After a month of living like a gypsy in my 1984 Volkswagen Westfalia, I finally arrive at the last stop on my West Coast synthetic beach tour: Tofino, British Columbia. Along the way, I’ve been looking at plastic pollution on beaches and talking with people from all walks of life engaged in the issue. It’s been sad, it’s been inspiring – and it’s been a hell of a time.
I’ve gone from one of the most densely populated place in North America – Los Angeles – to one of the most sparse.
Oh my sweet…I love you, Canada. I want to make out with you, Canada. Last night, I sat on a seastack talking with a new friend while watching the surf pulse in Cox Bay at the gloaming. He’s Canadian and perhaps what you’d think of as a typical surfer kid: Paints houses a few days a month to make just enough money to surf, live, eat and toke. An Orange County doppleganger might have you worrying for the future of humanity in the hands of slackers, but Canadians are different by design.
Some of this difference is practical in nature: Healthcare is universal in Canada’s provinces, so a standard day job isn’t absolutely necessary. Whatever your views of universal coverage, it does allow for people to live lives less ordinary – even extraordinary – without fear of medical financial disaster.
The difference extends from the practical to the political and philosophical. This surfer kid is also extremely well versed in geopolitical issues, commenting on the upcoming UK elections and how the outcomes will affect Canadian trade. He talks about impressionism in nature and argues Manet is the true father of modernism. He takes quiche in his surf bag for lunch and can identify nearly every species of plant along the seashore. I tell him about what I think would be his likely counterpart in the States; how I frankly can’t stand burnout, dropout sort of people.
He replies, earnestly, “This is Canada, man! That kind of shit isn’t allowed. You have to contribute here.”
Bad manners apparently aren’t allowed, either; it’s a cliche but true that Canadians are almost unbelievably civil. It’s more than refreshing, it’s mind-blowing. You bump into what looks like a gym-sculpted-steroid-buffed frat boy at the bar, spilling his beer. You prepare for the inevitable confrontation. Nope, this is Canada, man! All that happens is an exchange of Sorreees. Then his girlfriend asks if she can buy you beer?
I don’t know what it is that makes you this way, Canada, but I love you.