Canada: The Great White North
August 9th 2005 @ 6:18 pm All Categories,Vacations

So, this American couple are driving around Canada, and they are lost. So very very lost. Finally they find a gas station. The wife goes inside and asks “Excuse me, could you tell me what city this is?” and the gas attendant says “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.”

She gets back in the car, puzzled. The husband says, “Well, where are we?” She says, “I don’t know, we’ve gone so far they don’t speak English here.”

So, were back from Canada, me, my sister, brother-in-law, and the four young-‘uns.

We landed in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and immediately piled in a car and van and took a two hour drive up to a lake outside of Prince Albert (“uhhuhhuhhuh”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Albert_piercing) My cousin Carmen had just bought a little cabin up there and relatives from all over where all meeting up there that weekend for a mini reunion and to celebrate birthdays for my Mom and Mike Mitchell (They have their birthdays on the same day!).

A Claypool reunion pretty much consists of drinking beer, hanging out, and yelling at kids to “KNOCK IT OFF!”. See, American’s and Canadian’s aren’t so different after all.

There was a campfire in front of the cabin that we spent each evening around bullshitting and downing cans of Kokanee beer. We found that kids really like to play with fire, every time we turned around, one or more of the kids, ours and everyone else’s, were piling more wood and/or grass into the fire, were poking sticks in the fire, were lighting the sticks and running around with them, and creating a lot of smoke that would just get in to the adults face and end with the kids getting yelled at… a lot… I finally found what inspired the Will Ferrell SNL skit “GET OFF OF THE DAMN SHED!!!” Because this is exactly what was going on here…. A kid would play with the fire, and get barked at, “Hey! Please don’t play in the fire…”, a minute later, he or she was back in the fire and a “Look, I told you not to play with the fire! Now get a way from the fire!!” would follow, and of course, a minute later, the same kid is back in the fire and, “WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM!!! NO FIRE MEANS NO FIRE!!! NOW GET AWAY FROM THE DAMN FIRE!!!” would echo through the camp, and that kid would get sent away to go sit and think about it…. Then a minute later, a new kid would come up and start playing in the fire, and the whole thing would start over again.

Cousin Murray and his girlfriend were wearing a cap that had a rainbow triangle on it. Us Californians just stared at it wondering if Murray knew what was going on with that cap. My sister finally broke the ice on that one and let him know that that hat was pretty gay. That in the States a rainbow represents being gay and that a triangle represents being gay and that a rainbow inside a triangle, well, that’s pretty gay. Murray was confused, “Triangle? Gay? Hunh? Eh?” Then I went all Cliff Claven on them and started explaining how in World War II, in the Nazi concentration camps, that gay people were forced to wear an upside down pink triangle patch on their outfits to show that they were gay… Later, gay people took the symbol back and turned it into a badge of courage for themselves. So know, the upside down pink triangle represents, along with the rainbow flag, gay pride! After I finished, it was the sound of crickets as everyone was just blankly stared deadpanned at me and my seemingly too abundant knowledge of gay trivia. I started doing damage control and backpeddled with, “Uh, uh… although, I, uh, could be wrong… I just, uh, heard that somewhere… or something…. I don’t know. I don’t know anything, I probably got it from the history channel or something, I don’t know! Jeez, what are you all looking at me like that for!!!” So, now, I’m sure with me showing up with no girlfriend and spouting gay trivia that everyone up in Canada probably thinks I’m a big homo. Ugh!

I did more damage control on the homo thing when I started, as usual, whining about my problems with women. I mentioned Claudia and her Canadianness, how much I dig her, and the fact that she’s, ugh, married and how life sucks, etc… Then my girl cousins started going off with, “Too bad you don’t live in Saskatoon!, eh? There’s too many women up here! we have lots of girlfriends who are smart and funny and hot, and they just can’t find any guys to go out with, eh?!! There aren’t enough guys here, eh? If you were here, you’d have your choice of any girl!!! and I said, Wow! really!! Saskatoon has too many single women! Great!! Yeah! it’s too bad I live on the other side of the frickin’ world in shitty, too many dudes, San Hell-fuckin’-ose and not in “too-many-women-to-choose-from” Saskatoon!!! Ugh! How come when anyone tries to cheer me up, I end up getting more pissed off. I tend to believe their “too many women and not enough guys in Canada” statement though… After all, Claudia’s Canadian, and out of her desperation, she settled on her current dude rather than if she’d of just waited a little longer, she could have hooked up with awesomely cool me!!! But nooooo, she had to settle on whatsisface, tattoo boy because he”looks cool”… Ugh.. Looking back I wished I would have stuffed myself and O.D.ed on that pot full of Pierogi’s and the Kokanee beer. Then they could have just wrapped my dead body in a sheet, put it in the watertube that was tied to the boat, motored me out and dumped me to the bottom of Emma lake so I could be done with my misery. Hmm, thinking about it, I’m not too sure about that “too many women” thing after all, you know, every time I go up there, the cousins yap on and on about “too many women, eh!”,and, “I have lots of friends I could hook you up with, eh!” etc… Yet, on all my trips, I’ve never once been, “hooked up.” Hmph. Maybe they’re just telling me lies to try and make me feel better… phltpht…. it doesn’t work.

