Trent Severn Waterway
Campbellford, Ontario, Canada
July 20, 2019
I Need a Beer
giving people a chance...
It’s been a hot, long day on the Trent Severn Waterway, in the low 90s with humidity to match. Only 23.7 miles, but 6 locks, a lot of 10 km/hour speed limit (6.2 mph) and my first ‘flight’ lock. A flight lock is two locks back to back with 3 gates. This one has a total lift of 59.4 feet, similar to the 55 feet of the TVA Pickwick Dam and Lock on the Tennessee River. Enter the bottom, it fills, middle gate opens, and you move forward into the second chamber, middle gate closes, up again to lake level. It’s hot enough in the bottom of a single locks with no breeze. It was even hotter in the deeper flight lock.
I was thinking about a cold beer, maybe even two, as I pulled into Campbellford, Ontario. Whether it’s a marina, dock or wall, I usually ask the person taking overnight fees what local place they would go to for a casual meal. It’s even easier if that person is female, young, cute and their office is air conditioned on a hot day.
I don’t eat out that often because eating out alone is kind of a bummer. But today, having an air conditioned meal with a cold beer sounded a lot better than cooking over my diesel stove. I found Antonia’s Bistro, one of the places that Ms. Cute and Young had recommended. I could also pick up some shampoo at a nearby grocery store since I had finally done the inevitable, left mine somewhere.
As soon as I opened Antonia’s door, I knew I had made a mistake. Ms. Cute and Young was either more sophisticated than I thought or had more money than most of the seasonal, usually college students, who work these jobs. There were tablecloths, cloth napkins and silverware that didn’t bend. The patrons were mostly older folks nicely dressed. I fit in well enough with the old part but was dressed in shorts and a smelly t-shirt from sweating all day.
What the hell. I was hungry and really, really wanted a beer by this point. The prices on the menu confirmed my fears. I’m not cheap, regardless of what my kids say, it’s just that spending on a fancy meal by yourself seems a bit wasteful. But my mouth ordered a beer before I could gracefully leave. The waitress was young and cute and left handed just like Ms. Cute and Young at the dock. Maybe it was meant to be.
Just as in many nicer restaurants, the chef came out to greet the patrons. It turns out that chef Ravi Anandappa is also the owner along with his wife Divina, who was running the front. His playful demurring to his wife as the real boss did not hide the pride in his culinary creations. The two of them decided to open a smallish, more intimate eatery when they noticed that Campbellford didn’t really have a higher end restaurant. They’ve created a nice niche for themselves that seems popular with both locals and visitors. It helps that the menu is inspired, and the food is delicious.
Ravi and Divina have lived in Canada for some 35 years. But their mannerisms and accents tell you that they are originally from another part of the world. Ravi is from Sri Lanka and Divina is from the Philippines. Their graciousness focused a lingering feeling from earlier in the day when I enjoyed a breakfast sandwich and latte at the newly opened Bank Café in Frankfort, Ontario. A couple from Czechoslovakia had imaginatively remodeled a 1930s era bank into a really fun café. The old vault was turned into a rather, shall we say, intimate meeting room. All this while they lived in a tent.
Some may be welcoming, some cringing at the political statement they think is coming. But this is not a story about politics.
It’s a story about hard working people the world over, people who when given a chance, are a welcome addition to any community. There are bad people the world over too. If indeed God creates everything, He must have created bad people to give us a frame of reference. But if bad people are created more by human circumstance than God, then there’s still the good God put in all of us, sometimes just waiting for a chance.
I was raised by the Greatest Generation, a happenstance I've come to appreciate more with the wisdom of age, even it means being labeled - every generation since get ready to role your eyes together - a Boomer. It was a generation focused on putting the horrors of World War II behind them to build a better future. It was a simplistic, maybe even naïve, view of progress that would crumble under the pressure of Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. In many ways, America is still trying to find its way again, with many still longing for the more innocent times of Bonanza, Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy.
But to its credit, the 1950s was a time of great upward economic and social mobility (if you were white, straight and male) based on hard work and letting people earn a chance. Nearly 8 million veterans took advantage of the GI Bill to educate/train themselves further to improve their family's lives and ultimately, America as well. Makes you wonder what might happen today if we expanded educational opportunities - i.e., gave more people a chance. If we could afford the Marshall Plan, interstate highways and the G.I. Bill - America at its best - in the 1950s, surely we can afford kindergarten and community college now.
We’ve lost a lot of that Greatest Generation focus. We seem less interested in giving people a chance and more interested in noise than results: conspiracies instead of facts, quantity instead of quality, me instead of us, now instead of the future. Too many are obsessed with making more money than they need, too few appreciate the sacrifice of previous generations or care about what we’re leaving the future.
I find that unfortunate. I think Jesus would too. If that’s a political statement, then so be it.
I ran out of writing steam about midnight and headed toward the shower. No way I was going to crawl into my v-berth smelling like I did – apologies again to Ravi and Divina and their patrons. Of course, I had forgotten the shampoo. Where are the left behind sample shampoo bottles that usually just get in the way of your soap when you need them?