Thursday, May 07, 2009

SASSY SASKATOON

What can I tell you about Saskatoon?

It’s way up north. Everybody has little electrical cables sticking out from under the hoods of their cars. I asked about this and was told it’s a kind of heater you plug in at night. Cuz when it gets to be like 50 below the oil and other fluids in your engine will freeze and the car won’t start. “Don’t they have those in Ohio?” someone asked. No. I mean it gets cold there too, but not 50 below zero.

The city itself is like 200,000 people, which is about the same as Akron. But unlike Akron, Saskatoon is almost completely isolated. It has no suburbs or “bedroom towns” to speak of. As soon as you hit the city limits it’s flat prairie for miles in every direction. This makes for a sense that the city is like an island of humanity in a sea of canola fields.

I've done a bunch of Zen stuff here so far. I did a talk at the library downtown to a smallish but very receptive audience. I found them a bit more reserved than in other places I've spoken. Like they weren't sure if they should laugh or not. Or maybe I'm just not funny.

I've been sitting with a little Zen group here every morning at 7 and every evening at 4. I'm also sitting with a group based at the local university every day at noon. Then I've been either giving talks or doing book signings each evening at 7-ish. Tonight will be another one at McNally-Robinson Books (see the link to your left for details). That gives me little 2 hour increments in between to actually go and see stuff. Which means I ain't seen much.

It's cold up here too. I mean, as far as the locals are concerned this is Spring weather. It's a couple degrees above freezing today. It did get up to the low 70s Fahrenheit the first day I was here. But I guess that's kind of an anomaly. I'm glad I heeded their advice to pack some warm clothes, though it did make for heavy luggage.

Somebody asked me if Saskatoon is like the town in Northern Exposure. Yes. It really is. Everyone seems to know everyone up here. It's like I mention a record store and everybody's like, "Oh old Bob runs the place and he hates cats and smokes cigars, etc., etc."

There's a surprising amount of Buddhism for such a small isolated prairie city. No Soto style Zen centers, but several other places. I was told this is like Canada's Bible Belt. I haven't seen too much evidence of that. But I don't know to what extent I'd come in contact with it anyway. And besides, my whole tour this time has been full of Bible Belt areas like Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas. I'm getting used to it.

My books seem to sell well up here. The guy at Indigo Books told me yesterday they had to briefly pull my stuff off the shelves so they'd have enough stock for the signing last night.

And it's Canada! I'm really digging on Canada. It's the weird little differences. The Tim Horton's coffee shops. The gas stations and banks are all different from the US ones. The accents! I'm working on the correct pronunciation of house and about. When Americans imitate it they get it all wrong. It's not "hoos" and "a-boot." It's more subtle than that. And "eh," which is just like the Japanese "ne." American English doesn't have one of those, except perhaps "y'know." But that's not quite the same.

I'm staying at a house in the bad part of town. My first night here I watched some ladies of the evening on the corner opposite this place. It looked almost like they were changing shifts. Like one was standing there, then another came along, they had a polite conversation and the first one left but the new one stayed. Do they work in shifts? It doesn't feel dangerous, though. Just a little sad.

I'm gonna go now. If you're up here in the Great White North, stop by the book reading/signing tonight!

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

*WON*

Harry said...

*Twoose*

('oose' as in 'loose')

outcastspice said...

Hi Brad! I really enjoy hearing your thoughts about Canada, and am glad that your tour is going well. Hopefully next time we can organize for you to come to Toronto!

jamal said...

They have hookers in Saskatoon? They must look like everyone else in their parkas.

earDRUM said...

Yes, interesting to hear your observations of Canada Brad.

I'm glad that you, an American, finally mentioned that we Canadians don't actually pronounce "house" as "hoos", etc. I have never understood that.
If you want to hear an interesting accent, you should visit Newfoundland.
One of my American friends told me "Y'all tawk funnay". He had no idea how ridiculous that sounded to us. I guess it's all relative.

I wish there was some sort of zen scene here in Winnipeg to invite you to, because it is only a few hours away from Saskatoon. But I haven't found one yet.

But we do have your books in the stores. I bought your new book the other day, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Your writing style is very fluid and entertaining. I like the way you transition imperceptably from talking about personal issues (which quickly grab the reader's interest) right into the subtle points of zen philosophy. This is a very good book.
At lunchtime I read about how the percussionist Marc Anderson brought you to Minneapolis to interview for a job. I thought that was interesting, since I told Marc about you a few years ago - during a folkfest drum jam, of all things. Here we were, under the stars in a big circle around a huge fire with a hundred drummers and dancers, fire dancers, and so on... a pretty exciting night... and we were shouting into each other's ears about the subtleties of zen buddhism.

Anyway, hope you enjoy your Canadian visit. Too bad the weather is so crappy. We are having a late spring.
Okay, to be honest, it is really only a week late.

tc

Anonymous said...

Saskatoon.. Isn't that somewhere between Moose Jaw and Flin Flon?

Anonymous said...

