Star Spangled Boner

Image result for Canadian Barbie

A lot of people ask me the difference between Canadians and Americans. Well, first the facts: our country’s larger, our population’s smaller, Canadian men liked wearing clogs in the ’70s and we’ve never considered testing the viscosity of spray cheese in space a worthwhile scientific endeavour.

I noticed while working abroad that colleagues soon began substituting American with North American in conversation. Such gestures are certainly appreciated but only serve to remind Canadians that while Americans have fifty states, we have only one: self-consciousness. Every Canadian feels guilty knowing their new co-workers are constantly bricking it lest they should inadvertently refer to us as American, a situation which can only ever lead to our greatest export: the apology. We’re famous for apologizing – we even apologize for it. I recognize that, even close up, we look and sound like our U.S. counterparts to most people. The differences are subtle, even to us sometimes. It is, however, my belief that the best way to differentiate between our two cultures is to study America’s greatest cultural icon: Barbie.

America has Malibu Barbie who likes strolling along the beach with the ocean breeze in her hair… Canada has Seal Hunt Barbie who is a crack shot.

Malibu Barbie drives a Dream Camper Van with built-in kitchen and fold-out tent… Ice Road Trucker Barbie cooks roadkill under the hood and homeschools three kids in her sleeper cab.

Prom Queen Barbie comes with her very own makeup and accessories table… Lumberjack Barbie’s sporting a Leafs toque in her wedding photos.

American Barbie hails from Wisconsin, studied in New York and now lives with her parents and younger sisters in California… Canadian Barbie was taken into care after her parents became addicted to online bingo and were caught trying to sell their own kidneys on ebay.

American Barbie dates long-term boyfriend, Ken… Canadian Barbie’s best friend is an orphaned bear cub whose mother was shot dead by two tourists up from Oregon for the weekend.

American Barbie is cosmopolitan and culturally sensitive… Yukon Barbie saw her first Sikh last week and asked him for three wishes.

American Barbie is a role model for her millions of followers on the internet… Canadian Barbie is completely unaware that a video of her bathing in what she thought was a secluded watering hole has placed her in Pornhub’s Top Ten.

Vegetarian Barbie only buys food from locally sourced producers… Marijuana Farm Barbie patrols the perimeter of her property in a JLTV.

American Barbie spent a fun-filled New Year’s Eve with Ken in Times Square… Canadian Barbie pointed out Ursa Major in the night sky to her orphaned bear cub – and apologized.

Hue and Cry

On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone

Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone

Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not

Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot

Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet

I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot

Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long

Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?

Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave

Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?

I come into my garden for the colours and the light

A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.

Seasoned Greetings

When greeting guests in Tokyo

The custom is to bow down low

While in Tibet both old and young

Say hi by sticking out their tongue.

In France it’s chic to peck the cheek

And friends will clap in Mozambique

Though Greenlanders will sniff your face

Before they help you with your case.

Most Eskimos rub nose to nose

In India they touch your toes

And Zambians will squeeze the thumbs

Of visitors considered chums.

Through handshakes, winks and nods we say:

I’m pleased that you dropped by today!

And bless those friends who always know

The sign for when it’s time to go…

Peace Nicked

“Have you been following events in The Ukraine?”

“John, we no longer call it that.”

“No longer call what what?”

“We no longer call it The Ukraine.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We just say Ukraine now; they’ve dropped the The,” Laverne gave me the lowdown.

“Who did?”

“The Ukrainians.”

“Don’t you mean Ukrainians?”

“That’s what I said.”

“No, you said The Ukrainians.”

“Oh, for God’s sake…”

“Why is it I’m only hearing about this now?”

“Try spending less time on TikTok.”

“I enjoy watching eco-tourists run for their lives.”

“Fair enough,” Laverne shrugged.

“So, when did they ditch the The?”

“I believe it was around the same time Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded as KFC.”

“Do you think their KFCs serve Chicken Kiev?”

“We don’t say that either.”

“What? Chicken?”

“No, Kiev.”

“You’re kidding.”

“We now pronounce it Kyiv, like Steve.”

“Who the hell cares how he says it?”

“Who?”

“Steve Downey.”

“Please tell me you didn’t just say that.”

“And how would the Downeys know Ukrainian anyway? They’re a bunch of redheads.”  

“Sweetie, I want you to stop talking,” Laverne took my hand. “This is all the result of transliteration.”

