Sunday, February 14, 2010

Smugglers blues.

Have been working on the lost years project for a while and thought I would share an excerpt. Here is a little Glen Frey tune to set the mood.

When we finally got to the front of the queue we were greeted by a woman in her fifties by her appearance. Gray hair in a style like Edith from all in the family with glasses and a big wool sweater. She was not smiling. We handed over our documents. Me my drivers license and passport, Don only his drivers license. The woman took this as spme kind of personal insult. That Don didn’t have a passport or a birth certificate was some how an affront to all of Canada. Things went down hill from there as our, “We just wanted to drive up and check it out but were staying at a hotel in the US.” reason for our visit was too vague to suit her.
She looked down her nose at us for a while, looked down her nose at our papers and then walked around the vehicle looking down her nose at the Jeep. She granted us one last dirty look before heading into the office with our ID. A few minutes later we were directed to pull into a parking space and join the party inside.
The idea that we had failed before we even got into the country was just too rich. We sat on the bench we were directed to and waited. I was not concerned at this point as we hadn’t done anything so what could they do? If they denied us entry I would come back by myself tomorrow morning and life goes on. And then we walked into a skit from Monty Python.
We were called into an office with a middle aged nondescript bureaucrat in a bulky sweater. He reminded me of Graham Chapman as the British major because of his bushy mustache. He offered us a seat and asked where was the third man? We looked at each other and then back at him with blank expressions.
The man held up the two drivers licenses and 1 passport and repeated the question “Where is the third man?” Although his accent was more nasal than Chapman’s.
I resisted the urge to say, “oot and aboot” and explained that he had two pieces of my ID and if he would check the names he would see that there was just the two of us.
He looked at the passport and then at the two licenses spreading them out on the desk. Then he looked up at us and smiled and inquired as to the reason for our visit to Canada.
Once again we related the tourist story. We wanted to check the place out see the sights. I was not really expecting to have problems getting out of the US, I was ready for the third degree getting back in.
As the woman had earlier he explained that a drivers license was not proof of citizenship and while they didn’t require a passport they did need proof of citizenship all the while speaking in a very neutral bureaucratic tone. Then he asked again, “What happened to the third member of our group?”
While I am amiable and comfortable talking to anyone Don is loquacious and tends to ramble inappropriately. I had always known this and it didn’t much matter most of the time, this was not most times.
Don began to ramble about being down south and having things packed away while I once again tried to explain that the border guard had two pieces of my ID and that there are only two of us. All the while the Canadian had an impassive look on his face. When we finished he smiled and turned to his computer terminal. He made what looked like three entries and then turned back and asked us to wait on the bench outside. The, “Group W” bench ran through my mind but we were the only one’s there so it was not nearly as fun.
About 15 minutes later the Canadian version of Edith Bunker handed us back our papers and told us to enjoy our visit. She walked away and we headed for the door. We thought that it could have been an excuse for them to search the car but they can do that without a reason so? Perhaps we fit the profile of weed smugglers and they wanted to check us out? It was the third man stuff that freaked me but at this point I was ready to go all in. Another really bad way to decide on a course of action and later I accepted the risk for my decision.
We followed the freeway into town and using our rudimentary map from the Cannabis Culture magazine made our way to the section of town that harbored the smoke shops. Unlike in America this was not some seedy garbage strewn back ally but part of a clean newer mall. The folks I asked for help were very nice. They explained that as in our neck of the woods the legal status was somewhat ambiguous and that the seed folks were located elsewhere in town. The young lady gave me a card and wrote the address of a seed bank on the back. She had long dark hair and plastic hoop earrings and I think she thought it cute that the old hippy was looking to score some seeds.
We had to convert a little cash to get out of the parking garage. Everyone else was more than happy to accept dollars. That was back when our money was worth something. So with a couple of loonies in our pocket we headed across town.
