Before we left Nova Scotia to head back to the States we got a chance to visit Chester, another of the pretty seaside communities you find all over Canada’s Maritime Provinces. In the Chester Harbor, next to the town memorial to fallen soldiers, was a colorful, lichen-stained stone wall that looked like it had been there a hundred years. And, now that I think of it, maybe it had.
Anyone who has been to Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia knows of the three churches. They stand side by side at the corner of town and on the edge of the bay. Their bells ring and echo down the inlet, letting us know the time. And, on a wondrously calm, breathtakingly quiet morning, like today, they reflect perfectly in the still waters of the bay.
Our hosts described Lunenberg, Nova Scotia as being like San Francisco. They mentioned that the town is built into hillside, just like the City by the Bay. But there is more to the similarity than steeply inclined streets. Lunenberg has a bit of a countercultural vibe to it, like I imagine Haight Ashbury had during the Summer of Love in the ’60s, with quirky diners and stores selling what appear to be Wiccan supplies.
The psychedelic paint jobs on many of the old wooden houses in the town add to the effect. Every block features a riotous collection of paint jobs that use every hue in the rainbow. The different colors make the street views real treat.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is a fishing town. When you walk down to the dock, you see a somber memorial to all of the sailors who have lost their lives at sea over the centuries. You also see one of the crafts on which Lunenburg’s fishing tradition was built — the humble dory.
A dory is a long boat with a flat bottom, narrow bow and stern, and high sides that is made with ribbing and wide wooden planks. It’s a sturdy little vessel with ample room for the fisherman, his gear and his bait, and (we hope) the day’s catch. The dory has carried many a fisherman out onto the water in search of the elusive schools of fish, and it carries them still.
Yesterday morning Mahone Bay was covered with a pea soup blanket of fog, so dense we couldn’t see the end of the dock in front our cottage. By late morning it had burned off, and by afternoon it was bright and hot along the bay.
When I went for a bike ride toward the ocean at about 3 p.m., however, I noticed that the fog was still shrouding some of the barrier islands leading out to the ocean. It was out there, looming, like some wild creature waiting for the campfire to burn out before moving back in again. Sure enough, when I woke up this morning the fog was back.
Many environmentalists have voiced concerns about the consequences of fracking. Now they are joined by a billionaire Saudi prince — who is concerned for a different reason.
Fracking is the process by which deep underground rock formations are broken up to free trapped natural gas, oil, and other fossil fuels. It has produced a nascent oil boom in eastern Ohio and other parts of the United States that are home to shale formations where the fossil fuels are found.
The Saudi prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, is worried because he thinks the increased oil and natural gas production that has been caused by fracking threatens the Saudi Kingdom’s economy, which is almost wholly dependent on oil production. The outspoken prince is a bit of a rogue element in Saudi Arabia, but his point is irrefutable: If demand from the United States declines due to the availability of domestic shale oil production, it will inevitably have an impact on suppliers. Two OPEC countries, Nigeria and Algeria, have already seen a sharp decline in U.S. imports of their oil.
For years, America has talked about the importance of breaking its dependency on middle Eastern oil — a result that also would reduce the pressure on America’s deep involvement in all of the geopolitical issues that are found in that troubled region of the world. America’s shale oil and natural gas reserves are believed to be enormous and, as Prince Talal notes, may allow us to achieve that goal. As we address the issues surrounding oil shale production in our country, we need to keep that fact in mind.
Lunenberg, Nova Scotia is a beautiful little town built into a hillside. With carefully preserved Victorian houses, a cool harbor area, and lots of little touches here and there, it’s a very picturesque spot. (I mean that literally; after our visit there today Webner House readers should expect to endure some photos over the next day or two.)
This little town also is home to a great place to eat called Magnolia’s Grill. The folks we are renting from said it’s their favorite restaurant, and I can see why. It’s unprepossessing inside and outside, but exceptional. I had the fish cakes and clam chowder, and it knocked my socks off.
Living in the Midwest, it’s very hard to get fresh fish. So hard, in fact, that one of the airlines that used to fly into Columbus, America West, advertised its flights to Boston with the tag line “Because fish in the Midwest tastes like fish in the Midwest.” Fresh fish just tastes better by several orders of magnitude.
