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  April 22, 2000



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Trip tales


By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun

  Each time I sit down to write, I think about what my week has been like and what you might be interested in hearing about. Sometimes, I think that by talking about my travels and adventures all the time that it might come off like I'm tooting my own horn, but the truth is, I'm more amazed than anybody at the places I've been and the things I've seen.

 Faraway places are interesting but passing through a few hundred towns every year also means endless hours on planes and in airports. I can tell you anything you want to know -- and some things you're probably better off not knowing -- about plane travel. I've eaten every kind of airport food, been snowed in way too many times when I had to sleep on the floor in the waiting area, had every kind of phone call imaginable -- good news, bad news, business, friends, family -- on airport pay phones.

 The people at airports on vacation usually look a bit nervous and lost. The frequent flyers look bored, like robots. That changed last Monday. I was passing through Chicago's O'Hare Airport on the way to Nitro.

 O'Hare is one of the biggest airports anywhere, like a city unto itself. There are people coming from every place rushing to get to someplace else, in all types of cultural clothing and different languages. I've been stuck in Chicago more than any other airport.

 It's against this backdrop that all of a sudden the sound of a baby cooing and gurgling came over the PA system. I have no idea why a baby would be in the control room of a major airport, but there it was. This went on for a minute or so and it had the most wonderful, uplifting effect on all the weary travellers.

 I couldn't help but think that this must surely be the nicest sound that ever came out of those speakers. It reminded me of the scene in Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins locks himself in the warden's office and plays an opera over the PA for all the hardened prisoners, until the guards came and got him. It's not a big story, but it left a big smile on my face.

 If you're wondering what I did at Nitro, so am I. Must be the concussion.

 On the way back to Calgary, I had another unusual plane experience involving sounds that shouldn't be there. There's this set of WCW action figures coming out that has me and Sting in the same package with this garbage can that says "ouch". I had these dolls in my carry-on bag and every time someone went to get something from the overhead compartment and bumped into my bag, it would say "ouch" and people got the strangest looks on their faces as they apologized awkwardly into thin air, not being sure who to look at. It was pretty funny and even funnier when you consider that I never explained it to anyone before we got off the plane.

 Back home, I was honoured to have lunch with Dr. David Suzuki. We'd met when we both participated in designing the Face Forward exhibit at the Glenbow Museum. By the way, you have until May 22 to check it out if you're looking for an interesting family field trip.

 Suzuki is one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met. Even though he's a champion of the environment on a global scale, I'm impressed at how he still makes each person he meets feel important one on one. There I was, just a wrestler, sitting with one of the greatest minds on the planet and yet somehow we hit it off and had a great conversation. I found myself wishing I could have his mind and my body -- but, then again, I'll be lucky to be in as good shape as he's in when I'm his age. Just when I was picturing us as a great tag-team, he suggested that maybe we could team up to raise awareness on environmental concerns. What a cool idea!

 Suzuki was in town to do a symposium on global warming and no matter what I thought I understood about this problem, I was disturbed by what I learned from his lecture. I came out of it very much changed and motivated to do whatever I can to help the David Suzuki Foundation. There's no way I can explain the catastrophic details of global warming anywhere near as well as Suzuki, so I think it best you hear it from the master at www.davidsuzuki.com. I look forward to doing whatever I can to help.

 After lunch with David, I had to shift gears and participate in a debate about the changing direction of pro wrestling. Now, I have to tell you that with a concussion, the last thing I want to be doing is debating anybody -- let alone on live TV -- but this was a favour for a friend.

 Paul Jay, maker of Wrestling With Shadows, is the director of the news shows Counterspin and Paul asked me if I'd do it. After the way his documentary vindicated me, sure, I'd do it. I had no idea how articulate I might be -- or not -- but I figured I'd give it a try. It turns out, I was live via satellite from Calgary, I couldn't see any of the people I was debating -- all I could see was a camera in my face ... (do you know how disconcerting that is ?) -- I didn't even know who I was debating and I could only hear them through a tiny, crackling headphone. Not knowing wasn't Paul's fault. It has something to do with my internal clock, which my friends and business associates call "being on Hart time" because no matter how much planning goes into it, I always end up arriving wherever I have to be at the last possible second. I couldn't decide what side of the debate I felt I was on. On the one hand, I could defend pro wrestling as it used to be, on the other I could trash it for what it's become -- or I could be hopeful about the new direction that WCW is going. Somehow, I ended up taking all three positions at the same time -- which goes a long way to explaining the headaches I have lately.

 My rest and relaxation is Hitmen hockey -- until lately, anyway -- now that I'm so stressed over our old nemesis, Kootenay Ice. If you recall, I predicted right at the beginning of the season that they'd be our toughest opponent in winning the President's Cup and in our quest for the Memorial Cup. I've said it before and I'm saying it again, if you love hockey and you haven't been to a Calgary Hitmen game -- what are you waiting for? Why not come out tonight and help me and all the other devoted fans cheer the boys on. But I warn you, you'll be hooked.

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