Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In which Birdmonster begins with happy abandon then becomes the Whitney Houston to Canada's Bobby Brown

A week ago, I had a dream where Conan O'Brian was supervising a water slide and he was wearing a blue suit and a snazzy tie and I was at the front of the line and I caught him picking his nose and when he saw me laughing at him he ate his booger. Then, last night, I had that same dream again. I'm not really sure what to think about that, except, of course, that Conan has great comic timing, even in my brain while I'm sleeping. Just thought I'd share.

At any rate, today we're heading to Canada. We've got our paperwork in order, our passports in our pockets, and our politest voices on. Plus, we get to buy gas in Canada's, which is always fun, since everything's in liters and funny money and we can't convert either. In fact, right now, we're on the bridge to Canada, waiting to be frisked and badgered by their internet-savvy, bilingual, Border Patrol agents. Just don't tell them we're smuggling five pounds of contraband avocados and four underage manservants. I fear that could derail the entire expedition...

...So, yeah...I actually wrote the paragraph above while we were in line to cross the border. That was three hours ago, mind you. Now? Back in Detroit. Some days you're just on the wrong side of the giant celestial dildo.

I had plans of talking about the cozy little crowd in Covington, the benefit we played in Indianapolis, the ping-pong tinted dive we ended up at in Detroit, so I'll do that first. After all, all those nights, to varying degrees, were successes. In Covington, an old friend from WOXY came out, said inappropriate things, brought friends, clapped loudly. In Indianapolis, we helped raise money for a children's hospital, hung out with some amazingly dedicated and interesting people, signed and doodled all over a dilapidated acoustic guitar, and, far less enjoyably, ate Steak 'N' Shake at 3 in the morning. In fact, Indy is one of my favorite days thus far; it deserves far more love than this here third-of-a-paragraph, but my entire consciousness is consumed with fanatical hatred for all things Canadian. Even you Gordon Lightfoot. Even you. So to Indianapolis, Rock for Riley, and My Ol' Kentucky Blog: thanks again. You made us feel very, very welcome. And to Detroit: God bless you and your bars with ping pong. You know we have an addiction.

And, for the record, I was far too harsh up there about Canada. I have no problem with Canada. No, sir. I'm far too ignorant of our Northern neighbor to hate them in the way, for example, I loathe Rob Schneider. The problem is actually getting in to Canada. See, in reality, all we've done is renewed our hatred of all things Border Patrol. I feel very safe saying that. I actually feel liberated saying that. It's my new mantra.

Without further ado: A tale of bureaucratic infuriation of which even Franz Kafka would be jealous.

It begins at the first window at the US/Canadian border. As I mentioned, we were feeling quite proud of ourselves because we had the proper work permits and the proper identification. We were Preparedmonster and that, my friends, is a rare rare thing. Anyway, so we're at the window and the guy is staring at the opposite wall saying "bon jour" and we assume, since, well, he's talking to a wall in French, that he might not be talking to us, whereupon we said nothing, he assumed we were being rude, and he went all surly on us. Off to a good start. Then he launched into a series of questions, slathered in broken English: "Do you have firearms munition?" "What is purpose in Canada?" and, most importantly: "Are only these your equipment?" Remember that last one. It promises to ruin our day.

So, "No" we said. We have no firearms. We're here to play some music in Toronto. And yes, this is all our equipment. I mean, really: do you know who you're talking to? This is Preparedmonster. We're an unstoppable machine of taking-care-of-our-own-shit-ness. So what's next? Go over there to customs? Sure, no problem. See the above taunt. We cannot be contained.

Of course, turns out we can. We were met at customs by a guy whose name I never quite caught, though I wish I did, because I would be cursing him and any children unlucky enough to have been sired by a minor demon. In honor of the mechanic in Phoenix who tried to ruin our day and DeNiro's psychotic alter-ego in that horrendous Dakota Fanning movie, we'll name him the Charlie.

So the Charlie is looking through our car with the anal retentive vigor of Sherlock Holmes and he calls over Peter because he's certain he's spotted some sort of drug. No, says Peter. That's actually a crushed pretzel. But the Charlie is rather sure of himself so he grills us to make sure we're nice and sober and haven't spent the last three weeks snorting pretzels off the belly a hooker. We're sure of this, the Charlie. We promise. At this point, the Charlie proceeds to ferret through all our bags, overhead compartments, under the seats, inside water bottles, then decides he needs to look through all the gear in the back, you know, in case we hid some Rold Gold twists inside a floor tom. And then the Charlie notices our merchandise.

"Doesn't look like you declared this," remarks the Charlie.

"Well, no we didn't. We were never asked and last time we drove through to Montreal, we showed our merch to the customs agent," we replied.

"Doesn't look like you declared this," remarks the Charlie. "And that constitutes smuggling."

Canada 1, Preparedmonster, 0. The Charlie went on to explain, in his singularly infuriating, smug, power-tripping oink that since we didn't declare our merch at the window with the surly guy who never asked us about it, we were subject to a night in jail, a strip search, and copious fines which would total 25% of our shirts' and CDs' estimated value. This, of course: bad news. We were told all this while standing in front of our car with our pockets turned inside out, just so the Charlie could make sure our pockets weren't a breeding ground for illicit snack foods. He's a crafty one, that the Charlie.

