It’s my favorite time of year. Friday is Canada Day and the following Monday is July 4th. I have dual nationality. Join me for a few moments as I score the two.
Because – with a mother from Montreal and a father from Massachusetts – my feet have always been planted in both countries.
I’m writing this column for an American audience and I’m writing another one, in The Globe and Mail, for a Canadian audience. I support the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens. I hold positions at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States and at McGill University in Canada. Sitting Bull once said that buffalo meat tastes the same on both sides of the border. This will raise objections from both Quebec and Vermont, but I believe robust Grade A black maple syrup tastes the same on both sides of the border.
So, in celebration and appreciation, let’s cross a border that has been closed by the COVID threat. Here are things to salute from both sides:
Canada: Montreal roast chicken, in its purest and most delicious form at Chalet BBQ, founded during WWII and served in old wooden cabins with tons of fried potatoes and a mysterious sauce that has probably formed by the big bang or, if you are religious in mind, in the first six days of creation.
United States: Southern fried chicken, perhaps in its purest and most delicious form at Mary Mac’s teahouse in Atlanta. The only surviving original teahouse of the 16 that arose under the enterprising initiative of war widows and mothers of worried soldiers during WWII, it is both old-fashioned (don’t skip the Georgia Peach Cobbler) and modern (it offered curbside pickup during the COVID explosion). My great friend Affan Chowdhry took his Canadian family there during their early days in Georgia, introduced his children to the black-eyed peas and called the experience “fantastic”.
Canada: Eddie Johnston, who played a short stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was Brother Johnston who was not a member of the famous West End Gang of Montreal. As his four siblings – trusted lieutenants to Irish Mafia bosses Frank (Dunny) Ryan and Allan (The Weasel) Ross – wreaked havoc from coast to coast in Canada by robbing banks, Leading patrol cars in high-speed car chases, killing bartenders, engaging in shootouts with police and stuffing dead bodies into car trunks, Eddie reveled in the game’s contained violence. winter of Canada. When one of the gangster brothers died, Bobby Orr accompanied Johnston to the funeral. “I chose another profession,” he told me one day.
United States: Eddie Johnston, Bruins goaltender at my first hockey game. A maskless and fearless goaltender, he was a mainstay of the Boston teams that won the Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972. Once, he was hit in the head by a stray shot from Orr – and, at age 81 , was harassed on the golf course at The Nevillewood Club, outside Pittsburgh, next to former Penguins right winger Jay Caulfield. “I was hit harder,” said Johnston.
Canada: Leonard Cohen and the idea that there is a crack in everything is how the light enters.
United States: Robert Frost and the cult of the road not taken.
Canada: His moving hymn “O Canada”, sung for the first time in French in the 19th century. It became the country’s national anthem 41 years ago this week, saluting “our glorious and free land” or, if you prefer, celebrating this “your forehead is crowned with glorious jewels!”
USA: Stiring college alma maters like “Hail Colby, Hail”, which inexplicably appropriated the melody of “O Canada”.
Canada: Ojibwa author Richard Wagamese, whose 2012 novel “Indian Horse” is a loving and yet searing coming-of-age story of a young man (and gifted hockey player) who lived in the one of Canada’s state-funded Christian schools that, for a century, starting in 1880, used physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse to force early Canadians to assimilate.
USA: Another Ojibwa, my classmate Louise Erdrich, member of the Turtle Mountain Band and last month Pulitzer Prize winner for her luminous novel “The Night Watchman”, based on her grandfather’s struggle for prevent Congress from withdrawing federal recognition of the tribe from its family.
Canada: Montreal bagels.
United States: New York bagels.
Canada: My mother, former Norma Marks, born in Montreal 90 years ago this month. She was a proud Canadian who, following a wedding at the hotel where the NHL was founded, grafted a Boston accent onto her Dominion of Canada melody. It was in his honor – excuse me, honor – that I applied for Canadian citizenship.
USA: My father, Richard Shribman, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 96 years ago this month and who would have celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary just a few days ago. A proud WWII veteran and brave polio victim, he taught his children the gifts of patience in family life and selflessness in parenting. The results are four intact marriages in the next generation, eight sparkling grandchildren and five wonderful great grandchildren.
The two countries are in a painful and long overdue racial reconciliation. In Canada, there is outrage over the shocking discovery last May of the bodies of 215 children buried in a mass grave near a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Here in the United States, the senseless death of George Floyd has focused the country on the road it still has to travel to fulfill the promise made July 245 ago when the Declaration of Independence asserted that all were created equal.
Canada: “It is not enough to apologize for the tragedies of the past,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during an emergency debate in Parliament shortly after the discovery of the children’s remains. “It is not enough for deceased children, for their families, or for survivors and communities. It is only with our actions that we can choose a better path.
United States: The January insurgency on Capitol Hill, President Joe Biden said just before leaving Europe last month, reinforced “what I learned from my political science professors and senior members of the Senate that I admired when I got there – generation must restore the foundations of its fight for democracy. I mean, for real you literally have to do it.
David M. Shribman is the former editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Follow him on Twitter at ShribmanPG.