Baseball Stadium trip Game 5- Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs

 It was an afternoon game so we didn’t really have to get there at noon, but we did. We had to walk around, had to take it in for as long as we could. This stadium had had so many great players on its field. They likely walked were we did at some point. We were a part of the history now, we had placed foot to concrete. We took a couple rounds the park walks to take it all in. the smells of grilled onions and brats, the hawkers selling peanuts, the random pre-game announcements. I broke away and called my dad as I was walking around. It was pretty emotional; we had tossed around a ball for years, now I was in one of the places it had all started! It’s a favorite moment to think back on, there were lots of pauses, we both likely teared up a bit. I composed myself enough to get a brat, eat it in the right field bleachers with a beer. That’s all I needed.

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We were front row bleachers that day and as we found out, you really want to be about three people in on the front rows. They have a security guys stand at certain markings so if you are first seat, first row, you have zero view. We found out just in time to get people to move over a bit but the security guy was indeed a dick about it. He wasn’t there to discuss this, you need to move over, my position is here. We felt he could lean on the other rail instead of directly in front of us, is all. A call out to the bleachers we found a bit of room, shove down, a bit more, ok! We caught a glimpse of Sammy Sosa who was on a hitting streak but was on the DL today. Toenail thing, a foul off the foot. It was yet another good day for baseball in Chicago.

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When leaving we got a Right Field Bleachers shirts and discovered we had been parked  in. We literally had to wait for someone to leave and even then, it was expert back and forth with some good fellows directing us outside. Surrounded by cars on all sides.

You guys are in the Cubs lot, they stay the whole game and then some! Yup most people may leave their cars overnight, too, yeah. Ha-ha’ he cackled.

We had to thank him profusely as he spent 5 min helping us get out. Back up an inch at a time, a few inches forward, then back… But on the other hand, he wasn’t doing much, that beer in his hand wasn’t going to drink itself, you know. He’s the man for that job.

We arrived in Oklahoma City about 7-8 am the next morning. We pulled into a truck stop for gas and encountered some ladies of the night, they were working the scene. They said hello first and asked where we were coming from, sort of gas filling up small talk that happens in smaller towns. Then one of them came out with it and asked if we are partying, if we want to party with them. Nah, pass on that. I don’t think they were too either way, pretty or ugly. It cannot say I’ve encountered prostitutes who propositioned me in a gas station before or since.

A short time later I was back in Denton’s warm embrace.

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Baseball Stadium trip Homestretch- no game Canada to Chicago

Again we were stopped and searched at the US border; again we left our ticket stubs out so they’d see a pattern to our trip. I knew they felt we had grass, why else do you drive up from Texas? Oh to see the Blue Jays? Yeah we are going to need a moment to search your car. They too enjoyed our road signs. We were telling the truth, and it sucks to not be trusted at the border by your own country. I’d heard about a border crossing into Canada that just has a phone, you call someone and tell them you are coming in or leaving? There could be a lot more trust between us is all.

We had one more day to kill before our Cubs game. We made it back to Chicago and stayed on the outskirts of town, a few exits from Wrigley. Our plan was to check out the area around the stadium. We found a dive bar and headed in. It was a long wooden bar, jukebox on the left, a small stage followed. Stationed ever present to one side of the stage was the DJ and dictionary thick song list.

I generally sing Johnny Cash songs since its pretty much just talking low, not really singing. I picked wrong, wrote down the wrong number but for sure they played a song I wasn’t prepared for, Convoy! Ha I barely know that tune, for sure didn’t know there was a movie about it, CB radios. I stumbled through it, aided by pints Old Style for $1.

 

We eventually made it to Wrigley Field later that night. The area we were in was park and walk. We walked out on the street, staring at the glowing neon red sign: Welcome to Wrigley Field! We took pics and then located another bar to post up in for a bit. We wound up encountering an unencumbered camera. This was an early model digital camera, probably a hundred bucks or so. We talked to everyone in the bar, even the bartenders, no one knew whose camera it was. We tried to look at the pics but the camera had run out of batteries. The bartender said it was ours, they didn’t want to hold on to it.

In our hunt to find the owner, we get to talking to a business guy who was interested in  the camera. He said he’d just buy it if we did not want it. I think we found and sold a camera in Chicago and used that money to buy a pitcher of beer. That’s what happened.

