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Neil Young and Rick Moranis did not have trouble exporting their uniquely Canadian aesthetics to the United States of America. I, however, consistently have trouble exporting my uniquely American aesthetics to “the Great North.” After all, no mere American band can stroll into Canada. The process is sixfold:
1. Book your musical act in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and/or other Canadian cities of note. Remember this: there are not many Canadian cities of note.
2. Make sure the venue you are playing is “tax-exempt”—-that is, does not require you to have a Canadian work visa. Remember this: these visas cost hundreds of dollars, which is more money than you will make in Canada, where the currency looks like Monopoly castoffs, and is worth about as much.
3. Make sure the Canadian promoters you engage know what “tax-exempt” means. Remember this: many Canadian promoters are too busy watching hockey to familiarize themselves with the niceties of tax-exemption.
4. Before your crossing, ditch your merchandise. Smuggling merchandise into Canada without paying import duties may give you a thrill. You may fancy yourself an indie-rock Han Solo. Remember this: if you are caught smuggling by the mustachioed Canadian border patrol, you will be taxed and fined by men with mustaches, and your car and merchandise will be impounded by men with mustaches.
5. Before your crossing, ditch your drugs. Remember this: if the mustachioed Canadian border patrol finds your precious “dime bag,” you face a Canadian Midnight Express scenario at the hands of mustachioed men.
6. Before your crossing, make a list of all your equipment and have it stamped by a mustachioed U.S. border patrol agent. This will require wandering around a giant parking lot on the American side of the Canadian border, cursing your fate. “This is ridiculous!” you will exclaim. “Where is the U.S. border patrol? Where are the mustachioed officers who will stamp my list of equipment?” To you, I say: “Child, the mustachioed U.S. border patrol officers are there. You must find them! Once, I did not have my equipment list stamped by mustachioed U.S. border patrol officers before entering Canada. Upon my re-entry to my home country, a mustachioed U.S. border patrol officer interrogated me. ‘Where is your stamped equipment list?’ demanded this mustachioed man. ‘How do I know you didn’t buy all of your musical equipment in Canada? Shall I make you pay import duties on all of your musical equipment? Also, why are you staring at my mustache?'”
Because I followed the six steps outlined above, my border crossing from Buffalo into Ontario went smoothly—-headphones-related issues aside.
“Where are you from, eh?” inquired a stern, mustachioed Canadian officer at the border. Before I could reply, this mustachioed man began shouting at my bandmate, who was wearing headphones. “Hey, eh!” the officer exclaimed. My bandmate, who could not hear the officer, ignored him. “Why is he wearing his headphones, eh?” the agent asked me.
“I’m not sure,” I said. I had not planned for problems associated with my bandmate’s proclivity to wear headphones. Quickly, I whipped up an explanation. “Perhaps he doesn’t like to play by the rules,” I concluded. “Eh,” I added.
Thirty minutes later, Canada had accepted my band and we were looking for parking at Niagara Falls. I glanced over the observation platform for a fleeting second. As I watched, 150,000 gallons of water tumbled over the falls, flitting back and forth between American and Canadian shores. I scrutinized this water. No molecule of H20 carried any merchandise. Each was armed with a signed letter reflecting its tax-exempt status.