Canada Day (5 years previous)

One fine sunny near the end of June, 1997, I was sitting in my cubicle at Princess Margaret Hospital, shivering in the A/C’d air, while outside it was a fine 35+ degrees. Bracing myself, I stripped off the thin sweater I’d taken to wearing and dashed down the 3 flights of stairs, across the lobby and out into the heat. The heat was both a relief and a curse as I rushed into it, out of breath. Outside, my old friend Nima was waiting. He said ‘let’s go to Ottawa this weekend’. ‘Why?’, said I. ‘For Canada Day’. Which seemed like a good idea.
We decided to drive up on June 30th, visit with his relatives there, spend the night at a hotel then party it up the next day. On saturday, I splurged and bought both a new discman (with car-tape-player attachment), as well as a few new CDs – Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole, Daft Punk’s Homework and Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation. I was fairly new to this whole electronica thing, and back then Big Beat was all that in my books. Early morning, we clambered into my folks’ stylin Mercury Villager minivan and hit the road. I learned some interesting things on that trip. For instance: 1)People really do move entire houses on the backs of trucks that take up two highway lanes. What they do once off the highway is beyonod me. 2)Mercury Villagers start to shake rather disconcertingly at around 170KpH. 3)There’s little scarier than hearing sirens when doing said speed. To find out that said sirens are actually coming from one’s newly-purchased CDs, while a relief, is also frustrating. They should perhaps ban sirens on CDs, in fact.

So we arrived in Ottawa, much later than anticipated (Ottawa being at least twice as far from Toronto as I’d imagined), and scrounged for a hotel. Neither of us owning credit at that time made the task a little more difficult, but we found a place on the outskirts of town. We crashed, and woke to sounds of cleaning right outside our door, then rushed out, being about 10 minutes shy of checkout time (oh, how well I slept as a teen!).
The familial visit was interesting, and then we headed into Ottawa proper, which is an appealing town – a large pedestrian district was awash in red & white clad & painted revellers, spending money patriotically on knick-knacks and other assorted nothings. We lunched along the river, loungeing contentedly on the grass for several hours while our skin, shirts long-since removed, took on the hues of our flag, depening on whether it was shaded or not. Myself, sporting a fairly large and recent tatoo of a patriotic nature on my chest, received several comments along those lines, while Nima, as always, gets the stares of the cute girls & the cute boys.
By evening time, we were all tired out from our day in the sun, walking amongst the partiers (and it was a massive party), and were ready for the concert on capitol hill. The concert lived up to its promise, featuring a variety of Very Canadian bands playing, mixed in with rousing speeches and guest appearances by Important Canadians (quite possibly olympic heroes from the previous summer included). The party itself was capped off by an appearance by Great Big Sea, playing their east-coast brand of party-rock, backed by the light show of fireworks going off over the river (or the canal – it’s the Rideau Canal, not river, right?). Once Great Big Sea finished the last lines of their finale, we hot-footed it outta there an onto the road, my distaste for fireworks already well-confirmed, long before I’d experienced the horror of Vancouver’s own Symphony of Fire.

The drive home was also eventful, with a terrific rainstorm arriving out of nowhere, eliminating visibility and forcing us to crawl along the 401 at a mere 40-odd KpH for most of the drive home. And luckily too – never have I seen the results of so many accidents along one stretch of road.

By the time the sun was rising and drying up the rainclouds, we’d entered the outskirts of Toronto. By the time I was pulling into the garage, the rain was all gone and it was hot and sunny again, in time for me to catch a hour or two of sleep and then head back into work.