I live in Montreal,Canada, and I stay put most of the time. I have my wanderlust in check. I love it here. Last night, a friend of mine pointed out that I have been travelling a lot lately. I guess I have. I vacationed in North Wales and did side trips to London and Liverpool. I also recently played a gig in our nation’s capitol, and most recently made a trip to New York City.
I travel to the States most often. I have a daughter, friends and extended family who live there. Travelling by automobile, it is reasonably easy to visit adjacent states. There are four states that border on Quebec: NY, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. I have visited all of them within the last several years despite my visceral opposition to the American president and the awful imperialistic and militaristic policies of (typically) Republicans.
Even before “T” I found the border a bit intimidating. I don’t like uniforms or guns (not in that order). My car is not pristine and I look like a hippie. I have to put on a mask of obedience and subservience at the border which is ironic as they always ask me to remove my shades, and neither obedience or subservience is prominent in my real character.
My wife simply WON”T go since the election of “T”. She always feels traumatized by the border. She was not born in Canada, she was born in India which always results in further scrutiny from the border police. She has about as much in common with terrorism as a kitten has in common with a python.
In the summer of 2016 (pre-T) I rented a cottage in Vermont for several days. I had to split my vacation between my wife (3 days) and my girls (4 days) due to their conflicting work Schedules. This meant I had to traverse the border several times in either direction with different passengers in the car. I witnessed my wife’s discomfort and we got questioned (not about her nationality) about the two Shih-Tzus travelling with us. They let us pass, but scolded us for not having their papers with them….. After our three days together we returned to Montreal and I piled my girls into the jeep and we returned. BAM! Pulled over, car searched, tomatoes confiscated….the elder daughter was questioned about a student visa she had had to study in Texas. It had been 2 years since she had decided to not pursue the degree and moved away. After a half hour of waiting they let us through and supposedly entered her change of status into the “system”.
At Canadian Thanksgiving that year, my siblings and I rented a house on Lake Champlain just across the border. Lake Champlain is partly in Canada and separates NY from Vt. I was prepared for our weekend. We brought food and I brought my guitar. I thought going through at a small crossing like Beebe Plain at an odd hour would be a breeze…… They rummaged through everything, cut open a sealed package of cookies, didn’t treat anything respectfully. I had to bite my tongue when the guard gestured to my guitar case and asked “what is it?” and then “what’s it for”. I hate having to stifle my sarcasm. He then gestured to my box of CDs and warned “You’d better not be intending to sell those!” I said it was unlikely seeing as my family already had copies of all my CDs and we were going to a cottage. Sharon scolded me afterward for being too “familiar”.
They let us through. Then “T” happened. The world immediately got sick. I vowed to not go south while he was in office. I have since broken that vow because my younger daughter now lives there, and I have to visit her, and due to tie ups with her Visa status etc. It is best she not come up here.
I went down to NYC last week. At the border with my older daughter, we got flagged and told to pull into the customs and immigration building parking lot. We did, and went inside, but not before encountering a surly GI Joe type guy who barked at us to go inside. I thought, “How Rude” and “what an asshole!” Then I saw how he treated the next people who had just pulled up. He screamed at them “What are you parking there for?” and gestured menacingly and inhospitably (is that redundant?) to a stall.
The people behind us were a young family (Mum and Dad with a toddler and infant) who looked like they might be middle eastern (that is to say they were light brown) and as I learned later had “foreign-sounding” names.
We waited and waited to be called. I took advantage of this time to use the facilities. When I got back my daughter leaned in to me and whispered to me that we were the only white people pulled over. I looked around and sure enough that of the 20 or so people, we were the only white people in the waiting area. Ema was indignant. She said she was angry, that this was not right. I said “You’re right, but let’s keep a lid on it til we clear our hurdle.” I also noticed that EVERY officer on duty was white and male and dressed like GI Joe. We were called after a man named Malik who was interrogated VERY thoroughly with stupid questions like: “Are these your children” etc. I witnessed Systemic racism first hand.
I looked at the baseball caps with CBP on them worn by the officers and in my poetic dyslexic way, I started thinking PCB and CBD and CDN….etc. As I write I had to look CBP up to be sure of the actual acronym…..
We had to explain Ema’s non-student status over again, and they had to go into the “system” and verify everything. We got through, and they didn’t search the car which is a good thing because I have a prescription for CBD oil for my migraines, CBD is illegal in the US (which is criminal in itself…), and although I have synthetic CBD (which is allowed in the US) I also had a tablet of chocolate that was made with CBD in my luggage.
About 20 miles into the States there was a huge roadblock on I 87. A dozen or so cop cars in the median and several lines of cars waiting to proceed southward. There was a sniffer dog walking with his/her handler going up and down the line of stopped cars. I felt a bit nervous, because I know how good a dog’s nose is (ironic for a species that eats poop, but I digress). We were waved on as I showed my passport to the cop. I am surmising that they were looking for Americans who bought pot legally in Canada and were headed back with it.
We had a lovely trip. I didn’t need the CBD chocolate after all.
Coming home, we approached the border. The guard for our queue was female and her skin was black. She addressed us in both official languages (English and French) and was courteous and professional. She asked us where we lived, how long we’d been in the US and if we had anything to declare? I did. I had two bottles of “Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan brand Whiskey) and a framed photo that we had shipped to my brother’s place to save on international shipping. She gave me our passports back and said “Have a nice day!”
To quote Paul Simon “Gee, but it’s great to be back home”. If you hear the song as you read that, you’re my kind of person.
“Have A Nice Day” Indeed!