welcome to Ottawa

Word is the Ottawa Senators are eying Le Breton Flats as a possible site for future home games. Possibly a new arena; possibly outdoor games played in the iced-over pit that until recently was home to contaminated soil.

More likely, the former.

It’s a dandy idea. And if your response to the proposal was “Why didn’t anyone think of that before?” well, you’re almost certainly new to Ottawa. If so, welcome. And please, try our shawarmas.

We’re a complicated city. Sort of. Home to the most powerful men (and sometimes women) in the country, we nonetheless find it a challenge to design and build a bridge that can support the weight of a pedestrian.

Fortunately, we know what makes a city truly world class: sporting events. Lots of ’em. Without major international sporting events, you’re nothin’! You hear that, Paris? Is a World Juniors warmup game coming to you? I thought not.

So, again, welcome to Ottawa. And fear not, for I bring you information of great joy. Or, at least, information sufficient to bluff your way through a conversation with a jaded longtime resident of the nation’s capital.

There will be no quiz. But I encourage you to keep this information on your Blackberry (yes, that’s how we roll here), for when you need it. And you’ll need it.

So, without further ado, here is what you need to know if you want to talk like a local:

The best egg rolls are at Golden Palace.

The real Santa Claus is at Bayshore Shopping Centre.

Glebeites resent everything about the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park. Just ask one, the next time you’re at Whole Foods.

You can call your neighbourhood what you like; Vanier is still Vanier.

Ottawa U president Allan Rock brought about world peace by introducing John and Yoko to Pierre Trudeau. Or something like that.

The North Side sucks. This is not a matter for discussion.

It’s a shame about Smiths Falls.

The Laff was better before they cleaned it up. Ditto, Chances R.

An elevator at the Lord Elgin Hotel once killed a man.

Bob Dylan called our city “the worst hole in the universe.” (He was actually referring to the acoustics at the Ottawa Auditorium, but the quote has nonetheless become an unlikely source of civic pride.)

The Dairy Queen on Merivale Road is the busiest in Canada. Or one of the busiest. It’s really busy, anyway, every summer. Mmm… Dairy Queen.

Francophones dine at St. Hubert; Anglophones dine at Swiss Chalet.

That smell is coming from the Experimental Farm.

Tom Cruise is from Ottawa, ’cause we say so. Same thing with Bryan Adams.

It’s pronounced ‘dal-hoosie.’ We know that’s wrong. But it works for us.

Drivers routinely stop for geese crossing the Parkway.

We once had a Triple-A baseball team that in its inaugural season set a league attendance record. That done, everyone stopped going.

It’s also a shame about the Lockmaster/Duke of Somerset.

Nepean was, like, super-rich before amalgamation. Residents prefer not to be reminded of it.

Your favourite live music venue is no Cafe Hibou. Never will be.

For years, Ottawans kept the Jerry Lewis Telethon and Watertown’s PBS station in business. Don’t know what happened to either, but it’s not Ottawa’s fault.

Supertramp and Chris de Burgh were huge here. Today, they’re, uh, still huge.

We have chip wagons! And the BeaverTail originated here. Bet you’re glad you decided to move to Ottawa now, eh?

Chinatown is essentially Vietnamtown.

Bluesfest is not a blues festival.

You can buy a CD of Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Ottawa performance, and it’s pretty awesome.

It is not uncommon for someone to switch from French to English mid-sentence, and back again. It’s very much an Ottawa thing.

Ottawa Valley country music was once a thing. As well it should have been.

City folks vote Liberal. Rural folks vote Conservative. We all like Paul Dewar best.

We stopped smoking on patios before it was cool.

The Rolling Stones filmed a music video here.

Authorities dug up a backyard on Concord Street North, looking for bodies. They didn’t find any, but still…

The Cold War started next to the Beer Store on Somerset, more or less.

It’s a shame about Barrymore’s, too. A real shame.

The nightlife of Ottawa was in Hull, until not so long ago. Today, it’s Hull and not Ottawa that closes at 5 p.m.

The Heart and Crown is bigger than you think it is. It’s bigger than all of us.

Elvis gave concerts in only three cities outside the United States; Ottawa was one of them. And we’re not talking fat Elvis here, either. We’re talking 1957 Elvis! Pretty cool, eh?

Oh, and our NHL team plays its home games way out in the middle of nowhere. Rumour has it, that might change. Eventually. Or not.

Admittedly, this list mixes fact with urban legend. I’m not saying I agree with all of the above Ottawaisms (though the North Side does suck). But hey, I am here for you.

Of course, I may have missed a few. But that’s what this here “comments” section is for.

In the meantime, if I have given one newcomer a better understanding of our city, my work here is done. No need to thank me. Oh, okay, you can buy me a quart at the Dom sometime, or a meatball sandwich at the Prescott.

Though, I’d settle for a Golden Palace egg roll.

1 Comment

Filed under Ottawa

One response to “welcome to Ottawa

  1. Jackie Wigney

    Thank you Al for reminding me of what a very wonderful and truly unique city I live in!


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