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Oh Canada: A Fabulist's Guide to Patriotic Dating

07/12/2013 11:58 EDT | Updated 09/11/2013 05:12 EDT

This is a story that begins at an absinthe tasting, and ends with bad hippy dancing, halfhearted fireworks and an absent national anthem.

It is not for the faint of heart and contains many middle-aged references.

It all transpired over the Canada Day weekend in our nation's third largest city, my hometown of Vancouver.

For the purposes of this column, I will name it No Sex In this City.

It is as much a cautionary tale for the dating deprived as a civic- indeed possibly national - metaphor.

So back to the green fairy - the spirit of absinthe where it all began.

Picture a crowded room full of women in their 20's who look like they don't need to do yoga but likely practice it zealously. Like glamazon geishas, they are seated next to 40 something men with only the hint of a receding hairline, who look quite pleased with themselves. It is stifling hot with only a token air conditioning system, but luckily you are seated at a table near the door, next to someone's miniature collie who regularly whimpers to be let outside.

You are about to make a run for it with the dog, when you discover that your tablemates are quite convivial. One is a septuagenarian photographer who has come with his 40 something pal, a chatty voice over artist who may actually be George of the Jungle. On the far side of the table is a tall, dark and not unattractive stranger, who, in between sips of absinthe cocktails laced with exotic tisanes mentions he works for the provincial government as a kind of "terminator" for failed projects. He comes to spirits tastings (evidently a growing subculture I've been hitherto unaware of, preferring to spend my evenings writing for morning deadlines, or engrossed in Turner Classic Movies) to "decompress".

Assuming we are all of a certain age, I gaze disdainfully at one of the 20 something's python skin killer heels and say, Wow, now that's a commitment. Looking down at my own worn but handsome black orthopedic German sandals, I mention self-mockingly I don't care anymore, to which the now charming septuagenarian photographer replies It's called effortless confidence dear. Oh, is that what they're calling it these days? How nice.

I can't explain it, I say to my on-side I think companions. Something happened when I turned 40. I became a magnet for men in their 20's. I was never interested in men in their 20's when I was that age, but now they seem to pop up everywhere.

I know what you mean, says George of the Jungle, the same thing happened to me.

Suddenly the tall, dark and not unattractive stranger looks like he might be blushing. It turns out he is 28 - hard to tell really as he possesses a kind of prenatural maturity - augmented by the fact that he seems to know a lot about single malt scotch. When I was in my 20's, my male peers knew a lot about skateboards and ska bands. They did not hold down day jobs with pension plans, or go to absinthe tastings. I am intrigued. And so is he.

He offers to walk me home, a few blocks away, and I accept. When I ask him where he lives he reveals sheepishly he still lives with his parents, in a far away suburban enclave. But it's just a temporary arrangement he reassures me.

He was on the verge of buying a place - in a posh new condo development - he says, when he injured his Achilles tendon and had to retreat to the family compound. His parents, he tells me, hail from a small Caribbean island - one where filial relations are much closer. Perhaps it is the absinthe and the warm night, but I find all this somehow endearing.

I agree to meet him the next day to take in the jazz festival. It just happens to be Canada Day in the midst of a heat wave - which makes it all the more surreal.

He turns up wearing full on red tinged terminator sunglasses that completely disguise his eyes. In the harsh light of day, he appears vaguely reptilian. Oh I had an accident and damaged my cornea he explains I have to wear these to protect my eyes. The accident he tells me, happened when he was ice-climbing.

We walk towards Granville Island in cloying 28-degree heat. The temperature matches his age. En route he tells me he won a scholarship to a prominent university based on his political writings about genocide and war crimes. He goes by a pseudonym, he tells me, for his own protection. We pass by an eagle nest in the trees, and families of flag waving Canadians. I begin to have unpatriotic thoughts.

They continue as we sit in an airless indoor space listening to a Cuban jazz trio playing for a largely geriatric audience. An Asian woman eats a particularly potent smelling sandwich a few inches behind me. There are awkward silences now between the boy wonder and myself. I long for more absinthe.

Off we go towards an outdoor stage where a multi-culti mishmash of musicians play ochi chornyeh. I walk toward them and realize about half of my old Russian gypsy band circa 1998 are there. After our gig at Rasputin's - a fun but dodgy and more than vaguely Mafiosi joint ended, they were co-opted by an ambitious young man from Victoria, who is now the lead singer and has actually learned some Russian lyrics. 15 years later they are still playing the same songs. Vancouver is a slow merry go round I think, slowly turning into the ground.

The lead singer approaches me to say hello. It's been years, he says how many children do you have? I've got three!"

I've got 3 books under my belt but no kids. I gesture toward the 28 year old. This is my friend "C" I say. They both seem unimpressed.

As the provincial employee ice-climbing scotch drinking fellow and I walk toward another outdoor stage, complete with distorted jazz standards and cringe worthy hippie dancing, he tells me he benefited from a "mentor" in his "youth" who "taught me everything I know."

Really? I say. Where is he now?

Well he's in hiding somewhere. He was a Vichy regime collaborator.

I flash back to the previous evening, thinking of the whimpering miniature collie longing for escape from the hot, crowded room. But a combination of hope, faith and masochism make me want to see things through to the bitter end with the 20 something who might somehow not be just another fabulist narcissist weirdo.

We find ourselves back at Kitsilano beach, surrounded by 20-somethings drinking beer. One of them is wearing a home made helmet with moose antlers and clutching a can of Molson Canadian.

As some faraway fireworks go off, the fabulist tells me that his pseudonym is "enlightened cat in Latin spelled backwards" - which, a simple google search later reveals as a strange amalgam of 9/11 "truther" websites. He's been published in many academic journals but can't remember any of their names. Then he tells me that 1/3 of the MP's in his parents small Caribbean island nation are his close relatives, and that he can't easily return because he was caught in a compromising position with the prime minister's daughter.

He now seems to be making zero effort to disguise his fabulism, telling me that said island nation only abolished slavery in the 1960's (as opposed to say the 1840's, when it actually happened) and saying he knows a close friend of mine from said nation (who has never heard of him).

Somewhere in the distance I can make out a Brian Adams tune. Oh Canada's third largest city, can't you offer me anything better than mediocre music, halfhearted fireworks and fabulist narcissist weirdos? After all, the views here are so breath taking.

The boy in the Moose antlers smiles at me. Happy Canada Day he says. For a moment I feel a brief, nostalgic pang.