On the weekend of June 26th through 29th, three brave Americans intrepidly infiltrated the borders of Canada, en route to Montreal, PQ, Canada. They were Javen, T.T. and Bill. This is their story....
Friday, June 26, 2006
Things began auspiciously enough. I arrived at Javen's Schenectady compound at approximately 7PM, just in time to head to the beer store to gobble up two sixers of delicious craft brewery. (I went with the wheats and IPA's, Jables went with stouts and porters, of course.)
We headed back to the house to catch the first period of the Sabres game, when E.C.Paul and Becky showed up. We agreed that it was time for some food and drink. I am always game to play the fifth wheel, so we headed to Slick's, home of the biggest goddamn sandwiches I have ever seen. No joke. These bastards are enormous, with stacks upon stacks of meat, encased in very thin white bread. The sandwiches are great, but the bartender (the elderly wife of the owner) is not very good at her job. We gorge ourselves and leave.
Next stop is the Van Dyck, which is a brewpub and a classy little joint. They had a pretty solid pale ale that I enjoyed. Suddenly, our old college buddy Mike Short (aka Slim Colt) showed up and it suddenly started raining. Coincidence??? Yeah, probably. We went inside and decided it would be better to take off and hit B.L.'s, a favorite spot of Javen's.
Here is where the story gets a little interesting. Not very interesting, but a little. Before we go to B.L.'s, Slim says he's hungry and wants to hit Burger King. We go through the drive-thru and Slim gets some food. (I tell him that he should say to the person at the drive-thru, "Keep the change, ya filthy animal," which of course, is from Home Alone. (Perhaps quoting Home Alone is the bottom of the barrel, but at this point, I don't care.)
So, since it's raining, we don't want to have Slim eat his food outside. So we go into the bar and order what is likely to be our first of several pitchers. Anyway, the bar's owner, Frank, starts cursing and being, well, quite frankly, a dick. He is drunk and starts saying "We have a kitchen here, you can't bring goddamn Burger King in here!" Javen tells the surly drunkard that the kitchen is almost always closed at that time, and Javen should know because he's what you call a "regular." So Slim, a gentleman always, leaves the bar with his food to finish it in his car.
Meanwhile, Javen is still arguing with the owner about the kitchen and saying how he is there every other night and can he just calm down. Suddenly, some 19 year old punk at the bar, full of alcohol and clearly looking for trouble, starts chiming in saying, "Hey! It's his bar, I'd say it's his rules!" And he actually starts staring Javen down. I'm eyeballing the kid to make sure he doesn't start any shit. He does. The kid lunges at Javen and grabs his arm. I swiftly horse-collar him like Roy Williams on Terrell Owens and bring the back of his head crashing to the ground. The kid screams as I pummel his face. Paul then pulls out a knife with a serrated blade, puts it to the kid's throat and says, "There are six million ways to die. Choose one."
Okay, everything from "He does" to "choose one" never happened. But we did leave a full pitcher on the bar, unpaid for, and walked away triumphantly.
We decided to round out the night by hitting a pair of other small bars, knocking back a few and having a hearty laugh. We watched two tough-guy townies joylessly sing Metallica's "Unforgiven" and then left. Naturally, everyone wanted to end the evening eating pizza with no cheese on it, which to me is really just soggy bread smothered in tomato sauce. For shame.
Oh and the Sabres lost. We went to bed. Billy go night-night. Zzzzzz....
Saturday, June 27, 2006
Jav, T.T. and I woke up and proceeded to prepare for our trip to Montreal. We swiftly packed our belongings and hopped in the car. I did not shower, a move both my co-passengers and I would soon regret.
We got on the road and headed north without much incident after some Dunkin Donuts bagels and coffee. Everything was fine for about 2.5 hours, until...
We hit the Canadian border and proceeded to sit in traffic in excess of 90 minutes. It was a hellish bataan death march just south of the 49th parallel. I hated every second of it. And to top it off, poor T.T. was ... let's just say not feeling well, and the staid air and lack of flowing air didn't help her any. Poor poor T.T.
We finally -- FINALLY -- got over the border, where we were finally able to all use the restroom and then get some snacks. I got those maple cookies that are filled with maple syrup and are shaped like maple leafs. Okay, we get it: maple! And plus, everything was in French? Where the hell were we??? I mean it's like a whole different country!
