English: Canadian parliament from the Musée ca...

English: Canadian parliament from the Musée canadien des Civilisations in Gatineau Français : Parlement canadien depuis le Musée canadien des Civilisations à Gatineau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


     So here it is September and the Nation’s Capital has once again welcomed its annual wave of new residents, all prepping for the new school year.  The Labour Day weekend came and went as they always have here in Ottawa, with legions of students enrolled at one of our numerous higher educational institutions moving into their temporary addresses, parents and boxes in tow.  Yes, it’s that time of year when the next eight months are looking bright and shiny and new, seen with a breed of fresh optimism that will evaporate the second the first professor deals out the first homework assignment.  For those of you returning, and many more who are favouring our fair city for the first time, here are five pieces of wisdom I’ve collected during my time living in Ottawa, shared here for your benefit.  You first time residents may find some of this helpful, returning ones humorous.  But either way, drum roll please . . .

5.  Behave Yourself:  When the need strikes to cut loose a little bit and sample some of Ottawa’s night life, you’ll find you have plenty of options to choose from.  But keep in mind, Ottawa is a fairly close-knit town, and the employees at one bar or club may find themselves working at another establishment in the near future.  Or they may already work at two places at the same time.  There’s also a good chance they know people who work at the club across the street or the bar by the same name across town.  My point is, if you get in a bouncer’s face or offend a waitress or get kicked out of one place, there is a very, very good chance many other drinking holes in town will know your name and face in the amount of time it takes to send a Tweet or update a Facebook status.  So have fun, but remember to behave yourself and tip your waitress on the way out.

4. By-Laws R Us:  Ottawa isn’t merely Canada’s capital, but we’re also the country’s unofficial by-law capital.  Whether it’s because we have so many government offices and branches from so many different levels co-existing within one town or that we have the National Capital Commission sticking their bureaucratic fingers in every pie or that Ottawa is just more anal, we seem to lead the continent in by -aws.  Ask your favourite business owner or landlord sometimes about the jungle of red tape in this city compared with other Canadian burghs.  Suffice to say, there is an army of uniformed by-law officers waiting to pounce and hand you a hundred-dollar ticket (or more) for some minor infraction or offence.

3: Behave Yourself 2:  Ottawa isn’t just home to Canada’s Parliament, but also to its Supreme Court, various Ministries, foreign Embassies and the headquarters of a number of federal departments.  And suffice to say, with that much political capital lurking Ottawa’s streets, the Nation’s Capital attracts it’s fair share of CEOs and corporate profiteers for regular visits.  So with that many politicians, ambassadors, diplomats, supreme court justices and other assorted power players and rich guys, you can imagine how much security is wandering around this town.  There’s the Ottawa PD, the Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an over abundance of Canadian Forces troops, private security, etc. etc.  Just ask yourself how many marines are hanging out in the America Embassy on a regular basis.  You may not see them, but trust me when I say they’re there.  When 9/11 went down, they were on the streets outside the embassy in a matter of minutes in full fatigues and carrying serious firepower.  Odds are, if you’re doing something wrong, half a dozen pairs of eyes are watching.

2 From Point A to B:  Ottawa has one of the best public transportations systems in North America, and the majority of its drivers and other employees are genuinely good guys doing an often thankless job.  Now having said that, make a habit to get to your bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive and don’t be shocked if it’s five minutes late. Or more.  And you’ll soon discover that it isn’t altogether uncommon for a bus to never show up at all.  This city wasn’t designed to handle the amounts of traffic it currently sees, and when it’s “was only supposed to last the summer” construction projects stretch into September, October and even November, things get even more complicated.  And while the most of the drivers are cool, it’s an absolute guaranteed fact of life that the one time you decide to snap on a driver, you’re going to do so one the biggest ass hole on the schedule that day.  And when winter arrives, Ottawa traffic, a nightmare of binge drinking proportions normally, becomes even more brutal.  And speaking of winter . . .

1 Winter Is Coming.  And Yes, It’s Cold:  Depending on who you talk to (and there is some debate on the matter) Ottawa is the second coldest capital in the world.  Only Moscow is colder (and we’re not just referring to the hospitality) so you can expect three or four frigid months of misery in the coming year.  Not even going to try to sugar coat it.  There are going to be days when it’s so cold that when you sneeze it’s going to come out as slush.  There are going to be times that you may be tempted to slash certain portions in your yearly budget to afford an extra night or two out on the town, but trust me, you do not want to shave a single penny off your budget for winter clothes, boots or home heating.  And other than snow, politicians and by-laws, you know what Ottawa doesn’t need more of?  People flooding social media to give the rest of us a weather report.  Between December and March, your local meteorologist of choice will do a fine enough job telling you how low the mercury is going to plummet on a daily basis.  We don’t need 842 000 Facebook statuses telling us every day that it’s cold.  If it’s February and you’re in Ottawa, odds are you won’t be breaking out the sun tan lotion.  I don’t need this universally accepted fact Tweeted at me three hundred times a day.  Because it’s just going to piss me off more.  Bitching about the weather doesn’t change it and it really just makes everyone around you want to face palm you.  With broken glass.  And fire.  Besides, with global warming rearing it’s fierce-some head more and more, real winter may soon find itself facing extinction.  And when you curse the cold and wish it was sunny and thirty degrees all twelve months of the year, just remember the Chinese proverb about being careful what you wish for.

So there you have it, five simple suggestions and observations I’ve amassed from my two decades here.  And for the most part, they’re simply the product of common sense. Ottawa can be a good town, if you know how to treat her right.  And knowing some of her more eccentric personality traits doesn’t hurt either.

