Saturday, November 7, 2009

No Jokes Allowed

Summer 1984, Detroit Windsor Border

When I was 20 I took a long road trip with my bandmate from Bob Uniform, Ben Paulos of Davenport Iowa, a great musician with a very interesting intellectual family. We took his mom’s 1977 Chevy Nova up through Canada and on east to look at Ivy and non Ivy league schools or Ben to study at in the Fall.

Within a day we hit the Canadian border at Windsor, and got in line to cross. I was driving. I had long hair and a beard back then, and Ben was sitting looking all innocent with his big square chin and child like expression of wonder. We got to the booth and they asked us the usual questions---how long are you staying, business or pleasure---on and on like at the drive-in at McDonalds.

Ben was doodling something in his notebook, probably a comic book character, but stopped when he heard them ask if we were carrying any firearms. I asked for clarification, whether they meant automatic or semi automatic. The woman stopped chewing her gum and asked me to pull over to the parking lot just up and to the left. Three other border patrol agents joined her as she squawked something into her walkie talkie.

They went through the entire car but luckily didn’t find anything. They grew suspicious thinking there would be drugs anyway, but we were straight and got off with a warning after an hour of detainment. Ben didn’t think it was funny, and held a grudge for a few days after that, doing most of the driving and deciding where to stop.

Later in the trip, I redeemed myself in Eastern Ohio, having to follow the brake lights of a huge semi through a downpour on a winding mountain road. I woke him up when we finally reached a little restaurant to wait out the rain. He knew by my shaking hands and the looks on the people’s faces when we went in that I had been through hell trying to keep us and the Nova alive.

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