They were walking — no, they were waddling stereotypes; fuck-you firearms were holstered low on thighs below bellies round and thick; every "Sir" was a challenge, nearly an insult — nothing personal, but performed as if aggressive attitude was part of the job.
Which is a rather roundabout way of admitting that I missed the Big Game (already dubbed by at least one of my correspondents as "...the best hockey game I've ever watched"). I managed to catch the third period of the women's gold medal game (pictured above), but of Sunday's classic I must — 'till torrent do us come — suffice with rumor.
Y'see, on Thursday, Raven had her passport and visa returned to her, along with instructions for finalizing her status as a permanent Canadian resident.
On Friday, she found out that she until March first(!) to do it.
Do what? Leave the country, and re-enter. (What? I hear you ask; and Why? I hear you cry. I have no answer. Both Raven and I have made inquiries, but the answers have amounted to "because that's the way it is"; the rationale remains a mystery.
In any case, Sunday afternoon found us having secured the use of a borrowed car and we started off for the town of Prescott, home to a long, if not terribly broad — nor paved; it is one of those bizarred trestles which boast instead of pavement criss-crossed iron or steel, through which one can see or drop pairs of eyeglasses, should one be walking, and which make a disturbing hum when driven upon with rubber-tires. But I digress — bridge to the U.S. of A.
This Sunday afternoon was far from a busy time at the border. We first stopped on the Canadian side to confirm the procedure. Raven had been told she need only pass the Canadian outpost, then turn around, but a customs agent told me we needed to actually deal with an American customs agent first.
And so, we did as we were told and headed across the bridge.
I handed over my ID — my out-of-date photo drivers' licence and accompanying temporary permit — and explained the reason for our trip. We weren't going or staying anywhere, but intended only to turn right around so that Raven could "land" in Canada. (Again: Yes, she's here and living here already; no, I don't understand the rationale for this trip.)
The border guard barked a few questions at me — funny how the uniforms + attitude made me tense, even though I knew I had absolutely nothing to fear. But I was nervous as I answered the questions but (perhaps strangely) less when I was told to pull the car in and then enter the customs building.
The agent we dealt with inside was also aggressively polite, but his heart wasn't really in it. He didn't seem to understand questions outside of his narrow field of expertise (such as "Do you know why Raven is required to re-enter Canada in the first place?"), but even when I answered yes to the criminal record question (shop-lifting when I was 17), you could almost imagine there was some amusement behind his scowl.
And all the while, another agent (Raven and I were the only 'civilians' in the building) was reporting on the hockey game — two to one for Canada, late in the third at that point. (I refrained from letting out a whoop; Raven, on the other hand, did not refrain from making a joke about terrorists while we were waiting to be called back to the counter. I suggested later that that might have been somewhat akin to joking about hijackings at an airport: NOT a Good Idea.)
And soon enough, really, Raven had her piece of paper proving she had left Canada, I had a lecture on the need to get the correct identification should I ever wish to visit the United States and I learned that our Agent was somewhat appalled to learn that I don't own a car.
The atmosphere was much different at the Canadian border.
The only guns in evidence were in a display case containing weapons which are — sorry American tourists &mash; verbotten in the Great White North. And the attitude was mostly friendly, rather than officious, let alone bullying. My own entry was so low-stress that I am not one hundred percent certain that I even showed any ID at all — though Raven had to fill in a few forms and show some documents.
While I watched the Americans, on a teevee playing behind the main counter, tie the game up with only 20 seconds or so to go in the third period.
I nearly asked her to indulge me and hang around customs for the over-time, but I am not the fan I was in my youth; as I learned (or re-learned) later on, I have lost that youthful enthusiasm that once saw me agonize, regularly, over the fate of the Montreal Canadiens and (occasionally) over that of Team Canada in the battle against the Soviet Union.
We drove off. We (I) got us lost for a time and we got back to Ottawa round 9:00, hungry and tired and — perhaps strangely — with only I even remotely excited by the fact that Raven was now, officially, a landed immigrant (or permanent resident; possibly the terms aren't exactly synonomous). She at least, had grown blase during the eight or so months waiting for her application to be processed.
Once home, we went out again, hungry and looking for food. But the Glebe in Ottawa is not Toronto. And this Sunday was the last day of the Vancouver Olympics. And of the two restaurants nearby in which we were interested, one was closed, the other closing. So we ordered take-out Indian at the latter, learned how Hindis and Pakistanis pronounce Taj Mahal and found out that Canada had, yes, pulled off a classic overtime victory, with Sid the Kid himself slaying the American dragon — a climax so trite only the vilest hack would dared have written it. But Real Life mocks clickes and so Crosby scored in over-time and — a great part of the nation seems to have erupted in joyful celebration.
Once we'd eaten, Raven — possibly consumed by a new-found Canadian patriotism, switched on the seldom-used television set in our living room and I joined her, vaguelly curious, to watch the closing ceremonies of the games.
I missed the reported self-deprecation, unfortunately, but did catch the speeches and slowly found myself falling for the propaganda and the enthusiasm of the crowd. And when Neil fucking Young took the stage, playing an acoustic guitar and fellating a harmonica, I was hooked.
Young was an inspired choice to be the lynchpin in what, as even a cynic such as I has to admit was a pretty damned decent close-out to the games. The music was mostly current, ranging from Avril Lavigne to K-OS, but Young's ragged, 40 year-old plaint seemed somehow to embrace both the white Canada that once was and the new, multi-hued nation that has been busy being born for 30 years now.
We watched the coverage for a while, until well after the ceremonies themselves were done, but not before the people on the streets of Vancouver declared their celebrations done.
I said above that I've lost my youthful enthusiasm for such ephemera as the outcome of sporting matches and, god knows, I've almost never been one for public parties, but — damn! did those folks on the teevee look like they were having a good time!
I don't know if that ineffable joy can even be measured against whatever injustices have happened due to the Games, but I think those who bitterly opposed them — or who will bitterly oppose other such spectacles (I have been among the naysayers before and may be again) — but that joy, the potential for such joys, are factors we need to take into account when making our own judgements about the worth of such projects.
As someone or other is supposed to have said, "Man does not live by bread alone," and nor does woman.
And again, you know, Neil fucking Young.