Just got back from a short trip to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. It's a nice place.
Things I Liked About Ottawa
- Ottawa is in that part of Canada that takes bilingualism seriously. (As opposed to the aggressive monolingualism distressingly common in the US.) Everything is in both English and French. It's just cool to see and lets me brush up a little on my French. (My French is even worse than my Norwegian, but better than my Hungarian.) And it's not just for show. About a third of the folks with which I dealt were French speakers. (Of course, they spoke in English for my benefit.)
- Ottawa's architecture for their main government buildings is a nice contrast to Washington DC. Instead of big-ass granite buildings fronted by ranks of phallic columns, Ottawa's buildings are done in a Gothic Revival style. They're impressive without being imposing. Granted, the Peace Tower juts up phallically, but it has nothing on our National Phallus, phallically speaking. (I'll be interested in the ads generated by the frequent use of phallus-related terminology. At least I didn't say
penis. PENIS PENIS PENIS! (That's an in-joke for anyone in my High School health class.))
- I can get to Ottawa in about 4 hours, including layover time. Hell, it takes me nearly that long to drive to DC.
- When you return to the US, you go through Customs and Passport Control in Ottawa. I was really worried before I found that out. I switched planes in Dulles, but had only 90 minutes between the flights. Judging from the time it took us to get through Customs and Passport Control in Dulles after we returned from Norway last year, I wasn't optimistic about making my second flight. But, ah ha, you don't have to go through it in Dulles. You do it in Ottawa with no lines!
- Canada, like most countries, has pretty money. US money is just butt-ugly. It was okay when it was all green. But then we decided to add some color to it. And we just screwed it up. Now our money looks like puke. Really. It's that sickly yellow color. Have we no artists?
- The weather was gorgeous. I'm already sick of Virginia heat and humidity. (The folks there assured me that it gets hot and humid in August. Yeah, I'm sure it does. The difference is that Virginia is that way from May through October.)
Things I Disliked About Ottawa
I was panhandled more times than I expected, about six times over the course of three days. That's more than I usually see in DC. But less than I've experienced in San Francisco. The odd thing was that most of the folks approaching me were young white guys. I sorta wanted to yell at them
What's your fucking excuse!
It's not that I'm cheap. I once gave $20 to a guy on the street because he was friendly, helped me find my hotel, and seemed genuinely down on his luck. But it's not usually that clear-cut.
I never know what to do about panhandlers. Will they blow it on booze? (Whereas I'll just blow it on toys.) Are they scamming me? (The guy outside the Baltimore Convention Center is scamming you. He didn't get beat up and he doesn't need bus fare. Trust me on this one.) Are they genuinely in need? Even so, is giving them a buck or two the best way to help?
One approach I thought of was counting the number of times I'm approached and then send $5 per approach to some charity in the area. That seems like a way to address the issue in a constructive way.
But, of course, I haven't actually done that yet. To be honest, I first thought of it in San Francisco. The sheer size of the resulting required donation frankly made me just, well, not do it.
I suppose I ought to send off a check for $30 to an Ottawa charity.
Yeah, that's it. I really liked Ottawa. Oh, well, maybe you don't need three Irish/Scottish pub/restaurants in two blocks. There! That's two things!
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