It’s a pretty busy week for me.
You see, today is Canada Day, and I live in Canada. And since five years or so ago, I am Canadian.
But I’m also still American. Born that way and will probably stay that way for the rest of my life.
And of course, Wednesday is Independence Day. The Fourth of July.
Two big holidays in one week. Whatever shall I wear?!
I moved up to Calgary more almost 33 years ago, straight from New York City to a place with less than half a million people.
It took some getting used to, but I did.
Went to school, married, had a son, got great jobs in media, government and education. Travel to the US many times a year, mostly to see friends and family, but, so far, not back to live again.
I remember when I first came to Canada, in the spring of 1985. My friend Ken took me to
Banff National Park, still one of my very favourite places and one of the most beautiful on the continent, I think.
Wandering through the townsite, I saw a t-shirt in one of the many gift shops that line Banff Avenue.
It was navy blue, with red and white letters emblazoned across the chest:
I didn’t buy it, but I also never forgot it.
And all these years, I’d pretty much thought of myself as an Americanadian—which, to me, was someone who was more American than Canadian, but someone who most definitely had connections—roots, or maybe feet–in both countries.
Technically, until I became a dual citizen, I couldn’t really make that claim.
Why did it take me almost 30 years? I guess for the first ten or so, I really didn’t think it was necessary or useful in any way, and besides I was a citizen of the US and that was a privilege I didn’t take lightly.
Then I spent 15 years working for the US Government in Canada, for the State Department in a relatively visible position. Taking out citizenship then might have been considered tacky and perhaps a little unwise, as it had the potential to spoil future employment possibilities. I hadn’t really thought about it then, but it certainly would have provided fodder for the American detractors, although there are fewer here in Alberta than possibly anywhere outside the US.
But then I left that job, and crossed the line where I had spent more of my life up “North of 50” (yes, I know it’s the 49th, but the blog’s title covers that too) than I had on the other side.
And I knew from my work that this was a doable thing; as a spokesperson, I learned the statement by heart: “While the US Government does not officially recognize dual citizenship, it acknowledges there are circumstances where a person might have a claim to citizenship in another country (through birth or marriage or whatever). Since there is nothing in the oath about renunciation of loyalty and citizenship with other countries, being a dual Canadian and American is acceptable.” (but not recognized, so there)
From there, it was quick and pretty easy, and before I knew it, I was both American and Canadian.
A lot of people will say that there’s very little difference between the two countries—we speak the same languages (with different accents), we (generally) eat the same food (regional specialties aside), we watch the same sports (with some variations) and entertainment on tv, we travel to a lot of the same places (well, then there’s Cuba, but that’s a story for another day).
So fundamentally, yes, we are a lot alike. Fundamentally.
I started to write some deeper feelings about this, but I’ve deleted them. I think I’d rather this be a more celebratory, positive post for both of my countries than one that makes me sadder than opening Facebook or turning on the TV already does.
Some day we’ll all talk about that.
All I’ll say is that I’ve shifted that title, and now I’m Canadamerican. Chalk it up to time served, and/or whatever else you like.
In the meantime, here’s what happened to me yesterday morning.
My car is in the shop (I can’t even begin to tell you what kind of year it’s been with my car, suffice to say there’s enough for a whole post, so we’ll save that for another time.) So I picked up a loaner after work and while I was waiting for a hail storm to pass (just what I need, damage to the loaner), one of the salespeople helped me sync my iPhone for the phone and also my music, and it started to play as I pulled away from the mechanic bays at the dealership.
Now, my music is set to play alphabetically by song, and as a result, it is a total mashup of artists, genres, styles—everything from punk and classical to international (ever heard German hiphop, or Chinese pop?) and top 40.
Here’s your musical interlude:
First up is always the Jackson Five’s ABC, which never gets old. And from there it goes into the Five Man Electrical Band singing Absolutely Right (and yes, I could have found a better version, but this one was cool), followed by Dvorak (Adagio from the New World Symphony)–there’s a mood shift for ya, Santana (Africa Bamba—who put that in there? Not me)…and so on.
Honestly, I wasn’t paying too much attention to it, except to turn the volume down as it played on so I could concentrate on steering this brand new 55 or 60 thousand dollar loaner straight on the highway, totally paranoid that every single vehicle on the road in my proximity was out to get me. No pressure.
So, yesterday morning, I forced myself to take the car out on errands, and the music kicked in, still on the ‘A’ titles, and what should come up?
Ray Charles, singing America the Beautiful. Kind of emotional; it reminded me of when we used to sing “American” songs in Mrs. Havens’ music class in elementary school (this one, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, You’re a Grand Old Flag, Red River Valley, even Old Dan Tucker and Clementine and something about eating a possum, which were songs that reflected life in another time in America.)
And after that:
America Town, by Five for Fighting: tried to find the meaning to this song, but no luck (although I did find out that Five for Fighting is actually one person, who loves hockey which is where his “name” comes from). I will say it doesn’t paint a pretty picture…just the first two stanzas:
I know I should be happy in your land
It’s not all that wild to me
Not that I want to be any other where
I know it’s hell out there
Here in the borders of america town
All of the dollies are spinning round and round
Hail to the chief
Lets just drag them all down
There’s got to be a hero somewhere….
American City Suite, by Cashman & West: Do you remember this one from 1972?? It’s a three- parter (although a reference says four parts…I always thought there were three), starts out really cheery, talking about how great it is to be in this particular city (NY), then turns to a reflection of the dark side of city life, and then, in the last part, the city dies. Another distressing one. (and I will say this You Tube version, by someone named Moondog Mike, does take some liberties–e.g. there’s a Kent State photo in there and another from 9-11–but it’s still pretty well done, I think)
American Idiot, by Green Day. I don’t think I need to say too much about this one, except to say that it’s angry at America, and Americans. Really pissed off. And this is before our current situation! But that’s Green Day. Official version tagged (114+ million hits?!?), complete with swearing removed. I say again, ?!?
American Pie, by Don McLean: one of my all time favourite albums, American Pie. I remember sitting at Lisa H’s house listening to the record, which she had gotten for, let’s see, it must have been her 13th birthday, over and over, putting the needle into the groove to start the eight minute-plus song. Another sad one, about Buddy Holly’s death and how the world was going to shit. This link has more than 81 million views—just the song and the lyrics. So I guess I’m not the only who stops and pauses when it comes on. I still love it, more than 45 years later…and did you know that Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly…is about American Pie??)
American Woman, by the Guess Who: well this is from a Canadian band about bad Bad BAD American women. Waaaay before Lenny Kravitz.
(And then, perhaps most fittingly to close out the theme and move along alphabetically, a Mexican song called Amigo Amigo, which either came from a Texmex album or the the Happy Texas soundtrack, which, if you haven’t seen this movie, you should.)
When I got home, I scrolled down to see what songs there were that started with “Canada”.
There were none.
So in place of taking you on a nostalgic audio adventure, I’ll give you three of my favourite pieces on Canada (yes, yes, two are commercials, but they’re still fun) , and wish you all a Happy Canada Day and a Happy 4th of July!