We had talked about making Montreal our next destination for a Mech's Meet since 2010, but various travel limitations kept putting it off. For a few years we would head for our old standby destination in the Toronto/Oakville area because it was easier for everyone to make it. Finally, after taking a break from the Meet for a year to give the stars time to align, six Mechs were able to converge in the shadow of Mount Royal to see firsthand just what Topman thought was so great about smoked meat.
I flew in as always, and arriving at the airport at the same time (give or take a lengthly trip through customs and immigration because someone had to bring a hunting knife across the border) was our new Sparkman joining us for the first time. We also had to wait for baggage claim because the poor guy was flying out somewhere else to visit family directly from the Meet and had to lug around more than just one week's worth of clothing and assorted weapons the whole time until we could check into the hotel.
Once we escaped from the airport with Geoff, Top gave us our introduction to his beloved Montreal transit system. It was a convenient setup with one card that gave you access to the bus as well as the subway, the only wrinkle being that one-week temporary passes were from Monday to Sunday rather than an arbitrary start date that would work with our schedule (we got there on Saturday) so he got us each a weekend pass for starters. On Monday we'd get our own week-passes, with some of us also getting our own permanent cards for in case we ever came back to Montreal. The metro took us within a couple blocks of the hotel, which was a good thing considering it was cold and rainy that day and none of us were really dressed appropriately while lugging around heavy bags. Unfortunately we started off by walking a few blocks in the wrong direction (turns out Top, while living in Montreal, doesn't actually like going downtown ever.) and the rain started coming down twice as hard as soon as we realized it. We did get our bearings eventually though and found our home base for the week, and it would still be a few days before getting drenched would come back to haunt me.
We had booked two rooms for this trip, a regular-sized room with two beds for a couple people and an adjacent suite for the rest of us. We booked for two people in each room (kiiind of a lie) and I was reminded how important it is to have your story straight when checking in. It's not just that I said there would be more than two in the suite, I forgot how many Mechs were even coming on the trip and said something like "five or six". In truth, there would be at most four and as little as two depending on the night, but it took some doing to convince the concierge that we weren't lying about that to get out of paying for five people. Thanks to Top's smooth-talking, we got away with only having to pay for one extra person for every night after the first, which means we still cheated our way to harboring one extra occupant for free. As always, these logs are not meant to be read by hotel staff.
After lunch at Five Guys and some exploring to get our bearings, we picked up Magnet and Shadow coming in by bus. At this point I'm going to pass it off to Magnet, who was recording the action from his own perspective...
Day 1, Sept 12
Opting not to go into work for half a day, I instead needed to do some last minute errands. I also wanted to wait a while since G wouldn't be off work until around 6. I was also hopeful that UPS would have my new Shelby hoodie and hat, but even at 1 PM i was empty-handed. That was when I decided to hit the road.
Armed with the screaming lyrics and guitar solos of Deep Purple and Van Halen, I made surprisingly good time, having checked myself into the Holiday Inn in Oakville at 4:45 PM after a very uneventful road trip, though I did have a fun little duel with a nice 2005-09 Mustang GT for about 75 miles. Somehow, my beat up old Camaro had managed nearly 30 MPG at about 75 MPH most of the way, having used only half a tank of gas.
After some down time at the room, G was at the Go Station ready for me to pick him up. It took a few beeps of my horn and some frantic waving to flag him down from my position in traffic, but he finally noticed me. Climbing in, he noted that the car was "not what he was expecting". Breaking another traffic law, we went in reverse in the parking lot for an absurd distance to avoid sitting in traffic for an hour, and we were off to G's house.
Once G had wrapped up a last minute work project, we got something to eat, that something being Harvey's a fast food restaurant I haven't been to. Pretty good Angus burgers. After discussing several topics such as politics, religion, war, racism, and agriculture and somehow not arguing through any of those topics (I know! I'm impressed with myself, too!), G proceeded to direct me to a really nice McDonald's. No, we didn't eat there- he just wanted to show it to me. To his credit, it is a pretty nice McDonald's.
Back at Case de Gauntlet's, we attempted to play MMV again while discussing our time schedule for our bus ride to MTL. We concluded that we would need to leave early, so I decided to head back to the hotel to get some sleep.
The night ended up being a terrible night for sleep, as I was awakened several times in the middle of the night by LOUD drunks in the hallway and pool area. Too tired to get up and yell, I just laid there and listened to the blithering idiots mumble about how tough they were. Then they started banging on my door for some reason, so I got up and started yelling at them to settle the fuck down and show some respect. In typical Canadian fashion, they apologized profusely and retreated to their rooms. Ah, silence!
Day 2- Sept 13th
After a not so restful sleep thanks to the drunks, I headed off to pick up G at his house. Convinced that traffic would be a major issue, he was insistant that we start the day early. It turns out that his concerns weren't much of a concern, as we made it there in half an hour.
