Political intrigue, smiling hamburgers and trains (big and small).
First stop today: The Saint
Ignace Post Office. It is ten AM as I approach the
post office and a substantial number of well dressed people mingle
outside. My first guess: they are waiting for a junket to the local
Indian Casino. The postmaster tells me they're waiting for the dedication
of this new post office by the local state senator - a tall guy shaking
hands with everyone of voting age. In answer to a elderly constituent,
he replies: "Ma'am, I'm six feet, eight inches tall!" Everyone
oohs and ahs with amazement. I decide not to act on the urge to pull
out a ruler and point out he's a good six inches shorter than I - and I'm
not six foot eight. In Michigan, like the rest of the country, politics
is largely about presentation, perception and deception.
packages in the mail, I'm off to Canada. The border is just an hour
north of Saint Ignace and there is little traffic (except for the bugs
which continue to impale themselves on the windscreen). I cross the
bridge, say hello to the attractive border guard and I'm in another country.
[Side note: Why is it so easy to clear customs
when I drive in to Canada but such a process when I fly into Vancouver?]
An hour inside the country, I pull up alongside
a mini-van sporting red, white and blue flags on both sides of the bumper,
in each window and a little flag on a plastic pole above the windshield.
Nothing says American like a white trash parade float in a foreign country.
I suspect these are some of the same tribe who believe that foreigners
will understand English if
you speak slowly and loudly, repeating yourself if the listener appears
baffled. Unfortunately, there is a significant language barrier between
the United States and our neighbor to the north. Americans lack meaningful
expressions such as national healthcare, social safety net, fair elections,
multiparty system and legitimate presidency. Canadians have many
expressions for Americans, and listening to CBC for a few hours will help
you learn them - and keep you laughing as well.
The border behind me, the MINI headed eastward,
I begin to zip along at 70, 80, 90 and then 100. Of course, it isn't
as fast as you might think - all the measurements are in kilometers.
100 kilometers per hour is roughly 64 miles per hour - the maximum speed
freeways. For the most part, Canadians seem to obey the speed limit,
at least more so than Americans. What Canadians ignore, however,
is the double yellow line down the middle of an undivided road. Sister
Betty came very close to life's departure lounge today when a giant Ford
truck crossed the line to pass in the opposite direction, forcing a choice
between the grill of the Ford or the ditch. Short story: quick
evasive action and I'm still here to talk about it.
I stop for lunch at the Queen's
Room Cafe (doesn't that seem appropriate?) in Iron Bridge. Iron
Bridge is the name for a collection of four buildings somewhere along the
highway. The sole waitress is also the cook, bartender and cashier.
My BSE-free hamburger is delivered to the table with smiling
faces depicted in condiments on both sides of the plate.
hour further down the road and I pull into a rest stop. A car pulls
up next to me in the otherwise empty lot. A greasy man in a dirty
T-shirt sits in the front seat glancing at me with a gap-toothed look.
It slowly dons on me he is cruising. I glance and beam the telepathic
message: "I never play with people who have rusty holes in their
primer-grey, late-model Chevrolet."
My destination for the day is North Bay, Ontario.
I arrive just shortly after the odometer
hits 10,000 miles. North Bay is an industrial town which has seen better
days. Downtown has the look of a London suburb without the cement
charm. Red brick buildings lean toward pockmarked streets.
station sits on the edge of an empty lot where the tracks have been
removed. It is a city center that could be quaint with an infusion of cash
discover a curious
old train on an abandoned sidetrack and wander about the old rail yards
taking photographs. In doing so, I discover a small amusement park
- complete with an
operating train. It takes me a bit of work to find the road to
the amusement park, but I'm rewarded with a view of the city I missed before.
I've now retreated to my room where a pizza from
"East Side Marios - Budda Boom Budda Bing" (yep, that's really the name
of the place) sits waiting while a special on pre-teenage menstruation
plays on CBC. (Really, I don't make this stuff up - I listened to a radio
show from CBC today on the origin of masturbation and the terms to describe
it. The right wing in the US would be livid.). In a few hours
I'll follow the recommendation of the front desk clerk and check out the
local Saturday nightlife at a place called The Zoo.
last thought for today: Americans talk too damn much. More
on that another time.