Friday, June 18, 2010

Travelog Toronto: A police state with smoked meat

Canadians have a good sense of humor. As evidence I offer John Candy and Mike Myers. Face it, a guy who dresses up in a "Laugh In" outfit with fake buck teeth and calls his apartment a shagadelic pad, well, that's comedy genius.

They call their dollar coins "loonies" because of the odd-looking bird that appears on it. (No, dummy, not Queen Elizabeth. The loon on the back.) When they devised a two-dollar coin, those, of course, became "twonies." I wish the United States would adopt coins for every denomination less than five dollars, if only to see how strip-club patrons would affix the coins to the dancers.

One thing does test the Canadian sense of humor: their perception of how the United States views their country. They see us as condescending blowhards who think of Canada as nothing more than a colony of beer-guzzling hosers who like arctic temperatures and 110-yard-long football fields. Maybe that's because we are condescending blowhards who think of Canada as nothing more than a colony of beer-guzzling hosers who like arctic temperatures and 110-yard-long football fields.

So, imagine the collective Canadian sneer this week when the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans to stay out of downtown Toronto next week when the G20 summit of world leaders takes place. These summits attract huge demonstrations that often turn violent. I might join them, because everyone knows that in bingo its "B20," not "G20." That's not right.

Essentially, the State Department lumped Toronto with other inadvisable destinations such as Tehran, Pyongyang and the delicatessen one cave over from Osama bin Laden's in the mountains of Pakistan.

But hey, maybe our government has seen what I've seen the last two days. Officials in downtown Toronto have lain miles of concrete barriers topped by high chain-link fences, either to keep protesters out or to pen them in should they get out of hand. Every key street corner is manned by three or four cops. And none of the summit participants even have gotten here yet. There are dozens of coppers hanging around the Rogers Centre, where the Giants are playing the Blue Jays. Maybe they were sent there to investigate why third-base coach Tim Flannery waved Aubrey Huff home in tonight's game when he clearly was going to be out by 10 feet.

Just kidding, Flan.

I'm glad I'm going to be out of here before all the chaos. I just hope Dunn's deli is safe. I found it today on King Street, and I'm glad I did. It's a Montreal deli that serves smoked meat (left), which is sort of like Canada's version of pastrami. I had a smoked-meat sandwich today and it reminded me of my wonderful trips to Montreal when the Expos played there. (By the way, if you want to see real contempt for Americans, go to French-speaking Canada.)

After lunch, I wandered into a coffee place called Second Cup. I assumed that meant my second cup would be on the house. The barista, probably for the 400th time this week, disabused me of the notion. But I enjoyed both cups as I sat outside on a brilliant spring afternoon watching a lunch-hour crowd buzzing about, hoping they all stay safe and sound next week when people are toppling buses and setting them on fire and destroying . . . no, wait a minute, that was Los Angeles after the Lakers won the NBA title last night.

Maybe the State Department should take notice and add L.A. to the list. I bet the good-humored Canadians would get a good chuckle out of that.