Parking the Moose
There's an idea most Americans tend to learn as children. The idea that their country is the "best." But this never stuck with Dave Hill, even though he was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. His grandfather, you see, was from Canada (Clinton, Ontario, to be exact). And every Sunday at dinner he'd remind Dave and anyone else within earshot that it was in fact Canada, this magical and mysterious land just across the mighty Lake Erie, that was the "best."
It was an idea that took hold. While his peers kept busy with football, basketball and baseball, hockey became the only sport for Dave. Whenever bacon was served at home, he'd be sure to mention his preference for the Canadian variety. Likewise, if a song by Triumph came on the radio, he'd be the first to ask for it to be cranked up as loud as it would go. And he was more vocal about the vast merits of the Canadian healthcare system than any nine-year-old you'd ever want to meet. (That last part is a lie, but hopefully it makes the point that he was so into Canada that it was actually kind of weird.)
In later years he even visited Canada a couple of times. But now, inspired by a publisher's payment of several hundred dollars (Canadian) in cash, he has travelled all over the country, reconnecting with his heritage in such places as Montreal, Moose Jaw, Regina, Winnipeg, Merrickville and of course Clinton, Ontario, meeting a range of Canadians, touching things he probably shouldn't and having adventures too numerous and rich in detail to be done justice in this blurb.
The result, he promises, is "the greatest Canada-based literary thrill ride of your lifetime." (From Doubleday Canada)
Hill is a comedian based in New York City.
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From the book
Once outside, Cathérine began showing us the dogsledding basics on a sled that had no dogs attached to it. As best I could tell, the idea was to just stand there and let the dogs do all the work while occasionally hitting the brakes to keep things from getting too nuts out there on the trail, but it's hard to say. There's just something about standing in the middle of the woods in a snowsuit while listening to a beautiful young woman with a French-Canadian accent explain to me how to work a dogsled that causes me to drift off and fantasize about a whole new life for myself, one where I'm living in a log cabin in the middle of the woods in Quebec, possibly chopping wood all day, but more likely just baking pies or some- thing as I wait for my beautiful young dogsledding bride to return home from a long day of keeping her dogs in line while tolerating tourists looking to get back to frigid nature.
"Bonjour, Cathérine!" I'd say as she walked into the front door, covered in some adorable mixture of snow and dog spit. "Today I made blueberry!"
I ended up focusing on that mostly, while I hoped Carl was picking up on any finer details that might come in handy once we were out on the trail with actual dogs pulling us, probably wherever the hell they felt like.
Usually, there are a few sleds on the trail with each instructor, but as it turned out, Carl and I were the only ones who had signed up for our time slot. And while I'd hoped we'd each get our own dogsleds, we were instead told to share one—a potentially emasculating situation, as far as I was concerned, as only one of us would be allowed to "drive" the sled at a time, while the other one sat in front in a scenario I choose to believe is called "riding bitch," even though it probably isn't. To his credit, Carl let me drive first, since he knew I would probably say that's what happened when it came time to write this book, anyway.
I hate to keep bringing up the fact that it was ridiculously cold out, but considering the fact that we had just signed up to be dragged through the woods by dogs for an hour straight while it was well below freezing outside, it simply cannot be overstated. And like an idiot, I had neglected to pack a decent scarf, instead opting for one that had the insulating qualities of a strip of used gauze but that I thought would look good in photographs.
"Just follow me!" our instructor Cathérine told us in that lovely accent that had me wondering whether our kids—and who knows, maybe even our kids' kids—would have the same accent, my accent, or maybe some weird mix of both. "When I slow down, you slow down! When I speed up, you speed up!"
The truth is, Cathérine was so far ahead of us that I couldn't really tell what she was saying at all most of the time. Usually, I just gave her a thumbs-up sign while Carl and I quietly debated what she may or may not have just said and which one of us she liked better, even though, to be fair, she probably hadn't given it much thought if any at all.
There were five dogs attached to our sled, not exactly an Iditarod-ready number as best I could tell, but still enough to get us moving at a pretty good clip. In grade school, I'd read a book whose title I can't remember in which children had loaded their sleds with bars of gold and ridden them through the forest past Nazis who were none the wiser, so it was fun to pretend that that's what Carl and I were up to as we sped through the woods, our dogs barking and yipping all the way in front of us, as I stood at the back of the sled and Carl sat bundled up in front of me like a goddamn schoolgirl. This didn't last long, though, because after just a few minutes on the trail, Cathérine signalled for us to bring things to a halt as there was another sled stopped on the trail ahead of us. It was hard to see exactly what was going on—the dogs attached to the sled in front of Cathérine's appeared to be entangled somehow as the instructor in charge crawled along the ground, trying in vain to separate them.
"They are—how you say—making babies!" Cathérine explained after a few moments. I'd like to think she winked at me as she said this, but she was honestly too far ahead of us for me to tell one way or another. God, I loved that girl.
As is often the case when dogs get romantic, whether it's in the dead of winter or not, the two dogs became stuck together from all that red-hot lovemaking. And after a few tries, the instructor who had been trying to separate them eventually gave up and instead just removed them from the sled they'd been pulling and tied them to a nearby tree, presumably to have a good, long think about what they had done before being picked up later, as the father looked on in horror and his small child began sobbing uncontrollably as one sometimes does when suddenly confronted with the complexities of life.
From Parking the Moose by Dave Hill ©2019. Published by Doubleday Canada.