Things from home

People apparently want to know more about our big trip to America last month. Oddly enough, the people who want to know the most are the Americans. Either they just want an outsiders view, or they’re trying to make sure we had a good time there. Which we did.

If you live in Seattle, and you know someone visiting from Melbourne, be sure to take them down to the waterfront. Seattle has half a dozen trams from Melbourne down there, and it’s probably the spookiest feeling in the world to be sitting in a vehicle (a) that’s such an obvious reminder of home and (b) as far away from home as you are. What really makes your jaw drop is to see the old notices for the tramways band playing at Wattle Park. Just plain weird.

Seattle’s Space Needle is cool, too. You’ve seen it painted onto the back of the studio set on Frasier – well I’ve gone up in it. Quite apart from the view, the design of it is just so olde-sci-fi that it looks like a prop from one of those early Flash Gordon series.

Seattle also has ferries. Stepping out onto the deck of a Seattle ferry in the wind is possibly one of the coldest things I’ve ever experienced. The wind doesn’t obey the normal rules of aerodynamics – it just seems to go through you rather than around you.

Actually, we didn’t spend all of our holiday in America – we got to nip into Canada for a couple of days too, on the pretence of going to see Vancouver, but it was mostly so I could get another stamp in my passport.

Crossing the border was a bit intimidating actually. Because my wife and son have dual nationality, I was the only Australian in a car full of Americans. They didn’t even have to show any ID – I was the one who had to get out for a grilling at immigration.

At first I thought they’d be really friendly. I spotted the picture of Her Maj Queen Liz on the wall and thought they just wanted to say hello and welcome to a fellow Commonwealth person, and compare notes on socialised medicine. Turned out to be a quick quiz about where we were going, how long for, just a short conversation to see if I’d suddenly break down and shout “Oh stop playing games! You know all about it! You know about the mysterious white powder in the lining in the suitcase… you know about the huge amounts of currency… you know about the false passport in the name of Gonzo McGillycuddy.”

Just as well I wasn’t really concealing anything other than that I really needed to go to the toilet. But it still made me a bit nervous – knowing that a cough at the wrong time could result in some customs guy ramming a rubber-gloved hand up my arse for a rummage around.

In the end they were just friendly and business-like, and I got my precious passport stamp. Driving on into Canada, things began to look more familiar, as the miles turned into kilometres. The money was different colours… they had $1 and $2 coins… but there was still the confusion of VAT and tips.

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