#8 – Tim Horton’s Brown Sludge Water™, Part 1 – the Drink of Minivan Drivers

English Canada drinks what is perhaps the most disgusting coffee I have ever had, and it’s proud of itself for doing so.

Canadian coffee culture is nothing like the superior coffee cultures abroad. In places like Malta, coffee is understood as a social, fundamentally enjoyable activity. I have fond memories of sitting in Berlin’s Tiergarten with a lovely Americano and a soundtrack of birds and passersby to listen to. A conversation I had in Rome at a cafe became an impromptu English lesson/study session held over cups of nutty, dark espresso. My fondest memories of coffee elsewhere come with warm smells and wonderful environments; the fine coffee and the goregous space enhanced one another. Even takeout chain coffee – Malta’s Costa Coffee, Berlin’s Balzac Coffee; hell, even McDonald’s serves its function as a decent pick-me-up at a reasonable price.

In Canada, coffee is divided into two groups. The first group consists of grim Mom-and-Pop types – local chains and the like. They come in several breeds of suck, including grim holes that don’t even bother hiding the fact that their pastries are frozen pucks of shit, useless vegan free-range hipster coffee that costs way too much and invariably tastes like ashtray and trying too hard, and the ever-popular novelty cafe that makes enjoying a cup of coffee nigh-impossible. This is Canada’s sadsack “upscale coffee culture”, competing with the likes of Valletta’s Caffe Cordina. Obviously this type is inferior (that is, if you can even access a place pretending to be a café), so we turn to the second type in search of a cheap cup (having given up on decent) and a place to sit.

The second group of coffee shops are industrial coffee-slingers, used to motivate Canada’s laboring class into swinging away at Canada’s useless economy. McDonald’s is probably the best option for the price, but since that’s AmeriKKKan and the upscale coffee we talked about earlier is often unacceptable and heinously expensive (protip: drip coffee is not worth $3, folks) Canada feels the need to promote as its national coffee the slick dark sludge that is Tim Horton’s Brown Sludge Water™. It is the most readily-available coffee in Canada, intimately associated with driving generic kids to generic arenas. Because of this caker nationalism reinforces the idea that the acrid freeze-dried baggie of tortured beans is acceptable or desirable. It’s shit, sure – but it’s Canada’s shit, and therefore it’s worth keeping around.

This misplaced consumptive nationalism manifests as a rabid defense for a cup of coffee that tastes like unrolled cigarettes and wall plaster. What’s really interesting is that telling people that the coffee sucks rarely provokes that kind of defense. What does it is mentioning that the space in which the coffee is consumed influences the taste and enjoyment of the coffee or that there are very few places to actually enjoy a cup of coffee as opposed to plowing through the stuff and getting back to work. Tim’s isn’t just a shit cup of coffee – it’s indicative of a shitty national attitude towards leisure. A shit building, in a shitty place often surrounded by parking, and surrounded by nothing is your national coffee. A shit coffee for a shit place is fitting but admitting to shit means acknowledging a problem, and to hell with that.

The glorification of Tim Horton’s coffee represents an instance of consumptive nationalism. To drink nasty coffee is to be Canadian, and to express enjoyment of the terrible built environments that these places are around is to affirm Canada as it is. I’m convinced that Canada’s mendaciously shit coffee culture is the result of a mendaciously shit built environment. The image of Tim Horton’s  – the defeated hockey mom driving her little one to get rammed into the boards at 5am again, the harried office worker in the drive through, the impoverished immigrant at the till, the loud and uncomfortable space blasting ads and garbage muzak at every turn – that’s the image of Canada that cakers want to maintain. The coffee is a sludgey avatar for shitty Canadian apologism and the almost laughably low bar that Canadians set for their own consumption.

 

 

 

#7 – AmeriKKKa, Part One: Murricans r Mor Dummber

English Canadians love to compare themselves to Americans, though they won’t do so honestly.

Cakers need to believe that they are unique and special, that Canada is some sort of globally-beloved star child where bad things don’t happen and where the maple syrup flows freely. The best way to do this is to compare Canada to its southern neighbor, because in reality English Canada is almost entirely sympatico with the United States and most Canadians can very easily be considered Americans. Admitting that means that Canada would have to do something to fix the problem, which is clearly verboten. Actual comparisons tend not to shine well on Canada – the American economy is more diverse, generally has access to better-paying work and  vastly cheaper consumer goods, and contains the same natural beauty as Canada only more readily accessed. Faced with those two horrors, the caker’s brain takes action in the only way it can – by stereotyping Americans are boorish idiots. AmeriKKKans, if you will. The newly dumbed-down America is then unfavorably compared to Canada along specific axes and through a revisionist lens, and voila! Canada is more differenter and betterer than AmeriKKKa!

