Friday, March 14, 2008

Baltimore, and Beyond

One of the things I love about traveling is the experience of meeting people. "Everyone who travels has a story" - that's the way it was put to me when I made my first journey overseas.

And it generally proves true. From the guy who spent hours trying to persuade me Hitler was alive and well and living in Phoeniz, Arizona to the deep thinker who wanted me to prove the existence of God to the guy who asked me to sleep with him in sign language (the kind of signs I had no trouble understanding) to the Italian who proposed to me within fifteen minutes of meeting me... well, they all had stories. And thanks to them, by the time I returned to Canada from that prolonged journey, I had plenty of stories too.

Coming to the US is always interesting for me. Most people don't think there are a lot of differences between Canada and the US. And the long-standing source of pride on my side of the border has been how gosh-darned nice we are. (I'll admit to groaning when I saw this post. Cute. Right. Do people even think they're real cops? 'Cos you don't see them in red serge day to day, you know. Last time I was in the RCMP station, well...)

Truth is, increasingly when I've crossed the border, what's been on my mind is how gosh-darn nice Americans are, and how welcome I always feel here.

My flight to Texas was relatively quiet. The man beside me was reading Jeffrey Archer, by the way. I was reading the stories that are finalists for the Crimespace short story competition, since I'm a judge. I have my tentative rankings, and will read them again before sending in my scores. Once I finished that reading, between catching twenty minutes of sleep and the breakfast sandwich, I was reading Tom Piccirilli's THE COLD SPOT.

Now, I'll admit that the airport in Dallas is not my favourite of all the ones I've been to. It needs a technological upgrade. I saw that fully realizing that the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica doesn't have conveyor belts for the luggage - just a hole in the wall where they stand and toss the bags in on the floor. That, the 70s paneling and the monitors used for continuous earthquake alerts all make it pretty clear you've left home.

But I think Dallas could get some monitors to tell you what gate you want to be in for your connector. I'm just saying...

Once I'd traveled across half of creation and managed to find my gate, I was good. I ended up on a very full flight to Baltimore, sitting beside a woman who was clearly traveling for work. I asked what she did... educational assessments. Well, that was that. No reading on that flight. We spent the few hours discussing all sorts of variables in educational assessment and she gave me her card and a neat website with all sorts of data. She was also pretty interested in my writing, and is going to Fan Fair in Nashville this year, so was interested in what I could tell her about that. Really, it was a great flight. I enjoyed talking to her, and she gave me a lot of ideas. She had stories, and I soaked them up. A lot of food for thought.

The airport was where nerves really hit. Finally, after being awake for more than 12 hours (operating on about two hours worth of sleep) I was in Baltimore. I have had something of a love affair with Baltimore ever since the days of HOMICIDE, and was finally going to have a chance to see it with my own eyes.

My only disappointment at the airport was that Brian managed to sneak up on me, instead of the other way around.

Once driving, it was a chance for me to start seeing those familiar names, and it's great to be with someone who not only is a Baltimore native, but loves crime fiction, because he's been pointing out all kinds of things to me - like the mall and area where the real case that inspired WHAT THE DEAD KNOW happened. Little things that I find very interesting.

I've had a few days to get my bearings, and get to know the family, and I'm already wanting to dig in my heels and slow down time. Everywhere I've gone I've been impressed by how friendly and helpful everyone is. In fact, there are a lot of general courtesies practiced here that I just started to realize I don't see often back in Canada.

Now, I did meet one fella who fit the jokes. When I said I was from Canada he said, "It's pretty down there, isn't it?" Uh, sure, sure. Then he asked me, "Do you have cities there?" I'm not joking. The thing is, he was a younger guy, and really, I understand what he was asking - he just chose poor wording - but it did make me smile.

The guy in the phone store yesterday sure had some stories about cross border drinking. I'd forgotten about the US drinking age being so much higher than Canada's. One more reason to go to college in Buffalo, I guess.

I don't want to say too terribly much on a personal level, mainly because it all involves other people. I will say that I feel very much at home here, and am loving it. I'm in Carroll County, and it's very pretty here.

Tonight, we're going to hear an Irish band. This weekend, the Harbor, for the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Next week, I hope to see Ruth Jordan and the B'con volunteers, and will have a busy, family Easter celebration. I'll be taking pictures, and when I'm back in Canada will share some of them.

And if my editor is reading this, I'm working hard, writing every day. I promise.

I'm back online more now, and the domain transfer for my site hasn't happened yet, so the regular e-mail is still working, but you can use as a back-up, in case you need to.

Oh, and just a note for Tom - it isn't one strong supporter of the crime fiction genre who's a wee bit distracted these days. It's two. I'm sure that makes you feel so much better. ;)


D.A. Davenport said... lots of crab-cakes!

Chris said...

Mmmm, I second the crab cakes. And you're close enough to the Mason/Dixon to get yourself some proper barbeque.

Oh, and I believe you mean "favorite", not "favourite". I mean, honestly -- you'd think they'd confiscate your extra "U"s at the border...

Randy Johnson said...

Oh, if you were only a little further south, you could try some North Carolina barbecue!

Sandra Ruttan said...

I have been told I'm going to be trying crab cakes, and a few other things.

Barbecue, huh? Everyone thinks I need to eat!

M. G. Tarquini said...

The Aquarium! Go to the Aquarium!

angie said...

Sounds like you're having a great time, even if Americans are nicer than you thought!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ha! Actually Angie, (generalizing here) I think Americans are nicer than Canadians.