It blows my mind that on a Saturday night I can be at a mamak stall watching Malaysia in the Olympic Men’s Badminton Final and the following Sunday morning I’m in a room of Canadians eating pancakes and maple syrup, drinking Crown Royal and live streaming The Tragically Hip concert.
For all you nonMalaysian readers, a mamak stall is a essentially an outdoor restaurant that serves the traditional food of Malaysians of Tamil Muslim descent. So we ate delicious garlic naan, tandoori chicken and dal curry as we hoped national favourite Lee Chong Wei would bring home the gold (and maybe a Monday stat holiday). Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards. We sipped our teh ais (local iced milk tea) and watched seemingly impossible digs on the edge of our red plastic chairs. Despite his grit and determination, Lee was beaten by China’s Chen Long in two close sets.
For our nonCanadian readers, The Hip are basically the iconic Canadian band of the past 30 years. You’ve never heard of them because they didn’t make it big south of the border. Artistry was always more important than huge commercial success. When they played Saturday Night Live in 1995, they didn’t even play their top charting songs. Instead they sang about a shipwreck (Nautical Disaster). The songs of the Tragically Hip basically were the soundtrack to my high school and university days. Recently their lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and so they went on a cross Canada tour ending last night in their hometown of Kingston, ON.
Their significance is hard to explain to anyone under the age of 30 or not a Canadian. I tried to explain it to my cab driver on the way to meet up with fellow Canucks. I tried to explain to a well-meaning Kiwi friend who good-naturedly wore a Rider shirt to the occasion. But try as they might, they just couldn’t get why we are all crazy for the music of this guy in a Jaws t-shirt, sparkly pants and a top hat.
The lyrics often don’t really make sense at a logical level. You just feel them and they define you. And you go into a big ugly cry when Gord Downie sings . . .
“Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do
I’m not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two
He said, you made me scared too, I wasn’t sure I was getting through
I got to go, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you”
. . . as he waves goodbye.
I really wish Malaysia had won that Olympic Gold. I could use tomorrow off to emotionally recover.