Update 18

Quebec City. Where that French tongue rules so supreme, when us with our English-speak arrive, the girls refuse to talk even to Val. Sacre bleu! How could it be? "I just don't get it," he says, stroking his perfectly-goateed chin like a German philosopher. "I'm wearing my nicest toque, I exfoliated just before dinner, I've brushed my teeth eleven times today, and I have my best aftershave on. In all my special spots, too!" A rueful sigh escapes his lips; he sits in the corner to ponder.

Brad, however, was having no such troubles. The game plan: Approach with a brilliant smile, shining like the sun; grasp slender, swan-like wrist; pull gently toward dance floor... And repeat, of course, as often as possible... "Then," exclaims Brad, "no problem with this tongue-twisting stuff!" He pulls a quick Moonwalk, Runs-the-Man, and Rogers-the-Rabbit. "Now leave me alone. A busy me, you are seeing."

With high city walls, complete with battlements and cannon emplacements; wobbly-cobbly streets barely wide enough for a motorcycle; high-spired churches and domed cathedrals; a café tucked into each corner; and a cigarette in every mouth... Yes, in that way-back-when, this place, it had been delivered to New World, North America, c/o Canada; but this was a parcel with "Europe" stamped in bold letters across all sides. "Hmmph! Those girls sure snobby enough for Euro," grumbles a still-grumpy Val... Oh, but enough of this. Kindness called; we answered.

Close to Chateau Frontenac, the sentinel of the St. Lawrence, a short distance from the Plains of Abraham, where the fate of this country was decided... there was a skating rink. Outdoors, in the winter-fresh air, and a perfectly-pleasant scene it was. Classical music warbled from a pair of speakers, snow wafted lazily down, passersby strolled the narrow streets; and us, rubbing mittened hands together, handed hot chocolate to chilly skaters.

But of course, and as always, a mound of uncut videotape, unanswered telephone calls, unopened e-mails, unwritten up-dates was sitting at the hotel. Patiently awaiting our return, ready to chain us to desks, set us to work.

So, sorry-to-say, but the following day, in this beautiful city, we never saw the sun, not once pulled wide the curtains, nor even opened the door. Bolted, shuttered, closed-and-firmly-so, it remained. Instead: We set noses to stones, and began to grind. Hunkering heads, typing fingers, mice put through paces, keys tap-tapping; hours-upon-hours, churning through the work like wildfire.

All of us, that is, except Brad. "Uh, guys?" He speaks nervously, eyes fixed upon fidgeting toes. "I kinda... well, y'know... got, sort of... almost... a date."

"Okay, no problem, leave this sinking ship; go," Chris replies, spreading a thick layer of guilt across his words. "Do what you must, don't worry about us, oh no, we'll be just fine, that blond little head mustn't concern itself the teensiest tiniest..."

"Gee, thanks guys!" Obviously, guilted arrows had missed their mark. "That's great of you for understanding." He was a whirlwind, spinning about the room; picking up jackets, fixing hair, snatching shoes, grabbing keys. "See ya later!"

And, with that, Quebec City was finished. With that snow still coming, we said farewell, bid adieu. Destination: a hidey-hole only an hour-or-so away; but a needle-in-haystack, as it turned out to be. We backed-and-forthed, upped-and-downed, to-and-froed, through six, seven, now-let-me-see, perhaps even eleven, white-blanketed villages, received a dozen sets of contradictory directions (fingers pointing this-and-that, wives arguing with hubbies - "No, it's this way, I'm sure!" - "Sorry sorry sorry, but nope; that way, my life on it!") We went around and around, and a few more times, around...

"Wait, here comes a sign," Val says from navigator spot, squinting his eyes to see through the fat flakes of falling snow. "Slow down so I can get a look." Chris puts his foot to the floor. "Hah!" ...He wasn't, I'll admit, helping much the situation.

So... Five hours of driving, and we find ourselves completely, utterly, absolutely, hopelessly... Lost. No hope for this pin-in-the-haybale. Bah! Directions for the highway, please. And onto Fredricton...

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