National Geographic : 2004 Aug
that go beyond the picturesque. The nearest hospital is in Canada, so if you have a heart attack, it's better for you to be Canadian. If you're a U.S. cit izen, you need to hope either that your insurance will cover you in Canada, or that the EMTs can get you on a helicopter to St. Joseph Hospital in Bel lingham, an hour's drive from Point Roberts. If you're one of the few local merchants, the exchange rate with the Canadian dollar looms over your daily well-being, since shoppers on either side of the border tend to go where the prices are lower. And even though 60 percent of the year-round residents are U.S. citizens, Canadians own nearly half of the property, most of it for summer homes. This means a large number of the property own ers, being foreigners, can't vote on any municipal issues, which does sort of skew the whole democracy thing and strain those neighborly encounters. Still, people like it this way. "Come to Point Roberts, step 20 years back in time," Terrie LaPorte told me blithely. "We're behind and we're glad." Just bring up the subject of installing a municipal sewer system. This issue is one of the most controversial because it could attract development. "There are two primary groups," explained Henry Rosenthal, a soft-spoken California retiree. "Those who want to stay in the 19th century and want no growth. And those who want some logical and sustainable growth." As for diversion, there is a thousand-boat marina and a golf course, but bingo at the fire hall is about as wild as the entertainment gets, if you don't count karaoke night at Kiniski's Reef Tavern. Jobs are scarce, and there isn't even any downtown, yet when residents look down that long, pine-scented road toward the border checkpoint and see the Cana dian strip-mall hell that is Tsaw wassen just beyond it, they shudder. Canadian cash is as welcome as U.S. money in this small border town, where many businesses use special dual-currency registers (above). Bingo at the fire hall (below) still draws a heavily Canadian crowd, since Point Roberts was, until recently, the only legal gambling around. Winners claim their jackpots-up to $5,000 in Canadian bills.