Juxtapositioning

words are foreplay for the soul

Archive for the ‘Blame Canada’ Category

January 2nd, 2010 by me

Vancouver redux

Late last year (snort. I crack myself up) I went to The Land Up Over, also known as Canada. The Great White Something-or-other. (NOTE: There was no snow. None. Also no polar bears or igloos. Damn.) I hadn’t been there in FIVE MONTHS, which is odd considering its ridiculous proximity to me, something like 30 minutes. From my house. To the border station, where I get (politely, because this is Canada, after all) invited inside to discuss my “situation.”

This time, I was helped by a 5-foot tall guy with a French accent, who shrugged Gallically at me when I said I might be staying there 10 days or so. Ten days? What is zees ten days? You not like our charming contree? No? Okay, zhen I stamp zhis. Be on your way. And he stamped my paper and I handed it to the guys outside watching a drug dog sniff the inside of a car’s engine and was on my way. Of course, this was Christmas Eve, but it was a far cry from the last time when my car was searched THREE FREAKING TIMES and my papers were copied and I was yelled at by a woman in a strawberry blonde ponytail wearing a bulletproof vest.

I was really really really looking forward to the won ton. There’s a place on Broadway just east of Main that has the best won ton IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. I am not kidding. It has scratched white Formica tables and exactly zero ambience. Decorations do not exist here. Two surly Chinese women truculently wait tables of serious lunchtime eaters. They set big bowls of broth down on the tables, each bowl containing exactly five of the most delectable won ton ever to exist, filled with fat prawns and tasting like what I always knew perfect won ton taste like. I was so looking forward to going there once, or even twice, in those ten days.

The place BURNED DOWN.

The roof was charred across the entire building that housed a pizza joint and who knows what else (I only had eyes for won ton), and a chain link fence kept passers by from getting too close. A tiny woman walked past us as we stood in the street, staring unbelievingly at the charred remains of won ton perfection. She turned to me. Her black eyes were tiny, like buttons. “Monday last,” she said in an eastern European accent. “In the morning.”

“I hope no one was hurt,” I thought to say. That was beyond her language capabilities. Hurt. She shrugged. “Monday. In the morning.

Last year at Christmastime it snowed buckets, feet upon feet of whiteness. We threw snow and each other, shaking it off branches into the backs of one another’s coats, melting snow dripping down our backs. Someone made a real live igloo (SEE???) at the park down the street and we crawled inside it, grinning.

This year, no snow. Christmas Day was relatively warm and unsesonably sunny, so we hiked up and down some back trails at Lighthouse Park. A tree had cracked in the middle, leaving shards standing sharply upward from what was left of the trunk. Someone had come with a chain saw to move the tree off the trail, and had made a little bench from one end of the fallen log. Nearer the lighthouse, and on huge rocks jutting into the northern part of the harbor, the rest of Vancouver gathered, a chaotic chorus of languages, no one bothering to speak in the hushed tones that such a place of beauty cries out for.

It turns out that I am sensitive to noise. I have said before that I can hear a cat’s soft footfalls on carpet from several rooms away, so the plumbing sounds overhead at all hours of the night kept me from sleeping. Year before last, when the place was my home for awhile, I would get up in the night and read downstairs, away from the gurgling and clicking and toilet lid dropping.

I forgot to go to Lush and restock my dwindled supply of Karma soap.

I now have a huge handful of Canadian change, because I keep forgetting that the big ones are worth $2 and the other big ones are worth $1 and you can use this for money. To buy things with. So now I have like $20 worth of change.

We won’t talk about the price of gas. But it’s in liters, which is a trick of some sort.

I have still not been to a Tim Horton’s. I know, I know, hard to believe.

I do, however, now own a toque*. And I really like it.

*There appears to be some debate, even among Canadians, about the proper way to spell the word pronounced “tewk”, which is actually a hat. But I’m sticking with “toque”. And at last I understand what Bob and Doug McKenzie were singing. Five golden TOQUES.

Oh.

Eh.

December 11th, 2008 by me

I totally moved here for the dollar coins

Last week I was in Washington, in that country that wanted me back so badly that at the border the Drug Dog took a shine to the rear end of my car and the three border guards standing around there with nothing better to do started peering through the back windows at the two boxes in the back of my vehicle and asking me questions like, “So, have you run over any animals lately?”

I thought the prudent course was deny-deny-deny, so I put on my most innocent, shocked expression and feigned innocent shock. “N-n-no! I don’t think so!” I managed to stutter, innocently.

