Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday the 13th, or 'Yes, we all stole the idea from Marley and Me'

Friday the 13 is sometimes viewed with a bit of trepidation by people.  It's bad luck, you know.  (Whenever someone asks me "are you superstitious?" I always answer, "no, I'm just normally stitious'. Hee.) But on Friday, July 13, 2012, we threw caution to the winds and drove from Belle River, Ontario, where we had been visiting family, to just outside Ithaca, New York to meet some people we had only met before online.  It fit in perfectly with our travel plans, as it just meant driving home to Ottawa south of Lake Ontario instead of north of Lake Ontario, just a couple of extra driving hours. Or so we thought.

But it was a chance to meet Mrs. G.

I have been reading her blog for years.  A funnier, more genuine person would be hard to find.  The online community she has founded with her blog Derfwad Manor, women from across the U.S., Canada, and as far away as Japan and the U.K. (plus Gary), is an amazing creation that I've been happy to be a part of.  So, when Mrs. G (Heather) planned a cross-country trip, (I am a Derfwad 2012) and the Ithaca stop (at Gary's place!!  Meeting two favourite bloggers with one stop!) worked out well with my schedule, we jumped at the chance.

Everything went well until we hit the border. OK, that's not quite the truth. We did get off the QEW in Hamilton for a pee stop and then my Infallible Sense of Direction™ somehow failed and we wandered around Hamilton for probably an hour (counting a quick LCBO stop for a couple of bottles of Riesling :) ). Luckily, the girls on the cash were able to give us directions.  So we dashed for the border.

And met this:

We waited for an hour and a quarter on the bridge for our turn to be interrogated asked a few questions by the Customs officials.  It was rather surreal.  Here is my best recollection of the conversation, with my thoughts in blue:

Customs Officer wearing intimidating mirrored shades: Citizenship?
Me [handing him our documents]: Canadian
CO: What is the purpose of your visit?
(Keep it simple, Alison -- say "visiting friends." It sounds less weird than "Going to meet people in real life that I've only met before online but I'm pretty sure they are not, in fact, serial killers.")
Me: Visiting friends.
CO [throwing me with a question I wasn't expecting]: How do you know these people?
(Damn, now I'm going to have to go into the whole online thing.  Keep it simple.  Don't act exasperated.)
Me: I met them online.
(Good.  Nice and short.)
CO: How?
Me: Pardon me?
CO: How did you meet them online?
(Oh great, now he thinks I'm heading to a penitentiary for a conjugal visit with a guy I met on some kind of prison 'Plenty of Fish' site. While dragging the kids along, no less. But the Derfwad Tour is kinda complicated to explain. Keep it simple.)
Me: Well, I write a blog.
CO [looking blankly at me]: A blog.
(I'm not sure he knows what a blog is.  And he's only in his late 20s at the oldest.  Maybe blogs are too old school, and he only knows Twitter. Or maybe he's not into computers at all. Crap.)
Me: Yes. A blog. I write a blog, and they write blogs.  And we commented on each others' blogs and got to know each other and became friends.
(That does kinda sound iffy when it's put like that, even if it totally *isn't* weird or strange and lots of people meet like that.)
CO: What's it about?
Me: It's a humour blog.  It's about my family -- funny stories of things that happen to us.
CO [to Rachel through the car window]: I suppose you guys are the entertainment.
Me: Yes, yes they are.
CO: Is it kinda like Marley and Me?  Did you steal the idea from the guy from Marley and Me?  To write a blog?
(WTF?  What the hell is he talking about?  I saw the movie -- the guy Owen What'shisname played was a newspaper columnist.  A columnist, not a blogger. This customs guy does *not* know what he's talking about.  What? Is Marley and Me supposed to be the God of Blogs? Stop it. Must. Keep. Snark. In. Check. And. Get. Across. Border. Do not say anything sarcastic.  Just don't.  Nod and smile, Alison, just nod and smile.)
Me [nodding like a Daniel Alfredsson bobblehead]: Yes.  It's *just like* Marley and Me.  Exactly like that.
CO [satisfied that he understands]: Ok.  Do you have anything to declare?
(What? Like you're an idi....Stop.  Just tell him about the wine.)
Me: I have two bottles of wine in the trunk.  They're gifts.
CO [handing back the passports]: Ok, have a nice day.

