Category Archives: Stories

Personal (And Not So Personal) Updates For Your Consideration

Says here that my last post here was in January. That makes this by far the longest Thoughts and Rants in Jogging Pants drought ever. Man, I used to do this once a week without fail. While I was looking back to see how long it had been since my last post, I glanced at the stats page. It kind of made me feel nice and I want to pass on thanks, should any of you be responsible for this phenomenon. This isn’t the most prolific and well-known blog out there, but despite the fact that I haven’t posted here in close to 3 months, at least one person has visited this site to read one of my blogs every day in the last month. That’s fuckin cool, I’m sorry to get swearing so quickly, but it just is. Makes me feel warm inside. Every day except March 20th. So uhhhh, where were you guys on the 20th, huh??? Not one of you could click over for 5 minutes??? 😉

There’s one post in particular that shows up in the stats a lot. I have NO idea why. I think it gets googled by total strangers. It’s called “Guys, Your Feet Are Fucking Ugly”, and I wrote it in July of 2014. Usually a post gets its most views the day or week it’s originally posted. To give perspective it got 42 views the day it was posted. It finished the year with 70 views. In 2015 it had 217 views, and mid way through April this year it’s trending way higher than that. I’m curious to know why. It’s sort of funny, but not my best work. If you feel like reading it, here’s the link https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2014/07/02/guys-your-feet-are-fucking-ugly/ According to my stats, someone looks at this almost everyday. So weird. Skip to the 3rd paragraph if you read it.

Also on the bloggy linky topic, I started contributing to another blog site called “Everything MLB Inc”. I blog about the Toronto Blue Jays once a week. I guess that’s why I haven’t been doing this blog. There’s a small part of my that always wanted to be a sports reporter or something like that. So for 2016 I’ll do it. I hope the Jays’ season is as magical as last year. If you follow another team, I can’t really vouch for this blog. I don’t think they have all their writers in place yet. Here are some links to my first few articles for those interested in Jays stuff. Close friends might enjoy how brutally inaccurate some of my predictions have been so far.
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/02/toronto-blue-jays-2016-projected.html
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/02/toronto-blue-jays-2016-bullpen.html
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/03/toronto-blue-jays-2016-lineup-breakdown.html
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/04/blue-jays-week-1-update.html

The movie thing…… Some readers of this blog might remember me talking about acting in a movie last year. For those that don’t, here’s that story…..
https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2015/09/06/that-time-i-was-an-actor-in-a-kick-ass-movie/
Anyways, the update is that we recorded some commentary for the special features last weekend, because……. apparently there’s a distribution deal in place that would see this film available for purchase this year at some point (we’re hoping soon). Where will you be able to get it? Can’t say for sure, but pretty sure there will be physical copies (DVD, Blu-Ray) available for online purchase, as well as being available in digital form (iTunes etc). Super duper stoked for this. Will provide details when I have them.

Now for my version of Batman vs. Superman. My 3-year-old son loves Batman. His aunt bought him a set of 3 superhero costumes. This box and it’s contents have been put to way better use than just about anything he’s owned in his young life. I would say about 60% of his days, he wants to dress up in a costume at some point. Not having siblings, and perhaps not wanting to be the only super-hero at home, he tries to get my wife and I to wear the other 2 costumes. He is ALWAYS Batman. My wife who would often be in the room with him playing while I cook dinner gets to be Superman, and I get stuck with Robin. I try not to take it personal, even though it’s ridiculous because I tower over both of them, but I’m a good sport so Robin it is. These are sized for toddlers. If I could box I would do so in the heavyweight category. The little Robin mask is stretched to its absolute potential just to get around my face, and after a minute or two the velcro just gives out and slingshots across the room. So fun. So my wife, who is smarter than me, has stopped dressing up as a superhero, sometimes even saying “no thanks, but why don’t you ask daddy?” I can’t say no. So more days than not, I dress up in a toddler sized superhero costume, although I’ve been upgraded to Superman. Sometimes we play with train engines, and sometimes we fight crime. Then, one day my son finally said to me “Do you want to be Batman????” I jumped at the chance! After all these months of having to play superheroes with lesser cool factors, I have reached the pinnacle of toddler sized superhero outfits. Yessssssssss……………………. Here’s the thing though……………….The Batman outfit’s got some stains on it, from a 3-year-old wearing it more than any other article of clothing. Yeah, they’re messy. Also, I’m back to having to wear a mask again. That mask is just as tight, but it covers more of my face and makes me sweat. That’s when I realized a HUGE and VERY IMPORTANT life lesson, taught to me by my own son…… We can’t all be Batman! Some of us need to be Superman, and others need to be Robin. Ponder that!


My Son’s First F-Bomb

It was going to happen sooner or later. I think I’ve taken to the parenting thing a lot better than I originally expected I would. I change diapers like an absolute champion. I cook more, and better. Most importantly, I’ve never absent mindedly left my kid anywhere which I think was a concern among immediate family for various reasons. The one thing that was never going to go well was the swearing thing. I swear. A lot. The more comfortable I am, the more I do it. If I’m around you and it seems like I’m swearing a lot, take it as a compliment. It means I’m being myself. As it pertains to pro-creation, it makes sense that I’m ultimately responsible for a lot of things surrounding my kid’s development, and speech is definitely included. The thing is, I’m pretty comfortable around my kid, so you see the problem. The odds are stacked heavily in favour of him eventually being exposed to a healthy dose of colourful language. What kid isn’t, right? Yeah, most kids aren’t…. not like this….. and don’t leave comments saying that you swear a lot too. Thanks, but you don’t. Not like me. I’m not proud of this, but I’m not really as ashamed as I should be either. Lets just say that if my son ends up being half the potty mouth that I am, I just hope I’m not the reason. But I will be.

I’ve slipped up around him. Quite a bit. I slip up around everyone. That’s just me. I almost can’t even keep swearing out of my blog. Think about that. Even if I swear impulsively in my blog, I could always delete and re-word. I don’t even do that. I’m only slightly embarrassed that my mom and her friends read this, but not enough. So with that in mind my son is being set up to fail (or succeed as an awesome swearer). He’s 3 years old and change. I’m honestly surprised that it took this long for as many times as I’ve used foul language in front of him, but F-bombs are not for everyone, and perhaps it took him time to gravitate towards the sheer power of its emotional expression, and how a well placed one can just free your soul for a split second (OK I’m over selling it, I’ll just get to the story).

I’m into Balsamic Vinegar big time. There’s a great place that sells all these different flavours of it as well as Olive Oil. It’s fresh, and they let you sample them out of the (casks??? I don’t know what the container is called) dispensers. I could spend all day in there until my insides cried for mercy. They pour it, and cork it. I spent more money on it that day than a human at my income level should, but I knew my next salad was going to be like a leafy chompy heaven, and was looking quite forward to this. Had to get a traditional Balsamic, as well as a flavoured one. I chose Espresso flavour. It tastes like Balsamic Vinegar, but the aftertaste is like you just ate a Coffee Crisp.

When it’s finally time to prepare this salad, I’m only too excited to pour this liquid euphoria onto my salad. As I try to take the cork out (it’s a cork with a plastic lid on top, so you can open it with your hands as opposed to cork that would be in a wine bottle that you would use a corkscrew for…… just in case you had trouble picturing it……because if you can’t picture it, it fucks up the story……. oh there I go again), and the plastic top breaks off, leaving me with no easy way to open the bottle. Also leaving me with an unusable lid for my bottle. Now that really sucked, and I was frustrated, but I had another bottle, so I figured, let’s try that one? This is still good. Then I tried to open that one, and the exact same thing happened to the other cork, and that left me with no re-course but to have an immature temper tantrum in the kitchen, during which, I exclaimed loudly/angrily “YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!” That, my friends, is par for the course, but what happened after isn’t. My son who was playing with toy trains in his bedroom with my wife, stood up and looked her in the eye, balled up an angry little fist, and screamed as clear as day “YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!”

So it starts.


