America, America

My first stop after plane and bus yesterday was a shopping mall: welcome to Anywhere in the Western (and parts of other hemispheres) of the World.  This was not a foray occasioned by either Sharon or me being shopaholics but of each of us having a distinct modern need.  For me, it was to refill my US phone’s pay as you go allotment; for her it was to buy some nonperfumed “sanitizer” towards fulfilling a detail of her library’s pandemic plan.  Cell phone plans, pandemic plans.  North of the border cells work in structural emergencies, south they don’t.  Both countries seem to be committed to the broad based distribution of  hand gel against H1N1.

It was a cloudy rainy day for travel.  In fact, by the time the Van Galder bus was tooling along US90 from O’Hare to Janesville (setting for Oscar Hijuelos’ Dark Dude), the rain was what there was to see from the windows.  We made one stop before mine and the driver warned against anyone trying for a hit of McDonald’s because this particular branch of that worldwide organization is too slow to be in synch with the bus schedule.  In Janesville, he promised, continuing passengers could get their McDonald’s fix.  Wow, the whole route is less than three hours and it was midafternoon so it was hard to fathom that any of the nicely filled out and well nourished adults on board (there was no one under 25, as far as I could see) would need a maintenance dose en route.

But the mall–oh my! Yes, I had heard that Victoria’s Secret now has an underage boutique but had forgotten (if I ever knew) that it’s called This Is Pink and was horrified by the amount of eye space it took along the mall’s central artery.  On the other hand, a shoe store that wasn’t Footlocker (if that is possible in a mall) had a windowful of Converses in every hue and lots of prints, from madras to spraycan art–not what I expected in the Heartland, oops, Dairyland.

Much later, when we had regrouped for a wonderful home-smoked salmon dinner at Sharon’s house, we all got to do a certain amount of American storytelling.  I’d brought along my trusty Canadian fiver for the occasion. And Sharon, bless her, was the first audience who not already knew Roch Carrier’s book (The Hockey Sweater) but loves it (she was new to the association with the currency, however, so no lost story).

We also discussed cows, and whether California’s or Wisconsin’s are happier.  Sharon voted for Wisconsin’s and I stood by my claim that happiness isn’t a cow condition (nor is unhappiness). Which leads to another border crossing: the Ode on the Mammoth Cheese. Only in America would such debates be possible.


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