So it was with the food at Magnolia’s Grill. The fish cakes, made with halibut and grilled, were fresh and flaky and fabulous. The cakes were served with a rhubarb relish chutney that was sweet and tart and went perfectly with the fish.
The clam chowder, on the other hand, was superb. It wasn’t overly creamy as some faux chowders are. It had a touch of milk, but mostly that fabulous clam broth, some potatoes, and dozens of clams that had just left their shells. Fortunately, we were served bread with the meal, so I could sop up very drop of clammy deliciousness.
Kish and Russell had the key lime pie to round out the lunch, and Kish said it was the best key lime pie she’d ever had. I passed on dessert, because I wanted to savor my food. If I lived here, I’d eat this meal at least once a week.
In America, warning labels on cigarette packs are a continuing source of controversy. Most recently, the Food and Drug Administration had to retreat from requiring cigarette manufacturers to include graphic photos on cigarette packs after an appeals court found the mandatory labels violated the First Amendment.
The FDA photos were macabre, and included pictures of a corpse, diseased lungs, and a man with a tracheotomy puffing away with smoke coming from the hole in his throat. The FDA presumably thought the disgusting images would shock people into not buying cigarettes. In our culture, however, would the labels actually discourage anyone — or would smokers, would are already used to social exclusion and often seem to smoke to cultivate a rebel image, just try to collect all nine images? We’ll never know.
In Canada, where Russell (unfortunately) bought a pack of Camels yesterday, the approach is different. His pack included a picture of a smoker who has emphysema and now must breathe with the help of an oxygen tank, but it also . included a loose, wallet-sized card with a message (in both French and English, of course) from a smiling woman who successfully quit. She says quitting was hard, but she was ashamed of being a smoker and felt guilty about her habit. The first few days were tough, she concedes, but after she made it past the initial cravings she became more proud of herself and her will to quit got stronger.
I don’t know whether smoking labels make a difference. In America, the number of smokers has fallen, but there remains a solid core of smokers and it is popular with younger people — even after the health issues are described in brutal detail. I wonder if the Canadian approach, with the sad photo presented side-by-side with a positive story about quitting, is more likely to produce results.
The dock in front of our rental unit, jutting out into Mahone Bay, is a perfect place to spend a bright Sunday afternoon. I planned on swimming, but the water is too darned frigid for my tastes. But the sun is hot on my face, the beer is cold against my hand, the rough wood of the dock feels warm on my feet, and I can’t help but hear a familiar song in my head.
I wish Otis Redding were here to enjoy the day, too.
In a world of senseless violence, ethnic wars, random kidnappings, and suicide bombings, why get angry about some green paint splashed on a statue — particularly when the paint can be cleaned and the statue returned to its former glory?
But the vandalism at the Lincoln Memorial does make me angry. I hope they catch the twisted person who did this, and I hope they make him pay.
The Lincoln Memorial, like the rest of the National Mall, says a lot about America. Lincoln was one of our greatest Presidents, and one of our greatest Americans, period. His story tells a lot about this country, and his perseverance through the awful bloodshed of the Civil War does, too. Most Americans have seen the Lincoln Memorial, on fifth grade trips to the Nation’s Capital or on family visits there, and it is an awesome temple to the American Idea — noble and grand, humbling and moving, with Lincoln’s careful words carved on the walls and his craggy, wise head looking down upon us. We leave the Lincoln Memorial, and we feel good.
So why in the world would some idiot splash paint on Lincoln’s statue?
And while we are figuring out the answer to that question, let’s also answer this question: how could the vandal do this and get away? I hate to suggest even more surveillance cameras in this country, but the Lincoln Memorial needs to be protected. Now that this pointless act has occurred, we don’t want to give terrorists any ideas.
Nothing acquaints you with a new location quite like watching the sunrise. At Mahone Bay, in Nova Scotia, that means seeing the sun’s golden rays shimmering on the fronts of the buildings on the rim of the bay and reflecting on the bay’s calm waters, hearing the cries of seagulls, and breathing deep the clean, fresh air. Now, it’s time to scare up a cup of coffee.