Uh Oh, Canada

By Jerry Palm - March 30, 2008


DETROIT -- I spent part of the off day here in Detroit thinking of the movie, "The Terminal." That is the one where Tom Hanks plays an Eastern European who spends a month at JFK because the US won't let him into the country when he arrives, and there are no flights back to his home country, so he's stuck...

I'm getting ahead of myself a bit though. Friday didn't end until after 3 a.m. Since I'm at the Kansas team hotel, the party was going full swing when I got back from the arena around 1:30. Coach Self arrived a while later to a heroes welcome. He had to walk through a tunnel of fans, shaking hands with everyone, just to get to the elevator.

The next morning, after not enough sleep, I was trying to figure out what to do in Detroit and came to the conclusion that pretty much the places to go here are the casinos (3 of them) or strip clubs (300 of them). The rest of Detroit is under construction. The motto here should be "Rebuilding to Serve You Better."

Since casinos and strip clubs aren't really my thing, I decided to be practical. I planned to go downtown and find the media hotel, which is at the other end of downtown from Ford Field. I was scouting for a place to park, thinking I could park there on Sunday and take the media shuttle instead of getting gouged by parking near the stadium. Then I thought I'd take in the afternoon press conferences here, and then try find a decent sports bar to watch the regional finals from Charlotte and Phoenix. If I had some time in between, I thought I'd see if I could get into Canada and check out Windsor.

So, I headed downtown, following the instructions I got off google maps, and needless to say, the road I needed to take was closed. I got routed around on a detour, got a little lost, and the next thing I know, I'm on the Ambassador Bridge to Canada. I probably could have turned around before I got on the bridge, but seeing as I was already lost, and that I was thinking of trying to go to Canada anyway, I went with it. I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to get in to Canada. I only had my driver's license with me, which was fine the last time I went to Canada twenty years ago, but I didn't know if it would be now.

arret.jpg
The sign on the left says "ARRET" which is French for "You're Under Arrest"

This was my first view of Canada. The lady at the security booth gave me the third degree (Why are you here? Where are you staying? Who do you work for? What is the average flight speed of a swallow?). She was a little amused by my story of getting lost and winding up there, but sent me to the garage to get my car checked. Not everyone gets the star treatment.

There, two more security ladies ask many of the same questions, then have me get out of my car while they thoroughly inspect it.

After that, they send me to the immigration office, where another guy puts me through the ringer. When I give him my driver's license, he says, "That isn't proof of citizenship." I tell him that's the best I can do and offer to show him credit cards, insurance cards, etc., but he asks for a business card. So, I give him one of my semi-cheesy, home-printed business cards.

He then says, "OK, you are free to go [into Canada]. I believe you are an American, but it will be up to you to convince the Americans of that."

Uh, oh. That sounded a lot like a warning. Now, I'm wondering if I'm going to have an even harder time getting back home. I'm thinking of having to call my wife and saying, "Honey, how would you like to move to Canada?"

However, that's a problem for another hour or so. I'm in Windsor, so I might as well look around, find a bite to eat, and then try to get back home.

Windsor was kind of disappointing, really. It's basically suburban Detroit. Other than metric measurements (liters, kilometers, dollars), it's a lot like America. They have a lot of the same stores like, Wal-Mart, McDonald's and other American fast food joints.

Except for this place.

beerstore.jpg

I almost stopped, but figured I have enough problems getting back without bringing a six-pack with me.

I found a neighborhood bar to eat at call the CAN-USA bar. You could tell it was a neighborhood joint by the way the barmaid treated me, which was at a safe distance. Clearly, I was a stranger. I was also the only customer there, although it was now past 1 p.m.

After getting to talk to her a little and telling her my story, she loosened up some. Turns out, she thought I was an inspector from the alcohol department.

After lunch, I headed back, this time going through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, which I knew would take me right downtown.

When I made it to the border guard on the U.S. side, I was prepared to assume the position, but the woman in the booth let me go after hearing my story. She told me that Canada should have never let me in and to bring my birth certificate next time, or even my expired passport.

So, I said, "I'm free to go, then?" She says, "Yes, unless you want me to shake you down."

I thought of coming back with something like, "No, thanks, I'm already married," but I figure I better not push my luck and get out of there. I was never so happy to be in Detroit.

I did eventually locate the Marriott, which is very close to the tunnel entrance, but got back too late for the pressers.

I went back to my hotel briefly, then set out again for a sports bar called Nemo's, which is near the old, and now looking a little ratty, Tiger Stadium.

That was a pretty cool place. It's small, but TVs were everywhere, beer and food (hamburgers and fries -- the entire menu) were cheap, and the folks were friendly.

Part of the decor was these really old shields hanging on the wall above the bar representing each of the Big Ten schools except Penn St (too old) and Michigan (bar owner hates Michigan), but Notre Dame is up there, too.

The shields each have the school crest on one side and the mascot on the other.

iubuffs.jpg
Indiana's mascot on its shield is a buffalo. I've never seen that before.

I ended up sitting with a couple from San Francisco who came here just for the games. They don't have a dog in the fight (Cal fans - the lady was wearing her Cal 1999 NIT champs shirt). When I asked why come to Detroit instead of closer places like Houston or Phoenix, they said they knew they could get tickets here. They sat in the Davidson bench corner of the upper deck and thought those seats weren't too bad.

I watched a game and a half there and then went down to the Detroit Pub, which is near Ford Field. I ate lunch there before the games on Friday and might do the same again today, if I have time. It's only been open two weeks, but it's one of the few places near the park, and they have everything I like in a sports bar, lots of TVs and reasonable prices.

Former Red Wing Chris Chelios has a bar close to the parks also, but I haven't been able to get in there yet -- too crowded.

Anyway, I'm glad to be able to bring you the action today from Detroit. Really glad.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 11:50 AM on March 30, 2008
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