Localizing

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Canadians — at least, many of the ones I’ve known — often have a fairly… relaxed attitude toward distance. The fact that ‘we’ live in a large, somewhat sparsely populated country probably has something to do with that.

This starts fairly close to home, so to speak: I’ve mentioned recently that a little old lady (she hates being called that) was quick to plan a practical joke that would involve driving four and a half hours for a two minute payoff. And I’ve driven fifteen hundred kilometers (each way) to watch a football game (we blew number three cylinder on the way back; the second half of the return trip was a little painful). Just last week I almost drove eight and half hours for a ‘reunion’ with people I’d never actually met.  A friend of mine had a slightly dotty uncle that would occasionally drive two time zones for Sunday dinner, then turn around and drive home.

Someone that I went to grad school with (he’s from Yorkshire but can’t fly) thought that we (Canadians in general, I suppose) were all quite mad. (He might have had a point, but then he took a job that involved being tear gassed from time to time, so he could hardly be accused of having a monopoly on common sense.)

What all of this means is that when Ms. Rose and I were invited to a wedding on a septic bed on an island (reachable only by boat) two thousand kilometers away, we jumped at the opportunity.  I mean, a septic bed? On an island? In northern(ish) Ontario? In summer? The nicest outhouse IN THE WORLD? (Well, there are blackflies to consider but a plaque at the Coldwell alkaline complex says that they have a redeeming feature although the Canadian Journal of Zoology suggests that the plaque may be… optimistic. And technically we didn’t even know about the outhouse until we got there and ‘fixed’ the wireless.)

It was a fun trip. The first thing that happened (more or less) was that the ‘navigator’ (that would be, um, me) steered us onto a gravel road (gravel roads can be okay, remember?) and past the site of Canada’s first (not sure about that but it sounds good) and possibly best zombie apocalypse.

And they say small towns are dull.

Fortunately, the zombies weren’t fast enough to catch us so we made it safely (with a few more navigational clangers due to that dimwit named after a vegetable) to a place where I once pitched a tent in the dark and the pouring rain. (This should have been mentioned here but wasn’t. I took pity on you.)

auxsables

The Aux Sables river

The next day we looked at rivers (two of them — one little, one not so little; the little one should be over there (vague wave) if I did things right), a pizza joint run by a pear tree or two, a large historical artifact from the Sadowski General Store (whatever that is or was) and an ice cream truck thingy. Because ice cream makes everything better.

The next day and the day after brought the above-mentioned Coldwell alkaline complex with its associated zoology lesson (complete with flying and biting visual aids) and a visit to Lawren Harrismuse. (That Lawren Harris — not the other one. I personally like the other one quite a lot partly because he, like me, belongs to the “My dad had a funny name and therefore so do I” club. I especially like the fact that my favourite work by him — painted in 1962 — can be found on a website called “Canadian Painting in the 30s“.)

ouimet

Ouimet canyon

The next day brought a hole. Well, more accurately, it brought a ditch. A damned big one. The biggest one either of us had ever seen, complete with severed head. After that was the Finlandia club where there was neither a dance contest nor Finnish champagne — at least, not that we noticed — and the only remote-controlled waterfall I’ve ever seen.  Unlike the other niagara, this one didn’t/doesn’t have rivers of kitsch — just water. (And blackflies. Blackflies were an ongoing theme.)

There was more, of course — non-domestic rodents carrying canoes, eponymous pants, The Outhouse, the septic bed (with waxwings) and a host of other things, but I’ve babbled enough already. One thing does stick in my mind, though:

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I used to play an MMORPG named City of Heroes (at least I did before some fat guy in a suit shut it down, probably to get some sort of tax credit or something. But I’m not bitter.). After our return from the above road trip, I was talking in-game to a friend of mine, (a friend that I know absolutely nothing about except that she lives in Denmark and has a dog). She was (surprised, boggled, flabbergasted — pick one) that we could travel for five days and not cross a remotely significant border.

She had a point. It is a long way — roughly twice the distance between London and Rome — and it is a little odd that (a) we thought nothing of traveling that far and (b) that we didn’t leave the province we live in.

Which brings me to a different point.

When I was a kid, ‘we’ never worried all that much about where our food came from. These days that’s changed somewhat. Local food is a thing. People like knowing the person who made or grew or raised or whatever their meals. (Part of our dinner was grown by a nice lady that lives with a dragon just past the field that used to be overrun with giant orange and green bunnies. Part of our breakfast was raised by a nice man that was in the same high school band as a friend of ours. We’ve curled against his mother in the past. And so on.)

This is Business too, of course. How many places boast “locally grown vegetables”? How many burger joints advertise “locally raised beef”? ‘Local’ is a thing, but what exactly does ‘local’ mean? I’m not sure myself, but in my mind I know part of the answer: if I can’t get there and back in a day, it’s not local. Using this, the nice lady with the dragon is local. The nice man from the band is local. (So is his mother in case we need to curl.) The nice people who used to live in Red Lake are local.

Fortunately, though, there are people who worry about just this sort of thing. At one point they defined ‘local’ to be ‘within the same municipality or 50 kilometers’. That’s probably correct but perhaps a little too restrictive: it makes the nice lady with the dragon ‘not local’ which seems wrong to me. I am/was not alone with this reservation.  I don’t know much about the situation described in that article but one point is clear: the agency responsible for such things made a (temporary?) ruling that ‘local’ can mean ‘provincial’.

No wonder Canadians can be so cavalier about distances: two thousand kilometers is local.

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The Author

Rose Glace is the pseudonym of nobody important.

5 Comments

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