Thursday, August 17, 2017

Notes from my 2nd 2-Day Toronto Business Trip

Notes from my 2nd 2-Day Toronto Business Trip
Martin Bodek

Day 1:

3:00 AM: Rise and shine, take 1. Help my MIL with her bags, grab a quick meal, get all my stuff ready at the front door, see my MIL into her Uber at 3:45 AM, for her flight back home, and I plop back asleep on the couch.

4:45 AM: Rise and shine, take 2. Grab another quick bite, grab my bags, wait for my Uber, and hope he arrives before my 5:00 AM morning sprinklers soak both him and me.

He arrives at 4:57, baby, and whisks me off to Newark Airport. Claudio is the man.

I arrive so early, that I’m the only person on the TSA line. The only one. Just me. Doesn’t mean they badger me any less, or ratchet down their condescending treatment. They treat me just the same. I’m patted down again, this time, a bit too intimately. The Friends episode where Chandler uses Joey’s tailor comes to mind:

I survive the ordeal, make my way to the gate, and look up at the clock. From the front door of my house to the gate has taken me all of 35 minutes. Wow!

I’m using Porter Air again. A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, with the funky propellers and landing gear that descend from the engines, which is six feet from my face. I take videos of them in action, taking off and landing, because I’m a kid like that.

We ascend into cotton-candy clouds, and the flight is not uneventful, but in a great way.

Now see, Toronto is Northwest of Newark, at a bearing of 307º, whilst we are headed along a bearing of 303º, towards a spot which is 33 miles directly south of Toronto (Yes, I had to look up all these terms), which is off course.

Why do I even notice this?

Because directly outside my window is Niagara Falls, and it is astonishing and beautiful from my vantage point. I grab as many pictures as I can. They’re gorgeous and I’m happy I have them.

We then ride along the Northwest rim of Lake Ontario and land safely. I take more videos of the landing gear. I’ve been busy with my phone for this flight.

I land safely. When I describe to Border Patrol the purpose of my visit in a creative way, I actually elicit laughter. Finally! I guess I’m something like 1 for 147.

I get my car rental lickety-split, am tickled to death once again by the fact that a ferry gets me to the mainland, immediately switch to 88.1, the greatest radio station on the planet, and enjoy all this great music throughout my visit, which you’ll never hear in the U.S.:

Big Data, Dangerous:, don’t watch the video. It is NSFW naughty, shockingly gory, and flat-out insane.
July Talk, Beck + Call:, great combination of talented and interesting voices.
Arcade Fire, Everything Now:, excellent music, ABBA-ish, and superior to the garbage noise they called music on SNL (
July Talk, Push + Pull:, there they are again. Man, that guy’s voice is something.
The Killers, The Man:, this one might make it to The States. You heard it here first!
Bjork, It’s Oh So Quiet:, never heard the full song. So big-band bat$#!+ bonkers that you have to love it.

I judge places by their signage.

Toronto is very eager to let you know when an exit off a highway is coming up, at least four times within a quarter mile of the exit.

On the other hand, I keep seeing this sign that says, “Buses Excepted.” Uh, buses excepted from what? Finally, after five such examples, I see another one with a sign above it that says, “No right turns.” Aha. Hey Toronto, you have at least five signs whose introductory information is missing. Clean that up, will ya?

Work at site 1.

Now, I have the kind of job where people report problems to you, then, in person, the problem disappears.

However, in this case, every possible problem appears. Fascinating.

Off to site 2.

Let’s stop for lunch. I need a sandwich and coffee.

I find a kosher bakery (Amazing Donuts). They have neither sandwiches, nor coffee.

I try the pizza shop (Pizza Café) next door. They have sandwiches, no coffee.

A café with no coffee.

I have a sandwich, and I’ll get a coffee from the Starbucks on the corner.

While I’m chowing down, I notice an Aroma restaurant across the street.

Guess what it says on the awning?

Sandwiches and coffee.

Life is like that.

Off to site 2.


Boy the people are friendly here.

I walk through a set of doors and hold it for the person behind me. She says, “Thanks!”

I open the next set of doors, and hold, she says, “Double thanks!”

In New York, the second hold would be met with a nod and grunt, the first “Thanks!” having usually expended the day’s full politeness output.

