Add this to your bucket list: Watching a U.S. presidential election from somewhere other than the States. On Tuesday night I was about 40 miles from the border, in Vancouver, watching the election returns with Democrat ex-pats. (The party affiliation was an inevitability, as there are virtually no Republicans in Vancouver. A right-leaning fellow Arkansan who has lived here for 10 years told me this week he knew of none.) Having to explain American elections to furrners forces you to explain them to yourself. That is as hard as it sounds.
Canadians at large marvel that Americans still bicker over same-sex marriage, abortion rights, religiosity in governing, the validity of evolution and the right to hoard handguns. Democrats, who do not see themselves as playing offense on any of those national squabbles, find comfort in a place like Vancouver, where single-payer health insurance runs $64 a month and the scent of freshly burnt marijuana garnishes the downtown air. Freedom takes many forms in life, including the freedom from worry that a broken arm would bankrupt you and freedom from hassle over petty shit like burning a roach on your way home from work, as you'll see folks do at bus stops here.
When the returns started pouring in Tuesday night, there was a palpable sense of shift, and it was one that jived with that big-D Democratic definition of freedom. I met a small-town Mainer who left for Seattle and subsequently for Vancouver when she realized, in her late teens, that she was gay. She stepped out for a smoke break and missed big news; when she returned, I got to tell her that voters had approved same-sex marriage in both Maine and Maryland, thanks be to Kluwe.
The people who gathered to watch the returns at an Irish pub off Granville Street knew America from the inside but were observing it from the outside. It's a different variety of love for country that develops in that bubble, a present-tense nostalgia that makes something as tidal as an election feel almost as intimate as a letter from home. Hey, it's your country here. Things are going well. This democracy's still a jalopy but history rolls downhill, fortunately. How's life abroad?
When the networks called the election for Obama, I bought a round of beers for the Canadians at my table. Miller Lites. 'Mericuh, simple, clean and cheap. But that's not the beer of the week. In honor of cross-cultural something or other, this week we're drinking a maize-colored Quebecois brew called La Fin Du Monde. My French is sub-dreadful, but I'm pretty sure that's "the end of the world." If you had just one beer to take with you there, this might be it.
A 9 percent abv ale by Unibroue, it fizzes up with a chipper white head when you pour it from its cavernous 750 ml bottle. The gas escapes quickly and the bubbles pop in no time. What you're left with is a beer that contains traces of just about every flavor that makes beer fun to drink: cloves, malt, lemon peel, plums, grass, bread, spices. The high alcohol gives it a friendly burn. It's sweet without tasting like something you should be pawning off on the kids. The Beverage Tasting Institute (a drink tank?) notices a "mossy earth finish" and awards it 96 points. That's pointy, for a beer.
I don't know where you find this beer in the States. The first time I had it was on a trip to Montreal. I bought it because its label is a glowing map of Quebec, and I was nothing near sorry for picking it based on a sticker. (Canadians know Quebec as a haven of great beers, many of which never are sold outside Quebec, perhaps because brewers in Quebec don't want to demean themselves with a bilingual (read: English-also) label.) You should do a bit of homework and track it down, wherever your thirst lives. Use it to toast a country that toasted America this week, even if that country is a land of atheistic, bong-sucking sodomites who flaunt God's mysterious plans by thwarting poor people's cancers and teaching horny teenagers about contraception. Canada. Who do they think they are.
Falcons at Saints, with New Orleans a 1-point dog at home. The cork on this beer makes the same satisfying popping sound that the 1972 Dolphins' champagne corks are liable to make Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys at the Eagles, about which no one would care, except that it's the Cowboys and the Eagles. And because racin' is almost over, the Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix, in which there's still time to beat Jimmie Johnson.