For more than a week now, my website and blog have been down, just following last week's column. Hopefully, it wasn't the content that knocked it off line. It was the second part of my look at the origins of Winston Patrick - check it out - you be the judge.
Since I had no website, I didn't write a column on writing this week. Alas, now that we're up and running again, I do have this freelance piece, an essay/op-ed I pitched to a few publications in late December to no avail. Waste not want not. This week, in a departure from the regular writing column, I give you...
Whatever latent nationalistic stirrings lay dormant within me were shaken and stirred as we ventured south, braving the torrential rain, the traffic-soaked I-5 freeway, and the holiday-week crowds (mention Boxing Day down here and you get quizzical looks and questions about it maybe being Mohammed Ali's birthday) to the bustling metropolis of Linwood, Washington, whose principal raison d'etre (don't try that terminology either) seems to be the existence of Alderwood Mall, where we found the shrine at the end of our pilgrimage.
The American Girl store.
For the uninitiated, American Girl dolls are one of the latest high-end toy fads to strike consumer crazed pre-adolescents for the "we have more money than sense" crowd. Base cost: $110 for the doll.
To the best of my observations - and I confess I may not have been paying as close attention as I could have from my pink pleather covered bench on the sidelines with other dads - there were no American Boys available for purchase.
Thankfully, the doll itself at least comes clothed so it is theoretically possible to retreat following doll selection. Practically speaking though, one most engage in outfitting the new family member in outfits ranging from cheerleader to cyclist to party girl or, because it's holiday week after all, indulge in a $90 special that includes three outfits that can be fashionably mixed and matched.
Some of the accessories include pets (goes well with the fall walking attire), skis or, as in the selection my daughter made, perhaps leading toward future career ambitions, the injury ensemble, including crutches, cast and other accoutrements indicative of her chosen doll being less than proficient at the aforementioned skis.
Full disclosure, because I don't want to be seen as a member of the more money than sense crowd, our acquisition was financed by our nine year old herself, an accumulation of modest weekly allowance, birthday and Christmas money gifts, along with the sale of toys no longer in use. It's practically an economics lesson unto itself: are you sure you want to spend all your money in one place, Honey?
If a prospective American Girl purchaser is feeling particularly glamorous - and flush with cash - spa treatments for AG are available where your new or returning friend can indulge in a new hairstyle or, wait for it, have her ears pierced.
If all this spending is draining more than just the wallet, young shoppers can relax and recharge in the adjoining café where AG treats, including high tea sittings in the afternoon requiring reservations. Seating, of course, is also available for AG dolls themselves alongside their, what, owners? Parents?
I wanted to be disgusted or at least 'tsk' down my nose at this flagrant display of crass consumerism. Looking around it's easy to see middle class excess but instead I saw opportunity.
If part of the pull of these mysteriously popular dolls is their appeal to patriotic virtue, why not a homegrown counterpart? Thus, I present to you Canadian Girl, trademark pending, replete with all those assumed elements of Canada sure to draw domestic and international visitors alike.
Our stores will be tastefully decorated in plaid. All our Canadian Girl dolls will have the ardent glow of being well exercised, spending time in the fresh air and regularly visiting publicly funded health care. Each will come standard with a t-shirt that offers an apology for any offence, real or perceived.
Want to buy additional outfits for your CG? We'll have plenty. There is the obligatory Red Serge for the RCMP-GRC-CG. An assortment of Canadian NHL hockey jerseys will be available, with special discounts offered to encourage the purchase of Edmonton Oilers apparel. Clothing lines will also include red mittens, down vests, and t-shirts proclaiming the purchaser's choice of admiration or disdain for Rob Ford.
West Coast CG's will come standard with umbrellas, while those from east of the Rockies will have a toque, though for American visitors we'll have to explain what that is.
Accessories will be an important feature of our product line up, including the sure to be popular Timbit carry box and double-double. If your doll-lover is transportation minded, you can take home the CG Zamboni, dog sled, or the always fun, inadequate, underfunded CG public transit.
Canadian Girl will show the world we too, have the entrepreneurial spirit to combine love of country with love of spoiling our kids.
Next week: A New Year...a new block