Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whister Part Deux: C-Level

Official Mountie uniform in bag
So here’s a sad realization. I’m cheap. For all the ladies out there – it’s just because I’m working freelance. Once I get those benefits again – I’ll be dropping mad Lincolns on y’all! Lincolns!!!

Allow me to proceed.

One of the best places to eat in Whistler is a Mongolian stirfry restaurant by the enigmatic name Mongolie Grill. You fill a bowl of whatever fresh ingredients you want –meats, seafood, vegetables, your choice of noodles. It’s weighed by the kilogram and then thrown onto a giant grill where cooks attend to eight or so different servings with what looks like a snow shovel. 

Notice lack of scallops
Because I’m paying by the kilo, like Vincent Chase with yayo, I’m carefully watching the cooks stir my fry, making sure they don’t spill anything off the grill or mix my awesome ingredients with someone else’s garbage. I’m locked onto my selection, an impeccable blend of udon, teriyaki beef, chicken, tofu, broccoli, green onions, and five scallops. The cooks grill all the food awfully close to the edge and while they work their spatulas like the Bride does a Hattori Hanzo sword, there are still plenty of wounded soldiers. I tensely watched as the cooks skirted my scallops near the grill’s edge, then pushed them back inland. Sometimes the homies would live too dangerously and a scallop would plummet to its doom. Four scallops. Spatula artistry. Three scallops. Don’t they know I’ve already paid for those heavenly scallops?!! They finish cooking my food, slap it on a plate, and call my number.

Oh snapzilla!! Not my number, not my food! I was following the wrong meal! What a relief. That poor sucker in front of me, who apparently has amazing ingredient-picking skills, just lost 60% of his scallops. I wonder if he even paid attention. Was I the only one analyzing these cooks like the guy who watched “Star Trek” so meticulously that he found the R2D2 cameo? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0gpuYWCHtw) Whatever, my meal was delicious and topped off with a solid Whistler Honey lager.

That font is not available in Word.
Mitch and I started talking with an awesomely-accented Canadian bartender, who happens to be from Squamish, the town we were staying in that night. Squamish is about 45 minutes south of Whistler. Every single room in Whistler was booked on account of it being President’s Day weekend and Family Day weekend in Canada. At the resort’s visitor center, we made a reservation for the Hotel Chieftain, which is expected to be a genuine half-star lodge. We ask the bartender if she knows of the Chieftain, and she flashes an immediate look of concern.

“Is it really that bad?” we ask.
“Well, it might have changed since I’ve been there last.”
“Oh yeah, when was that?”
“Couple months ago.”

It's not coincidence "HOL" is lit up
Why strive for B-level?
According to its website, the Chieftain has the city’s hottest bar/nightclub, and also has a liquor store and restaurant. As Mitch and I are driving to the “hotel,” a police car with flashing lights is just leaving. We pull up, and I swear the Chieftain is not a hotel, but a large Circle K with a closed Indian restaurant attached. On the marquee next to “Hotel Chieftain,” it says “C-Level Nightclub.” Mitch and I debated whether their original purpose was “Sea Level Nightclub” but made a mistake and were too lazy to change it; or if they really wanted to evoke a club that was not A or B level, but C level. Not sure if that name would make it in the states. Welcome to New York’s hippest new joint – The D-class… we’re almost average!!! 

Paying respects
To call the Chieftain a motel would be a disservice to all motels. Giant pipes went through our ceiling. It looked like Costco up there. We had to park the car in this shady lot behind the building where a bunch of 60-year-old skateboarders were riding. Seriously, these guys used to watch the Talkies. I was actually concerned these AARP hoodlums were going to break into my car, so I went back outside to check. Nope. Just me being judgmental.

Word on the street is Squamish is a beautiful town. It’s sandwiched between mountains and the ocean, and is actually known as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. Seems like a great place to visit, but if you ever find yourself looking for lodging there, forgo the Chieftain. It’s not worth a Lincoln.
Hasta Canada!

Next episode: The live music capital of the world!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Canada is Fun, eh (or “ey” if you prefer)?

"Best on earth"? That's a bit pretentious 

If friendly nationalities were an Olympic sport, Canadians would have to earn a silver medal at the very least, with those genteel Luxembourgers around the corner. Think about this – Canadians are frequently the targets of tacky (or awesome) jokes about syrup, linguistics, Mounties – and no one ever takes offense. “How I Met Your Mother” is consistently coming up with hilarious Canada jibes (“jibe” was supplied by Word as a synonym for “joke”… terrible); South Park’s “Blame Canada” was even nominated for an Oscar!! What do our lovely friends up north think? They laugh – then buy prescription drugs with their free health care.

