Oblivious in America: Part 8

Portal, North Dakota

Sitting in the drivers seat of my car; three vehicles deep; waiting to speak to the border agent at the drive-through window. Stuffed beneath the center console were a few extra packs of cigarettes; in addition to the second full carton hidden in my suitcase that I had no plans to declare.

Passport, please.

Three and a half days of stubble on my face; tanned from the springtime sun; I hand the melanin-positive-female-passport-gestapo my passport… the one with all of the squiggly stamps on it. She asks if I have anything to declare. I declare the first carton of cigarettes; and 40 ounces of my 66 ounce bottle of brandy.

Pull into the garage, sir.

Was it the squiggly airport stamps or the visa from Afghanistan, I’d wondered.

I sit on one of my suitcases; my sand-colored flight bag to be precise. At present; it was the only bag to have been completely searched by both border agents plus the dog. My car doors are open; the hood is up; the trunk is cleared; and the spare tire is out.

The dog is running coordinated paths around, under, and inside of my car. He’s standing on the engine, sniffing under the hood. I just smile. This is fun. How much trouble can a bloke get into for a carton of Pall Malls?

You didn’t declare this, sir.

He found the second carton of cigarettes; my Pall Malls. I declared my Marlboro’s. Neither the male; the female; nor the pooch mentioned diddly-dick about the extra 26 ounces of brandy.

I smile.

You missed some smokes, eh.

The pretty lady guard smiles.

I pop the center console and produce 6 extra individual packages of Marlboro’s that I’d picked up along the way.

What now?

The guy tells me that I have two choices. My first choice is to go pay the tax on the additional carton of cigarettes and leave with a good story to tell at some un-determined time and place in the future. My second choice was that they confiscate my contraband and I get put on a special list of people that border guards have; but I wouldn’t have to pay the tax.

I choose the former; and here we are.

Onward to Estevan.

Oblivious in Canada: Calgary – Part 1

“Spend the weekend in Calgary; check out some property in Red Deer.” he said.

Sitting at the base of a mountain coal mine that I’d just descended in my black-dust-covered white Prius; I excitedly embrace the words of my superior. Having just crossed the Southern Interior of the province, starting in Kelowna at midnight and riding South through the Okanagan through the wee hours until hitting Osoyoos.

I think back to where I’d landed the day before…

Driving through Kelowna early on a Thursday morning, leaving the airport at half past midnight after landing late on a flight from Saskatchewan – where I had been criss-crossing the province visiting potash mines all week; I was tired.

My goal was to be asleep in Osoyoos by 2:30; then showered and awake and on the road for 5:30 to make it to Trail for a Thursday morning meeting at the metal smelting plant.

On this calm evening, I took as many deep breaths as I could muster; slowly and in through my nose. I could see the dark impressions of the beautiful cliff-faces; contrasted ever so slightly against the dark night sky. If a place to visit before my death be chosen; the Okanagan Valley be the place I doth explore. I’ll need a designated driver, of course.

After passing a road crew painting lines on the road; I stopped for gas. That smell. I couldn’t place it. The entire valley smelled of it. Was it the nature? Was nature to blame for the peace and love I felt here? Orchards and fruit farms and wineries; everywhere.

But now, Friday, two hotels later – I’m sitting outside a restaurant called the Arrowana; about a half hour from the border with Alberta. My employer tells me that after being away for a week; I was required to be in Vancouver on Monday to pick up some tender documents. I smirk.

“There’s no bloody way I’m driving back through those mountains.”

Setting the GPS for Calgary; the following several hours of my life showed me some of the most breathtaking scenic realities available in our country. The Western window of my Prius contains miles and miles of lush green, perfectly manicured fields; the odd farm house atop a mound of grass; back-dropped by the Rocky Mountains.

The Easterly view be full of rain clouds that were quick upon me; cleansing my small emasculating rental car of the sins it committed climbing above the clouds as it scaled the coal mountain just hours before.

I text my brother on the East Coast and ask him to find me the address of a strip club in Calgary. I’d never spent any time in Calgary; or really any time in a strip club; aside from a few dodgy ethnic dance joints in the Middle East. Turns out his roommate at university; a guy sitting in the same room as him; is from Calgary.

He gives me a name and an address.

I re-calibrate the GPS and press on Northward.

Oblivious in America: Part 7

On a hill in Northern Minnesota

I exit the roadside dive and hit the road. This state is home to my hero; Bob Dylan. I hit North Dakota and head North to Saskatchewan. The beautiful rolling buffalo grazing hills of North Dakota were one of the most pleasant landscapes I have encountered until crossing into Alberta from the Southern Interior of British Columbia several years later.

Roaring down the highway, between hills of green, I can’t help but think of bison hunts; men riding on horseback with musket in hand – laying waste to this land’s population of both man and beast.

“Discovered” and “uncovered” America did you? Hah!

The same shit-stain capitalists that simultaneously monopolized trade and labor at the turn of the 19th century by driving down their own costs by lowering wages and cutting jobs; are the same shit-stain capitalists that crashed the stock market in 2007 and received Taxpayer money to bail their corporations out of the shit-hole of Taxpayer debt that they created by being dishonest shit-stains.

My hope was that the rolling hills and pump-jacks would continue into Canada. The  most unique sight I found traversing North Dakota was the abundance of pump-jacks; oil pumping machines; in the backyards of farmers.

Capitalism screws up the landscape.

Alas, the Canadian border is approaching.

________

Part 8

________

 

Oblivious in Dubai: Part 17

It’s time.

We land in Canada; Montreal to be specific; and part ways.

No more war. What was I thinking? Fuck.

My friends pick me up at the airport on my final trip home; three heavy bags in tow. I give them pashminas from the bazaar. It’s two in the morning when we arrive at their house. We smoke. I sleep soundly on the couch.

I wake to an empty house; they’re both at work. After showering, I sit on the stoop smoking a cigarette.

The significance of the feeling of the grass between my toes was something unfathomable moments ago.

He notices each cold and individual blade of grass touching the soles of his feet.

Every car seemed to be speeding past the house. Conditioned to hover at a constant 15 kilometers per hour in his bongo or his right-hand-drive, navy blue, SUV; he’s caught off guard by the constant flow of traffic running perpendicular to the walkway leading to the house connected to the stoop on which he’s sitting.

Sheeeeeit.

I need a Tim Horton’s coffee and a shower.

My first shower back in the world was awkward. Since my last trip home; this is the first shower I can recall taking in a tub-sized shower stall. My body; mannerisms, actions, instincts; my sense of self and situational awareness; were completely bombarded with new sensory input that I found frightening. I found it frightening that I found it frightening. This shower belonged to 20-something female friends of mine. Every ledge, every corner was full of bottles. Every color of the spectrum was squeezed into the limited ledge-space available in their tub.

I kept knocking things over. Every turn was stressful. My elbows hit things I should have known were there. My mind was screaming, “Oh shit. Oops. Crap. Oops. OUCH. Damn it,” for the duration of the activity.

The level of anxiety I felt while completing the most basic of daily tasks foreshadowed the inevitable fall from grace that was to come.

Fall I did.

As we all must.

Until the birth of my child; the destruction of my ego was greatest gift I had ever received from the universe.

The most troubled among us are often not prepared to completely change our ways; sometimes we have to be pushed.