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Greetings from Canada! Did you miss me? Of course not; no one knew I was gone. But gone I was. Is. Am. As a perk of my day-to-day job, I was sent all the way to exotic Ottawa, Canada, to attend a rousing conference on marketing strategies in the age of this web we call world wide. In the year 2014! In the winter!

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The view outside my window.

Not only did I attend an eight-hour conference complete with a free tuna fish sandwich and tepid water, but I got set up at a pretty swanky hotel. How swanky? A can of Coke costs $6 from room service! I know that's Canadian money, but I have tragic news -- Canadian money is worth pretty much what American money is worth, and that means it's still a $6 Coke, only that $6 is made up of a coin with a duck on it and a blue piece of plastic they claim is a $5 bill up here. Adorable! I want to pinch the cheek of each and every Canadian except the Bieber family. Fuck those guys.

In an effort to save my money for more important things, like Canadian strippers and poutine made by actual Frenchmen, I thought I'd cut some corners by shopping for my own meals and eating in my hotel room, which was kind enough to furnish me with a microwave and a coffee maker. Imagine all the things I could feast on.

My hotel was located in that region of Ottawa colorfully known as "nowhere," and the nearest store that sold food of any kind was a dollar store in a strip mall that also featured an outlet store for plus-size ladies' fashion! Could I satisfy my need for sustenance with a Canadian dollar store? Oh man, let's find out. I took pictures!

The first thing you'll notice is that sign. See on the right there? It says "$1 plus." How the fuck the Mounties haven't caught on to this racket yet I'll never know, but this store is bullshit. Literally. I believe it was constructed from manure. Half the crap in here costs $1.25 or $2 or even $3. Three fucking dollars? Don't call yourself a dollar store and then add an amendment that products inside may cost several dollars; that's some underhanded Canadian shit right there. When you do that you go from a dollar store to a store. Every store charges a dollar or more for stuff. A Tesla dealership charges a dollar or more. I call bullshit, you deceptive Canadian swindlers.

Anyway, unwilling to look for the Canadian 99-cent store, I figured Dollarama would have to do. The "grocery" section of this particular store was one aisle, 50 percent of which was ramen noodles of various brands you absolutely have never heard of, like Bok Bing and Chum Ying's Furious Mastication (avec Poulet). I strongly speculate the store made these themselves and just named them after whatever names they drunkenly found in the credits of a Jackie Chan film.

Now, I could have bought those ramen noodles and easily eaten my fill of starch, salt, and the lowest quality melamine imported into Canada, but how would that entertain you? No, if I was going to make this work, I needed to find the most entertaining products that the budget side of Canada had to offer. I was not disappointed.

That right there is a tallboy of Grolsch, nonalcoholic beer. For $1.50, how could I not buy this? In fact, how were any of these still on the shelf? Dinner was shaping up to be far more awesome than I had anticipated. But as the deadly cold of Canada had frozen most of the moisture in my body, I was still thirsty, so I had to buy a few more beverages to slake my thirst. As an added bonus, I found these!

Straws filled with tiny chocolate balls that make whatever you're drinking chocolate flavored? That Grolsch just evolved like a Pokemon into something even more spectacular and full of wonder. So did the rest of my drinks, and all I had to pay was a dollar and the uncomfortable feeling that started building in my guts under the dead-eyed stare of that cartoon menace of a cow. Was it using the straw to drink milk from its own teats? What kind of fuckery was that?

For your edification, that's a strawberry banana rice smoothie, a sugar-free energy drink called Red Rain, and a can of coffee. After opening all four drinks for this photo, the distinct smell of urine filled the room, I'm not even kidding. For a second I thought maybe someone had pissed on my table and housekeeping had simply decided to ignore that, but after a moment it was pretty clear that the fumes from Red Rain and the Grolsch together smell just like a hobo's dungarees.

I have to be honest, chocolate Grolsch is delicious. I wish that beer was alcoholic. I would spend all day drinking chocolate Grolsch if it would get me shitfaced. I would bathe and sleep and interact with those whom I find tiresome, all while suckling from the sweet chocolatey-hopsy teat of my Grolsch tallboy. It's a refreshing beverage, and you would do well to save the recipe (it's Grolsch plus chocolate straws. Tell people you learned it from your European grandma). Chocolate coffee you would think would be delicious also, but you know what they say about making assumptions -- you'll end up drinking chocolate ass water. I'm not a huge coffee fan, but I know it should not be brewed in the belly of a plague victim like this was. No amount of chocolate was going to make this palatable. Maybe I should have chilled it first. Cold is nature's way of numbing your taste buds so you can imbibe a Taiwanese liquid face-fisting without wincing. I threw that shit in the trash.