The first and most basic thing about AmeriKKKa is that its citizens are dumb. Like, flat-out dumb. What’s that about Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, UCLA – nah, fuck that shit. That doesn’t fit the narrative. Going from the bloodiest war on the continent to landing a man on the Moon in the same time as Canada went from being an extraction-based economy to being a larger extraction-based economy but with more bitching provinces? That’s not in line with AmeriKKKa. Better assume that AmeriKKKa is entirely populated by the contestants on shitty reality shows. Yeah, that’s much better! No books on Season 13 of “Chuck or Fuck”!

Before long, Canada’s insecurity seeps through like rancid ooze and the country devolves to even less fair mockery. Enter professional caker and worthless Laurentian bobblehead Rick Mercer, here to cake it up for us! Canada laughed uproariously when Rick convinced random Americans that Jean Poutine was the Prime Minister of Canada. The logical conclusion to draw from this – that Canada doesn’t matter to Americans and that a Mexican comedian could do the same exact thing in Canada – is obviously only for meanie poopieheads. So we’d better use it as more proof that AmeriKKKans are dumb.

The irony of this lowbrow and obviously-stupid comedy routine is that Rick Mercer is one of few Canadian comedians who didn’t run to the States as soon as they got famous. In fact, a hell of a lot of wealthy Canadians run to American when they want medical attention or when they really want to expand their careers.  Canada’s elites tend to even go to school either in America or Britain. Our governing elites are Ivy League or Oxbridge and their kids will be too, even if Daddy has to buy the Kennedy School a fucking gold-plated gymnasium to do it.

Why? Because of the pretige and talent of America, which is so dangerous to Canadian national sentiment that at every turn America must be recast as AmeriKKKa so that cakers can be smug shitlords about feigned cultural differences. We can’t admit to needing to learn from our closest partner! That would mean work, like the work Americans put in to make their country. Fuck that.

#6 – “Sorry” That I’m a Dick Without Balls

Cakers love saying sorry, but they rarely tend to actually mean it when they say it.

The word sorry is one of Canada’s most annoying stereotypes. It’s supposed to be taken as a sign that Canadians are polite but it’s actually largely a passive-aggressive statement denoting frustration, irritation, confusion, or a lack of attention. Caker society is both deeply petty and promotes an attitude of extreme entitlement, meaning that the slightest perceived inconvenience is read as a deep, abiding insult. Cakers hold legendary grudges and lack the maturity to talk about problems, but they also have a national stereotype of politeness that they use to define themselves as not-AmeriKKKa. Since cakers love nothing more than inventing differences between themselves and Americans the result of this toxic milleu is “sorry”.

Usually, the “sorry” is coupled with a bit of a giggle, a huffy accent to a passive-aggressive statement. But rarely do cakers actually speak their minds and say what’s bothering them in a cool, mature way. The two emotional modes of the English Canadian are forced-mellow bro-friend and explosive, childish temper-tantrums. The place between those two is the word sorry, which sounds vaguely like but in no way actually resembles the common grounds of politeness and tact that Canadians claim desperately to have. In a way the tee-hee sorry ideal that Canadians espouse is a coward’s way to be demanding without actually needing the guts to speak to another human being.

The word sorry in Canada has because of this almost lost its far more important function in the English language – to apologize. The non-pology, where someone claims to ask forgiveness but demonstrates no cognition as to what they did wrong or interest in righting the situation is a constant in politics. It’s also a constant in Canada. Did that person’s “sorry” for knocking your arm and spilling hot coffee on your hand mean “whoops” or “fuck you”? It can be hard to tell. For some, the instinct is probably to apologize themselves as a sort of protective bubble of assumed fault without actually feeling a sense of fault in the slightest. The fakery of the first “sorry” spreads memetically to another, where it manifests as frequent apologies of dubious origin that in turn confuse someone else.

What’s so wrong about being direct again? Why is this fakery something that gets posted over and over again on the Internet to rave reviews? Tee-hee-hee, we can’t speak our minds or express our emotions so we all mumble apologies and fume at one another! Oh, right. It’s because saying your piece and risking being perceived as rude is *gasp* the AmeriKKKan way. Americans aren’t self-absorbed enough to think that everyone has to like them. They accept that they are a certain way and they try to surround themselves with others. While American society is hardly flawless it is certainly a relief to know what people are thinking instead of having to guess which iteration of the passive-aggressive sorry they’re using. Clarity is for losers – guesswork and cowardice are clearly the better way forward!

