And now, for a Christmas tale of another kind:
It was early this month, when my west-coast roomate pointed out an intergral Christmas-time difference between Western Canada and Central Canada (or what westerners call Eastern Canada. But I don't want to offend anyone here).
"Did you notice that we don't get Mandarin oranges in Ontario?" Natty asked me. "Instead, they get clementines from Morocco." Natty was right. I hadn't seen a single "Christmas" orange in my last 4 holiday seasons in Toronto.
One day, I brought this up at a McClung's production meeting. "That's so true," said one of our art girls. "My Grandma is from Calgary, and you'll never guess what she calls Mandarin oranges--" she said, pausing for effect, "--Jap oranges!"
"So?" I asked, thoroughly confused. "What's wrong with Jap oranges? They're oranges. From Japan. Jap oranges."
Canice laughed at my small-town, northern-Albertan ignorance and explained to me that Jap is apparently a slur (who knew?) and I probably shouldn't run to Chinatown looking for "Jap oranges." (Although, on that note, I have to admit, I still don't entirely see the problem. Am I being racist against an orange? Is an orange going to feel like it is segregated because of it's origin? And am I not right--it's an orange, from Japan, and therefore, a Jap orange? And in that case, isn't "mandarin" orange, or even "Christmas" orange, politically incorrect? Should I start calling them Holiday Oranges, instead?)
"It's like calling people a wop," Canice patiently explained.
"What's a wop?" I asked.
My professors and my entire masthead quickly caught wind of my ethnic blunder (this is, of course, following a cheeky comment I made a week earlier about Brazil nuts, with the sole purpose of getting a rise out of the Ontarions--which it did--some of them had never even heard the phrase) and teased me about it before I went home for the holidays.
As Andrew and I drove back to Cold Lake on Saturday, taking the scenic route through Lac La Biche and the northern Alberta reserves (okay, I'll admit, it was a very scenic route) with a free-range turkey happily chilling in a cooler in my trunk (or perhaps not so happily, considering it's dead), I related the story of the Jap oranges to him. But when I got to the punch-line, he didn't bat an eye.
"What?" he asked, confused. "I don't get it. What's wrong with calling them Jap oranges?" This, coming from my brother who lives in Vancouver. I told him Jap was a slur.
"But. . .they're oranges. And they're from Japan," he pondered aloud, before concluding. "So. . .they're Jap oranges."
You can't escape where you came from. And that's not entirely a bad thing.
But even though I'm from Alberta, and my mom is the one I picked up the whole Jap oranges thing from, I have to give her props. I'm making vegan saskatoon waffles for breakfast, but she's taking care of the completely vegan-friendly Christmas dinner (with the exception of the turkey--which Alex ironically got from work for my mom). How awesome is that? We're not completely backwoods, after all.
I have to pick Alex up from the Greyhound bus station in 2 hours. I hope his ride is going well. Andrew and I explained to him that it's the milkrun, unlike Ontario buses in every way, hitting every small town you can name between here and Edmonton. But the length isn't the problem--it's the fellow travellers. "I've got my headphones," Alex told us, nonplussed. That's all nice and good, a nearly solid plan--but headphones can't take care of the smell.