Have you been to a strip club up there yet?...You're not allowed to tip the dancers in Canada because the small bills are actually coins. They make all their money in private dances...No point to this comment, it's just always amused me...I like to imagine what it would be like if they did take tips...would their g-strings jingle?

Mysterion said...

Prostitution is found everywhere except, perhaps Antarctica.

Ikkyu was known to visit a few.

"Prostitutes, for example, were a common target of moralistic criticism. Most monks automatically disapproved of prostitutes. Ikkyu, on the other hand, wrote in one of his poems, "The prostitute is mindless, but the man (her customer) has a mind." In Zen, being mindless, or without rational dialectical thought, is an important move towards enlightenment. Thus, Ikkyu was implying that the prostitute is closer to a true state of Zen enlightenment than her customer. It is not made clear in the poem, but the man may actually be Ikkyu, himself. Ikkyu, a certified Zen master, may be implying that he is less enlightened than a prostitute. This is a truly radical implication, completely reversing traditional societal judgement. Even if this was not the meaning Ikkyu intended, just acknowledging that a prostitute can possess attributes of enlightenment was a radically egalitarian move." SOURCEOf course, I grew up in a state where the trade was widely accepted and completely legal.

However, one need not buy that which is both plentiful and free unless one is from out of state. see also this.

door knob said...

FYI, I was born in Saskatchewan, the province where Saskatoon is situated, but I haven't lived there in ages.

That electrical cable sticking out from under the hood of cars is attached to a "block heater." It's used throughout Canada, except on the West Coast (which has the same climate as the Pacific Northwest).

I don't think it's usually that cold in Saskatoon at the start of May. It's usually around 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and much cooler during the evenings.

I wouldn't consider Saskatoon as being in the Bible Belt. The region is rather nondescript, sort of like North and South Dakota. For the Canadian Bible Belt, you would need to go west into the oil-rich province of Alberta, which is sort of like Texas North (although Canadian evangelicals and conservatives would probably seem moderate compared to their counterparts in the American Bible Belt).

For audio examples of Canadian-speak, see here. For the first four examples, that's exactly how I pronounce it. How do Americans usually say it? BTW, I rarely ever say "eh." I'm not sure if that's always been the case or I made a conscious decision at some point to not say it (just to break the stereotype).

Mysterion said...

Here is an article more to the point of Saskatoon.

And now Johns loose their cars.

"One the whole, then, despite indications of increasing occupational diversity among urban Aboriginal population in Saskatchewan, this population remains disproportionately poor. There is contemporary concern among urban Aboriginal residents over increasing crime rates in poorer inner-city neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods, which have the highest Aboriginal concentrations, have the greatest prevalence of Aboriginal youth gangs, as well as of violent sexual assaults, armed robbery, both residential and business break and entry, vehicle theft, petty theft, and prostitution." sourceOnce again, the problem is not prostitution per se, the problem is a lack of alternatives.

Mysterion said...

Cheer up, things ARE getting...

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worse.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Mysterion said, "Prostitution is found everywhere except, perhaps Antarctica."

Mys, thanks for a great business idea. Anyone interested in getting in on the ground floor of "Southward Ho! LLC", contact me off-blog.

Rob

grisom said...

I AM STILL SO BUMMED YOU DIDN'T COME TO *MY* CITY

But so much of this post applies to Edmonton that it's almost as good. I was giggling the whole way through. Little electrical cables! It never even occurred to me that those might not exist elsewhere.

Y'all tawk funnay—Another fun fact is that Canadians call all Americans "Yankees", whereas my family in the southern U.S. use "Yankee" for people from the northern U.S. and Canada! My mom is from Edmonton and apparently talks pretty good for a Yankee.

Mysterion said...

Yankee

1683, a name applied disparagingly by Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (New York) to English colonists in neighboring Connecticut. It may be from Dutch Janke, lit. "Little John." It previously seems to have been applied insultingly to Dutch, especially freebooters before being turned around and slapped onto the English.

In English, a term of contempt (1750s) before its use as a general term for "native of New England" (1765); during the American Revolution it became a disparaging British word for all American inhabitants. source

Anonymous said...

im going to the forrest to search for oranges and chocolate. mmmmm...

Jody Wieler said...

I enjoy reading your blog most of the time, Mr. Warner. Glad you like Canada, eh? (oh, and the trick to that one is to not separate the last word from the Eh attached).

Canadians are rather private in the public expression of their "religious" beliefs for the most part.

I would imagine you have a good sense now, that we really do have one-tenth the population of the US, and 80% of that is within 120 miles north of the 49th parallel. Surprised they didn't send you to Toronto!

Enjoy the rest of your time here.

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resveratrol ultra said...

Impressive posts, this made me realized a few things I did not even noticed before, religion and Canada, seems like an odd pair here! Kudos, anyway.

Ben said...

I love it! It is cold here. I'd rather it be alot warmer.

Anybody know if any Zen temples or meetings in the area? It's a long shot I know but I'm lookning for one.