I am a national treasure

Stevie Wonder is a straight-up national treasure” – Chicago Reader, November 17, 2014

“Betty White is a national treasure.” – George Takei, Facebook, October 11, 2011

“Robbie Robertson of The Band described [Gordon] Lightfoot as ‘a national treasure.’” – Wikipedia.com

“11 Reasons Why Mike Myers Is Canada’s Greatest National Treasure” – diply.com

“[Dame Judi Dench] believes the biggest misconception about her is that she’s a ‘!*#%!?!! national treasure’. – metro.co.uk, August 27, 2017


Dear Mr. Murray:

We regret to inform you that, after careful consideration, the Department of Canadian Heritage and Nifty Titles has denied your request to be declared a National Treasure at this time. The deliberating committee came to this decision based on the following considerations:

  1. National notoriety

It would appear, Mr. Murray, that you are known only in a small corner of Canada, and not very well at that. We consulted the owner of your local (only) grocery store, and he did not know your name. Granted, when we described you, he laughed and said, “Oh. That guy.” So you are indeed not without a certain neighbourhood celebrity but far from nationally known.

Moreover, while we must respect your claim that your “face has been seen from sea to shining sea,” driving across the country with your head sticking out the window does not constitute a foundation upon which to build one’s reputation.

In addition, our committee has investigated your assertion that “people light up when I walk in the room.” It turns out that people light up smokes.

And while we take at face value your statement that “if people across the land did get to know me, they sure as heck would treasure me, like a rare vintage tooth trumpet,” we cannot grant National Treasure status on potential treasuring, only current or past treasuring. Also, we require clarification on this “tooth trumpet” business.

  1. Contributions to the arts and culture

In addition to being known and beloved by a large cross-section of society, a declared National Treasure should have made significant and lasting contributions to arts and culture or at very least have a smile without, in your case, furtive bits of black olive in it.

Mr. Murray, you make your claim for National Treasure status based primarily on a self-recorded SoundCloud post entitled “I Spy With My Weepy Eye” that has been listened to 27 times. Your declaration that this is “more than twice the number of Jesus’ disciples!!!!!!” [exclamations yours] is not particularly relevant.

In addition, the recording in question is merely you talking wistfully about the many different pens you have stolen from motels over the years. Impressive, truly, but this alone offers little to shout about, celebrity-wise.

Finally, we dismiss out of hand your declaration that you are a “treasure” because you are “hard to find and covered with dirt.” Really, sir, you are better than that.

  1. The current National Treasure glut

As you can imagine, the Department of Canadian Heritage and Nifty Titles receives countless requests by citizens seeking to become National Treasures. These requests are particularly high following a well-publicized opening; when Leonard Cohen died, our department was positively inundated. In fact, so insistent was he, we had to issue a restraining order on Burton Cummings.

Canadian Tire guy

Regardless, Canada is currently experiencing a surplus of National Treasures, reflective of the situation globally. This is due to the relaxation in National Treasure criteria, as stipulated in UN Resolution 3755F, the International Celebrity Accolade Treaty, which resulted in National Treasure status being attributed not only to the likes of Anne Murray and Margaret Atwood but also to that guy in those Canadian Tire commercials.

In short, Canada has currently reached its maximum number of National Treasures.

We invite you to reapply in the future should an individual actively turn down his or her National Treasuredom in a profanity-laced tirade or should a current National Treasure pass away; Mike Myers isn’t looking particularly well, FYI.

We are sorry we cannot offer you better news, and we thank you for your interest in becoming a National Treasure. We hope you will continue your pursuit of becoming beloved for whatever it is exactly you do. Perhaps National Treasuredom will be yours at some future date. In the meantime, we encourage you to examine the possibilities of becoming a regional treasure or perhaps a municipal knickknack.


George Pantsworth
Asst. Commissioner of Dishing Out
Meaningless Titles

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Got wood?

My beach beast, not relevant to anything here.

In the 20-plus years my wife and I have been tent camping, we’ve barely changed our routine. We still pile our kitchen gear in a laundry basket – as portable as it is inefficient. We use grocery bags to transport our dry goods, which before the end of the day are spread across the back seat. And our original luggage carrier doesn’t so much sit on the roof as cling for dear life.