 

#5 – The Macdonald-Cartier Parking Lot is Awesome (if you like waiting)

Ontario’s Highway 401, formally known at the Macdonald-Cartier Expressway, is an absolute shitshow from end to end. The 401 is Ontario’s, if not Canada’s, single most important roadway. It’s prone to closure as endless streams of 18-wheelers motor on despite drivers being exhausted or road conditions being terrible and terribly-addressed. Construction, confusion, and traffic snarls define this infamous roadway, but what few think about is the sheer mass of its largest segment, the part that balloons to become one of the largest freeways on Earth.

Spanning a disgusting 18 lanes at its greatest girth, this space-ruining clusterfuck turns into a parking lot basically whenever anything happens anywhere. One of the more substantial problems with the 401 is that it’s a crucial road for all traffic going from southwest to northeast in the province, meaning that it draws an absolutely astonishing number of cars – nearly 500,000 on its busiest segments drive it daily. Incumbent to a totally-unbalanced transit system are the inefficiencies – the legendary traffic snarls, the stress, the crashes, and the pollution are all the result of Toronto sprawling every possible direction into a suburban morass.

This of course doesn’t stop cakers from considering the consequences of mindlessly expanding sprawl and highways. Unfortunately they get the whole thing ass-wrong. To ask cakers the problem is that the 401 just isn’t wide enough yet. The whole thing is nigh-constantly being expanded, inducing more and more road traffic and thus more and more of the same problems as before. Normal people would step back and reconsider that just maybe crushing hundreds of millions of dollars of property value under an expensive-to-maintain highway system that doesn’t bring everyone into town very well wasn’t such a good idea. In fact, there are plenty of normal thinking people in AmeriKKKa, which is home to many cities trying different and innovative techniques to handle the growing problem associated with unbalanced transportation networks.

Not so in Toronto, which is more concerned about incredibly-expensive subways to nowhere because suburban English Canadians want it that way. Canadians don’t build the kinds of environments that encourage people to not drive and they don’t get the idea that the car should not perhaps be the automatic default commuting tool. As an example of this, Toronto finally hooked its airport up to its downtown by a method that isn’t tempting death with poor driving skills and obscene traffic problems, and they demostrated a keen lack of comprehension as to the purpose of mass transit while doing it. They did this by initially charging $50 for the privilege of using the new train. To the airport. In 2015. They have since lowered the price because shockingly charging a fortune to use a basic service when the alternative is a cheaper driving trip turned out not to work.

A bad idea’s a bad idea – anyone can get them and their consequences can be hard to deal with. Like the brutal cost of plowing the 401, maintaining it (which creates further traffic snarls), policing it, and supporting it where it’s falling over, sometimes a bad idea can have lasting and costly repercussions. But one expects that putting one’s hand on a stove would quickly encourage the person to try another form of amusement. Upon discovering that something doesn’t work effectively the attitude should probably be less “oh well” and more “oh shit”. But of course that means thinking and planning, so fuck that!

#4 – The Hudson’s Bay Credit Agency

The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1680. You know how I know that? Because they tell you so.

For the blissfully ignorant, the Hudson’s Bay Company in its current iteration is a shitty department store, usually addended to a shopping mall surrounded by a parking lagoon. It specializes in selling Canadiana and credit cards, which would be fine if the Canadiana products weren’t overpriced made-in-China shit being used to shill for just about anything. Including such fantastic products as $200 toasters with temperature settings and chinawares named after really rich white people, the HBC is almost entirely dependent on its status as a piece of Canadian history.

You know what’s amazing? When brutalist shopping malls constitute part of your national identity. I’m sure that’s totally normal, right? Like the National Mal-oh, what’s that? It’s a mall in the old sense of the word and not a cemetary where the bones of excitement gather dust? Oh damn. If Canada were any good at being a country you would think that one of Canada’s many contextless history-baubles would look slightly less like compacted yak shit.

What’s even worse is that the history of this sad-sack department store wannabe is actually really important to Canada’s development. Moose Factory, the former headquarters of the Company, was an essential point in the fur trade. Canada was more or less claimed on the basis of furs, fish, and other extractive resources. The Company was a key part of setting Canada’s economy to a useless yoke of endless, mindless extraction for the benefit of others. Perhaps this point might be important in a country that is notoriously shitty at manufacturing? Nah – credit cars and parking lagoons please!