David Bowie Sadness

I found out this morning that David Bowie passed away. It’s been bothering me all day. I’m not even sure why. Celebrities die all the time, and I should be used to it by now. In a workplace full of people half my age, nobody seemed particularly devastated. A couple of people seemed suitably bummed, but not to the level I was looking for. So I did what anybody would do in this situation and logged into Twitter. This was better. People falling all over themselves to pay respects to David Bowie. One tribute more eloquent than the next. Re-tweets of celebrities and die-hard fans pouring out their hearts. I’m neither, but I felt like I would like to be one of the people who said something beautiful about David Bowie. It would probably get read by 3 or 4 people, and get heaped onto the magical invisible ‘I don’t give a shit’ pile in their minds, only to be soon erased. So I came home and went through my typical evening routine, cooking some dinner, and getting the boy to bed before probably falling asleep on the couch. Maybe I drink one of those kick ass Belgium beers in the fridge. The last of an epic sampler pack, but can I stay awake to drink it? Then I remember that I have a David Bowie concert DVD. I don’t even think I’ve ever watched it before. When it comes to music, sometimes I just buy stuff just to have it. The price was probably right, and I’d heard he was a hell of a live performer. Tonight would be the perfect night for a cold beer, warm sweater, and some David Bowie sadness.

Just as I start to relax a bit, I find myself totally captivated by this concert. I LOVE music, but I only LIKE David Bowie. I want to say I love David Bowie because he’s super cool to me, and he aged so incredibly well, and he’s such an innovative ground breaking artist, and I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about him. If I said I loved David Bowie, then you would demand to know how many of his albums I have, and I’d have to answer none. Just the 2 disc greatest hits collection, and a 45 single of ‘Modern Love’ on vinyl from back in the day. That’s better than nothing, but it’s not love. He was good. I’ve talked to very knowledgeable music people who say he’s the best ever. At some point in the future I would probably go through a David Bowie phase and listen or purchase all of his music, but I haven’t yet. My connection with David Bowie doesn’t have to do with me being his biggest fan, but more to do with him being my first!

When I was 7 years old I found my way into current pop music. Before that what do we listen to? Whatever our parents have around the house? Kid music? Who knows? None of that matters. What matters is that when I became first aware, and then quickly lifelong obsessed with music, David Bowie had a song (and an album) called ‘Let’s Dance’. You only had to see this dude in his white outfit playing a guitar in a Mexican restaurant to know he was the guy. Or just to look at him on the album cover, shirtless with his 1920’s boxing gloves on. He was my first favourite singer. I wanted his album. Birthday present? Christmas? I think my parents probably shied away from that, possibly because they were aware of such freaky things as Ziggy Stardust, and I wasn’t. Yet they were totally cool with Boy George which was odd to me. David Bowie in 1982 was as clean-cut as they came, and I thought that would be totally suitable for a kid to own that album. They must have relented in time for me to get the ‘Modern Love’ single.

That was kind of it for David Bowie for me for a while. I didn’t know at the time that there was a lot more substance to David Bowie’s music that would allow me to partially rediscover it as I got older. As I sit here and watch his concert DVD, it almost feels like I’ve come full circle. Am I sad because a legend has passed away? Yes, but he did leave us with 25 albums, and I’m sure I’ll spend the next several years discovering a lot of his music for the first time. Am I sad because I’m closer to the age in which he passed away (69) than I am to the age in which I discovered David Bowie for the first time? Certainly. I will say this though. While watching the concert I felt like there were times where his music was reaching into my body and touching my soul. Not all musicians have that power, but I’m grateful that David Bowie did, because it’s one of my favourite parts of the human experience.

Thus concludes my odd little story about David Bowie sadness. Turn and face the strange!


Talk About The Death Star Not Being Fully Operational

I watched Star Wars the other night. You know, the first one. No, not Episode 1. The first one which was Episode 4. The one from 1977 that got this whole thing started. It was called ‘A New Hope’, which I swear I only found out recently. We always just called it Star Wars. My wife bought be the DVDs for my birthday because it’s been a lot of years since I’ve seen those ones, and with the new one coming out now, I want to have the plot lines fresh in my mind when I check it out. I figure I’ve got a couple of months still because I don’t have the patience for crowds. I’m sure the movie won’t spoil in the meantime. I can ignore civilization until then.

I have a connection to that movie in that if I’m not mistaken, it was the first movie I ever saw in the movie theater. It’s also the only movie I ever went to see with just my dad. Meaning there might have been some family outings when I was young, but the two of us only went to the movies once. That sounds sad as I’m typing it, but it’s not. We did lots of things together, just not the movie theater. Sporting events was our thing. We watched a lot of movies together at home. RENTING movies……I know what we have now is way better, but can I just say I miss renting movies???? So my dad and I watched the first Star Wars movie, then known as ‘Star Wars’, now known as ‘A New Hope’. Why? I think we were in Niagara Falls or Buffalo, and I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t want us in her shit while she was at the shopping mall, so she must have given the orders for him to take me to a movie. Or maybe it was his idea, but she definitely gave the orders for him to take me away from her shopping situation. I’m guessing the movie had been out for a long time, or possibly re-released by the time I saw it because in 1977 I would have been too young to remember it. Whenever it was, it was really one of my earliest memories.

I had a few thoughts when I was watching ‘A New Hope’. Overall, I have to say that I still enjoyed it. I’ve never been too picky with special effects, so it didn’t bother me that those particular ones are outdated. I know they were really something at the time. A couple of things bothered me…..

– Why were Luke and Leia so pissy and bitchy with Han Solo?? Yeah, he was meant to be seen as a selfish character, but neither of them knew the guy for 5 minutes before they started in with their odd little snarky judgemental comments. I’d have been tempted to slap the both of them. Especially Luke. So whiny. That didn’t bother me when I was 5 years old, but it does now. It didn’t take Luke long after looking at his aunt and uncle’s charred bodies to just fly off with Obi-Wan Kenobi who he’d only met that afternoon. Spent the whole movie crying about “I wish Ben was here”. What about Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru???? They fuckin raised you!! Burnt to a crisp, and you act like you don’t give a shit? Then you have the nerve to get on Han Solo’s case because you think he’s selfish??? Where do you get off? (OK, this went off the rails…. calm down Ryan)

– I know there was some talk about the Death Star not being fully operational, but what’s with all the hallways that end in drops into the infinite abyss?? And the control panels with maybe a one foot platform to stand on around them. What electrician is going to be able to do work on these control panels?? It’s totally unsafe. Sure, we’re so concerned about the main characters who are trying to escape the Death Star, but what about its thousands of employees? It’s the employer’s responsibility to create a safe working environment for its employees. Humans, Droids, or otherwise. With the technology they have available, there’s got to be a better way to build this thing. I guess they all got blown up anyways. Nobody cares about that. So sad about Alderaan, but what about the innocent lives that were lost when the Death Star blew up? Not everyone in there was evil. Most of them were just like you and me. Working for some evil organization, trying to put food on the table. It’s a shame about the Death Star. Should’ve been better built though.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 5

The Summer I Met Two Legendary Soon To Be Ex-Jays

I know I promised 10 of these. 6-10 are coming next year during baseball season. This blog is shutting down all baseball operations for 2015. Before that I will tell you a story from my childhood chock-full of encounters with famous people, and baseball nerdery. To be honest, I can’t remember for sure which summer this was, but according to my research, it was probably 1989. Before this I don’t recall ever meeting a major league baseball player, and if I had, I will hopefully remember that by the time I’m finished writing this post, and then I’ll just scroll up and delete this sentence. So if you just read that last sentence, that means I didn’t delete it, which means these were in fact the first 2 Blue Jays I ever met.

I collected baseball cards from the time I was a small boy until it got to be a crappy hobby thanks to unruly collectors, and market saturation. I used to memorize baseball statistics on the back of the cards as a kid. I have knowledge of baseball history that can only be described as unnecessary. I kept the cards organized by teams, then by year, then by batting average and so on and so on. You couldn’t buy me toys as a kid, but if you bought me records or cards, I was good to go (records is what we used to call music….for the young readers). My cards started out in piles with rubber bands around them. Then one day it occurred to me that these cards were actually worth money. Everyone always told the story of what a Mickey Mantle card would go for, and a generation of baseball nerds figured if we took care of our cards, that someday they might be worth something. If they weren’t in mint condition, they weren’t worth anything, so I started putting my good cards in the sleeves of binders and protective cases where they sit to this day. I had sad moments realizing that my Cal Ripken Jr rookie card and other notable gems had devalued while being shuffled around through different filing systems.

