Random Play by Graham Reid

The Strange and the Familiar in Canada

This happens to me -- as I'm sure it does to you -- every time I travel: what was once the familiar and mundane becomes the interesting and engaging because of the changed context.

For example, I have been driving the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island* in Canada with the radio tuned to CK-FM, an ad-free, public service station which plays classic hits and offers updates on traffic, ferry sailings and what the local theatre groups are up to.

I now know what precautions I should take in this season when bears are on the prowl for food. (Seal your garbage, store in a safe place.)

Fascinating, but it's also the classic hits which have kept me amused: this isn't the Eagles/Fleetwood Mac vortex we are forced to endure back home, but one-off popular songs I know off-by-heart but can never remember who sang (and they seldom back-announce).

So I get to sing along to that one which has the memorable chorus "that's what I like about you", classic disco-soul from Tavares, and so on. It makes the miles of over-achieving Mother Nature go by effortlessly.

Oddly enough this also adds lustre to the familiar. I even listened right through to Bryan Adams' Summer of '69 which I would probably never do at home. I guess it is the clear mountain air, blue skies and powerful Buick beneath me ** which make for a more condusive listening environment.

The other thing I love about this kind of travel is that I pick up local papers and discover things that aren't mentioned at home.

Hell, I even know the name of the Canadian PM now (Stephen Harper in case you too were in the dark).

And then there are the snippets. Here's a partial list gleaned from various papers.

+ The mayors of Whistler and Squamish joined Vancouver's 2010 Olympics organisers to support the plan to house Games media in a cruise ship docked in Squamish, despite the IOC giving the idea the thumbs down. (Can you imagine that? Whadda party boat!!)

+ Taxpayers in British Columbia will foot the bill for the Olympics to the tune of about $1.5 billion according to an Auditor General's report, which discredits the provincial government's claim it would only cost $600 million. (Eden Park blowouts anyone?)

+ The play Broue set in a working class bar in Quebec has become the world's longest-running play with the same cast. The three guys have been doing it since March 1979 and have performed it 2,726 times. (More by the time you read this, I guess.)

+ The US has been using the Great Lakes for live ammo training for Coast Guard personnel, thus giving the lie to the old phrase "the longest undefended border in the world". Since the start of the year they have conducted 24 drills firing 3000 rounds of live ammo at least eight km from Canada's border.

+ There are no millionaires in the Forbes rich list of the top 400 Americans anymore. Forbes started running the list in 1982. Twenty-five years ago there were only 13 billionaires on the list, but since then marginal tax rates for the rich have fallen from 60 per cent to 35 per cent.

+ There are more blond, healthy looking people per square metre in Whistler than anywhere else in the world outside Sweden. (Actually I made that up, it just feels like that.)

So right now I am in lovely Whistler between mountain-bike and ski seasons so the place is nice and quiet, although a number of restaurants are closed.

But last night I ate (the only person in the place) at the superb Apres, a French restaurant where I had the foie gras. There is a raging controversy here about foie gras (from Quebec). There was film of a duck being force-fed grain and people were outraged. (Where did they think it came from?)

So I had foie gras -- but no spinach. Spinach is off after someone died from E.coli in the States.

Afterwards I went back to my room and scanned the fortysomething channels trying to find news. I gave up, although I was tempted to try Juicy Juggs or Exxxstacy Island 2 (and I haven't even seen Exxxstacy Island 1).

So there's not a lot to do sports-wise in Whistler right now, as if I was ever going to. I'll drive to the top of a few mountains, go to more beautiful lakes and may head to Pemberton where some Native American people live -- who are conspicious by their absence -- and see what they think about the million dollar property boom in and around Whistler and the Sunshine Coast.

I guess as the original occupants of this beautiful and once bountiful land they must be really coining it in on rent, right?

* Sorry Shayne. I know you read public address to get news and views from home. Last minute change of plan took me to the island within an hour of your beautiful lodge up there among the eagles and bears on Forbidden Plateau, but I had to shoot straight through Courtney for a night in Parksville before catching the morning ferry back to the mainland. Next time bro'.

** And for further reports from Canada and the monster Buick I am drving you can check houseoftravel.co.nz where I am also writing a running blog.

And keep those recipes coming, Recipes From Elsewhere is gonna be great. And of course I have some superb, envy-inducing new photos for Windows on Elsewhere. There is new Music From Elsewhere posted now too, I did it by remote. Check it out, there's a lovely thing by Barry Humphries!
It's all at www.elsewhere.co.nz

Righto, sun beckons -- and so does CK-FM.