Comin’ in dead last

The gravel section of the Trans-Canada Highway
I never used to consider myself Canadian. I mean, I was Canadian—I was born in Canada and have lived here all my life—but I never considered it a fundamental part of who I was. I was incidentally Canadian. Or so I thought.

Then, in fall 2008, I spent several weeks living in England. I had planned to stay there for six months, but the economic downturn meant that I couldn’t find a job. After sleeping on my cousin’s couch for a few weeks and spending most of my time wandering around London, I checked into a hostel for a few days before traveling in Scotland and then heading home.

When I walked into my six-person dorm on the first day, all of my roommates were out. On the bunk below mine, however, there was a Tim Hortons coffee mug. My heart shot into my throat and my jaw dropped, and when the owner of the mug walked into the room a few minutes later, we immediately fell into fast and easy conversation. About dumb shit: the Tragically Hip, hockey, Toronto vs. Vancouver, etc. It was a superficial conversation, but one that nobody other than two Canadians could have.

Since then, I have remained cautiously skeptical about the ideology of patriotism, but never again will I be ignorant enough to deny that Canada is an essential part of who I am.

Will a non-Canadian really be able to appreciate Old Man Luedecke? A Nova Scotian songwriter, he recorded his latest disc, My Hands Are on Fire and Other Love Songs, in Vancouver, making it a true coast-to-coast album. And even though he’s playing banjo-driven bluegrass—a genre of music usually associated with the American South—there’s something so intrinsically Canadian about the song “The Rear Guard” that it feels as if were written into my DNA.

This blog post is beginning to sound a bit like it was written for an essay competition about what makes me a Canadian. Perhaps I’m being unnecessarily rhapsodical about this—it’s just folk music after all. Maybe it’s because Canada is currently playing the USA in the Olympic gold medal hockey game. Or maybe I’m just tired because the dudes who live upstairs woke me up at the crack ass of dawn blasting “We Will Rock You” and “Hells Bells.”

MP3: “The Rear Guard”
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