Mets Road Trips

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

“I’ll drive a million miles, to be with you tonight
So if you’re feeling low, turn on the radio
.” – Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung

One of my favorite television shows of all time is Cheers, and also up there is Frasier.  Thus, Frasier Crane is probably one of my favorite characters in television history.  I can watch that video clip above over and over, and laugh every single time.  Certainly a dry humor guy with no interest in pop culture, who loved a good scotch, opera and high art.  Yet, when he deadpans this line, “everybody Wang Chung tonight,” I lose it.  EVERY. TIME.

I felt like a drove a million miles last weekend.  The husband and I do like to take road trips, and we really wanted to get to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, especially this year since the series was over a weekend.  It just so happened that the games were meaningful in and of themselves.  When we had planned to go, we hadn’t really thought about implications if the Mets were going to be in first place or a potential clinching game.  It was more of a…we really need to get Cincinnati out of the way.

Last year, we had planned on going.  Although there was one glaring condition: I’d have to drive.  Since the hub doesn’t have a license, 10+ hours of driving was all on me.  That’s not very enticing for me.  Plus when we checked out airfares, we couldn’t find any fairly prices nonstop flights.  Moreover, we couldn’t find connections that didn’t take like 10 hours themselves.  I figured, we could just drive.  I live in the city so I don’t have to drive all that often or rely on a car.  Again, not an enticing idea.

So we started to scope out airfares early on.  While we found some fairly priced, once again we were faced with not finding decent connections anywhere.  Some people in that area have recommended flying into Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington or Louisville, all within a two hour drive.  Again, didn’t make much sense, logistically.  Plus I HATE flying.  So deciding to drive was actually the easy part.  Especially since I’ve done the Pittsburgh trip, once as a passenger, once as a driver.  I figured, if I could do that, what’s another 4 1/2 hours?

Of course, I underestimated it.  We had to stop a few times, naturally, but mostly, by the time we made it to Cincy, I was done. DONE.  And I had to do it again.  Thankfully, we had the thought of mind to book a room in West Virginia, about four hours out.

We would leave after the last out of the Saturday game.

When I drive, I need tunes.  We splurged in the rental car for Sirius XM.  I love 80s and New Wave music, and since I was driving, hubby didn’t mind listening to it (also interspersed with some E Street Radio).  I heard “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung several times on the ride.  And every time I hear it, I deadpan the line from Cheers in the Frasier voice.  “Everybody…Wang CHUNG tonight.”  (And I also found out recently that Wang Chung actually means “Yellow Bell.”  So they’re telling you to Yellow Bell tonight.  I don’t know what that means.  Wang Chung tonight to the ears of the imagination sounds a lot better and more fun).

But something else.  The song “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” originally came out in the fall of 1986, right before the Mets went on their whirlwind clinching, then historic postseason.  I was 10.  Instead of the hokey “We Are The Champions” or even Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” I always thought of “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” as a more appropriate song to describe what it was like to be a New York Mets fan then.  It was crazy.  People kissed and high-fived strangers.  The 1980s were a fun time.  For my birthday this year, I’m going to have a 1980s dance party.  It was just different.  The music is ageless.  And I always think of the 1986 World Series when I hear “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” because I’m certain I listened to it in the Shea parking lot after the Mets won the Series.

Great American Ball Park   Celebrate

I didn’t think much of the concept of the Mets clinching the NL East while I was out there.  Many things had to go right, like the Nationals had to lose a game, and the Mets had to win both games while I was there.  Beating the Reds didn’t seem that hard of a task; seen their record this year?  There have been weirder things to happen to the Mets this year.

Also, this would potentially by the fifth clinching game I have seen the Mets play: 1986 Game 7 of the World Series; 1988 NL East Champs (#PostTraumaticMetsDisorder); 2000 Wild Card; 2006 NL East.  Now 2015 NL East.  Hopefully more.  Which leads me to…

The 2015 Mets have provided one of the zaniest years I care to remember.  If this team were a movie, we’d never believe it, because it would’ve never been true enough for us.  Think about it.  A relatively “okay” first half.  Great pitching.  Not enough offense.  Getting swept by the Cubs and Pirates…series swept, mind you.  Wilmer Flores “traded to the Brewers.”  Wilmer Flores cries.  Wilmer Flores stays and hits a walk off home run two nights later, proud to be a Met.  YOENIS FUCKING CESPEDES is traded to the Mets.  And bonus points: he MAKES A DIFFERENCE.  That shit happens to other teams; NEVER the Mets.  Imagine if the Carlos Gomez trade DID go through.  I’m certain the Mets wouldn’t have won the division with well over a week to spare.  Matt Harvey saying, oh by the way, I have an innings cap.  When he was like 10 away from said arbitrary cap.  Oh and how could I forget, the whole elusive three home runs by one player in a home game.  Happened TWICE within weeks (and Kirk Nieuwenhuis?  Really?).  And above all, a career year for one of my all time favorite Mets, Daniel Murphy.