There have been some innovations. Moving from instant coffee to a French press was a revelation. And just this trip to PEI, I’ve learned that a tortilla can do more than two slices of bread can ever aspire to. But generally we stick to tradition, including what we squabble over.

On arrival, it’s the tarp.

I’m all for staying dry. Camping while wet is a recipe for incubating disease and malevolence. So we bring along the tarp in case there’s a chance of rain. Of course, chance is subjective.

“We should be fine,” I’ll say.

“If it rains we’ll need somewhere to sit,” Deb will say.

“I don’t think it’s supposed to,” I’ll argue.

“But it might,” Deb will reply.

Possibility trumps probability.

The reason I balk at setting up the tarp is because it’s a great big pain in the impermeables. It involves ropes, trees and the planning acumen of the Army Corps of Engineers. You need to eyeball where the four corners will be and what trees you’ll lash them to. Then you have to get your ropes high enough up those trees. You can do this two ways: climb the tree and spend the rest of the day picking sap off your skin; or tie a rock to the rope and fling it over a branch, hopefully not hitting yourself in the face in the process.

You tie this all to the tarp with a bowline knot, which is the coolest knot to know, as long as no one hears you muttering, “The snake comes out of the pond, goes around the tree, back into the pond…”

It’s a struggle, but done well, your camp will be perfectly dry. This is up for debate.

“It’s going to run off on the tent.”

“No, the low point’s over here.”

“But look, if the wind picks it up…”

“I can stake this side to the ground.”

“That’s right where we walk. Someone will trip.”

So, more sap.

As it happens, we discovered this trip that our tarp has passed its best-before date, as in it would have been best before we packed to check it. It had a few pinholes and leaked along the seam right over our picnic table. (Yes, it did rain.)

You might wonder why we don’t merely buy one of those easy pop-up shelters. Simple: because it won’t fit in our laundry basket.

Leaving is another matter. Deb’s favourite part about camping is the fire, so she likes to stock up.

“We need wood.”

“I just bought a bag.”

“We’ll go through that.”

“I don’t think we will.”

“But we might.”

On our way to our PEI park, we had stopped at the end of someone’s driveway to place $5 in an honour box and haul away a massive plastic bag of cuttings. (Further on, another sign offered $5 wood plus a free bag of potatoes!)

On the site, the park provided a canvas bag for refilling at the woodshed. Shoving irregular pieces of jagged wood into canvas, however, is not especially efficient.

“Use the plastic bag,” Deb suggested. The bigger plastic bag. The unsanctioned plastic bag. The potentially-get-kicked-out-of-the-park plastic bag.

I filled the plastic bag at the shed with far more wood than the canvas could have held and guiltily scurried back to the car, as much as one can scurry lugging 40 pounds of timber in a bag.

Consequently, we had more than enough wood. But here’s the thing: Deb always wants to bring the leftover wood home.

“We’re not bringing the wood.”

“We’re bringing the wood.”

“We still have two bundles from last year.”

“We’re bringing the wood.”

“You’re not supposed to transport wood. What about weevils? The pine-snatching mouth breather?”


“There’s no room.”

“There’s always room.”

As you can see, our firewood entails considerable illegal activity, with Deb as mastermind and me as accomplice or, as you might say in French, aiding and a-bois-ting. Or you might not.

But Deb has this annoying habit: she’s usually right. There was room for the wood. But that’s only because we threw the leaky tarp in the recycling.

It felt like a small victory.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Come away, O human Dad, to the waters

Written on the beach at Cavendish, PEI, 1100 km from home, with apologies to W.B. Yeats.

Come away, O human Dad!
To the waters and the wild
With a campsite, full of sand,
For the tent more needs a sweeping
Than you can understand.

