Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reader's Diary #103- Douglas Coupland: Souvenir of Canada (up to "1971")

A quick game of provincial/territorial free association (quick, do your own if you want to compare):

British Columbia- The Beachcombers, totem poles
Alberta- $ and oil
Saskatchewan- Corner Gas
Manitoba- The Guess Who but no Jets :(
Ontario- Toronto and Ottawa
Quebec- French
New Brunswick- Covered Bridges
Nova Scotia- Halifax, Kilts
PEI- Potatoes and Anne of Green Gables
Yukon- Robert W. Service, gold
NWT- Yellowknife, mining
Nunavut- Inuksuit, Inuit
and Newfoundland and Labrador-?

A couple of explanations are in order. First of all, before anyone gets their long john's in a knot- it's free association. I've been to all of the provinces (except Saskatchewan) and also lived in Nunavut- so obviously Ontario means more to me than Toronto (Northern Ontario is breathtaking), Alberta also conjures up images of cowboys and the Rockies and bison steak in that revolving restaurant in Calgary, PEI also has the Confederation Bridge, etc, etc. You get the idea. I kept to the idea of free association on purpose- to illustrate a point. You'll notice I (honestly) couldn't come up with a solitary image of Newfoundland and Labrador. I had a collage forming in my head of cliffs, fish, dancing, Signal Hill, Gros Morne, the Innu, MUN, Codco, Purity Syrup, icebergs, and so on as the various images fought for precedence in my thoughts. I guess when you know one place so much better than the others, it's hard to free associate.

I'm also noticing my Newfoundland and Labrador bias when I read Souvenir of Canada. Everything keeps being compared to Newfoundland in my head and the first things I notice in the photos are of Newfoundland origin (Screech, for instance). I can't help but wonder if people in other provinces do the same when reading through. Sometimes it's not a problem(?) of mine, it's a forced reaction. Newfoundland is one of the few provinces singled out for an essay. Apparently Coupland has bought our "we're so unique" act. I'm being facetious, to some extent. I really don't know if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserve the self-proclaimed "unique" title. Certainly our culture is different than that of Alberta, but isn't Nunavut's? Quebec's? Saskatchewan's? Because I always have Newfoundland and Labrador in the back of my head as I read Coupland's book, I sometimes feel a little unpatriotic. Am I supposed to feel like a Canadian first? Or a Newfoundlander? Logic tells me that I feel Canadian first- I don't think I fit into the Newfoundland stereotype all that well and (for all that I enjoy it here) I don't think it's any better that any other province (traitor!). But then my back goes up when Coupland says something like "...the region's fiercely held Scots/Irish history..." (Nova Scotia's the province with the Scottish history - not us- hence the "Scotia") and I start to think that emotionally, I'm still a Newfoundlander first.

It's making for an interesting read though. I guess the whole province/country debate is as much a part of who we are as anything else. Coupland makes the comment that the U.S. isn't as divided among state lines as Canada is among provincial lines. Though as an interesting side note, when I went to Hawaii a few years back, I found it very intriguing that there's a separatist movement there as well. Apparently, it's not the only state either. There's also the predictable Alaska, and more surprisingly, Texas. Once again Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and Alberta, heck pretty much the entire west, and Ontario- we're not as unique as we think we are. So I guess, I'll end with a call to the Maritimes and territories- It's not too late! Separate! (Geez, kidding already.)

* Btw, this is probably the most links I've ever jammed into one post. I hope you appreciate all I do for you people!


phlegmfatale said...

Heck, if you took a survey of Texans, I'll bet the majority would be all for seceding from the USA. After all, Texas was its own republic in the past (from 1836 to 1845), and more than a century and a half of USA statehood has not managed to rid of our leanings of rugged idividualism.
BTW, Neko Case in April in Dallas said "Calgary is the Texas of Canada." I told Barbara Bruederlin this and she said "Actually, Texas is the Calgary of the USA." Nice we can relate on some level.
I LOVE your happy-go-lucky avatar photo, btw. You must be a fun dad to your kids. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

A gold star for cramming the most links into one post is being mailed to you post haste.

I've often wondered if people in NFLD felt as though they were being patronized by the rest of the country through sterotyping. But yes, every part of the country is unique and how could it not be? It's a huge friggin country. And of course there are huge differences within provinces as well.

Fascinating post, my friend! And s'up, Phlegmfatale? You got my name right, which is better than the CBC could do haha.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I love Cananda. We hope to come up late summer or early fall and tour the maritime provinces. One of the best vacations I ever took was in high school ove Easter break. I flew up in a nine seater to NY with some classmates then drove into Quebec. We stayed in a log cabin near a village called Otter Lake. I remember we got to the cabin at 9:00 p.m. and had to dig our way in as the snow was five feet deep at the door.

Christina said...

I think you mean Ontario: Ottawa THEN Toronto...must have been a typo.

Being from Ontario, I can comment on your "bias".

Of course each province has a culture of their own, but I have never met a people more proud of their province than Newfoundlanders. When I've been around the country, I don't tell people I'm from ON. I tell them I'm from Ottawa (which may be the difference in living in a recognizable city!) There is a connection that you (meaning Newfies) have with your "land" that goes beyond regular provicial loyalty. Having visited there as a mainlander, I can see why. It's very easy to fall in love with Newfoundland. I'm a wannabe Newfie!

Oh, and chances are, when people ask, you probably do know Rhonda!


Looking forward to coming this summer!


John Mutford said...

Being an ignorant Canadian, I've looked at Texas as sort of the American state, being an ultra-representation. I guess that's where the surprise about Texan separatists came in. Thanks for the compliment on the avatar photo. When I chose it for my blog header, I justified it as a book blog photo by somehow linking it to breaking the spine of books. Lame, I know. In actuality it was just one of my few less embarrassing photos. And btw, I like your username!

Barbara, As a Newfoundlander, it's hard not to be somewhat paranoid of stereotypes when dealing with mainlanders. Though, Newfoundlanders are often guilty of perpetuating the stereotypes as well- but just the ones they percieve as good (i.e., party animals vs. idiots). And whenever I see an idiot Newfoundlander I find myself resenting them for living up to the negative image. Though, I shouldn't care that much. People will always make generalizations. Btw, when in Manitoba I had a cab driver ask me "What do English teachers do in Newfoundland anyway?" When I asked what he meant, he said, "They're certainly not teaching them English." I've never wanted to punch a cab driver as hard in my life. Would people say that about Irish people? Why can't they speak English? Whew...

Leazwell, Glad you were able to experience Canada in all her glory! I had a job with a boat tour company for a few years and we actually had snow on the 4th of July. The Americans (not from Alaska) were very pleased they had had such a story to tell when they got home. (Though snow in July isn't THAT common here!)

I do know A Rhonda- though probably not the same one you know. You've brought up something I was hoping to address- "Newfie" vs. "Newfoundlander". I'm not personally offended by the term Newfie, but I've heard a lot of people who are. I've avoided using the term in my posts just to avoid offending people. Maybe I should be a diplomat.

Christina said...

...and I obviously shouldn't be!

John Mutford said...

Long john's has no apostrophe. Friggin' typos in old posts that I can no longer edit.