We traversed the twisty roads of the M-T-L and, well, long story short, we were naked at rest stop. Oh wait, different trip. Sorry. But we did get one of the greatest in-context quotes of my young life on the trip from the border to our hotel. T.T., feeling the effects of her physical ailment, as well as the frustration of getting semi-lost what with the French road signs and all, said, with 100% sincerity, "I'm having so many feelings!" Well naturally Javen and I laughed for about a half hour, enjoying all the possibilities that phrase could entail.
We got to our hotel carrying brutally heavy bags and checking in. (It should be noted that when it comes to trips, I pack like a woman. I pack at for at least one day more than I actually plan to be on any given trip. I mean, what if I shit myself or something?)
We checked in, showered, watched some weird French TV show with naked breasts and person who looked like a cross-dressing Al Leiter, and looked at some awesome internet stuff like the David Brent dance from "The Office," (which starts off great before turning excruciating) the "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" video (which gets stuck in your head like you wouldn't believe), and of course, the coup de grace, the video of the retarded girl who learns about menstruation. Gross. I am so glad I am not a woman. Even if I pack for a vacation like one.
We then headed out into the Fleur De Lis city! (I'm not sure if they actually call Montreal "The Fleur De Lis City" but it sure sounds good.) We hit McLean's for dinner, then the Claddaugh Bar, then Brutopia, a microbrew where the beer actually got better toward the bottom of the glass. We met my sister Kate and her boyfriend Scott there and enjoyed the delightful camaraderie. We went to a weird bar called Mad Hatters, which was cool cuz it was outside, and also had poutine, which is the greatest food known to man. French fries, cheese curds and gravy? What culinary immortal conjured up this orgasm of the taste buds?
Anyway, toward the end of the night, this drunk, Troy Polamalu-looking douche started stumbling around and almost spilled beer on T.T. and Kate. Kate pulled the umbrella out of the table we were sitting at and threatened to shove it where le soleil didn't shine, but Troy appeared too drunk to notice. We decided to call it a night. Billy go night-night. Zzzzzzz...
Sunday, June 28, 2006
Sunday felt like a Saturday, and would be our most exhausting day yet. I began the morning by doing the David Brent dance, to which T.T. giggled. She accused me of violating her in a most unsavory manner while Javen was in the shower, and Javen laughed. We had breakfast at Dunn's, which is a nice little diner that specializes in smoked meat. I got a hamburger, slightly wary of smoked meat and all it entailed.
It was a hot day out, that's for sure. We walked to Old Montreal, which feels like a very old old city with lots of people. We walked past Chinatown (where I took a very bad picture of some tourists) and toward the St. Lawrence. T.T. regaled us once again with the story of the homeless Montreal lady she once saw eating a pigeon. It's a story that never gets old. People were being very romantic and cuddling in the park and some were kissing each other. I got a little sad, but it was nice. We saw a man who looked like the singer Seal, dressed in a suit and riding a bicycle. There was a "trained seal" joke there somewhere but I wisely avoided it.
Then T.T. started to get whiny. Suddenly it was, "I want a popsicle." "I want a sno-cone." "I want a popsicle by the water." Our feet were hurting and it was hot as blazes, so we decided to get some food. I was actually able to poop in a public restroom and I got some juice and we headed to a brewpub. We went to a brewpub whose name I could not being to pronounce, but they had an excellent Hefe-Weizen there. Although, as Javen said, it could have been the circumstance of being so hot and thirsty that it's possible the Hef was just average and just perfect for the moment. Either way, I liked it.
What I didn't like was the first taste I got of bad Montreal service. The bar wench brought our beers out to us, which consisted of literally walking from one side of a table to the other, and I paid her. She then asked if the service fee was included in the price. I had no idea what she was talking about so I nodded, and she walked away a bit huffily. Javen said she was asking for a tip. I am a big tipper, so I was ready to give her a sizeable one for the next round, but when we were done, she took her sweet time serving us. So the tip went away.
We went to a market where we bought all sorts of exotic foods. I bought some cookies for the room and some green tea, for which Javen of course made fun of me. I bought one of those Full Throttle energy drinks too, knowing I would be taking a nap soon and would need to wake up.
The day was so hot and we were so exhausted from all that walking that we went back to the hotel for a nap. I laid my head on the puffy pillow and slept for either 20 minutes or two hours, I'm still not sure. When I awoke, I was groggy, but ready to head out once again, this time for some beer and hockey!
