Futfanatico reminds you that Elliott Turner is still on injured reserve, thus we relied on unreliable correspondent GonzoBra to cover the Women’s World Cup in Canada. As per usual, his reporting was untimely, factually incorrect, and offensive. We have edited out most of the offensive parts, but left the grammatical errors because they enhance the entertainment value of this piece. If any.
“On assignment”, you lovely phrase, we meet again! After what happened last summer at the dude’s World Cup in Brazil, I’m shocked no major media player has contracted my excellent reporting abroad services, but genius is seldom appreciated in its own time. At least I got this gig. And as last you may recall, in January I got stuck covering the MLS draft in January, but really spilled the beans on the soccer reporter circle cliques and also embarassed some dudes who owe me stickers for IndieGogo campaigns.
Thus, reporting on the Women’s World Cup transferred me from sunny Lauderhill, Florida to the barren, permafrosted Northern tip of North America: Canada. And here’s the problem: when I booked my airfare and hotel, I maybe kinda mixed up my Gold Cups and World Cups. I could have sworn this tournament was in July, not June. Also, as a master of spontaneity, fly-by-night type, I didn’t get travel insurance. Thus, my July 7th airfare purchase was nonrefundable. However, I contacted the editors and pitched the trip as one of those “stadium as white elephants” post-World Cup detox long-forms where I complain along with the locals about every little detail that went wrong. They were (and are) desperate for content and caved.
Of course, I also promised some of that Roads & Kingdom classic “off the beaten path” travelogue stuff. And is there a less beaten path than Canada? That’s right, I didn’t just stay in posh five star hotels in bustling, cosmopolitan metropolises up North like Quebec City or Winnipeg or even Calgary. I sucked it up and roughed it for the sake of art. I roamed wide and far, visiting little known provincial towns like Toronto and Montreal. I am sure you will dig it. Just don’t go all sober on me and read this not under the influence, you buzzkill you. It’d be like watching a cinematic magnum opus such as Deep Blue Sea outside an IMAX theater.
I’ve been told repeatedly to start with a literary intro like a quote to a famous author or something. Thus, when looking at the whole spectacle of a Women’s World Cup on turf fields, I couldn’t help but think of the famous words by Margaret Atwood, a Canadian, and author of The Handmaid’s Tale. “Get rich or die trying.” With this site’s crappy commission and miserable per diem reimbursements, I will probably die trying on this assignment. Still, sometimes the hustle is both the means and the endgame of the hustle.
That last line is also another Atwood quote, somewhere near the end of one of her nonfiction books.
The first thing you notice about Pearson International Airport when you land is the wireless router outline of the tarmacs. The parallel and perpendicular runways paint a Netgear box on the ground in asphalt, even if you still can’t get wifi on your flight. The second thing you notice, after landing and unboarding, the airport is full of people that look like Americans but under no circumstances should be assumed to be Americans. In fact, they are often 10% nicer than your average American, even if their pronunciation of diphthongs leaves much to be desired.
More on diphthongs later.
All you regular readers know that Gonzo-Bra loves to live large, especially on the company’s tab. Thus, you ask, did I stay at a hotel near the airport, like the posh Sheraton or the luxurious Hilton? Nope. I found a sweet online deal for a Howard Johnson (“HoJo”) off Bay Street that recently lost its franchise accreditation. In my experience, a recently lost franchise license is a golden ticket to savings. The beds, pool, and linens stay the same, they just change the hotel logo.
On the cab ride, I got to see the pretty impressive financial district of downtown Toronto, but, like, the cab kept driving long after the mega skyscrapers turned into kinda run down and sometimes abandoned brick four stories. Still, even factoring in the exchange rate, my sweetheart deal at the former HoJo was worth it. And who isn’t lulled into sleep by the soft pitter-patter of bullets a few blocks away?
When I realized that there were no actual games being played in Toronto, I went through a range of emotions from: fuuuuuuuuuuck to fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck man. I need to cough up for a cheap domestic flight and ASAP. Then again, I’d already missed the tournament. Still, a writer I admire once called Toronto “Cleveland with a boner.” I had no interest in either. I needed an exit strategy, and fast. Luckily, the former HoJo people were cool with me checking out early and I made for the lovely neighborhood of Jane and Finch, near York University and a stone’s throw from Downsview Airport.
I looked at a map and decided to start West and travel East. Thus, Vancouver would be my first stop. Then, I looked at the airfare. I realized that my budget would require sacrifices, like that second bag with extra underwear and deodorant, but it was time for an even bigger one: Western Canada. To all Western Canadians out there, mad respect and much love. Sorry to have just missed you.
I then looked at domestic airfare for nearby cities like Montreal and that city where the Senators play but it’s confusing because in addition to senators there’s also a House of Representatives there. I realized that of the big Eastern cities, I’d have to sacrifice one. Thus, pulling lots, I decided on Ottawa and Moncton. However, genius struck: I could Greyhound it to Moncton with a 5 hour layover in Montreal. Victory!
Is there anything more romantic and alluring and American than the open Canadian road? I was stoked when we took the 401 with its scenic coastal views of Lake Ontario, quite possibly the largest lake in all of Ontario. We stopped at some pretty kicking highway towns, like Belleville and Prescott. In fact, I just may have left my heart in the latter town’s museum about the 1838 Battle on the Windmill. I definitely left my prescription sunglasses there. Please, if you are the curator or an employee of said museum and find some scratch Foakleys, get in touch in the comments. There is totally a reward.
