Winning Canadian Wood

By: Ann Brown

Ann Brown

Well, it’s all over but for hockey. And downhill. And short track. Oh, and the closing ceremony. But women’s figure skating is finished so there’s really nothing left for me. I feel pretty sure that my exit from televised Olympic coverage won’t be noticed; I mean, I get it – I get it – that life does go on without me although when I stopped watching “Deadliest Catch”, Captain Phil died. I’m just saying.

All in all, I was underwhelmed by Olympic figure skating this year. My mind wandered during most of the event. Oh, I started out glued to the tube, of course, but after a few seconds it suddenly seemed extremely important that I get a tangerine. Or check my emails. During the short programs I even hand stitched a hem in my beige pants, so unglued to the television was I.

I did perk up, however, when a Canadian won anything because I got to sing along with their national anthem. I know all the lyrics, you know, having spent a summer in the wilds of Quebec.

It was the summer of, approximately, 1972 and I took off to be a counselor for an Outward Bound kind of deal in Canada. If you know me at all, you would know that if given the choice between leading a camping trip and pouring hot tar up my nose, I’d reach for the tar and start snorting – and doin’ it, as they say in Quebec, TOOT SWEET. It would take a court order to force me to camp for an entire summer but I was following something stronger than the law: I was following a boyfriend. I am an outdoorsy sort of person in only the loosest definition of the term: I like being tan. I love the whole back-to-nature, outdoorsy experience of getting tan – the comfy chaise lounge, the paperback novel, mango iced tea, the way my silver bangles look against my sun-kissed arms as I dip my chip into guacamole and reach for another mojito. You know, nature.

Clearly, I was a natural for the counselor gig. Heaven help the kids whose survival was to depend on moi that summer. Thank God my boyfriend, Chris, and my friends, Donny and Joanie, were waaay more skilled in camping than I, in that Donny could play all of Jessie Colin Young’s songs on his guitar, Joanie knew how to batik and Chris brought pot. It was going to be fine.

As it turned out, the campers didn’t need us for their survival. Or much else. They were pretty much a self-sufficient group, many of them, ironically, having actually been court-ordered to the program. My job, basically, was to wake them up at the crack of o’ dark hundred and get them gathering and chopping firewood for breakfast, and even at that small task I was not a stellar success with those kids. They ignored me, they mocked me, one young man responded to my daily request that he get up and find the  wood for the morning, by showing me his penis and saying, “hey, Ann, I got your morning wood right here.” I only recently got the joke.

But we could sing. And sing we did every morning upon arising.

Oh Canada, our home and native land.…”

I sang loudly, feeling a rush of militant activism. Those were challenging years for the two of us – America and me- those Nixon/Agnew years, and I was pissed off most of the time. It felt good to cheat on “The Star Spangled Banner” and climb into bed, musically speaking, with “Oh  Canada.” Every morning, when that  big red maple leaf flag was raised, I was stickin’ it to Tricky Dick.

These days, at least since the presidential election of 2008, I am feeling better about my country but I still love to sing, “Oh Canada”. And that is the song I sang during the medals ceremony for women’s figure skating last Thursday night, even though the Korean flag was being raised. It wasn’t just that I was not wowed by Gold Medalist Kim Ju-Na; she’s perfectly fine, but let’s just be honest, her mother did not die of a heart attack two days before she had to skate the short program so fuck her. Points, shmoints, give the gold to Joannie Rochette. The girl with the saddest story wins.

Kim Ju-Na did cry a little on the podium, however, and that warmed me a bit to her. But I wonder if she was faking, squeezing out a tear or two so she’d be more likable. Tying to think about a cat she once loved that was run over, perhaps, or about the fact that she clearly did not know the lyrics to her own national anthem and she was gonna catch shit when she got home. And I really don’t mean to sound bitchy but it’s not like trying to memorize the fucking Periodic Table.

The pine tree atop fore mountain

stands firmly unchanged under wind and frost as if wrapped in armor

As is our resilient spirit.

I mean, shit, I remembered it by heart just after looking it up on Wikipedia. I think that girl needs some more fat in her diet.

Oh, and little silver-medaled Mao Asada. She cried as she watched the Japanese flag wave. But I bet she was crying because she was afraid to go back to Japan without the gold. I am a little bit worried for her.  I think I saw her coach pinch her when she came off the ice.

Snow White and the Three Figure Skaters: Sad. Glad. Scared. I smell a Disney hit.

So, my Olympic coverage has come to an end. It’s time for me to put my socks back in the drawer and hang up my costume until 2014.

I hope by then I’ll be able to zip it all the way up.

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