Tuesday, January 22, 2008

5 Lessons Learned in Canada (and some about coffee)

I learned the following things while on a ski trip to Canada this weekend.

#1 - My gas tank can hold 53 Liters, or, as I like to think of it, 26.5 bottles of Sierra Mist.

#2 - When a hamburger comes with "bacon" on it, be prepared for a horrible patty with a slice of ham on it

#3 - My life goal is to find the gene that makes people want to snowboard and eradicate it through eugenics. Or, I will invent the half-pipe of death that way I can also eliminate skiers who want to be snowboarders as well. Beautiful.

#4 - Canada is just like America but with more of the following: snow, "eh's," open spaces, and red maple leafs ubiquitously placed on everything.

#5 - Wearing a maple leaf on clothing is way cooler than wearing an American flag. I am still not sure why.

Things I learned this morning:
Before purchasing a new coffee maker, press the reset button on the plug to make sure it is in fact the coffee maker that is broken.

Paradox of this morning:
I make coffee in order to wake up, yet, I must be awake to make coffee.

Ramifications of above paradox:
Today I woke up without coffee because the coffee maker was "broken."
Last week, I cleaned up coffee from every crevice in the immediate area because the carafe did not "fit" in its rightful spot.
The coffee maker switch must be placed into the "on" position in order for maximum efficiency.
The coffee maker must have coffee placed in the filter in order for maximum efficiency.
The coffee maker must have water poured from the carafe into it for maximum efficiency.
I now believe that people with alarms on coffee makers are not lazy, but infinitely wise.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Beginning of Americana

I’d like to think our trip started at 4 am on Thursday March, First, 2007 when we loaded the last of our gear into the trunk of my beige well worn 1998 Buick Century, but it began far before that. Without dredging into the faintly recollected first baseball game (one of my earlier one was in second grade opening day), the event that germinated this entire trip took place on Saturday, October Seventh. While working at the game room of my undergraduate institution, me and two friends watched the upstart Detroit Tigers upset the New York Yankees three games to one.

The next ten minutes included raucous celebration with a bottle carbonated beverage (that is, due to being on an alcohol free campus, and being on the clock, sparkling grape juice). However, very soon, we realized that our celebration wasn’t stopping. The Tigers were set to meet the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship (ALCS). Immediately, we started searching for tickets online. Game 5 of the ALCS series seemed to suit us best, and a Sunday afternoon enjoying baseball sounded fantastic. Like traders on the floor of the New York Stock exchange, my friends Eric and Kevin, and I compiled a list of all the yeses and began searching for tickets. Grouped three and five, four and four, six and two, we searched for eight tickets on the ticketmaster website. Finally, when the dust settled we had eight tickets together to take in the Tigers versus the Athletics in what we imagined to be the clinching game of the ALCS.

As history would of course confirm, there was no game five to the 2006 ALCS. When this became apparent to Eric and I, we immediately knew we needed to be a part of the history. When the Tigers took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth of game three, we saw the Tigers sweep inevitably coming. The excitement level was high, but tempered by the fact that we no longer had tickets to the show. Immediately, Eric, or Bus as we call him, pulled out his laptop and started furiously searching for tickets to game four. I called around to my co-workers to see if I could get anyone to cover my shift in the game room the next day. Within twenty minutes, we had purchased the cheapest two tickets we could find, I had recruited a gracious friend (who had a ticket to game five) to work for me, and we set up plans to make the hike from central Indiana to Detroit the next morning.

The next morning we awoke at eight am to make a four hour journey to Detroit. Although the ETA was still four hours before the game, we were in a hurry. Since these were some of the “dark ages” of our collegiate life, we had no access to the Internet (or much of anything else) from our dirt cheap, cramped and drafty flat/attic. The tickets we purchased were E-tickets which were supposed to be e-mailed to us. We went to Bus’s school government office to check our e-mail in hopes we could access and print the tickets. No dice. We left in hopes that we would still receive them via e-mail and from his high stakes college job (let’s just say he wasn’t supervising freshman playing pool, like me) he had a blackberry with which we could check his e-mail.

A brief pit-stop at Arby’s filled Eric with a breakfast sandwich, and my four breakfast entrees filled him with a sense of awe at my appetite. Periodically, Eric checked his e-mail and as we approached the Michigan border, we began to worry about the tickets. We called the 1-800 helpline from the website and informed them of the problem. Within the hour, we had the tickets in Eric’s e-mail inbox. However, we had no way of transferring the tickets from his phone to paper. I knew a couple with Tigers season tickets who would be attending the game, and on a hunch, I called them and asked them to print the tickets off and meet us at the game. We arrived in downtown Detroit just after noon, with the tickets in the hands of a trusted friend coming a few hours later.

