The sub-text to that excursion, though, was the relief I felt, crossing over the 49th parallel a few scant months after I, along with umpteen million others, witnessed Ruby plug Oswald with a live bullet at close range in a Dallas police station.
Smack dab in front of a live TV camera.
Canada didn't look super different from the USA on the outside. English-speaking, city configuration subtly similar to others south of the 49th. But I thought it somehow had a different feel to it, which was very, very significant. Essential, really.
Less evidence of violent aggressivity, absence of continuously ongoing war-mongering, no frontier mentality or at least not one overtly palpable. All that was significant. Different.
But in the summer of '63, there had been a letter that Paolo and we, at Paolo's instigation, had sent to JFK. That was a few years ahead of the mainline antiwar protest, all the brouhaha that eventually ensued; but in our letter, we told the President invading Vietnam was not desired by us. I feel certain sure we apprentices and Silt Pilers, pacifists by inclination rather than religious conviction (although I did know a little bit about Quakers, having had friends in high school who were Friends), had zero interest in empire-building; nor were we the least bit keen on the bloodshedding that inevitably is an attendant requisite of empire-building.
I don't recall being particularly analytical about my feelings at the time but in retrospect, I'm sure the letter Paolo instigated was consciousness-raising for me as a signator, prepared the ground for my eventual migration. Ripened me for it. I wasn't draftable due to my genital equipment but I was totally clear I didn't want anyone sent to war - much less die in one - for me. How could that ever be right? Paolo himself had refused to serve in Mussolini's army: he'd slipped across the border into France from Turin. A man of conscience, that Soleri fellow.
Vancouver, I found, was a charmingly quirky city. Fog horns bellowing in the morning. A soft, misty, painterly light that made all the colors of everything natural, poignantly sharp and clear. 'Pubs' with separate entrances for men and women, drinking 'red-eye' - a glass of beer mixed with tomato juice, which its imbibers claimed was terrific. Government-controlled liquor stores, closed on Sundays. Almost everything having to do with commerce closed on Sunday. "Blue laws" - ahhh, so.
A Canadian friend told me there was no difference between Canada and the USA but I was sure that couldn't be true. The Maple Leaf is not the Stars and Stripes: how could there be no difference between the two countries? After I scoped out the UBC campus with its fine old library building, its garden-like landscaping, what wasn't to like?
Somehow my mind managed to set itself to a place and its people. Near 50 years later, I'm a dual national, grateful to my adopted northern home for letting me land. If you have a place to stand, you can operate a lever and, as Archimedes noted, a lever can be quite useful. Not much arcology-building in Canada, and not a huge number of people in Canada have come to work at Arcosanti. But socially, economically and politically transformative change rarely happens overnight, eh?