I visited my hometown, Guelph, Ontario, from Thursday, July 21-to-Thursday, August 4 this summer (2011). This year I took my 13-year-old son, who was last in Canada three years ago. People always ask me, “How was your trip?” or “How was Canada?” I don’t know quite what to say anymore. It was okay, I guess. The question is kind of vague, allowing for any kind of answer.
The weather was just okay. We were lucky to arrive just after that terrible heat wave in July ended. When we left Tokyoon July 21st a typhoon had just passed us by. In fact, it was so close that I worried that it might interfere with out flight. It didn’t. But the storm did not definitively veer away from the main island of Honshu until 3:30 p.m. on July 21, just a couple of hours before our take-off time.
Because of that typhoon we were having cloudy skies with cool temperatures all that week. When we left Tokyo the temperature was 24°C, and the sun was just beginning to reappear after a week of overcast skies. Then, 12-hours later we stepped off the plane at Toronto’s Pearson International at 6:00 p.m.and the temperature was 37°C! For the rest or our stay in Guelph the temperatures were hot during the day and cool at night. The days varied from sunny to threatening rain. And, although there was a little rain during our stay the weather forecasts on television were consistently wrong. Not almost always wrong. They were always wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong! It made it difficult to schedule outdoor activities, like the day trip to Lake Huron which is always a feature of my visits home.
Canadian TV was a feature of our holiday. My son quickly discovered and deciphered the television listings so he could find The Simpsons regularly. I experienced the same trouble as I always do - finding anything at all worth watching. 500-channels and not a thing on! I favored news and weather, classic movies and re-runs of sit-coms I watched as a boy in the 70s. One program I did enjoy, though, was “1000 Ways to Die,” a dark comedy from the U.S. The title says it all. The show features dramatic (i.e. fictionalized) re-creations of stories from the news where people supposedly accidentally killed themselves in the most bizarre and stupid ways. These dramatic re-creations are often followed by ‘experts’ to explain the science behind the bizarre expirations, or witnesses to explain the circumstances. Each death story is narrated and ends with a label that is a pun on a common figure of speech.
It could be called “The Darwin Awards” except that that name is already owned. The Darwin Awards are joke “awards” for people who have removed themselves from the human gene pool - either by accidental death or neutering - thereby rendering us all a favor by selecting their stupidity for extinction. Readingabout the Darwin Awards in the media is always good for a laugh, although admittedly it is sad that the humor leads us to forget that these are real tragedies.
1000 Ways to Die features mostly accidental deaths, not cases of accidental sterilization. But otherwise the idea is pretty much the same. Death is waiting for each of us and it is deceptively easy to laugh and mock others, especially when the victims’ fates result from a succession of bad choices. I just hope I don’t die stupidly.
When I ask my son, “What was the best thing about Canada?”he says it was the Sapporo ichiban Japanese noodles we bought at the supermarket for him to eat for breakfast.