I take out some cash from an ATM. They have transparent bills! Awesome! Check it out:

After work, I head out for a quick dinner. I suddenly find myself in a neighborhood that is clearly – from the looks of the imposing, impressive, impossibly-sized houses – the Beverly Hills of Toronto.

I’m right. It’s called Bridle Path, and it’s the most affluent neighborhood in all of Canada. Houses go up to $27 mill. Prince, of blessed memory, had a house here.

I notice there are bicyclists all over this town. I also notice that none of them – that’s none, as in *none* - uses hand signals.

I don’t even know what the hand signals mean, but it doesn’t matter. When a cyclist puts out an arm and does motion-y things with it, I give a wide berth, plain and simple.

C’mon folks, the life you save may be your own.

I have a quick, yummy dinner at Bubby’s Bagels, and grab some snacks for the road. We’re goin’ downtown.

I find underground, self-explanatory, self-parking (death before valet) and go looking for the Canadian Walk of Fame. Waze leads me into the lobby of an office building. Oopsie. Google leads me to the right spot. I’m here to see one name above all, and I find it: Terry Fox. My first, and eternal, running hero.

I find him, and I notice there’s no signature. He didn’t live long enough.

I also notice a Mordecai Richler. There are Martins aplenty across various Walks of Fame, but I don’t think there are many that have my Hebrew forename. Turns out, my dad is a fan.

Off to the Rogers Centre to see the Jays vs. Rays. It’ll be my 7th major league baseball stadium. I’m a little behind Bartolo Colon’s record of 44.

It’s here where I decide this is a city of drunks. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, security: They want you to remove your cellphones, camera, and sunglass cases. Everything else you can carry through the metal detector. Interesting.

Second, the kosher stand: The line is out to Lake Michigan, I swear. I’ll be back later.

Third, my seat: $43 to sit four rows behind the Jays dugout. I’d have to pass my child over to molech to grab a seat like that at Yankee Stadium.

Fourth, my family: Back home, my wife tries her darndest to find the game on TV, finally managing to jump through some serious hoops to get it done, but they never see me. From screenshots, I can tell that on multiple occasions, I was an inch out of frame. Our boys were furious. I’ll make it up to them with a Yanks or Giants game.

Fifth, the game itself: Awesome. Jays come from behind to win 7-6.

Now, let’s discuss these drunks.

Drunk #1: Or, as I call him, The Boring Drunk. This guy sits four seats over to my right, with his daughter, and keeps ordering tall beers until he’s smashed. I’m frequently used to pass along the money in one direction, and the beer in another.

Why do I call him boring? Because despite getting drunker and drunkier and drunkiest, his material never changes.

He starts with “Hey Jose! Hit the ball!” and ends with “Ayyy, Joosurey, hizz the blah.”

Gotta change it up, dude!

He doesn’t even care which beer he’s getting. At the end of the game, with at least 7 tall beers in him, he orders his last, as follows: ‘Ayyy, feermen, g’me whizzoover is goalest.”

Translation: “Hey, Beerman, give me whichever is coldest.”

Drunk #2: The Funny Drunk. This guy is about five rows behind me, drinking at the same pace as Drunk #1, but keeping the material fresh. Well, in the sense that he’s trying different things, but centered around a general motif: the quality of player in at-bats in various comparisons to as many female private parts as can be counted. He cannot be shushed, and women literally cover their children’s ears when this guy sends his piehole flapping. He is a riot.

Drunk #3: This is the unnerving one, whereas the first two are just for fun. You can’t be surrounded by this many drunks without getting into a problem, can you?

Here’s what happens:

I exit my seat to pee, and get me some of that kosher food, not necessarily in that order.

When I return, I notice dozens of fans gathered around the entrance to the steps to their seats. I figure, maybe they’re just trying to get a better view. I unfold my ticket, present it to the usher, and keep moving forward. She stops me, and says, “You have to wait until he’s finished with his at-bat.”

Oh, I never heard of a rule like that. Okay, no problem. I fold up my ticket and wait for the at-bat to be over.

As I’m folding up the ticket, an overcorpulent fellow, perhaps 6’5”, sporting a beer in his left hand which is about a foot away from me, looking down his nose at me with contempt, says: "Are you in a rush, sir?"