“I thought their flag was pink, blue and white.”

“In the past we had a habit of anglicising names which proved tricky to pronounce and no one really questioned it. Now there’s a bit of a reset happening, that’s all.”

“My stress levels go through the roof every time I have to say anemone.”

“When did you last need to say anemone?”

“Two and a half hours ago.”

“I’m talking about foreign names.”

“Brunhilde.”

“Place names.”

“Melbourne.”

“More foreign than that.”

“Machu Picchu.”

“It’s Bombay becoming Mumbai and Calcutta becoming Kolkata, that sort of thing,” Laverne clarified.

“We weren’t that far off on those two,” I felt I ought to give credit where credit was due.

“My issue isn’t with the consonants so much, as the bloody diphthongs.”

“Your Vietnamese neighbours? What have they done now?”

“Stop it,” Laverne giggled. “Hey, did you know that Kanye’s changed his name as well? Apparently he now goes by Ye. My son told me.”

Ye?”

“Yup.”

“Maybe it’s short for Yeuch.”

“Or Yikes.”

“I still fail to see the significance.”

“Well, according to Ye himself, ye is the most common word in The Bible.”

“Blessed be the fruit.”

“Oh, there’s more… Ye then enlightened us further by explaining that ye can sometimes mean thee.”

“Which Ukrainians have dropped like a hot potato,” I reminded my friend.

“They dropped a The, not a thee.”

“Be that as it may, I think Ye will find that the most common word in The Bible is, in fact, the.”

“So we’ve circled back on ourselves,” Laverne groaned. “How do we bring this to an end?

“Here’s a crazy idea: add a The.”

The End

No Fly Zone

Where do storks nest during a war
As spires tumble and towns are no more?
What will deer eat when tanks advance
Over sweet meadows of young, tender plants?
What drives a cub out of the den
Crying alone for its mother again?
Gone is the gold
Dark is the dawn
Ghostly and cold
Best to fly on

Viral Spiral

man in black t-shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on tree branch

I thought my life was going well until I watched TV
Where some young thing in yoga pants screamed: Get off that settee!
She told me that I eat too much and ought to exercise
And should feel guilty every time I supersize my fries.
I changed the channel just in time because I got upset
Only to hear a psychic say he talks to my dead pet
I simply had to call him up and he’d unleash his power
Connecting me with Fido for just fifty bucks an hour.
Another channel change heard women speak of me with scorn
Declaring we’d be better off if no more boys were born
Apparently we’re toxic and we break a lot of hearts
I think these women, if they could, would cut off all my parts.
A cooking show chastised me for my love of microwaves
Ignoring their convenience and the time this gadget saves
I’m now to slow-cook every meal and simmer under lids
So suppertime’s now midnight – explain that one to the kids.
I’m also nowhere green enough because I still eat meat
Instead of chewing watercress whilst farming in bare feet
They warn our homes are killing us – we shouldn’t live indoors
Though living off-grid didn’t really help the dinosaurs.
Global warming, rising crime and famine ‘round the globe
Because I don’t like rainbows I’ve been called a homophobe
I won’t be blamed for everything the media imparts
I only turned on Channel 4 to watch a bit of darts.

Model Behaviour

The Gods Must Be Crazy: Movie Classics

“I’m being sued by the Catholic Church again,” Laverne announced in the midst of reorganising her purse.
“I have no words for that.”
“How unlike you,” she mused.
“Hold on, I thought you were working on a piece about the East African Lion,” I suddenly remembered.
“Turns out all they do is sleep. My son can do that.”
“Have you ever been to Africa? I haven’t.”
“Yeah, with my sister for her fortieth. We went on safari in Malawi.”
“So is that where …“
“… my people come from?” Laverne zipped her purse and placed it on the chair next to her. “Couldn’t tell you; the furthest back I’ve been able to trace our roots is to The Shirelles.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny. I was actually going to ask if that’s where your sister went with the Peace Corps.”
“Oops, sorry,” she giggled. “No, that was Mozambique.”
“I’d like to ask you another question though: when you were there, did you feel any connection to it?”

