State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Damian

You are using the wrong weather service Natalia’s Canadian cousin tells us. Apparently Americans have no idea how to predict weather in British Columbia and, and my personal favorite need not apply when it comes to forecasting atmospheric events north of 49th parallel. There must be something to it: while all American sites are full of rainy icons, we manage to squeeze a sizable bike ride along the Vancouver seawall.

From our point of view Vancouver inhabitants are in the state of perennial denial when it comes to weather. 30 miles (sorry, kilometers) north of the city we find what they call the Sunshine Coast proudly proclaiming more sunny days than Hawaii in its promotional materials. Hiking in the incessant rain we wonder if it is self-delusion, marketing or just ignorance. May be sunshine means something different here, like - you don’t actually see the sun, but the sky gets kind of bright in the area where our closest star is supposed to be?

The proper name for this stretch of land would be melancholy coast or - less marketable - depression coast. My tragically Slavic soul is on a verge of hurling itself down the picturesque cliffs into the green water of fjords. The dense soup of the ocean, green mountains barely visible in fog, clouds so low you can almost touch them. The only way to survive this unscathed is to slurp on oysters and local brews in one of the many bars along the coast.

We try to escape to Vancouver Island which is where the provincial capital - Victoria - is located but the weather situation does not improve much. Everybody keeps telling us that it’s exceptionally cold and rainy summer and by now we know this conversation by heart. Differently from the mainland, excuses here are pronounced with an accent that I charitably call this is how we imagine the British folks speak. Looks like the population here when not explaining the rain to the moldy tourist is glued to the BBC perfecting their vowels. All that gloom and funny talking make me think that I am in a Mike Leigh movie and I half expect Brenda Blethyn or Imelda Staunton to pop from around the corner and start talking about the social inequalities in that alluring accent of theirs. For now though I am reduced to overhearing the bits of conversations and it makes me wonder why on earth British speakers sound so intelligent even when they are just debating the issue of mayo vs. ketchup on their fries (sorry, chips).

One day we climb 3000 feet (sorry, 1000 meters) to the recommended lookout. It’s a great hike but when, predictably wet, we arrive at the top we cannot see much. Another British Columbia myth is that it doesn’t rain in the forest. What I think they mean by that is it doesn’t NOT rain in the forest. When mosses are as big as ferns, ferns as big as trees, and trees are so big that they elude any useful comparison you begin to suspect that the constant drizzle is just a fact of life and not some passing phenomenon.There are many redeeming qualities around here. Skiing, sailing, kayaking and diving opportunities abound. Although we prefer our diving adventures without risk of hypothermia when taking the plunge.

I wonder if this continuous downpour is the same water that is supposed to fall in draught distressed American South. If that’s the case Rick Perry’s deity is showing its ironic side using water to punish pleasantly liberal Canadians instead of rewarding pious Texans.


As far as licence plate slogans go most states don’t strive for modesty. Oregon is Pacific Wonderland, New Mexico - Land of Enchantment, Massachusetts claims - inexplicably to the rest of the country - The Spirit of America. Put on this background Idaho’s Famous Potatoes seems very down to earth. It sounds like a no nonsense state. So we do not expect much. Apart from potatoes in every shape, form and color.

deja vu

One of the precious few ways to offend your Canadian friends is to suggest that their country is a paler and colder version of its southern neighbor. And there are indeed many ways in which Canadians are different. Food seems to be more edible here and cities actually resemble places to live in and not abandoned movie sets. But in some cases Canadians are just dead set on repeating American mistakes. The ever present foreclosure signs and empty subdivisions disappear when you cross the border. Instead props that we begin to forget show up: real estate agents are shamelessly peddling their trade on every inch of promotional space, houses are getting bought, demolished and reconstructed apparently overtime, your bartender is giving you free buy vs. rent advice with a pint of local brew.