Baseball Stadium trip Games 3 & 4- Detroit Tigers Stadium Toronto Blue Jays Stadium

The next day we arrived for an early Detroit Tigers game, we sat upper deck, left field. The field was far, but it was a good time. We sat near some real funny guys, local dudes. Everyone had two seats essentially as they put their feet on the armrests of the chairs below them.

 

One even shouted to the pitcher, ‘Your mutha wears combat boots! Ha!

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Of all the things to remember, that is what stuck with me. I guess it was the extreme distance in which this guy tried to razz the pitcher with a very unfunny insult to boot. I am pretty sure the Tigers won. I think all the home teams won, except Toronto, sorry. The stadium was large and open, but otherwise not too remarkable, it was new so it didn’t have that lived in feel a stadium needs. Fairly generic stadium I’d say.

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The night before, my friend had figured out that it was only a very short finger-thumb distance between Detroit and Toronto. Canada, eh, let’s make this one an international trip why not? This Tigers game was early, noonish, so we watched the game until it was in the bag by the 8th inning. Hopped in the car and headed to the border, Canada. It was a four hour drive and a 7pm game time. Barely enough time to drive nonstop and we had a boarder to cross, too.

They usually require a passport to enter Canada so I guess we got a day pass. I’ve since realized our excursion was pretty bold idea, they could’ve turned us away. We would have probably partied in Detroit then. How far was Cooperstown?! All we knew was we had to be back by Wednesday. Cubs were the only game we bought tickets for in advance, so we would be guaranteed to sit in the bleachers. We heard the bleachers sold out early and didn’t want to take any chances. Our eyes were on Wrigley!

We were randomly stopped the border for a car inspection. We sat in a waiting room and gave them our driver’s licenses. We didn’t have birth certificates or any other official docs they asked for. It sure didn’t help when we said the nature of our trip to Canada was to see a Toronto Blue Jays game. Baseball game, really? No one goes to Canada to see a baseball game. You come up to see hockey! They went away and few moments came back smiling.

‘Nice road signs yeah! One of the agents said has he handed over our licenses.

MFound the stadium and again arrived right on time. At the ticket booth we asked for cheapest tickets and they offered,

Hey do you guys want to be in the action? We have seats in the action.’ the ticket guy excitedly told us!

 

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It sounded like a scripted term by the Jays. Of course we wanted in the action seats! It was under $10 Canadian dollars for the right field bleachers, above one of the bullpens, too. This would come into play later during the game. We nearly were kicked out after the 4th inning I’d say. A security guy came out and reminded us to be nice, you know you are doing wrong. Our friend Matt is hilarious and had been perfectly imitating a local drunk who was in dire need of a belt or better fitting pants. Plummer’s crack does not go far enough; his pants were nearly down, mooning every one.

Matt gives it back to the security guy, Hey look there, he did it first! Tell him to pull up his pants, too!

So amazing and we stayed for most of the game after a brief talking to with the guard and promise we wouldn’t cause another scene.

Opening ceremony began with a rendition of “Oh Canada,” which we decided not to remove our hats, it wasn’t our anthem. The 7th inning stretch was an occasion for break dancing on top of the dugouts. Mascots and a pro dance team spun all over the place. This occurred in 2003, fully 20+ years after breakdancing swept the US. It was insanely fun! There was also a kid seated in front of us for a bit who would yell out about every 5 minutes, ‘let’s go you Blue Jays!’

We retreated to a nearby Hooters for beer and wings after the game. I don t think this place was too busy, it wasn’t a big party night in Toronto, likely a Sunday night. It took a long time to get a waitress over and then a long time to get food, drinks. We were one or less than five tables in the whole joint. My friend calls out our waitress as she delivers our bill and says, I know I’m not from this country but this service is horrible. You’ve been ignoring us all night, hanging with your friends over there (motions to a table she pretty much sat at the whole time).I hoped you’d want to show us a good time as we are visitors. It was easily one of the most awkward, uncomfortable moments in my young years. 

We didn’t leave a tip and got out of town quick, had to put some miles between us and Toronto. Found a small hotel outside of Toronto and stayed the night. We’d cross the border in the morning in a better mood.

