In the bowels of Undercity Noq stood behind a cauldron of eldritch energy, and arcane vapors stirring a concoction that he’d been sold by a wiry goblin who made wild claims about it being able to accomplish the impossible – teleport him to a far off land called Winn e Peg. Noq’s friends (Grokus, Salthair, Kerrig, Gopello, Spanky and yes, even the retched Paladin Galahad) had been stranded in this desolate section of Northrend for a month now and he might be the only one who could save them. He began to chant the ancient words and felt his robe start to billow around him and the northern energies start to boil in his veins.
“Winn e Peg, Eh Winn e Peg, Eh?” he repeated over and over until a flash of blue light and then he screamed the final words “Blue Bombers, Eh?” and he mystically appeared in a strange land where he knew his friends were being held.
To be honest I had planned to visit Winnipeg last fall but life got in the way so it was postponed, almost indefinitely. Thankfully I found a time that worked with the bosses schedule and got me there when both Grokus (Nathan) and Salty (Dale) didn’t have to work.
I flew out Thursday morning from DCA to MSP an uneventful trip that allowed me to watch two episodes of Breaking Bad. My ticket for the second leg of the trip said my little commuter plane was boarding right after we landed so I rushed to the other side of the airport only to find that we didn’t board for another 20 minutes or so – sigh, that’s a short flight anyway, about an hour I think.
When I arrived at the customs desk in Canada it went like this:
Customs Agent: What brings you to Canada?
Me (that’s what I call myself Me): I’m here to meet friends I’ve never met.
Customs Agent: What? How is that again? How did you become friends if you’ve never met?
Me (that’s what I sing if I’m doing scales do ra meeeeeeeee): We play video games together and have been good friends for about 6 years now and I decided to come visit them.
Customs Agent: You’ll have to talk to my supervisor.
Me (ME is for Maine, another place I should visit): uh, what?
Customs Agent: Just step into that room sir.
So trying to explain to someone that you have real friendships with people that you’ve never met is odder then you might think. In the end the customs agent let me enter Canada and I jetted off to my hotel – after I converted some money $60 US = $50 Canadian and a handful of change. I’m not entirely sure if there is a Canadian $1 bill, if there is I never saw one, I always had a pocket of change that included $1 coins and $2 – the “Toonie”, which despite it’s name didn’t have any cartoon characters on it at all, but looked like one coin inset another coin.
I arrived at the Fairmont Winnipeg via taxi, nice hotel staff, nice room and a Client hotel. I got a decent rate that included breakfast and it wasn’t too far from my friends. Grokus (his real name is Nathan, but seriously he’s been Grokus for six years and that’s what I call him – he calls me Noq) arrived and it was surreal, it didn’t feel awkward or strange to be meeting this person who didn’t at all look like the avatar he played in the game it felt good to finally be meeting my friend. Then Salty (his character’s name is Salthair and his real name is Dale) arrived in a McDonald’s truck and we went off to dinner – not at McDonald’s but at a nice italian restaurant. The three of us had a great dinner with stimulating conversation about all kinds of things, but not really the game. We talked politics, jobs, families and trips. We ate, some of us more sparingly than others, and drank sodas, and I genuinely had a nice time. Then they drove me around a little bit and showed me some sites near the hotel that I might be interested in looking at the next day before dropping me off and they headed home.
That night I hooked up the Macbook and entered World of Warcraft to do a couple dungeons with the guild, yes, I honestly flew up to Canada so I could play video games in a hotel – NO! But I had the computer with me and the guild wanted a couple achievements so I said ok.
Up to this point no one had said “Eh” but I’m not sure if they spend hours each day practicing not saying it, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
No Strangers Here, Only Friends I haven't met.
Friday morning woke up, had breakfast and then headed out to try to find the Winnipeg Central Office – Their AA Office, where a meeting was going to be at noon. I was given an address but it was a confusing address to me and about three different people that I asked, but I did eventually find it. While trying to find it I got to explore Winnipeg Square, a little downtown underground mall that goes on quite a ways and eventually leads to a skyway that connects to something else that connects to something else that leads to a mall – it’s really smart for Canadian Winters I figure to have the ability to get all those places without having to go outside. Also sent out my postcards.
It was at the meeting where I was bombarded with people saying “Eh” no other place over the whole weekend did I hear it, but amongst friends of Bill and Bob it was rampant – I’m not sure what that says about members of AA, but I’m sure it means something. Maybe we’ve all watched Strange Brew too many times.
The meeting was Tradition 8 and most of the folks who shared shared about the tradition and kept there share brief. Even I got to share and I shared my experience with contacting that very Central Office and talking to their professional secretary who answers the phones and emails for members traveling into the city.
Friday night Salty picked me up at the hotel with one of his boys (Nicholas) and his girlfriend and we went to grab Grokus before heading to the Salthair family home with groceries for the back yard bar-b-cue. At Salty’s I met his lovely wife and two more boys Peter (Gopello – holy crap is he tall) and Ben (Spanky). Kerrig (Ron), who I don’t think is any relation, but I could be wrong, soon showed up as well. We ate lots of burgers and dogs and there was even a good salad before we went down to the man cave to watch the movie “Super“. I will say that I’m not a big fan of Rainn Wilson, but I absolutely enjoyed this movie. I returned to the hotel after one, I think around 1:30… that was a long day.
Saturday I knew Grokus and Salty were going to be doing there usual stuff before we met up for an afternoon movie, so I turned on Grindr and my other men tracking utilities and found a guy and had a nice morning… 😉
Grokus came by around 2:30 and we headed to the mall to search for tshirts for me before the movie. We opted to see Fright Night (we did see it in 3D but it was a total waste of money to do so – three instances where I can remember the 3D tech was used well – and one of those three instances was ashes floating around… sigh. Side note: Dear Hollywood, 3D sucks.) with Collin Ferrel who makes a hot vampire, ok, he’d make a hot anything. It was a good movie that all three of us enjoyed.
The three of us then went to dinner … oh first we stopped to buy pastries at a local bakery, one of which we later discovered had mold growing on it – eewwww … at a burger joint where we met up with Galahad (I think his name is Chris). Salty ate most of my fries because I wasn’t eating them. The four of us headed back to Salty’s to play the board game “Game of Thrones” which I somehow won – no idea how that happened.
Here’s the rub – wow it was really great to meet everyone, I feel like I’ve already met them just based on the hours we’ve spent playing games online together. Everyone was just like I’d imagined they would be, and that’s likely because they’re such good people and Canadian which is just like being a Wisconsinite but colder. I started playing WoW with local people here in DC that soon after quit playing and fortunately for me I met these guys and became friends. I’ve spent countless hours in a world of fantasy with these guys battling dragons, beating up Alliance scum or attending weddings but I think the best time I’ve spent with them probably has to be this weekend – nah, it’s probably the times we spent leveling up in vanilla wow via pvp battles… but this weekend was a close second! 🙂
Grokus, Noq and Salthair