I went to canada and all i got was the idea that they don’t like guitars at the border

Over the weekend I flew to Edmonton to do a solo show. This was the first time I’d ever flown completely by myself to a city I was unfamiliar with, to play a show and generally do the whole thing that you do when you play shows without anyone I’d ever met before being around me at any time. SO, you could say I was a tad apprehensive. What if everyone was a bunch of dildos, for example? What if I got there and the show was in a dude’s house for his two friends and that’s where I was also supposed to stay? It could have been awful, but, in fact, it was awesome. The promoter was a class act, they put me in a nice hotel, the town was lovely, the fans were numerous, polite, fun and generally some of the most welcoming I’ve ever come across. Overall, I had a five-star experience. Not a bad moment. For those of you out there who do solo, one-off fly-ins, I can’t possibly recommend Ben Sir and the Buckingham as a promoter/bar combo highly enough. Thanks so much to everyone who worked, bartended, came out, partied, sang, danced, and partied some more with me. Edmonton, you are the best.

An interesting thing though, aboot going into Canada: They recently enacted this tax on foreign workers that makes it crazy cost prohibitive to get up there to play shows if you’re a smaller band. I’m not entirely sure what the whole deal is, but I know that for me to get across the border, I needed to pay a $275 tax on top of buying a $150 work permit. That’s just for me for one show. That’s pretty steep, especially if you factor in the plane tix and all that. Now, I’m not gonna sit here and complain about governments lamely gouging the shit out of the little people, because well…what the fuck, right? No one likes taxes, and sure, this one seems particularly capricious but whatever. It’s a shitty, expensive set of rules, but it’s the rules, and as a guest, what the fuck right do I have to tell em how to do shit, I guess. Besides, the whole idea here is just to get over and make the show.

Of all the borders I’ve ever crossed in my life, the Canadian one is far and away the most intense, and the one where I’ve had to jump through the most hoops. And sure, I get it. If I was Canada and my downstairs neighbors were a bunch of wackadoo fatties who couldn’t stop shooting each other, I’d probably be hesitant to let them into my house too. BUT, a funny think happened in the immigration line.

The woman looked at my papers. She stared me down. She told me to go wait in the second room so she could process my work permit. We met in room 2. She looked at my passport. She looked at me. She googled me. She looked at the computer screen. She looked at me. She asked me if I’d ever been “arrested, drugs? DUI? Ever been in handcuffs for any reason at all?” and I said no (which is true). She looked at my passport. Googled again. Looked at the screen. Looked at me. More scrutiny. I asked her some questions about something banal…the weather or the local wildlife or some bullshit, and she looked at me like I’d just barfed a turd onto her desk.

Now, meanwhile, at the desk right next to me, three large Americans are hooting and hollering with this other border guard. They too are getting permits. But they’re not musicians. Their cases didn’t have acoustic guitars in them like mine did. They were full of rifles. These dudes were up in Canada, toting rifles with the intention of killing some Canadian things. Now, I don’t want to belabor this point too much, but they had guns. They were there to kill. I was there to strum an acoustic guitar for one hour and then sleep in a Canadian hotel, eat a Canadian breakfast and leave. These three dudes were ALL fully processed and out the door in the time it took my lady to just glare at me before the paperwork process even really got underway. I should also mention that their permits cost $25 apiece, meaning that the total cost for three dudes to come into Canada with their guns and kill Canadian things was HALF THE COST of one guy coming in to play a guitar and sing some songs he wrote. And that’s not even counting the prohibitive tax! Pretty weird, right?

Anyway, there you have it. Priorities. I understand that hunting is part of the culture in Canada, and a lot of places, and that people love it and all that. I ALSO understand that, unfortunately, there’s a perception that people that make art are ALSO the kinds of people that occasionally are into stuff that’s a little weird and maybe even lightly criminal, but uh…THOSE GUYS HAVE GUNS IN THOSE CASES. Don’t you think just the TINIEST amount of scrutiny is in order? I mean, what’s the worst thing I’m gonna do, barf on someone? Those guys could, if they desired, just start shooting people right in the fucking airport. And of course I’m not suggesting that hunters are killers (though, there’s a pretty simple and logical argument that says they are), but uh…really, Canada? It’s the songs? The songs are the big watch out?

I dunno. I love Canada and I think it’s so right on in so many ways, and again, I understand that America in general makes having a more open and friendly border unappealing, but uh, those guys literally were big fat guys with guns. They were three America caricatures just walking in. They couldn’t have been more walking embodiments of the punchline of our country if they were on Rascals that were souped up to look like NAASCARs with those hats that hold beers, but instead of beers they were full of nachos and pictures of Sarah Palin.

Okay, whatever, it was a great time and ultimately the border stop was just an hour of my life. And the rest of my trip was 100% lovely.

Thank you Edmonton! You’re the best. I hope that my countrymen killed really nice stuff in your surrounding areas.