Shayne Kempton




Supreme Court of the United States Seal

Supreme Court of the United States Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

June 26th, is a day that’s going to live in American history for a long time to come, celebrated by many, welcome by most and hated by some.  This is the day the Supreme Court of the United States stopped wringing its collective hands and avoiding the polarizing issue of same-sex marriage and did something it often tries to avoid on hot button topics; it made a decision.

Before the Supreme Court were challenges to DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), an American federal law that denied equal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, as well as California’s Proposition 8, which essentially made same-sex marriage illegal within that state.  This was not the first time SCOTUS had this particular ball in its court; a decision was anticipated back in March of this year, but the Justices meekly procrastinated, pushing the decision to the final day of their current session, and some observers opined that the nine judges didn’t feel it was their place to make rulings on contentious legal issues (newsflash guys and gals-the biggest part of your job is MAKING RULINGS ON CONTENTIOUS LEGAL ISSUES!).  But on this sunny day in late June, the court took a stand and struck down the legal barriers to same sex marriage, calling them unconstitutional, and therefore, illegal.  That grinding sound you hear may be the slow, achingly rusted gears of the United States’ legal system reluctantly dragging it into the 21st century.  Or, it could be a chorus of explosions as a bunch of heads on America’s political far right begin spontaneously combusting.  Either way, America has finally caught up to the rest of the civilized world.  Hey, you may be late to the party Lady Liberty, but let me be the first to give you a drink welcome you to the club.

It took a little while, but all the usual suspects have spent the latter part of the day reacting to the court’s decision, many losing what little minds they had.  While Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Michelle Bachman (you know, the one with the deeply closeted but obviously gay husband) and others have questioned the ethical implications of the ruling, many have tried to use ludicrous legal arguments that would make kindergarteners howl in laughter (how do we know people won’t start marrying animals or power tools!).  Mike Huckabee took to Twitter to voice God’s apparent unhappiness (it appears the Good Lord enjoys a good Holy tweet or two every now and then) and Senator Paul has already mused he just may propose a Constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage (funny how when it comes to gun control, many Conservatives treat the Constitution like it’s Holy Scripture handed down from Jesus Himself, but when it’s used against them, well that puppy needs to be changed ASAP).

Fellas, listen up (I would include you Ms. Bachman, but I hear you’re still busy fleeing from office while being investigated by the FBI, so don’t worry your empty little head), while your all busy being outraged and climbing up on your high horses and stuff, you need to understand you lost, and you lost for good reason.  Your window of intolerance and bigotry is closing.  Fast.  Last November, not only did the American people re-elect a black guy for President (bet that one stuck in your craw, huh guys?) but ten states also voted to recognize Same Sex marriage.  More states have moved in the same direction in the few months since and a handful of prominent Republican figures have recently come out in favour of marriage equality.  Current polling has shown that 58 percent of the American electorate supports equal marriage rights for gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals, with that number ballooning to a whopping 80 plus percent for voters 30 years and younger.  Roughly translated for ya’ boys, that means when the baby boomers shuffle off their mortal coil and leave the voting booth behind, you’re prejudice will be an ugly foot note in American history.

And before you try using the Bible to justify your bigotry (because be honest, your going to) even Bill O’Reilly, the messiah of FOX news, America’s bastion of White, Christian Conservatism, has criticized using scripture condemning same sex marriage, saying on that if opponents were only planning on thumping their bibles, they deserved to fail (stay tuned for Bill’s inevitable flip-flop though).  Besides, there are millions of Christians (and Muslims and Jews) who believe in equality and they’re reading the same book as you.  But if we are going get into the biblical meat of the issue, and you plan on quoting Leviticus (because you know you do), let me ask you if you also plan on quoting the parts of Leviticus that also ban wearing clothes of different fabrics?  Or voluntarily scarring the flesh (as in tattoos or piercings)?  What about eating shellfish?  Or planting different crops together?  I’m sure a heathen like me doesn’t have to remind you fine God fearing folk that Leviticus states that each one of those nasty little deeds is a sin-an abomination even-and punishable by death (don’t worry Vatican, to the best of my knowledge Leviticus doesn’t mention anything about raping altar boys).  So quick question for you Mike, when you’re not talking to the Almighty Father via social media, are you aware that if you’ve ever eaten shrimp or planted beans in the same row as corn, you should be put to death for those particular dietary and farming faux-pas?  Just asking.

And by the by fellas, there are now thirteen countries, including my native Canada, where gay marriage is an afterthought, laws recognizing their equality passed years ago with nary a whimper from anyone one their political landscapes.  And guess what?  None of those countries has seen even the slightest hint of Almighty Wrath.  That’s right Mr. Huckabee, countries like South Africa, Argentina and the Great White North still seem to be Facebook friends with God.

It’s unfortunate that the most powerful nation in the history of Mankind has to be forced to recognize equality by its courts (granting women the right to vote, civil rights for everyone, impending immigration reform), but the one thing the Supreme Court has proven over the past few decades, is even when it’s backed into a corner and forced to take a stand, it follows the winds of public opinion.  And that, my uber-Conservative friends, is why no one cares what you have to say on the matter.

Now you’re probably going to toss around words like sacriliege and blasphemy and damnation in the coming days.  Glenn, I know your going to struggle with anything you can’t read in a Dr. Seuss book, but I have confidence you’ll be as offensive as you possibly can be (and I can only imagine how Rush Limbaugh is going to waddle into this in between his sexist rants and Viagra pills).  But just remember boys, the only ones who are going to take you seriously are the Klu Klux Klan, the Westboro Baptist Church and the Tea Party, moronic Neanderthals all, and the louder you stomp your feet and scream and cry, the more you’re going to convince people trying to ignore you to vote against your side next time they visit a voting booth.

Shayne Kempton