Here was the most frustrating part of the trip: back at McLean's, we sat down and contemplated eating, though none of us were really that hungry. We ordered drinks -- in this case Leffe -- and when the waitress asked what size, we said the 32 ounce size for like $8 Canadian (which is scarily close to $8 American right now, by the way). So the waitress with a thick French accent leaves for a moment and comes back, and here is our exchange:
Waitress: Would you like the 20 ounce because I can' give you the 30 ounce.
Me: Okay, then I'll take the 32 ounce.
Waitress: But I can' give you the 30 ounce.
Me: Alright, then that's what I'll have. The 32 ounce, just like it says on the menu.
But I am telling you, I can' give it to you.
Me: Fair enough, then please do.
Waitress: You are not understanding, I can' give you the 30 ounce, I can only give the 20 ounce of this.
Me (after a pause): Are you saying you "can" give it to us, or "cannot" give it to us?
Waitress: I canNAUT.
Me: Then ya know what? Fuck it, bring the 20 ounce.
When she left, Javen called her a very bad swear word and laughed derisively. She still took forever to bring us the drinks. And we were about to jet and leave the money on the table since the Sabres lost another overtime heartbreaker. As we were leaving, our Frenchie waitress (who, to be perfectly fair, was the only one working in a semi-crowded bar/restaurant) said very snottily (or "Frenchily"), "Were you going to pay?" Interesting that the only time a fella can get attention at a bar is when he is about to leave and the server is afraid she is going to lose out on her money. Javen showed her the money on the table, and then -- possibly as a knee-jerk reaction -- gave her a tip she so richly did not deserve.
We went out into the brisk night air to see if we could find any more delicious beer, but then remembered it was Sunday, and Canadians don't celebrate Memorial Day. And even in a city as big as Montreal, things close down early on Sundays. So we took T.T. home and Javen and I embarked for one last big score. There was one kinda loud (but relatively empty) bar that had some decent stuff in there I had never heard of (Jav, you may have to help me remember what we drank there), so we had two and went back to the Marriott. It is very calming and nice to sit by the window and drink a couple of Sleeman's before hitting the sack, so we just did that. Zzzzzzz....
Monday, June 29, 2006
We took a shower and one last look at the hotel room. We had shared so much there. The toilet, the shower, the TV. I still miss it.
We went to Rotisserie-St. Hubert for lunch. The chicken there is very good, but my favorite thing is the restaurant logo which looks like a French chicken wagging it's finger and saying "Uh-uh-OHHHH, en francaaaaaiiiis!" I was still bloated since I had stupidly had a Pop-Tart so we hit the road.
We had come up with the notion of going to Ikea, but due to the aforementioned French signage, this was simply not to be. Having passed the exit(s) to get there (partially due to some rather inconveniently-placed 18-wheelers that were blocking key exit signs), we decided to take the scenic route to the Vermont border crossing. We got food at the duty free and T.T. successfully convinced the border guard to let us carry our bags of snacks across. This wait was only about 20 minutes instead of the 90-minute nightmare of two days prior. Plus, we got to watch Dave Chappelle on T.T.'s video iPod, and we all nearly peed our pants laughing at the "Grape Juice vs. Grape Drink" part:
White Guy: Todd, would you like some grape juice?
Black Guy: Nigga what the fuck is JUICE? I want some grape drink, baby!
White Guy: I don't have any grape drink. I have some apple juice.
Black Guy: Nigga, WHAT the FUCK is JUICE? I want apple DRINK!
It's so funny.
After the border, we went into Burlington, Vermont for a little while. It is a very interesting, hippy-ish, but quaint town with a lot of shops and whatnot. I still could not get any reception without roaming, but at least Javen and T.T. got the call from ECP that their cat, Symon, was still alive.
We headed back to New York State and T.T. drove as crazily as ever, nearly missing several pedestrians and one large horse. I think the horse actually called her an asshole. We got back to the Electric City and a couple last ones for the road at a delicious bar-b-que which included a delicious brisket, some hot dogs, various vegetable salads, and about 50 billion mosquitoes. I hit the road and headed home.
All in all, we didn't go too crazy, but we had a wonderfully fun time in Montreal. When you can laugh and giggle with the weirdest couple you know, that's how you know it's working!