tried skiing again.

in 1988, when i had my first transplant at age 19, it became official.

"you have one kidney. no contact sports." i was done with skiing. 

this was fine. because, clearly, i wasn't meant to be a skier. 

clearly, the "apres-ski" scene was more my thing for a while, if you catch my [snow] drift.

but now i'm just content to watch my countrymen hit the Sochi slopes at The Olympics.

[i just hope they can see my gay pride flag from here!]


it pops like a bleach blond walking the crowded streets of Shanghai.

the Canadian Maple Leaf.

it is not the cross of Switzerland that the neutral hide behind like a shield. we wear it turbo-proud. we tattoo it, paint it across our faces, stitch it to bags so you can't miss it.

because we don't want you to.

never does its veiny skin pulsate with more vibrant life than when it flutters to the autumnal ground in cascades of orange, pumpkin and red.

in the red is our secret.

you think we are apologetic, humble and meek. like celery.

but in the red we hide our truth.

our leaf doesn't just call to the world, it roars— robust and ready. 

we are simple, strong. spectacular.

we. are. canadian.


ok, get me started.

In 'N Out is awesome. there is no denying the awesomeness of the Cali burger 'n fries combo that incites impatient lines of fuming vehicles at all times of the day and night.

but before i met In 'N Out, there was Harvey's. Harvey's, as the jingle went, "makes your hamburger, a beautiful thing."

and it is. it really is. 

i mean, it's just a burger, but it's HARVEY'S! like, Tim Horton's donuts are just donut holes, but they're TIMBITS! and Swiss Chalet is just chicken but it's SWISS CHALET! 

C'mon. Even the Barenaked Ladies had to croon about it's deliciousness in their hit "One Week."

of course, it is not the food itself that is so magical, it's the sense memories they lead me back to—like opening a "scratch 'n sniff" book from middle school and smashing my nose up against the page, impossibly inhaling myself back into the past. that's the payoff. the pickle from the Harvey's hamburger can take me back to giggling with a gaggle of girls at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton. or scarfing a chocolate glazed Timbit and i'm embarrassing my niece and nephew at Polo Park in wintery Winnipeg. 

but did i mention the chocolate? 


when we first moved down here, the onus was on me.

fair enough. i had entered 'The Hollywood Zone."

if i was to become "successful" in television and in the movies, i had to lose the accent. and the "funny" things i said.

well, i was lucky. 

it wasn't cold enough to wear "toques", i never called my underwear "gitch" and there was not a great need to reference the letter "Zed".

but, the "EH". i could never quite lose the "EH."

apparently, i still say "pasta" and "salsa" in "funny" ways and i still haven't mastered the silent Hispanic "j."

after 17 years in California, i have been called out on a Valley Girl accent and my husband often asks me how many "A"s there are in "Mexico."

but i am nothing but proud when caught with those 2 little letters in my mouth.

[insert softly falling snow.]

i love California. it has saved my life—with a newborn "kid" and a glorious 12-step waltz.

my friends are family.

and when i woke up this morning, i knew it was going to be 84 degrees. 

i did not think i would be missing Canada in any way, shape or form, much less write a multi-page love letter to Her.

turns out i'm not done with Canada at all.

not by a snow-covered kilometer.

[like i ever was.]



  1. Melanie M in Canada!December 17, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    Enjoyed this thoroughly!

  2. Give my love to the Great White North! This ex-pat is headed to the beach..... xo