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17 Responses to I went to canada and all i got was the idea that they don’t like guitars at the border

  1. Dan says:

    I read about this dumb law recently. Even worse is that big, shitty stadium concerts are exempted from these taxes and fees. They’re just for smaller touring bands playing small and medium sized venues. WORSE STILL, the tax you paid is multiplied by however many band members are crossing the border, making it really prohibitive to even play here. It sucks.

  2. rupert blumpkin says:

    Oh just what we need, another American sycophant rimming Canada like it was Greece. And I’m sure there are plenty of fat Canooks on account of all that poutine, maple-infused whiskey n’ mountain buck grizzlers (go with it) so that’s no point of distinction. Besides…Crash Test Dummies/Cowboy Junkies (the 2 C’s)? Propagandhi doesn’t atone for this contrary to popular wisdom

  3. Chris says:

    Come on, never in handcuffs? Not even in bed?

  4. whocaresright says:

    This kinda reminds me of the time I got in trouble for having a cap gun. I was playing with my dork friends. We liked to have fun. And yes, I was a dork too. Someone called the police on us and a police officer approached us (we were in a parking lot talking, skating and out of our cars) My cap gun was in my purse. But immediately he began to harass us because we looked like punks. He demanded that I give him my purse to search because he got a call that someone had a gun. Well, I let him, thinking, “ok, I don’t do drugs and that gun is just a toy so why not.” He took me in Santa Ana police station. I’m a girl mind you. And this is a shitty neighborhood that was 45min away. Bummer. 🙁 To top it off they were calling me a Satanist because of a necklace I wore and questioning me ridiculously about it and decided to put me in a separate holding cell by myself. I was so pissed off. Wait, it gets interesting. Two earthquakes hit, an earthquake and a smaller ripple effect after shock. They took me out and asked me if I caused it, LMFAO. Shit was funny kinda. But they let me go a half hour later. I had a friend of the family look into the wrongful arrest, and it wasn’t there. They didn’t give me a call option and my mom was so worried because I was there until 8 am. They were just harassing me. They took all of my money and cigarettes and I had no way home, thank god we had payphones to call collect. I’m glad I don’t smoke anymore, but I was pissed off for being harassed. It isn’t REALLY like your situation, but it just reminded me of the gun, injustice, tattooed questionable person, etc. Now days everyone is tattooed, so maybe she was just intrigued by your presence. 🙂

    • Joe says:

      I’m glad you pointed out you were a girl, seeing as they don’t commit crimes and all.

    • Joe says:

      I’m glad you pointed out that you are a girl, seeing as they don’t commit crimes and all.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, being locked up in a cell 10 empty cellrooms down from where you can’t escape two men police and the possibility of being raped, because it has happened many of times, was scary for me. Pffff- I know females commit crimes, WTF?! :/

      • Whocaresright says:

        Point WAS being alone in a cell 10 empty rooms down from everyone with two male cops was scary for me. I guess possibly being raped never crosses YOUR mind. I know females commit crimes, WTF ? :/

  5. It's aboot time says:

    Canada has always been fiercely nationalistic (irritatingly so, even, for all the shit it gives its neighbors to the south for same), so this latest turd of a policy intended to “keep the arts canadian”–itself a bemusing symptom of cultural Little Brother Syndrome–seems a pretty logical progression

  6. Pixie/Elf/Creature says:

    Wicked time Mr. Sandwich! Next time pack a gun in your guitar – guaranteed entry. Come back soon!

  7. sadpup says:

    You were in Edmonton?! I was pretty miffed after hearing that Chuck Ragan did an acoustic show …but he didn’t have a blog I followed so how the fuck could I deduce a random show, right? LE sigh.

    It’s funny, I was just suggesting to someone to drive through the States to get to Ontario and they were was saying the border patrol take no guff when it comes to guns …coming back? going through was easy?

  8. s says:

    My mayor smokes crack, my premier wasted BILLIONS of tax dollars by canceling one project, and my prime minister is currently accused of covering up for his buddies who misspent taxpayers’ money, using–you guessed it– tax dollas.
    But hey it’s such a great system. Thanks for your money, we’ll use it wisely… promise.

  9. Matt Day-Holloway says:

    so I guess coming to New Brunswick, Canada (Just east of Maine) to play for myself and 3 buddies is out of the question

  10. ItLooksUp says:

    You know, before 9/11 (it’s a pertinent date, drag this comment away from its point and be condemned to a circle of hell where incessant trolls twist everything you say into a declaration of actions so perverse your mother will cry blood and your father will disown you – replace with relevant people where necessary) I remember being little and my parents took my sisters and I to Niagra Falls. I think there was a simple border guard we passed, but our parents must have just gone into a building, shown them their licenses, and *boom* moose country. I don’t think they even needed to get passports, I do know that we three kids didn’t get ones. But now they must defend the maple syrup from potentially malicious guitar players and their wicked chords.
    Not that their Transportation Security is the only one being asinine these days – still, though, a moment of silence for the passing of some damned sense.

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