19th Century sketch of Pictou Harbor, Nova Scotia
On March 23, 2014, my last full day in Canada, I woke up to snow. Yes, about two inches of snow that fell last night. Yippee! I scraped off the car and went in search of breakfast.
Unfortunately, I am in Pictou, Nova Scotia. It is a summer town. Nothing is open here in the winter. Breakfast included.
I drove around until I saw a sign for Stone Soup. I’d heard from a local that they do pretty good food there. I stopped by, and thankfully, it was open.
|The eatery is smaller than this, but this is the promo pic they use!|
The proprietor said, “If you’re looking for breakfast, you’re in the right spot.”
I sat down to a lovely pot of mint tea and an omelet. In the corner, there were four people having a bash America session. It was the first I’d heard anywhere in my time in Canada.
They were complaining about the police. The matriarch at the table was holding forth about how violent, stupid and retaliatory American Police were.
They referenced the television show "Cops". They spoke of the difference between the American Cops show and the Canadian Cops show. Apparently, the Canadian show features a single mountie riding up on a horse to apologize to the Canadian perps about the need to arrest them. It ends with a gentle recommendation that the perps not engage in behavior that would lead them to trouble in the future. In America, apparently, seven police surround a homeless man and beat him senseless before cuffing him and dragging him to jail. I have never seen Cops, but that sounds like an apt description of what I'd expect to see on it.
The crowning statement was from her husband, who announced, “Everybody in America has a record. That’s how they disenfranchise them and keep them from voting.”
I piped up. “I don’t have a record, and I’m an American.”
The gentlemen turned to me and said, “You just wait. You haven’t got one yet. You just wait.”
This precipitated a long conversation where we talked about the pay for play incarceration system in the United States. We all agreed that locking people up should not be a money making venture. That’s a system begging for fraud and abuse.
I found out they’d lived in Missouri before moving to Canada, and they’d had problems in a rural town. They had been activists for peace, social justice, an oversight board for the police force, voting rights and a number of other causes. Some of the residents of that small town would call them and tell them they appreciated what they were doing and approved, but in public they would defame them and call them out for being troublemakers.
The local police force did not appreciate the idea of implementing an oversight board and spent lots of time hounding them, arresting their sons for flimsy reasons, and sending police to their home on suspicion that they were selling drugs, until the family left their property and moved to Canada. All of this took place a decade ago, but they still smolder over it at breakfast…and probably at other times as well.
We talked about isolationism and small towns. We spoke of the need for exposure to new ideas and culture.
That’s when they asked what I was doing there. I told them I was going to be at the deCosteCenter. They knew who I was then.
|Spring? Well, yes, technically it is spring. Imagine this place covered in snow.|
“You’re Donna Washington! You’re the storyteller!” They were excited to talk to me about the show. None of them were planning to see it, of course, but they wanted to talk about it.
The matriarch was looking at me. Finally, she said, “You’ve been to Columbia, Mo haven’t you?”
I vaguely remember doing a festival there years, and years ago.
She said, “Yes, it was you. I saw you. I sat right there in the front on one of those hay bales with my middle son. I came up and spoke with you at the end of the session. I remember.”
By the time I left to return to my hotel room, they were no longer bashing America. They were talking about the odd way the world works, small towns, culture, and how each of us has to stand by the choices we make for good or ill.
They were also thinking about finding a nice Jewish, inter-racial, gay or lesbian couple with children adopted from the Middle East to buy their farm in rural Missouri.
The world is really small. Stories make it smaller. That’s a good thing. What a fitting way to spend my last full day in Canada.