So we were asked to go inside and wait in customs while the Charlie went behind the scenes to figure out just how egregious our fine could be. I passed the time reading about what sorts of agriculture you can and can't bring in to Canada. For example, you can bring a coconut only if it hasn't sprouted. You can also bring any kind of crab but the mitten crab, proving, of course, that the mitten crab is the baddest crab on planet earth. Take that Alaskan King Crab.

We wait and guess who shows up? It's the surly "bon jour" guy who never asked us about merch in the first place. He informs us in a very casual way that "Are only these your equipment?" means "Do you have any commercial goods you'd like to declare?" Apparently, Canadian English involves much reading between the lines. He leaves after we try to burn his eyes out with telepathy.

The Charlie returns, literally, forty five minutes later and informs us that the Canadian government has seized the entire supply of Birdmonster merchandise as smuggled goods and that we could retrieve it for the bargain basement price of 917 dollars. I'm not sure if that was Canadian dollars or American ones over the expletives I was screaming.

But see: Preparedmonster would not take this sitting down, even in vaguely comfortable government waiting room chairs. We laid out our case with the sort of forced calmness you might see in a new father after his two year old just clubbed him in the groin for the first time. Among our salient points: We were never asked about commercial goods. We're paying for a work permit, why would we sneak merch in a giant tupperware tub? We're legally below the poverty line. We hate your face. None of these did much to the demeanor of the Charlie. He was a rock. Unmovable. Unfazable. Without any internal organs, notably a brain or a heart. So we asked to speak to his supervisor. And, lo and behold, she turned out to be a human being.

She informed us that we could get our merch back without being extorted by a government agency but that we couldn't bring it into Canada. (In case you're keeping score, that's Canada 867, Preparedmonster, 1). At that point, we thanked her profusely and waited for the Charlie to add us to the Canadian government's "High Risk Traveler" list, which is a moot point since my desire to return is currently somewhere between my desire to watch Wild Hogs and my desire to get hit in the neck with a bat, then drove back to American soil so we could all kiss the soil like a bunch of pirates landing in Florida after three months of rum and scurvy.

But we don't miss shows. No we don't. So we shipped our merch to Connecticut and U-Turned back to Canada. This time, we declared nothing correctly, applied for a work permit, paid for it, overdrafted our bank account, and are currently en route to Toronto, where we hopefully will arrive with enough time to play a set. I just hope no one wants to buy a shirt.


Grant said...

"Are these your only equipment?" and "High Risk Traveler" should be on t-shirts. What a pain! I've never been to Canada, though Toronto is on the list of places to visit. Maybe not. I hope the show was worth it!

Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mason said...


border patrol.

now i'm glad we didn't even attempt it yesterday. though you'd have had some more company in the customs lock box, most likely...

mason proper

Shiv said...

What did I say that was inappropriate? OH YEAH -- everything out of my mouth.

Glad you survived the journey to Canada. I think I am going to begin research on a book called "Indie Rock Touring...For Dummies" and this will become an entire chapter.

jeffro said...

bomb Canada!

Chris said...

Hey Guys,
glad you made it to the show, you guys were amazing live! Never seen anyone play the tamborine around his neck.
Sorry about the border patrol. When an old buddy of mine used to work that job, he'd only ask travellers to name three provinces and he'd let them in... I guess things have changed.

elvette said...

See, Arizona isn't the only place that's cursed.

Sabrina said...

This is so tragic. I am so glad they didn't end up taking $900 from you.
I'm leaving for Hong Kong/Singapore this Saturday so I know how Customs can be, but shheez, I don't even get this much crap going to the other side of the world. See you guys when I get back home to SF (Independent show) & guys stop snorting pretzels! The salt will dry up your sinuses. may cause cracking and bleeding....

Anonymous said...

that fucking sucks.

if i ever see a Kid in the Hall, i'm going to cockpunch him for you.

ok, not really, i'm too polite, and KITH did this thing about monkeys. which is great.

SOL's view said...

Aren't you glad things like that happen. Really makes you appreciate home, don' it.....

Hope it was worth the hassle. If anything can be worth that kind of hassle.

SOL's view said...

or maybe I should have said ....

Wow! Notoriety! Bring it on!

birdmonster said...

One & All: Thanks for commiserating. In the end, Canada cannot be foiled by one horrible being, try as he might. See the recent post: off our shitlist...I think.

Grant: Wearing a shirt that said "High Risk Traveler" would be perhaps the worst airplane-riding attire in the history of the fashion. That or a shirt that said "Ask me about the bombs I'm carrying." That would be dumb as well.

Mason: 'Twas indeed lame. Thanks for taking our mind off it with, as usual, supremely bad-ass rock and roll.

Shiv: I wouldn't have it any other way. All I know is "These are my bitches" is the most hilarious introduction I've ever heard. You're like a big white Rosebudd.

Jeffro: La Resistance!

Chris: Thanks, man. We had a ball once we finally made it. Preparedmonster will have to read up next time. Then re-read up. Maybe we'll just parachute in, actually.

Elvette: Damn straight.

Sabrina: I'm also so glad. Especially since we didn't have $90 dollars, let alone $900. Home is where the heart is. And the beds is. And all other sorts of stuff I miss. Can't wait. But I will.

Hobo: Just don't cockpunch Kevin McDonald. He was always my favorite. Sorry Foley.

SOL: These are the things that make touring interesting and humorous and, yeah, a little horrible, but really: smooth success is a boring thing. Plus, I think we got some sort of cosmic bonus points for the whole thing. I'm buying a lottery ticket post haste.