Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lovely Akron, Ohio

All right, one of the downsides of my job is that sometimes (rarely, thankfully), I have to leave my comfortable home in lovely New Westminster to travel abroad. Abroad would probably be bearable if it weren't the US. But usually it means going south of the border.
Like this time. Here I am in lovely Akron, Ohio. Just an hour south of Cleveland.
I'm trying to get the lay of the land here but it's hard. There are not many landmarks in this rolling country of deciduous trees and sprawl. It all looks so much the same. I'm glad I rented a GPS unit to go with my navy Dodge Charger...especially since the car rental place doesn't hand out maps. These seem to have gone the way of cuniform.
I've got lots to complain about. Things like:
  • endless highway, all at least 6 lanes. Intersecting highways. Multiple parallel routes. I can't figure out why they need so many, but they've got 'em. Mostly in a shitty state of repair, too: lines mostly worn away and crappy road surface. Decaying infrastructure = your taxes are too low!
  • strip malls. OMG. The sheer quantity of car-oriented shopping is simply staggering.  The malls all seem to be "outside" ones, meaning that you have to walk along the outside of the mall to get from store to store. There's no "inside" to the mall. And the acres of parking outside these boxes means that you end up driving from one mall to the next. The entire length of HWY 77 from Cleveland to Akron seems lined with these things.
  • chain restaurants. Again, the number of them available is staggering. The strip malls consist of about an equal number of stores and restaurants. Some of them have outdoor patios, which overlook parking lots. How scenic. Almost all eating etablishments are part of a chain. I've not found a non-chain restaurant, but then I guess I'm in the wrong part of the country for that??? Maybe in downtown Cleveland you can find such a thing??
  • the weather: humid and warm. Yech. You have to sleep with the airco on, which I loathe - the noise and that fake cold air.
  • dinner conversation: tires and cars. Two topics on which I have nothing to contribute. How you can fill 45 minutes with talk about car tires boggles my mind....but it is possible. I just witnessed it.
To be honest, though, there are some things that aren't bad about this place. On the plus side we've got:
  • endless highways. The toll ones, I mean. If only Canada could get off this idea of having free road space. I admit I got a bit freaked out when that nice GPS lady directed me to the toll highway, but it turns out that they'll take your (Canadian) credit card. My company just subsized the US road system by $1.15.
  • strip malls. OMG. The sheer amount of shopping is amazing. The choice here is huge. I just picked up a travel speaker for my iPhone for $40 that isn't even on the shelves in Canada. And the variety of plus-sized clothing is truly .... sobering.
  • chain restaurants. They are not actually that bad. Some of them, anyways. Not great food, but not too shabby if you know which ones to go to. Luckily my American colleagues know (because I don't, and believe me, there are some crappy ones!). And they actually have decent beer these days - I just had a Belgian-style wheat beer on tap. Nice! Most of these chains aren't in Canada - only the crappy ones.
  • the weather: at least it's warm here, you can still sit outside without a sweater in the evenings. Even if it's kinda sticky.
  • dinner conversation: guns and politics. I'm endlessly fascinated with what these two issues illustrate about our two countries, which are, after all, not really that different in many respects...and how colleagues for whom I have a good deal of respect, and who I genuinely like, can support concealed handgun legislation and be staunchly anti-Obamacare.
When we lived in the US (about 15 years ago) we acclimatized pretty quickly. Really, there are wonderful people, lovely countryside, and a lot of very interesting history. It's just that our (and when I say our I of course mean my) knee-jerk reaction as Canadians is so anti-American that one really has to make an effort to snap out of it. Really. Get over it and take this country at face value. You'll have a better time.

Even if you still miss your hubby.

1 comment:

  1. Check the Urban Dictionary for "Akroness" - Funny stuff.