Where vans and cars with roof racks stray
The crisscrossed roads at 80K
Pursuing quests of leisure’s trove
Guided east, misguided west
By fate’s caprice and GPS

Until at last in nature’s lair
He sets a foot on heaven there:
This salt-flecked land upon the sea,
With beauty hard and vast and dear
And hundreds more a-camping near

Side by side in silvan lots
Seeking solace in rental slots
Pioneers ensconced among the pines
Engaged in campers’ social contract
To never make direct eye contact

Come away, O human Dad!
To the waters and the wild
With a washroom near at hand
And a neighbour’s cell phone beeping
At 6:15 a.m.

Where trunks and hatches spilling forth
With providence and stoves and forks
Bring to this land of salty wild
The tools to make it all shook up
Plus extra fees for sewage hookup

And here we feast like savage rulers
On milk and meats in lukewarm coolers
With soggy buns in melted ice
Our appetites they near hysteria
As we ingest some prime listeria

Come away, O human Dad!
To the waters and the wild
With the ladies, nicely tanned
And the men all sit there peeping
Behind their dark Ray-Bans

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,*
Seriously, look.
Remove those earbud, do.
You’re missing it, my little one.
Hey! Hello? Yoohoo!

Come away, O human child!
From the iPhone and the wifi
With the Snapchats of your hand
And the selfies not worth keeping
Of you posing in the sand

Long have we traversed the plain
To reach this land of lore again
To tremble here in Neptune’s realm
To spend our days here by the ocean
And maybe even stick a toe in

We kindred men, and women too,
Who wait all year for this to do
To get away, yea, from it all
But then we hear as we play checkers
Our neighbours just like us: Quebecers

Come away, O human Dad!
To the waters and the wild
With the ferry bill in hand
Your vacation has you weeping –
More costly than you planned

*Legit Yeats

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Flushing tips for guests

Dear guests,

Welcome to our home and, more specifically, this little corner of personal hygiene privacy we like to call the guest bathroom. Please make yourself comfortable and avail yourself of whatever you need. We have provided a wide variety of reading material, from an assortment of Archie digests to a well-thumbed Victoria’s Secret catalogue, a subtle acknowledgement by your hosts that, here, your business is none of ours.

That said, please be advised that this particular toilet is temperamental, and we ask you to adhere to the following flushing advice.

But first, a little history of this toilet…
The toilet was imported from Ste-Vinaigre-sur-Slaw, France, in 1934 during the height of the Mouvement plomberie fonctionale, which is perhaps best known through the porcelainworks of Henri-Louis Villarouxieuxeut, in particular his breathtaking-to-the-point-of-gasp-producing “Bidet pour des choochoos quotidiennes.”

This particular toilet, however, is not a Villarouxieuxeut but rather one produced by his many apprentices who toiled in anonymity, hand-crafting toilets, each one uniquely contoured and lovingly plumbed. We believe ours was originally fashioned for an American manufacturer of high-end women’s underpants. However, the toilet was never shipped because the manufacturer went bankrupt after the bottom fell out.

The undergarment industry’s loss is our gain. While we are proud of the heritage of our artisanal arse-sit-inal, its one-of-a-kind sluicing action renders the flushing action somewhat fickle. But more on that shortly.

The story of the peach
Several years ago, we were supervising a young child who asked if she could have a peach. We offered said child said fruit, and a short time later she returned, having finished the peach, so she claimed.

Not long after, our toilet began to clog. No amount of plunging would unblock the drain. Eventually, we were forced to disengage the toilet from the floor. In doing so, we found a half-eaten peach jammed in the U-bend. Thankfully, we were able to salvage the toilet; the peach: no.

Please do not use our toilet to dispose of uneaten food of any kind.

Flushing the toilet
1. Grip the handle gently.
2. Push down until you hear the clink of metal against the porcelain lid.
3. HOLD HANDLE DOWN UNTIL THE WATER IN THE BOWL GETS NICE AND SWIRLY. By “nice and swirly” we mean “just to the point where things are starting to rotate confidently but not so swiftly that, if you had to, you wouldn’t be able to retrieve your glasses if they happened to fall off the top of your head because you forgot they were there while you were leaning over to gauge the swirliness of the water.”
4. If you happen to have a vortex flow meter handy, 3.78 pf/~l should just about do it.
5. If you do not have a vortex flow meter, don’t be shy to ask your hosts for one!
7. Make sure everything goes down.