Everything I learned about collecting came from frequent visits to a local sports card store that had opened up around this time. Family owned by people who seemed to be the inspiration for every comic book store owning cliché I’ve ever seen on TV or in film. They had a tough time hiding just how annoying it was dealing with 12 year olds all day, but when they were in the mood for it, we got along great. After all, we were regular customers and spent big money (only by our meager standards of course) in there. We were there constantly. It was a bike ride away. I loved picking up the monthly price guides and finding out how certain cards in my collection had increased or decreased in value over the last month, and trying to predict those trends. It led me to have a pretty vast collection. It was through the employees of this store that I became aware that Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff would be signing autographs at a Honda dealership one summer morning.

My buddy and I got dropped off at the dealership. We weren’t even old enough to drive yet. I’m sure Honda was hoping that some of the Jay fans that would descend on their dealership that morning were at least potential car buyers. There was a rule about just how many autographs you could hit Mr. McGriff up for. I’m gonna say 1 or 2 items were the max. While in line I saw that greedy bugger from the card store. His eyes were popping out of his head, and when he saw us in line, he giddily informed us that Fred signed EVERYTHING. They had brought like 12 items. All of these items would now be for sale at his store for double the original value. I wondered if Fred knew or cared. Maybe this guy just pretended to be a huge fan so Fred wouldn’t know the difference. I think we had brought an extra baseball card over the limit just in case, but we certainly didn’t have 12 items. When I got to the front of the line I was pleased to find out that Fred McGriff was a super nice guy that was very generous with his time. He engaged in small talk while signing my cards, and gave me the confidence to say what I really wanted to say to him. As casually as I could, I asked him to hit a home run for me that night. I don’t know why. It’s not like he was signing my cast in a hospital or something. Sounds dumb to me now, but if I could somehow gather a list of everything I ever said as a kid or a teenager, I’m confident that 80% of it would absolutely sound dumb to me now, and such is life. He grinned at me and said…. something, I don’t remember what he said, but he basically agreed to hit a home run that night. Now I don’t think I was ever naive enough to think that he didn’t try to hit a home run every single time he went to the plate, and if anyone was prodigiously powerful enough to be able to confidently call a shot, it was him. You know I can’t end the story with a hitless night at the plate. Of course he homered in his first plate appearance that night. I called everyone I knew and took full credit for it. After all it was my suggestion.

Later that summer, I was playing tennis with the same friend. This is in Mississauga, which is where I grew up, and just outside of Toronto for my readers that aren’t from around here. Man, I wish I still played Tennis. Those were fun times. It was in the evening during baseball season which seems impossible now that I think about it. For a lot of reasons it seems impossible, but this was the 80s man, and ANYTHING was possible back then. My buddy and I just playing tennis, and I look over to the other court, and there was only one other court. I see a guy that looks so much like then Blue Jay shortstop Tony Fernandez, that I had to call my buddy up to the net for a little chat. I explained my suspicion, and without drawing too much attention to ourselves, we needed to be sure that this was in fact Tony Fernandez. We started rallying again, hitting the ball just slow enough so we weren’t even playing tennis, but watching Tony Fernandez play tennis. This was dumb, so we approached the net again. Do we make a break for it with our bikes, and try to get our Tony Fernandez cards, and a pen, and come back before he’s done playing? I used the word impossible before. In this day and age, a guy like him would be getting paid $15 million dollars a year, and would have an entourage, and wouldn’t come out to the suburbs to play tennis on an outdoor public court. It was summer too. They have games like every day. Are you telling me that this rich Dominican ballplayer was in town, and spent an off-day in Mississauga, and played tennis in the evening? Maybe. I mean definitely, it happened, but I still can’t believe it. Maybe he had a buddy that lived in the neighborhood. Who knows? So my buddy and I are caught between the prospects of awkwardly watching Tony Fernandez playing tennis, or stopping their game to try to talk to him, or more interestingly risking the whole encounter by leaving to try to get something to autograph, and trying to rush back before he leaves. I should mention that both of us lived about a 3-5 minute bike ride from the court. So we risked it. Even crazier is that there was nobody waiting for our court either. We used to have to wait for that court all the time, and the night Tony Fernandez is there, there’s nobody around? Crazy! We drove our bikes home like we were shot out of a cannon, grabbed whatever Tony Fernandez baseball cards we had available, and were back in 6 minutes tops. Then we had to hurry up and wait. We asked if we could get an autograph, and his buddy who was speaking on his behalf said that if we waited until their game was over, he would sign our autographs. Fair enough. We stayed behind the fence and watched Tony Fernandez play tennis for a bit on the same tennis court that we played all of our tennis on. Eventually he came off and signed our cards one at a time. During casual chat time, I tried to bait him into talking about the Jesse Barfield for Al Leiter trade which pissed me off so much at the time, although historically, it turned out ok. He just said that Jesse was a good guy, but was fairly diplomatic otherwise. Once we had our autographs, we left them alone, and probably went home to brag to our other friends who weren’t there. It was a nice surprise.

Blue Jay fans know too well what ties these 2 players together in team history more than any other detail. Unfortunately it’s not what they did for us on the field, because they were both exceptional baseball players, and their names are up there with other choice few names as the best players in Blue Jay history. Soon after these chance encounters, they were both traded to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, and it seems ridiculous to say that the trade was lopsided from a talent perspective, but Carter and Alomar were the 2 key pieces that lead the Blue Jays to back to back World Series champions in 1992 and 1993. Does that mean they couldn’t have won with McGriff and Fernandez? Nobody will ever know. All I know is meeting me seemed to be their bad luck charm that summer, but it’s a fun Blue Jays memory for me nevertheless.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 4

5 Jay Games in Vegas

Did I pledge to write 10 of these Blue Jay blogs??? Yeah that must have been when they were still in it. I’ve spent the last few days picking my broken heart up off the floor, and am back to try to fulfill that ridiculous promise. Man, I must have thought they playoffs would last forever. 10 blogs???

Today I will do a little bit of cross promotion. I do have another blog. It’s a Las Vegas travel blog actually. Some of you have read it, and judging from the stats, most of you haven’t. That’s cool. I understand how weird it must be to be a Las Vegas enthusiast. If you were to click over to http://www.paymevegas.com you will probably notice that I don’t get to write in that one nearly as often. The reason? I just can’t justify going to Vegas as often as I’d like to go, but I do go to Vegas a fair bit by most people’s standards. In fact, I just returned from a week-long journey, so Pay Me Vegas will have some new content shortly.

As happy as I am to watch the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs, even I would have to admit that they did everything in their power to hijack our Vegas itinerary. I remember when the playoff schedule came out and I mentioned to my wife that they might have some games that I absolutely MUST watch while we’re there. Maybe just one. There did exist a scenario where there would be five in total. Guess which scenario played itself out? This required a lot of patience and understanding from my wife. Not that she doesn’t love the Jays too. It’s just that I have a 3-year old (who was still 2 at the time) who really doesn’t give a shit about baseball unless it’s an excuse to have me pick him up from his crib well past his bed time….. oh yeah, under those circumstances, he’s fan #1. The boy needs to be monitored/entertained during all waking hours. This made things awkward, because if I need 3 or more hours of focus and attention towards a ballgame, then my wife gets stuck on kid duty for that length of time 5 out of the 7 days we’re there. Possibly making matters worse is the time change. These playoff games were played at 4pm EST most of the time, which is 1pm Vegas time. That’s right smack in the middle of the day. This is the story of how I managed to watch all 5 games.

