Oh, Canada

As a few of you know now, I took a vacation the last few days to Niagara Falls. Yes, I went to Canada on the Fourth of July. It was a really good decision, because people were elsewhere celebrating while I traveled.

First off, Canada is quite similar to America but there are subtleties. One, it’s much cleaner. I get so tired of the amount of litter and garbage I find in the States. It’s so slovenly! It’s so disrespectful! I past a chewed up couch on I-90 in Cleveland. A couch. There was a little bit of litter here and there in the Great White North, but something seems to tell me it’s not all from careless Canadians. One point awarded to Canada.

The more important difference is personality. There is an identifiable general persona of Canadians. Many of them aren’t as expressive as Americans, if only because that’s not how they were raised. In America, there are places where people just don’t care about warmth or social grace. The Philadelphia area is a prime example. Many, many times I was met with blunt people with very coarse behavior. Philadelphia left me a little cool, and I’m not the warmest sun in the galaxy. That’s their prerogative, but it takes some real work to get black marks for being uncouth.

Niagara Falls was a great destination. The Maid of the Mist boat tour is a must! Make sure your poncho is on tight though. The Clifton Hill area is geared toward families, and it reminds me of Cedar Point in some respects. The Canadians know what drives their economy there, and it does become a little bit of a tourist trap. I’m not that type of person, but others enjoy wax museums, carnival games, houses of horror, IMAX shows, and flashy dining.

I found more comfort on the quiet sidewalks of Queen St. There I found the Paris Crepes Cafe. I haven’t had a crepe in years. My goat cheese, honey, and walnut dish was masterful. After my time spent in the cafe, I popped off to a bar for a pint of Alexander Keith’s red and some honest Canadian hockey food: poutine! For those that are unfamiliar with the dish, it’s french fries with cheese curds and beef gravy. So heavy, yet awesome in a totally unhealthy way. It’s not all that odd. We have mashed potatoes and gravy, right?

One of the other non-tourist activities I enjoy doing is driving around. With the support of the GPS I went all of Hell’s half acre and had myself a grand old time. Canadian driving is like slow-speed mayhem. I took it at the posted km/h, but people were driving all over the place, that included under a meter from my bumper. I was often in the wrong sections of town. I was in the low-rent districts, the middle-class neighborhoods, and the suburbia as a tourist. Not all Canadians are happy with the idea of Americans. I even got cursed in French by some teens riding bikes, thinking my lack of French skills would somehow make me feel stupid. Well, here’s a little tip Canadians: if I don’t care what you have to say, you can say it in any language you want.  One point awarded to American brass.

The highlight of the trip had nothing to do with the falls, though. I was at the resort Friday evening, and a man came out of the hotel room area looking for a seat. I offered the open seat next to me. He was meeting someone and also pulled up another chair. While he waited, we struck up a conversation. By his accent, I could tell he was German. As it turned out, Mike was and a journalist from Berlin. He and a long-time friend took their families to vacation in Niagara. They wanted to chat before they headed in different directions in the morning. Now looking back on it, I think I might have stunted that meeting. Hopefully, that transgression was forgiven.

We talked about America, Germany, Canada and more interestingly Berlin before the Wall. I had no idea it was an artist’s enclave at that time. The reason being was its inexpensive living. It was walled off from the rest of the world and no industry could get in. There was one highway between West Berlin and West Germany. West Germans were not allowed to take any exits nor were they able to take their time. If they arrived at the border later than expected, they were pulled out of the car and interrogated. This was only thirty years ago. That’s within my life time! This is what America needs to avoid becoming, metaphorically and physically.

At the end of the discussion, Mike said, “this is what I love about Americans. You are all so open. If this was Europe, we would not be having this conversation. It wouldn’t be meant as rude. It would just be you sitting there and me sitting there… and that is it.” It was such an informative and entertaining talk, I got a little choked up after Mike and I parted ways. I’ve wanted a discussion that was political, civil, and intellectual for so long that it brought me to tears. A meaningful, intellectual conversation without hostility or ego. Sometimes, it’s the small things that are worth a mint.

Maid of the Mist

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9 thoughts on “Oh, Canada

  1. kerbey says:

    Get down with your worldly self, visiting other nations and speaking w/ random Germans. I would be willing to try poutine, though I reckon it ain’t available around here. I never understand people who don’t want to be open; we’re all just going to die in a few years. Why hold on to your secrets? We’re all the same-ish. And really, I’m sorry but when you said “crepes,” I just kept picturing Frenchy holding down Ricky Bobby’s head on a pool table and forcing him to say it. I know that’s white trashy (speaking of discarded couches). What do you call Canadian white trash, I wonder? Something more polite?

    • Yeah, they don’t even offer poutine around here and we’re close to the border. You’re from Texas, right? You all have Frito Pie, which I think the hockey fans wouldn’t mind at all. Truth be told, I never saw Ricky Bobby. It just didn’t seem worthwhile when it came out. I’m not entirely sure what hard insults Canandians use. All my Canadian insults come from Strange Brew.

      By the way, Chris Noth is on. I’m watching Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

      • kerbey says:

        LOL at Chris Noth. That’s fine to skip Talladega Nights; I saw it on my honeymoon. Klassy! And yes, we DO have Frito Pie. In fact, we just had a dog park/bar open upnearby where you take your dogs and let them play in a huge wooded area, and then you get lit and listen to music outside, and a food truck man sells Frito Pies and chili dogs. It is a sign of higher breeding. All the yuppy techies bring their dogs with papers–oh, that reminds me–did you know WOP stands for “without papers”? That was how the slur came about back in the day; I read that in a Sinatra bio. Now go back to watching your male shows.

  2. I just gained five pounds reading your description of poutine. Damn you, Nate. I tried it in Montreal once, and that was enough for me. 🙂

    Head South, young person. You can find all sorts of people who are willing to have conversations. They may not always be deep or intellectual, but they are usually entertaining. 🙂

    • 🙂

      Southerners are more talkative in general, sure. Living in North Carolina for a small period of time, I can vouch for that. Although there were times where I picked up a suspicion about some. It may have been because I was a Yankee. Even from Ohio, I am a Yankee. They were quite firm with that. This wasn’t always the case though.

      • You should converse with Lou Mello on my blog and tell him you are from Ohio. He is also from there (Columbus), though he now lives here. He is insane about Ohio State. And Jeni’s Ice Cream.

      • Someone from Columbus is insane about the Buckeyes? Get out of here! 😉

        I’ve read some of his comments, and he does seem like a cool cat. I like Jeni’s. You should try it, if you’re ever in the area. It’s a little expensive for a country boy like me, but their flavors are very well orchestrated.

  3. gracious says:

    Nice to see you’ve got your passport in order. Next time Quebec?

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