American Serenade

Personal

Back in 2009, we were winding down our life in the U.S.. We drastically culled things we didn’t want or need, and put the rest into storage for the eventual move to Canada.

Andrea was home in August 2009; I was there on and off, until I was officially issued a visitor record in November 2010 and filed for permanent resident status. On that day, I entered the country with one large suitcase and a backpack containing some notebooks and my laptop. That’s it.

This weekend, my brother-in-law and I had an epic 30 hour adventure: driving a U-Haul cargo van on a round-trip from Ontario to Aurora, IL and back. Our choice of weekend was suspect from the start; most people thought it was crazy to do this on a weekend when terror alerts were escalated and traffic was sure to be horrible, but I had a plan.

We crossed the border Friday night around 9:30. It was John’s first time in the states, and he was greeted almost immediately by fireworks, like a dignitary being being greeted with festivities. After a minor detour that almost put us in Toledo, OH, we were back on schedule, driving across Michigan. Traffic was light, only hindered by various police-directed road closures. We got to my mom’s place around 4AM, and were back out the door around 9:30.

I’d done some research on bringing our stuff back to Canada. By all accounts, a straightforward task. We unpacked almost everything in the storage unit, numbering the boxes and documenting their contents in a notebook. It was a lot of work on a sunny July day. I wore a tube sock as a bandana, to keep the sweat from my eyes, and we drank so much water that I had to run for refills at one point.

Andrea was pretty skeptical that we’d be able to fit everything into the cargo van, but it was exponentially more expensive to rent and drive a larger truck that far. Sure enough, we fit everything in the truck, minus bed linens that didn’t fit any bed we own and a few other things that had long since been replaced.

It was about 4pm by the time we left the storage unit. I did what any good host would do and continued giving John a tour of the things Andrea and I were used to. A trip to the massive warehouse that is Woodman Food (part of the side-quest to find Vanilla Coke), and then a winding trek through downtown Aurora and the suburbs.

Our wanderings were accompanied by fireworks in every direction, from Aurora to the Indiana border. A good and proper showing for anyone’s first visit.

Another side-quest was to introduce him to as many different foods as possible, and specifically from places we couldn’t find in Ontario. Considering the short time we had, we focused on smaller meals. A Steak ‘n Shake at midnight, so busy that we had to wait for a table. IHOP, which despite international being in its name is far from it. Portillo’s for lunch; nothing beats a hot dog and cheese fries. Sonic for a drink and tater tot snack.

So it comes to the accounting of things; the detritus of a life lived in privilege.

Most of the boxes we hauled were full of books. Reference books, text books, hard cover and paperback books, some of which I acquired in my early teens. Books by my instructors at Clarion 2010, and a few spoils from Comic Con San Diego that same year.

All sorts of miscellanea; ham radios to tools to crochet and quilted blankets. Cookware. Clothes. LEGO, Star Trek models, my childhood (and not so childhood) Transformer toys, and more nerdy/geeky knickknacks than anyone has a right to. Also, sixteen short boxes of comic books.

I even found a 20+ year old model of a Klingon Bird of Prey, which we put on the dashboard as a sort of mascot.

Clearly, we are adult-sized children with a love for the fantastic. Which saved our asses when we reached the Canadian border.

Apparently, I was supposed to have filed a B-4 form when I landed in Canada in late 2010, documenting what I was bringing with me and what I would be bringing over at some future date. No one informed me of this, and as a result, we faced paying import duties on everything brought with us, as if it were new.

We pulled in for secondary inspection around 3:30AM. Four officers approach, one to my open window. He reiterates the issue of not having filed a B-4, and the potentially heavy penalty. And then things got interesting. At mention of the comic books, he asked which series we had. And then what series of fantasy novel. And which generation of Transformers toys, and US or Japanese issue.

This went on for ten minutes, an exploration of genre cornucopia. And then the strangest thing happened. The guard that initially met us in secondary exception says, “Ok, that’s enough. You win,” and we were sent on our way. No duties. No fines. Just relief that this adventure was coming to a close.

We’re home now, with boxes filling our dining and living room. We’ll be spending the rest of the month unpacking and figuring out where to put all this stuff. A minor collection of the best of our childhood (and later) memorabilia. Forgotten memories of good and bad times. And another to-read pile to add to the existing one. Shit.

All kidding aside, this was one of the best experiences. A road trip, with all of that entails (including a minor brush with the police in Michigan because I forgot to use a turn signal on an otherwise empty street), with someone I genuinely consider to be a friend. A massive item removed from the TODO list and the erasure of a constant stress of “what if” with most of our worldly belongings a country and three states away.

Posted on 6 Jul 2015