Never. Again.

If you ever hear me say “Never. Again,” or write it somewhere, here is the story behind it.

My husband and I frequent this place for brunch, where they sport unlimited brunch cocktails.  About a year ago, there was a flamboyantly funny Russian waiter named Vladimir.  He used to see us during the week and would say, “Come this weekend, I get you drunk.”  Meanwhile, he must have said this to others who would clamor for his section to get their moneys worth of unlimited cocktails.

One weekend, Vlad had to sub for someone as a host.  It was a crazy busy Sunday, so we were surprised to see him up front.  Something told me he didn’t take well to hosting, since customers get all bitchy while waiting (there is also not a big waiting area for this joint either).  When we said good bye to him as we left that day, he made it a point to say in a dramatic fashion, “NEVER.  AGAIN.  Will I fill in for someone.”

Now, when Ed or I say, “Never. Again,” it’s said in a flamboyant Russian faux accent.  Our little nod to Vladimir.

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When I saw the Mets were playing at Rogers Centre this season during interleague, I really wanted to go.  I heard so many nice things about Toronto, and I’d never been to Canada.

Mostly, I just remember what I saw on TV of what was once known as the SkyDome.  I remember watching the 1993 World Series, and the crowd going berserk after Joe Carter’s home run.  I remember seeing the hotel in the outfield and thought it was so cool.  People have told me Toronto is a nice place to visit, and I’d never been.

Since the Mets haven’t been there since 2006, I figured I didn’t want to potentially wait another six years for them to return.

Up to about a week or so before my trip, the only thing I had booked concretely was my flight to Buffalo.  I figured it would be easier to take my brand-loyal JetBlue flight to Buffalo, then figure out a way to cross the border.  I’d had a passport already, so that part was taken care of.  But a few weeks earlier, I had been at the Hofstra conference (which I still owe you all a recap, but this thing called the NHL playoffs has been very distracting in my life).  My friend “Metphistopheles” Ray Stilwell said that if nothing else came up, that we could take a ride together.  Unfortunately some things came up, so I had to find another way to the border.  Megabus to the rescue (or so I thought).

Here comes Friday, and I spend the night at the airport hotel.  The hotel had a shuttle and I asked the driver if he would still be on duty at around 4:30 am.  He said yes, and that he actually had someone else leaving then.

EVERYONE I asked said the same thing — Megabus is at that location.  There was no other place it would be.

Till it was 5:30 and it didn’t show up.  I kept looking at my schedule, making sure I didn’t mess it up.  Nope.  Buffalo Airport, clear as day.  Having been a fan of buses like Bolt or Mega, I understand that they sometimes piggy back different stops.  Didn’t make much sense to piggy back the bus terminal (about 15 minutes or so away) then the airport, which was out of the way.  No.  It just didn’t show up to my stop.

Before I decided to commit hari kari at the steps of the Buffalo Airport, I decided to vent on Facebook about it.  Here I am, stuck in Buffalo, with a bear, some Crumbs cupcakes for the friends who had already made it across the border, a passport and a ticket to the game in Toronto that afternoon.  The next bus doesn’t leave the airport till around 3 pm.  Two hours after the game.  Not gonna happen.  The next bus scheduled to leave at 8:15 was from the downtown area.  With no one at the switchboard of Megabus, I had no idea if I could even get on it.  Or in any case what the hell happened that they forgot about my stop anyway.

In that time, Metphistopheles said, “Don’t panic, we’ll figure it out.  In the meantime, let’s get some pancakes.”

 

Sometimes, pancakes solve everything.  But not everything: I still needed to get to the border. What sucked is that I had about 2 hours of sleep.  I’m sure it’s elementary getting across the border (and it was no big deal), but since I was functioning on that little sleep, the last thing I wanted to do was rent a car in that situation.  Worry about parking, getting back that night, etc.

I should have just sucked it up and flown Air Canada or whatever to Toronto.  Lesson learned.

So after pancakes, Ray drove me to the downtown terminal…just as the bus was pulling out about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

So if they’re not showing up to their stops, they’re leaving 15 fucking minutes early.  Got it.

Ray offered once again to take me across the border.  I had confidence I could get back.  After all, the bus depot in Toronto was a *real* one, and not one at an airport terminal.  If I needed rest, I could sleep then.  We got in his car and made it across the border to Canada in a few minutes.

 

Not bad for two folks who met only twice before, and under weird circumstances.

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Turned out, we had a lot in common for people who admire each others thoughts on the Mets, but have only met in person twice.  For instance, Dana Brand brought us together the two times we met: at his life celebration last year and at Hofstra Conference a few weeks ago.  We were both English lit majors a hundred years ago. We’re born storytellers.  Perhaps, unlike Dana whom I actually had the privilege of knowing, I’ll remember to ask Metphistopheles what his favorite book is…but for now, we’ll stick to the game plan.  And that was to get me to Toronto to meet my friends who were already there, and get me to the SkyDome.

I told him the story of Vladimir, in relation to the story about Megabus.  Megabus, from New York City, is pretty reliable and I’ve never had a problem.  For some reason, the trip to Buffalo, the trip FROM Buffalo to Toronto and ultimately back just seemed doomed, especially since my own husband didn’t even want to bother with the trip.  What I do to quench my wanderlust thirst for baseball stadiums.  I suppose in life there are lessons, the lesson here is that anything that early with Megabus…don’t do it.  Unless you are in a large metropolis.

