The Fierce Art Of Mapping

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March 10, 2017 by T. Gregory Argall

Starting on the east coast of North America, the international border between Canada and the United States is initially defined by following major waterways. But west of the Great Lakes, that’s no longer a viable option.

According to legend, two groups of Diplomatic Cartographers were deployed, one from each nation, to determine the random and meandering route that the border would take the rest of the way to the west coast. Both sides were determined to haggle over every possible tiny bit of territory, fiercely fighting over each meaningless bend in the borderline. After several weeks of intense negotiation and hard drinking, they finally finished the Ontario/Minnesota border with satisfyingly bizarre and confusing results.
But that success didn’t come without a cost. They were exhausted and near collapse.
With despair and dread, they looked at the remaining 2000 kilometres and/or 1200 miles still to negotiate. It was a daunting prospect. Three of them simply snapped and ran screaming from the room, never to return.
The ensuing silence was eventually broken by a single, weak voice wavering up from under the table where a dazed and unshaven cartographer had collapsed hours earlier. “How about just a straight line?” he said. Whimpering and near tears, he continued, “Pick a line of latitude and follow it all the way to the west coast. Please, oh, God, I just want this to end.”
Forty-nine degrees north latitude was chosen and within an hour the Canadian/American border was known as the 49th Parallel, but by then the cartographers had retreated from the pub to bury their fallen comrades and rebuild their lives.

It could have happened like that. You don’t know.

Anyway, a side effect of a straight-line border is the occasional exclave, little peninsulas of of territory belonging to one country but only accessible through the other.


One such exclave is Point Roberts, WA, a moderately populated bit of land south of Vancouver, BC. A little under 13 square kilometres with a population a little more than one thousand, Point Roberts has an interestingly storied history with their neighbours in Tsawwassen on the Canadian side of the border. In 1973, for instance, a dispute over access to municipal water supplies created tension between Americans and Canadians in the area, but the issue was swiftly resolved with an agreement signed in 1987. Municipal politics at its finest.

While pondering the unique aspects that life in Point Roberts must afford, I found myself thinking about how active (or inactive) the border crossing must be. And then, because my brain is just weird like that, I began creating scenarios to make things more interesting for the border guards. Something like, say, starting a war that no one believes is happening. That, of course, led to the plotting a writing of a new play, a comedy set at the completely fictional border crossing between a completely fictional Canadian town and a completely fictional American exclave town.

Now comes your part in all of this. The play needs to be produced and performed. That’s what I need you for. (What, you thought it was all about me? Nope, you are important too.)

If you are involved with a theatre company, or if your are an audience member at a theatre, or if you have seen a theatre, you can help by informing them that premiering a new Canadian comedy would be a wonderful way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. When they agree with you (and they will) please tell them that The Tuesday Morning War” by T. Gregory Argall is the perfect play for such a plan.

You can even share this blurb with them:

International tensions rise, leading to an increase in laughter when a border guard mistakenly believes that Canada and the United States are at war. He’s determined to protect the single-lane border crossing at the isolated peninsula of Hobson’s Point, no matter what his friends north of the 49th parallel think.

“The Tuesday Morning War” by T. Gregory Argall, the Other Canadian Playwright

Yeah, that’s right. This whole thing was just a set up for me to pitch a new play. But you’re still reading this, so thank you for your support.

For production inquiries, I can be contacted through this blog, or via

As always, try to be nice to each other.



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