Being Canadian for a day could lead to a strained Molson muscle

Today we will be talking about Canada.

Why?

Because aside from the many similarities we share with Canadians, such as celebrating our independence day the very same weekend, and our historic bi-lateral agreement banning any future above-ground testing of Michael Jackson’s reproductive system, I have been offered an official Canadian citizenship starting at 12:00 a.m. on July 1.

OK, so my citizenship will only last 24 hours.

Possibly less, depending on how I pronounce the word “Poutine” (which, from what I understand, is a French word meaning “clogged artery”). However, if all goes well, I will get to spend an entire day as a real Canadian, eating nothing but Tim Horton’s Donuts, chewing purple gum that tastes like soap, and stretching my Molson muscle (which I swear only sounds inappropriate for a family newspaper.)

Undoubtedly there are readers in the U.S. who are surprised, possibly even outraged, by my willingness to become a Canadian citizen. Rest assured this decision came after many hours of soul searching, and the realization that with my free Canadian health coverage — and access to a high performance vehicle — I could potentially see more medical specialists in 24 hours than I’ve seen in the past 15 years on my HMO. I could use a different dermatologist for each mole on my body! This is a vast improvement over my current health plan, which only covers moles large enough to be claimed as a dependent.

And even then, only until it reaches age 18.

You may be wondering how the offer of a 24-hour citizenship came aboot (That’s not a typo; it’s Canadian phonetics). As much as I’d like to tell you it’s a direct result of the impact my column has had on the Canadian people, the truth is it has more to do with Rob Gilgan, editor and publisher of the Rimbey Review in Alberta, who offered me this one-day citizenship. This is in exchange for a monthly shipment of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese from the U.S. which, by not being subject to Canada’s “Goods and Services Tax,” will save Rob an estimated $3,000 a year.

At least in U.S. dollars.

I’m not sure what that equals in Canadian currency because it’s measured in millimeters.

Or kilograms.

Or some type of denomination meant to confuse U.S. tourists — thousands of whom are arrested each year for driving 120 mph through downtown Edmonton. These are the same people who arrive in Alberta in late July dressed in polar fleece because they think there’s a 50-degree temperature drop between the U.S. and Canadian border.

To be honest, free medical coverage wasn’t my only motivation for becoming a Canadian citizen. I’m more interested in seeing attractions like the giant Ukrainian Easter egg in Vegreville, Alberta, which stands an amazing nine meters tall! According to my calculations, if this were an actual egg, it would have to be laid by a chicken roughly the size of Rita McNeil.

Or, in standard U.S. measurements, 1-in-5 people leaving McDonald’s.

As you can tell, I’m excited about my 24-hour Canadian citizenship. To make the most of it I plan to see as much of Alberta as possible, beginning with a quick trip through Edmonton, and continuing on to Rimbey and Vegreville.

Of course, that’s assuming I don’t get arrested for speeding, or worse — get hospitalized by a non-French-speaking woman after striking up a conversation about her “Poutine.”

Hey, at least I’ll have health coverage.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR. 97439.)

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Okay, maybe fruitcake doesn’t threaten humanity

Journalism can be a dangerous profession, even for those of us who never actually leave our desk unless a “situation” develops, such as the sudden and unprovoked arrival of free donuts. On several occasions, I have found myself in harm’s way as a dozen employees stampeded into the break room (which, according to the Fire Marshal, has a “maximum occupancy level of two, as long as no one is using the commode.”) It is at those times, while being crushed between fellow employees grappling for the last maple bar, that I am reminded of just how dangerous my job can be.

But it doesn’t end there.

No.

Not for those of us with the courage to SPEAK OUT against what is wrong with the world. Or, in my case, what is wrong with fruitcake.

As you may remember (and judging by the number of fruitcakes that have been appearing on my desk, at my home, or through the window of my car, many of you do), it was last year around this time that I drew the wrath of fruitcake lovers everywhere after suggesting that untold numbers of people (source: Dan Rather) suffer from Fruitcake Disposal Anxiety Disorder.