In the event everything doesn’t go down…
1. Do not panic.
2. Everything will eventually go down.
3. Wait until the tank refills with water.
4. While you wait, enjoy the hilarious antics as Archie gets an after-school job at the Chok’lit Shoppe and is immediately accused of sexual harassment involving a banana split.
5. Repeat the flushing instructions above.

Shouldn’t I just plunge it?
Rest assured that the problem is not a blockage, despite my spouse’s insistence that we need to pour something strong and toxic down the drain. After all, sometimes everything goes down just fine. Therefore, the problem can’t be a blockage. You’re just not flushing it right. No offence.

Couldn’t it be a half-eaten peach, and sometimes it rotates so that the water and waste squeeze past the bitten part while other times the peach is rotated such that it blocks the line completely?
It’s not a peach.

What about another type of small fruit? A plum maybe.
Trust me, it has nothing to do with the drain. It’s the tank’s flushing mechanism, which was lovingly hand-crafted by French artisans, who may have been tipsy, being French. I recently examined it, and, believe me, there’s nothing to be done.

Oh, so you’re a plumber?
No, but it’s not rocket science.

And yet…
You’re just not flushing it right.

It probably couldn’t hurt to put something strong and toxic down the drain.
I promise you that’s not the problem. Please just learn to flush the toilet properly! Honest to God, it’s not that hard!

A final word to our guests
There is a lovely Starbucks one block over. Please leave the Victoria’s Secret here.

Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , | 45 Comments

The ghost of Stuart McLean describes Canada’s summer of 2017

For optimal effect, please read aloud in front of an enthusiastic live audience of your choosing.

It’s a beautiful morning. The kind of morning that makes you want to leap out of bed, put on an old record and wake the children so they can watch you shimmy.

It’s the kind of morning that makes you think of your childhood growing up in Cape Breton, and the only plaything you had was an orange. It was the orange that you had found months earlier in the toe of your Christmas stocking. You knew in your heart that it was your mother who had put it there. But to keep the spirit of Christmas alive… to keep the spirit alive in HER heart… you never let on. It was your secret. Just like it was a secret that you called the shrivelled orange “Cedric.” Cedric: your only true friend. Because there weren’t a lot of other children growing up in Cape Breton, and you, well, you were a bit of a weirdo.

It’s the kind of morning where you can’t believe that summer is halfway over. You feel… wistful. Happy. A little hungry. You want to get out there and seize the day. Like the way you seized the sausage links from the dog’s mouth that time the new neighbours came over for a barbecue and everyone ended up coated with relish. You could never look at your neighbours the same after that. Or relish.

You gaze across your garden, and you see the leaves of the tomato plants turned up to the sun like the faces of pre-schoolers singing their hearts out at an Oddfellows Lodge Pancake Bake. And you think to yourself, “Oh boy.” That’s all: “Oh boy.” But in that “Oh boy” is a promise. A promise that you will appreciate these moments when everything is magnified with good feeling. A promise to, yes, maybe eat those tomatoes instead of letting them over-ripen when you go on vacation.

It’s a promise to get in touch with your friend Dave, until you remember all the stories Dave posts on Facebook, the calamities and the mishaps. Stories you’re pretty certain are embellished. Either that or Dave is suffering some kind of arrested adolescence, some narcissistic need to be at the centre of chaos. Not to mention the fact that he’s still running some hole-in-the-wall record store but never actually seems to be at work. You think to yourself: Dave’s not contributing much to the economy and, come to think of it, you and Dave don’t have a lot in common anymore.

But most of all, it’s a promise to not go on Twitter this morning. Because you know there’s a man out there. And he’s going to ruin your day, and maybe your entire summer.

This man doesn’t even live in your country. He has no idea about the cod-shucking harbour men of Kiddlesack, Newfoundland, or the way Highway 62 through Myrtle Grove, Ontario smells like freshly sprayed Lemon Pledge. He’s never heard a thing about how the Ladies Auxiliary at Kenora’s Gordon Lightfoot Shrapnel Appreciation Centre posed nude for a calendar with endearingly hilarious results. And you can bet your bottom dollar he’s never come close to cooking a turkey.