Oct 11/2015 Game 3 of the ALDS

We were down 2-0 in a best of 5 series against the Rangers. The Sunday game was at 8pm EST which was 5pm in Vegas. This was huge for me because I flew in that day, and would have been crushed if the Blue Jays played an elimination game while I was in an airplane, or getting fucked by Thrifty Car Rental (that story another time). We had time to get to the hotel, have dinner, get settled, well before the game started. While I wanted to have cool/obnoxious stories to tell to my friends about where I watched the game (Hey man, where are you? On your couch?? Cool! I’m sitting on a patio overlooking the strip in Vegas in a t-shirt, is it cold there? etc……….), I was perfectly happy to watch the first game in the hotel. Our room had a good-sized TV, a bunch of channels on digital cable, and a comfortable couch to sit on (we were at a time-share, so we had a condo unit, which was perfect for still being able to watch the game after the boy went to sleep). 5pm rolls around, and I grab the remote, and start flipping through the channels. There were like 50 or more channels. I didn’t see the game anywhere. It must have been on commercial. I flipped through again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. They’re gonna throw the first pitch in a minute. I think it’s on FS1. I don’t know these channels, what channel is that? I’m looking at a chart with the channels, and it’s saying FS1 is channel 5-1, but when I flip past with the remote, it skips over. I’m in full freak out mode. There’s an elimination game being played and I can’t get the goddamned channel? It’s a playoff game. Isn’t baseball America’s pastime? I’m in America! I won’t stand for this. So my wife manages to get the game on the radio on her iPad while I call the front desk asking what the trick is for getting FS1 on the TV. They even sent a guy who came and flipped through the channels just like I had 3 times already, only to tell me that they don’t get that channel, and sometime during that my wife goes to the store to get some supplies. So there I am with my son watching cartoons with the Blue Jay game on the radio, losing my mind with every pitch. This was not sustainable. I was going to have to go to the bar. My wife came back and it was the 3rd inning. I texted one of my buddies and asked him to message me a play by-play while I walked to the nearest bar. Even though I was staying off the strip, I was located pretty close to the new Linq Promenade. I found a bar as soon as I walked in. A huge one called Yard House, which I was familiar with, and hoping to go to because of its vast beer selection, but I could see all the TVs had Sunday night football on. Yes, early season NFL games between 2 non-playoff teams trumps playoff baseball in the United States. Can’t believe it. The next place was called the Tilted Kilt, and I saw it had the game on, but was packed (it was the Sunday before Memorial Day, so a long weekend in the States meant busy bars). I walked up close to the window to at least see the score and inning. As I got close, I saw someone get up from their seat at the bar. I ran inside, sat down and ordered a Sam Adams. Phew! Disaster averted. I was there about 30 minutes before Troy Tulowitzki hit his 3-run homer to give us a commanding lead in the game. I could tell who the Canadians were when the table in the far corner went ape-shit after it happened. Jays win. If Jays lose, series over, and probably a better vacation.

Oct 12/2015 Game 4 of the ALDS

Down 2-1 in the series, we had another elimination game. This time it’s a 1pm start in Vegas which is right in the middle of the day. Our plan was to go to the Planet Hollywood Hotel after our lunch at Bobby Flay’s burger restaurant. The boy usually takes a nap at that time, and my wife figured she could push him around the Miracle Mile Shops and shop while he slept. I could then go to the lounge in the Planet Hollywood Casino, where at 1pm on a Monday, it wasn’t too busy. Now if the boy slept for 3.5 hours, we totally could have pulled this off. Luckily the game was a bit of a laugher, with the Jays scoring a bunch of runs early, and getting good pitching as well. When he did wake up, we went to Garrett’s Popcorn, and got what I maintain is the best popcorn in the entire universe. We were able to sit outside a bar (which is outside the concert venue where there is a Brittany Spears concert just about every night for those that find that appealing), and watch the end of the game. Jays win.

Oct 14/2015 Game 5 of the ALDS

The series is tied 2-2, and back in Toronto after 2 games in Texas. This game decides who advances and who goes home. We decide to go to Mandalay Bay on this day. The Shark Reef Aquarium was something kid friendly on our agenda, and maybe something that my wife and son could check out while I obsess about the fate of my Toronto Blue Jays. We decided to have lunch there. I saw an Irish Pub called Ri Ra in the shopping area. We ascertained that the game was on TV, and went in for lunch. It was Wednesday and I was already ordering salads. Everytime I go to Vegas, we just keep having epic meal after epic meal, and sometimes my body just stops wanting food. It’s those times that I know if I see a good-looking salad on the menu, order it and live to fight another day. I had a Guinness IPA for all you beer fans. Apparently this was a limited edition, but it was crazy. It had that smooth texture, but totally tasted like an IPA. So weird, but good. I’m sure they’ll have them everywhere soon. This game was kind of nerve-wracking. My son doesn’t have the attention span to sit in a restaurant for too long, so we watched a few innings, and then I needed to do a location change. What would happen in between the Irish Pub, and my final destination? Would some legendary baseball play happen that Jay fans would remember for all of eternity, and I would miss it? We were boogeying down to the Mandalay Bay Sportsbook, where I would finish watching on TV while my wife and son went to the aquarium. I walked past a hobby store and saw Pete Rose in there signing autographs. I wanted to just go in there and tell him that I think he’s awesome even though he’s been treated like a steaming pile of shit over the last 25 years or so, but I didn’t have time to stop. I went to the washroom and came out. Texas had scored the go-ahead run on a Russell Martin throwing error that was one of the most bizarre plays in MLB playoff history. Luckily they replayed it 5,219 times or I would have really missed out. Then a few minutes later it happened. Easily a top 5 moment in Toronto Blue Jay history, when Jose Bautista hit a home run that gave us the lead in the game and series for good. It was weird because I was in public, but not with anyone, and I started jumping up and down like a 5-year-old. I guess it was one of those ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ moments. I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of me. I was just having a full on celebration by myself in a room full of people who were probably a little indifferent to the outcome of this game unless they bet on it. One guy came up to me and hugged me though. He must have been in the same situation as I was. It was a pretty joyous moment. I wished my wife was there with me, but she was looking after my son so I could enjoy that moment, and I’m forever grateful.

Oct 16/2015 Game 1 of the ALCS

The Jays were in Kansas City. In an effort to accommodate my son, we decided to go to Circus Circus. Our friend had flown in to join us for a couple of days, so we had an extra adult with us who was also a Jay fan. Again, my wife and son are off playing games, or doing whatever you do there. Our friend and I were in the Circus Circus Sportsbook suffering from second-hand smoke and mediocre beer. When my wife ran out of patience, we were happy to change locations. I hadn’t been to Circus Circus in years. There’s a reason for that, but I don’t like to be judgemental. It’s a good place for a certain crowd I suppose. Had the ventilation been better, I might not have minded it so much. Courtesy of our friend, we now had a rental car, so we drove back toward ‘home’ again, listening on the radio as we drove. We decided to go back to Linq Promenade, and gave the Yard House another try, which worked out great, since I love beer and they have fantastic food. The Jays didn’t fare so well. Royals win.

Oct 17/2015 Game 2 of the ALCS

Back to the Miracle Mile inside of Planet Hollywood. We went right back to that bar inside the mall near Brittany Spears. I drank a Pina Colada while my wife pushed my son around in the stroller. When he fell asleep, she brought him over. This bar was basically just a circle inside the mall. At the entrance there was a line where you couldn’t cross unless you were 21. I sat right beside it, and parked the stroller on the other side with my son fast asleep. This allowed my wife to go to the casino to do some gambling, which she hadn’t done much of up to that point. I was happy that I was able to watch the game and my son at the same time, so she could go have fun for a bit. This was looking like an awesome game. David Price was pitching a gem until the 7th inning when everything fell apart. Royals win.

All told, 5 games in Vegas was bittersweet. We won the first 3 and moved on to the ALCS. We lost the next 2 and would go on to lose the ALCS. I felt bad for the amount of time we spent working around those games, but at the same time, I think we did a lot of the things we wanted to do. I think I might owe my wife some additional consideration on our next trip. My son has already forgotten all about it I’m sure.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 3

Me, My Dad, and The Toronto Blue Jays

We’re a couple of days past the 3 year anniversary of my dad’s passing. I try to honour him with a blog each year, and I’m a couple of days late this year. I was in Vegas, and while I don’t mind using my wife’s iPad for certain things, typing isn’t one of them. I need that old school desktop computer when I write. It’s just how I get down. I had pledged to write a series of Toronto Blue Jays related posts, celebrating their first post season appearance in 22 years, and while my tradition of writing about my dad takes precedence, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The truth is, I’m a Blue Jay fan first and foremost because of my dad. He was the first one to put me on to the Jays. Boy did they suck at the time. My dad was a loyal fan though. While the Montreal Expos were the far more interesting Canadian team at the time of my initial baseball awareness, it didn’t take long for me to cross over to the Blue Jays and their mighty moustached All-Star pitcher Dave Stieb. This was close to 35 years ago. I’ve never looked back. To celebrate, here are a random selection of thoughts and memories regarding my father as a baseball guy.