After getting lost a few times, we finally found the parking garage (in lot 2F man, remember!). Putting the Camaro away, we went to Eaton Square to find something to eat, eventually settling on our old Mechs' standby, the Richtree. Finally, departure time came, and after some more waiting we boarded the bus. Still tired from my terrible night's rest the night before, I attempted to sleep (and so did G), but to no avail. Opting instead to play a game, I broke out my classic playing cards and taught G how to play Crazy Eights.
Now...G says he already knew that game, but whatever the hell he knew wasn't just Crazy Eights- it was Absurd Everything. Playing my version first, which somehow lasted an entire hour for the first game alone, we tried his, which he pitched as being "way more simple". Crazy Eights, or at least the version I grew up with, can literally be taught in under a minute. There's very few rules, and they're extremely simple to remember. G's version was this nightmarish mix of rules where you could pass on a turn, give up multiple cards in one turn under certain conditions, or be forced to pick up multiple cards under others.
We ended up playing my (i.e. the CORRECT way of playing) version for the rest of the trip, which we would basically split the wins between us. Suddenly, I looked outside and realized that everything was...French. So very, very French. Getting close now, I texted Top, and he and the others waited for us at the terminal. In classic Mech fashion, G and I became immediately lost once we walked off the bus, but we eventually found each other. Getting onto the subway, we all caught up and pitched ideas on what to do with our time. Hungry, we decided to grab dinner, so once we dropped our bags off at the hotel room (more on that later), we walked down to a joint called Wrapcity. Bonus points for the pun. I enjoyed it, and apparently so did the others, and we all shared a bit of Top's awesome Reese's pie.
Returning to the hotel room, we played a few more games before calling it a night. Because it was so cold and rainy out, I lent Top my "Cobretti" jacket, which ended up fitting him better anyways.
Day 3, Sept 14
I awoke first and decided to take a shower. Now, in the last entry I had alluded to some of the hotel's peculiarities, so let's go over that. Overall, the hotel is a nice one, but it was very out of date. For one, they still use old school metal keys for the doors. I haven't seen that in years, and didn't think any hotel actually still did. The locks themselves are strange, and in order to leave you need to turn the lock at the same time as the handle, requiring both hands. That is a big pain in the ass when you have luggage to maneuver about.
We have two rooms- a smaller one for two people, and a bigger one we're using for the main party room where 3-4 Mechs sleep. For the first night, Geoff and I slept in the smaller one, while Snake and G slept in the larger room, as Top headed back to his place and Needle was still with her friends. The larger room has a full kitchenette with the oldest stove in Canada, featuring a very quaint analog clock and timer.
Now, the strangest part is the water pressure. It is IMMENSE. Its literally like a power washer. The first time I used the bathroom sink I thought something had broken at that very moment, but the others assured me that was how it was.
Beginning my day with a shower, the absolutely absurd water pressure caused the shower curtains to flap about like a flag in a storm. Standing in there, I felt like an elephant in the zoo being power washed. On one hand, it was great as I managed to get super clean. On the other, the skin on my back and shoulders was raw by the end, so I felt like I had a sunburn. Getting out of the bathroom, Geoff was up by then so I cautioned him about the shower. Around this time I realized I couldn't find my Ray-Bans, which were not cheap, so I was in a frenzy all morning to try and locate them, but to no avail. I now think I left them on the bus, since I don't recall moving them from my hoodie's pocket to the more secure pockets of my bags. I'm really bummed about it, but I'll get over it.
While waiting for Top to arrive so we could get breakfast, I found G and Snake playing MM3 and having a bit of a hard time. Ever the show off, I took over the game, but found my own skills not up to my own standards (I've been practicing all summer to avoid being pummeled like I was during the last Meet). Dying only once thanks to a misplaced jump due to the controller's much stiffer buttons, I was still miffed. I still vow to set the best record this Meet. With Top here, we went downstairs for breakfast, which was pretty overpriced. We decided that later on we would do some shopping in order to take advantage of the kitchenette and save some money.
Before that however, it was time to go to the Montreal Comic Con. We would spend about 6 hours there, and with no real interest in anything in particular, I just followed around Top and his friend Keith (not his husband, but another Keith that happened to be at the con). Top had a lot of friends at the con, so it was cool I got to meet them.
With a nagging back and shoulder injury from years of warehouse work, I cherished every opportunity to sit down and not fight the massive hoard of con-goers. We pretty much separated from the others for the majority of the con, and even our attempts to do regular, hourly check ins failed. At 2 o'clock, Top, Keith, and I took a break from the con to go to a really awesome Italian restaurant, where I had some really great gnocchi. We headed back to the con after that and went to a panel that was supposedly going to be about how comic books are turned into movies, but after fifteen minutes Top asked me if I wanted to get out of there due to how goddamn boring the panel host was, and I was all too happy to oblige.