And yet this man is sucking the life out of your summer.

This man is not even your leader. But simply knowing he’s out there – crass, lying, bigoted and boorish – it makes you feel worse about your fellow human beings than the time you left the car unlocked at the doughnut shop and someone swiped your brand new CD by the Be Good Tanyas.

You want to… stand up and cheer this great country of ours. 150 years old. What an accomplishment. Canada. If anything deserves celebrating, it’s Canada. But you find you can’t do it. Not really. Because this guy has shown that patriotism can be ugly and mean, like the time your Aunt Clara accidently got drunk on dandelion wine at the Methodist roller derby. It’s like someone promised you an apple pie but ran out of apples so they slipped slices of potato in there instead. Which sounds like something Dave would do.

And so you stand there in the morning light a bit longer, like a forlorn moose waiting at the town’s only traffic light. Because for a little while at least, you want to live in a summer world where folks still hold the door for each other, where communities get together for potluck sewing bees, where beloved public broadcasters keep telling stories, and where no one’s a big, fat jerk.

In the end, you pick up the phone. You give Dave a call. Unfortunately, Dave has dropped his phone into the cotton candy maker at the county fair. Shenanigans ensue.

I’m the ghost of Stuart McLean. So long for now.

*To my U.S. readers, I’m sorry this probably makes no sense to you. To my Canadian readers, I’m just plain sorry.

Posted in Canada and/or Quebec, Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Me, age 110, explaining the secret of my longevity

It’s so nice to have you reporterbots from GoogleThought drilling into my consciousness for an interview. I remember when I was a flesh reporter and I had to do these stories by actually talking to old people. Human contact was so uncomfortable back then. This is much easier, and I don’t even have to get dressed or unhook myself from SeniorFeed.

The secret of my longevity?

Well, staying active, of course. Walking, stretching, fending off packs of feral dogs. I use a cane, you see, which helps with walking as well as whacking things. That’s good cardio. Oh, yes, I can still whack with the best of them. You know how the saying goes: Violence makes the heart go stronger.

And music. Music has always been an important part of my life, but it really came together when I joined a choir in my eighties. A bunch of us senior survivors, we called ourselves Choirmageddon, and we toured the shade farms singing “folk songs for seniors and contemporaries,” songs like “If I Had a Hammertoe,” “White is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” “Goodnight Irene (But It’s Only 4 p.m.),” “Hey, Mr. Tetracycline Man,” “Blowin’ in the Toxic Atmosphere” and “Anarchy in the UK and Pretty Much Everywhere.” We built up a great community during difficult times, but, you know how it goes, somebody always has to ruin it by resorting to cannibalism.

Speaking of diet, I drink a lot of milk. That all started, well, you know, with President Trump’s famous milk speech back in 2018. Here’s the mind link in case you need it:

“We have all these cows working day after day after day, real beauties, doing their thing, huge, making milk like nobody’s business, and it’s good milk, let me tell you. The best. And they’re doing it with the udders and it’s going into the bottles and shipping it – boy, are they shipping it, believe me – and every single morning milk, boys and girls are having their good milk being brought to them by their nannies or valets, whoever, in their special milk goblets with the monograms, like everyone does, no matter what the lying media tells you. And all of this great milking is those cows up in the little town of Bethel, Maine, a real Santa’s workshop of milk, serving the whole country, and Santa Claus, by the way, is Canadian, and we’re going to be getting a much better deal from him, believe me. Toys every day, it’ll make your head spin.”

And after that, of course, the liberal media would have nothing to do with milk, and there were the boycotts and then the dairy purges, such intolerance, such terrible lactose intolerance. Naturally, all that surplus milk came pouring over the border to Canada, the so-called “white market,” which effectively killed the milk subsidy up here. There was a lot of cheap milk around. It was bad for the farms but good for me, and that’s all that matters, right?

Oh, and the best part was that everyone started mooing at Trump after that, and he got so upset he invaded Wisconsin. That was finally when the GOP expressed “concern.”

Anyway, President Lindsay Lohan straightened everything out. Too bad the climate collapsed.

Staying on top of current events is also important.