– From the time I was a baby, he would sit me on his knee and watch sports with me on TV. Watching a sporting event with my father was awesome if you enjoy watching someone go through an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve always been an enthusiast of colourful language. My dad hurled obscenities at the television set on a regular basis. It was a stark contrast from his actual personality. Fairly laid back, and extremely friendly to anyone that had the pleasure of knowing him. Didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, wasn’t violent. How does a guy like this blow off steam? He yells at a TV set. “You f*ckin donkeys!!!” “Get your arm out of your ass and throw the f*ckin ball!!!” You know….. stuff like that. My mom would get embarrassed if there were other people in the house. He’d try to tone it down a bit by replacing ‘f*ckin’ with ‘friggin’, or my favourite and an original I believe which was ‘frinken’. After a while she’d give him shit, and he’d start pleading with her. “But dear, if they would just………” I have friends that can do great impressions of him based on what little outbursts they may have been lucky enough to see. I’m honoured to have had this man introduce me to the game.

– He was a reluctant but well-loved baseball coach. I started playing little league baseball when I was 6. He took me to the majority of my games and practices. I gotta send a shout out to my mom, who will read this and remember all the times that she had to drive. Let’s say that between the two of them, they always got me there. My dad coached me a few times. I’m not sure it was ever by design, but once he’d done it once or twice, they’d keep asking him. He’d usually step in if someone else fell through. We had a strange dynamic as coach/coach’s son. He had a pet peeve about little league sports. It always drove him nuts when a guy would coach a team, and let his son play all the ‘cool/fun/challenging’ positions on defence, and hit clean up, particularly if the coach’s son wasn’t that good of a player (which happened all the time). He felt like the coach’s son should be treated like just another player. That’s not to say I didn’t get a chance to play cool positions. I did, but I was a fairly capable player. I never took the spot of someone who deserved it more. My dad took things even a step further. When the team needed to get yelled at, I basically got yelled at. He was too nice to yell at another parent’s kid, but if he felt like the team needed to be more focused, he’d generally give me shit for something. I actually loved him for that. He set it up so that my teammates never resented me for being the coaches son, but liked me because I probably took some of the abuse that they might have otherwise gotten. We had our battles, but never stayed mad. Overall, we had some great times competing together, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

– He took me to my first Blue Jay game. We played the Minnesota Twins. I think it was a school night, because I remember some debate about whether he should take me or not. It was a crappy game as I recall. We played the Twins and lost either 7-0 or 7-1. We were sitting down the right field line at old Exhibition Stadium in a section that actually had metal benches with numbers on them as seats. The accommodations were no better than they would be at a high school or little league game, yet this was a major league ball park. Brutal. The only thing I remember about the game was that Leon Roberts hit a double for us, and that was maybe the only exciting moment in the game. That’s a pretty obscure name. Upon further research, he only played for us in 1982, so I was 7 years old at the time. Interesting Jay fact…. He was later traded for a young prospect named Cecil Fielder. Wikipedia rules! We would go to many more games over the years. Most more exciting than that one.

– He taught me the difference between a regular season 3-game series, and the World Series which was the only series I’d heard of at that point. I remember being in the bathroom while my dad was shaving. ‘Guess what son? The Jays swept the series against the Mariners.’ ‘Does that mean they’re going to the playoffs?’ ‘No son….they’re in last place’

– He taught me that while at a game, you need to keep your eye on the ball, and if a screaming line drive is hit towards you, don’t touch the ball unless you’re sure you can catch it, because it will hurt like a sonofabitch. I watched him learn that the hard way. Then when it was my turn to get a foul ball years later, I just waited for it to bounce out of a group of fans that went after it, and when it rolled down the stairs I just leaned over and picked it up. Thank you aisle seats. Thank you Rance Mulliniks.

– My dad got to go to a fair number of conferences in the States for work. Every time he went to a different city, he would always get me a t-shirt for that city’s baseball team. When it was all said and done, I had lots of them, but never really wore a Jays shirt.

– I alluded to his temper while watching games. I feel bad that I talked about it so much, in what was supposed to be ‘nicer’ piece, but if you know me, then you know I love the funny stories the most. This is the quick story about where my Dad was when Robbie Alomar hit the legendary home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS which changed the fortune of the entire franchise, and in my mind is the most important home run in Blue Jay history (which I’ve hotly debated this week, especially after Bautista’s homer last week which is 3rd, and Carter’s walk off in 93 WS 2nd). I remember this game was one of those annoying afternoon games where you have to rush home from school to watch it. I must have skipped a class or something, because I was at home in front of the TV. My dad got home at some point and started watching. In hindsight, I don’t even remember that much about the game before the home run. I just remember that it looked like once again we would come up short against Oakland, and not go to a World Series, and Dennis Eckersley was at the time the most un-hittable relief pitcher in baseball, so this game seemed to be on ice. My dad had gotten so frustrated with the Jays earlier in the game (maybe the 5 run third inning) that no amount of swearing at the TV was going to fix this situation. If we weren’t there, he would have just changed the channel, but we were watching intently, so he left the room, so appalled with them that he convinced himself he didn’t care what happened. We were down 6-1 in the 8th inning when the Jays started their comeback. They scored 3 runs in the 8th to make it a 6-4 game. I went into the other room to tell my dad what happened, and convince him that he should come in and watch the 9th. Oh no, he wasn’t coming in to watch those useless assholes. He was still huffing and puffing over the 5-run third inning, and wasn’t about to forgive them for it. I gave up and went in to watch the 9th. Alomar ends up hitting a 2-run homer to tie the game, and send it into extra innings. Never a more dramatic moment in Blue Jay history, and my stubborn dad sat in the living room pretending not to care. I laugh my ass off every time I think about it. They would go on to win their first World Series that year. He came around in time for the next game.

As happy as I am that the Jays have gone on such an incredible run this year, I really wish my dad was around to see it.

I miss you dad!


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 2

The Time I Played Catch With Scott Rolen

One of my best friends Tim used to work for the Jays. He started on the Grounds Crew, and by the time he left the organization, he had been the Manager of Game Entertainment. That’s not to say that you should all go apply for Grounds Crew jobs in hopes of rocketing up the organization. He had the appropriate Sports Marketing background to make this happen. If you’re wondering what a person in that position might be responsible for, I don’t have his job description, but it included fun things such as who sings the national anthem, and what to show on the Jumbotron. The greatest part about Tim having this position for a while, was that he’s as big a baseball fan as I am. It wasn’t just a job, it was a dream job working for the team that you grew up watching. Way better than the job going to someone who didn’t give a shit.

Being close friends with Tim during this time occasionally provided me with a strange amount of access to certain things Blue Jay related. While I was able to enjoy some of this access periodically, I tried not to overstep my limits. Once in a while I was provided with interesting little insights that the average fan would have no idea about, and every so often I found myself in a situation that the average fan would never find themselves in. As a result, you are going to find that a good chunk of my Blue Jay stories wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Tim. Now, if he wanted to tell you HIS Blue Jay stories, I’m certain it would be worthy of a book. A great read for any true Jays fan. I’ve heard all of these stories, and re-told them periodically when he wasn’t around. Some of them are fascinating. Like ‘holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-that-happened’ fascinating. My stories fall into the ‘not-that-crazy-but-still-kinda-cool’ category.

I had always wanted to go to Spring Training. Tim went to Florida for 3 weeks every year. It was some of the most important work they would do all year. They would do interviews with all of the players, so they would have footage to use on the Jumbotron at the home games throughout the year. The 162 game schedule is so hectic, that it was really hard to get the players to do these interviews or promotional work during the season, so this was typically done in the pre-season. This seemed like a glamorous work trip to me, but I know it was really hard work. One year my wife and I decided to vacation in Orlando while Spring Training was on, and do a little side trip to that magical place called Dunedin, which I’d only ever heard about. The Spring Training games hadn’t started yet, but the practices had, and guess who got us into the practice facility?

