In Canadaland, with the end of summer comes the winter of our discontent: heating bills triple, maple leafs turn dead, and American tourists migrate South. Let truth be told: even Canadians get the winter blues. And what is more depressing than cold, hungry polar bears and two hours of daylight? Christmas in October. We haven’t trick-or-treated yet and the lunacy of Christmas consumerism is urging me to be a sperm donor so I can afford gifts for my kids. Don’t Scrooginize me: I love Christmas… I don’t really care about White Baby Jesus, myrrh and the Advent calendar – unless it’s a Star Wars special edition – but I do love me some Christmas turkey. In the spirit of the holidays, let me fight off the blues by telling you one of my favourite Christmas stories: Never Cry Wolf.
1991. The Americans liberate Kuwait from the evil Iraqi people, and code-name their “benevolent grand gesture” after a G.I. Joe comic book. Le Clown is a lifeguard, lives with roommates, and is a literature student. He’s too young to know that one day he will be dreaming about being part of the hacktivist group Anonymous. For the time being, he’s being lured to celebrate the holidays in small-town Ontario with the promise of meeting a very famous author. This better not be a case of never cry wolf.
A French-speaking Montrealer is often a novelty in English Canada – from what I’ve gathered throughout the years, most of us are perceived as angry separatists. I sport the Samuel de Champlain haircut, both my ears are pierced, and I carry a Hubert Aquin book around – I might as well have had the words Death to the Anglos tattooed on my forehead. To give you a bit of context, many small English Canadian towns still pledge their allegiance to the Queen and the Church of England, and some Canadian Royalists see French Quebecers as the white niggers of America… like my hosts, for instance.
Mr.and Mrs. Smith live in a federal Canadian heritage house. Mr. Smith was Dean of Something Important at the University of Toronto, or so says his Dean blazer he made sure to wear when we arrived on Christmas Eve. “Hello son…“, Mr. Smith says. “Are you a separatist or do you believe in the strong unity of our great country?” This is going to be long. I’m young. I’m cool. I’m going to meet a famous Canadian author. Focus, Le Clown.
We’re visiting other patrons of Small-Town Ontario in their very own Canadian heritage house… It’s the latest craze, to own a Canadian heritage house; everyone should get one… perhaps if I donate enough semen… Traditionally, and today only, this house is entirely candle-lit. I won’t lie: it is magical, and for a few minutes, I forget that I am under constant scrutiny. Kids are flocking around me: I have long hair, earrings, and I speak French – which makes me more popular than a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doll. “Mr. Separatist, how do you say seal in French”… They’re laughing. They think they’ve outwitted me… They’re waiting for it… Until this very short man comes in, and causes a commotion. Kids are asked by their parents to behave – someone very important just arrived. The very short man gives a few handshakes, and walks towards Mr. Dean of Something Important – they know each other… Mr. Dean of Something Important is not such a douche after all. The conversation is a lively one… Mr. Dean of Something Important points towards me, the two men laugh, and they walk my way. I’m young. I’m cool. I’m meeting Farley Mowat.
“So you must be my young fan from Québec”? (Goddamn right I am!). And we talk. We chat. He tells me about his books, his travels, his favourite authors – we exchange our thoughts on Robertson Davies, Timothy Findley, and even Michel Tremblay. He’s respectful, he’s listening to me, he’s asking my opinion about stuff… This was not a case of never cry wolf… This is the best Christmas ever! Mr. Dean of Something Important interrupts – we must leave. I am saddened, devastated, I want to stay. I bid Farley farewell (we’re on first name basis), and walk away towards the exit door.
“Son”, he screams from the other end of the room, “Vive le Québec libre!!!” Bastard.