Baseball Stadium trip Game 2- Chicago White Sox Stadium

Chicago White Sox were the closest option and had an afternoon game the next day. It was a short drive and at some point along the way we decided to make signs. Of course being in our early 20’s, they were all crude and crass. Phrases such as: show us your boobs, honk if you’re horny, and just Honk! It was the person riding shotgun or backseat’s job to display these signs upon determining the attractiveness of the person we were passing. Usually the 18 wheelers automatically got the ‘honk if you’re horny,’ option. Not too many female long haul drivers out there, much less any whose boobs you’d want to see. The reaction was mostly positive from the 18 wheelers drivers as they were likely just as bored as we were. Some just smirked and did not pull their horn. Those are truly lame people. No one flashed their boobs, but it was worth a try.

Upon entering Chicago, we made a point to drive around Solider Field where da Bears played. It is a cool area, one way streets so I am sure we did a loop or two to ensure everyone got a view. It was that or we were lost, we were using dang paper maps that were updated during the Reagan administration! We arrived to the stadium and I finally understood why they always said South Side. This wasn’t a totally safe area at night I’d bet but it was ok during the game. So far it’s the only place I’ve seen playgrounds covered in a dome of chain link, not sure if that is to keep kids in or bad guys out but it is there.

The fans were noticeably different, too, and not in a good way. Openly hostile to anything Cubs, perhaps even the color blue. There were always vendors in the parking lot, but these souvenirs were homemade and proudly proclaimed,

‘it’s always bear hunting season; kill the Cubs; death to Cubs,’that sort of sentiment.

I for sure would not wear anything Cubs near this stadium. I got the impression that they would physically remove any Cubs article of clothing forcibly; they’d just rip ‘em off. I am all for a bit of rivalry, but not violence. Just because you are a fan of a team does not make you my enemy. In fact, fans have very little to do with the game, you just show up and watch, cheer. People are way too serious, it is a game.

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The stadium is open and has grass field. It was a hot, afternoon game so I procured a hat, nothing special. We sat in the outfield bleachers. We always tried to get down to the bleachers, but some places had better security than others. The Sox played Detroit and I am fairly sure this was a walk off homer or a grand slam, a rare event game ender is for sure. At some point we decided during the game to head over to Detroit Rock City after the game. It must have been when we saw who was playing, ‘Detroit is close right?’

I remarked once we were passing through Gary, IN that it was the home of the Jackson 5, the only thing I knew about the city. First time in Indiana, too. We located our hotel and hunkered down for a night in Detroit.

 

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Baseball Stadium trip Game 1- Brewers Stadium

My friend and I talked a lot about baseball, especially Wrigley Field where the Cubs played in Chicago. When we were growing up, WGN TV station seemed to be included on every cable package in the US. I caught Cubs games in TX, CA and KS over the years. The oldest stadium in the league, countless hall of fame players walked the grass, the crawling ivy in the outfield, all iconic. I was living in TX at the time, and was freshly off my first layoff. I had time and a little bit of money for a road trip. We had only planned on going to Wrigley Field so that is all we had bought tickets for. It was three of us: Jeremy, Matt and me hitting the baseball stadium road.

We were at my house in Denton, TX talking, having a bev with a friend on a nearby computer. We were planning on leaving in the morning, hanging in Chicago a few days, or maybe we could stay in KC or St Louis along the way.

Suddenly my friend said, ‘Milwaukee plays tomorrow night at 7, I bet if we left now, we could make that game.

It was the day before, maybe 10 at night. We all looked at each other, why not? We quickly packed and hopped in my friend’s car and we were heading to Milwaukee!

We all took turns driving but my friend Jeremy drove most of the night. I took over in the morning but I was soon deemed to be a slow driver and relived after a couple hours. Slow in this case meant I only drove 70s, or the speed limit. My travel partners all set the cruise about 80-90+ and we flew down the highways, passing cars. We never get a ticket on this trip and I had hell of a time in the back, sometimes riding shotgun. I also became navigator, checking maps and telling them which highways to take.

We arrived in Milwaukee perfectly to enter the stadium just before game time. It was dusk as we walked to the stadium, the sun was on the horizon, would have been a great outdoor game but this was a dome stadium. We found the ticket counter and spoke our first manta,

‘3 of the cheapest tickets you have please, we asked.

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I feel that most games on this trip were in the $10 range, very reasonable. We also learned on this trip that you don’t really have to sit in your seat, games are rarely sold out. So long as you get into the stadium and act like you belong, just look for a fairly empty section or row and post up. You will likely not be disturbed and if you are, feign out of town ignorance!

