Declare

Declare: (v) to make known or state clearly

Rolling up to the border crossing in Detroit, between Canada and the United States, the agent behind the glass window said:

“Anything to declare?”

I didn’t know what he meant.

I was twenty-one years old, driving a beat-up brown van, with long hair laying on my shoulders. I felt completely normal. I think he feared I was less-than-average.

I said, “What do you mean?”

The simple asking of that question caused him to leave his booth, come out and demand that I open the rear end of my van.

I did.

I innocently thought, “What’s the big deal?”

But what he saw, as a Canadian official, were two young girls, resting in sleeping bags, some electronic equipment, and brown boxes. He was suspicious.

I think he thought I was hauling the trifecta: kidnapping women, stealing stereos, and shipping drugs.

We were required to open everything.

When it was discovered there was nothing of interest, he found a reason to object. You see, in the boxes were the record albums we sold at our gigs. I was ignorant of the fact that Canada wanted to put a surcharge on any record album coming across their border, that was going to be sold at a live concert.

Worse was the fact that the surcharge for each album was $2.85.

Not only did we not have the money for the surcharge, but none of us had seen that sum of money for a long time.

I begged.

I gave my full lineage and testimony.

I even tried to declare things he didn’t ask me to declare.

He was not interested.

We were rejected at the Canadian border.

Yet we were supposed to do a Canadian tour.

Leaving that station, we stopped at a coffee shop about two miles down the road, still itchy and bitchy from our encounter. Our waiter explained that the Detroit crossing was very difficult—asking you to declare every little thing. But if we drove up the road about eighty miles, there was a crossing that was much easier.

I thanked him.

We got in the van and decided to take the chance that our food-getter knew what he was talking about.

Arriving at the gate, we pulled up slowly. There was nobody around. It was just a little building—big enough to hold ten toy soldiers.

When we stopped the van, though, a man came running up from a nearby grove of trees with his dog in tow.

“Ay!” he said. “Sorry I wasn’t at my post. Had to go take a piss.”

He looked at me. I looked at him.

I was waiting for him to ask me to declare.

He didn’t.

I got out, petted his dog, told him I was a musician—and he said he was a budding songwriter himself.

He patted me on the shoulder, I got back in the van, he waved his hand, and said, “Go on through—hope you enjoy us.”

Now, I have two thoughts about this story:

Sometimes a music group is just a music group and you should leave them the hell alone.

But sometimes people in vans in the middle of the night need to do more than just pet your dog.

 

Culottes

Culottes: (n) women’s trousers, usually knee-length or calf-length, cut full to resemble a skirt.

I have seen enough things come and go, enough rules altered–opinions ransacked by reality—that I can no longer abide just accepting a set of regulations without asking why.

In my lifetime, I was informed that long hair was effeminate.

I was told that divorce was forbidden.

Masturbation was considered to be a sin.

Dating between the races was anti-Christ.

And one summer, Camp Jesus Something-Or-Other refused to allow the girls to wear culottes.

It was absolutely ridiculous.

None of the boys objected to the restriction, because girls in skirts would be running, sitting oddly and the fellows would get a great vision of their panties, which would last until the next time they were alone in their sleeping bags.

Everybody—and I mean, everybody—knew the rule was bullshit.

Even when the counselors were asked why the stipulation was in place, they parroted off some answer given to them by the founders of the camp (which they didn’t believe).

I comprehend the process. For instance, for ten years we had to whisper that we “passed gas” instead of bluntly saying we farted.

You could talk about dating and love, but you weren’t allowed to mention sex. That is, until you suddenly were permitted.

Can we shorten this agonizing delay?

Matter of fact, let us decide that if there isn’t a legitimate health, well-being or realistic moral reason for a guideline to exist, we will call it meaningless and request that it be reviewed.

Once and for all, can we come to a conclusion that sanctifying our race by trying to corral human emotions is fruitless?

Culottes look good on girls. They make girls more comfortable. And the only time a girl wears pants and looks like a man is if she decides she wants to go for the whole butch persona.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cricket

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cricket: (n) a jumping, loud insect

The plan was to retire to our sleeping bags and have a full night of slumber—because we had hiked through the woods, played baseball and eaten our fill of hotdogs and beans.

I was ready for it. Not even the fact that we were lying on the ground was going to deter me from floating in sleeper-land.

And then…there it was.

The sound of a cricket.

I laughed to myself. So this is why people come out into the woods—to get all these natural, beautiful intonations from nature, to put them to sleep—like utilizing an electronic sound machine.

Then the cricket invited his best friend, a couple of old high school flames, and pretty soon there was a family reunion of crickets all around me. I tried to get my brain to focus away from the clatter, but it was like they were doing an insect version of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” except everybody was singing the same part.

I tried and tried to NOT think about crickets.

The more determined I was to ignore them, the louder they became, to get my attention.

I am sure I dozed off, but I cannot recall experiencing anything other than having a front-row seat at the cricket’s rock and roll show, all night long.

When morning came and our counselor realized that everybody was still sleepy, he shouted across the campfire, “Let’s all take another hour!”

I was so grateful. The sun had risen.

The crickets were gone.

Only to be replaced by the birds.


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News