SERIOUS WEIGHT (Rememories 16)
Maybe you noticed, or maybe you were so entertained by my Chit-Chats you forgot to care? But a while back, Rememories took a backseat here on Starship Casual as preparations began for what will be my third book, WORLD WITHIN A SONG: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music.
But now that the book is announced and available to preorder, we're doing some remembering again, Rememories-style. Oh, and if you like this style of storytelling, you’ll find a lot more of it in said book, along with the stories behind a bunch of my songs and my thoughts on why a bunch of other people's songs matter so much to me. Some of them are my favorite songs, songs I love. And some are just songs I felt like writing about because they changed me.
That’s enough of a plug for now, enjoy.
Crossing the border into Canada on a solo tour. Two AM-ish.
Being ordered off of the bus by the Canadian Border Patrol Officers. A common occurrence.
Sometimes they just ask you to see your passports and paperwork. Sometimes they want everyone up, awake, sitting in the front lounge. And sometimes they want everyone inside the immigration building to be “PRO-cessed.”
No biggie. We’ve done this dance countless times. All of them relatively uneventful. Aside from the time in the 90’s when we were stranded, driverless after Bubba (real bus driver name) was arrested on a warrant for running guns and crystal meth. “See you later boys!” Bubba yelled over his shoulder as they whisked him away shackled. (Story for another time.)
So we’re inside. Waiting. They’re searching the bus. We’re hanging out in the institutional plastic seats joking around with each other. Small entourage.
It starts to feel like it’s taking a bit longer than normal. So I start looking around the room for Eric, our tour manager.
Noticing the room filling up with border agents.
Seeing Eric being told to turn around.
Eric being handcuffed.
Me being handcuffed.
We’re all in handcuffs now.
Apparently one of their drug-sniffing dogs had found an ancient roach on our tour bus, so everyone on the bus was being detained in separate cells while they completed a more thorough search. Eric and I were kept in a break room because they didn’t have enough cells to hold each of us individually. Just us and two “guards” giving off as much “being held captive” energy as we were.
Clock hands trudging…
“So…you travel a lot you say? Answer me this. Between Quebec and Montreal, who has the better-looking ladies?” Asks the older of the mustachioed Canadian border patrol agents.
Being the first time we had been addressed directly by either, it took us a second to comprehend the question. We’d been listening to them banter non-stop for hours, sitting there on benches in the brightly lit room with our hands handcuffed behind our backs. Topics had included: snow removal and trash collection efficiency in nearby municipalities, Yamaha vs. Harley, and (in whispers) their assessments of several coworkers' work habits.
Noticing our hesitancy to talk, the eldest (the more catty of the two and by far the most talkative) offered us this bit of info. “Right now, you guys are cool. You’re way below weight for an arrest. If it stays that way you’ll be good to go. If, on the other hand, you guys are carrying SERIOUS WEIGHT! …well then you guys are in a world-a trouble. That’s what we’re looking for…trafficking. That’s why we got you detained. Pending trafficking charges… but like I said that’s if you guys got some SERIOUS WEIGHT.”
Realizing these two, at least, understood that we were just about the least likely people in the world to be carrying serious weight. I mean, it’s possible in their eyes that we began performing music and putting out albums decades ago to set up the perfect cover for our weed operation. The countless incident-free border crossings, the work permits, the carnet, the insurance… all of it was part of the ruse! The perfect crime to finally get some of that sweet Canadian cash roughly a month out from it (pot) being legal in the provinces. It was finally time to pull the string and get rich. All we needed to finally enact this ingenious caper was to book a string of dates in Canada, hire a crew and pull a trailer (Which they never opened, by the way. Which if I’m being honest, is exactly where we would have hid any “serious weight”. I’m guessing at the bottom of the deepest packed merch boxes) across the border. With all of our paperwork in perfect accordance with the law, mind you.
Curiosity got the best of me. “Um… I never really noticed any difference in the general attractiveness of women in Montreal vs. Quebec.”
“Oh! Ok, wrong answer… But if you had to pick, which one would you pick?” he shot back. The younger agent adding, “You’re going to love this. You should really take a guess.”
“Ok. Montreal?” a miffed and humoring Eric offered.
“Ha! WRONG! Nope. Wrong.”
They’re both excited now.
“It’s QUEBEC! Because during the fur trade they would ship boats full of ladies over to partner up with the trappers, and they always had to stop in Quebec first because when you come in through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec comes first. So they always got to pick first. And to this day they have the prettier gals.”
“Yeah, that’s what they say anyways. I always hear about how good-looking they all are up there.”
Loud voice interrupting, “ALL CLEAR!”
“Ok fellas, looks like you’re good to go.”
After the ordeal, Border Agent (let’s call him Gord) was kind enough to handcuff me again for the cameras so I could send Susie this photo with no explanation.
This Week In Wilco, Etc.
2016 / February 4: Wilco appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and performs “Random Name Generator". To end the show, Jeff sings Stephen a lullaby, “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a Great Day”.
1999 / February 8: Wilco stop by GLR Studios in London to play “She’s a Jar” and “How to Fight Loneliness”.
2019 / February 10: At the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, Jeff is nominated for the Best American Roots Song for Mavis Staples's “Build a Bridge”.