People all over the world self-medicate their failure with alcohol, so I headed to the closest bar, and I was in luck. Located right in the museum lobby was a restaurant called Zinc, and it had a bar. And not just any bar, but one that looked almost identical to the one I use as the backdrop on my Hate by Numbers video series. Clearly, it was a sign.
OK. Close enough when you're desperate for a sign.
I considered ordering something Canadian like a Molson, but I figured that Canadians must drink Jameson, too. The bartender brought me my drink, and I left a tip, because I wasn't traveling to one of those weirdo countries where they don't tip and whose people mock tipping in the comments to Cracked columns. So I got ready to tip a buck a drink when I realized that I'd have to tip with a coin. A loonie.
Pling! went the loonie on the counter, and though the Canadians I polled in secret later confirmed that it was an appropriate tip, it still felt more like bringing milk money to my kindergarten teacher than tipping a man for a grown-up beverage.
My friend's wedding went off without a hitch, but it was filled with a bunch of his visiting American family, so blending in was easy. I still had to prove to myself that I could be the perfect undetected tourist blending in with the foreigners like a sophisticated man of the world. I needed to find familiar ground. But where would a dignified, cocksure, sophisticated world-traveling American be most at home? The answer seemed obvious. The mall.
Turns out the West Edmonton Mall is the largest mall in North America. So I investigated, and all was well. I bought some stuff, having recovered fully from the currency failures of the previous day. No one knew I was a first-time world traveler, and I was proud. This was a mall. No surprises. But then I saw an ice skating rink ...
... and a miniature golf course ...
... and a sea lion exhibit.
Apparently, there's an indoor water park, too, and, yes, my surprise showed. To the lovely folk of Edmonton, this was all old news, but even as a boy bred on the mall culture of Long Island, I gawked. I had failed again.
I'd touched down in Canada, and everywhere I went, I felt like a Yank tourist, incapable of blending in smoothly with the local people. The folks at the Old Strathcona fair politely hawked their homemade pastries and organic cat furniture, but I could tell that they knew I was just a traveling noob. And even though I was delighted to visit the Edmonton Expo and give a talk on my two favorite topics -- me and freelance writing -- I couldn't shake the feeling.
I met the lovely Burt "Robin" Ward. I got to tell Julie "Catwoman" Newmar that she made me want to go through puberty before I even knew what that word meant. I took a picture with Lee "Six Million Dollar Man" Majors while he held the Maskatron toy I've had since I was 4, and still, a sense of failure remained.
One's a Montana cowboy; the other, a New York blogger. Together they fight LA crime. Taggerty and Bloom, Fridays on CBS!
None of these niceties could distract me from the truth: I had not been fully absorbed through the Canadian membrane. I was a clear first-time tourist. I stumbled out onto the showcase floor, past the Star Trek booths and Doctor Who memorabilia. Beyond the newest in gaming and trading cards. I said excuse me to Princess Leias and Catwomen, some smoking hot, some putting an unfair amount of stress on their cosplay fabrics. And somewhere between a 50-year-old steampunk and a baby in a TARDIS stroller, I realized something: Nerds are universal. In every country, there is a douchebag who will need to inform you that "His name is 'The Doctor'; he's not called 'Dr. Who.'" There is no one homeland for girls who can only achieve orgasm when believing they are Harley Quinn. There is no nationality for gamers who dress up as obscure characters you can only see on Easter egg levels. They are everywhere. They are nowhere. I was home.
Hello, old friend.
I headed over to the TELUS Star Wars booth. Apparently, there's a new exhibit where you choose from dozens of pieces of data from the Star Wars universe, get exposed to rare artifacts from the Lucasfilm archives and make choices about yourself. Then, from the choices you make, it crafts your own identity in the Star Wars universe from literally millions of permutations. The actual exhibit wasn't open yet, but it didn't matter. I didn't need an exhibit to tell me who I was or what I'd become. I already knew:
Watch the season finale of HATE BY NUMBERS. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.