We were early enough to park on the street adjacent to lots charging gobs of money for a slot on the gravel. Since we didn’t have a vested interest in tailgating (the preparations for such an endeavor would have required more time), we parked on the curb and headed to the ball-park. After the requisite photographs taken around the giant statue tiger in front of the park, we headed to the iconic Hockeytown café for the pre-game tailgate. With hundreds of others, we partook in grilled hamburgers, chips, and the classic American beverage. From the patio, we viewed the Detroit skyline and soaked in the atmosphere. The buzz was electric, but the temperature was frigid. We stood outside and weathered the cold for the site of thousands of fans pouring into the usually deserted Detroit seats with expectations which hadn’t been seen since the mid-eighties.

My friends finally arrived with the tickets and we joined them in Detroit’s Greektown enclave for some Greek appetizers and a Canadian beverage imported from the country lying due South of Detroit (look for Windsor, Ontario on a map). Greektown, lying adjacent to the professional football and baseball stadiums of Detroit, carries a huge portion of the pre-game festivities in the city. We sat in the back of a tiny but packed authentic-ish restaurant and watched the fans flow by. Soon however, the pitcher was drained and our appetizers were gone.

We received the golden tickets printed on inkjet paper and hoped that by some cruel twist of fate the barcode wasn’t already used up by another in an online scam. We didn’t breath easy until we stepped inside the dark green gates of Comerica Park and were apart of the action. In our haste and economy to purchase tickets, we hadn’t really considered where they would be located. We found our section easily, as we knew it was likely an outfield corner and climbed to our row. In retrospect, when a row is designated by two sets of letters late in the alphabet, the seats probably are not prime real estate. However, we were simply grateful to be in the park and going to the very top row almost made the experience more idyllic. We sat perched above the field, with nothing between us and the outside street below but a plastic coated green chain-link fence. The wind had not trouble piercing through the fence and whatever Tigers gear we had remembered to put on that morning. The family of six next to us looked like they may have confused Tiger Stadium with a ski slope as they were all dressed in full-out bib snow-pants, zippered jackets, hats, and mittens. It may be my memory deceiving me, but I could have sworn the father was wearing a pair of Scott ski-goggles around his neck.

A father and daughter combo sat to our left and the young lady caused me to turn my head with the knowledge she demonstrated through conversing with her father (though not Eric’s because he was already spoken for by his fiancé). In front of us sat an elderly gentleman who seemed to be in awe of the entire experience. I would have paid a heft price for a pair of bib-overalls at that point as the fierce wind pierced the October air. One or two rows down was infinitely warmer than the top of the stands because of the respite from the wind, but even this upper-deck was too packed to try and squeeze down.

The air was briefly deflated from our wings as the A’s compiled to quick runs in the first. However, Bonderman was known for getting shelled early, only to come back with great stuff later in the game. However, by the fourth, Jay Payton’s homerun and the lack of Tigers offense had things looking grim. The wind was picking up so much so that the cold made the top row unbearable. Rather than give up our seats in order to watch the game standing from a common balcony or beer garden, I applied for a visa card in exchange for a fleece blanket. That blanket provided enough warmth for Bus and I to remain entrenched in the stands.

In the next few innings the Tigers tied the score at three setting up the greatest sports finish I have ever witnessed live (not counting my performance in high school football). After homering in the sixth inning, Magglio Ordonez stepped up in the bottom of the ninth with two outs already on the board. Two tigers had managed to get on base and fans were hoping that a single would send one home and avoid extra innings. However, on the second pitch of the at bat Ordonez belted the ball to left field, setting off a series of mayhem that I cannot entirely recall.

I jumped ecstatically in my top row seat and hugged my friend. I exchanged high-fives with the dorky ski family and the father and daughter next to me. The old man in front of me grabbed my hands and another excited fan pulled me down into the row in front of me. A similar raucous occurred elsewhere. The older gentleman in front of Bus had streams of tears coming down his icy cheeks and was filled with palpable joy. The players on the field mirrored the fans excitement and the entire experience was etched into the minds of all that were present. The Tigers, who lost 119 games only three seasons prior had defeated the mighty Yankees, swept the infamous “moneyball” Athletics and seemed to have a title for the taking when the St. Louis Cardinals came to down days later.