I should note that with all this talk about too many women and not enough guys, somehow through the week, Carmen managed to invite over about four or five dudes to come over and hang out (and take up space), and only one woman who was married or had a boyfriend or something… Hmph, bull[cough]shit!

Although, with all that women crap, and since my motto is “˜misery loves company’, I did get some compensation when Mike Mitchell got sick on one of the nights. First of all, the set up is that, the cabin we were at has a septic tank as well as a water tank that needs to be filled for water for the cabin (no piped in water). So, even though it’s a big water tank, with that many people up there, we were on water ration mode, so we did the “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” thing with the toilet to conserve water and not fill the septic tank. So I’m in the bathroom getting ready for bed, taking my pre-bed leak, and brushing my teeth and there’s a faint knock at the door and I’m,”Ah’ll beh ou n a minud!”, I hear some mumbling, but with the fan on, I can’t hear what they’re saying, so I’m, “Eh, whatever.” and I make them wait.. so I brush up, wash my face, scratch my balls, yada, yada,… and finally open the door and Mike’s there (looking like I looked a couple weeks ago) and saying, “I’m gonna be sick.” And I’m, “Really!? that sucks, alright good night!” and he goes into the toilet and I go to bed. Then I’m thinking, “Oh no! we’re on the water rationing, and I can’t remember if I flushed or not… Most of the time I abided by the rules and just added my urine to the already yellowed and reeking toilet (remember there are A LOT of people at this cabin) and left my pee there for someone else to enjoy, but a couple times I was on auto pilot and I’d flush it. But this time, I can’t remember how I left it, did I flush or not?… So, I can hear him ralphing in the toilet and I’m thinking, Oh man, he’s probably having to stick his head into that urine filled bowl! puking his brains out and having it splash up in his face!!!…. HAHAHA! That sucks!

On one of the days, we had to go on a beer and supply run, we cruised down to the nearest “˜stop and shop’ that had what we needed, and this is where I start to question America’s bullshit “land of the free” motto… As I walk in the front door of the stop and shop I’m confronted with a big table full of giant fireworks!!! and I’m all, You mean you can just buy this shit… right here…. at a store!!! It’s all legal?!?!” and Rich, cousin Crystal’s boyfriend who’s really cool says, “Of course, eh. Why do you ask, eh?” and I’m, “Man, this is all banned in America, at least the area I live in, you can’t get them anymore. And here they are for sale in a stop and shop, Canada is actually encouraging you to blow shit up!!! This is awesome! I love Canada!!!”

On Saturday, Uncle Lloyd came back from a garage sale down the street where he found with a bunch of crap, one of the things he found an old school bell or fire alarm or something that he wanted Carmen to hook up to the cabin so you can flip a switch and it would ring… I don’t know what the purpose would be for besides having a cool electric alarm bell that you could flip a switch and have it ring and bother people… That was a good enough excuse for me to hook it up… Uncle Grant futzed around with it, hooked it up to some wires to test it out and got it ringing, but it still needs to be officially installed. My mom hollered at me and asked if I want to go to the garage sale, and I said, “Yeah!” So her, me, my Aunt Margaret, and Cousin Kim start heading out, then one of them turns and asks, “Where is it at.” and I’m, “I don’t know, you asked me to go! You mean you don’t know?” So we yell to Uncle Lloyd and ask him where it is, and he says turn left at the road and just go down it and look for the balloons. So we head down the road to the left. We walk for about ten minutes and start feeling like we went to far and so turn around and go back, at an intersection that we’d already passed, we see a sign that says “Yard Sale” that we didn’t see before that points down the cross street and so we go down that street, at the next intersection, there’s no sign and no balloons, so we guess and turn right and walk down that street, another intersection and nothin’, so we turn right and walk some more. My mom looks up and sees a house with balloons and says, “Oh! There it is!!! balloons!” and we all have to say, “Uh, no Mom, that’s Carmen’s cabin and the balloons are from your party from yesterday, see Uncle Lloyd standing there and waving? We just walked in a circle.” At that point I said, screw the yard sale, and went to the fridge and cracked another Kokanee.

