In Ontario, the leaves are turning, the people are saying “eh” a lot, and everyone’s abuzz over a newly released audit examining problems in state funding for the gradual transition to electronic health records. Seriously, people are going nuts over this.
In the last few days, I’ve driven about
665 miles 1070 kilometers, mostly in the Ottawa Valley along Highway 17, the Trans-Canada Highway. I recommend this drive, although I also recommend doing better planning than I did. I can’t use my iPhone up here, meaning I’m completely on my own for directions, lodging, and other travel logistics. In America this actually wouldn’t have been such a problem, since most highway exits boast huge signs telling you exactly what you’ll find if you exit: A Super 8, a Travelodge, a Hardee’s, a Taco Bell, and a Mobil station, say. But in Canada: NOT SO.
In Canada, you’re pretty much on your own. Though Highway 17 is dotted with adorable, wooden, seemingly 50-year-old signs for one-off entities like Velma’s Motel & Family Restaurant, at least 70% of the Velma’s (et al) have been abandoned. How is the Canadian economy doing? Seriously, I have no idea. I’m curious. It seems like maybe not great? Anyway, I’m a good, predictable early 21st-century Brooklynite with all the correct views favoring the local entrepreneur over the national chain. But if Velma’s has closed, maybe Canada could find a way to just go ahead and tell its tourists about the Travelodge. Eh?
Oh, well. Typical American, everything’s always about convenience and profit. I would hate to provoke another disagreement between Americans and Canadians, like back in the Civil War when Canada seceded (pretty sure about this one, but have to check). Let’s move on to a topic that will unite our warring peoples:
The Dionne Quintuplets.
In North Bay, Ontario, I visited the Dionne Quintuplets museum, devoted to the five Canadian girls whose birth and girlhood riveted North America during the Depression. The Dionnes — Annette, Emilie, Yvonne, Cecile and Marie — were basically the Gosselin kids of their day, exploited by everyone around them, ogled shamelessly by a voracious public, and doomed to unhappy adulthoods. (Sorry, Gosselin kids, but you’re doomed.) At the height of their fame, the Dionnes were one of Canada’s top tourist attractions: “Quintland” received 3 million visitors between the girls’ birth in 1934 and 1943, when they were returned to their French-Canadian family.
But at least their pain wasn’t all for naught. In 1998, the three surviving quintuplets were awarded $4 million in from the Ontario government. That will teach them not to exploit the Dionnes. Well, the chamber of commerce does charge admission to the girls’ childhood home, which the government has turned into the museum and filled with the girls’ toys and clothes, but, um, they’ve gotta raise that $4 million somehow.
Obviously, I had to confront the Canadian government about this travesty. So I headed to Ottawa, which is Canada’s capitol. I know you know, I’m just reminding my OTHER readers. When I arrived, I stopped at the Canadian Parliament building. My plan was to take the tour and then, when we got to the floor, yell “JUSTICE FOR THE DIONNES” at various members of parliament and/or people wearing official-looking suits. But the next tour was an hour off and also in French, so instead I went to the top of the “peace tower” and got a great view of the city.
Finally, here’s something else about Canada: Thanksgiving is this Monday!