The Red Rain was its own physics-defying melange of taste. How can it be that, devoid of sugar, I could actually feel diabetes growing inside me as I sipped it through that straw? Whatever brand of artificial sweetener Red Rain uses is amplified like an asshole protester with a bullhorn by chocolate straws. Also, Red Rain definitely supplied most of that piss smell, as its taste is kind of like orange/mango/urinal. Is that the taurine? I'm not sure of the science behind energy drinks, but it obviously has something to do with golden showers.

Strawberry banana rice smoothies taste like the despair of old age mixed with the softness I imagine comes with overdosing in your own bed. Like it's strangely comfortable and yet, at the same time, on an existential level, everything is extremely wrong. I threw it out after one sip and settled on my Grolsch. It had won the day. On to the food!

Look at that big sexy can of Beef Ravioli au boeuf. It was related to Shia! $2 may seem steep until you appreciate how big this can was. It was 1.1 kilograms of pure Canadian Boyardee. That's over 2 pounds. For the health-minded, if you exist, that means this can was 1,000 calories of fat. It was like a small tub of lard that someone had wiped on the floor near a tomato. Plus it contained 140 percent of the daily recommended allowance of sodium, because if you're canning pseudo pasta, you better give that shit a salt bath.

Now technically this is a meal unto itself, but I was looking for a little flair here. I could have just beat this can against the pavement and feasted on what squirted out, but I'm civilized. I wear ties with short-sleeve shirts and say things like "hello" and "I don't smell anything" when I'm in public -- I'm a decent guy. I needed more. I was going Dollarama gourmet up in this bitch. Plus this was on the next shelf.

Good God, is this life in Canada? That's a liter of gravy in a box (litre, as the box says). Or poutine sauce, if you want to be technical. It says it's a value pack, so you know this is a good deal if you need a large quantity of salty brown in your diet. Like you could get a few smaller packs, but what are you, dumb? Get this one, it's $2. That's 25 cents per shame level.

I had no fries or cheese, nor would I eat either from a dollar store, but I figured gravy goes on anything, so this purchase couldn't be considered a mistake. That's what I thought, anyway. But of course gravy is only a garnish. You need more to make a meal. You need mandarin orange slices, deviled ham, and sardines.

For scientific purposes, I sampled each separately, and I can assure you I loved it as much as you do at this very moment just looking at those delectable images. Well, that's not fair -- the oranges were actually alright. The deviled ham, however, was clearly poorly disguised cat food for a pet that you at best feel apathy toward and at most want dead in a slow, colon-shredding demise. The sardines I think might be from a factory where the mob makes people who don't pay their debts disappear. Time to make a stew!

How about that, huh? The bowls were four for $1, too; I felt that was a pretty smart purchase. I left them in my hotel room, incidentally. Made some housekeeper's day.

So we've come to the crescendo of my gastronomic sonata here, and I imagine you'd like to know how I enjoyed this dastardly mess. The orange as I said was quite nice, although the thin brown poutine sauce, which isn't quite gravy so much as a film that coats your food in brownness, distracted from it. It was like eating wax lips. It's not food, why are you doing this?

The cat food was neither improved nor damaged by the poutine gravy. It existed beyond such human ideals in the nether realm of objectionable flavors one finds in their mouth when they wake up face down on the floor of a room they don't remember entering. The devil really had touched that ham, possibly with the tip of his penis, and he found it objectionable as well, so he banished it to Dollarama. I did not enjoy it and plopped it aside on a napkin. In Canada they call them serviettes. What a silly word.

I speared myself a ravioli that hadn't really made contact with any of the other bullshit I tossed into this bowl and took a bite. The microwave had seared the edges to a rubber cementish consistency, while the inside, which if you recall was an alleged beef product, felt a lot like oatmeal that maybe someone sat on. Not once, but as a habit. This was sittin' beef. The flavor was salt and the hazy remembrance of a tomato, now little more than a sodium brain fart with mild acidity. It was the flavor of all canned pastas that you cook in the microwave: consternation and that feeling you get when you think you have to go to the bathroom and then it suddenly goes away.

I didn't finish eating this meal of mine. It was shitty. It was a shitty meal from a shitty dollar store. Instead I ordered pizza from a nearby Canadian pizzeria that gave me two medium pizzas with wings and two Cokes for only $19.99. Good deal, Canada! I ate it for two days. I regret nothing.

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