Despite enjoying the vast, cavernous, never-ending beauty of Canadia for one-and-a-half days, a tint of nostalgia gripped me. Just over there, beyond the international bridge, lay Ogdensburg. America. My homeland. The land of the free. I missed it, but marched on. Yes, the double-doubles at Horton’s were nice, but, unlike the gas-inducing mochaccinos at Starbucks they ultimately left me feeling not bloated (empty).
Still, I marched on.
I only had, like, six hours between buses in Montreal so time was of the essence. I brushed up on my Canadian faux English like “washroom” and “serviette”, just in case I got stranded in some French-Canadian biker bar and desperately needed to wash something in private. Once near McGill, I was tempted to loiter and steal wifi from Second Cup, but settled on some underground eatery at Atti’s.
I liked the fact the spot was located in a basement, radiating a bomb shelter vibe and oozing security from aerial napalm attacks. Sure, a bunker buster would melt your nuts, but why dwell on negative possibilities? I ordered my K-town typical dish of kimchi and pajeon and made out like a bandit – spending in Canadian dollars has its perks.
I loitered around McGill and asked some student-types about the Women’s World Cup but nobody really gave a fuck. They thought it was weird some middle-aged American was asking them questions out of the blue in English. I think if I had bathed in the prior 24 hours, things would have been different. Still, it was kinda weird.
I headed back to the Greyhound station and passed by the Olympic Stadium, old home of the Expos (who I once saw as a child). Is there a white elephanter stadium in all of North America? I double dawg dare you to point one out. Still, Montreal was just the little, old (and kinda aromatic) appetizer before the main course: Moncton, New Brunswick.
I prepared for my brave journey to the Canadian Atlantic coast by skimming the first ten or so chapters of The Shipping News on the Kindle App for my iPhone. Seems like the place gets really cold in the winter and there’s a definite “end of the world’” feel to the place. Jagged cliffs and the North Atlantic Ocean will do that to a person. Still, with the Ocean laying East, wouldn’t sunrises over the water arouse local spirits?
Upon arriving in Moncton, I realized I’d totally misjudged the place. I thought it would be some po dunk shitty town. I’d read online that the population was only, like, 140,000, super low by GonzoBra standards. It’s also been nicknamed “hub city” which, in my experience and theory of strategic misnomers, means the city is in fact not a hub. At least a worthwhile one. In theory, my cynical and sardonic self thought, if you were a registered sex offender, you’d want to move to Moncton because there’d be less people to notify than, say, in Montreal or Toronto. I envisioned few other perks.
I was so wrong – Moncton is the fucking Macau of Canada! I loved that town! Can you say gambler’s paradise? Okay, so I exaggerate, but, like, the town is not directly on the water. Instead, you can catch a bus to Grande-Digue or Pointe-Du-Chene or some other seaside hamlet, and then there are these super sketchy ferries or boats with slot machines and card tables. The ferries then take you out to allegedly near international waters (despite never losing sight of Prince Edward Island?? Yeah riiiiight), and the fun starts.
Please note that no info of this stuff is available online due to pending and perhaps unexamined questions of legality. I suggest bringing lots of cash. If you go to Grande-Digue, arrive before 6pm and ask for Gus. If you go to Pointe-Du-Chene, arrive around 7pm and ask for Monsieur LePenne. You did not hear that here.
I get paid a flat rate plus expenses, not per word, so time to cut this shit short. So, after some gambling and more gambling, I decided to mix with locals and whet my whistle at a local pub. Everybody is circle jerking in the States over “hops” and “craft beer” and “local breweries.” What I needed, though, after losing some money, was a beer that combined the melancholic, unfulfilled feeling of Budweiser with the euthanizing flavor of Miller Light. I had to choose between Labett and Molson. I went with Molson.
At the pub, locals were cool with the whole having hosted a World Cup event. The stadium they used cost quite a pretty penny (almost 20 million *Canadian dollars), but was associated with the local University and only seated about 8,000 souls. I eye-balled it and it looked like a lovely Triple AAA baseball field you’d find in the States, but more rectangularish and with a running track. Definitely not a White Elephant. I could envision lots of future uses for it that did not involve a Women’s World Cup, like maybe some Women’s Panamerican soccer tournament down the road.
Things then got quite a bit more interesting when I revealed to my brother North Americans that long after Don Cherry’s “Rock’em Sock’em Hockey” had hit airwaves south of the border, a weird game called “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” had gone on sale in toy stores around the US. For such a macho guy, we all wondered aloud, why didn’t he fight for his intellectual property rights? I searched some judicial databases online and nothing. No lawsuit filed anywhere. Perhaps a letter and private settlement had put the matter to rest, we speculated?
The next morning, I landed a meeting with the town’s Mayor, who is also the postman. Standing outside a mailbox, I really wished I’d prepared more questions but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway – things went downhill after he asked me why he smelled alcohol on my breath and I handed him a postcard without any writing or an address and told him to “shut up and do your job.”
I did not get to go to Ottawa. Sorry, Ottawa. I really really wanted to see you, and not just because I’ve put off getting this Alexei Yashin jersey signed. The next time Canada hosts a World Cup, you are my destination numero uno! Scout’s honor.
In conclusion, the Canadians hosted a great tournament based on what I read online. In mixing with locals, it seems like they didn’t waste too much money to host the tournament, which is good. I also learned a lot about Kimchi in Montreal, illegal gambling in New Brunswick, double-doubles that are not affiliated in anyway with the NBA, and that indomitable, lovable Canadian spirit.
Despite some pretty gruesome clashes between Acadians and Anglos hundreds of years ago, the Canadians have settled down and were quite friendly. They are endearing and to be indulged, but never ever underestimated.
-GonzoBra, July 9, 12:30am, on a Greyhound to Ogdensburg, NY