Archive for the ‘On the road’ Category

Just when I think I have the whole cross border thing figured out

January 13, 2010

Since the “Nigerian bomber” as the news reporters have succumbed to calling the event, Canadian travelers have been warned about the rigors of security to expect between Canada and the US.  With ALA in Boston this year, I was dancing a happy dance at a mere 90 minute flight before this little monkey wrench.

In accordance with the newest rules, I packed my laptop in a purpose built laptop bag, put unguents in a baggie and eschewed any other carry-on (goodbye, pink patent leather purse–not).  I arrived the requisite three hours early for my flight.  The place was indeed hopping and the security line, for the first time in y numerous flights out of here, was bifurcated and doubly agented so each person could be fully and determinedly “processed.”

The first good news was that removing my belt did not leave me unable to take a step forward for fear of slacks-slide. After getting x-rayed, I was shuffled off to a nice man who asked me to put my hands in my pcokets and then remove them and extend my palms.  They were then carefully tested for the detritus of–explosives? illicit drugs? crayon wax?  In any event, I passed and was sent back to mt laptop bag, coat, etc.  This heap was picked through by a nice lady who chatted at me the whole while that she had me switch on every one of my electronic gadgets, forcing me to realize that I have become a walking billboard for the 21st century.  She wanted me to switch on one of the thumb drives until I explained what it was.

Then–surprise!–no body scan, not so much as a slapdash wanding!  This is big time news for me, the ever-patted-down.

Off to US Customs, where I was asked only two questions: in what city do I live and did I want my passport stamped.  I’m telling you, walking around with purple hair pays off: you’re so conspicuous that no one wants to test your crafty secret possibilities.

No complaints there.  And the waitress at the Spirit of the Maritimes–the only watering hole this side of security–kept refilling my coffee cup.  Good morning, world!


Walking in the Mission

November 11, 2009

With camera in hand, today was one for heading into San Francisco and mural gazing.  (Yes, there was a lot of people gazing, too).  The light was refracted by haze but the colours are generally bright enough to withstand that kind of low stunning.



It’s better over here

November 6, 2009

While snow fell on most of Halifax this morning and giant culverts fell onto the neighbourhood (okay, they were off-loaded in a new stack at the front of our house, per Bob), I have had to ‘suffer” through a delightful neighbourhood walk with lots of roses on display, in Berkeley, and then an even more exotic one through Alameda’s tree-named streets with their Victorians.

Not to mention a good look at Alameda Free‘s three-year-old central library (still looking fresh and clean).  And Tom’s Tiki Bar on the Oakland side of Park Street Bridge…and the Aloha (bragging–I think inaccurately–that it has Oakland’s longest bar) at the foot of the Fruitvale Bridge…no, not a pub crawl, more a building inspection tour.

Life’s so rough on vacation!

Flu south

October 25, 2009

H1N1 seems to have a different profile and reception here than back in Canada, and different, too, from what it was when I was last in the Midwest just two weeks ago. O’Hare Airport has sprouted Purell dispensers on virtually every open wall space (including, curiously, several outside every Men’s Wash Room in Terminal 2).  Folks who didn’t make it to the ALA Exec meeting due to having contracted the flu all seem to be way sicker than what I’ve heard so far back in Halifax–hospitalized, long recovery processes, etc.

Yesterday’s BBC news noted that the President has declared a state of emergency and today’s headlines (again in the O’Hare boxes so not pursued further by me, at least yet) all scream in going-to-war font that vaccine supplies are low.

Meanwhile flu shots, which were happening for $15 a pop here at O’Hare at the beginning of October, are now $35.

Back in Nova Scotia, as I was booeying out the door, the protocol for vaccination was just undergoing a quick change from “wait until January” to “next week”. I am guessing it will change two or three more times before anything actually enters the distribution stream.

In the meantime, anyone with a cough or sneeze, on either side of the border, is treated either as a 15th century leper or as though they were merely breathing–depending on the audience, not the patient.

The world’s largest…

October 23, 2009

Chicago has been socked in by a giant pouring rain cloud since I arrived yesterday afternoon.  But the location of both my hotel and the meetings is such that I can walk about dry and amused:  the hotel is on the 15th floor of the Merchandise Mart, across a second floor pedestrian bridge from the world’s largest LEED Gold building…and that houses showrooms for furnishing designers.  It’s so wow!



On the first floor of the hotel building is the Illinois (as opposed to Chicago) Art Institute, along with a mural that can’t be fully captured due to the narrowness of the corridor along which it is gigantically painted.  So, here are just some details:

IMG_3004 IMG_3007

And then there’s the biggest mailbox ever….


