C'est Magnifique in Montréal

Where do you begin when you tell a story about crossing the border? At the beginning, of course...

My trip began at five thirty in the afternoon on Friday. Despite the air conditioners blasting, i was beginning to break a sweat trying to get out of the office and on the open road to Montréal. i thought about making a quit pit stop to the rest room after getting off of the phone with my boss in the Hamptons, but then i decided it was smarter to get out of the office now and relieve myself a little later...

Sometimes things work so smoothly during a commute, i refuse think of it as such. this was the case that friday as i seemingly flew uptown on the subway which was literally waiting for me as i reached the platform. once i got uptown i blasted out of the bat cave -err, garage- and made my way through the streets of new york, searching for an exit to the great wide open highways and byways of the new york state thruway. the fastest way to make it to Montréal.

all too often i day dream of such absolutely fabulous trips - having fun under the sun, music playing (Marvin Gaye and Erick sermon provided the official theme song for the long journey). and as skyscrapers and smog gave way to trees, honeybees, and a faint breeze with a hint of wild flower fragrance, a smile found it's way to my face.

and all was well on my eighty mile an hour clip until that fast exit from the office caught up with me. yes i had a ginger ale too many... yes, i had to pee. badly! so picture this if you will; chillbill cruising under a setting sun, surrounded by absolutely no one, in the middle of nowhere, to scared to stop on the side of the road. so i waited, and waited... and waited. finally an exit appeared before me - Woodstock 1½ miles. that was perhaps the longest mile and a half i have ever driven. in any case, i made a quick pit stop at the local mobil station and then proceeded with my vacation.

as i continued on my northbound route, the temperature continued to fall, and my slight case of goose bumps became the shivers. i guess i should have considered the wind-chill factor when i got dressed that morning. in any case, i stopped for gas somewhere north of the middle of nowhere. i thought about putting the top up, but decided against it. in my mind that would defeat the purpose of the car. instead i wrapped myself in a blanket i had in the trunk, cranked up the heat to a balmy 83°, rolled up the windows, and made tracks yet again.

arriving at the canadian border, i quickly found myself subject to an interrogation. a word to the wise, 'whatever whatever' is not an appropriate response for customs. i pulled my car up to the second checkpoint, and things got worse. "how fast does it go?" asked the canadian man with a gun. hmmm, how would you answer that. a couple of chuckles later and i was on my way to the 100km/h canadian highway. kilometers not miles.

to no surprise, despite my valiant attempts to do otherwise, i managed to get lost just outside of Montréal... i was supposed to go Ouest instead of est. yes, my command of the french language is very limited. in any case, i managed to find my way across the river and into the city where streets smarts and some good luck proved good enough to get me to the ritz Carlton....

to be brief, my suite was sweet, or trés chic. fireplace, fifteen foot high ceilings, fabulous views of the duck pond - how much does it cost to reach the high that i am on? with the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in order, i ate the little ritz Carlton chocolates left on my pillow and went to sleep. i knew that saturday would be another adventure.

saturday morning, james and i got up and out for some le petit dejeuner at a place called Rubin's. being true to my adventurous spirit, i had le voyager. james had an item on the menu which was described as 'omelet with smoked meat'. there must have been something lost in the translation as there was no indication as to what type of meat. when his entree was served, we discovered 'smoked meat' tasted a lot like pastrami.
Brian chillsnillszen in Montréal
Anyway, together with Amina, we walked around the city to see the sights and sounds. the weather forecast of cool and cloudy incorrect. very incorrect. still, the three of us pressed on through the remnants of jazzfest and a street fair on saint catherine street. as the temperature continued to rise, we decided to try to make our way to the waterside.

After zig zag-ing our way towards the water, we agreed that we needed a break from baking in the sun. i spied an ice cream/pizza shop on the corner of the block. as we crossed the street to beat the heat, we narrowly escaped a rogue biker... only this biker was on a bicycle. still, he was upset that we dared to cross the street in front of him. "@#$%@%!!!!!!" he yelled. whatever he said to was in French so i don't know what explicit words he chose. in any case, we bought un slosh from le petit creme shop and continued on our way.

A little later, by using technologies of new and old, including my patented global positioning triangulation coupled with the movement of the sun, brian, located this trio of merry men (and one woman), and with that we were off to see Notre dame - no hunchbacks in this one. the Notre dame in montreal is the "other" Notre dame.

The tour of Notre dame explains the history of the church and the city, the amount of pipes in the organ, and this Celine something or other that got married in one of the chapels. we left this serene environment and noticed a vivid display a block away. it appeared as though thousands of people were jumping up and down and waving their flags all at the same time. what ever could it be? would they be so bold to plan a Caribbean festival at the same time as jazzfest? we approached the crowd and answered our question with a definite yes.
Amina and Brian in Montréal
Caribana was indeed running through the streets of montreal, and we were not ready at all. our senses were overloaded with the sounds and sights of big rig tractor trailer trucks with literally a trailer load of girls. flatbed trucks with nothing but speakers, piled seven feet high, and as many women as one could squeeze in between the speakers. moving and grooving, dancing and whistling to the music. and like a horde of bees, people surrounded these trucks which crept forward at a snail pace. i urged Amina not to waste black and white on this colorful display. we went into a pharmacy to regroup; james picked up a few Band-Aids and Amina got color film (i am still waiting for the pictures). we soaked up as much as we could before the skies threatened to literally rain on this parade. so much for the bright and sunshiny day.

we made our way back towards the ritz, but instead we opted against it to grab a bite to eat at a place on crescent street. sir Winston Churchill's had a seat for us on the sidewalk so that we could people watch. no longer feeling adventurous, i had the churchill burger. eventually, our official host and our dear friend tim managed to meet us there. after our savory meal, we returned to the suite... and then we were off for kareoke!!

chillbill and Tim in Montréal

Tim and Malita sang like the all stars that they are in their duet. the place was forced to take a step back as they ripped up 'always'.

The rest of the night was a story within itself, and in as much as i have already written a novella, for now i will stop there.


the players

Amina - flying in from San Francisco, representing the "westside"
Brian Giamo - whisked in from Chicago, the windy city
chillbill - drove up (froze up?) from money making manhattan
James - blasting in from Boston, aka Bean Town
Malita - resident and official hostess with the mostess in Montréal
Tim - the mastermind behind the trip to Montréal who flew in from Atlanta

more pictures
more road trips
the rumdogs crew