Glad to be back from the good old USA! USA! USA!

July 20, 2014
By

EagleThere’s nothing to make you appreciate where you’re from quite like taking a trip to the beating heart of the United States.

This thought was driven home to me on a recent road trip to Cincinnati, where we had gone to cheer on Canada’s only Major League Baseball team. Five grown men piled into a Dodge Caravan and headed south, with enough peanuts and salted snacks to sink a barge on the Ohio River.

It was, on the whole, a good adventure. Over three days, we saw two baseball games, one which involved a Blue Jays comeback that nearly made baseball history, and another that we won’t talk about here.

Cincinnati sits near the meaty loins of America’s obsession with greasy food, and we gorged ourselves mightily on their offerings. Their chefs have even developed an improvement upon the humble hot dog — they call it a Cheese Coney, which covers a steamed wiener and bun in brown chili and about two inches of shredded cheese.

To stay hydrated after all the Cheese Coneys and in the intense humidity, the people of Cincinnati’s ball park happily sell you cans of malted beverage at a fraction of the price we pay north of the border.

Despite all these advanced luxuries, I couldn’t help notice that I came away from the weekend feeling even more grateful that I live in Canada.

The Americans may have beer that’s cheaper than bottled water and more fast food chains than well-funded public schools, but I kept thinking if one of these Coneys were to stop my heart, I’d have to remortgage the pay the hospital bills.

At every turn, there were reminders that America is utterly convinced it is the best nation on earth. It’s not even up for debate. The stars and stripes are printed on their beer cans, they release a bald eagle before every ball game, and soldiers proudly enlist in the army in front of 45,000 wildly cheering baseball fans.

On the whole, Cincinnatians were a friendly and approachable people. But we heard someone shout “Go back to Canada,” and not entirely in a joking manner, one too many times to think we were completely welcome there. And if you gave them enough time, you were guaranteed that some patriot clutching a Budweiser would instinctively start chanting, USA! USA! USA! when confronted with the disturbing news there were Canadians in his midst.

I was also stunned by how little people in southern Ohio seemed to know about the neighbouring country that lies just a few hours drive north. I had a boy of maybe 12 ask me in all seriousness if Toronto was a part of Canada. I told him that not even Canadians believe it’s a part of Canada, but for different reasons than he might think.

Standing nearby, a security guard offered, “Can’t you tell he’s Canadian? He has that hook nose that all Canadians have,” pointing out our well-known national physical trait. And here I always thought our honkers were more regal than hooked.

Anyhow, my hook nose was working just fine when we walked into a bar across the river in Kentucky, where we discovered anti-smoking laws hadn’t yet made their way to that part of the United States. Every second person was puffing on a cigarette, making it feel as if we had somehow stepped back in time 30 years.

Overall, I found three distinct things that I prefer about the U.S. over Canada: Beer is cheaper there. Their baseball fans don’t fall asleep at games. Oh, and did I mention the cheap beer?

-Guelph Mercury, June 28, 2014

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