That was the wrong answer.

This was what I figured out as I sat inside the border station on a hard chair, having left my keys with the Border Valets outside who were now in the process of ripping apart the inside of my vehicle while the guy in a uniform on the other side of the counter glared menacingly at me and asked insinuating and sarcastic questions like, “They pay people to blog”? and “What drugs have you taken today?”

The right answer would have been to lie and make up some story about the poor poor squirrel and the thump-thump sound that was the last you heard of him. Because the fucking Drug Dog didn’t actually “indicate” drugs oozing from the pores of my vehicle, he only “expressed interest” in my car. Which meant that he could have been “expressing interest” in the pee left there by a dozen other dogs that walk by my car daily.

In Washington I procured a cup of coffee. I received change for the $5 that I handed the perky barista girl to pay for my coffee. The change included several coins I had never seen before. $1 coins. WTF? Since when did the US start stamping out $1 coins, and why haven’t I heard of this before?

And more importantly, how am I going to tell anymore which country I am in?

When I came to Canada I was embarrassed paying cash for things because I couldn’t figure out the money thing.  There were all these coins, and some were $1 coins and some were $2 coins. WTF? $2 coins? Whatever for? And why do some have this filled-in hole-thing in the center? I would pay for the smallest item with a credit card, telling myself it was because of the advantage in exchange rates, just to avoid having to figure out the Canadian coinage.

And now America has become a frigging copycat. And all the fecking $1 coins look ALIKE.

November 26th, 2008 by me

Punishment

Although I don’t particularly like them, not this brand anyway, I am eating organic corn tortillas. Microwaved, to take off that raw edge and render them nearly impossible to chew. Also they taste funny, possibly because the package has been in the fridge for weeks (partially opened, I found out) and there’s some white stuff on them that I told myself was “corn dust” and wasn’t the beginnings of mold and therefore isn’t going to make me sick, and I am bound and determined to finish every last tortilla in this package even though there isn’t anything like CHEESE to go with them because cheese is something I haven’t seen or frankly thought much about since last May, before I open the new fresh package moldering away in the fridge under this one.

Pardon me, I have been packing. Or rather, un-unpacking, since I am doing the reverse of what I did in August when room was made for my stuff in the closet and I hung it all on hangers and that wasn’t very long ago. And apparently all I own are: clothes, legal papers, pots and pans, and cycling gear. Also an iPhone which is useless beyond the border.

Also I own two bottles of wine, one of which is worth about $150 on the open market (email me to bid) and the other is still in its fancy box, intact after flying over the Atlantic, driving 2000 miles and back again, and then driving another 4000 miles to its present place of unrest. That bottle of wine is well-traveled, and it better be good.

Day after tomorrow someone comes to rip up the carpet in this place, leaving us the weekend to admire whatever horrors lay underneath before someone else comes Monday to take 30 boxes of [very heavy and hardly eco-conscious] laminate flooring and merrily click them into place while we amuse ourselves moving furniture from room to room.

And Tuesday I go find myself a new place to put all my clothes and legal papers and cycling gear. And then I have to acquire all the beds tables dishes lamps bookshelves that go into making a house habitable. I am tryng to think of the One Important Thing that I cannot forget, that absolutely makes a house a home. It might be pillows. And I have mine with me, so I’m all right.

November 11th, 2008 by me

the other shoe is dropping

When I crossed the border into Canada in August, I had an uneasy feeling. No, “uneasy” doesn’t even begin to describe the deep-seated FEAR and sense of FOREBODING I had. After all, there I was with my car full of everything I owned, and as far as official-Canada was concerned I was there to be a tourist. Pretty fishy.

Last night Matthew and I returned from California and Oregon. I knew the border thing would come up again. Our plan these past several months was to at some point be able to show Canada the seriousness of our relationship and apply for me to be a permanent resident here. I had checked into the matter on immigration websites and forums. We asked Matthew’s attorney-dad about it after I got here. All the answers came back: wait, and it will all work out. I abandoned my feeling of fear and foreboding and tried to feel at home here. I even bought a fucking iPhone (three-year contract! doesn’t that spell “seriousness”?).

So last night at the border when we were asked to park our car to the side and enter a brightly-lit building, I thought it was going to be about the shoes we bought, or the three bottles of alcohol we declared (one bottle over the limit).

No. It was about me.