So we peeled out of there drove sedately into upstate New York and set our sights on Etna.  And 11 hours after we left my sister's, we pulled up in front of Gary's house.  Just in time to hug Heather and take this picture:

Unfortunately the border holdup caused us to arrive just as Becky was leaving. :(  I loved meeting Jane and Mark and their Emma, and Christine and her Emma, and Patricia (who was Emma-less but brought GREAT beer).  I am sure that Becky and Patricia and Christine have blogs I could link to, but I can't seem to find them, and if I want this post up before Labour Day, I better get moving, so I'm apologizing for not doing more homework.

The girls and I got a tour of Gary's pottery studio (and a sweet bowl and mug) and then we settled down to talk and talk and talk and drink beer and eat guacamole and potato salad and amazing triple chocolate cookies.  We talked about cats, Toronto radio stations, Mrs. G.'s trip, dogs, driving, baseball fans, and everything else under the sun.  People had to leave, and soon it was just Gary, the Missus, Heather, me and the girls.  My little chatterboxes soon took over the conversation and told their stories.  I might have a couple of future bloggers on my hands.  All too soon it was time to go.  Gary and the Missus were such gracious hosts. I was afraid that my girls would have to be frisked to make sure that they weren't hiding Penny (the beagle) and Spike (the mega-cat) under their tee shirts when we left. 

It was a very special gathering of funny, charming people.  Meeting Heather in person was like running into a cherished old friend that I hadn't seen in years. I loved every minute of it and wish it could have been longer. I snapped a picture of our hosts and Heather (with Kitty Gigantica) just before leaving.

I realized that I had forgotten to get a picture of Heather and me together. But thanks to my mad Microsoft Paint skillz, I'll always have this:

And the wonderful memories.

We drove off through the falling dusk to a motel in the town of Cortland, tired and happy, and settled in.  As usual, the girls were hungry.

Pulling out of the Cortland KFC after a late-night popcorn chicken run for Rachel, I made an illegal left turn from the driveway out onto the deserted main street....and immediately drove past a cop car hiding in the shadows. He pulled out and followed me. Gulp. But I turned into the motel parking lot and he continued on.

Friday the 13th.

Hardly any bad luck at all.

Thank Marley.


  1. Love your conversation with the border guy... Surreal indeed.

    1. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

  2. What is it about those border control guys and their weird questions?

    1. I was kind of expecting: Citizenship? How long do you plan to be in the United States? Where are you going? Do you have any alcohol/firearms/tobacco/ bombs/meth/forbidden fruit or veg on board? I was not expecting the third degree about my blog.

  3. Alison = my bestest new friend :) I didn't think anybody would come to the party and we had sooooooooooooooo many more than I thought! Makes sense, really, when you remember how awesome my cat Spike is, beagle Penny, and, of course, the triple chocolate cookies OH YES :) Thank YOU for coming!

    1. It was a pleasure. And we'll come back for another visit when we can. :) You forgot to list 'Gary and the Missus' in your list of awesome things that attracted the guests to your party.

  4. As a geology student in Michigan, 99% of our field trips involved crossing over into Canada. One of the faculty had a twisted sense of humor, and after purchasing a pot in Canada, proceeded to tell the Customs officer that the only thing he had to declare was a little pot in the trunk. They had to empty the car.

    The conjugal visits thought --ha!

    1. And that's why you don't mess with the border cops. :)

  5. I'm so glad you made it there!

    1. Me too!! It was so much fun.

  6. great story! I know you guys loved meeting G and G!
    Hugs from NC where yes, I wrtie a blog.

    1. Meredith! So happy you stopped by. I read the Seagrove post while drooling at all the lovely pottery. And after meeting Gary, I have to say that you potters are a lively bunch! I'll check out your blog!

  7. I'm really surprised they didn't ask you if you were a member of the communist party or any terrorist organisation.
    I'm going to have to send in a complaint. Standards are obviously slipping.

    1. To a segment of the American population, all Canadians are assumed to be Communists from the get-go, so there's no point wasting time asking.

  8. LOLLOLLOL. I lived in Buffalo, NY for most of my life and I've been at that very bridge crossing hundreds of times. We all dreaded being "sent to the wall." My worst experience was going into Canada with my 90 year old grandmother and my car overheated while waiting in line.