Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

The Case of the Vanishing Sock

Friday, October 17th, 2014
Mitzi and Teddy at Glacier National Park, Montana

Mitzi and Teddy at Glacier National Park, Montana

My talented co-author and celebrity bear Teddy Tedaloo and I are back from another whirlwind road trip through North America, taking in such destinations as the Black Hills of South Dakota, northwest Montana and Glacier National Park, the Canadian Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia, the eastern portion of the Pacific Northwest, and northern Colorado.

After two overpriced oil changes and having missed the Testicle Festival in Clinton, Montana (yes, you heard it here first!), we were pretty much ready to pack it in and give the exhausted credit cards a holiday of their own. Nevertheless, we managed to visit a lot of amazing places and cross a few more off our bucket list. Even more importantly, Teddy got to visit several brewpubs!

Teddy Tedaloo checks out the local ale

Teddy Tedaloo checks out the local ale

Of course no road trip of merit would be complete without some form of (mis)adventure, and this one was no exception. Last year I encountered a bored border control agent who gave me a load of bollocks going into Canada. This year I encountered a bored border control agent who gave me a load of bollocks crossing into the United States! I won’t say which border crossing it was (in case you might actually know this character), but I get the impression they don’t get too many customers and have to make the most out of this gig.

Now don’t get me wrong – we need to stay vigilant in today’s turbulent and dangerous world, but there’s a big difference between wasting time/resources and being on the lookout for potential terrorists and drug smugglers. I flew after 9-11 immediately after the international borders were reopened (going from the USA to Canada to the UK) and I didn’t experience anything remotely along these lines to enter a “foreign” country. Nor did I have any issues last year upon driving into the USA from Canada with a US passport, entering via New York State. In fact, they actually seemed glad to see me!

Not so in this case. Despite the fact that I handed over my American passport for inspection, I was asked to provide yet another form of photo ID. On presenting my US driver’s licence, the fellow proceeded to enter it into a computer, no doubt expecting to find a “Wanted By the FBI!” alert placed upon it. I was even asked if my car was rented (huh?) and my next intended destination (err… Starbucks?). I began to wonder if I was entering a foreign country rather than the one to which I had proof of citizenship. I looked around for a flag emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, but couldn’t see one.

Sure, it was all sweetness and light as my car and everything in it got a good going-over in search of… what? Dirty laundry? Well, yes, I had a tote bag-full in the boot and I warned the fellow that he would encounter it if he went in there. That didn’t put him off in the least. On the contrary, he seemed to take an inordinate amount of time going through all my stuff as I sat dumbfounded in the driver’s seat, wondering if a body search was imminent or being hung upside-down until I confessed to crimes I hadn’t committed. I dread to think what they do to American citizens who have even a drop of Middle Eastern blood running through their veins or a name with Islamic origins.

After a while I figured out that it wasn’t just about my potential threat to American security. It was also about all the illegal contraband I was potentially bringing into the United States and not paying duty on. (Clearly this fellow wasn’t too au fait with the income level of most authors or he might have slipped me a few bucks to help out.) Sure, I’d purchased a handful of things in Canada, but unless he wanted to tax Teddy’s new hoodie from Banff there wasn’t all that much to get excited about.

Yet boy was I surprised when, with a big Ah-ha! on his face, he pulled from my suitcase a small plastic bag containing not cocaine, but earrings, upon which he inquired if the tiny paper bag inside it contained new jewelry that I’d purchased on my trip. I was pleased as punch to inform him that yes, those were indeed newly purchased earrings in said bag – and I’d bought them in Montana. Last I heard they can’t charge customs on goods purchased inside the United States being brought back inside the United States.

Needless to say, I would have been perfectly cool with it had Teddy and I not been allowed back into the USA. Canada is a beautiful and friendly country that isn’t overrun with blood-thirsty psychopaths with guns, and they’re even civilised and humane enough to offer universal healthcare to its population rather than allowing them to descend into abject poverty or serious illness in order to keep from suffering or dying. So the decision would have been an easy one to make had the US border been shut against me. But after searching my car and everything in it (including the tote bag of dirty laundry I’d warned him about), the agent bid me a fond farewell. The barrier finally came up and we were waved on through. Welcome to the United States.

Damn.

Okay, so it gets a wee bit cold in Canada...