October in the country

October 17, 2009

A drive across the province to the North Mountain side of the Annapolis Valley yielded a treasure trove of wonderful sights: geographic, historic, funny and serious.  Here’s the valley–and the Bay of Fundy–from the highest point of the trip:


One surprise was that, although the Evangeline museum at Grand Pre is closed for the season, we were invited in by an administrator who thought she was going to get some post-season office work done today but instead decided to let in late visitors:


That was the second museum visit of the day; the first was even more of a surprise–a coffee museum dedicated to an explanation of fair trade and the history of cooperative business. It had, without a doubt, the most astonishingly fine exhibits I’ve ever seen in a museum that had less funding than the Cloisters!


And then, there were Kentville’s pumpkin people and the produce at Herrigan’s farm market:


Oh well again

October 15, 2009

So, we’re out of heating oil, the explosioning is apparently the renewed black, and now Bob is having his typical traveling-through-Chicago luck–which is to say, no luck at all. And not even Chicago. This time, at least, the delay started long before the first take-off from Minneapolis.  He’s not answering his phone so I’m not sure if his sister still has him in custody or if he’s cooling (!) his heels in an airport he doesn’t know quite as intimately as O’Hare.

I first got word of his delay via himself, in a voicemail left about three hours ago.  Another hour later came the somewhat eyebrow raising electronic message–with it’s psycho lilt–for him, reassuring him that he might be booked on a flight from O’Hare for tomorrow night.  If he can get to Chicago by then. Why the psycho-automaton didn’t directly to his cell I can’t say:  or maybe he’s routing his cell phone calls here, in which case he will never get any messages while he’s gone.  And with messages like the one from the airline, maybe that is just allowing him to continue to be optimistic rather than facing the fact that he will never be able to fly through O’Hare smoothly.

So, I have to thank him for taking the onus off my own upcoming trip to Chicago.  His bad karma should be good for a week, at least, and my plan there leaves next Thursday morning.

The rain, the fox and the oversold flight

October 4, 2009

The two-hour bus ride from Janesville to O’Hare was more visible today than in the slashing rain of Thursday afternoon.  This time, the slashing rain was on the Halifax end…but first, there were beautifully stacked white and grey clouds along I90.  A female fox crouched roadside just west of Des Plaines, a remnant of the deep past.

The O’Hare of the present came with an overbooked flight so I got a stub that took me through security but also left me unseated on the plane itself.  That got sorted after an eventuality that meant no last minute pit stop in spite of having downed a litre of water. C’est la vie.

The planeload of passengers seemed nearly comatose, and that was in spite of a bouncing, jouncing ride through storm clouds.  We landed in slashing rain and got to descend slickened metal steps and battle across the airfield toward shelter.  Welcome home and all that. The rain only increased on the highway and then there was the three block walk from parking garage to house–still standing beyond the pale of anyone approaching it more directly by car.  Okay, what’s a bit of wet?  It’s about 10 degrees warmer here than in Wisconsin, the wind is wilder, and there are more spare clothes into which to change.

Plus the memory of the roadside vixen.

The oddity of the beautiful school

October 3, 2009

The workshop where I spent the day here in Janesville was held in the John Kennedy Elementary School, a 10-year-old building with overwhelmingly successful design: colours, materials, lines, flexibility and light.  Linoleum hallways have pieces cut into them representing the trivium and the quadrivium; the high metal ceiling in the performing arts area is painted light blue with white “clouds” supporting the lights; heavy duty wooden cubbies on wheels line corridors but can be shifted away if the full width of one hall or another is required.

It occurs to me that I haven’t seen such a well designed–and well maintained–public school building in perhaps my entire life.  No scars on the paint from door handles that have banged for lack of doorstopper, cheery colourful tiles in the washrooms that are clean, clean, clean.  And, to boot, the presentations could take advantage of a stellar sound system, just fine projector and screen.  Even the lunchtime caterer arrived silently set up and returned to take down on cat’s paws.

The presentations rolled, too, like water off a healthy duck’s back. Fullcast’s Dan Bostick, with two teen actors, engaged; Michele Cobb wore her APA hat and showed emerging technology with all the grace of a chef making omelettes; CCBC’s Merri Lindgren talked books I already know and made them sound enticing all over again.

Was it the setting that kept things humming without the almost-always overtalker who throws off the schedule?

Nearly a dozen local teens came out on a Saturday morning to talk about their listening preferences–without a snarky one in the bunch (but plenty with enough insouciance to assure us that they weren’t a Stepford crop). No one complained about the sandwiches or the cookies; people said please and thank you and asked real questions.

In short the day fit the building, a kind of unanticipated idyll.

America, America

October 2, 2009

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.