Canada made it clear that they’d like me to get the hell out, and soon. They don’t like the fact that we’re in a relationship. If I had LIED and made up some story, things probably would have been fine. The irony. I was all about integrity and truth. I knew that one day Immigration would be looking at my conduct at the border and I didn’t like the conflicting messages: “Yes, border guard, I’m here as a tourist and I am going to leave,” vs. “No, Immigration Officer, I’m not a tourist and I don’t want to leave and in fact I want to stay here permanently.”

And the thing is I don’t even CARE about Canada. I mean, it’s fine and there are many plusses about it and I like living here, but I am not here for the free health care, you know? I’m here for Matthew, and he could be living anywhere and THAT is where I would want to be.

So I still have no home. Weird.

November 9th, 2008 by me

Resurfacing

Yes, I’ve been busy.

I’ve been doing this. And I’ve been doing this. And also I’ve been spending hours a day writing for the upcoming supersecret website I can’t tell you about yet. Except that it’s related to this one.

Also, I haven’t been at home for awhile. Matthew and I have been traveling. Yay for traveling. *Cough*. I went to a spiritual workshop thing, where I manned the recording device. Like they really needed someone to do that (push “record,” push “stop” at the appropriate times—really difficult and oh so technical), but I was grateful to be there and I am sure I got something out of it. Not sure what yet, but this is a processing month anyway.

We stayed with my brother. They live up on top of a hill (called a “mountain” in California) at the end of a steep and twisty driveway at the end of a steep and twisty road. The view was wonderful. We were all set to watch election returns, had the beer, had the pretzels, but the power went out that day because of the three inches of rain that had fallen the day before and they had to fire up the generator. No lie. And this generator powers their internet substation or whatever it’s called that lets them do computer stuff from home and run approximately 37 laptops and other computer stuff, except all that internet stuff had to be turned off to make the TV run. Also the lights. It was lights or Obama and we all voted Obama. So there we all were with our one beer apiece watching the votes roll in when the real electricity came on and we switched over from the generator except hello, that made Tivo REALLY mad and Tivo wouldn’t work and there was no TV but it looks like Obama won anyway? Even though we weren’t watching? And I got to see the acceptance thing, or hear it anyway, on YouTube and I woke up the next morning and THE SUN WAS SHINING IT’S A SIGN.

And we also stayed with Matthew’s mom in Oregon. I can’t comment on that except to say WE ARE LEAVING TOMORROW HALLELUJAH. And then we go to Portland because I like Portland and I suspect we may live there someday at least in a parallel life or something and wouldn’t it be nice to pick out our house now?

And then it’s across the border again and yes, we are declaring our alcohol, and home again. At which time I can catch up with all the things I could not do when we were away.

October 22nd, 2008 by me

Overloaded

I have this habit of taking on too much.  I have an idealistic mind—let’s call her Bertha, shall we?  Big Bertha—and it often tells me things that don’t end up being quite true.  Bertha tells me I can do anything, that I don’t need sleep (much), that I can get things done four times faster than I actually do them.  Bertha gets me in trouble some days.

But I can’t quite seem to let go of Bertha.  When she’s telling me things, it feels awesome.  Like I *can* do anything.  And not needing sleep, why, who needs sleep?  We can all do with less sleep; we’d get way more done that way.

Today I feel a little betrayed by Bertha.  I’m not even speaking to her just now, and whenever she tries to whisper something in my ear I just LALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU for awhile and she goes away again.  But she always comes back.   That’s the thing about Bertha:  no discernment.  She doesn’t know when to stop.  She also has perhaps the worst memory ever.  She doesn’t remember, for instance, that last night I stayed up washing an entire dishwasher’s worth of dishes by hand because of the Sink Vesuvius* problem, and that afterward I cleaned the kitchen (I mean REALLY cleaned it) and also folded a load of laundry and wasted a LOT of time on Twitter and also edited a very long and involved web page on my new, yet-to-be-revealed website, and that I awoke at 5 freaking thirty this morning when Matthew got up (because HE went to bed at like 10 last night) and that my eyelids have been one with my Macbook screen All.Day, answering Skype stuff and editing next week’s column and editing more website stuff and doing work stuff and wasting more time with Twitter, and COMPLETELY FORGETTING A DEADLINE, SHIT.

