I grew up 30 minutes away from Canada. We got two Canadian television channels, Canadian radio, there was always Canadian currency mixed in with the American, and it took me until about age seven to understand that Canada, where the buffalo museum was, was a country, and Wisconsin, where my cousins lived, was a state. The first time we visited Winnipeg, MB was for the Ice Capades. It was a magical afternoon of ice… capades, and novelty glowing sticks, culminating with a trip to Canadian McDonald’s for ice cream.

When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time at bars in Canada, and going to concerts in Winnipeg. Most of the concerts were at large venues, which required paying way too much for parking and/or staying at a crappy hotel that was slightly close. One concert was at the West End Cultural Centre— a teeny tiny venue in a part of Winnipeg that I’d never ventured to before. There was only street parking, but Map Fleece and I got a spot that was fairly close, and rocked out solidly for about two hours.

When we were walking back to my car, we noticed that the dome light was on.

“You left the light on?” Map Fleece asked me.

“I guess so, but at least it’s still on so we know that the battery isn’t dead.”

Turned out that I hadn’t left the dome light on, rather my car had been broken into and the thieves absconded with my car stereo, purse and contents, and a puffy down jacket that I had given Map Fleece that said “versatile.” Thankfully, the thieves were very skilled and made little mess of my car, and thankfully I’d brought my ID into the concert with me– though they did get all my credit cards, passport, and Social Security card.

Once back home in Fargo, I called in to work and then called my mother, who was not sympathetic at all.

“Well, why were you even there?” she demanded.

“For a concert, I told you that.”

“You live in a big town, go to concerts there. You shouldn’t be driving to Canada.”

I wanted to point out that it was she who had first brought me into Canada, where I’d been a hundred times by that point and never once been the victim of any kind of crime– probably not even a dirty look. She was the one who started this whole chain of events, and I really wanted to point out that just because I live in a place that’s somewhat big doesn’t mean that everything I want to do and everyone I want to see will come there.

“It was a Canadian band, mother, no one here has heard of them…” But it was no use. I promised to change my locks as she was convinced these thieves would drive the six hours from Winnipeg and steal everything in my apartment– “”They have your address, Annie, and your keys.”

I spent the rest of the afternoon canceling credit cards and watching Brokedown Palace. Though I had to watch it in black and white with no sound because it was on HBO, which I wasn’t paying for, it still drove home the message that there’s always someone sadder than you. Yes, I would have to go get new documents, and change my locks, but at least I wasn’t in a Thai prison.

Now I’m going up to Toronto for a four-day mini-break, which I told my brother about on the phone the other day.

“Toronto? That’s like nine hours away, that’s damn near Michigan.”

“I suppose so,” I agreed.

“If you’re so eager to drive that far, you might as well come back here and visit for once.”

“Well,” I pointed out, “It took me longer than a days’ drive when I was moving out here, and I am planning on coming back at some point.”

“See that you do.”

I don’t know why traveling to Canada always makes my family angry with me, but there it is. Thankfully, my brother got over it faster than my mother did.

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