To refresh your memory, FDAD occurs when the recipient of said fruitcake has feelings of anxiety over how to dispose of their gift in a way that is (a) respectful, without (b) inadvertently raising the terrorist threat level. I say this because, unlike its English counterpart, which is said to be moist and delicious, American fruitcake is known — like many U.S. food products — for its durability. This is especially true of commercially produced fruitcakes, which are primarily used to keep decorative tins from getting bent during shipping.

My flagrant disregard for fruitcake rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Particularly those who were already on edge after waking up from the holidays in a rum-induced fog. I was besieged with e-mails and letters from readers like Lesley Hatcher of Panama City, Fla., and Dale and Yvonne Pretzer of Florence, Ore., who promised to change my mind about fruitcake by sending me homemade samples this year.

I had no reason to suspect this would actually happen, and that I would receive enough fruitcake to finish the retaining wall in my back yard. If I had, I would’ve also flagrantly disregarded beef tenderloin, and any Scotch over 30 years old.

But a promise is a promise. I said I would sample everything with an open mind and, in the event of a sudden fruitcake epiphany, seek immediate medical attention. After which, I would issue a formal apology to the fruitcake lovers of the world.

Just as soon as doctors had me stabilized.

Due to the volume of fruitcake I have been consuming, this process has taken longer than expected since I’ve spent most of the last few weeks hung over and picking candied fruit from my teeth. However, I’m willing to admit I may have overstated things when I called fruitcake a “threat to humanity.” The same goes for what I said about launching fruitcakes into space as a defense against alien invaders.

The truth is, I may have to renounce my title as “Ned Hickson: The Fruitcake Grinch,” as given to me by the Pretzers. I’m not saying I’ll be joining the Society for the Preservation of Fruitcake any time soon. Only that I’d be willing to put myself in harm’s way should we experience an unprovoked fruitcake attack again next year.

Which brings us to our next topic: My flagrant disregard for live-shipped Maine lobster…

(You can write to Ned Hickson at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR 97439.)

The people have spoken! The world is full of fruitcakes

Every once in a while a column strikes a nerve with readers. These readers then write me to express their displeasure; they are angry, hurt, offended, or breaking in new stationery. Whatever the reason, I appreciate this feedback regardless of the fact that, in many cases, the column they’re talking about wasn’t mine. So you can imagine my shock at getting unhappy letters from people who (a) read my column and (b) actually like fruitcake.

The letters came in response to the column I wrote about Fruitcake Disposal Anxiety Disorder, which was named in a New York Times special investigation as “The fastest-growing mental disorder in the entire world.”

“And we’re pretty sure about that,” the report concluded. “If not, then it’s right up there with ‘Fear of Clowns’ or something.”

After receiving these letters, I looked back over the column and realized that, yes — it was a little insensitive to fruitcake lovers out there. So, in response, I spent time looking into what makes a good fruitcake, compared with the kind of fruitcake the rest of us receive each holiday season. After comparing dozens of recipes and then baking four different fruitcakes of my own, I realized something important — which is that, by using a six-inch bundt pan, my daughter now has a full set of tires for her Barbie Jeep.

Again, I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as a good fruitcake.

I’m just saying that if there’s an R-14, all-weather radial bundt pan out there, I’d like to know about it.

I should point out that over 21 million fruitcakes were sold in the U.S. last year, and not one of them was allowed on any flight in or out of Canada. That’s because fruitcakes have been added to the list of banned carry-on items on all Canadian flights. This is due to the X-ray machine’s inability to penetrate fruitcake, therefore making it impossible for screeners — or even Superman — to verify if they’re safe.

“Well, look at that! A fruitcake from Lex Luthor. How thoughtful!”
“Be careful, Superman.”
“Relax, Lois. What danger could there be in…WAIT! THOSE AREN’T CANDIED GUAVAS!”