By this time, Snake and G had met us minus Spark, who wasn't into panels. We all opted to go visit Needle at her booth, who had eluded us previously. Finally meeting up with her, we were able to determine when she'd be headed back to the hotel with us. We bid adieu for the time being, and Top and I walked the con some more so he could take advantage of a great deal on Magic cards.
We had all decided (minus Spark) to finish off the con with the Best Friends Zaibatsu panel, which Snake and I were really looking forward to, the two of us being big fans of, with G and Top unfamiliar with them. They did a great job of hosting their panel and told us about all the great content they have in the pipeline. During the Q&A bit, I thought about telling them to make more Detroit jokes (if only to get a cheap pop myself), but decided not to take time away from more legit questions, especially when I briefly saw Snake raise his hand. Poor guy was star struck and very nervous, and never actually asked his question, which would have been about their cat, Zack.
Leaving the con at the end, we rendezvoused with Needle and took the subway back to the hotel room. After a bit of time there, we headed back out to find something to eat, which ended up being an awesome Mexican (my favorite) restaurant which happened to have dollar taco night on the menu. I ended up having four beef tacos with a glass of Maker's Mark, which paired nicely.
A bit on that last part. Some of you may remember I was pretty adamant about being drug and alcohol free not too long ago, especially since at one point in my life I was getting out of hand with the drinking. I was "straight edge" for several years, which helped me get my life in focus. But, a little while ago I once again re-evaluated my life and decided to loosen up a little. Very little. I don't drink very often, but I do if I'm celebrating something or hanging out with friends. This was something of a "both of" occasion.
Right afterwards, we decided to do that a fore-mentioned shopping, which by the end I was kicking myself for not wearing my jacket or hoodie, as it was pretty cold out. I opted to carry some of the heavier bags to make myself work and get my mind off of the cold. It worked, though my fingers started to go numb from the bags themselves.
Finally, we arrived back at the room and we stocked up. Top, Needle, and I played a few more card games (like my not-so-Crazy Eights and Top's 9-5-2) while G and Spark mused about the epilogues. By 12:30 we were all tired, so G and Needle retreated back to the smaller room, while Snake and Spark got the beds in the bigger room. Top and I pulled out the couch bed to find no bedding. Top ran down stairs to ask for it while I kept out of sight (due to the hotel's stupid rules about room headcount). Once that was in place, we were all set, and off to dreamland I went.
Mags kinda gave up on recording events after Sunday. Not everyone fastidiously records every waking half-hour of their day in a portable spreadsheet like I do. I'll try to keep the rest brief though. Some of the descriptions in the photo gallery go into a little more detail if you're curious.
Topman's itinerary took us through some typical Montreal sightseeing. Monday was Chinatown, where Top was desperate to find the really good bakery that he remembered, except it had apparently moved, and we found like three other bakeries and one of them may have been the one he wanted? Either way, we bought a lot of pastry for lunch. Tuesday we did a lot of walking and bus-riding just seeing the city and doing some shopping. On Wednesday we headed for the Old Port, where amidst all the quaint atmosphere and lovely architecture we were most amused by the corny haunted house attraction "Peur Dépôt". It was interesting enough hearing the recording of a bored Dracula advertise the place over the loudspeaker outside, not sure what possessed us to shell out $20 per person to actually go inside, but I guess it was worth it to find Gauntlet crawling through a dark hallway when he didn't have to. Wednesday evening we climbed Mount Royal to see the city from up above and try in vain to enjoy the sunset in spite of the rapidly approaching rainclouds.
We took in a movie at one point on Tuesday, minus Topman, who just dropped us off at the theatre to fend for ourselves while he took the opportunity to check in at home. We had some trouble deciding on the movie to see, settling on Sin City 2 over Guardians of the Galaxy, even though reviewing the vote afterwards revealed that pretty much everyone would have preferred Guardians except Gauntlet, who just wanted to see Sin City because he hadn't seen it yet. I guess that's how he's the leader.
The more important part of Top's schedule was the selection of great restaurants and local delicacies, from classic poutine, to sweet beavertails, to the much hyped Smoked Meat. For Wednesday dinner we ate at a vegan restaurant called Aux Vivres. The curry platter I had there completely turned me around on vegan cuisine, in that I now admit that it has value. Poor Spark had the opposite experience, I fear. He ordered a burger, forgetting that one of the listed ingredients was the name of a mushroom that turned out to substitute the entire patty, and Spark hates mushrooms. He wasn't too crazy about the side dish either. He had a forlorn yet bemused look the whole hungry time as if he were thinking, "next time, I should remember not to order all the poison." For dinner on Thursday, Le Milsa, a Brazillian meat buffet that easily established itself as the highlight of our restaurant tour. They bring you fresh cuts of various meats until you beg them to stop, basically. It's all I never knew I wanted. On Friday we followed up lunch at Dunn's with a sit-down chocolate bakery where we enjoyed what was basically the dessert of the whole trip. The one place we walked by but never got a chance to try was "O Noir", a restaurant staffed entirely by the blind where customers dine in pitch blackness. It's intriguing enough that we'll definitely have to try it out next time we're there.
