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One Traveler's Opinion: Prince Edward Island

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I have the pleasure to have just returned from a long weekend in Canada’s Atlantic provinces, specifically Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It is a beautiful land, especially in the weeks before the tourists overrun it. Herewith, a report.

* * * * *

Travel to a foreign land is seldom free of risks. Among my honeymoon photos is one of my wife and I being arrested by the Venezuelan National Guard after we inadvertently stumbled into their secret bivouac area during riots in Caracas. We were on the Mediterranean when the U.S. bombed Libya and in Vienna for Chernobyl. In Tokyo, the hotel across the street caught fire during our stay.

I list these past travel experiences not because I am encouraging readers to avoid the places we go (although more than a few friends call to check our planned itinerary to ensure our paths will not cross), but to provide credentials that we are no strangers to controversy and that sometimes, we just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which is how we came to land in Prince Edward Island in the simmering midst of the Lesbian Lust imbroglio.

A little background: In the early years of this century, a Prince Edward Island (PEI) author named Lucy Maud Montgomery penned a series of books about a fictional, red-haired orphan named Anne Shirley. The most famous of these was “Anne of Green Gables.” The books have been in print continuously ever since and, in the past decade, PEI has built a thriving tourist industry around Anne (more on this later). All was placid in PEI until earlier this month when a college professor from Wicked Ontario delivered a paper at a conference in Alberta entitled, “Bosom Friends: Lesbian Desire in L.M. Montgomery’s ‘Anne’ Books”. The author of the paper built her thesis around the idea that, while Anne may have married Gilbert, she reserved her most rapturous language for her “bosom friend” Diane Barry. Ergo, Anne was a closeted lesbian.

News of this deconstructionist missile landed in PEI like a hundred-ton sack of potatoes and things haven’t been the same since. I asked the desk clerk at our hotel in Charlottetown if the hotel had an official position on the question of Anne’s lesbian lust. “Don’t get me started,” he said. “Everybody thinks it’s disgusting. These people from off-island telling us what Anne was.” At a restaurant in South Rustico, the response was even more vivid: “I don’t care what they say. Anne was a sweet girl.” At a Richmond crafts shop, the response was more even-handed. “It’s possible, though I don’t think its anyone’s business.”

I think I’ve already mentioned that Anne was a fictional heroine. It just doesn’t seem that way when you’re on PEI and Anne Shirley’s face adorns your license plate. Lucy Maud Montgomery lived near Cavendish on the island’s north shore (the tourist maps call that “Anne’s Land)”. There is, in fact, a beautiful old house in Cavendish with green gables, located in a field that evokes the 1890s, the time in which “Anne of Green Gables” is set. Unfortunately, the field ends at a visitors’ center that dwarfs the house by a factor of, say, ten. There is parking for 500 cars and dozens of buses. There is an Anne of Green Gables golf course, miniature golf, restaurant, motel, and gift shop. Also nearby is a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and a full-size replica of the space shuttle (I cannot fathom why this last item is here, and I do not recall an “Anne in Space” title in the series). In and around Cavendish, Anne is very big business.

(end of part 1)

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