Did I mention it was cold. Some of my readers will have seen my piece on the, “cash for clunkers program” and what a piece of shit the jeep we were driving was. At this point it was mostly minor things like shorted wiring in the stereo and the passenger door lock didn’t work. It drove lousy in even the slightest wind but we found out in a few months what that was about when the rear end disintegrated. Like all vehicles of that type it was poorly insulated and the heater barely kept up as the darkening night brought a significant drop in the temperature.
We found the address and parked on the cross street. We were on a bit of a hill and the neighborhood of first floor businesses with three or four floors of apartments upstairs reminded me of San Francisco. Most of the stores were closed with the exception of the two seed sellers in the middle of the block. I scanned the street and with the exception a few people way down the block we were alone. I locked and closed my door and started for the store when Don let out a loud, “shit” followed by a string of colorful expletives.
I thought he had broken the key off in the lock but it was the lock itself that had broken. I let loose a few choice words of my own at that point but I wasn’t that worried. The odds that anyone would steal our jeep in the 15 minutes we would be inside were so small as to be nonexistent but Don decided to stay outside with the car.
Perhaps he had been spooked by the problems at the border, paranoia strikes deep sometimes and improvisation is a talent some people do not possess. Don went into a mild freak out and decided to stay outside while I went in. He got back in the jeep and I went down the street into the building the address indicated.
Inside the place looked like any office. A desk with a lamp and computer monitor. A 4 drawer file cabinet and a couple of chairs. A guy in his thirties with thinning hair and thickening waist line greeted me and offered me a seat. There were a few posters of buds on the wall with seed producers advertising logos. That was the only evidence that this was other than an insurance salesman’s digs.
We chatted a bit about genetics and Amsterdam and the strains of cannabis that worked best for pain control. I took care not to mention that I would be taking them to the states and he pointed out that while the courts were forcing medical cannabis on them the government was still being rather dickish about things on the whole.
He handed me a black three ring binder that served as his catalog and I began to leaf through it as we talked. The pages were plastic with small pockets usually reserved for keeping trading cards in mint condition. Each pocket contained a couple of seeds and a picture of the buds they would produce as a label.
We were interested in feminized seeds. The plants are forced with certain hormonal stressors to produce almost exclusively female offspring. Of the genetic lines we were interested in he had White Widow and California Orange from the Dutch Passion line. He charged a 75% premium for feminized but we had already factored that in to our calculus. Saving time had become a prime factor so I handed over 400 dollars and received 24 seeds. 12 White Widow and 12 of the Orange.
The seeds were in tiny little plastic vials with printed labels on each.
My business in Vancouver concluded I now had a little time to spend on seeing the culture. He gave me the skinny on the weed scene, again in the shadow world of tolerated but not perfectly legal. Down the street 2 blocks was another shop that I could purchase some bud. He added an address to the card I had from the smoke-shop and we said our goodbyes. This seemed a bit like a screening process, If you were cool you got passed to the next station on the weed railroad.
Despite the problems I was feeling good and walking tall as I started up the hill to the jeep. The buzz lasted the length of that stroll and the whining began. It was too cold to go get smoke, somebody would steal the car, they would smell it on us at the border. what sold it for me was “We could come back tomorrow to check out the scene.” I said fuck it and we headed back to the good old US of A. Of course I knew it was bullshit but I didn’t feel like arguing.
I was wearing some cheap ski gloves made out of an inflexible vinyl and stashed the little vials of seeds in the fingers of my left hand. I remember being nervous but I fully expected to beat any search in my normal arrogant fashion. We were doing everything wrong and should have hung longer or at least bought a T-shirt but we were at the border before thinking about it much.
For all the nervousness the crossing back turned out to be anticlimactic. The young border guard on the American side asked for our Id and ran his little mirror under the car. They had some sort of laser off to the side that did something and Don told the broken lock story as the reason we were back so soon and we were back in the Scottish Lodge in a musty room as successful smugglers.

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