“Funny you should ask that,” she became more pensive. “I expected to feel ‘African’ from the moment I arrived but the whole time we were there I felt like just another tourist. People are people wherever you go so we had that in common. Culturally, however, I struggled to make a connection and that bothered me. I think maybe we’ve been gone too long.”
“I felt the same when I met my Scottish relatives for the first time,” I concurred. “We shared the same name, same sense of humour and some even looked like me but culturally we were raised in two very different worlds.”
“Not even close!” Laverne screamed with laughter. “Honestly, are you kidding me with that? Your parents emigrated using their Air Miles!”

“But their journey to The New World was horrific. First, they ran out of headphones and then they gave my mum’s gluten-free meal to someone else,” I explained. “Anyway, cut me some slack – you’re my only ethnic friend.”
“Hey, I’m your only friend. I’ve got more in common with those lions than I do with you.”
“How so?”
“They don’t like to cook either.”
“And we have our connection!”
“Okay, but back to this business with the Church,” Laverne lowered her voice. “It’s over a certain someone I told you about at Christmas.”
“Is this the same someone with the thing?”
“Yup.”
“And are you telling me they’ve now found the thing?”
“Oh yeah, they found it alright,” she confirmed.
“Was it on him?”
“No, up him.”
“Whoa!” I leaned back in my chair. “And the monkey?”
“Still missing,” she arched an eyebrow.

I love secrets and Laverne knows plenty. A freelance journalist, she moved to the UK from Seattle over thirty years ago after meeting and marrying Elliot, a sound engineer at the BBC. The three of us first met at The Pu Pu Pot, our local Chinese restaurant, after she’d overheard my accent.
“I need some human conversation during our stay on this island! I need someone who doesn’t talk about Bobby Charlton in his sleep!” she blubbered into her chop suey.
“Who’s Robby Carlson?” I asked.
“Exactly!” she cried. “And do you know where I can score some Fruit Loops because the last people to eat porridge were the Vikings.”
That was twenty years ago.

Image result for beautiful spring china

Tonight we were out for our weekly meal at The Pu Pu Pot but without Elliot, who begged off to attend a Bolton Wanderers match.
“What’s the viral load of the Szechuan Chicken today?” Laverne asked.
“Slightly elevated I’m afraid, so I’d be happy to pee on it for you. We Chinese believe that urine possesses magical properties,” our waitress took her on.
“Is that like chlorinated chicken?” I asked.
“Well, if you’d prefer you can bring in a pet and we’ll cook that for you,” she smiled, sweetly.
“We’re gonna need a few more minutes,” Laverne smiled right back at her.
Just then, the kitchen doors swung open to reveal a tiny, sinewy man lifting the lid off a huge cauldron. As he did so, he stepped back to avoid the rush of steam.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“We’ll be cooking shrimp in it once we take the shirts out,” our waitress stated matter-of-factly. “Would you excuse me for just one moment? I need to inform on my neighbours.”
“She’s good,” Laverne nodded her approval, as she watched the diminutive figure disappear behind the bar. “Is she still in med school?”
“Fourth year.”
“She’ll have them in stitches.”

At one point during the evening Laverne made a visit to the Ladies’. While she was gone, a young woman breezed into the restaurant and joined a waiting friend at a table nearby. Tall, elegant and stylishly attired, she quickly attracted the attention of other diners.
“I’m back,” Laverne announced, resuming her seat. “They have the nicest hand lotion here.”
“Uh huh,” I replied, looking past her at the young woman.
“What’s up with you?” she shot me a quizzical look.
“It’s what’s behind you.”
“What’s behind me?”
“A girl walked in while you were gone and she’s got to be a model. She’s absolutely stunning. Definitely a model.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10?” Laverne asked.
“Ten.”
“Hair?”
“Lustrous.”
“Make-up?”
“None.”
“Height?”
“NBA.”
“She’s got to have a flaw, everyone has a flaw.”
“If she does, I can’t see it.”
“Maybe it’s hidden,” she chewed on her bottom lip. “Slug feet?”
“Killer farts.”
“Fifty bucks says she uses disconnect as a noun.”
“Another fifty says she has plans to name her first daughter Chandelier.”
“Hmm… not even a split end?” Laverne wasn’t having it.
“Turn around and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“Have I taught you nothing?” she reached for her purse. “Watch and learn, my friend… okay, which shoulder?”
“Left.”
She took out her compact and opened it, angling the mirror until she caught sight of her quarry over her left shoulder. At that same moment, the young woman put on her reading glasses and picked up a menu. Closing the compact with a snap, Laverne chuckled to herself, then leaned across the table and whispered, “Four-Eyes.”