This was my first encounter with an electronic ticketing system where tickets are scanned as you entered and waited for that most important BEEP that meant you were legal. I really liked this stadium; it was new and modern. It was the first stadium with a retractable roof I’d been in but they did not open it so I am still unsure how that works and how long it takes. Is there a set time they have to make the open or closed decision? I felt it should be open during the summer, but it wasn’t for our game.

In left field, their mascot had a den like area with a slide that he would shoot down whilst fireworks exploded around him whenever the Brewers scored. That was really cool to see. Part of the fun on a stadium trip is to see what sorts of stunts the mascots pull during the game to keep the crowd pumped.

This was better than most we would see but not the best entertainment. We found a hotel near the stadium and set about our second trait of the trip: find another stadium, game! The internet was really just starting, so we were able to use that to determine game times. We had to use maps for driving directions however. Somewhere on this leg we encounter passing a car: road head, a woman was blowing some guy while he drove. We had to speed up to get a quick peek, just to confirm it happened, that we bore witness. So funny, we had to slow down we were laughing so hard.

Our lodging was based solely on a Motel 6 catalog we picked somewhere in OK or MO.

Brazilian Adventure Day 8 long walk on the beach, white pony, farewell Rio

Once again breakfast of fruits and granola yogurt this morning. A rare favorite, it is hard well I don’t buy as much yogurt granola fruit as I should. That was my morning meal. We had a late afternoon flight plenty of time to explore. I vowed to walk the entire length of Ipanema Beach, from rocks to rock, I would walk. My friends wished me well but they needed time to pack. I told them I would meet them at the apartment by a certain time to get to the airport. It was earlier than I wanted but I wasn’t one to argue. I had music to bide my time on the walk.

I did indeed turn on some music and walk down to the rocks on the far side of the beach. Off came my shoes and socks. I walked barefoot sometimes in the water sometimes on the sand. I made it the entire way from rock to rock only stopping once.

“Hey my friend, stop, una momento. Please, your hand senor.’ Said a suave man with a well manicured beard.

He took my hand and proceeded to tap out about a dime size bit of cocaine onto the meat between my thumb and forefinger. Whoa what is this! No way. No senor take it back! He signed and scooped it back up.

‘Hey I thought you wanted some.’ He said. ‘All tourist want powder.’

‘No not for me, no coke. Never,” I said.

I waved and kept walking down the beach, holding socks inside my shoes, my feet in the water. Soon enough no matter how slow I walked, I had to meet my friends and his family back at the beachfront apartment. It was a great time, we chatted a long while as I gathered the few items not all ready in my backpack. My friends brother told me he worked for the mint, so we arranged a trade. I gave him all the reals and US dollars I had in exchange for un-circulated reals with extra bright animals. I could give these away as souvenirs. Like little pieces of art.  

The whole family piled into 2 cars and headed towards the airport. It was a night departure, after 7pm. But this would put us into Dallas by 10am so as long as we could fall asleep we could wake up relatively unaffected by the timezone differences. They let non flyers well into the baggage loading area. I am pretty sure once we got stamped and approved to pass on we were allowed to go back to the family for farewells, within sight of the ever-present Brazilian military. To our surprise the friend we hung out with and got his watch fixed had driven to the airport to return a hat left in his car, also mainly to see his friends off to the US. It was quite a touching moment to see 2 long time friends hug. They went years between visits. 

This flight I was prepared. I had a blanket, my air turned on, ambient music playing and a new friend called melatonin. I read up on this sleep aid and had brought several pills from the US. I swallowed 2 and was out like a rock for most of the flight in less than an hour. I totally elbowed the lady next to me to use the restroom midflight. Lesson learned, when you’ve got to go, go!

Brazil, land of many dreams from my childhood. The name Rio de Janerio conjured up so many feeling. Yes I had done it! I checked off a childhood dream trip! Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian Adventure Day 7 Trip to faraway beach, caju fruit, stroll in outdoor mall, churrasqueria

My friend me woke me up with a plan. Put on your swim trunks and we will swim today and catch some sun! I was all in. Who wouldn’t want to swim in a promised cool beach in Brazil?! We drove probably an hour an a half south of the city. Everything just suddenly ended! The sprawl of building and concrete gave way to sand.

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I decided to let my friends swim first, I would go after they were done. My friend was so nice to let me come down, meet his family and stay at his house. I wanted him to have a lot of fun with his lady. I was the 3rd wheel so the more alone time they had, the more they would think of this as their trip.