Also Matthew and I went over and made two little videos that will be up on a very cool open source video project soon, and when they are I will do the linkage thing and talk about it etc, but it involved driving and getting gas and almost getting broadsided by a stupid and very impatient driver who was totally wrong and then had the balls to honk honk honk at ME, when it was clearly my go and they were stopped and waiting for another car anyway, and who the hell doesn’t even LOOK when they are getting in a teeny little roundabout?

Ad the deadline was extended a whole day!  So clearly there was no need to jump into writing the thing right away, let’s have a walk over to the store and get some organic popcorn, shall we?  It’s a nice night.

*Sink Vesuvius happened Sunday and we have been kitchen sinkless ever since, or at least as sinkless as you can be when the water takes like 3 hours to drain down and when you try to run the disposal (awesomely called a “garburetor” here, isn’t that a great word?) it causes yucky water to back up into the nicely-renovated granite-countered (not that I noticed) kitchen sink of the neighbor next door.  However, sometimes ignoring a problem does cause it to go away and I am happy to say that we called the plumber back tonight and told them Never Mind, Don’t Come, and By The Way It’s Okay That You Lost All My Information Yesterday And never Showed Up or Called As Promised, Because Now We Don’t Need You So There.

October 9th, 2008 by me

Resurfacing

Yes, I’ve been busy.

I’ve been doing this. And I’ve been doing this. And also I’ve been spending hours a day writing for the upcoming supersecret website I can’t tell you about yet. Except that it’s related to this one.

Also, I haven’t been at home for awhile. Matthew and I have been traveling. Yay for traveling. *Cough*. I went to a spiritual workshop thing, where I manned the recording device. Like they really needed someone to do that (push “record,” push “stop” at the appropriate times—really difficult and oh so technical), but I was grateful to be there and I am sure I got something out of it. Not sure what yet, but this is a processing month anyway.

We stayed with my brother. They live up on top of a hill (called a “mountain” in California) at the end of a steep and twisty driveway at the end of a steep and twisty road. The view was wonderful. We were all set to watch election returns, had the beer, had the pretzels, but the power went out that day because of the three inches of rain that had fallen the day before and they had to fire up the generator. No lie. And this generator powers their internet substation or whatever it’s called that lets them do computer stuff from home and run approximately 37 laptops and other computer stuff, except all that internet stuff had to be turned off to make the TV run. Also the lights. It was lights or Obama and we all voted Obama. So there we all were with our one beer apiece watching the votes roll in when the real electricity came on and we switched over from the generator except hello, that made Tivo REALLY mad and Tivo wouldn’t work and there was no TV but it looks like Obama won anyway? Even though we weren’t watching? And I got to see the acceptance thing, or hear it anyway, on YouTube and I woke up the next morning and THE SUN WAS SHINING IT’S A SIGN.

And we also stayed with Matthew’s mom in Oregon. I can’t comment on that except to say WE ARE LEAVING TOMORROW HALLELUJAH. And then we go to Portland because I like Portland and I suspect we may live there someday at least in a parallel life or something and wouldn’t it be nice to pick out our house now?

And then it’s across the border again and yes, we are declaring our alcohol, and home again. At which time I can catch up with all the things I could not do when we were away.

September 23rd, 2008 by me

Surreality

A few nights ago, Matthew and I drove up to Whistler.  His dad owns a condo there that Matthew is free to use whenever no one else is there, and the weekend we spent there together the first time I visited him here in Vancouver last year remains one of my standout memories.  For one thing, it’s in the mountains and every inch is beautiful.  For another, there’s no internet, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it.  But I was on vacation then and those few days were a taste of the first real rest I had had in years.

The plan this weekend was to drive up late at night after we went to a Reiki meetup-thing where I gave a talk on shamanism and did a guided meditation.  I could talk for paragraphs about Creepy Reiki Guy but Whistler stands in the way and I don’t want to mar the beauty with the memory…[shudder].

Driving at night had some advantages:

1.  Less traffic.

2.  We’d wake up in Whistler. Yay!

3.  We’d avoid construction problems.  There’s going to be an Olympics here in just over a year and somebody decided that for those two weeks it was necessary to spend several years and who knows how many gazillion dollars to take 100 miles of road from two lanes to four.  Construction is done mainly at night, when they close down the road to blast another few inches of rock from the sides of mountains, and we’d arrive in Whistler well before the 2 am cutoff.