Now, there’s no correct answer to this question that would have me getting away from this interaction without one of us losing a few teeth.

I choose to defuse, as I learned from 90210, and I say jack squat, staring at the batter until he’s out (while Mr. Barfight sizes me up and down, and while I judge distances between me and him just in case he wants to start something), and head back to my seat, leaving him to mumble racist spew about me to this wingman.


Ball game over! Jays win! Thuh uh uh, Jays win!

Sorry, wrong team announcer.

I walk back to my car, with the crowd, fetch it, and head to my hotel.

There’s a parking lot attached to it. Must be theirs, right? Wrong. It’s only once you enter, and roll all the way to the bottom that they show you a sign saying this isn’t part of the hotel, and anyway, it isn’t a 24-hour lot. How about you put that sign at the entrance, hm?

Upon exiting, I meet:

Drunk #4: Two (allegedly) sober guys are holding their drunk friend between them, as they all try to cross the street in front of my car. The two anchors let go, and Drunkie falls all over my car, conking my rearview mirror and hitting the floor. He pops up, flops around like he’s Weekend at Bernie’s, and continues on his way.

I find the right parking lot, in the back of the hotel, check in, crash, have a good night’s sleep, and…

Day 2:

…I’m out the door for a spirited 5:30 AM run through downtown and Lake Ontario.

Not two blocks into my run, guess who I run into?

Drunk #5: Now this one is the most interesting of all. He’s decked out in a business suit and attache case, all put together properly, but instead of a coffee in his right hand, he’s holding a beer. There are so many possibilities here. He could simply have grabbed the wrong beverage, and didn’t notice yet, or perhaps he’s nervous as hell for an interview, or maybe, just maybe, he’s simply Canadian. I don’t know. You decide.

I run down Yonge St, which is clearly Toronto’s Broadway, past many pretty glass buildings (That’s the new rule for every city on earth: all new buildings must be made of glass), along Lake Ontario, and back to the hotel. 6.6 miles of invigorating fun in the crisp air. Great way to start my day.

Now I’m consistent with saying that life is never a straight line.

I have a card with a credit card stripe that I received from the desk. I’m supposed to swipe it through the machine, and I can get out of the lot, right? Because there’s really only four directions this card can go, right?

Ahahahahahaha! Wrong.

There aren’t four ways to turn a card! No, you have to apply certain pressure in certain directions, and sometimes bend it funny, and today, I also have to re-park, and visit the lobby desk twice before I’m allowed to exit the parking lot.

Because in reality, there are a Rubik’s-Cubesque 54 quintillion combination to how you can swipe a card, and I finally get it right on the 27 quintillionth combination.


Anyway, I’m finally free.

Ooh, black squirrel!

I had back to Bubby’s where I load up for the day. I have breakfast there, and take lunch and dinner to go.


Traffic from hell, but music from heaven. See list above.

My flight is delayed, as are many others, as are many later, and prior, but this is a small airport, and small airports are the best thing in the world, and despite the chaos and disorder, I nevertheless approach the desk, ask if I can get on that one flight that doesn’t seem delayed, and badabing, badaboom, my flight is switched, and I’m outta there. I’m going to have dinner with my family and put my kids to sleep.

Oh cool! MetLife stadium! The field is totally ripped up! Oh wait, they must be having those dirtbike competitions! That’s how close the view is!

I watch the landing gear unfold and land again, because it’s awesome.

Newark Airport is an idiot at receiving you.

·         In Customs, they have one guy directing traffic, one. That’s like a mouse in a field of elephants.
·         They have signs pointing “International Travelers” in a certain direction. Now what exactly *is* an international traveler? Does it mean that I just came from an internation? That I generally travel internationally? How about “foreign”? That’s a much better word.
·         “Use these kiosks” another sign says. Who should use them? Me? Somebody else? National travelers? I’d ask the one guy customs guy, but he’s already the coroner has already declared him dead by trampling.

I get right through, after the border office grunts me ahead. No joy here, but practical ebullience during every other part of my journey. Your job is what you make of it.

Part of the reason my company sends me around so much is because I bring a certain enthusiasm to my vocation. I, in turn, am well received.

I bless you all that you should find joy in everything you do too.

I'm off to Latin America.

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