Canada is what I consider America-lite. The major difference between Canada and California is that the minimum wage earners do not speak Spanish. This severely limited our hook-ups for extra fries and chips at restaurants.
In talking to some of the local merchants -- OK, most of the local merchants within a 10-mile radius of the hotel -- we learned that there are very few Latinos in Vancouver. There is a community of folks from Chile who have settled there, who maintain a closely-knit society, but Latinos by-and-large who have ventured that far north, have, for the most part, backed down.
That being said, I did see a '64 Chevy Station-wagon Lowrider on chrome Crager wheels and 520 tires with thin white walls cruising down a major strip.
I was not surprised to find that the rules regarding wearing the terry cloth hotel robes in public applied to wearing a hotel towel wrapped around the head like an oil sheik, with a baseball hat cocked to the side on top. My bad. I did wear an Oakland Raiders jersey the day after they beat the Canadian favorites, the Seahawks.
Every morning we took the hotel shuttle van driven by a Russian immigrant whose toupee looked like a UPS brown rabid beaver. He would drop us off downtown, we would shop until we dropped and be picked up several hundred dollars lighter, later.
On the second day, we signed up for the deluxe bus tour of Vancouver. I have never been on a real tour, with real tourists before. Suffice it to say I traveled extensively throughout Texas with Little Joe and La Famila, but those tours were surreal, and cannot be mentioned in detail here, because of reasons regarding various statues of limitations.
We were the youngest couple on the tour by a good 25 years. The bus was filled with youthful seniors from around the world whose company was quite enjoyable. They did, however become pumped after a 20-minute rest stop, when my wife and I took 25 minutes, returning to the bus balancing fat ice cream cones.
The bus tour, which on the surface appeared lame, was actually quite cool. You feel just like you are driving through a Discovery Channel Documentary in real time. The people, the buildings, the historical sites -- they all seem like movie props as we anonymously cruised around observing the Canucks in their natural habitat. The driver did an ongoing commentary about the sites and sounds of the city and was quite entertaining. This means that I am dangerously close to becoming a middle-aged dork.
The people of Vancouver are cordial yet not that engaging. I?m sure they are jaded like San Franciscans who are quite used to throngs of visitors who cross their paths, who ask the same questions, who will most likely never pass their way again.
On our last night in Canada we walked to a local beach and watched an incredible light-show-sunset, and found a Mexican Restaurant. We cautiously made our way into the quaint little place whose hanging lampshades were sombreros. I asked the Latina waitress in Spanish if they were Mexicanos. She answered without missing a beat, yes, and the food was the real deal.
We left Vancouver early on a grey morning untying our journey north with a trunk load of souvenirs. This time the wait was longer at the border crossing. This guy seemed bored with his job, and was neither happy that we were leaving Canada, or irritated that we were coming back home. This border, all borders, now more than ever seemed officious and unnecessary.
It was weird to have a sense of relief to be back in the USA. I guess the psychological effect of knowing your rights and the rules gives comfort, despite the fact that the house was still 17 hours away.
After a stopover in Oregon to visit my sister and her family, we headed home, two days ahead of schedule. Just before the time when vacation becomes work.
Going to Canada was a life experience for me. Having grown up in the inner city, few of us ever experienced wanderlust. Many home-folks never really leave the community, hence live their live in a socio-cultural microcosm that breeds a certain a-Gringo-phobic outlook on life.
I credit my wife Alba who insisted on going north this year, instead of always going south. We are in negotiations exploring the possiblity of going east next year. East like in New York, not east like in the Far East.
I sho' nuff ain?t got the stomach to be that far from the Hezzy.