We left well before 10 pm.  I was exhausted at 3 pm, looking forward to nothing more than getting through the evening, making the two-hour drive in the dark, and crashing by about midnight in the mountains. There we were, flying through 50 kmh construction zones, endless lines of orange cone-things zig-zagging across the dark road, when Matthew spots a sign.  Something about “road closed” and “10 pm – 2 am.”  It was well after 10 at that point so we told one another that we were going too fast to see the sign properly and they couldn’t have been serious, because anyway wasn’t the closure at like 2 am?

About 20 minutes from our destination, without warning, the cars ahead are completely stopped.  Dead stop.  We wait there, idling a bit.  Cars ahead are turning off their lights.  It’s 11:00 and the road is closed for the next 3 hours.

Okay, I just realized something.  This is an incredibly boring post.  How can I punch it up a little?  Chainsaw-wielding inbreeding Deliverance refugees? (in the mountains of British Columbia…a little far-fetched?)  Out-of-body experiences?  A partaayy with the chocolate fondue-maker there in the back seat?

No.

However, the car directly behind ours was filled with assholes, a mixed-gender group of about 6-8.  They had food in their car, and beer.  I could see them consuming it when I peered obsessively into my rearview mirror, at least when I wasn’t temporarily BLINDED by the asshat in that car behind them who insisted on keeping his headlights on for, like, ever.

NOTE:  If you are ever at a dead stop on a highway in British Columbia at midnight, knowing you won’t be going anywhere for at least three hours, TURN OFF YOUR FUCKING LIGHTS.

Thank you.  End of public service announcement.

Yeah.  So I rearranged stuff in the back so seats could recline.  A couple of hours later I figured out that Matthew had the better part of the deal since he wasn’t having to deal with a steering wheel and pedals, but we sort of lay there and talked.  I was getting all sleepy (remember I had in it my head that by midnight I was going to be passed out comfortably, and—ding!—timer went off and I was dozing….)

MATTHEW:  I really like talking with you like this.

ME:  ……whaaaa?

MATTHEW:  talktalktalktalktalkstoryaboutmypast

ME:  [silence]  [fighting off urge to sleep]  [becoming more awake now]  [actually becoming interesting in conversation]  Hey, that thing you said back then?  Here’s my long and totally vulnerable story about it which I have never told anyone alive or dead before talktalktalktaktalk.

MATTHEW:  [snoring]

Yeah.  He slept for like and hour and a half while I say/lay there in the dark, not sleeping, thinking about beds.  The assholes in the car behind regularly got out of their car and walked right past our windows with the audacity to talk out loud. Assholes.  Also I saw one girl peeing at the side of the road.

Ahead there was an occasional sound of big trucks beeping when they backed up, but other than that it was quiet.  Trees loomed out of the shadows that covered both sides of the road.  I envisioned deer peering at us from among the dark thickety trees, or maybe bears.  Beardeers.  Once in awhile someone sort of shadowy and quiet would lurch out of the darkness, and the occasional big construction truck lumbered by, wielding the importance of privilege.  They could drive on the road but we had to wait.

It got cold in the car with the engine off.  My wool blend coat didn’t cover me, and Matthew appropriated the quilt we had brought for sleeping under in Whistler (to be fair, he offered me part of it, but I’m an anal fanatic about what’s “clean” and “not-clean”, and the thought of later sleeping under a quilt that had touched semi-dirty parts of the car was too much to bear and I declined, requesting that at least he keep the end bits off the floor, and I tried not to look too hard to see if he did), so I thought about being warmer and tried to remember what patience felt like.  It was only going to be three hours, not a lifetime.  It wasn’t long ago that I sat for 12 hours a day in meditation for ten days; surely I could do this.

At last the energy of the place changed.  There was never any definite “all-clear” or notification that the time in construction purgatory was ending, but one by one the cars ahead turned on their engines and slowly moved back into a world of light.

Fifteen minutes later, we were in Whistler.  This other surreal world in which we had spent three hours was almost within walking distance of a warm bed.

It wasn’t until we finally got going again that I noticed that the entire time, the background was punctuated with deep booms.  I sort of thought it was distant thunder, or the wind, but they were blasting and we were mere feet away, and I hadn’t noticed.

September 18th, 2008 by me

Hinterland

I just received an email about a spiritual conference near San Francisco that months ago I promised to attend.  I wanted to be one of the presenters for the conference but they already had a full slate, so I contented myself with agreeing to attend for nearly-free and volunteering to help out.  There are a number of networking opportunities there, and I am a firm believer that nothing is ever wasted (even though I am a champion self-time-waster).

