Friday, April 24, 2009

Border Over-patrol

It's been one of the rites of social passage for us metro Detroiters for, well, damn near forever.

Span the Ambassador Bridge, or snake your way thru the tunnel, and head into Windsor, Ontario (that's Canada, you know) for a couple of pops, some dinner, and maybe pull a few one-arm bandits while you're at it.

In my younger, more frivolous days, my buddies and I "did Canada" because the legal drinking age was 19, a full two years younger than in Michigan.

Molson's Brador was, at one time, my most favorite alcoholic beverage of them all. But the version they sold in the states was a watered down, inferior product.

So to get "real" Brador, you had to traipse to Windsor and buy a case from one of their beer stores.

Literally, a beer store. It even said so on the sign. Still does.

"Beer Store". No joke.

You'd place your order, and within moments it would come out from the back, on a metal conveyor belt.

Nothing made this college student happier than seeing that case of Brador come rolling off the belt.

The border patrol was casual.

"What are you doing in Canada today", one of the uninterested guards would ask from his booth.

"Picking up some beer." It was best not to lie.

Sometimes they wouldn't even speak; just nod as if to say, "Get the hell out of here."

And we'd get the hell out of there, to enjoy our beer bounty.

In my more mature years of today, I enjoy taking the family across the border for dinner in Windsor's Little Italy (which is a hidden gem), usually at Mancuso's. Erie Street is filled with Italian bakeries, restaurants, and boutiques.

Pick up some cookies, Italian-made soap, maybe an espresso maker, and last fall, even our daughter's shoes for her Homecoming Dance.

They ask a few more questions now when you re-enter the U.S., and you need a birth certificate, for sure. They still don't seem all that interested on the Canadian side. Then again, they weren't the ones attacked on 9/11.

But beginning June 1, a mere birth certificate won't be enough for all the Detroiters heading to Windsor for a night out.

You'll need a passport, too.

Forget that, last I looked (and I'm admittedly bad at geography), Canada isn't overseas from the United States.

You'll still need a passport, even though a trip to Canada, for us Detroiters, is like a drive to Southfield or Ann Arbor in terms of distance and time.

I didn't want to believe it, but it's true. I looked it up on the Net before I wrote this. I had heard some scuttlebutt last year that such a change was coming, but I must have subconsciously buried it in my mind.

It came to light when I announced that, with the weather warming up, I'd sure like some more gnocchi with vodka sauce at Mancuso's.

"We're gonna need passports soon," my half-Italian wife reminded me.

I said something, unfit for print here.

She's right. About one month of non-passport days left for us invaders of Canada.


The "Mancuso's dude" (he appears on their website and on the walls)


Dinner at Mancuso's and cookies from the bakery next door to it will now require the same documentation needed as if we were going to London or Paris.

OK, but why? 9/11 was, after all, some seven years ago, plus.

Not really sure, but I suspect it has something to do with tightening our borders, no matter how silly it may seem, when it comes to Detroit-Windsor.

I suppose if you're going to require passports, then you really can't say, "Except for Detroit-Windsor. Those folks are just doing dinner and drinks, after all."

Though it would have been nice had they inserted that rider.

Is a passport required to get into Mexico? I'll have to look that up.

Actually, forget the passport if you're headed for Mexico. Best to pack a pistol and your own bottled water.

All I want to do is have some pasta and minestrone soup and a few biscotti, in Windsor's Little Italy.

Yet I'll need to go to the post office and get us all some passports.

I'm getting me some Brador next time. Someone owes me.

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