Before I knew it, we were there.  I was only about two hours behind.  Even my friends who were there overnight, who made the trek to the Hockey Hall of Fame, got a late start.  So it was like nothing had really happened, just that I might have gotten a late start myself.

 

I felt mostly bad for Ray, who was very insistent that this type of thing happens, and that he was fine driving back across the border by himself.

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Rogers Centre, aka SkyDome, has a better reputation than it should.  Toronto fans are not polite, their mascot is even worse, and Shea Stadium looks like a Sheik’s palace compared to Rogers Centre.  Okay.  Some of you might think that *anyway* about Shea, that it was a palace and that we loved it and it was great. Throw your nostalgia aside.  Shea was a dump.  It had charm though, and history.  All SkyDome has is Joe Carter.  It’s a slum, certifiably so.  Just with a nice view of the CN Tower.  Oh and do they not believe in escalators?  Not one to be found.  Ramps and elevators.  Really?

When I say their fans are not polite, it’s weird, because if Canadians have one preconception, it’s that they’re usually very nice.  Having never been to Canada, I was looking forward to some north of the border hospitality.  I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re all just really clueless, and have no comedic timing.  My good friends the Dosters were in town, and had the opportunity to attend Friday’s game.  They said that the Toronto fans got SHITTAY, and therefore were belligerent. And they won, the Blue Jays.  No need for that.  Where was this Canadian hospitality we heard so much about?

When I got there on Saturday, I wore my Jonathon Niese jersey (who had gotten rocked the night before with like a gazillion home runs).

“Let’s go Mets, eh?”  No, I’m being serious.  SOMEONE SAID THAT TO ME.

I think it’s honestly just a poor attempt at humor.  But still, Canadians were clueless.  And had no clue.  Did I mention, clueless?

As for the mascot, “Ace,” he’s a Blue Jay.  No, seriously, a blue jay named Ace.  Okay, a few years ago, I have a friend who was in Toronto following her team.  When she waved to Ace, he threatened her with bodily harm.

Yes.  A mascot threatened my friend.  So keeping this in mind, I kinda figured he was a douche.  And he was.  Since I traveled with teddy bear, I usually try to get his pic with the mascot.  Not this one.  I was afraid he might try to rip his head off.  I guess all things considered, he just made me look like I was being photo bombed.  I suppose it could be worse.

 

Canada also has a reputation of being “cheap.”  This was before the exchange rate was like 1.5:1, now it’s more even, like 1:1.  There was really no benefit, to me, dollars wise, for buying something in Canada.  An upper deck seat was around $17.50.  My friends got seats in the lower levels, and said they’d try to stub me down.  As irony would have it, as I ate my pregame poutine, they found a ticket in their section.  I figured by then, someone might have gotten his friends to stub him down.  I wouldn’t try to go to those seats, but when my friends said there was an empty, I went right down.

The usher was kind of a prick.  Yes, I know these aren’t my seats.  But they’ve been empty the whole game, and it’s the 6th inning.  If they come, I’ll move.  But no one was coming.

Yeah, Canadians are polite, my big fat ass.

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Between the lack of cell phone usage (in a stadium owned by a goddamn media company, you’d think wifi would be part of the rigeur there, right?), the debacle getting across the border, Blue Jay fans being idiots, and not being able to sit with my friends, I was eager to get home.  When I found a Red Lobster by the train station, I figured I could get some cheddar bay biscuits and call it a day.  They forgot to bring them to me, and my stuffed mushrooms were awful.

Home, please.  Yet, home wasn’t for a bit.  I still had one more night in Buffalo, and a flight the next morning.  It’s odd, flying to the same state.  I’ve flown half away across the world, and short flights (like from New York to Florida) are no bother for me.  A little over an hour?  Freaked me the fuck out.

Yet, there was a lot to get me across the border that morning, and things fell into place for it to happen.  So thanks to all the powers that be to get me there.  Ray got his care package of cookies that I sent him as a thank you, everyone else made it back home, including me.  Yet, I have a hankering to go back to Buffalo.  I’d like to visit there and have more time, maybe to grab a minor league game or to see the Rangers play the Sabres there.  Maybe a Buffalo Bills game?  I definitely want to make it across the border, too, to get to a hockey game there perhaps, and to go through the Hockey Hall of Fame, which sadly I didn’t have enough time to do.

Rogers Centre? SkyDome? Never.  Again.

And thank you Vladimir.  Wherever you may be.

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4 comments

  1. I got that BuffaloJFK trip down to a science once upon a time. (sometimes it was 52 minutes. Literally took me longer to get to the airport)

    I was really tempted to hit the AAA all-star game there (or the Toronto series) but I think i’m just going to settle for a random Bisons weekend sometime.

    1. From what I see, the Bisons place of play (Coca-Cola Park or whatever it’s called!) seems very cool, in the middle of the action. Toronto is a nice city to visit, but the baseball park is one that I’m not eager to return.

      1. I’m ashamed to say I went to college in Buffalo for three years and never saw a Bisons game (of course, there were not Mets games at the time) I did walk around the outside once or twice, it’s across the street from the greyhound bus station I used to use a lot, and apparently with a lot more success than you. Although in those days you could literally walk across the bridge to Canada with just a drivers license.

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