Monday, September 08, 2008

The Canadian Occupation

I’ve just returned from an action-packed 48 hours or so in scenic Toronto, Canada, where Canadians and non-Canadians alike have converged upon that town for the Toronto International Film Festival, a magical week or so of watching movies, eating and drinking stuff, and screaming at Brad Pitt whenever he leaves his hotel room. I was there for a couple days doing interview stuff for Cinemax, the popular premium cable television channel with all the titties on it late at night.

When I wasn’t working in Toronto, I tried to squeeze in as much Canadian excitement as I could. My first night there I went for a long walk after dinner and found myself in front of Wayne Gretzky’s, which- as the name suggests- is a Wayne Gretzky-themed restaurant. Above is a picture of me bathing in the glow of the giant neon Wayne Gretzky autograph they have hanging out front. It felt pretty great.

I ate at Wayne Gretzky’s last time I was in Toronto, but- since I was full of street vendor hotdogs and Italian food- skipped the food this time. It’s kind of like Applebee’s only with Wayne Gretzky stuff everywhere (which is to say it’s pretty incredible). This time around I just poked my head inside to see if they finally got some cool Wayne Gretzky T-shirts in the gift shop area. They hadn’t. I’m not sure why. If I were Wayne Gretzky, I would totally sell awesome Wayne Gretzky-themed T-shirts at my restaurant. Instead they have really lame T-shirts and sweatshirts that don’t do anything to capture Wayne’s greatness. If I ever meet Wayne, this is going to be on my long list of things to discuss with him whether he likes it or not.

The morning after my pilgrimage to Wayne Gretzky’s, I decided to take a walk down to the Saint Lawrence Market on the recommendation of my friend David, a known former Torontonian. It was there that I ate my first (and so far only) peameal bacon sandwich, a local favorite I was told. Despite the not-so-great name, the peameal bacon sandwich was pretty delicious and consisted of Canadian bacon rolled in peameal (still trying to figure out what that is) and slapped between a bun. I took things to the next level by squirting some HP sauce (not unlike a sweeter version of A1, popular in England and Canada but still struggling for U.S. dominance despite being delicious) and some other mysterious sauce they had sitting there on the counter. Above is a picture of the actual sandwich I ate moments before I stuffed it in my mouth. It tasted better than it looks.

After I finished off the peameal bacon sandwich, I took a lap around the rest of the market. For someone like me who enjoys viewing large quantities of raw meat all under one roof, it was a real treat. Above is a photo of huge dead cows they had hanging in one of the freezers there. One minute you’re hanging out in a field eating grass, the next you’re all chopped up and dead in a freezer in Toronto. Life is crazy sometimes.

After my meat field trip, I headed back to the hotel to pull myself together for the day’s shoot. Along the way I spotted this beaver sitting above the doorway to some sort of Canadian office building. If you ever getting bonked on the head, throw in the trunk of a car, and dropped off days later in front of a building like this you will at least know you’re definitely in Canada. The rest is up to you.

I headed back to New York City on Saturday night. Because I apparently have the same name as a terrorist, the U.S. customs people at the Toronto airport detained me for a bit until they could figure out that I wasn’t a fugitive of some sort. I wasn’t in a big rush so I thought it was pretty cool. They took me into a little four-walled enclosure with white walls that were entirely bare except for one framed photo of the World Trade Center. Then they asked me a bunch of basic questions that I thought for sure were meant to somehow trick me into admitting I was part of some sort of extremist group. When they asked me what I did for a living, I told them I was a comedian. “That’s how you make your living?,” they asked. I am just as surprised as they were that the answer is yes.

After the probing, the customs guy left me alone for a bit while he waited to hear back from some other office to tell him I wasn’t a terrorist. Then after a few minutes he came back and told me there were no “derogatory comments” in my file so I was free to go. “Wait- I have a file? That’s awesome,” I thought to myself before heading off to catch what turned out to be the worst flight I’ve been on in my life. Because of the bad weather this past weekend, the plane was bouncing all over the place. I’m not sure if it was all the turbulence, the prospect of dying, or maybe the peameal bacon sandwich that was to blame, but I just narrowly avoided puking all over the place. It was only out of mercy for the girl sitting next to me that I was able to keep things down. I’m classy like that.

In other news, on the recommendation of my friend John, I recently got the Glen Campbell album “Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb.” It’s pretty great. Here is Glen performing one of the songs from the album, “Wichita Lineman,” on the Smothers Brothers show back in simpler times. Glen is lypsynching here but I really like his suit and the Fender baritone guitar he is pretending to play. We could all learn a lot from this man.

Dave Hill


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