And it’s not like the Bay does well at being a department store, either. They shit on their workers with low wages and constant pushes to sign people up for credit cards (exactly what upscale shoppers love – credit card pitches!). They try to sell Canadiana tat that comes from China so as to increase their profit margins. It can’t make money even when it can boost sales. And it’s almost wholly reliant on sales and clearance events – anything that can convince people to cross the parking lagoon and enter their massive stores.

A city-deforming, poorly-run, tat-selling pile of Canadiana bullshit is a perfect example of Canadians ignoring the obvious problems in favor of history-baubles. The stores are shit and American options are generally vastly superior, but somehow the Bay manages to limp on. Canadians can be counted on to buy the crappy mittens “to support our atheletes” and then can be counted on to lose or forget about the tat they bought. They’ll wade through sketchy credit card pitches done by desperate low-wage workers because it’s the Canadian store and that’s the Canadian thing to do. Improving work conditions and corporate culture to make the store actually enjoyable to visit and worth shopping in, you say? Fuck that – we’ve gotta keep the Bay, but it doesn’t actually have to be useful or anything.

 

#3 – History? Who Needs That?

In other parts of the world, there seems to be a concept that you should actually know something about the historical significance of a place. Understanding the forces and mentalities that informed the current environment has crucial implications for improving on that environment. In the relatively short time that humans have been on Earth we have managed to learn a lot; when we study the remains of the departed we can glean valuable social, cultural, and environmental knowledge. The past is to be studied, to be considered, and to be used as a valuable way to hone the critical thinking skills of those particularly interested in the field. In essence, studying and knowing of the past improves the student and reduces the chance that bad ideas will filter through civic life.

Or, if you’re Canada, the past is to be ignored and covered up. Canadians have very little knowledge of their own history or of the history of North America. What pieces they do know are reduced to word-vomit: during the War of 1812 WE BURNED DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE WHOOOOOO!! Vimy Ridge, a strategically-irrelevant hillock that was quickly forgotten by the rest of the world? CANADA BECAME A NATION WHOOOOOOO!! And on it goes: words are known, context is actively suppressed. The Trans-Canada Railroad incited a genocide of the Plains Cree. Does that show up in the popular memory? Nope! Train means Canada got more biggerer and betterer! Thundering assclaps like Pierre Berton have contributed to this: his insanely-maudlin read of Canada is a catalog of the bullshit Canadians believe about themselves.

That’s fucked up, right? Scrubbing history until it looks good looks…well, not good. And without context revisionism takes hold. The genocidal Indian Act effectively enforces a corrupt system of governance on a population, actually contravening the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights. But that’s no problem! Just apply some magical English Canadian Revisionism to it and “them drunking Injuns” are causing their own decay! Never mind the fact that it’s illegal to build on reserves without federal approval and many communities in fact have gone dry so as to combat the problem; in English Canada, make-believe removes all stains.

Perhaps the greatest example of this is the RCMP. The fact that they have thousands of unsolved cases to crack into and a culture that includes such amazing practices as driving people into the middle of nowhere in the winter before driving off and leaving them to die doesn’t matter because the RCMP are considered a point of national heritage. Thus, a bumbling collective of inchoate morons gets virtually unlimited leeway to be abusive shitheels. Keeping the gag going is as easy as wearing some doofy hats and riding ponies, because that’s exactly the kind of shit that Canadians would rather think about. Indeed, even when the RCMP do get nailed for being spectacularly idiotic they can rely on cheers and hoots for the hats and the serge.

That coat makes one hell of a closing metaphor. Forget that it represents a dangerously-inept police force and focus on the shiny buttons instead. Who needs historical knowledge when you can have shiny things! Hooray for Canada!

#2 – It’s Better Than Iraq!

If you’re a clever soul in Canada, you’ve heard this or some variation thereof:

You: “Man, [insert problem here] is really getting me down. It’s a bummer that we’re so far behind the rest of the developed world on this matter”

Caker: “What, are you complaining about [insert complaint here]? You should be grateful you don’t live in [insert poor place here]!”

You: “Why can’t we implement a system like this one, which has demonstrably worked in other places?”

Caker: “Yeah, well they probably have AIDS or something. Quit whining – this is as good as it gets, baby!”