That year Tim wasn’t actually working for the Blue Jays, but was working for a consulting firm that was hired to do his job, and they hired him to do it. Oh, the business world! The only reason I bring this up is because that firm also picked up the contract to do the Tampa Bay Rays game entertainment at the same time. So Tim, who was old hat at running the Blue Jays game entertainment was stationed in Tampa for most of that season, remotely running the Jays as well. That ended up being the season where the Rays went to the World Series (with current Jays David Price and Dioner Navarro), only to lose in 5 games to the Philadelphia Phillies. Tim got an American League Championship ring for his troubles.

When we arrived there, the players were taking some batting practice, but looked like they were just finishing up. Random things that I remember seeing included Jerry Howarth, who is the radio play-by-play voice of the Blue Jays was saying some hellos to the players and coaches. It appeared as if he had just arrived in Florida, and watching him walk around and catch up with people after not seeing them all winter, wasn’t unlike the first day of school, and seeing all your friends at the end of summer break. I remember watching John McDonald taking ground ball after ground ball, while everyone else was standing around like practice was pretty much over, but this guy was putting in all this extra work. He had a reputation for being a phenomenal defender, and just having a peak at his work ethic confirmed how he got there. Hall of Famer Frank Thomas walked past us on the way to the locker room with his bag of bats, and other equipment. He gave us a nice smile and polite wave, which I thought was cool considering we might have been the only people standing around that nobody knew. That was because Tim was really busy. He’d gotten our passes and let us come in and have a look around, but then he had to do a couple of things. My wife and I just walked around and watched the players take turns hitting. We could totally hear all of their conversations. It was pretty fascinating. After a while, Tim came out and got us, and brought us into this room.

His boss, and a cameraman they liked to use were in a room shooting promos with ball players. They would be loosely scheduled to come in after a practice, and spend maybe 30 minutes answering some questions on camera, and perhaps shooting something for one of their sponsors. Tim had to head out because most of his day’s work was to take place at the Rays practice facility, but he introduced us to his co-workers, and asked them to take care of us, and we would meet up later for dinner. So we sat in this room and waited for a few minutes. Tim’s co-workers chatted with us and explained what they did, and we waited for a ballplayer to show up. Every day they would do this, and for the most part the guys dreaded coming in for these interviews. After practicing for several hours, most of them wanted to take naps, or play golf, or who knows what. In walks Scott Rolen.

Scott Rolen was a former All-Star 3rd basemen, who’s best days were behind him, but he was still quite a good player. He was in a crusty mood, so it got real for us right away. Our job was to sit in the background like flies on the wall. The ball players didn’t know who we were. They must have assumed that we worked with them. We’d shake hands as introductions were made. Scott Rolen made it fairly clear that he didn’t want to be there, and he had a long drive back to where he was staying and all sorts of other piss and vinegar. Deb, who was running the shoot wasn’t really one to back down, and showed a little sass when she got her chance. I think Scott liked that, and kind of backed down a bit. It was interesting to see him changeover from spoiled ballplayer to reasonable family man as he sort of realized he hadn’t been too gracious when he walked in. He tried to explain his behaviour, and told us he hadn’t eaten yet, and he has young kids at home that he really wanted to go see, and knowing that there was work here to be done, he decided to ‘play ball’. His interview answers proved him to be a fairly humble guy who didn’t like talking about himself. He was sort of uncomfortable through the entire process. Once that was done, he had to do a couple of ‘action shots’. Like slowly swinging a bat, or making a throw. When they needed him to throw a baseball, they ran into a technical issue. Where was he going to throw this ball? He made the motion of throwing, and hung on to the ball, but it didn’t look good. He needed to actually let go of the ball for the shot to work. If he threw it at the wall, it would make a loud sound, and possibly ricochet off some expensive camera equipment. If someone had a glove, they could catch it, but the only person that had a glove was Scott Rolen. He offered his glove, but the shot would look ridiculous if he wasn’t wearing it. So I finally (meekly) asked Deb if she would like me to stand in front of the wall, and catch the ball? She asked if I would be able to do that without a glove. Scott also seemed concerned. I’d played some baseball growing up. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable talking about that in front of a Major League Baseball Player, but I assured them that if he didn’t whip it hard, that there’s a good chance I would be able to catch it. So after a couple of warm up tosses, we shot that sequence, and it went off perfectly. I didn’t drop the ball, which made me feel useful, and not so bad about basically showing up at someone’s workplace and watching them work. Soon enough, the segment was over, and Scott Rolen left the building a far nicer seeming man, then when he arrived.

“Alex Rios is coming, do you want to stay for another one?” I looked at my wife thinking, man its past lunchtime, and if I’m hungry (with a much bigger reservoir to store food), then she’s gotta be starving, but she probably was recognizing that we were in an extremely unique position at the moment, and said she’d like to stay. This was becoming the most interesting day of my Blue Jay fandom. Periodically people like Pat Hentgen would peek their heads in the door to see if there was time for them. There was a schedule, but a lot of guys just showed up when they felt like it, making for really long, or really short days depending on the shoot. When Alex Rios came in, there couldn’t have been a more stark contrast between personalities. Rios at the time was probably 24. He was a good-looking, happy-go-lucky, extremely talented baseball player who seemed perpetually happy, and was totally easy to deal with. A young female Jays staffer came in before we got started, and wanted to catch up with him about how his winter was. It was a flirty ordeal. I’m not sure what her job was, but she was clearly smitten. Some of us rolled our eyes a few times. Once it got going, it was interrupted again. Vernon Wells came in because he and Alex were supposed to do a quick promo shot together for one of the sponsors. Vernon would not shut up about his tee time, but otherwise was in good spirits. My main memory of their shoot together was that Alex was at least 5 inches taller, and they made Vernon stand on a box. They had fun with it, but you’d never know that if you weren’t there. Once Vernon was gone, Alex had to get into his interview portion. He struggled with it a bit. He is Puerto Rican, and I think he felt a little insecure about his accent. He messed up the line “My name is Alex Rios” so many times it got kind of awkward. Then to make light of it, and maybe to get his frustrations out a bit, he lit us up with “I am ALEX MUTHERFUCKIN RIOS!!!!!!!!!!” We died. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but seemed like a super nice guy. Several years later, my wife and I are always quick with an Alex Rios impression. The joke is totally lost on anyone who wasn’t there.

As much fun as we were having, we had to leave finally. We were so hungry. It was almost 3 and we hadn’t eaten lunch. The story should end here, but I have one more thing to add, which isn’t about the Jays as much as it’s about me being a loser. We went to a restaurant called Carrabba’s which I now know to be a chain, but it was the first one I’d ever seen. I’m reading the menu, and see a dish called the Chicken Bryan which is like a chicken breast with a lemon butter wine sauce topped with goat cheese. Being Canadian, and having learned some French, I try to pronounce things properly when possible. I don’t speak Spanish, but I can pronounce the dishes in a Mexican restaurant. This was an upscale-ish Italian restaurant, so when I ordered it, I took a shot that it was pronounced Bree-yun, and I said that to the waitress, she gave me the blankest of stares, proceeded to take a few open mouthed chews of her gum (like only a waitress in a diner should be allowed to do), and said in a perfect Florida accent, “Yah mean Chicken Bryan??? (pronounced Brian)”. I was like “Yeah…. that”.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 1

So the Toronto Blue Jays clinched the American League East Division Title yesterday. For the first time in 22 years. I quietly enjoyed watching their champagne showers from my couch at home. I don’t remember what I did the last time they won their division, but it was 22 years ago, which made me 18. At that age I probably would have celebrated with my own champagne shower….. or sparkling wine shower…… who am I kidding? I probably quietly enjoyed it from my couch at home.