Regarding the Kokanee… Canadians have an awesome way of shopping for clothes, you see, with every case of beer you buy, you get a free T-shirt bundled with it, so when it’s time to go shopping for a new shirt, they just head out to the liquor board and get a case of beer… It works for me.

On most of the nights Uncle Gary, Mike, and I would pull out our acoustic guitars and strum and sing around the campfire. There were some young ‘uns there that were interested in learning how to play, well, the girls just banged on the strings pretending to be Avril Lavigne, but Ryan and Joey, both around ten years old, were actually serious in learning a little bit, so I taught them the important riffs you need to know to rock out. Metallica’s Enter Sandman riff, AC/DC’s T.N.T, and the Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. They were struggling, but they kept at it and weren’t giving up, they actually made some progress by the time we all left. On one night Gary pulled out the electric guitar and practice amp and I strapped it on and cranked it up… I’d let the kids strum the strings while I did chord changes, they seemed to dig that. Then I busted out into Foxey Lady by Hendrix and right in front of four-year-old Haley… I was grinding and riffing all out in my homage to Hendrix’ glory, little Haley just stood their right in front of me jaw agape as I rocked her world… I think she wanted me.

Since we were so far north and away from all the city lights, I was soooo hoping to see the fabled Aurororora Borealisis or “Northern Lights” (as someone who doesn’t like to struggle when they speak so smartly renamed it). The first few nights, the North Pole gave me nuthin’, then finally on that night where Mike was barfing and I had went to bed, Carmen wisely came and got me up and said “The Northern Lights are on!” I popped out of bed and went and checked them out… It was way cool, I’m kind of a science and astronomy nerd, and I’ve read about them and seen pictures, so it was awesome finally seeing them in real life, plus it was real purty and romantic and stuff. If I had a chick there, I probably would have grabbed her and made out with her and stuff. But since I had no chick, I decided to share the experience with the other people who mean something to me and tried to wake up Nikolai and Vitali who were sleeping in a tent outside where we were all “Oooing” and “Awwwing” over the lights… I kept shaking the tent and barking at them to get up, but they just kept snoring away and dreaming about bicycles, firecrackers, or whatever boys dream about. I gave up on them and went and got my sister up and she came out… Mike, after his barf session, couldn’t give a shit about any stupid lights in the sky, so he stayed in bed. As Sherry was getting up, I was saying, “Yeah, they’re cool! all streaming through the sky!!” But by the time she got out there, the lights had diminished and and the streamers/curtains were gone, and it was just a blueish glow coming from the north. Sherry was all, “Yeah, it’s kinda cool, I guess.” and I had to do the, “No, it was cooler with lights all streaming and dancing around, really, it was… I didn’t get you up for just this!! Before I came and got you, it was all spiking and streaming and!- ah, forget it.” and we all went to bed.

Northern Lights, the way they’re supposed to be.

Since the water was being rationed, we went sans shower for a couple days, finally we decided to drive to the nearby campground where you can buy a shower for a dollar. We loaded up the kids and drove about five minutes to the campground. Loonies (Canadian for “Dollar”) were all handed out and the girls went their way, and the boys went ours. Each shower had a little changing stall and shower behind it’s door… Mike gave specific instructions to the boys, “Okay guys, the showers are timed and will shut off automatically, so take off your clothes first, then put the coin in, then hop in the shower… otherwise you’ll be wasting shower time while your changing…” The kids got it and did as instructed and of course Mike’s plan backfires on himself and his shower doesn’t work after he drops the coin in, so know he has to get all dressed again, and go to another stall… (I would’ve just streaked to the new stall myself.) We only had one soap bar, so we kept having to chuck it over the stalls. I was hoping to nail one of the kids in the noggin’ but didn’t score. Mike, Nikolai, and I finished and got dressed and Vitali was still in there doing who knows what… I remember when I was a kid, showering sucked and I wanted it done ASAP so I could get back to playing and being a kid. But Vitali was taking a weird amount of time for a kid. I finally yelled out, “Vitali, you better finish before the girls do or that’s going to be pretty sad!” Vitali finally finished up and Mike asked them both if they washed everything including their Johnson and butt crack and they said yep, and we all went out to wait for the girls. Now even though Vitali took about five minutes too long to shower up and get dressed, we still had to wait for another fifteen minutes for the girls, so I don’t know what’s up with girls and showering and what takes so long,… Unless it takes so long because of the getting dressed thing with all of the belts and buckles and straps and jewelry and crap, Who knows!