So it’s with this thought in mind that I say the Canadian border patrol north of Washington is full of douches! This is not just my take; I’ll have you know I’ve had numerous friends that have indicated similar unfriendly encounters.
This is the unfriendly lane

It’s about 7am or so early February. My buddy Mitch and I are juiced up on 5-hr Energy shots, driving to Whistler from Seattle to do some snowboarding that will certainly be legendary. We get to the Canadian border, wide-eyed with anticipation, greet the border patrol officer with large smiles, unadulterated joy, and a rousing, “How you doing today?” Dude glares at me like I just punched Wayne Gretzky in the face. Five long, awkward seconds pass. His vision pierces through us. Confused at his disdain, I ask what I need to do – considering I’ve never driven across the Canadian border before.

“You can start by giving me your passports.”

Short. Venomous. Hatred brewing towards America. We tell him we’re excited to go snowboarding in Whistler, and he ignores us. He then asks us a series of rapid-fire questions without listening to the responses: where are we from? What are we bringing? Why are we here? How do we know each other? For how long? What’s my first pet’s name? What elementary school did I attend? It was like I forgot my gmail password and entered a never-ending land of generic identity verification questions.

Mitch and I contemplated supplying fake information to this guy just to see how he would react. How do you know each other? We don’t. Just picked him up ‘cuz I liked the cut of his jib. What’re you bringing into the country? Frogs that are not indigenous to the area and will soon overrun the country. Why are you visiting? We love burritos. Wait – is this Mexico?

It's like a green, bulimic version of the Golden Gate
After this little border experience, we cruised to Vancouver, which seems to be a fine place. However it doesn’t have any major freeways that go through the city. That’s f’n weird, people! Think about it. No major freeway going through the city? Vancouver’s population is said to be around 2.2 million. That’s comparable to Houston. Can you imagine Houston without a major freeway cutting through their TWO downtowns? Insanity like Shaun T! Vancouver’s highway quickly turns into city streets, which turn into residential streets, which turn into Optimus Prime. We had to ask numerous polite Canadian pedestrians and take a series of side streets to get out of the city. It was like our own personal “Quick Change” (arguably Bill Murray’s most underrated movie).

The village
Should've stuck with the greens
We got to Whistler around 11, on the mountain by noon. As we geared up at the base, we contemplated bringing extra layers for the summit. A guy next to us told it was below zero at the top, so we took his advice and dressed a little warmer. As we headed to the summit, the weather was perfect. Sunny. No wind. It dawned on us – homey was talking in Celsius not Fahrenheit. Oh Canada! You tricksters. It was actually around 27 degrees for us, which is ideal.

Couldn't find this run. Had to settle for pic from lift
The resort is enormous. Two twin mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, draped in snow, more than 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, 200-plus trails. Waisting little time, Mitch and I hit up the Peak to Creek run, which is more than 5,000 feet – practically a mile long run. Now I should mention Mitch is a ridiculous boarder who grew up near a resort (Big Bear counts right?), and does big air and a bunch of really cool stuff that I can’t. This mile-long run left both of us exhausted. Mitch was nursing a completely flogged (another Word synonym replacement – who comes up with this stuff?) ankle, and I was just brutally out of shape. The run didn’t just leave my legs cramped, but also my toes and hands. Who gets cramped thumbs? Snowboarding?!

Mitch was proud of this photo. He needs glasses.
The next day riding wasn’t much better for either of us. Mitch developed a softball-sized knot on his calf, while I remained Sir Cramps-a-Lot. And there’s the rub. The resort is so large that taming it in two days cannot be done – even if we were in better shape. We explored as much as we could, cutting up a few backside bowls, including one that was thick, untouched powder. But ultimately there wasn’t enough time to take it all in. And that’s just one mountain. Thanks to a Peak-to-Peak gondola, we were able to finish day two on the Blackcomb side, otherwise we might have missed that mountain entirely.

Powder be deep
Whistler is every bit as impressive as the hype. Legions of powder. Open range. Friendly Canucks. Yet as incredible as the resort was, I felt like we weren’t able to capitalize on as much as we should have since our health was so friggin’ flogged. If I were to ever go back, I would have to do some hard core P90X legs action to prepare. Can’t blame Canada for my poor fitness level.

But that border patrol dude on the other hand...

Next episode: Tense cooking and the saddest hotel in Canada