Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jason Vs. The Crappy Hotline

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.

Had I committed some sort of heinous wrong to be punished? If I had sinned, it was probably just a recreational sin. All I knew was that anytime I thought my trip to Toronto was going well, something would punch me in the teeth and kick my ass. I started thinking maybe it’s the CN Tower. In 2005, I stayed with Stephen way out in Scarborough, and things went well enough. Two years later, I stayed at a hotel. I don’t remember where I went, but I’m thinking it was closer to Toronto proper, and that’s when I lost my camcorder and sketchbook. Now, my laptop went bust, I missed out on attractions, and then there was this morning.

I woke up around 9:30, watched the news, and then slipped back into sleep. Such is the life of a person who does not have a convention to visit anymore. I talked to my mother, and she dropped another bomb on me. The flight that I was supposed to take today . . . the one I had assumed would be canceled due to the damage Irene dished out . . . the one that an employee at Pearson Airport told me would probably dump me off in parts unknown should I take it . . . the flight was on as scheduled.

To say that I did not take it well was an understatement. I kept calling Continental, but thanks to high call volume, I wasn’t going to get any information from them. I went online in the business center. First of all, there was a confirmation e-mail that was sent to me last night. Why didn’t I know about it? Because my laptop went bust at the worst possible time, and the fucking business center shut down last night at 6 p.m. I tried to see what a one-way trip to Newark would cost. The answer: a lot. Over $500, in fact. I went with a new plan . . . hitting Expedia for their rates. Expedia wouldn’t fuck me, right? Yes, they would . . . over a grand for one-way service, AND I’d have to make at least one stop along the way. Honestly, I’m lucky my head didn’t explode from the rage. Some of the misfortunes could be tracked back to me, but the rest was out of my control. Unfortunately, I wasn’t handling it very well at all. I didn’t even get to have breakfast until after noon . . .and they wound up being Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts sold as “Timbits” from Tim Horton’s. So much for getting something unusual, though I did like the apple fritter flavor.

My mother’s plan for me to get home: go to the airport early tomorrow morning and fly standby. The front desk guy’s plan: take a 12-hour bus ride back to the New York area. I went with my own plan, the only plan that made any sense in my slowly boiling brain: go to the airport, talk to a human being. Simple. I got a round-trip bus ticket and silently hoped for the best. It took me a while to find the counter . . . at one point, I saw a bunch of machines, and I thought that talking to anybody was never going to happen. But I went further and told my story in detail, sparing her the four-part harmony. I walked away with a ticket to fly out tomorrow after 5 p.m. It was a victory. As I type this, I’m not about to exhale just yet. Between Toronto and Staten Island, there are still so many misfortunes that could happen to me, in all sorts of degrees. Most of the time, I can’t blame one person for my woes and smash their car with a hammer, yelling about the dangers of fucking a stranger in the ass. Okay, I’m not that rabid, but I do feel like John Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski, minus the delusions of Vietnam.

The bad news was that thanks to all the time I wasted brooding, raging and settling, Casa Loma was out of the question. I had a few alternative plans, but I wound up going to the CN Tower. It had been six years since I last gone up there, but I figured that it was nearby, and that I should go. My brain conjured up a bizarre theory that it was the source of my misfortune, that as I stayed closer and closer to it in my trips up north, it was broadcasting bad luck that I could receive. It’s the same stupid superstitious crap that prevents me from putting on Pearl Jam in my car, because I skidded on a wet road once and messed my car up as “Jeremy” was playing. I know A and B aren’t related, and I should know better, but my brain is stuck.

I don’t think the CN Tower has changed much. The new thing is that you can pay $175 to take a trip on top of the pod, way the hell in the air. I’m not squeamish about stepping on the reinforced-to-hell glass-bottom floors, but I’m not that brave. Should The Amazing Race return to the Tower in the future (three teams in Family Edition went up there in the final leg), I’m betting dangling on harnesses will be involved, as the contestants search for a part of the city with the show’s traditional colors. I got the full value ticket, good for all of the main attractions.

The first two experiences were kinda meh, to be honest. The first one revolved about the creation of “supertrees” in the year 2020, hybrids of flora from the Himalayas and the Amazon. Hence the title: “Himalamazon.” After the somewhat boring infodump, I wound up going on a simulated ride, as a log got transported between the two locations. I have to say that while I’m not the least bit into roller coasters, I do like the notion of a simulation, especially since the danger was more than minimized. The water splashing us was a nice touch. Sadly, the trip to the Maple Leaf Cinema wasn’t as fun. It was based on surfer Kelly Slater, and I was fighting the urge to nod off. It was in 3D. I hate 3D. I think that since my eyes are different kinds of messed up, the glasses needed for the experience seldom work for me. On the bright side, I save about $5 a shot anytime I go to a “regular” movie.

Next stop: the Look Out. They say you can see Niagara Falls on a clear day. It would’ve been nice if I knew where to look. A lot of my time was peering down on Rogers Centre, where the Rays/Jays game was getting started. I had thought of going there, but I had spent too much time online before I left the hotel for the Tower. With the roof retracted, I could see the field . . . and the vast emptiness several sections of the stadium. When the laptop fucked me, I had been looking up attendance stats, because I noticed a lot of empty seats the night that I went there. I actually called the ticket office to find out when the game was being played, thinking maybe I was looking down about a half-hour before game time. Nope . . . it was on schedule. This is what happens when you build a state-of-the-art stadium before the boom in retro ballparks, and your team is in the same division as the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.

I also went to Sky Pod, which was 100 meters above the observation deck. I didn’t see much of a difference, to be honest. The cars looked like toys from 1,815 feet in the air (yes, I have the brochure in front of me), and the players on the field in Rogers Centre looked so tiny, even as I could make them out in their designated positions. The outdoor observation deck took out the view of nearby structures, but it did provide a feel for the wind that far up. And yes, they were lots of people on the glass floors, posing and styling for cameras. I swear, there was one guy dressed in monk garb, in a traditional meditation pose on the glass. “Trippy” would be my best word for it. Sylvia told me that she could never stand there. I could . . . even though I’m not into heights, I felt safe on the glass, as I took pictures of the base. I think the Tower could make a few bucks if they took a few of the $2 and $4 viewers from the observation decks, and put them on ground level, giving a good view of the people above the glass.

With time waning, I wound up having dinner on the observation deck. It’s kinda weird to walk through a restaurant and look out the windows as others are eating. I had a small pasta dish, and I paid a little too much for it. Afterward, I hit Dairy Queen in Union Station, and I got my second Oreo Blizzard of my trip. Hey, why mess with what works?

To call my trip to Toronto “eventful” would be an understatement. There are places I should have visited, but I ran out of time. Once again, I’m not going to feel safe from problems until I get home. And I was feeling blah when I got back to my room. But I found out that I can check out late, some of the bad vibes left my body, and I just discovered a show called Pick a Puppy that had to be imported into the U.S. Who the hell doesn’t love puppies? Even better, the opening credits end with a wrinkly English Bulldog puppy sliding into a spread-eagle position. So. Fucking. Adorable.

Right now, all I want to do is get home, relax, and then I can deal with my laptop on Wednesday and see whether it can be salvaged, or if I need a new one. I can call the temp agency to see if I can interview for the gig at Long Island City. I can see all the crap I recorded at home, happy that I got ready in case I couldn’t see it in Toronto. I can get on for my life. Right now, though, I can take the good with the bad, remember the fun I’ve had, and be happy that I was able to have so many new and unique experiences. All I have to remember is this: even at my lowest ebb, I still have it better than so many people in this world. As long as I can keep perspective, I should be fine.

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