Then it hit me.

To get there, I will have to leave Canada.  Cross the border.  Enter the real world.

I’ve been using this feeling of semi-unreality as a way to remain safe.  It’s like living behind glass.  A world-within-a-world.  Time here stands still, while outside it [presumably] continues.  I like it here despite how disorienting it was when I got here.  It’s so much a different world.  Everything that connected me to my old world is gone, sold, given away, or in the few remaining boxes that traveled 4000 miles with me and got immediately stashed in a closet when I got here, still packed.  In the place of all those things and all the memories along with them that connect me to the life I used to live and to the people who lived it with me are new things.  New clothes.  New hair.  A new look.  A new focus.  A new rhythm.  New energy, new routines, new people.  It truly is a different world.  Nothing is the same, except for me.  And even I have changed, now a reflection of the newness I stepped into here across the border and all that came before to get me here.

I’m a little afraid to leave.  I have found things here to hold onto.  Crossing the border means crossing back into that old world.  The feeling of surreality I have been living, one lengthy vacation from reality, will be shattered.

There’s no answer to this, beyond breathing.  Continuing to breathe when you are immersed in slight panic is about all you can ever do.

September 9th, 2008 by me

Parking parallels

It makes me laugh when the ironies of my life are thrown in my face.

Since arriving here in Vancouver 6 or so weeks ago, I’ve been sensitive about my car.  For the first week I was illegally parked in a permit-only zone.  Then we paid $5 per week to obtain a blue card to stick in the dash for a few weeks while we thought of something else to do with the car situation.  There’s another car (uninsured; can’t park on the street) and an underground garage space (with one uninsured car presently occupying) but for now it’s my car collecting bird shit and tree sap at the curb, jockeying for position with the neighbors and their cars.  Cars that have a right to be here.

I can feel the eyes looking at me.

Pennsylvania.  When is she going to move that car?  Taking up space.  OUR space.  Canadian space.  Hmph.

The imagined indignant snorts are what get to me the most.

Whenever I drive, I find myself continually

  • getting in the wrong lane and inadvertantly cutting someone off
  • stopping too long at stop signs
  • not stopping long enough at stop signs
  • driving too slowly
  • driving too fast
  • parking awkwardly

And all the time I know they’re looking at the Pennsylvania plates and gritting their white Canadian teeth and wishing bricks would fall out of the sky onto my car, completely crushing me and my PA license plates.

I can feel the vibration of those teeth gritting at night when everything is quiet.  I can’t breathe because the weight of a million imagined bricks is piled on my chest.

I am in the wrong country.

I don’t belong here.

Once in awhile I have a moment when the breathtaking beauty of this city sends shards of glass from thousands of high-rise condo windows right into my heart.

I want this to be my city.

Tonight we went to a free talk at the library downtown and when we got back it was dark and the usual spaces at the curb were filled.  I drove around the block and found a space in the middle of the line of cars.  Parallel parking.  Ugh.

It would have been fine except for the couple standing taking outside her car.  His car?  One of them was going home, and one was staying.  I wished the ground would swallow them up rather than have them witness my awkward parking.

It didn’t.

I park and park and park.  Forward, back, forward, back.  I am too far from the curb, but her car is right behind mine and if I nudge it they will hate me and call the border guards, I know it.

Filthy American. I can hear them swearing under their polite Canadian breath.  Go home!  You suck!  You…don’t recycle!

Forward, back.  I gave up.  Still 20 feet away from the curb.  Whatever.  Now I will have to walk past this couple, their Canadian eyes of belonging on me while I hold my American head in shame.

“Are you from Pennsylvania?”

OMG.  It’s starting.  The jeering, the namecalling, the black looks, everything I have been imagining.  I clutch my imaginary passport a little more tightly.

I answer reluctantly.  “Yes.”  Dumbanswerdumbanswer.

“What’s the capitol city called?  We have a bet going.”

What?  WTF?  Where are the border guards?  The dogs?  The sneering?  Why, they’re … smiling.  Friendly!

“Harrisburg.”

“Harrisburg?  Thanks!”  They were still smiling..

Dumb Canuck.  Anybody knows that.* I swore slightly under my breath, gritting my American teeth.

* Not really.  Most Americans don’t know it unless they live in PA or south Jersey.  But that’s not saying much.

** Nor have I ever actually used the word “Canuck” until now.  It sort of makes my eyelids want to turn inside out.