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Issue 31 - Our Good Friend to the North

Whisky Magazine Issue 31
June 2003

 

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Our Good Friend to the North

Michael Jackson tangles with the border guards at the lands of the lost

Picking up a yellow cab in Detroit seemed a good idea. As my photographer colleague Ian loaded his equipment into the trunk, the cabbie recalled the time a passenger left an expensive camera on the back seat.

He had just dropped the passenger at a pedestrianised mall. Grabbing the camera, the driver jumped out of the cab, spotted his passenger in the distance, and gave chase. The passenger didn't recognise him.

“He saw this black man chasing him, and ran like hell until he'd lost me. He thought I was going to mug him.”

The cabbie's roar of laughter came from somewhere deep in his survival mechanism. As I left his cab, I tried to tip him with a spare bottle from my suitcase. A particularly fine bourbon. He turned out to be a Baptist, dammit.

Swapping countries by cab is a good idea up to a point. Up to the border, in this case. North Americans of the US persuasion often insult Canada by being unsure about its location. They know, from Reader's Digest, that it is “Our Good Friend to the North”, but where? Part of the Michigan peninsula, perhaps? Confusingly, from Detroit, you drive south to Canada.

We Brits were the problem. The border guard saw Ian's aluminium boxes and decided that the pair of us were planning to settle in Canada illegally and set up a photographic studio. I told them we were working on a look. “On what?” On whisky. Apparently that sounded unlikely. Then they saw the samples of bourbon that had been pressed on us in Kentucky. They decided we ...

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