This post could best be described as 'off-topic', so keep that in mind when reading. Traveling is a costly, sometimes frustrating experience, so hopefully even the most bored readers will find this article useful. This is an extension of my experience getting the opportunity to interview Georges St. Pierre in Montreal, but with less MMA.
Obviously, getting the call with the opportunity to interview GSP in Montreal, Canada was an exhilarating experience, but as is often the case with traveling, a potentially perilous one.
I don't have very many bad things to say about San Antonio International Airport, nor United (leave your horror stories in the comments section). The flight was mostly painless. An hour to get from San Antonio to Houston, and five hours to get from Houston to Montreal (12:54 to 5:55PM) in time to meet with Damon Martin from MMA Weekly, and John Pangilinan from the ID Agency at 8 in the lobby of the hotel we're staying in.
Problem/Tip #1: When traveling abroad, if you're going someplace on business, make sure you've allotted time for customs. When I arrive at the airport in Montreal, the first thing I run into is Cowboy Stadium; the only thing that occupies my time is observing the 27 different looks of despair on everyone's face as they walk by me. I'm just fortunate that this is all nothing like my experience going to Rome, when Italian security officials stopped me in the middle of the airport on account of "looking suspicious".
I got in line for customs at 5:45 PM (a little early) and don't get out until around 7 PM. My worry is that all I have on me is 20 in US cash. 20 years ago that might have been enough for a taxi ride from the airport to downtown, but a few collateralized debt obligations later, and that 20 in cash might as well be a sheet of ultra-soft Charmin. Thankfully taxis all take Visa in Canada, which leads me to tip #2
Tip #2: I don't know much about cabbie culture, so on a scale of 1 to Final Destination, I can't say how dangerous Canadian cabbies are in particular, but the one I pick has little regard for our safety. We roll out of the parking lot, and for every human being that needs to cross the street, my cabbie raises his arm at them, not to say "hurry and pass", but to say "get the hell out of my way before I turn you into roadkill".
I'm thankful that he's in a hurry, because so am I, but I'd like to arrive the Sheraton Hotel in one piece. The freeway is the worst part of the cabbie experience, since the guy is driving like we're being followed by a pair of dudes named Toecutter and Bubba Zanetti.
Thankfully the Sheraton is a nice place.
And so is my company. John from the agency is super cool, very professional, and the delightfully nerdy Damon Martin shows up to talk MMA, but mostly comics, and movies; pretty much all the things that allow me to avoid talking about the nightlife in Montreal (although truth be told, I'm not into comics themselves: I own the Watchmen, and that's it).
Which leads me to tip #3: Try Canada's world famous 'poutine' only if you're desperate, or simply want to say you tried it. It's basically Canada's version of KFC's Double Down sandwich, except less embarrassing. If you're enticed by the mixture of fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds to armbar your coronary, then have it. For a little bit of its history:
Poutine is an extreme stick-to-your-ribs concoction, whose name is said to derive from Quebequois slang. According to the dominant creation myth, in 1957 a restaurateur named Fernand Lachance, when asked by a customer to combine fries and cheese curds, said it would make "une maudite poutine" — an unholy mess.
And what an unholy mess it is: having said that, depending on where you go, it's pretty good. The Burger King at the Montreal airport actually allows you to replace your fries with Poutine, but I had at a restaurant on St. Catherine's. St. Catherine street is a fine place to go, but only if you're looking for clothes.
The best food I had was actually inside the Sheraton hotel: I ordered the "Le Complet" from the downstairs bistro for breakfast, and it's probably the most satisfying plate of eggs, bacon, fruit, toast, and potatoes you'll ever have.
If there's one thing about traveling I haven't gotten used to, it's how to deal with not having a reliable internet connection. I hear a few whispers from the guys about Renzo Gracie beating up some muggers, but it's only until reading the entire story that I realize what a bizarre incident it really is.
Which leads us to tip #4: if you want to enjoy MMA, stay away from the injury reports. With Jose Aldo, and Quinton Jackson injured and out of UFC 153 I'm starting to wonder what god Dana called a "sport killer" to hand the MMA world our current fate of cancelled cards, and scrapped super fights.
Between 2011 and 2012, almost 150 fights have been cancelled, many of them due to injury related causes. Is MMA approaching some sort of crisis? I was fortunate enough to see Rob Reiner's Misery in French. It's a useful film if you're suffering from writer's block, and envision yourself being held at sledge-point. Is this how fighters are training? As much as I hope not, the numbers lead me to believe that the idea of a psychotic Kathy Bates hobbling fighters in preparation for fight cards is an actual possibility.
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