Windsor, Ontario


This is the most southerly of all Canadian cities. By a quirk of geography you look north to the USA. Even after a year I am not use to this.

I thought that Calgary was Americanized but Windsor is more so. The nearest big city is Detroit while London is 118 klicks along death alley (the 401). The local teams the Lions, Tigers, Wings, and Pistons are across the river in the nice states and the Detroit News is the number two newspaper.

While we are taking about the media: the local rag, the Windsor Star, does the finest job I have ever seen of covering automobile news. It far exceeds the best glossy motoring magazine. Being its most southerly city, Windsor has the best satellite reception in Canada. The city is awash in small satellite dishes. However, an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is not in the Canadian constitution, so to spoil their fun Big brother has declared that Canadians are not allowed to tune into American stations. The Mounties are nudging the local bars with large screen TVs to obey the law.

Windsor is currently highly prosperous. Auto production is booming. The casino and hospitality trade is doing fine. Transportation is at all time highs, the city is the busiest entry point in Canada, and it is enjoying a building boom. The area is so wealthy that people hardly need to indulge in the local pastime of smuggling, but they still do it just to keep their hand in.

Booms are cyclic, but the current boom is surprisingly prolonged. Some analysts hypothesize a new paradigm. Certainly the inventory lead recession and boom cycles of the past have gone replaced by JIT deliveries and computer control of inventory levels. It is difficult to foresee what will end the current boom. Probably organized labour’s ability to force up wages in time of stable employment or the scarcity of some resource like oil. But, there is a remote possibility of recessionary trends similar to the ones in the 19th century.

Industrial prosperity always has its downside. The air here is not the cleanest in the world. Local auto plants smell and the wind from the states (where pollution controls are less stringent) brings an unreasonably high level of contaminants.

The new Windsor casino doesn’t impress me. I was disappointed to find the arboretum inside the casino stocked with artificial plants and trees. This is not the case in West Edmonton Mall, where the palm trees are real. I haven’t gambled yet. The first time that I went to the casino, I decided to put 25¢ just to say I did it. But when I found the slot machines that took quarters, the smell of the great unwashed drove me away. I find the gambling areas to be excessively noisy, smoky, and often smelly.

I rent a fourth story apartment in a six-story building. This is the first time I have lived in a building with an elevator (except for hotels). I deliberately chose a smaller building hence there is only one elevator and, of course, it is out of service occasionally and I have to walk up the stairs.

I live down town and enjoy one of the nicest features of Windsor that is the large number of sidewalk cafes. The drinking age North of the border, in Detroit, is 21. In Windsor you can drink if you are 19, so all the young Americans come across in the evening to spend their money and practice getting drunk. Hence, there are a lot of excellent downtown bistros that are half empty during the day.

I’ve been getting flabby, so I’ve started swimming again, this time, at the YMCA. Someone said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, Roman, nor an Empire. The YMCA’s members are not necessarily young, male or Christian.