Monday, June 14, 2010
A weekend of atonement...
There are times when my sense of timing (or time appreciation, as we referred to it in the military...), finds itself wanting.This weekend was a classic example. I mistakenly believed that I could make a round trip to Montreal from Orleans, on a sunny Saturday, in less than 4 hours. The goal was a worthy one... to make it to Schwartz's on St. Laurent Street for a smoked meat platter, a dill on the side and a Coke. I would be travelling with my buddy Mike, whom I would pick up on the way.
For absolutely anyone who might be questioning the logic or sanity of whittling away 4 hours simply for a smoked meat sandwich, clearly you've never been to Schwartz's Deli in Montréal. As a native Montrealer, it's a pilgrimage I feel the need to make every so often. As a lover of the world's best smoked meat, it's pretty much a no-brainer.
My only snag lay in the fact that the vehicle I was using for this trip was my better half's brand new (well, 12,000 klicks...) SUV. She was at work and would be finishing by 1630hrs. I of course, was therefore tasked with picking her up from work and who knows... possibly taking her out for supper? It was 1200hrs by the time I left Orleans and began making my way towards Alfred, where I was to meet Mikey.
In a perfect world, the roads ahead of me would be clear and I would be able to romp along at a sedate 130kmh, making my destination in plenty of time. Yeah... In a perfect world. Unfortunately, the real world in which I live, is filled with doddering, inept old fucks who can't manage to find the gas peddle, or people with no particular agenda for the day, travelling even slower. Invariably, these lumbering roadblocks persist in travelling in herds, strung out in such a fashion that even in a bona fide passing zone, there is no way that you can actually get clear of them.
As I passed through Rockland and engaged the 17 heading East, I noticed that the fuel gauge was just about at the halfway mark. Hmmmm... Better fix that. Stopping at Rocket Ben's, I had the tank filled to the tune of $30.50. Good deal... The wait was only 15 minutes or so, but already my time was being eaten away. Off I went again...
I was stymied in my attempts to make up time between Rockland and Alfred, by said previously-described slowpokes. By the time I hooked up with Mike, it was after 1300hrs. More like 1330hrs. No matter, we headed on down the road. Once we actually hooked up with the 417, having passed Hawkesbury, we were able to let the SUV stretch out her legs some. We arrived in West Island Montreal and it was now about 1430hrs. Traffic was heavy, of course... as one might expect on a sunny, saturday afternoon. We still had to negotiate the Metropolitain and find our way down to 'La Maine'... (St. Laurent).
Makes no difference how many time I go there, when I approach from the North, my compass is always way off. We exited the Metropolitain and started making our way South along smaller side streets that parallelled St. Laurent, as it's a one-way street heading North. We miraculously found a parking spot on a street which intersected Mont Royal Street, just one block East from St. Laurent. As it turned out, this was also a full 5 blocks North of where we wanted to be. For those of you who have never been, a block in downtown Montreal is friggin' long!! And of course in this section of town, pedestrian traffic is usually heavy. After all, it IS Montreal... :)
I initially started off at a somewhat brisk pace and then it dawned on me... Mikey wasn't exactly keeping up. I then remembered that he had only recently had his hip replaced and had only just returned to work with us. Here I was trying to get him to jog to Schwartz's... D-Uh! I geared down and we trudged along St.Laurent, taking in the sights and smells. It had turned out to be a peach of a day, weather-wise. I was still a little unsure as to whether we were headed in the right direction. Mikey flagged down a passing woman and asked her if we were headed in the right direction. She pointed South and said: "Vous n'avez qu'à cherchez pour la file...". Which translated means: "You only have to look for the lineup outside...".
I have never been to Schwartz's when there wasn't a lineup outside. Ever! It seems to be simply part of the experience. Soon enough, we arrived and took our place in line. There were probably 20 people ahead of us. We chatted and continued our people-watching exercises and probably within 30 minutes, we were seated at the counter in front. The counter turned out to be a great place to be, as it was right there of course that they carve the briskets. Our orders were taken in record time and before long, we were gazing down at smoked meat perfection. Good??? You have no idea!!! Unless of course, you've been...
The meal was delish... I couldn't finish mine and so I had them pack up what was left and brought it along with me when we finally vacated that hallowed and venerable establishment. Mikey? He actually did finish, much to our mutual amazement. He had been hankering to visit this place for a bit and last weekend had been so close, but had not had the opportunity to stop in. He certainly had made this visit count! Mikey had generously picked up the tab, in lieu of gas and that suited me and my tummy just fine, thank you. It was after 1500hrs by the time we started making our way back to the SUV. Most of those blocks were now uphill, to boot. We got a pretty good start at working off our meal.
Getting out of the downtown area to the 40 (the Metropolitain Expressway), was nothing short of arduous. There were detours which led to more traffic, further delays... you know how it goes.
Eventually we were threading our way onto the Met from the service road. Traffic was even heavier than it had been on the way in. It was about 1545hrs by the time we made a pit stop in Hudson for a cold drink. I knew there was no way that we would be back in time. I took my cell phone and made the dreaded call, advising my better half of where I was and that in all likelihood, I would not be there on time to pick her up at 1630hrs.
I suggested that she should go over to one of her favorite restaurants (the Sushi Kan) and have herself a vice supper. I added that I would be there shortly and that I would pick up the tab. The remainder of the trip back was a mirror image of the trip outbound. Fine along the 417, but once we embarked on the 17 again, we were once more delayed by the old, the lame and the inept. It seemed to take forever getting back. I dropped Mikey off in Alfred and we both agreed that the food had been marvellous and that the hike back to the car had been needed.
By the time I arrived at the corner of Innes and Blair, it was just about 1735hrs. She had had her meal and was waiting for her second glass of plum wine to arrive. This is never a good sign. To say that she was put out would be somewhat of an understatement and in all fairness to the lass, I can understand being left high and dry (well, maybe not 'dry'...) without your vehicle, after a long day's work, when all you want to do is go home and make everything stop. So there it is. My bad... "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa..." .
So... we have reached an accord. The SUV will not be taking any further trips to Schwartz's in Montreal. And that's just fine with me. God knows I'd rather travel by bike any day of the week. That way, there will not be this horrendous deadline looming overhead, obliging one to meet any type of ETA.
And besides... I think I'll take the Ville Marie interchange next time... :)