These two are the first lines of defense that a caker will give you when you present them with something that sucks in Canada. It doesn’t matter what it is – always the same concept, and always either a comparison against a basketcase of a country or a ridiculous false equivalence against a developed one. Any problem in any country, regardless of whether work is being done to fix the problem is cause to declare that place shit. Canada can’t get train service in its densest area? Well, Spain had a terrorist attack on its high-speed lines once so Canada is more betterer you guys.

These two defenses have always confused me. The logic of jumping a low bar is lost on me – congrats for being better than a country partially occupied by a savage gang of Islamic murderers, I guess? And what of the parts of Canada that are truly hellscapes – the Chemical Valleys, desolate reserves, and decaying one-resource towns that regularly lack services and poison their people? Isn’t it a little awkward to make the claim that you’re better than a shithole only to not be wholly better than the shithole? Does that not bring shame? Of course not – cakers have no shame.

The notion of improvement in Canada is stifled using the second method. It is patently reasonable to expect some sort of accounting for the fact that Canadian food prices are rising in a global context of falling food prices. Why do the French get amazing produce and cheese at reasonable prices? Who cares – the French pay more for soda so ha-ha absurd false equivalence! It doesn’t matter that vege is a bit more fucking important to the human diet than carbonated corn syrup-mix. Clearly Canadians paying a fortune for basic foodstuffs is the same as the French not having access to discount fructose-water.

These two attitudes speak to a reflexive defensiveness in Canada. I can only assume that this is because cakers need to maintain their make-believe for their own sake. To admit that Canada is falling apart is to admit that we need to do things and to make basic changes to the way Canada works. And fuck that noise – that takes work and, even worse, honesty. So Canada keeps paying more and more for shittier and shittier product and it loves doing so. Laziness, whether it be practical or intellectual, is truly a Canadian value. It’s just a pity that said laziness leads predisposes this heap to being such a podunk, second-world hovel of a place.

#1 – Canadians

Canada is a place that most of the world doesn’t think about very much. This fact is probably the most terrifying reality that English Canada can imagine, so Anglo-Canadians try to overdo it with the yokel-but-not-really stereotypes so that they can pretend that the rest of the world cares about them. As can be expected in such a mediocre place, Canadians put on a performance about on par with an 8th-grade recorder concert at one of Canada’s many shitty public schools.

Speaking of schooling, here’s a part of Canadian history that few people remember. In the early days after World War Two, Canada was even more restrictive than it is now. Being white, rich, and a dude wasn’t sufficient to be considered a “respectable human” – you also couldn’t come from icky loser countries like Germany or Italy. The Italians, being a fiery sort who love food immediately took issue with the English-Canadian diet and indeed the Canadian way of life, which they saw as bland, unpalatable, and restrictive. They invented our Vorpal Word with which to cut down the Canadian Jabberwocky, and that word is mangiacake – “cake-eaters”, or cakers. And so the English Canadian was titled “caker”, to distinguish them from Indigenous or Francophone communities.

Cakers love deluding themselves into thinking that working a dull job and living in formless, debt-inducing tract housing tacked to formless, unwalkable cities constitutes “the good life”. In fact, as we’ll see, Canadians and their cities are lifeless and devoid of substance. Canada’s economic realities are oligarchic, her literacy skills frightfully low, and her grievous crimes against humanity unremembered. Canadians have no history and no interest in history – the whole country is a palimpsest, capable of being scratched and rewritten to suit any commercial or civic narrative. Noting real problems results in having concerns ignored, minimized, or reacted to with a profound venom from a people who claim to be decent, intelligent, and humane.

And that, my newfound friends, is reason number one for leaving Canada. There is a soft-repression here caused by the immense defensiveness of a country that considers being chill a national trait, and I won’t have it. In my travels through this collective of suburbs I’ve encoutered others who also hate it here. It’s a wonderful feeling to find a like mind, to let loose without fear of losing friends or opportunities, and I’d like to share that feeling with other Canadians who don’t toe the national line.

I’d also like to provide a counterpoint to the millions of dollars of Canadian propaganda distributed internationally. If even one person from abroad reads these screeds and decides to skip Cakertown the whole project will have been worth it many times over. In the year that this blog has been running I’ve had thousands of views from around the world and it is my fondest hope that people who are questioning this place find footing to base their thoughts on here.

The rules are simple – if it’s shit and it’s in Canada, it’ll end up here. There are no punches pulled, no holds barred, and no excuses accepted. It’s time to stomp some cakers!

Allons-y!