Well, sometimes it's good to get out and smell the grapes...just got in from a mini-road trip, and I'd like to offer up a suggestion for your next East of the Mississippi vacation: Ontario. Specifically, Niagra wine country. Named by some the "Sonoma of Canada." And, gosh, having been to and tasted in Sonoma, I have to agree. No, it's not France, but still- it's nice to know that in North America, one can still enjoy the culture of the grape, and with no small style. Let me reccomend Stratus Vineyards in particular. /James Earl Jones voice/ Impressive.
And on a political side note: visiting Canada is always interesting. The radio is different. The people are different. The drivers are different. The weather: much like anywhere else in the Midwest. Things I picked up on during my drive include:
1. Canadian radio beats the shit out of American radio. Funniest moment: listening to two popular CBC1 Radio personalities diss the American studio system's reliance on product placement. "Ha ha, did you know that the Screen Writer's Guild is suing to make studios announce product placement before a movie starts? Imagine if they'd had to do that for Die Another Day? There would've been a list of 700 products before the show! Hah! What would we say for this Canadian show? Ha, only one: Paid for by the Taxpayers of Canada.
2. Canadian business looks vibrant, varied, and thriving, by comparison to Midwestern areas of roughly the same vein. I've been driving all over MI, IL, IN, IA, WI and OH all my life. And I have to say that the Canadian areas which I believe to be roughly analogue look much, much healthier. New buildings. Shinier cars. Happier people. Better roads. Businesses that looked thriving, as opposed to just hanging on in a strip mall of decaying pseudo-solvency. Sure, it's a superficial observation. But I kept thinking, as I passed new building after shiny new complex of light industrial: why haven't I seen this in (fill in Midwestern state)? It's not like we're not "the same."
3. Scary vs Friendly Border guards.
Um, why is it I was so much more afraid coming into my country than I was leaving it? I'll tell you why.
Going into Canada pt. 1: "Your citizenship? Your destination? Your duration in Canada? Thank you Ma'am, have a nice day. (very cute 23 yr old, nice hair)
Going into US part 1: "Don't approach the gate! Stop! You're too close! Your citizenship? Your picture ID? / Looks in car windows, walks around with gun and badge/ Why are you coming into the US? Did anyone give you a package in Canada? bright flash What the hell was that noise??? /reaches for gun, jumps, eyes roll nervously/
Driver: Ma'am, it was only a lightning strike, there's a storm coming in from Canada. I could see it from my rear view mirror...
US Border Agent: nervously Ha ha, yeah. Sure. It's this job, you know. Ha, gasp, ha. Um, you can go now. She pressed her hand against her gun then, and pretended to smile for the next entrant, ignoring me as she waved me by.
Driver: Suppresses urge to peel off to freeway into NY.
4. Entry into Canada, Redux: Welcome to Canada, citizenship and purpose of visit? Duration of stay? Have a nice day, ma'am.
Stopover in Niagra Wine country. Elegance, beauty, sensible traffic laws and signs. Friendly service. Great wine.
5. Entry into US. Indifference. Petulance. Distraction. Mumble, Mumble. Have a nice day. Do you have anything to declare? Mumble. Mumble.
My impression: Canadian border guards are the same as they've ever been. Friendly, professional, not too fucking worried about if this single woman in a very late model car is carrying the End to All Maple Leaves in her average vehicle.
Contrast this with US officials: waaaaay more freaked than when I was young. (My family owns land in Canada, I've been going there all my life) Now there are signs, posters, pictures, music, warnings, everything you can imagine that says: "Don't come to the USA. And if you do, we hate and fear you." Most Orwellian moment: these little posters, right before the entry booth to the US, outlining your "rights" as a visitor/entrant to the US. Right beside uber military propaganda of men and women in very military looking clothing with some slogan about "border guards, Amurka, Freedom!" on flag-n-bird of prey background.
...but still: Ontario has developed a pretty good wine country. I have to thank Sis, as this wine is for her, all I got to do was a sip taste while at the winery. I'm glad she can afford a whole case, even as I'm glad I'm 65% of the way to qualifying for Maple leaf citizenship. Because I'm not in the least way worried, as a former Marine reject, about this.