Coatless Canadians in Juneau

Our first port of call was Juneau, Alaska. I hadn’t realized that it was the capitol of the state, nor that this whole section of Alaska should really have been part of Canada.

Alaska Pan Handle, Canada's beachfront

I was most struck by Juneau because the first look was like you’d expect a tourist district to look like in the Wild West days.

Cowboy tourism against a Cruise backsplash

The first fun surprise was seeing:

And the second was this:

yes, you are really seeing it

This store front was surprising on a few levels – it was the first shop front that wasn’t a shop – this was for a soup kitchen/shelter – and the store front was a bit run down compared to the stores that were clearly for tourists. So this ending the row of tourist shops was a shock, combined with the name, was a pretty big cognitive shift and as I was struggling to wrap my mind around how people name things with names that mean something sexual without any awareness of it, like the tea baggers, was beyond comprehension.

Just at the moment, we had decided to move on and the giddiness of taking the photo of the sign was over, a young woman and an older man got into a screaming fight at the doorway about who was in who’s way and who was more known in the community to have clout to assert their right of way; when a middle aged man in a bright pink dress stepped out of the Glory Hole to defend the young woman.

While we and 40 or so other tourists stood in a wide circle, each appearing to debate the ethics of taking a rather unique photo of the young man in the bright pink dress push the older man down, with open hands against his chest, in front of the Glory Hole vs just standing and gaping at the unexpected street theatre that is life, the fight unfolded quickly and the participants became aware of being in the centre of tourists from three cruiseships.

The participants scurried away, back to their lives and the tourists continued to meander all over town to buy souvenirs or go on tours to see wildlife, but each of us sharing a rather unique encounter of strange but true; and the streets returned to normal

We did pick up some additional clothing and I thought this bright pink hoodie would serve well enough in Alaska’s summer and the lower mainland of British Columbia’s spring and fall. Many store fronts had stuffed bears for tourist posing, but I felt a distinctively Canadian vibe was missing:

Moose Mounties!

Tourist Bears

Juneau’s main street wasn’t entirely tourist driven, it’s also a working fishing wharf, which I discovered when I breezed past the – Warning Forklift Area – sign and took this photo of the dock workers and had a forklift’s container of gutted fish bump into me.

By the gangway to the cruise ship, there were fish milling about, as if seeking sanctuary:

We were going to take the tram to the mountain top, but a fog rolled in and it seemed to us that wouldn’t make for a great view….so, back to the cruise ship and a last look at Juneau:

The cruise ship lines provide coupon books to tourists who can then get deals or free gifts from the merchants. I went into one store, which offered a 1 karat black Alaska diamond for free and found it difficult to request the item on offer. Somehow asking directly for something on offer and advertised as free was difficult for my Canadian brain – and it’s true, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, because the cost of free is a lot of pressure to pay for an upgrade to the free gem in a silver ring, necklace or brooch setting.

Which, to my mind, undermines the entire jewelry industry if the alleged valuable part – the stone – can be free with just the cost of the setting to cover costs and turn a profit.

Canada in a UK/US sandwich

Posted on-line:

Living in the UK and watching US tv, we’ve been brainwashed to believe that Canadian’s basically suck. But everytime I read about Canada or meet someone from there, I’m led to believe is the US that actually sucks and that they are jealous of Canada’s progressive politics. I suppose its a bit like how being part of religion can make you live in a bubble thinking that you are better than everyone else.

Random Ntrygg:

Growing up in Canada and watching UK TV, US TV and the little bit of Canadian TV that sneaks onto the airways;  my Canadian perspective is that the Brits are more sophisticated because they are mature about Benny Hill, cross dressing and full frontal nudity on tv, at all very rigid class levels all steeped in a far older civilization with sophisticated history of literature and science

The Americans are largely the silicon Blonde pageant queen and beer gut slobby construction worker battling with Rosie the Riveter and the can do pioneer spirit and Canadians are dithering because of our inferiority complex to both – allowing us to be the children of Britain and the younger, failure to launch sibling to the US.

We have had great advances in technology that the world assumes was done in the US, and we actual ruin our industries to avoid annoying the Americans.

We actually had a treaty agreement to not develop a film industry as long as the Americans occasiionally filmed prioductions here.

We gave any our economic soveriegnty to be a service provider to the US industries.

Americans now take that as what’s owed to them by other countries.

Historically, the US Democrats are more right wing than Canadian Conservatives. We are in an interesting era when the US Democratic President is more left wing than our conservative Prime Minister.

Well, maybe not for long – the Canadian system of confidence votes is certainly unique.

But, as Canadians, I think that we actually care more about individuals than in the US – where it’s more a individuals in terms of a look out for number one, because no one is looking out for you attitude.

Whereas, in Canada, we care about individuals and so have a social saftey network to give people a basic platform to support them – universal health care, welfare and other social programs.

I think that it’s very telling that the US frontier heros were the outlaw gunslingers and in Canada, it was the Northwest Mounted Police, later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

It’s telling that the US had a violent separation from the UK and then a violent settling of scores internally.

Canada is still not a separate country from the UK, and made that relationship symbolic in the 1980’s with our Charter – no revolution.

Canada’s internal battle is still being fought between our Anglo and Franco heritages, but instead of a civil war, that battle is fought within diplomatic channels as a federal political party.

Canada’s path is one of diplomacy and civility, which takes longer, requires more compromise and while has an ultimate all round better conclusion, is slower and less satisfying than a civil war with a clear winner and loser.

Which is why the US continues to be divided north and south – and the mischaracterization of the civil ware being about freeing the slaves is appalling.

The north freed the slaves to attack the south economically – the slaves were freed to take away the pool of labour the South had and in hopes of having the slave rise up to create a second front for the South who was already fighting the north.

This is not to say that all in Canada is okay – we have a terrible history of treatment of the aboriginal people that continues today, and we are at the starting point of the problems of multiculturalism and migrant waves who are resisting becoming part of the mosaic that is Canada.

It’ the US with the idea of a melting pot – but that means that the culture is the lowest common denominator and Canada’s mosaic analogy is more like having a quilt made of many types of patterned squares.

We drunkenly lurch between the UK and US paths, trying to find our own identity.