Friday, March 28, 2014

No. 69 – Cabo Wabo

Performer: Van Halen
Songwriters: Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar
Original Release: OU812
Year: 1988
Definitive Version: The studio version.

Cabo Wabo, paradoxically, is the sound of Canada, because it was THE song of me and Scott’s second trip there, in 1992. Toronto itself was the draw when we went back. We wanted to really explore it, which is why we spent a week. However, the Blue Jays still were a large part of the draw. This was back when they were at the top of the baseball world, of course, and SkyDome sold out every game. Still, I was able to secure ducats for a game that week against the Royals.

When the day came, we headed downtown from our hotel in Mississauga, found parking somewhere in the vicinity of the stadium and went in. I knew our seats weren’t going to be that good, but even Bob Uecker had better seats than we did. We weren’t in the last row of the stadium or even our section, so technically there were worse seats, but we’re talking by degrees here.

Our seats were in the second deck in dead center field and underneath, well, everything. It was almost as though someone put up bleacher seats on the concrete just to cram more people inside. Our view was so restricted it appeared we were watching the game on TV but without the zoom.

Oh well, we’re there, eating $5 McDonald’s hot dogs (a lot back in those days) and drinking Labatt’s. The Blue Jays were Scott’s favorite team—after our 1991 trip—so he was glad just to be there. It could’ve been worse.

And as a reminder of that … as our section filled in, a couple guys came down our row and said to us, hey, those are our seats, as though anyone would interlope the worst seats in the house. No, their our seats. Let me see your ticket. Let me see yours. Section 550, row 13, seats 17-18. Huh? I pulled out mine. Yep, right here: Section 550, row 13, seats 17-18 … Uhhh, those are for TOMORROW NIGHT’S game.

You know in The Sting when Paul Newman’s character takes down Robert Shaw’s in the classic poker scene and the camera zooms in on the four jacks that had been four threes just moments before? Well, that’s exactly what happened at that Blue Jays game: My eyes zoomed in on the ticket to see, yes, Scott and I came to the wrong game.

It might have been the most hilariously dumb thing I’ve ever done. I apologized profusely, but as Scott and I trudged out, I realized I wasn’t the only one who pulled a big boner. The ticket-taker, who tore our tickets, didn’t notice the date of our tickets either.

This was a problem, because now we were holding stubs for tomorrow night’s game. We showed the ticket taker the tickets, that they were for the next day. He apologized and told us to go to the ticket office and explain what happened. Seeing that the tickets were in fact for a game not yet played and not just some old stubs that a couple dumb Americans were trying to use to scam their way inside, they issued us new tickets.

Well, what do you want to do now? How about some tennis? Scott and I had played a little the previous weekend at Torch Lake and had so much fun, we decided to take our rackets to play in Toronto. So we drove to a complex close to our hotel that allowed the public to rent courts for a fee.

We had a bit of a wait—it was a great summer night after all—but we finally took the court about 10, or about the time a huge thunderstorm was about to come barreling through the city. We got in only a single set before we had to split ahead of the rain.

The next day was given to some sight-seeing before the game. We started off at Ontario Place, which was a cool mix of science museum and kids theme park. There was a massive Lego room, and I had to drag Scott out of there, lest he spend the day trying to build a full-size replica of the space shuttle.

That night, our seats for the game were the same, but this time, no one came to kick us out. The Royals won a laugher, and by the sixth inning, Scott and I moved to the third-base side where we had a much better view of field and the stadium itself.

The day after that, we went to Marilyn Bell Park by Lake Ontario. The idea was to spend the early afternoon before our second attempt to watch a Blue Jays game (ahem) doing activities at “Lakeside Park,” in honor of the Rush song. It wasn’t the real Lakeside Park, of course, but it served its purpose well enough. We finished our tennis match on an open court, threw the Aerobie around and made massive bubbles while enjoying a perfect sunny day.

From there, we headed to Exhibition Place, the site of the former baseball and football stadium, Exhibition Stadium, as well as the site of the former Toronto Grand Prix (still active at the time). Scott and I posed at the start/finish line, which was left there all year. Exhibition Place was close to a Molson Brewery, but we decided we didn’t have the time to take the tour.

We did tour the Hockey Hall of Fame, however, before it moved to its fancy new digs. I’d love to tell you how thrilling it was to make it to the third of the Big Four halls of fame (behind football and baseball), but I can assure you it wasn’t.

The hockey hall at the time was in a building about the size of a good-size boiler room and with all the charm, which is to say none. The coolest thing I remember about it was seeing the Avco Cup, the trophy handed out at the end of the old World Hockey Association season. (All the other trophies were out on tour.)

For our final night, Scott and I headed back to Yonge Street for a little partying, but the first two places we went to had the wrong vibe. We noticed we were close to Joey’s. Why not just go back there? I didn’t have to twist Scott’s arm too much.

Joey’s still had the Olympics on TV, but it was busier than when we went the first time. We didn’t see Joey this time, but Magic Merrill was behind the bar, serving ‘em tall and cold, just the way we like it. She greeted us warmly and asked how our week had gone, and we said it had been a great time. Round II coming right up, eh?

We did the whole deal all over again—wings, Labatt’s and conversation with Merrill. This time, however, a group of older gentlemen were in the process of tying one on at the bar—a “bunch of drunken Canucks” we called them later. When they found out we were Americans, the conversation quickly turned to politics.

Who’s youse guys votin’ for, eh? OK, so they weren’t quite Bob & Doug’s relatives, but it was close. Scott and I said Clinton, and the closest one to us was apoplectic.

Naw, you can’t vote for Clinton. You gotta vote for Bush. You need someone who’s strong on defense. We said it was time to focus inward, on the economy, and Clinton was better suited for that. Nawww, you gotta vote for Bush.

It never got belligerent, but it provided an interesting perspective—an outsider’s. They wanted Bush because, well, their economy was solid, their social problems minimal, so they looked to us for protection, and Bush seemed like the better choice to protect Canada’s interests. From a Canadian perspective, Bush was the better choice. Finally, we said we’d think about it. (We both voted for Clinton.)

And that was the end of our glorious Toronto trip. We agreed as we headed back to Michigan that we needed to do this again next year, but, how about somewhere else? Any ideas? How about Seattle? Love it; let’s do it.

However, it wasn’t quite the end of our adventures. I’ve mentioned about being in the world’s largest traffic jam leaving various outdoor amphitheaters. Well, Scott and I WERE in the world’s largest traffic jam coming home from Toronto in 1992. Traffic was backed up at the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia, and it took us—I’m not exaggerating—more than two hours to go three kilometers (about two miles).

Oh well. I suppose it could be worse. I mean, it’s not as though we were locked out of our own country or anything.

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