Privileged immigrant—and more trains

At Cabin Coffee this morning, the soundtrack is a 35-year-old Paul Simon album, in perfect keeping with my mood. I’ve come out into the slightly warmer weather with coat, gloves, and a $5 bill, but left my ID in the apartment. I strikes me, as I walk down Barrington, that I rely on a great deal of unearned privilege to assume I can walk around unqueried.

Very few members of my immediate family haven’t made an international immigration (and my mother would try to claim that having to move from New York to Ohio was as good—or as bad—as). My father, a German Jew, got to the US at the bitterest end of the 1930’s. My mother-in-law, brought as a child from Scotland to Canada, moved with her husband and own young family to the US when my husband was just shy of school age. My sister-in-law, who would have been about seven or eight at the time, tells stories of arriving by airplane and her frank confusion about the physics that could make the journey a success.

For years, I’ve lived in a state so deeply obsessed by identification and nationality that the US Supreme Court had to mitigate its attempts to hold a jogger in prison for running without a driver’s license. Here I just walk down the street. Here and now I am still not sure I have any money in the (local) bank (my California bank claimed that it would take three business days to complete a wire transfer and that the three-day weekend might double that) and I’m not worried that any official is going to question my presence or assume I’m a threat to either the economy or public safety. I have immigrant guilt, I guess.

Meanwhile, the morning paper has an article about activity at the southern border, but it’s all about cross-border shopping sprees, provoked by the dramatic up-valuing of the Canadian dollar and a long weekend on which stores in Maine were open even on Sunday. The Canadian shoppers, the piece says, recognized each other by dint of their lapel poppies, and nodded politely to their fellow tourists. Canadian Customs agents, it says, were prone to scold the cross-border shoppers for taking their Canadian dollars abroad to spend.

Every morning, and evening, too, when I pass by the VIA station just below Barrington, there is a passenger train huffing and ready. From here, people can take an overnight train to Montreal, a trip to the US, and to other points as well, of course. Thirty-five years ago (short six weeks), I took my first really long train trip, from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis, then on to Seattle and Eugene, and finally down to Los Angeles. I had that same Paul Simon album with me on that trip.

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