Dear Mr. Hallum,

All in all, you were a good 9th grade American history teacher. Your rolled up sleeves and goatee helped us lower our defenses. You tried hard to relate to students with high-fives and slang. When you got busted for getting drunk while chaperoning our junior prom, we all thought you were badass.

What I don’t understand is how you overlooked all the cool parts of US history in favor of defining things like bicameral legislature for months. How is it that I do not know what the whiskey rebellion was? What I find particularly egregious, after having lived in Montreal for six years and still not finding out about it, are your omissions when covering immigration. Perhaps it’s a New England thing, but the Irish in Boston does not constitute a comprehensive survey.

A suggestion: dig back to the French and Indian war, and teach the kids about another kind of Great Upheaval in which the Acadians of Canada were forcefully moved to present-day Louisiana. Sure it has much to do with Canadian history, but it established a new population in land that would eventually become the United States.

What’s more, they brought with them a strong culture, born in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces 400 years ago, that is still prevalent today in the Cajun community of Louisiana. Take the Bayou Bugaloo music festival, where I saw BeauSoleil sing in french about roux and étouffé, the zydeco descendant of the jigs and reels of a cabane à sucre.

More importantly, take restaurants like Cochon in New Orleans, where I was reminded at every turn of rural eastern Canada, only with much hotter weather. Read the rest of this entry »

To anyone willing to listen,

There is a tragedy which occurs each morning in the coffee shops and diners of the South. It is egregious and horrific, but with knowledge it can be avoided.

Allow me to paint a picture. I awoke in a tent pitched on a grassy knoll in the parking lot of a Walmart in Selma, Alabama. It was sunny and hot and a couple of fellows fished for “mud bugs” (a.k.a. crawfish) in a drainage ditch nearby. Still groggy and very hungry, I asked them where to get a quality breakfast and they directed Alex and me to the local truck stop. I was incredulous, but I shouldn’t have been. The reason why to come. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Columbus, GA Chamber of Commerce,

I have serious doubts that you even exist.

Columbus might be the largest town, dare I say city, in western Georgia, just across the river from Alabama, but in all other respects it might as well be a rest stop on the highway. I was in your town, dare I say city for two very long hours. I did not find a downtown of any sort. I found no neighborhoods or businesses, no commerce to speak of. Your job must either be very difficult or very dull.

I did find a civil war graveyard, a rail yard, plenty of painfully normal houses, a large throughway packed very full with cars. I wondered aloud where these people might be driving to or from. Alabama? Walmart? Is this the center of America?

I also found Smokey Pig Barbecue, or rather, it found me from the pages of a Lonely Planet guide dedicated to the cuisine. Read the rest of this entry »