Tag Archives: Gord Downie

Real-life Superheroes: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

Canada’s sweethearts

When I lived in South Korea between 1997 and 2007, Koreans would often ask me, “What’s the difference between Canadians and Americans?”

It’s a fair question. Many people around the world have asked me that same question. I won’t pretend I have the one answer that will make people go Ohhhhhhhh…so that’s it!

Instead, I will offer something from today’s Toronto Star that pretty much encapsulates one of the fundamental differences between our two great countries, the melting pot and the mosaic.

In an article titled “Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to pay tribute to Gord Downie in Olympic gala skate,” we have now learned that Canadian Olympic superstars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who just captured gold for their second time in figure skating, will skate to The Tragically Hip’s “Long Time Running” on Sunday for the Pyeongchang figure skating gala.

Which brings us back to the original question: What separates our two remarkable countries?

We in Canada are a country of people who love to say “Soooory.” We apologize to others when they are in the wrong. We hold the door open for strangers without expectation of being thanked.

Canadians have been accused of being somewhat bucolic and provincial at times compared to their American brethren, and while that’s true (now and again), Sunday’s skate by Virtue and Moir will capture the very best of why I am proud to be Canadian.

They are unrivaled Olympians in their discipline, loved by an entire country, and will honour a near and dear Canadian who passed in 2017 who, it just happens, was a good friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I can guarantee you that more Canadians will watch that skate live than have watched our men’s or women’s Olympic hockey teams.

Why? Because we love to be united in Canada by the sentimental. We revel in it. We’re flawed and imperfect as a country because, by definition, we are composed of human beings. But we try really, really, really hard to rise up past the shit that so often sinks other countries.

This comes in stark contrast to (yet another) horrible mass shooting at a school in the United States, where the Second Amendment will continue to plague and divide an incredible country, one in which its president needs a bullet list of questions to come across as empathetic when meeting with survivors of the latest massacre in Florida.

In Canada, we celebrate diversity and honour that which unites – not divides – us, even if it’s something as silly as a poet, a hockey game, or a prime minster weeping in the House of Commons because our country lost a beautiful person that brought out the best in all of us.

If that stands as provincial and bucolic, then I guess that’s what we are as Canucks. And I’m proud to be one.

On a side note, and for all those who love the Hip, I think Virtue and Moir could have chosen two other songs to skate to, “Wheat Kings” or “Nautical Disaster.” But they didn’t. They chose “Long Time Running.”

Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that these two rock stars, our national sweethearts, are bringing us closer together as a country in a time when nations, kind of like the one just south of us, are being ripped apart by violence, hate and propaganda.

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, my love for you is boundless, my gratitude eternal. You are real-life superheroes.



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Gord Downie: Quote of the Day


“Poetry is a voice that characterizes a nation. We should become a nation of poets rather than America-hater. It’s certainly more interesting.”

— Gord Downie, Canada’s rock-poet laureate

Canada is a nation in mourning. Tributes and farewells and love letters will continue to pour in, but we will never have him again. He has returned to that eternal and ethereal place among the stars where the brightest among us shine in perpetuity.

For reasons so many of us contemplated on nights filled with loud music, excessive drinking and cloud-filled rooms, the Hip never made it big in the States like Alanis Morissette, Rush, Shania Twain, Justin Bieber, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne – the list goes on and on of Canadians who’ve made it mega-huge south of the border.

So why not The Tragically Hip? we asked on these now-fuzzy nights that memory has relegated to dark, hard-to-reach corners of our post-addled minds. How is there justice in this world if the Hip can’t be recognized for their talent and Gord Downie for his sheer brilliance?

That – not the current political climate – was all the proof we needed that something was awry not in Denmark, but across the 49th.

And then as we – and the Hip – grew older, we became more circumspect. We donned suits and ties, secured jobs and started families. We worried about mortgages and sicknesses. We quit smoking, drank less, and only smoked pot at get-togethers preceded by “10th” or “20th” or “25th.”

We didn’t listen to music as much. Hip album covers, which were once so reverentially  removed from the CD cover and read between friends, thick as thieves with this musical treatise in our hands, were bygone items replaced by screenshots and digital pics. We’d visit a website from time to time, read a thing or two about someone, but it wasn’t the same because we were alone when we did this. It just wasn’t the same as it used to be.

Today, so poetic that Gord has faded with the last of our season’s dying embers, we prepare for the cold, biting winds and relentless chill to the early mornings/late nights, and what feels like – to us Canadians, at least –  terminal darkness.

Or, as a contemporary of Gord Downie still sings so “full of grace”:

the winter here’s cold, and bitter

it’s chilled us to the bone

we haven’t seen the sun for weeks

too long too far from home

I feel just like I’m sinking

and I claw for solid ground

I’m pulled down by the undertow

I never thought I could feel so low

oh darkness I feel like letting go

But the darkness, of course, is not eternal. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it, and all. It will ebb and flow, and when we emerge on the other side, slightly worse for wear, we will still have him. That is our gift.

In short, Gord was right. We don’t need to be a nation of America-haters or begrudge their inability to venerate the Hip. We have them, all to ourselves, forevermore.

“The place of honor that Mr. Downie occupies in Canada’s national imagination has no parallel in the United States. Imagine Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe combined into one sensitive, oblique poet-philosopher, and you’re getting close.”

In the end, his poetry won out. That’s what we remember. That’s what we’ll take with us, as individuals and as a country, as we continue our journeys into the vast unknown, a place occupied by Wheat Kings and heavenly lyricists.

P.S. To read more of Gord Downie’s writing, check out Gord Downie Writing.

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Ode to the Night, Ode to Gord


Insomniacs of the World, Good Night.

I can see the line of your brassiere.

I can contemplate it from here.

There’s no need for breathlessness

when we’re so far apart

I see us writhing in a phone booth

or laid back in the dewy grass of our youth

and gathering our sweetnesses

and wishing on the Neverstar.

And happy days of electrical smiles

and loving evenings falling down in piles

and not imagining a restlessness

that could keep us apart.

If I could sleep there’s a chance I could dream

and reconjure all of those vivid scenes.

O insomniacs of the world, good night.

No more wishing on the Neverstar.

— Gordon Downie (1964-2017)

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