Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Waterhouse Expedition: Border Problems

The first thing I should have realized was that it's a bad idea to act fishy to the border guard.

“You only gave me two passports,” he said. “There are four people in this car. Who are the two in the back seat?”

“Oh, those guys are artists, sir. Art teachers, actually. I mean, also”

"Doug Anderson and Dennis Nolan." He read their names and studied my face. "Why do you want to go to Canada?”

“We want to go to the museum to look at the paintings of a guy named John William Waterhouse.”

The second thing I should have realized was that it’s stupid to make smart remarks.

“How do you all relate to each other?” he said.

“Very well, thank you.” I glanced over at Jeanette. Her eyes widened. She wasn’t smiling. Neither was the guard.

He snapped the passports shut. “I see that two of you have never been to Canada before. We would like to get to know you better. Please pull over to Detention Building 2.

We sat in a bleak room with a lot of desperate looking people and signs about FIREARMS written with capital letters. An hour went by. Finally my name got called. A hard looking lady started asking me a bunch of questions. I pulled out the sketchbook. What did I have to lose now?

“Could you make this take as long as possible?” I asked. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to draw your portrait.

This time it worked. She looked through the sketchbook and actually smiled a little and eventually sent us on our way.

We lost a lot of time before we finally arrived in Montreal, and we’ll have to make up for it tomorrow.
Addendum: Steve, here are the earlier posts on Dennis Nolan. Art History: A Fresh View and Two Things to Remember.


Drake Brodahl (pumml) said...

Hilarious story. Reminds me of a similar incident on our way into Canada, where the border guard asked if we had any firearms, grenades or ninja stars. My friend smartly answered, "No, but if you've got some, we'll take 'em."

That won us a chance to meet more of Canada's finest and a drug-sniffing dog.

Fyi, they don't like when you try to pet the drug-sniffing dog.

Hope the reverse trip goes more smoothly!

Erik Bongers said...

Next time, don't show your passports, just show your sketchbooks.

Also next time, drop those beards and shades. Y'all look like you're on probation from Guantanamo.

Rob Rey said...

I'm glad you made it! Enjoy the show, I can't wait to get up there!

Now I'll remember not to make any smart remarks when I go.

Steve said...

Not to stereotype, but in my experience, Canadians really are wonderfully polite and friendly. But I have noticed those characteristics are tamped way down in anyone wearing a uniform at the border. I've attempted the level of humor you summoned with the "relate" comment and got a similar response -- from both the guards and my wife.

Wish I could make the trip to see Waterhouse. Looking forward to your report.

Dennis Nolan looks very familiar. Wasn't his portrait in an earlier post?

Go easy on the poutine...

Lydia Burris said...

That sounds like a wonderful trip!
I'd love to see those paintings!
I like the watercolor town study you posted as well.

I have experienced a similar border experience.
We got pulled over and they searched our luggage. They reached for a big one we called 'the cube' - we grimaced visibly, we did not want them to open it ... the searcher thought they had something on us... what they didn't know is that the 'cube' was a condensed suitcase full of underwear and socks which went FLYING EVERYWHERE as soon as it was opened. They let us go after that.

Chris Jouan said...

Coming back into the country can be a hassle too. I went with my father to claim my grandmother from detention at the Tijuana border crossing. Someone in her group tried to slip something past customs.

Those are a few hours I'd love to have back.

Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

“Could you make this take as long as possible? If you don’t mind, I’d like to draw your portrait."

... wonder how often they hear that phrase?? It sounds like something Chandler from "Friends" would come up with, only in his case, it would be dripping sarcasm, while I guess that you actually meant it!

Steve said...

Thanks for the addendum, Jim. Man, HOW could I have forgotten Dennis -- the source of the whole accurate ear/tragus/Darwin's tubercle/Liam Clancy's advice to Bob Dylan train of thought!

Nita Van Zandt said...

We've gone to Canada for years and they're much more fierce since 9/11. We went once in 2002 with our regular laptop apiece. Our car had an Air Force Base parking sticker, from my husband's work need to enter the base regularly, though he's not military.

They pulled us aside, searched the entire car, flipped through all our reading material, asked us with great suspicion why we had two laptops along (computer geeks, what can I say?) and what country's Air Force we worked for. We made no joking answers, since we had Canadian reservations for a great vacation due!

Nick Woolridge said...

Hi James,

I'm sorry you had this experience; it seems that being humourless is a requirement for being hired as a border guard.

Actually, I'm surprised that they let two of your party in without a passport. Since the US created the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, I think you are supposed to have a passport to enter Canada, and, more importantly for you guys, to return to the US. I hope you have an OK time re-crossing the border....


Victor said...

Pretty ballsy asking your interrogator to pose for a portrait! I would have been afraid that a move like that might earn me a cavity search.

Unknown said...

"Would you take as long as possible, please? I'd like to draw your portrait." haha, awesome!

Will Kelly said...

What's an artist's kneejerk reaction in a desperate situation? Draw your way out of it.
Way to go Mr. Gurney!

Shane White said...

Which border crossing was it, James?

I grew up in Massena about 15 minutes from the crossing near Cornwall, Ontario.

Just curious... :)


Unknown said...

Please make sure you bring the 2/3 of the HAS Illustration faculty back to America with you.
We need them.
: )

By Scott Flanders said...

Maintained your composure and encouraged the morale of your group. A bit of thoughtful humor becomes a surprisingly powerful form of resistance. Very nice.

P.T. Waugh said...

How could they have never heard of James Gurney!?

Moai said...

That's a lovely little sketch at the bottom of this post, James!

Jessica said...

LOvely blogs. Artistic.

Sissco music said...
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