The Blue Jays have been incredible this year. I don’t blog about sports very often (because when I do, my viewer stats bottom out for whatever reason, until I just figure ‘hey…. they don’t like sports blogs’), so I don’t know if I’ve properly explained my passion for the Toronto Blue Jays. Let’s just use the word avid. With all respect to band wagon jumpers around the city (because you’re all welcome), there isn’t anything you can tell me about the Blue Jays since the year 1981 that I don’t already know, and before 1981, I was basically a toddler. I also know my fair share of stuff from before 1981, because I studied my Blue Jay history. My wife would be quick to point out that I haven’t been monetarily compensated for any of this knowledge. I would add the word YET to that sentence.

So I’ve watched a lot of games. I was thinking about my blog the other day, and feeling a bit bad for not posting anything in a while, when I realized that this dream season the Jays are having, and me not blogging isn’t just a coincidence. I’m just having a tough time thinking about other stuff. So maybe to remedy this situation, I should write about some of my life experiences as they relate to the Blue Jays. I’ve got some good stories. I tell them all the time. I’ve just never written them down. So today, I’ve decided that my next 10 blogs will have a Toronto Blue Jays theme to them. I hope their playoff run lasts long enough that they’ll still be playing until I’m finished this project. Otherwise the last few that I write will be no-fun-at-all. Without additional delay………..

Saturday October 24, 1992 – Where were you?

I’ll tell you where I was….. Working at White Rose. It was a nursery. I had a part-time job loading garden soil into the backs of people’s cars. That’s what I remember about it anyways. We did all manner of dirty jobs at that place. Sounds crappy, but it wasn’t somehow. We were too young to care how unsafe our working conditions were. There were a bunch of people our age working there, and it was great fun. Two nights earlier, the Toronto Blue Jays had a chance to win their first World Series at their home stadium, then called ‘The Skydome’, and I still call it that because that’s the name it was given (don’t get me started on corporate naming rights). My parents were at that game too. I had written a good paragraph about their adventure that night in the following post https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2013/10/14/the-night-my-father-died/ That’s kind of a sad post, so scroll down to paragraph 12 if you’re not in the mood for a good cry. For those that didn’t click the link, the Jays lost on Thursday, and Game 6 would be played in Atlanta with the Jays up 3-2 in the series.

So this particular Saturday night might just be the first time in my life that a major Toronto sports team (apologies to the CFL Argonauts who I love dearly, but not the same way) could win a championship. The Blue Jays for those who don’t know were an expansion team new to Major League Baseball in 1977, so by 1992, we were ready. I wasn’t quite ready, I was stuck at White Rose until 6pm. I had found out that since the game was being held in Atlanta, the vacant Skydome was allowing fans to come in and watch the game for free as long as they brought some non-perishable food items for a food drive they were having. I wanted to be there, watching on the big screen with 50,000 screaming fans. With me getting off work only an hour before game time, and living in Mississauga, how was I going to manage this?

I give my friend Chris full credit for making this happen. Neither of us drove. He got his father to give us a lift to the train station. As I recall, the last train that we could catch to get us there was leaving the station at about 6:15 or so, and I know it was probably 12 minutes away. Chris and his dad rolled into the White Rose parking lot with food items to donate at 6 on the dot. I hurled myself into the backseat like it was a getaway car, and off we sped. We arrived at the station and ran up to the platform just as you could see the approaching train’s headlights off in the distance. A couple of minutes later we were on that train, closer to our goal, but not in the clear yet.

Before I continue, I have to explain the importance of this, because as I’m remembering it, I’m tensing up with excitement, but as I’m reading it back to myself, I’m not sure that I’m playing it up enough. At that point in time this was one of the few things that mattered to me in the world! I was 17 years old. One of the only Canadian kids who preferred baseball over hockey. It was my chance to watch my team possibly win a World Series. At 40, I still haven’t seen the Leafs win a Stanley Cup, and we’re not close. I fully understood this moment and how important it was, and how I’d be talking about it 10, 20, 50 years later. I had to get into this stadium, and we were cutting it real close. By getting on that train, we had pissed away our opportunity to just watch it on TV at home. We were downtown now. We weren’t old enough to go watch it at a bar, and what bar wouldn’t be completely rammed to capacity anyways? I’m sure we had no money, just a couple of jars of peanut butter or Kraft Dinner or something. There was no PVR, there was VHS, and while I’m usually happy to start watching a game after it’s happened these days, not the clinching game of the World Series!!! There was no backup plan! How did this story start? It started with ‘Where were you?’ If I didn’t get into the Skydome, I would be NOWHERE.

Chris and I got off the train and booked to the Skydome in hyper-speed. I think we had strategically chosen a gate near the top of the stairs, thinking that it would get us up into the nose-bleed section (the 500s). We maybe figured that those would be the only seats leftover. As we got to that gate there were like 200 people in front of us. The game was going to start in just a few minutes. It wasn’t looking good. There is a huge set of stairs that lead down to some more gates. We thought it prudent to check out the lineups at a couple of the other ones to see if it was more promising, so we started down the stairs. About 10 seconds later someone came on a megaphone and announced that Gates 5 and 6 were now the only gates left that were letting in people………….These were the gates that we were approaching…… the ones at the bottom of the stairs……

This next part plays out in my mind like a movie. I’m quite certain it didn’t happen in slow motion, but when I replay it in my mind, that’s the only way I see it. I can see the lady’s mouth slowly saying the words. You know in the movies, there would be a little bit of slow motion spit coming out of her mouth as she said it, and a really bitchy look on her face as she delivered the disappointing news, but she had probably been putting up with people’s shit for 2 hours and was happy to be shutting her gate down. Then there’s the crowd of people whose faces were looking ahead, have now swiveled towards us with sheer panic, and their stances turn athletic, and Chris and I look at each other like you do in one of those zombie apocalypse movies where there’s only two humans left, and you were doing okay sneaking around, but then someone dropped a candy wrapper on the ground, and 500 zombies suddenly see you at once, and decide they want to eat your brain, so you say to each other “RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Chris and I had about a 30 foot lead on these people as they started running after us at top speed DOWN TWO MASSIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS toward Gate 5 and 6. I honestly can’t remember if I actually feared for my life at the time or not, but the possibility of getting absolutely trampled to death was a real thing. As I was flying down these stairs, if I’d had a loose shoelace, or god forbid, dropped my non-perishable food item on these stairs, it would have been curtains! As it were, we maintained our 30 feet advantage, and got into the Skydome with relative ease strangely enough, but when I tell you that we were the last 2 people who got in, I’m not exaggerating by very much. I do remember the security guards closing the doors not far behind us, and most of the zombies were left wanting. We were in, and it was totally sweet. What was to come was truly one of the highlights of my life.

We were really lucky to even find two seats together. We had a pretty awkward view of the (then, state of the art) Jumbotron, but it didn’t matter. We could see the game, and the atmosphere was electric. I had almost forgotten until now, but that clinching game was 11 innings, so we were there for hours. In between innings someone would always run out onto the field and try to outrun the security guards. Abhorrent behaviour at a real baseball game, but at the viewing of a baseball game on television, I was pretty happy to have the between inning entertainment. Lots of people took rolls of toilet paper from the bathrooms and launched streamers. I cringe for those that had to drop a deuce at the stadium that night. It was bad behaviour all around I suppose, but they were serving beer to a bunch of people who at the end of the day were watching a big TV.

The Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series that night. Chris and I, along with everyone in the 100 level charged out onto the field after the game to celebrate. Security didn’t seem to mind, so they must have been expecting it. It was the first and maybe the only time (other than the following year when the Jays won again) that I’ve seen people so euphoric that they were high fiving and hugging complete strangers. It was like you knew every single person in there, and were happy to see them. Real hugs too. People that I had never met hugged me like I was a long-lost relative they hadn’t seen in years. There we were, partying it up on the same field where our heroes made their living, and where a year later they would be celebrating again (this time on home turf). It was a strange privilege that a few thousand people got to experience just for being in the right place at the right time. The party spilled out onto the streets of Toronto, and while a year later I was in Toronto for that incredible street party, Chris and I decided to head home. The train ride was full of ecstatic Blue Jay fans. I even walked home from the train station even though it was about an hour’s walk. Cars driving down a major street in Mississauga were beeping their horns at me, and we were all screaming together at the top of our lungs well into the night.

It was absolutely one of the greatest thrills of my life, and everybody should get to experience it the way I did. I hope sometime soon they will.