I put headphones in and played Brazilian radio mix on my phone. I had about an hour of chilling alone time on a Brazilian beach, watching fine ladies swim and dude bobing and surfing in the water. Rough waves though. By the time I got in it was a no go. Just huge waves crashed down on me. It was really a game of do not drown in the part of the ocean.

Soon enough we all wound up on our towels, drying off and taking in the sun for about an hour. We hopped into the compact and away we headed towards a new part of town. We met his parents at a roadside bar. They brought cashew fruit! I couldn’t believe it and figured my friend had a hand in their fruit decision. There it was, a red fruit attached to a much larger cashew nut. My friend’s dad explained that you couldn’t eat this cashew nut yet. I paused chewing on the fruit but he said that part was totally safe. The cashew nut we eat is this seed roasted. You have to dry out and evaporate whatever is in the cashew nut that is bad for humans if eaten raw. In the span of 1 day I drank caju fruit juice and ate caju or cashew fruit.

We were heading towards my friends family apartment near a trendy part of town. I was in shock. They had so many houses and places to stay, why we could have easily stayed in a different part of town every night. Amazing. We decided to just park our car and walk the outdoor mall. We had about an hour or 2 before we met our friend for a night of meats.

The outdoor mall was great and pretty much like an American mall. Jewelry stores, a useless bong/weed trinket store, shoe stores, panda express, that sort of things were here in this mall, minus the ceiling. It was outside, very cool!

A hasty change in the apartment restrooms and I was ready for a night out! The plan was to drive over to true Brazilian steakhouse, a churrasqueria. Our friend was all smiles as we walked up. The place was named El Toro and it was full bull. I mean this was truly a house of meats! I’ve never eaten so much meat nor so much quality meats as at this place.

Pork steak chicken bacon organs all were served on long skewers and you had to wave them off to stop serving you. Hell even when I tried to wave them off they still shaved off some meat onto my plate. I think they really didn’t want me to have an empty plate. The salad bar was a vegetarians dream, the sides could have worked too if you didn’t care about butter. The mashed potatoes were yellow with butter and wonderful. A huge yet delicious and distinctly Brazilian dinner experience. It cost maybe 20$ and my plate was never empty, my glass never dry.

Next to the meat heaven was a skate park. I just walked over there and started watching. I had to see sk8rs. They are good in Rio, great tricks. My friends indicated they wanted to go to another bar a few miles away. We headed out and ran into parking issues again. Once we found spot we lasted 1 beer before the new friend that joined us got tired. I was ok with this, my belly full of meats.

To my surprise yet delight my friends said they wanted to grab a beach bev. We found a table at a bar on Ipanema Beach. On 1 side of the bar a guy was chopping coconuts by the order. My friends got one and this guy took a round or football shaped coconut down to just white rind and a straw hole in about a minute. Fast chops took off the rough husks, then a well placed strike for the straw hole. I bought a beer because I had the national beverage of Brazil already so I had to drink local brews.

To our left in the distance were the favelas, all lit up on the side of a mountain. Dots of fires lit the dark skies. The poorest of the poor had likely the best views of Rio, especially at night. These shanty towns were a huge squatters areas the whole side of a mountain to one side of Rio. Each neighborhood was owned by a local leader who made all the deals. Watch City of God to get an idea of what Rio favelas were really like. To my horror there were favela tours one could take. You could tour where people lived in abject deliberate poverty. Rio, Brazil could totally pay for and fix these areas. They could plug them into the existing city services, but they choose not to. No reals, no pipes.

I looked up to the favelas for a long while pondering what made us different, those up there and those down on the beach. What did it all mean? If you don’t have money are you are out of luck? Why can’t we find jobs and houses for everyone? If you live in a neighborhood, why not pay people to keep that part of their town trash free? The city could pay by the pound of trash turned in each day.

Heavy thoughts on our final night in Rio. Behind us were kids and adults playing soccer after midnight. Waves crashing, moon beaming, scaffolding going up. The next weekend was a huge beach concert. Over 1 million people were due to be on the beach for new years. Intense, i thought there were all ready too many on the beach and it was November, non tourist time!

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On the way to the faraway beach we stopped near the favelas to take some pics of the far side of the beach.
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Pretty much the ending shot in Fletch were he walks the beach with his new lady.