Admittedly, there is a huge difference between what passes as fruitcake here in the U.S., and what the English refer to as “plum” cake. While the English version is said to be extremely moist and flavorful due to its high rum content, American fruitcake is known — like many U.S. food products — for its durability. This is particularly true of commercial fruitcakes, which are primarily used for keeping decorative tins from getting bent during shipping.

Lesley Hatcher of Panama City, Fla., who wrote in promising to change my mind about fruitcake by shipping me a homemade sample next year, is obviously very passionate about fruitcake.

Frighteningly, she’s not alone. As a member of the Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake (www.fruitcakesociety.org), she is “one of thousands” who are “spreading the gospel about fruitcake.”

(Note: After looking long and hard, I’m happy to report there’s no reference in either testament to The Gospel According to Fruitcake.)

According to Lesley, the fastest way to get someone to stop making jokes about fruitcake is to give them a piece. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to change their mind or keep them from speaking, but whatever the case, I promise to keep an open mind until next year.

Who knows? I may end up eating my words.

Then again, I may end up with a spare for my daughter’s Jeep.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR. 97439)

Say what you want, but fruitcake could be our last defense against alien invaders

Recent studies show that mild depression after the holidays is not only common but, in many cases, is the result of FDAD—Fruitcake Disposal Anxiety Disorder. On one hand, your fruitcake was a gift and therefore deserving of some measure of appreciation. On the other hand, it has already become a chew toy for the neighbor’s pit bull. This often leads to feelings of anxiety long after the holidays have ended, particularly when you see “Buster,” still intoxicated with rum, struggling to dislodge the sugar loaf from his tightly-clenched jaws.

So, as a service to our readers, we assembled a group of psychiatrists to help provide insight into dealing with FDAD. At a cost of more than $200 an hour, we held an informative, three-minute discussion to create the following self-help guide:

I’m OK—You’re OK. But Give Me a Fruitcake and I’ll Kill You.

According to our experts, the first step in dealing with this anxiety is understanding where it comes from. To do that, we must go back to the very first fruitcake, which historians agree was baked by Dick Clark in 1609. Subsequently, this same cake was dropped from a tall building each New Year’s Eve until 1972, when, after 364 years, it developed a crack and, as a safety precaution, was launched into space.

This was done despite protests from scientists, who warned that the loaf could eventually crash back to earth and lead to mass extinction.

Or, at the very least, cause the next several generations of humans to ask, “Is it just me, or does everything STILL smell like #@$% fruitcake?!”

Experts say this has led to a new generation of people who not only distrust fruitcake, but see it as a genuine threat to humanity. For these people, we offer the following four-step guide to controlling their fruitcake anxiety.

Step one: Make a list of your fruitcake’s good qualities. The key is to start with what makes fruitcake unique. For example: Its indestructibility. You may not like fruitcake, but you have to respect the fact that cockroaches will be eating it long after humans are being imported to other galaxies on alien party platters.

Step two: Incorporate fruitcake into your daily activities. This is easy once you stop thinking of fruitcake as food. In the same way that Tofurkey is slowly gaining acceptance as an environmentally safe adhesive, fruitcake doesn’t seem so bad once you’ve started using it to block open the garage door. Or as a counterweight on the gas peddle while your car warms up each morning. The point is, if it’s good enough to serve as a “bunker buster” for our military, it’s good enough to serve as a doorstop in your family’s home.

Step three: Consider turning your fruitcake into a treasured heirloom by getting it engraved and then giving it to someone. Just add your name and date, and you can pass this special keepsake on to someone else at the next available birthday party, wedding, house warming, Earth Day celebration, etc.

And finally, if after following these first three steps you’re still unable to control your symptoms, go directly to step four: Investing in a ticket to Mantiou Springs, Colo., for the annual Great Fruitcake Toss. Each January, this event draws hundreds of people from around the world for the sole purpose of showing off their fruitcakes and then catapulting them as far as possible.

Sure, this may sound stupid.

But some day this might be our last defense against invading aliens.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR. 97439)