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Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Mug Shot

Seagram Museum
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada


Alas, poor whiskey, I knew it readers, a museum of infinite wisdom with a great restaurant! The Seagram Museum closed in 1997, but I’d been there a few times! Mom and I discovered the Seagram Museum en route to Stratford the first year we went after I’d turned 19. What better combination than Shakespeare and Canadian whiskey?

Turning 19 as a Metro Detroiter, is almost as cool as turning 21! There is the mandatory birthday celebration in Windsor, to have your first legal drink, but remember that if you come home drunk, you’re an instant felon! Then there is just the fact that for the next two years, you really are an adult in Canada. For me the big thing was that I could have a glass of wine with a nice dinner, so if I was going out for a nice dinner, I usually wanted to go to Canada!

The Seagram Museum was so cool! There were displays of old timey whiskey making tools, diagrams about how the whiskey is made and helpful people that were more than willing to answer any questions!

Perhaps the most memorable trip I took to the Museum was when John and I went in 1987. When I’d been there on a previous trip, I’d gotten a bottle of Museum Blend whiskey, a blend made especially for the museum shop. It was wonderfully smooth and had a good flavor. I was 21 in 1987. While the first bottle I brought home I bought, but it came back as Mom’s, now I could even legally bring my own purchase home!

John and I decided that we’d like to get a bottle of the Museum Blend for Christmas. I’ve known John since I was 15, but he’s always been legal to drink at home. My big bro has a few years on me. But this was my thing. I was old enough and I was bringing my own whiskey home!

When traveling to Canada, at that time anyway, you were allowed to bring home one bottle of alcohol per person, per night stayed in Canada without paying duty on it. We were driving to Kitchener for the purpose of buying the bottle of whiskey and stopping for a nice dinner in Stratford before heading home. We weren’t even staying a full day, so I knew I’d need to pay duty on the bottle. I was 21. I was more than happy to pay duty on MY bottle of whiskey that I was bringing home as a souvenir from Canada.

I planned ahead. the worst thing in the world to a 21-year-old is to have the booze, be able to legally bring it home and NOT have enough money left after a day in Canada to pay the taxes! So, the first stop of the day, was the customs office in Port Huron, Michigan, to find out what our duty would be so I was sure to have enough left when we crossed the border that night.

Ah, youth. Honesty is such an innocent thing.

We puled the blue Monza with Michigan plates into the US Customs parking lot. It was early on Saturday morning in December, so there wasn’t a wait. When the woman at the counter asked , “can I help you?”” I told her that we were planning to go to the Seagram Museum in Kitchener, Ontario and I wanted to bring back one bottle of their Museum Blend whiskey, a blend that can only be purchased at the museum store and I wanted to know what the duty would be when we brought it home.

“Can I see some ID?”

Remember, I was 21. That was such a normal question! Besides, I figured that she wanted to confirm that I could legally bring the bottle back. She asked for John’s ID. That still made sense to both of us and John handed her his license too. Then a man walked in, also in a border cop uniform. They both looked at our IDs, made a few inaudible to us comments and the man asked, “Is that your blue car?” I said it was and he asked for the keys!

Remember, we hadn’t left the country yet and were getting the third degree for asking a question, for being honest! We stood in the lobby of the customs office and watched them search my car in the parking lot for asking a question! They still had both of our IDs too. I remember asking John if what they were doing was legal. He told me that they were US government officers, everything they did was legal. I was between being worried and angry. I knew there was nothing they’d find in my car to give me grief, but I also knew there was nothing about asking a question that made it plain I wanted to follow international law to make me a suspect of anything.

After about 40 minutes of asking us questions and completely searching my car, they FINALLY told me, it would be about $1.25 US, for the duty on a bottle of whiskey.

I think back, and I still say “YEESH!”

The rest of the day was not nearly as eventful, except that now we were about an hour behind the schedule we’d planed. We toured the Museum, got our bottle of whiskey and had a nice dinner in Stratford. We decided that we did NOT want to cross the border in Port Huron on the way home, so we came back through Windsor into Detroit.

When we pulled up to the customs gate, at about 10 PM on a Saturday night, the agent asked if we had anything to declare. I told him that we had bought a bottle of whiskey at the Seagram Museum. He asked me to pull into the parking lot. The agent there asked me to open the hatch of my car. I was afraid it would be anther hour-long ordeal to pay my $1.25!

The agent looked over the back hatch with his flashlight and at the one bottle of whiskey in plai n sight, but out of reach of the driver, legal placement in Michigan for a car without a trunk. He smiled and said, “Thank you. You can close the trunk.”

I asked where I went to pay they duty in the whiskey. Again he smiled and said, “What whiskey? Have a nice night.”

In the end, honesty DOES pay!

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