Monday, July 09, 2007

Beyond Borders: Welcome to CanadAmerica!

The “Canadian spy” life is fraught with challenges such as outsmarting a sunglasses-wearing, Buick Roadmaster-driving double agent in Canada. Outmaneuvering federal agents on the other side of the border—in Maine—like the driver of Dodge Caravan with U.S. Government plates, comes with the territory, too.

This inherent danger means that sometimes the reader must wait for me to outwit the authorities so that I can file my reports in a secure area. So with that, I bring you news from what I call CanadAmerica.*

CanadAmerica is that region of North America where Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts coexist within miles—or if you prefer, kilometers—of each other and where many residents unfurl flags for both great nations. My CanadAmerica is also known as the Passamaquoddy Region and encompasses the entrance to the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine and includes towns like Eastport and Lubec in Maine and St. Andrews and Blacks Harbour in Canada.

On our most recent foray into this region, my associate (the AMHL photographer) and I were tasked with documenting the state of international relations. On previous visits, nearly everyone seemed at least congenial and cooperative; nobody seemed to mind if that fuzzy realm between black and white is spelled “gray” or “grey.” My superiors weren’t so sure that all was as harmonious as it may have appeared, hence our dispatch from headquarters to investigate.

On Page 2 of the Quoddy Tides' summer publication, the newspaper had listed events to take place on both sides of 45th parallel. Announcements for national celebrations like Canada Day and Independence Day were included along with pronouncements for more local festivals like ChocolateFest in Stephenville (New Brunswick) and the Machias (Maine) Wild Blueberry Festival.

On the publication’s last page, I surveyed the map of the Passamaquoddy Bay area. I spied a triangle, located about an inch—or 2.2 centimeters if you prefer—southeast of Grand Manan: “The Grey Zone.” The newspaper, which is printed in Maine, used the Canadian spelling to denote the sea surrounding Machias Seal Island. Canada and the U.S.A claim this tiny island and its seas, a 77-square mile paradise for bird lovers and lobster fisherman, as their own. Does Grey spell trouble for international relations? I made a note to investigate the matter later.**

Safely transported to Grand Manan, the AMHL photographer and I explored the island enjoying the sights and sounds of the vibrant island: Swallow Tail Head majestically confronting the Atlantic Ocean—the lighthouse’s foghorn blaring at the crashing waves below; the marshes of Castalia splaying out to greet the beach; and the rugged cliffs at Southwest Head challenging anyone to pass that way to gain land or to set sail.

We fled the perilous precipice for the main road, noticing homesteads that greeted passersby with both the Stars and Stripes and the Maple Leaf, for the comforts of our safe house. There, our hosts were gracious and generous, welcoming us to the island and providing us with recommendations for respite from the rigors of espionage.

While many Americans (and CanAmericans, I suspect) celebrated America’s declaration of independence by oohing and aahing at the fireworks display accompanied by the Boston Pops and John Mellencamp, I sat in our Ford Escape, at what locals call “the Whistle,” a point along Whistle Road on the island’s Northeast coast where one can best observe sunsets and perhaps glimpse pyrotechnic celebrations over Eastport—some eight miles west. A thick band of grey clouds obscured the stateside coast, nixing that hope, however.

Disappointed, we returned to our sanctuary. There I sat in a rocking chair outside our room covered in a quilt and reading a book from the safe house’s library. I had selected a collection of short stories and especially enjoyed James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which I hadn’t read since high school—long before my career as a “Canadian spy” commenced.

The two-day/two-night stint on Grand Manan proved productive in learning more about CanadAmerica and its inhabitants’ hospitality (someday, I’ll write a piece about the gentlest of gentleman, a man named Jan) but yielded little about budding hostilities in the “Grey Zone.”

“Isn’t that funny,” one islander said, after I pointed out that this disputed area might be spelled “Gray Zone.”

So I conclude that although CanadAmerica may not be Utopia, it may be the ideal semi-retirement spot for a “Canadian spy” and his wife.

* CanadAmerica has no affiliation with the technology consulting firm of the same name, or with any nonsensical references to merging the governments of two great nations.

**Further investigation reveals that tensions are rising, but that information is classified as TOP SECRET unless you have Internet access—in which case you can visit these sites:

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