I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I never smoked marijuana after it became legal, then illegal again, then legal and finally an alternative source of fuel.

I do crossword puzzles. Oh, I don’t solve them. I just make puzzle grids with random clues and leave them lying around for the other residents to “solve.”

It’s important to keep your sense of humour.

Here’s a riddle:

“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Google who?”
“Come on, we know you’re in there…”

What else…

Oh yes, I’m extremely wealthy. Definitely that’s the biggest key to longevity: not being poor. I tell you, it was close for a while, especially after the Tim Hortons House of Commons did away with Old Age Pension. But I caught onto the entrepreneurial spirit in the 2020s and developed an alternative form of sexual healing: holistic humping. Made a bundle. I’ve got enough money now for enhancements and replacement parts in perpetuity. Yup, definitely don’t be poor.

That’s about all I can think to you. Thanks for stopping by my brain, but if you’ll excuse me now, I have to reboot my pancreas.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Please support this thing that is more important than those other things

For far too long, our society has turned a blind eye to this thing. It’s outrageous. Disgusting. Poopy. When I think about what this thing is doing and sometimes what it is not doing and the people this thing is doing it to or possibly who are not having it done to them, I get so dizzy I have to sit down and do an easy-to-medium Sudoku.

But then I leap right back up again. I start fighting for this thing like it is the most important thing in the world, which it is. I leap, yes, but I immediately sit down again, because I’m on the Internet. I spend hours and hours shaming strangers who oppose this thing or support another thing that is clearly misguided in contrast to this thing.

It appalls me to see people ignoring this thing. Can’t they see how important this thing is based on how much I care about it? Why is there only 1 person “attending” my Facebook Event in support of this thing and only 2 “maybes”? The world doesn’t change on “maybe,” people!

I don’t just care about this thing. I’m passionate about it. This thing keeps me awake at night. As do the cats. I also care about the cats. I make pajamas for my cats, though all night long they struggle to get out of them, which also keeps me awake at night. But they don’t know what’s right for them! And neither does society when it comes to this thing that I care so deeply about!

The thing is, no one wants to confront the stark reality of this thing, because this thing makes them uncomfortable. (See: “cats; pajamas” above.) Big Media won’t talk about it. Not to mention Big Other Thing. Big Other Thing doesn’t want you to know about this thing, because if people acknowledge the existence of this thing, then the whole system falls apart like a chick-pea burger on a barbecue.

But people: you got to get wise to this thing! It’s happening all around us, or in many cases not happening, depending on your class, race, gender and whether you think the metric system is a myth. The truth is like my ex-girlfriend: it’s out there, it’s dangerous, and I still owe it 250 bucks.

We need to face up to this thing. It’s the most important thing because I feel it is. My emotions tell me that this thing is the thing that matters, and my emotions are the only true thing I can count on, as long as I take my medication.

Get educated! Dig around until you find articles that reinforce your belief! Actively seek out people to anonymously berate! Find a vapid celebrity spokesperson who validates your views and parking! Don’t listen to so-called facts! Never compromise! No horse is too high!

So how did I learn about this thing? If I am honest with myself, it goes back many years when I was a participant in a variation of the famous Milgram experiment. Through an instructor, I was commanded as the “teacher” to press a button that would administer electric shocks to a “student” in another room every time he gave a wrong answer to a question, the voltage increasing with each subsequent mistake. It was a highly disturbing experiment, and as I pressed the button over and over, I remember asking myself a critical question: How many filthy hands have touched this button before me?

From there, it was only logical that I would become passionate about this thing. You can’t argue with logic. Or a cat. You can, however, argue with people on the Internet, and I do, and I encourage you to do so as well. Stand up for this thing or, if necessary, stretch out on the grass for this thing. Write messages to your politicians about this thing on the sides of their car. Refer to opponents of this thing as “snowflakes.” Apparently it’s the most hurtful thing you can call someone. That and “millennial.”

Ask yourself: How can I get my cats involved?

Forget all those other things and throw your life into supporting this thing. Please retweet this and share on Facebook. Trust your gut. Don’t even read it. Too late? Oh well, these things happen.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments