Alberta, Canada – While we are sitting on the tarmac waiting interminably for Newark’s permission to take off, the man in the seat to my right turns and asks me if I call Calgary “home.” I explain mildly apologetically that I don’t, that this will in fact be my first trip across the 49th parallel, and that — alas — I am stopping there only in order to connect with another flight. From the city’s sprawling international airport I will continue on up to Fort McMurray, the boomtown gateway to Canada’s tar sands.
“Ah,” he says, his interest piqued. “Actually, I’m in the oil business myself. I’ve been in New York for meetings.” Then he leans in. “Fort McMurray, eh? That’s a real gold-rush sort of place.”