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First Impressions of Toronto

It’s good that the city of Toronto gives you a big lit up sign to remind you where you are in case you get black out drunk after a Maple Leafs game and wake up in the city’s many public spaces.

After seven to eight hours of driving through God’s green New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, I made it to the “City of Neighborhoods” as the tourist pamphlets pronounce. There’s a lot to write about later on from the experience in Niagara Falls to drinking the Holy Grail of beers, but here are some initial thoughts.

At the U.S./Canada border, I have never been interrogated so rigorously by a border agent then I have here. And I’ve been to communist China. Since I am the new face of global espionage, he gave three minute of just odd question. At one point, I wanted to ask, “Sir, are we on a date?” Here are the questions I was asked in a deadpan style:

  • Are you here on business or pleasure?
  • Where are you heading?
  • What are you going to do there?
  • How long you here for?
  • What’s your friend’s name?
  • Where does she live?
  • How do you know her?
  • Where did you work together?
  • How long was that?
  • Where do you work now?
  • Is this your car? (Answer: Yes)
  • So you own it? (Yes, we say this is my car, it typically means that you own it.)
  • For how long?
  • Are you carrying any weapons? (No, but a car can be a weapon.)
  • Is this your first time in Canada?

Then I was able to proceed. I think the dude is just lonely.

Other observations:

  • When I was gassing up in Hamilton, Ontario, the station had Tim Horton’s donuts. I look across the street. There’s a full Tim Horton’s store across the street WITH a drive-thru. They don’t mess around here.
  • The highway from Niagara to Toronto is filled with  signs for wineries.
  • One of my Uber drivers said that the donuts are the same no matter where you go but he thinks the coffee tastes different from store to store.
  • My other Uber drive was very excited that I chose Toronto as my holiday destination.
  • That same Uber drive had the local Virgin Radio pop station on, right after the Selena Gomez song was done, the DJ mentioned something about Drake twice with in a minute. They must really love Drake here.
  • The sure say “Cheers!” here a lot.
  • Like every city in the world, there’s massive amount of construction going on. Will there ever be a time where a city is done building things?
  • A guy next to me at a brewpub had the squarest head I’ve ever seen with the thickest Canadian accent. He saw me logging into the bar’s WiFi and says, “I can tell you’re not from here because you went onto the WiFi.” If he was less sweaty and had a better mullet, he could be hosting Hockey Night on ESPN.
  • So far, I haven’t heard any French walking around, but a lot of Middle Eastern languages.

 

 

 

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The Why Am I Not There Guide to Road Trips

The road trip is a right of passage when you’re a teenager with a new license, a crappy car and personal freedom. Fast forward two decades, the road trip is a survival story with cranky kids, strollers and countless bathroom breaks.

Whether you’re by yourself, with your crew or your family, here’s some tips and suggestions for that six plus hour trip on the highway.

Check your tire pressure before you leave and during. This is the most important guideline to follow.  The correct tire pressure will give you peace of mind that you can prevent a flat and will improve your gas mileage.

Clean your car out before you leave. Get rid of the coffee cups, receipts, used tissues, hamburger wrappers and extraneous items from your trunk. Less clutter will make you organized so you can fit more things in for important stuff like camping equipment and luggage.

Pack like you’re flying. Just because you have a lot more room to bring your stuff doesn’t mean you should. It’s all about being mobile and compact when your going to and from the car. I’m gone for four nights — 2 pants, 2 shirts, 1 jacket, shoes and 4 pairs of socks, undies and t-shirts easily fits in an overnight bag with my dopp kit.

Wear shoes and boots. It seems like a dumb suggestion, you want to avoid flip flops, crocs and other light footwear. You need something sturdy and supportive on your ankles for the constant gas and break use.

Pick your music before hand. If you prefer to be your own DJ rather then letting the radio/Sirius dictate the mood, than find your old CD envelope and go nuts. You can use your phone’s Bluetooth to connect Spotify to the car’ stereo, but that will be a massive battery drain even if you’re charge and you might not always be in data range. Often the battery will drain faster than can charge.

Bring two chargers. Most new cars have a cigarette lighter charger up front and in the back seat. Your passengers won’t have to fight for charging when you’re using the front to power the phone’s GPS and Google maps.

Print out directions anyway. If you reply on the graces of Google maps for directions, the printouts are a backup in case your Samsung Galaxy Note explodes on you or you’re out of data range.

Stop every two to three hours at a rest stop. Just like when you’re at your work desk, you need to stand and stretch.

Go to the bathroom even when you don’t have to. You never know.

