There’s nothing to ruin breakfast at a Canadian hotel like the sound of US businessmen at the next table bad-mouthing Obama.
Like everyone, I’m shocked- shocked!- by the NSA surveillance, but I wanted to ask these guys three questions: Are you really surprised that something the Patriot Act authorized under Bush is actually being done? Are you as outraged about how big business is compromising your privacy in a hundred ways every day as you are about government surveillance? And, come on, haven’t you hated Obama all along?
But I digress, I’m here for books. I try to stay on guard against generalizations about cities ever since I underestimated Buffalo, a place I now love but once loathed. Rep travel is almost by definition skimming the surface. My acquaintance with cities is so superficial and spotty that I should just withhold judgment. But like the loud Americans in the hotel, I’m entitled to an opinion no matter how ill-formed.
In this case it’s a positive- I love Burlington, Ontario! The setting is gorgeous, right on Lake Ontario; the downtown is quaint and charming without being cloying; the architecture, despite an encroachment of high rises, is phenomenal; the scale is human, friendly. I’m aware that there are probably vast neighborhoods I haven’t seen which might stifle my high, but the Burlington of my imagination is a place I’d rather stay than flee.
Best of all, Ian Elliot’s wonderful Different Drummer Bookstore is something every city of 175,000 should have but few do. While we were meeting a woman wandered in for the first time, remarking that “this just looked like an interesting place.” I envied her the sense of discovery. After working on the new lists I wished for more time to hang out and browse the incredibly well-chosen inventory, but duty called.
From Burlington, a short drive to Hamilton- a bigger city of which I have a much more tenuous grasp- and another great store, Bryan Prince Books. One topic of morning conversation was the demise of the Canadian penny, which are no longer being circulated and will be phased out. One customer was grateful to receive her change in pennies instead of rounded up or down. “I use pennies and I don’t have a kindle. I’m actually pretty happy with the 20th Century,” she sighed.