Sunday, November 16, 2014

north of the border

We spent the weekend in Vancouver! I'd never been to Canada, and we had some airline miles about to expire, so we thought it'd be a fine anniversary weekend. Thanks to airline delays, we had a day less there than we'd hoped, in that we landed at 6pm instead of 1pm.

Hoooooly shit. I liked it a lot.
  • All the Canadians we encountered were in fact conspicuously nice.
  • On the phone we told J "Can you believe we're in a big city, and it doesn't smell bad?". He could only summon a disbelieving "Whaaaaat?!".
  • The major policy disagreement between the mayoral candidates is about which form of mass transit to invest in.
Vancouver may be even more diverse than the Bay Area. The food is great, public transit seems to work really well. It is not, that I could tell, overrun with Silicon Valley douchebags and the kind of people that enjoy or tolerate them.

I finally had a flat white, and am happy to crown it the king of coffee beverages. Not every cafe knows what it is though: we were at the particularly sophisticated Milano Coffee. I still don't know exactly how to describe it, and neither does anybody else (on paper it's like a proper microfoamed cappuccino), but it's really good.

Based on a recommendation from my good friend Some Canadian Guy Who Follows Me On Twitter, we had dinner at Tuc Craft Kitchen, which was absolutely amazing and I cannot recommend highly enough. I had their (quite ornate, it seems) version of a Negroni, which was a lovely drink if you can appreciate a little bitterness. (If you've never had Campari, I recommend against trying it straight or with soda, as it is thoroughly disgusting by itself.) Also, it's a nice red-orange.

Mostly, as is our way, we alternated going out to eat and read books with staying in the hotel room and reading books. We talked once or twice, but as we all know, I do not advocate speaking to one's spouse if it's avoidable, so we kept it to things like "I'll have the pork" and "I'm not sure what's going on, but your shoe is on fire."

I'm still really struck by the contrasts with the United States.

The overall feeling is that Canada is an "us." There, the debate seems to be about "how do we make this a better society for people to live in?"; here, the debate is "should we bother trying?". It got me thinking a lot about what kind of national project I want to be a part of, and highlighted my disappointment in my fellow citizens over the past 15 years, who have been voting--with their votes, not in any indirect or cryptic way--to be a nation of violence, afraid of our shadow and dedicated to relentlessly bombing brown people in the name of principles more honored in the breach than the observance.

Not that it bothers me.

On the way in, everyone in Canadian Customs was, of course, ranging from polite to friendly. On the way out, there's a whole section of the airport just for U.S. departures, and you do your whole customs entry before you get on the plane, and pass under a big sign saying "WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES". Directed by one unhappy-looking Customs and Border Patrol staffer, we handed our passports to an even more unhappy-looking CBP staffer, who veered well past "unhappy" and into "thoroughly crabby."

Anna said, "Aaah, surly airport security people. It feels like we're home already."

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