Avoid drinking soda. While being the worst thing you put in your body, the carbonation and acids can irritate your stomach when you’re in a stressful situation like a traffic jam. Water or ice tea is the safest bet.

Don’t ride the left lane. There’s no need to speed to make up for lost time. You won’t make much of a difference. Also, cops are ticketing more those riding the left. Relax in the right, enjoy the ride.

Bring lots of change. While EZPass is readily available, you never know if you come to a toll that doesn’t accept it.

Text friends/family when you stop. You just want to let know that you’re good in case of alien invasion.

Be spontaneous. If you see a great landscape, pull off at a scenic overlook. Soak it in.

EDMONTON  OCT 27/98-- --GREAT WHITE NORTH STARRING RICK MORANIS AS BOB MCKENZIE AND DAVE THOMAS AS DOUG MCKENZIE. to accompany JOURNAL/ ENTERTAINMENT story on SCTV

Toronto, Niagara Falls and Buffalo — My Next Destinations

Time to take out the suitcase, pick out my jetsetter clothes and brush up on the local customs as I will venture out into the Great White North. I know, not as exotic as my month long trip through Spain, Morocco and South Africa, but it’s a county I haven’t been to and it’s a great, easy last minute road trip.

There’s no particular reason why I haven’t been to Canada. It’s not like I’m a conscious objector to their freewheeling free health care and polite nature. I’ve always been like, “Eventually, I’ll get there.” It’s kind of like that big city attraction that’s always there and eventually you’ll find time to visit like the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. Well, now’s the time for Toronto. Same with Mexico, I’ll eventually get there by jumping that wall

Toronto is North America’s 4th largest city with 2.6 million residents and one of the most diverse populations in the world. You’ll find every ethnicity represented. It’s been in the news recently where the city has welcomed in  Syrian refugees. As far as I can tell, they’re doing pretty well for themselves.

toronto-drakeAs for Canada as a whole, like Belgium, there have some inoffensive stereotypes — hockey, maple syrup, poutine, moose, niceness, Tim Horton donuts, comedy and “Eh? Hoser.” Currently, its most famous resident is Drake, which I’m sure I’ll see walking around town. You know, he started from the bottom now he’s here.

For the four nights I’ll be there, there are plenty of attractions that I’ll check out. Like…

  • The iconic CN Tower, but I’ll pass on the sky walk where you can walk along the edge while in a harness. I did it in Macau, it was fun, but a one time thing.
  • The Hockey Hall of Fame where you can recreate the experience of getting your whole body slammed against the boards.
  • Art Gallery of Ontario — Last year, I visited Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Now, his other major art museum project is in his hometown.
  • Royal Ontario Museum — The city’s most popular museum is their science and culture center.
  • The Distillery Historic District — You know me I like my booze, but this area is mostly a shopping and dining area. Nevertheless, I hope there’s an actual distillery in the Distillery District.
  • St. Lawrence Market — I’m loading up on maple syrup. Back up my MINI and loading that golden stuff up.

While I don’t expect a major cultural divide, I’m curious if I’ll find Toronto to be an international destination. I don’t expect it to be a pleasant and easy to navigate. Went the AirBnB route for accommodation since this is a last minute trip. Bonus: no rain this week and temperatures in the 60s.

superman2-niagara-fallsAbout hour seven into my drive, I’ll arrive at Niagara Falls, which I’ve never been as well. I expect it to be a tourist hell.

In any event, it’s a great way to honor the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Many of the parks are free, as discovered when I visited the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. Check my Instagram for fun photos.

It will be a game day decision whether I’ll take one of those dopey Maid of the Mist boat tours. It will be during the week so it won’t be as populated, but it depends on my mood after the long drive and if I’m willing to cough up $20 to get wet. Heck, if I’m paying $20 to get wet there better be cuddling afterwards. Thank you, I’ll here all week

If anything, I can see where Superman saved that kid in Superman II.

On the way back, I’ll take a slight detour into Buffalo. It will be chicken wings, Teddy Roosevelt and Frank Lloyd Wright.

anchor_barThere are two places to get the iconic wings — the inventor The Anchor Bar and it’s longtime rival Duff’s. I wont take time to see if Buffalo Wild Wings is any different in Buffalo. I plan on hitting up both because why the eff not? Wings aren’t that filling to begin with.

Continuing on the National Park vibe, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site is where TR took the oath of office after McKinley’s assassination. I love all things Roosevelt and early 20th Century history, so this will be a big thrill for me.

Finally, Darwin D. Martin House was designed by Frank Floyd Wright and built from 1903-1905. It’s going through a restoration, but it will still be open … I hope. This and Falling Water are the two most popular FLW sites in the Northeast.

