Saturday, October 15, 2011
At the border of stupid, cranky, and prayerful
I spent a couple of weeks in San Francisco in August co-leading workshops, playing drums, practicing sitting meditation at the feet of a beautiful Kuan Yin statue, eating home cooked dinners with great people, walking around, riding a bicycle on a roof deck overlooking Alcatraz (as close as I wanna get), seeing old friends, making new ones, and generally having a good time. One new friend took me on a whirlwind tour of Sonoma, where the wine is good, and the poached egg cups are adorable and made of silicon. It was almost like a vacation, except that I worked a lot and tried to behave myself. Who could ask for more?
As it turned out, I should have asked myself at least one thing more. When I travel there's often one thing I forget. On this trip, I was supposed to fly from San Francisco to Ottawa for a workshop. The afternoon before I was to leave, it dawned on me: my passport was sitting at home on my dresser. As Geoffrey Rush said in The King's Speech: "F***F***F***"! After a couple of phone calls and much more profanity, it was clear that I would have to fly home to NY and drive to Ottawa if I was to have any hope of making it to the next gig. So, I woke up with the birds and caught a 5:30 AM flight from San Francisco to Detroit, waited around for four hours and boarded a flight home. I arrived at 8:30 PM EDT, repacked my suitcase, packed the car, and went to sleep about 11:30. I set the alarm for 2 AM so I could get to the gig as close to 9:30 AM as possible, and headed north about 2:30 AM. It was very dark, and I was feeling substantially reduced, which is to say: pretty stupid, forgetful and small.
Luckily, the drive from my house to Ottawa is one of the most beautiful drives in the country, across I-84, up Route 17 to I-81, to the Thousand Islands, and into Canada. The dawn was stunning, I thought about old friends as I passed the Finger Lakes, then the Seneca and Onondaga Res in Nedrow. The sun came up over a lake just as I drove by, and the sky was an amazing blue that only happens in upstate NY in August. I drank coffee and sang the entire way to stay awake. I was feeling revitalized when I approached the Canadian border at 8:30 AM, at the Thousand Islands border crossing, one of the most beautiful places on the planet (I kid you not). That's when it dawned on me - I had to cross the border (begin singing either "Dragnet" or "Homicide" theme song here).
I'm sure there are many people who have no trouble at all at border, crossings, but I am not one of them. I am always treated to a long delay and a game of twenty questions. Maybe it's just me. Every time I have gone across the border except twice on my way to Mexico (?), I've been questioned about every conceivable subject by the border guards. I wish I knew the magic phrase, but I don't, and I usually get this: "Please pull over there, park your car and go inside. There's an agent waiting for you."
I've always suspected that this is code for "Ana Hernandez is not a white person's name", or, "You don't look normal. - don't forget! We'll do this every time you go anywhere as long as you live, because that's how racial profiling rolls." Of course, it might be me, but (switch to "Get Smart" or "The Wire" theme song here)...
Agent No.1: What is your purpose in coming to Canada today?
Ana: I'm on my way to Ottawa for a workshop on congregational singing.
Agent: Business or pleasure?
Ana: Both (WRONG. So wrong.).
Agent No. 1 looks right through me to Agent X, who is hovering around the back of my car, looking dour.
Agent No. 1: Please pull over to the left, etc...
Ana: dutifully does as she is told (not a normal response, but a handy trick in a pinch).
Agent No. 2: Why are you here?
Fantasy Ana: Because the man in the booth has no sense of humour. (It's hard to keep her quiet, that Fantasy Ana's got some mouth on her)
Actual Ana: I'm going to Ottawa to participate in a workshop on congregational singing.
Agent: "Where in Ottawa? How long will you be in Canada? Who is the sponsor? Where are you staying? How many people will be there? Who hired you? Why did they ask you? Are those CDs in the back of your car? How many do you have? What are they for? How many do you have? What are they for?" It was like talking to a broken record (at which point Actual Ana has to wrestle Fantasy Ana to the ground, or, end up in a Canadian jail).
After many more questions, over the course of an hour, later questions being very similar to early questions, my institutional delay ended abruptly. I guess it took an hour to search the car. I made it to the gig about 10:30 AM; still a little embarrassed, and pretty tired, but so glad to finally be there. I was asked to lead something shortly after my arrival, and the video above is what I did. I was surely not perfect, but the people were great. I noticed I don't smile at all when I'm really tired, so I've made a note of that. I was smiling inside, though.
The tune/prayer is Hold my hope. Hold my trembling. Hold my heart. Teach me to be love.