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.

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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. Found 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.

European Vacation II Day 10 Amsterdam

We awoke and I was sad to realize I had a great morning routine: free breakfast sammich, juice, nice walk to kaffee shop for a spliff and kaffee. I could do that every morning for a long time yup. We again walked all over the eastern half of the city. We walked right by a Hard Rock Café, so I had to pop in and get a pin for my brother’s collection.

Our Go Amsterdam pass included any form of transportation so why not just take a water taxi? We explained to the driver we just wanted to ride around and to be dropped off at the same place he picked us up. He smiled and told us no problem. One of the coolest things you can do in Amsterdam too! Just passing under the many bridges is so fun, there isn’t a better way to see this wonderful city than by her canals. We waved to our captain as we hopped out right back to the HRC.

We walked around a park and decided to go out for a nice, sit down dinner with beverages in Rembrandt’s Square. We found a long table next to a couple and sat down. We made some small talk about the weather and what things we did for work. This couple was in the middle of a month long vacation in the city. They stayed in a different place in each part of the city so they could see everything without having to walk or tram too far. He revealed he was a lumber CEO in Canada. We asked all about how it worked and he said everyone in the lumber mill voted to be closed for a month so he agreed. Paid everyone for a month long vacation, wow!

I noticed the man pulled out a joint. We continued to talk about work life balance, cool things to do in each of our home cities as well as Amsterdam. Beer after beer, passing around joints all evening. It was a wonderful night and great cap to our stay in Amsterdam.

European Vacation II Day 8 Berlin to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Our flight left at 7 am so we were up by 5. A short cab ride took us to a surprisingly small airport. We navigated the maze like areas of security. I noticed they had an orange and strawberry juice option at a coffee shop and it was the best thing I’ve drank on this trip. They had a machine out front and there was guy chucking oranges and strawberries into it, which filled plastic bottles with their juices. I savored this beverage as long as I could during the flight.

We took brief naps during the hour flight. Groggy we boarded the train and I forgot which stop to get out at. All I remembered was Centraal but there are several. I picked the one in the next town south so we had to get out and buy another ticket back. It was about an hour detour but we saw a lot more of the Netherlands.

When we did arrive to Centraal Amsterdam, I recognized it and knew where to go. We still had over two hours before checking so I suggested we pop into a coffee shop. I figured they would partake as it was legal but only I went in while they waited. I had to consume on the premise he said, even though I bought two spliffs. I drank a tea and smoked half of one whilst Marley played on the speakers. On my way out I got directions for a public wash.

We took in the sites as we walked down the street and over canals. I am still amazed we found it, we had to make several turns. We put all of our dirty clothes, basically everything we weren’t wearing to create a load and then had to wait while it went through its cycles. This time they did join me in a coffee shop as it was closest, best option, Plus we could still see our clothes. I seem to recall it rained on us while we washed so it was the best thing we could do at that moment.

I watched as tables of guys methodically created spliffs that they called ‘an Amsterdam in other countries. They took a cigarette and slowly rolled it under their fingers until all the tobacco was on the table. They took hash or grass and mixed it in with the tobacco. They used the empty cigarette and moved the mixture inside, and twisted the tip. Some tore the filter off, some left it on but that is how I saw it done this day,

I told my friends we should get a Go Amsterdam pass after laundry. This card gave you discounts on meals and shopping, plus you can get tram passes for as many days as you want. They gave away city maps here too, always good to have. It is right by the main train station so it’s easy to find and should be the first stop in the city, before a coffee shop anyway.

We followed the Amstel River south and found our hotel right in view of it, perfect spot! I took a shower and while everyone else was cleaning up, I hunted for the closest coffee shop. I had solid directions or so I thought and wound up getting lost. So lost I remembered where I was and stopped into the hotel Thom and I stayed at the last time. No one saw me as I walked straight to the restroom. Back again, out of site. I found the hotel’s WIFI. Since I had been there before I was able to log in as a guest. I soon located another place to get spliffs. Look for the Green Cross, there you’ll find what you seek.  I then walked through the park next to the hotel and reminisced about the great experience I had there a couple of years previously.

I got back to the hotel and we talked about what we wanted to do that evening. The Red Light district was the winner so we tramed up. We walked through the streets, down narrow alleys where girls knocked on their glass doors to their 1 bed room to get your attention. Women of all shapes, sizes, races, quite literally any woman that may interest a man is an option for the right price. I’d heard that the experience wasn’t worth it or I should say the ladies tried to make it more difficult. The story I have heard is that they place an egg timer on a desk so the whole time you hear this tick tick. Clothes stay on but do come off if the price is right. It seemed like quite an ordeal to try, plus there is a strange vibe I picked up every time we were in the area.

We found a smoky bar who didn’t mind if I smoked a spliff too. A few beers, half a spliff and lots of people watching. The bar turned on a baseball game, west coast too, so the time difference meant we could see a live baseball game in the middle of night. Baseball in Amsterdam, most excellent!

A long walk back to our hotel just following the river was the end of our night. The District closed around midnight. I am still not sure why the tram couldn’t run this late, too seeing as how there were lots of tourists who could’ve used the help getting back to their part of town. Its about the only thing they didn’t do perfectly here it seemed.