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Maxed Out

Kicking off the season with the bird

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by G.D. Maxwell

Welcome to the 2004-05 ski season. You’ve been waiting impatiently and, well, THIS IS IT!

Sure, Blackcomb opened last weekend. Nothing wrong with that, always a good sign, but let’s admit it, it’s just the appetizer. Whistler wouldn’t be Whistler with just Blackcomb. It wouldn’t be Blackcomb either since that would be too weird a name for a place notwithstanding Canada’s penchant for weird name places, e.g., Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump or Toronto.

But Blackcomb without Whistler is like mashed potatoes without gravy. This is not to mix metaphors and say mashed potatoes are appetizers or anything like that. Everybody knows they’re condiments.

And everybody knows they are one of several mandatory condiments that go with turkey, which is what our American friends – the ones who are still willing to brave the slings and arrows of Canada’s merciless wrath – will be eating après on opening day.

That’s because opening day on Whistler, and the official start of the ski season, falls like clockwork on American Thanksgiving, at least until global warming forces it to fall on Christmas, a holiday in need of no national modifier. Whistler’s opening day is only called American Thanksgiving in Canada; in the US, it’s called Thanksgiving. Canada calls it American Thanksgiving for much the same reason Canadians call Thanksgiving in Canada Canadian Thanksgiving. Canadians call Canadian Thanksgiving Canadian Thanksgiving because if they just called it Thanksgiving – like the Americans do – it would be confusing to other Canadians. If a Canadian were, for example, talking to another Canadian and said something like, "Hey, watcha doin’ for Thanksgiving, eh?" the other Canadian might well answer, "Canadian Thanksgiving or American Thanksgiving, eh?"

This makes no sense, of course. Canadian Thanksgiving comes early in October; American Thanksgiving comes late in November. Even Canadians know the difference between early October and late November; it’s the difference between a baseball cap and a toque.

But what the cross-cultural observer has to understand – and I’m especially talking to Dave Myrick here; hope you’re reading Dave, love ya baby – is that Canadians are smart enough to understand whether they’re talking about American Thanksgiving or Canadian Thanksgiving. They’re just not secure enough, living in the shadow of the giant as they have all their nationalistic lives, to state unequivocally, even within their own borders, that there is one and only one Thanksgiving. It’s very complicated and after living here 25 years I still barely understand it. On the other hand, Dave, you have to bear in mind Americans, by which I mean the people of the U.S., are the only people in the world who call going out with someone else and each person paying their own way Dutch Treat. The rest of the world calls it American Style. Go figure.

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