They were written off on day one.  They would have an “okay” team, but clearly, 2015 would be the Nationals year.  And they were a decent team, with a top flight ace pitcher and a bona fide MVP candidate.  Yet, the Mets treated them this year they way the Phillies treated the Mets in 2007.  IT WAS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL MAN.

When I say “Zany,” if you were around for 1986, you might remember the game against the Reds, which featured an easy fly ball out that was dropped by Dave Parker, that led to extra innings, that led to Ray Knight punching Eric Davis, which led to Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco platooning in the outfield and pitching, AND ultimately led to George Foster (former Red) to be released from the team.

In a year where the impossible was possible, that game pretty much encapsulated what it was like to be a Mets fan and following that great team in 1986.

I’ve seen a lot of the Mets, and the Reds have figured into a lot of their history.  Probably most significant happened before I was born, and that was when Buddy Harrelson and Pete Rose got into a scuffle on the baseball diamond in 1973.  Then the fight in 1986.  Then the one game playoff in 1999.  There were many Reds who became Mets, and vice versa.  Foster, Knight, Steve Henderson, to name a few.  Of course, there was Tom Seaver, Randy Myers.

Tom Seaver Quote

The stadium was pretty nondescript, as far as more of the “recent stadiums” go.  This was stadium number 22 for me.  (Twenty-two is also my lucky number, go figure).  We also didn’t eat at the stadium at either game.  We ended up meeting my godmother before one game, and she bought us dinner.  The area by the stadium was pretty cool, lots of bars and restaurants to hang out at.  The Ohio River was pretty cool to see.  The only thing I really wanted was to try the infamous funnel cake fries at GABP.  But they were up in the 400 levels.  Really?  I was not walking to the upper deck to get funnel cake fries!

The Skyline Chili is supposed to be the bomb…however, our friend Fred “Stradamus” introduced us to Camp Washington and well, we didn’t need to be convinced that Coneys and chili cheese fries were meant to be consumed anywhere else.  (But the chili in Cincy is a ritual, so you must have it if you do visit).

And definitely visit the Reds Hall of Fame beforehand.  It is worth every price of admission to see it.  So much bad assery with Reds history.

We literally stayed to watch baseball.  Which is weird because in recent years while we’ve traveled or even been to home games, we rarely sat in our seats.  The New York Mets are playing can’t miss baseball right now.  It’s insane.  The last six years could have defeated me.  But as I said on Twitter a few weeks back, I’m going to ENJOY this shit.  Good or bad or ugly.  Sometimes all three…

In 1988, I thought the Mets were going to win it all.  I mean, that’s what dominant teams do, right?  After the Mets clinched the NL East on September 22, 1988, Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa and Mr. E were drinking champagne.  They said I could have some.  I was only 12, you guys.  But I did what the team did: I started spraying it everywhere in the Shea parking lot we were parked.  My dad got upset with me; probably thought I was wasting some good alcohol.  After seeing the 1986 party hearty Mets, I was waiting a LONG ass two years to do that myself, like the big guys did.  But the champagne toasts were halted that year.  We’ve been waiting for the World Series ever since.

I managed to get champagne sprayed on me while the Mets fans who stayed behind after the win were greeted by the team.  This year may have been zany; it’s also been one of the most fun years I’ve had since 2006, when I’d get so drunk after a Jose Lima start, I’d have to be carried out of the stadium.  Hey, none of us are perfect.

But I couldn’t help but think of the song I was listening to several times in the car on the way to, where I’d think of my favorite television show and one of my favorite television characters of all time.

“There was a passage from one of those trifle songs that I feel is the keynote for this evening…

Everybody have fun tonight.

Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”

Just like the show, the 2015 Mets make me smile every time.  Sure, they aggravate me (what love affair of 30+ years doesn’t?).  But so much more to smile about than be angry about.

As someone said a few nights ago, this is the 2015 Mets.  They’ll either get swept out of the first round, or win the whole damn thing.

Tune in to see what’s next…

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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.