The week at the cabin finally ended and we headed back to Saskatoon to spend the night at my Aunt Margaret’s since we had to be back to the airport super early the next day. On the way back to Saskatoon, we stopped off and got a bite at a Dairy Queen (Dairy Queen and A&W fast food restaurants are still abundant up in Canada and the cool place to hang out, along with some coffee shop known as Tim Hortons, named after a Hockey guy or something, Starbuck’s can’t even unseat that chain. Canadian’s love their Tim Hortons) Mike was introduced to the Canadian delicacy known as “Poutine”. Poutine is the invention of taking French Fries and mixing them up with cheese and gravy (see photo). Mike gave it a thumbs up and proclaimed it as extremely delicious! I had a bite, and, even though it looks like something that should be coming out of my butt and not going in my mouth, it was indeed hella tasty… I only had two bites because the consistency of it told me that if I had too much, it WOULD indeed be coming out my butt, like, immediately and we still had another hour and a half to drive. Mike and Sherry kept calling it “Poontang” and laughed waaayy too much at their own joke to themselves. “This Poontang is good, huhuhuh… I like Poontang, uhuhuhuh… I wish you could get Poontang like this in the states, huhuhuhuhuh…” ugh, I had to suffer through about a half hour of that.

Poutine

That night at Auntie Margaret’s, a thunderstorm came through and we got a lightning show of the big cracklin’ bolt variety… It was awesome… I stood out on the deck in the wind and rain just watching it explode across the sky. Mike got scared and said, “It looks like it’s coming this way, I’m going inside!” Hah, Pussy. I stood out a little while longer then decided to go get the boys and girls so that they could see the show, first I went and got the girls, “Hey Karina, Alina! Come check this out!!” and they were watching TV,”Whaaaaat. Whhhyyy.” and I said, “Just c’mon! I’m getting the boys too!” Then I went to get the boys, I run down to the basement and the boys are playing video games and I say, “Hey guys, come here and check this out!” and I get zero response, so I run up right next to them and say, “C’mon! It’s a lightning storm, let’s go!” And they’re still hypnotized by the game. I start snapping my fingers in front of there eye’s and say, “C’mon! Let’s go! pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, c’,mon, now, now, now, now, now, now!… They finally pause the game and we all go up and outside and check out the storm… And I say, “Isn’t this awesome!” and there all, “Yeah, it’s pretty cool!” then after a couple bolts they all say, “Can we go now.” and I’m, “What! But this is awesome… ugh, whatever, fine, go.” and they all take off back inside. Kids today, feh.

The next morning we all got up at the crack of dawn, like, up at four in the morning to get to the airport by six, only I wasn’t smart enough to change my cell phone’s time to Saskatoon time, so when my phone alarm went off (The Final Countdown by Europe, a very anthemic way to start the day) it was actually three in the morning, ugh! Everybody finally gets up and gets cleaned up, packed and ready to go, and after hugs and goodbyes, we head out to the airport and get to stand in an insanely long line, but unlike American airports where there would only be one clerk working and checking people in and it’s an hour wait even though it’s only a fifteen person line, every station at the Saskatoon airport is open and the line actually moves and what would have taken two to three hours in America only took about a half hour and we were about fifty people back in line. Another thumbs up for Canada.

At home, Sherry had preordered a limo to surprise the kids with to take us home from the SF airport (it was SUPPOSED to take us to the airport too, but that didn’t happen, but that’s her story to tell)… We were all burnt, but still making jokes and having a good time. We were joking about drawing mustaches on sleeping people, then unlucky Nikolai let the sandman snag him and he dozed into a deep sleep. Knowing that the kids can take a joke, hey they’re Mitchell’s now, they don’t have a choice… Sherry asks for my pen and drew a mustache and beard on Nikolai and writes “Poop” backwards on his forehead so that he can read when he gets in front of the mirror… The limo pulls up to the house, and we all hold back our laughter as we wake him up. I make everyone pose for a couple snapshots to get Nikolai’s new look. We take all of the luggage in and Mike tells Nikolai that he has something on his face and he goes to look and comes back all laughing and giggling and jumps on and playfully attacks Mike for revenge. It was pretty cute.

So, that’s the trip to Canada with a lot left out, I’m sure my sister and cousins will remind me of a bunch of other crap I either forgot about (I’m not smart enough to take notes.) or wasn’t paying attention to or wasn’t around when it was going on or was under the influence of too much Kokanee to remember. I’ll bother y’all with more time wasting verbage for you to delete if anything comes to mind.

-Sean

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