Okay, so it gets a wee bit cold in Canada…

Now if you think all this border-security song and dance was entirely justified, let me add a postscript to this. I fuelled up the car in the first town I came to and, still fuming over the incident, mentioned to the kindly ladies behind the cash register what had just happened. They asked me to describe the fellow, which I did. Their immediate response? “Oh, him.” Evidently I’d got lucky and drawn the short straw.

Now you’d think with this violation of my privacy and personal space that this guy would have promised to buy at least one of my books? I did tell him when asked that I was a writer, so ignorance was no excuse. After all, I have Darker Edge of Desire coming out and Teddy and I are always keen to find new readers for our Thelonious T. Bear quirky crime/cosy mystery series. But no. It was all just wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.

I felt so cheap and used!

As for that bag of laundry in the car boot, even that didn’t remain sacrosanct. When I arrived at my next destination and began to make use of the washing machine, it came to my notice that a certain article of clothing had gone missing from the tote bag – and it was nowhere to be found.

All I can say is, if that border control guy has it, I hope he and my sock will be very happy together.

 

 

Mitzi and Teddy Hit Montreal, Eh?

Sunday, October 20th, 2013
Teddy Tedaloo tries the famous smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's

Teddy Tedaloo tries the famous smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s

Right, that’s it – I’m moving! I’ve been to a lot of cities (and I’ve lived in a lot of cities), and I will say this: if you like food – good food – and food from every conceivable place on the planet, you’ve got to be in Montreal. If you want someone to cook it, you’ll find a restaurant that has it. If you want to cook it yourself, you’ll find a supermarket that has anything you’d ever want or need – and you don’t have to go broke to get it either.

Alas, poor Yorick!

Alas, poor Yorick!

After all this high praise, I’ll be polite and not discuss the Quebec drivers. I think someone must’ve really got on the wrong side of these guys.

I’ll also be polite and not bang on about the traffic jams or the endless road construction or the collapsing overpasses. (You didn’t hear any of this from me, you got it?)

But hey, Montreal has mayoral candidate Richard Bergeron! In fact, we even ran into him (though not with our car). It felt as if we were meeting an old mate, what with his mug being plastered on every street corner in the city. Oy, and what a mug! Now I ask you – would you buy a used Chevy from this man?

Dodgy mayoral candidate for Montreal

Dodgy mayoral candidate for Montreal

Mind you, I’m thinking I should have a chat avec Monsieur Bergeron about the complete load of bollocks I was given crossing the Canadian border. I must have been saddled with a seriously bored border control agent, since he appeared to want to hang about and chew the fat with me all afternoon, grilling me about everything from who my friends in Montreal were to who owned the vehicle I was driving. (You’d have thought I was the driver who had an arm dangling from the rear of the car!) Heck, I’m surprised the guy didn’t ask what brand of antiperspirant I use! I notice he didn’t ask my famous bear Teddy Tedaloo any questions. Like, what’s up with that, eh?

It was all I could do to keep our Ted from biting him. (I have no idea what the penalty is in Canada for bears biting border service agents, and I didn’t wish to find out.) All I can say is, if you lot want tourist dollars to be spent in your country (or province), this is definitely not the way to go about it. And here I thought it was the American border agents who go all John Wayne on you when it comes to entering the country. Oddly enough, I had a very warm welcome on the way back when crossing into New York. Maybe the fellow was a fan of mine. He did address me by my first name as if he knew me.

I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t heading up to Canada for the book launch of my new novel The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray. Can you imagine the panic that would have ensued at the border crossing? I mean, the book hasn’t even been published yet! (That doesn’t mean you can’t pre-order it from Amazon – so what are you waiting for?) I’d have been taking my life in my hands if I hadn’t come armed (maybe “armed” isn’t the right word to use in this context) with an autographed copy for the border services agent. Hey, maybe that was his problem – I didn’t give him a free book! You’d be amazed by how weird people can get when they meet an author and aren’t given freebies.

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo high above Montreal

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo high above Montreal

Anyway, it’s not me who’s important here.

