Tea for the Bloggerman


So Long, Montreal — Part One: Getting There
June 29, 2008, 4:35 am
Filed under: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yesterday I returned from a marvelous journey to the center of the uncivilized world: Montreal, Quebec. The great poet Leonard Cohen is currently on his first tour in 15 years, a tour that as of now has no U.S. dates. As soon as the tour was announced I knew I was going to see him. There was no option. Leonard has been a profound inspiration for me for years, and traveling to see him in concert would be my hajj. So, after checking schedules and making plans, I found myself up at 6 in the morning one day ordering two tickets to his June 25th concert in Montreal. Plane and bus tickets were to follow.

The journey sounds simple enough on paper. On the night of the 23rd I would take a plane from Las Vegas to Philadelphia, then transfer planes to arrive in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania [Sidenote: I’ve heard three different pronounciations of that city’s name in the past few months–Wilkes-Bear, Wilkes-Bar, and Wilkes-Berry]. From Wilkes-Barre I would take a bus to a town called Hazleton to meet the fabulous Yanira Garcia, fashion designer extraordinaire and fellow Leonard Cohenite. From Hazleton the two of us would board a Greyhound bus, making stops and transfers along the way in New York City and Albany. The return trip would simply be the reverse a few days later, making time to catch some of the Montreal Jazz Festival, the largest jazz festival in the world which just so happened to be occurring at the same time as the concert.

And so, at around 9:30pm on the 23rd I, along with a messenger bag full of papers, my mandolin, and a suitcase of clothes, were in a taxi headed for McCarran Airport. I arrived and rode my plane east to Philadelphia. I arrived early the next morning and took a shuttle bus from one portion of the enormous airport to another to catch my second plane. The small plane flew for half an hour and arrived in Wilkes-Barre, which is by far the nicest airport I have ever seen. It is small, clean, and simply decent. They even have a “Meditation Room” stocked with various religious texts and four pews, perhaps for traveling church congregations. From Wilkes-Barre I took a taxi to the bus station, and boarded my bus to Hazleton.

I only spent a few hours in Hazleton but my time there was pleasant. I like Hazleton; it is a very fake town. Hazleton tries very hard to appear to be a small town, but it is far too densely packed with people and buildings to successfully pull of the illusion. However, if anything is an indication of a town’s size it would be the number of Starbucks that are located there, and Hazleton has ZERO. No Starbucks’, how do you like that?

So in Hazleton I met up with Yanira, we had lunch at a health food restaurant called the Dragonfly, then lounged in a Wendy’s to charge our cellphones before the bus arrived. Later we boarded the bus and off we went. The bus rode down the Pennsylvania countryside and through the barren wasteland that Springsteen calls New Jersey until we arrived in New York City. There we got some food and waited in a long line. Within two hours time the line began to move as Greyhound staff checked passports and other documentation. The bus from New York drove for a few hours until it reached Albany, where it stopped for a half hour to refuel and be cleaned. From Albany it was a straight shot to the border. At the border we were forced from the bus to gather all our belongings and file through customs. Who, what, where, when, why, and back to the bus we went.

Montreal is not very far away from the US/Canada border, but it certainly seemed like it. We arrived in Montreal around 7 in the morning on the 25th. There we gathered our luggage and went to the information booth to find out how to get to our hotel. We thought we could walk and started walking, but soon we found ourselves lost, cold, and hungry. So we returned to the bus station, waited for the currency exchange window to open, changed out our filthy American dollars for shiny portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, and took a taxi. At the hotel we checked in, found our room, and slept soundly for a few hours before our big day officially begun…

TO BE CONTINUED.

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