Imagine being the poor soul responsible for Tourism Boise. He must have plenty of time to keep his desk clean. Moves his name plate and Disney snow globe every half hour. Poor Mickey has viewed that frickin’ office from every possible vantage point.
I got that question repeatedly before I set out on my Spring Break road trip. Usually the questioner would try unsuccessfully to repress a frown. When the customs officer at the U.S. border asked, I responded with, “Good question.” I thought I was being funny. Be warned. Bad humor will get your car trunk searched, your whole suitcase rummaged through.
Of course, Boise was never the draw. I hadn’t seen my friend Robert in seven years. We met as volunteers for AIDS Project Los Angeles twenty three years ago when I was still in law school. He proved a refreshing change from the academic set who could kill an evening by going on and on and on about the top law firms in Los Angeles. (They didn’t appreciate my comments about McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak, my first choice in an “L.A. Law” firm, mostly because the men wore stylish ties, but also because I really wanted to work with Susan Dey and Michele Greene. The fact that it was a fictional firm didn’t faze me. There was plenty of fiction in law, wasn’t there? Alas, it was a sure sign that my interest in a future legal career had already waned.)
Robert left L.A. for the same reason I did back in ’94: he’d grown to hate it. Too sprawling, too artificial, just too much. He’d also become an alcoholic and decided a change of venue would help ensure he wouldn’t resume old habits. Some people might say Boise will drive you to drink as well, albeit for a different reason: too little. Fortunately, he has settled well—five years of sobriety and strong connections with local family and friends. Just seeing that made the trip worth it. Sometimes travel is not about sunshine, shopping and searching for a long distance Mr. Right.
But that’s still hard to explain to most people. I was reminded of this as I dutifully answered questions at the Canadian border. As if to prove that I am a suspicious middle-aged man on an international level, the border guard one-upped his American counterpart. He ordered me to pull over and await further instructions from his colleague. I was directed into the Canadian compound where I was further questioned. I’d set off a silent alarm. Apparently, I’d failed to give a convincing, plausible response to one key question: “Why did you go to Boise?” I didn’t feel the need to elaborate on its variant: “How do you know someone in Idaho?” The obvious, highly prejudicial subtext: Idahoans stick to their gun-totin’, potato-plantin’ selves. How could I have truthfully declared that I wasn’t bringing back firearms or edible contraband in the form of sacks of spuds?!
Naturally, an official told me to remove my fierce miniature schnauzer from the car and kennel him. Then I had to hand over my keys and wait inside while they searched for guns, potatoes and whatever else they thought a potential criminal like me might be smuggling. Half an hour later, I was cleared which, as I’d feared, led to a chain of events that made me get home four hours later than had I been waved through like all the other motorists. (Don’t ask.)
It all reinforces my feeling that, yes, indeed, Boise is a once in a lifetime experience.
Maybe the next time Robert and I connect, it will be in Omaha. Or Moose Jaw. Let him deal with overzealous border officials.
And maybe next spring break I’ll do the sensible thing and book a gay cruise. But then again, maybe not. Hot gay guys stick to their six-pack-barin’, carbs-averse selves. So what was the true purpose of your trip?
Maybe staying home is best.