Teddy Tedaloo at Musee des Beaux Arts

Teddy Tedaloo at Musee des Beaux Arts

The official star of the show was Teddy Tedaloo, whom everyone was expecting. Our official Quebec hosts in the section of Montreal known as “Peter’s Bottom” (I’m not even going to try to explain this) were initially his friends, not mine. In fact, our host was a fluffy white cockapoo with a penchant for raising his hind leg whenever it suited him. He and Teddy got on like a house on fire. Mind you, everyone gets on with Teddy like a house on fire. Even a trip to the Musee des Beaux Arts was filled with members of the Teddy Tedaloo Admiration Society. One of the security guards insisted upon a formal introduction, offering Ted a hearty handshake along with the compliment that it was good to see a bear who appreciated fine art.

As for me, no one was really that bothered save for my new best friend at border control. Having said that, if he’s reading this, he’d better not be expecting a free autographed copy of my new book any time soon!

As for Montreal, I can’t wait to return and get cracking with some serious eating!

The Things I Miss About America

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

American Flag

It’s another Fourth of July – Independence Day for us Yanks – and it’s got me thinking about what I miss most about America. Okay, if I’m honest, I’d have to say not a whole heck of a lot. However, if I’m also honest, well… there are some things. So to be fair to the old homeland and the Stars and Stripes (cue “Star Spangled Banner”), I thought I’d come up with a list – or rather a short list, since I really must put the kettle on!

Top of the pops would have to be clothes dryers. I mean, exactly what is this invention here in the UK they call a “clothes dryer”? It sure doesn’t dry clothes, I’ll tell you that much. It does, however, do a slap-up job of wrinkling the hell out of them (as does the great British washing machine and its mentally challenged sister, the “washer-dryer”). It’s no wonder my pile of ironing never diminishes. Whoever designed these things was surely taking the mickey out of people who like to wear clean fresh-smelling clothes. American washing machines and clothes dryers do a wonderful job, even the cheaper models. Frankly, I don’t understand why they’ve fobbed these ridiculous appliances off on us. Perhaps some primitive tribe on a forgotten South Pacific island didn’t want them, so the manufacturers said, “oi, let’s dump these piles of shite onto the Brits. They won’t make a fuss. Still upper lip and all that!” (Whoever said the war was over?)

Another thing I miss are doctors’ offices that don’t look like a waiting room at a rundown city centre bus station. Just try to find a magazine more recent than 2005, especially one that isn’t about fly fishing! There’s also usually some reasonably pleasant music playing in American doctors’ offices, as opposed to the dulcet tones of phlegmy coughing and wheezing that we listen to here from people who should probably be quarantined or shot, not sitting with a roomful of sorry bastards who might value another few years of life on this doomed planet.

Having said that, I don’t miss the exorbitant medical costs that go into having nicer patient waiting areas or paying the salaries of the ten dozen or so people per doctor’s office who just handle patient and insurance billing, but do nothing that contributes to a patient’s actual health care. Nor do I miss the terror of either having no health insurance or wondering if I’ll either be cancelled, refused insurance, have a claim rejected, or be able to pay for the portion of a claim the insurance doesn’t cover or, or that matter, be able to afford the next premium (which generally increases exponentially with each breath you take and far exceeds the rate of debt of all the Third World countries combined).

Something else I really pine for is the TV commercial for “The Clapper“. (And no, this isn’t some new STD.) It always comes on around Christmastime and features a slew of lazy buggers who can’t be bothered to switch off the lights or telly. My favourite out of this cast of loonies is the mad-looking old bat who’s lying all tucked up in bed, then suddenly from beneath the bedclothes these big gorilla hands appear, clapping the telly off. I tell you, American television just doesn’t get any better! (I wonder if I can land an interview with her for Mitzi TV?)

I also miss the fact that in America the majority of people can actually go for a night out and drink in reasonable moderation (well, except for students in frat houses or on spring break in Daytona Beach), rather than here where they fall into the gutter and pass out – and that’s only after they’ve left behind a pool of vomit for some unsuspecting pedestrian to step in – or slip and fall into. The real tragedy is, these people are going to bankrupt the British National Health Service with the vast menu of ailments and diseases which will develop from their excessive drinking. Perhaps some of the costs can be offset if the UK begins to export a new delicacy: pickled liver.

And lastly, most of all I miss the teeth.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could take the best of both America and Britain and create one great big wonderful country? Or perhaps we already have.

It’s called Canada.

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