That Time I Was An Actor In a Kick-Ass Movie

Recently I got the opportunity of a lifetime. Have you ever dreamed about being an actor? Then done sweet shit all to make that dream come true? Then still dreamed because that’s what you do, thinking maybe some crazy movie director will just ‘discover’ you, and put you in their film? Yeah, that kind of happened to me, and this is that story…….

OK, I did embellish a bit. The movie director probably wouldn’t appreciate being called ‘crazy’, although he probably wouldn’t mind either. He didn’t really discover me, as we’ve been friends for years, and it’s probably playing it up a bit to suggest I’ve always dreamed of being an actor, but who hasn’t just a bit? It would be cool, right?

There’s a lot of back story stuff in a previous blog which outlines my desire to be a paid entourage member of this particular movie director and his cinematographer (although I don’t think they get as rich). Here is the link to that blog…. https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2013/09/30/ridin-coattails/

Assuming you’re all caught up, the story begins like this…. I’m having drinks with my buddy (Director Trevor Juras who is going to be famous soon, I’m sure of it), and we’re talking about some of his short films (because that’s all he’d done up to that point). I had noticed that he’d used a couple of mutual friends for small roles in one of his shorts, and even though they weren’t actors, they had done a good job with their roles. I was probably beating around the bush a bit, and hinting that I would make myself available for such a gig if after all, he would use the odd amateur actor going forward. He got a bit of a grin on his face like he’d been expecting me to say something like that for a while, and said ‘You wanna do some acting?’ Of course man… who wouldn’t? ‘I’ll definitely keep you in mind’ he said. The way it’s written that kind of sounds like a blow-off, but I believed him, and never brought it up again.

Some time passed, and we were hanging out again. Trevor was getting ready to do his first full length feature film called “The Interior”. He said he had something for me. It was one scene, but had a good chunk of dialogue. The movie was described to me as a Horror Film, but my scene would be in the mix with the early character development stuff, which is actually pretty funny if you ask me. The scene is a lot of fun which contrasts the rest of the film which is significantly darker. The dialogue was written with me in mind, and when I got a chance to read it, I knew none of it was going to be too much of a stretch for me. I knew this character pretty well. So I was very excited.

They went to British Columbia to shoot most of the movie in a forested area of a beautiful (or scary) island. I don’t want to give too much away, but the main character is in self-imposed isolation out in the woods when freakiness ensues. The first 20 minutes of the film, including my part were shot in and around Toronto. My scene was the last to be filmed, so everybody involved was pretty jacked, but also really tired. My character ‘Roland’ basically gives the main character an interview for his ‘rock-bottom’ job. It was a really fun scene to shoot, mainly because everyone thought it was hilarious. I don’t know what it’s like shooting non-comedy scenes, but the mood has to be a little different. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was very focused and professional, but considering what their schedule had been like that weekend which included multiple shoots in several locations around the city, I thought they were in great spirits when we were working.

I was a little nervous at first. It was my first and only time acting in front of a camera. I’d met a few of the people before. The cinematographer Othello Ubalde is a great friend of mine, and I’ve met his team members before. The director is obviously my buddy, and one of the other actors they used in that scene is another one of Trevor’s friends who I’ve met several times. It was just the star of the film Patrick McFadden, and producer Peter Kuplowsky who I was meeting for the first time. I knew my lines pretty well, but they were far from totally memorized. Things had been hectic at work leading up to the shoot, and on my day off that I was going to devote to rehearsing, I ended up in the hospital with my mom who was having some health issues at the time. I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be, but because my character was giving a job interview, it made sense that there would be a sheet to read questions off of. That sheet saved me. I had way more on that sheet than those questions. Patrick and I rehearsed a few times while they were setting up the shot, and to be honest, it made me feel a lot more confident to do those dress rehearsals a few times, and by the first take I felt like I was giving them good stuff right away. The most notable thing about acting in a movie scene that you wouldn’t otherwise know, is just how many people are in the room with you. My scene seems to be in an office with 3 people. There were 5 other people in that room, with lights and cameras and giant microphones. I didn’t consider how difficult it would be to pretend they weren’t there, even though they were set up about 2 feet away from Patrick who I was supposed to be making eye contact with. It takes a lot of focus. That was the #1 thing I learned that day. Can you imagine what a big budget Hollywood set must be like?

After the shooting comes the editing, and a thousand other processes that I was fortunate to not be a part of. Poor Trevor probably got a text from me at least twice a week asking when it will be done, and when can I see it, and all that impatient childish nonsense. I can’t lie to you people. I’ve been excited about this all year. This is a feature-length film, and I acted in it. This is a definitive stroke off the bucket list. Everything else is gravy. I’m very excited for my friends who poured their blood, sweat and tears into this project. That alone would make me excited, but I can’t overstate enough, how stoked I am that I’m acting in it. That is fun shit people! FUN SHIT!! So where do we go from here?

Festival Time! So with Trevor’s first short film garnering some attention, and getting into a few Film Festivals, we’re obviously hoping for the same thing for ‘The Interior’, and we are in luck! ‘The Interior’ premiered at The Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal on July 27th of this year. At that point, I hadn’t even seen the movie. Montreal is too close to Toronto to pass that up, so my wife and son took a little trip with me out to Montreal, which ironically we were thinking of doing anyways for my wife’s birthday. Her birthday was the week before, so we slid the trip over to make sure we were there for the premiere. This trip no longer was happening on my wife’s birthday, and I just want to officially nominate her for wife-of-the-year award in front of the blogging world, for allowing me to make her birthday about me somehow.

Going to the premiere was so much fun. Trevor, Peter, Othello, and Patrick were there, as well as Jake who acted in some of the B.C. stuff. We showed up at the movie theatre, and there was reserved seating for the cast and crew. Like the amateur that I am, I secretly was getting a kick out of that while trying to look like I wasn’t getting a kick out of that. I didn’t even have to pay for my seat. It was getting better all the time. On an interesting side-note, Kevin Bacon was to be at this festival the following night for his movie ‘Cop Car’ which they were taking around. So if I’m ever playing the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, I’m going with this story.

Watching the movie was the best part of all. I’d intentionally not watched it up to that point. Not that I had access to it, but I’d seen a few clips at Trevor’s place at an early editing phase, and probably could have begged to see more. I thought it would be fun to watch it on the big screen with fresh eyes, and while I knew the story a bit, I had no idea how it ended. My part came up pretty early, and by the time I saw myself onscreen, I had almost forgotten that I was in the movie. I think that’s a great testament to how much I enjoyed the film. I was really into it, and then boom, there I was on the screen. My part was over not long after it had started, and I was able to focus and enjoy the rest of the film.

After the film we all went up on stage for a short Q&A session, and then headed off to a pub that was sponsoring the event, so even though it was a Monday night in Montreal, this place was busy until 3 am. It was fun to see the guys from the film get their props from the various people that had attended. I was even approached by a couple of strangers to be congratulated, the most notable of which happened out on the street when I was alone, and stumbling back to my hotel room. Wow, I got recognized on the street as an actor for probably the only time in my life. Even though that person had obviously been at the screening…… don’t ruin it for me, it happened. Never can I recall 6 hours of work translating into so much for me. It was too much fun.

Man, the film’s good. I’m so proud of my guys. The movie is visually stunning. Particularly the stuff they did in the forest. It’s both the most beautiful place you’ve seen, and somehow the most terrifying all at the same time. There’s nothing conventional about the story or how it plays out, which is refreshing to me. It’s pretty dark, but doesn’t have the cheesy horror clichés, and keeps just enough of its sense of humour along the way. It treats the viewer as an intelligent being, and doesn’t tell you what to think or feel. There’s no Hollywood gift wrapping at the end either.

I hope you’ll seek out ‘The Interior’, and try to watch it at some point. It will be difficult to do that in the short-term, unless it comes to a movie festival in your town. It’s set to play the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival on October 3rd, and there are whispers of potentially additional festivals coming up as well, although that’s all that’s official at the time I’m writing this. That said, at some point it will become available to the general public, and when it does, please check it out.

For more info and social media handles, visit http://www.theinteriorfilm.com

Oh, and here’s a link to the trailer. I made it in somehow. I’m the guy that looks like he’s saying something very emphatically.