Saturday, July 26, 2008


You can go along here for days on end and not feel like you're living in a foreign country.  Then, something happens to remind you that you are.  Maybe someone says, "Civic elections aren't until November.  It's too early to announce whether the Mayor will run for reelection," and here it is July already.  Or, maybe you go to a minor league baseball game and they play both songs but you realize you're the only one singing The National Anthem and everyone sings "O Canada."  It takes some getting used to.

I listen to a CBC Radio program called "The Vinyl Cafe."  The host, Stuart McLean, reads stories and plays music.  It all feels very Canadian.  Stuart McLean is a proud Canadian in the way that so many Canadians are.  They don't capitalize "proud" in the phrase, for one thing, and you have the feeling that they only capitalize "Canadian" because it's a rule.  Otherwise, it would be bragging.

I almost never hear the entire program, because even though it's on twice each weekend, I am almost always in the car when that happens.  I hear part of it, I get where I'm going, and that's it.  So for me, it's kind of a glimpse of Canadian life, because everything in the stories assumes a past that I simply don't have, not having grown up here.  It's wonderful.

Today, the music was all covers.  McLean played a really strange cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" by someone called Cat Power.  She never sings the chorus.

He played a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell.  Yeah, it's better because she has looked at life from both sides now, and she sings with a voice influenced by 30 years of good whiskey and American cigarettes.

The very best cover was Johnny Cash's cover of U2's "One."  It was chilling.  I started crying.  I had to pull over to the side of the road and listen.

Cash just stripped out everything not absolutely necessary, and accompanied himself on the guitar.  In the key of C.  There's not a lot else going on, just that voice and those lyrics.  Stunning.  Interpret those lyrics any way you like.  Bono gave an interview once in which he said:

"It is a song about coming together, but it's not the old hippie idea of 'Let's all live together.' It is, in fact, the opposite. It's saying, We are one, but we're not the same. It's not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It's a reminder that we have no choice."
If Bono were Canadian, I'd swear he was talking about "America."