Monday, September 14, 2009

The Toronto Alcohol Situation

August 21st, 2009.

Me and 3 friends head to Toronto to see a show - one of many that go there but don't stop in Montréal - it's a nasty habit promoters have of ignoring a complete segment of a band's fanbase.

Now, Torontonians will tell you their city of the economic center of Canada, and they'd be pretty much right. It is, and not just because with every suburb integrated in everything the City calculates (city density, economic capital, revenue, cost of living) is tops, and not just because with those calculations it is the biggest city in the country, but also because it is the most American city we have. Not just in that it has the most corporations making it their base of operaions, but also because it breathes American values, for better or worse. It's also the most Puritan city we have.

But it's fun to be able to just drive there and feel like you're in a whole other country, whether you're from Vancouver or Montréal, it feels different just the same. Just don't expect to get any service in French despite Canada's claim of being a country with ''two official languages'', or you might turn out disappointed - or annoyed and insulted.

Me, I expected it, so I just had fun with it once and the rest of the time didn't even let on that I could even express myself in French. It was a 'blend in' type of day. With two six-hour car rides to get there and come back (which we were doing the same day), no one was in the mood to just fuck around with the locals anyway.

So we get there two hours before show time, found parking relatively close to the venue, and the temperature was amazing: high 20s, extremely sunny, perfect for a half-outdoors venue.

With a bit of time to kill but having eaten a bite on the way, we decide that, perhaps, a beer while we have a look around the venue at all the merch tables that were set up could be a decent idea.

They had a sign that said they'd be carding everyone ''under 30''.

I'm 30. Thus, not under.

The prices were ridiculously high for cheap-ass beverages... A draft Molson Canadian is $11.50, a tall-can Canadian poured in a glass is $9.50, and a tall-can Heineken in a glass is $10. In Canada, unlike, say, in Ireland or England, draft beer is the lowest of the low - watered-down and at times even salty so you're inclined to have more than one. So actual beer was cheaper than its pale imitation, and premium real beer was only 50 cents more than the lame local ale.

So I ask for a Heineken, as I often do because places like that rarely have Stella Artois or Sleemans (let alone Québec microbrews), and the dude proceeds to tell me he doesn't think it's a kind of beer that warrants paying ''premium'' prices on, so I tell him I don't think a fifty cent difference is enough to warrant me drinking Canadian.

He proceeds to ask for my ID, and I provide my health care card. He takes a look at it to make sure I'm old enough, but then said they don't accept that, asks if I have a valid drivers license or a passport. I answer that I live in a real city with relatively decent public transit, so I don't need to drive. He asks for my passport...

My answer: ''you guys have been telling me for 30 years that I'm in my own country when I come here. Why would I need a passport to travel inside the borders of my own country?''

''Well, I'm sorry, sir, I can't sell you the beer.''

''Yeah, but according to my ID, I'm over 30, so even if you don't accept it as valid ID, it proves I'm older than the target range where you card people, so you could admit your mistake and that you shouldn't have carded me in the first place, and give me the beer...''

''No sir, sorry sir, feel free to try with someone else.''

So I turn to my friend, give him a weird look, he produces his drivers license, and buys us two beers.

This is another reason why I love it here, and in the Maritimes, and Nunavut; we're the reasonable part of the country, us 6. B.C. is a hippie state (us on drugs and smiling), the Prairies are cowboy-culture-influenced religious nuts and Ontario is an uptight bureaucracy that everyone's willing to indulge in.

Or maybe they're just angry that we don't like their local shitty beer, that all their sports teams suck, or that they're sold stuff at twice their usual retail price for no apparent reason.

Either way, I'm glad the show was amazing, because it stopped me from thinking about how much I hate that city for for a while.

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