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It’s a Small World

So there we were, standing in a hockey arena where the EverBlades play a version of our Canadian game to watch the Spanish Riding Club and their Austrian Lipizzaner Stallions, singing the American National Anthem.
So there we were, standing in a hockey arena where the EverBlades play a version of our Canadian game to watch the Spanish Riding Club and their Austrian Lipizzaner Stallions, singing the American National Anthem.

Not that I am particularly pro-American, but I like to sing and oddly enough, I knew the words. I didn’t even have to think about the words, as I am wont to do when singing the latest version of O Canada in one or both of our official languages.

Of course we were treated to America the Beautiful and God Bless America before the anthem while a rider carried the star spangled banner around the covered ice surface. And I must admit it was a little off-putting when the lady standing behind me put a whole lot of emphasis on the ‘Bombs bursting in air’ line.

Visiting Florida has been interesting so far. We do the usual comparison of prices and conversion of US dollars into Loonies, try to get used to Fahrenheit and miles again, and try not to say ‘eh’ too often. I think the price of gasoline is cheaper, not because I can readily convert gallons to litres and dollars to loonies but because it only costs $22 US to fill the car compared to the usual 42 loonies at home.

In the good old days, food in the States was cheaper, but now, I think we are actually paying more here for our groceries. Certainly the fresh veggies are more expensive and frankly not as good a quality as we can get on Fisher Street. At least the grapefruit meet my buying criteria of never paying more than 50 cents each.

Part of the cost of food has to be the double security packaging on everything. I guess since 9/11 the Americans decided to make everything as tamper-proof as possible. I surely miss buying my almonds and olives in bulk.

The big ticket items, such as cars, are considerably cheaper here. Appliances like washers and dyers are definitely cheaper, while they almost give away television sets. Oddly, golf equipment and replacement golf balls are more expensive. Go figure.

This part of Florida is booming and I expect most who want a job can find one. One of the more contentious issues in the local paper is that of the City expropriating homes to expand a shopping and commercial area. It looks like they are trying to create a ‘downtown’ in the suburbs. Subdivisions from the moderately priced to the obscenely lavish are taking over the swampland as fast as they can chase the gators away.

I have noticed a large number of elderly people working at checkouts, shelf-stocking and service counters. These people are well beyond retirement age and I doubt they are doing the work as a pastime. These are jobs that we would normally see being filled by students at home. I don’t think this is just part of the American obsession with wealth, but a sign that their social safety net has more holes in it than ours.

Americans have often been accused of being very insular in their politics and view of the world and I have been watching for this in the media. Certainly the local newscasts never mention anything beyond the state line. Even the war in Iraq gets little attention unless one of the hometown soldiers is injured. Our local TV cable doesn’t even rate CNN for news but runs a cut down version of ABC and CBS news.

I did catch Ted Kennedy on CSPAN detailing how the Bush Administration(s) had planned the Iraq war. Public television is providing good coverage of the run up to the election. The politicians are the same as at home – they’ll promise anything to anybody, often contradicting their own policies.

The one thing that does get media attention here is the cost of drugs. At least Canada is becoming famous for something. But the propaganda about our drugs being unsafe still persists, not from the person on the street, but from the lobbyists and FDA. Bush’s drug plan for seniors will save folks a little, but still not as much as buying from Canada. The State of Florida (Jeb Bush) is against Canadian drugs and TV ads warn of the danger of buying from someone you don’t know.

Little is being said about Mad Cow although one letter to the editor questions the safety of other meat and fish products. I suspect some Floridians haven’t even heard the Mad Cow news from Washington state! There is a shortage of Flu shots and warnings about West Nile virus. At least mosquitoes are not an issue in North Bay now!

Another topic that is starting to gather attention is the trade deficit. With American financial commentators agreeing with the IMF that the current American trade deficit and debt load are leading the world towards financial ruin, the politicians are beginning to question Bush’s policy. I think he has a policy.

Fingers are also being pointed at Wal-Mart, the model to which most businesses are aspiring, as being a large part of the trade deficit problem. There is an on-going protest over a new Wal-Mart store here but I think it has more to do with unions than the trade problem.

Shopping at a reasonably upscale store like Dillard’s, it is almost impossible to find clothing that is not made in the Far East. Forget about finding footwear made in the USA. I did a survey at Burdine’s last Sunday. While my wife was wearing out her charge card, I was checking labels to see the country of manufacture when a clerk asked if he could help. I said I was looking for clothing made in the US – and offered to buy anything he could find in my size or my wife’s size. Didn’t cost me a penny. I think we North Americans are going to have to face the reality of buying off-shore or face a mammoth financial problem.

It was also interesting to read letters to the editor attacking Bush’s reason for the Iraq war. Some are questioning whether Saddam had anything to do with terrorism, while others think the war was planned well before 9/11. An AOL internet poll suggests that over 60% of the users believe the war was planned prior to 9/11. Being an election year, it’s hard to say how much commentary is just partisan politics, but there is discussion. I have heard nothing in conversations about Canada’s role in the war against terrorism.

The weather still makes the news here, especially when the Patriots played in the freezing cold. But it is warm on the golf course and around the pool.

Oh yes, we heard one American talking to a friend after the Lipizzaner show about how he had seen an even better display of horsemanship. A show called the Musical Ride by the RCMP, up north, up in Canada. It’s a small world.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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