We spent plenty of time resting our feet and stomaches indoors as well. It was a great idea to get groceries right off the bat so we could make our own breakfast and brew our own tea for the entire week. Rich's laptop and DVD collection provided much of our stay-in entertainment. We played a lot of Broforce, watched the entirety of Riki-Oh, and played cards and tabletop games as usual. One of the new games we tried was "War", a dice game that quickly revealed itself to be difficult for anybody to win. Another was "Love Letter", a card game about edging each other out in attempts to court a princess that was very easy for Needle to win.
As soon as we got everyone together, it was time for the long-anticipated game of Shadow Hunters using the custom deck we spent the last few years designing. It was a momentous occasion of "You are me! I am you! We're all some form of Rich!" I kept forgetting how many of our characters were liars and just assumed everyone was honest, which led to me knocking Gauntlet as Bizarro Shadowman out of the game early one time to my own detriment. G wouldn't let me live that down for the rest of the trip. At least I managed to win one game handily, if only it was by being killed the fastest as the suicidal Rich Kassidy. We all got to take home our own copies of the deck thanks to Top's and Gauntlet's jobs of getting them professionally printed. It was really fun. As Top repeatedly explained though, it was basically a beta, so there were kinks to iron out with the stats. I think we all agreed Bizarro Shadowman's gimmick did not work very well, especially Gauntlet.
Wednesday was the day we'd all been training for, the Mega Man 3 speedrun challenge! Rich beat us all handily. It wasn't as close as I thought it would be. My practice had mostly gone into fighting the bosses, Top was kinda out of practice in general, Gauntlet wasn't really used to playing any video game without cheating, and Spark didn't even know the rules yet. Rich, meanwhile, had prepared an actual no-death speedrun. It wasn't even his best time, but it blew the rest of us out of the water. We'll have to step up our game for next year.
For some weird reason, we dedicated almost three hours on Thursday to splitting into two groups with Gauntlet, Spark, and me playing Mega Man 3 PC, and Rich, Top, and Needle watching and riffing the awful movie UltraViolet. You might be thinking the third option was "death" which should be the only reason we'd settle with one of the other two, but we apparently just have some strange ideas for fun stay-in activities.
As is unintentional tradition, we had a couple guest stars at times. On Monday and Wednesday we were joined by Mustafa. He was a Montreal local, a friend of Needlegal's, a game designer, and Bane-impersonator. He was actually more comfortable leading us around downtown Montreal than Topman, so he was handy to have around. On Tuesday our travels took us out to the suburbs near where Top lives, so we were joined for dinner by his husband, Keith, who was also our second Mech's Meet guest star back in '08. It occurs to me by now that there should probably be at least one photo each featuring Keith and Mustafa. Someone (I) really dropped the ball in documenting our guest stars.
Remember how I said getting caught in the rain would soon come back to haunt me? Well, by Tuesday I had a sore throat and cold symptoms that would gradually worsen throughout the remainder of the week. Everyone felt sorry for me and was wishing me well before the end of the trip, but by Saturday I was looking at it like I would be upset if the ill-timed sickness cleared up right at the end of my vacation and right before I had to go back to work. At least it could have been worse. I didn't have to slow anyone down, Gauntlet always had a Dristan or something handy since he deals with congestion constantly, and I was able to buy some herbal "Cold 911" tea from one of the four DavidsTea stores within walking distance of the hotel. Just had to keep a pocketfull of tissues to cough into all day and I was good to go. Gughhghh...
The one time I did end up sleeping through a about half a day's worth of adventures was at the end. Spark had to leave us a little early on Friday morning. Rich kept him and Top company on their extended trip to the airport. "Extended" because Spark forgot that he was supposed to be there an extra hour early because it was an international flight, and also had to go through extra security again due to the bloodsoaked machete he has to carry around everywhere. Top and Rich were eager to get some shuteye when they got back a few hours later, except Rich actually can't say "no" to the chance to tag along on a minor errand and got right back up to go with freshly-awake Gauntlet and Needlegal across town to pick up a new custom-made bullet-belt for Needle. Rich then stayed up the rest of the day for eating and drinking and for some reason we ended up having to carry him up to the room from the hotel bar. Dude knows how to vacation, at least.
It was a special trip in a lot of ways. I definitely want to head back to Montreal again to make use of this transit pass and eat at O Noir and maybe not get sick next time. I just hope our next Meet, wherever the destination may be, doesn't have to wait more than a year. I've missed it so much after just two.