There you have it. I have a lot of driving in front of me. It will be the first time driving in another country. I’ve driven 7+ before to Maine, but this should be slightly longer. I shall plan accordingly and post along the way.

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Sophia Bush Lays Smack Down on Annoying Male Passenger That Won’t Leave Her Alone

Here’s a story that will shock you — an attractive woman was bothered on a flight by a guy. The woman in this case was Chicago P.D. actress Sophia Bush. She has a twitter account, and she put it to good use.

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Do we have guessed on what type of guy he was? Douchebag? Tubby dude? Old man? My vote is for general creepy dude.

Besides reaching for the pepper-spray (which TSA would have taken anyway), she handled it the best way should could without making a scene. Posting a photo for public shaming would probably ruin the guy’s life. I would have no problem if she did.

I would put airplanes and airports the worst places to meet single people. The same with gyms, supermarkets, department stores and funerals, but dudes try anyway. As a dude myself, I never tried picking up girls beyond bars, rock concerts and senior centers. Calm down, I’m joking.

In the end, this is a daily occurrence for attractive women, even the ones wearing headphones. It’s going to take a monumental society push to call out dudes who just don’t get it.

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There’s a Pop-Up Kit Kat Museum in Tokyo

If you have a fondness for Japanese culture like I do, than you know that the county produces a variety of odd ball flavors of Kit Kats. My childhood and my waistline would be altered downing Sweet Potato, Blueberry Cheesecake, Brown Sugar and Hot Chili. Not so much on the Soy Sauce, Wasabi or Red Bean Paste.

You can explore the over 300 varieties of Kit Kats and the history of the famed candy at a temporary museum at the Nescafe in Tokyo’s Harajuku section. Last day is this Sunday. I know, it needs to be permanent.

While the Kit Kat has run wild in Japanese culture, it’s actually a British invention that dates back to 1911. Let’s go to the Wikipedia:

The origins of what is now known as the Kit Kat brand go back to 1911, when Rowntree’s, a confectionery company based in York in the United Kingdom, trademarked the terms Kit Cat and Kit Kat. Although the terms were not immediately used, the first conception of the Kit Kat appeared in the 1920s, when Rowntree launched a brand of boxed chocolates entitled Kit Cat. This continued into the 1930s, when Rowntree’s shifted focus and production onto its Black Magic and Dairy Box brands. With the promotion of alternative products the Kit Cat brand decreased and was eventually discontinued. The original four-finger bar was developed after a worker at Rowntree’s York Factory put a suggestion in a recommendation box for a snack that “a man could take to work in his pack”.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to that worker.

Here’s a photo gallery of what you can find at the display of Kit Kat. I would have broken the glass and tried to eat some of the candy like Augustus Gloop.

If you haven’t had any of the weird flavors, you can head over to Japan Crate to stock up on those and other great Asian candy. Some you can find in Japanese supermarkets like Mitsuwa in California, New Jersey and Illinois.

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Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors Touring North America in 2017-18

Famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and her Instagram-ready light art installations will hit up art museums in the U.S. and Canada next year. The 87-year-old eccentric is known for using light, mirrors and vibrant colors where the viewers become part of the art.

Although, she’s been creating rooms and exhibits for 60 years, it was her 2013 New York show at David Zwirner Gallery, Infinity Mirrored Room, where she entered the social media age. It seemed that half of my Facebook/Instagram feed was of my friends taking selfies during the exhibit. The other half is my friends at Tough Mudder.

I had seen something similar to Yayoi Kusama use of light, mirrors and lasers in 2000, but can’t recall if it was her or somebody similar. In any event, it’s damn trippy, hypnotic and freaky. All you need is some EDM music and you can die a happy person.

The Kasama tour will featured six of her rooms alongside paintings and sculptures. The tour starts at the The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. You’ll need timed tickets for the exhibit, which runs next year from February 23 through May 14th.

From there, it will travel to these cities and museums:

 

 

 

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Jimmy Kimmel Raced Kaley Cuoco on Those Idiotic Motorized Suitcases

Looks like somebody cashed in their Indie-Go-Go campaign funds to good use — late-night product placement.

Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco took to the streets of tourist hell Hollywood Blvd. to race on the Modobag. Nobody was hurt.

Back in the July, I wrote about these contraptions in my You Don’t Need This series. Basically, for $1,495 you can save maybe 2 minutes from your time at the airport and probably injury a few people and knock shit over.

PC World gave it mostly positive reviews for fun, but also questioned why anybody would really need to throw down a lot of clams for this. As myself and other commentators wondered, it won’t take long before they will be banned like hooverboards.

In any event, here’s the fun: