It all started with brunch at the Border Café, a no-longer-extant, Tex-Mex restaurant on the Upper West Side. The draw was not the huevos rancheros, however; it was the free, unlimited Bloody Marys*, margaritas, mimosas and Santa Fe Slushes. We thoroughly overstayed our welcome, by a couple of hours, to take full advantage of the drink offer and draw questionable pictures and slogans on the table-top butcher paper with the crayons they leave out for kids.
The conversation turned to the name of the restaurant and a discussion of borders. The group having established that the closest one was with Canada, one diner volunteered, “I have a car!” at which point the one woman with us quickly bowed out.
Fifteen minutes later, three drunken guys are on a road trip with the vague destination of Niagara Falls in mind. (Remember, kiddos, learn from Sid’s mistakes.) We stopped somewhere Upstate for a case of Genesee Cream Ale and quick visit to a dive bar. I ordered three Rolling Rocks, and the grizzled bartender said, “$1.05.”
“Let’s see, so $3.15 plus tip,” I thought out loud. Pretty good prices Upstate!
“No, 35¢ each. Dollar-five.”
With a couple of hours of sleep along the way, we pulled into the parking lot on the Canadian side of the Falls the next morning, stumbled out of the car, opened the trunk and shotgunned the last three cans of Genesee in the parking lot, as horrified parents helping their families out of station wagons and conversion vans tried to shield the eyes of the children.
We headed for the Maid of the Mist, the boats that take you right into the thick of things in Horseshoe Falls. They hand out these rain slickers for you to wear on the ride, because it gets pretty wet. But these slickers were really cool, so we decided to each grab an extra or two to hide under the ones we wore, with the hope of sneaking them out at the end.
One Canadian Ranger or Mountie or whatever they are chuckled at us and said, “You sure you have enough there, gentlemen?” Too polite even to stop a theft-in-progress! It’s still my mother’s go-to jacket for heavy rain back home. (She thinks I gave it to her, which I did not, but I just can’t take back what she thinks was a gift. Besides, I have the stolen rain poncho for myself, but that’s from another adventure.)
The way back into the States wasn’t as smooth as the rest of the trip. We bought a bunch of good Canadian beer to bring home, but the tax-free limit per person was something like two six packs. We were able to fit most of it in the trunk, so the plan we devised for when they asked what we were bringing into the United States was technically not to mislead them but just point to the beer in the back seat (within our combined limit) and say we had some beer. Of course they asked how much, so we sheepishly had to say, “Um, eight cases?”
So we pull over and watch as they search the car with a fine-tooth comb. They fish an unlabeled, plastic bottle out from the crack between the rear seat and seatback and discover it’s full of white powder.
“What’s that?” I whisper to the guy with the car.
“No idea! I bought the car used!” he tells me.
Now we’re brought inside and searched rather thoroughly ourselves. In the meantime, they must have run some field tests, because someone informs us that the white powder is not illegal, but it’s a B vitamin regularly used to cut cocaine. OK.
We said they could keep it, and they let us on our way, with a hefty tariff for the beer.
EPILOGUE: By the next time I had brunch at the Border Café, they had imposed a two-complimentary-drink limit.
* Or Bloody Maries, if you so prefer.
Image: Wikimedia Commons