Originally posted on MARCH 4, 2009
Most of us can remember a time when crossing was a breeze. Easy as pie. No racial profiling, no suspicious looks because you hadn’t shaved in a few days. No ridiculous questions like who packed your bag, who won the World Series last year, or did a complete stranger wearing a burlap robe and carrying a portable surface to air missile give you a package to deliver to his grandmother.
Get to the airport two to three hours early? Sure. Replace the plastic McDonald’s chairs with Laz-E- Boy recliners, offer free drinks, and lap dances, and make new parents keep their kids on leashes, and either ship them in containers in the cargo hold, or leave them with relatives or in the trunk of the car.
Spend an extra 2 or 3 hours in the Corolla while Officer Plotkin scrutinizes the luggage of the 15 cars ahead of you? Sure. Get some carhops on roller skates to bring food and root beer, and put some portable toilets next to the road…and a fenced in play area so we can let the kids out of the trunk for a little while.
Airports suck. Border crossings suck…the whole damn thing sucks. That said, I guess we gotta do what we gotta do. Safety first and all that, but really…can’t they figure out a better way to look for demented terrorists/maniacs/nutbars, and the occasional drunk? Do they have to make the rest of us feel like a bunch of guilt ridden jackasses for hating all the delays and inane procedures we suffer, just trying to hit an outlet mall or eat at a Denny’s, or take our crappy two week vacation anywhere but home?
…and then I remembered.
There was a time when people like me, were considered a menace. There was a time when we were victims of profiling and intense scrutiny, a time when my fellow travelers and I were considered a threat to the security of the United States of America, and a potential plague of revolution and unrest that could plunge the world into chaos and anarchy from which it would never recover.
We were musicians…and we played the rock and roll.
We had long hair and smelled of patchouli oil. Our clothes were weird and we talked funny, and we always had strange electronic instruments and doo-dads with us that ordinary, solid citizens would never even recognize, let alone carry with them.
We had to be stopped, stifled, and contained…and the men and women who were hand picked to protect their country and serve the public became our sworn enemies…the Crossing Guards.
Between the years 1967 and 1975, any van or station wagon full of long haired guys going across the border set off some kind of alarm that made ordinarily nice, polite people that waved reg’lar folks into the States, smiled at the kids, and cheerily told grandma and grandpa to stay to the right, turn into snarling, officious, goons. Like Bruce Banner losing a game of Scrabble, they went from affable, trusting, helpful ambassadors of goodwill, to being demanding, suspicious, and threatening, hulks…like your 300 pound cousin Martin who has one too many beers at Thanksgiving and tears the legs off the turkey with his bare hands, daring anyone to stop him.
- Some examples of fun at the border -
The Family Tree
Driving from Seattle to Vancouver for the first time to check out the city for gigs.
I was in the Family Tree and the drummer, Vann, and I decided to go to Vancouver after some dates in Portland and Seattle. I was driving a brand new 1967 Cadillac Eldorado I had bought with money made on the road. I was 21.
We were accused of dodging the draft
I was told I was too young to own the car.
We were accused of stealing the car.
We were threatened with having our hair cut.
We were detained for 5 hours while they tore the car apart, went through our luggage and asked us if we were ‘on’ anything.
They were so pissed off when everything checked out I thought their heads were going to explode.
It was a disappointment when they didn’t.
The FBI (!) pulled us over in Buffalo and accused us of robbing a bank. We showed them our album and tour itinerary and they apologized. One of them asked for an album. When we gave him one, he took off the shrink-wrap and demanded our autographs. He got them…it was the FBI, Dude!
Car dismantled, body search, Best question, “Why do you look like that?”
They brought a matron out to strip search one of the guys because they thought he was a girl. He proved he wasn’t to the astonishingly naive matron the quickest and easiest way he could. It was worth the hassle just to see that many shades of red and purple…on the matron’s face, wise guy.
Getting an Officer that was convinced we were demented, psychopathic drug lords. After going through every piece of equipment and luggage we had, he finally found a large vial of white powder and broke into the biggest grin I have ever seen on an adult. Licking his index finger and plunging it into the vial, he stuck his heavily coated digit into his mouth and when he was about to call for handcuffs and back up, his mouth caved in on itself, puckering up until it was a little tiny hole in the bottom of his face. He had found Randy’s bottle of alum used to keep a canker sore at bay.
I don’t think we stopped laughing for a couple of days.
Kootch, the bass player and I, decided to drive from Montreal to California with the roadies instead of fly home. At the border in Watertown, New York, it was discovered that one of the roadies had a film can full of hash in his shirt pocket. They took him to jail and the rest of us spent the night in a hotel straight out of a horror film. The only thing missing was Norman Bates. Two days later, after many phone calls to California and a crackerjack lawyer, we were on our way again, fines paid, and clean as a whistle. We made it from Watertown to Stockton, California in 54 hours. The roadie had been forced to have his hair cut in jail. He honestly didn’t know he had any hash with him. We would have smoked it before we got to the border if he had.
Five in the morning, we’re tired, cranky, and just want to get to our hotel in Detroit. Kootch is driving the van and crankier than normal. We get to the border, he rolls down the window, and the interrogation commences. The same old questions, the same old answers, and repeated 4 or 5 times, like we’re going to slip up and change our replies. Finally, the Officer asks us, one by one, what we do… “Play drums”, “Play guitar”, “Sing”, “Play guitar”, come the answers. Until Kootch. The question gets asked of him, and in his best Peter Lorre voice he shouts, “I’M AN ATOMIC SPY!”
We got to our hotel at noon.
That’s enough for now. Email me at email@example.com with your comments, complaints, and thoughts…and remember…don’t believe a word I say.
Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.