Thursday, July 8, 2010

maple leaf rag


canadian border guard: “what are you traveling with?”

me: “um….a guitar….clothing…..a computer….”

cbg: “are you carrying any firearms?”

me: “no.”

cbg: “any alcohol? cigarettes? fruits? vegetables?”

me: “um….two bottles of tequila, a bottle of cointreau, and thirty-seven limes.”

cbg: “pull over to the left under the canopy and open your trunk please.”

last year at the border near buffalo, one of the guards seemed to take a genuine interest in my tequila. wanted to know why the two different bottles. i told him i liked to switch off between a spicy reposado and a more fruit-forward blanco. for variety’s sake.

he looked at me like a dog that had just been shown a card trick. (thank you bill hicks.)

you can’t find tequila easily in canada. in quebec, forget it. this is true almost everywhere in the world. outside mexico and the us, tequila is not very popular. maybe this is a good thing,. the mexican government only allows the “norma oficial mexicana” certification if the agave comes from the jalisco highlands, a finite region, so if demand becomes too high, we could find ourselves in a tequila shortage. and then price gouging. inflation. widespread misery.

but back to canada.

no it’s not exactly tequila-enlightened, and plus, due to my trouble at the vancouver border back in 2007, the guards are determined to give me the hardest time possible. so why put myself through the hassle?

because canada has the best singer-songwriter audiences in the world! music fans here really appreciate a good song. i’ve been in ontario for three days now and i hear ron sexsmith everywhere. he's so good it's annoying.

i’ve always noticed a difference in the tone of post-show comments here as opposed to in the states. average people here like irony and dimension. in fact, i would go so far as to say that they demand it from their songwriters.

in america, i often feel that when your song veers into “funny” territory, much of the crowd begins relating to the performance as if you’re a jester of sorts. sometimes the audience keeps laughing in parts of the songs they’re not supposed to. and then after the show it’s, “you’re hilarious.” “you made me laugh.”

in canada, it’s more like, “i really like your point of view.” “i didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” “what kind of guitar is that?” are you in regular tuning?”

average people listen all the way here.

it’s a good thing the audiences are stimulating because, as i’m recalling in horror at this very minute, the iced coffee is not. my god. this is so weak. what’s the point of it? when you’re asked if you want chocolate on top, you know you’re in trouble.

or when they try to just pour the hot coffee over ice like they do in england.

i’ve learned to pre-empt that one:

me: “do you cold-brew your iced coffee here?”

canadian barista: (cheerfully) “we can ice any hot drink on our menu for you.”

my inner-dialogue: (yes i know one can pour things over ice. i can urinate over ice too if i want to. but i want an iced coffee. not a lukewarm cup of brown water. do you pour tomato soup on ice and call it gazpacho?)

my outer-dialogue: “thanks. have a nice day.”

i’m not exactly a flag waver, but i think america has the best coffee. i used to think italy had the best coffee. and they still do have the most consistently great coffee. but i like drip coffee. and america is hard to beat so long as you know where to go. it’s everywhere now. even on the midwest leg of this tour, i managed to tap in to the mother well.

(god i turn into a blowhard when i travel alone.)

i guess canada doesn’t need great iced coffee when they can take credit for so many other great things like leonard cohen, ronnie hawkins, hockey, daylight after 10pm, joni mitchell, four-fifths of THE band, mandatory relief wells for off-shore oil drilling, neil young, not invading other countries, 17% tax on alcoholic beverages…

okay, that last one sucks.

but it’s a pretty good track record.

see you tonight in toronto,


p.s. the irony of those nerve-wracking border crossings is when, after all the fanfare, they finally allow you across and you’re like “this still looks like michigan.”

p.p.s. really thrilled to have a met a few fans on this tour who are trying out the cocktails! more to come!