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Toronto, More Than a Game

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5:25 p.m. (local) June 13 TORONTO, Ont.---Jay Spillane, my old counselor at the Matchbox in Chicago, used to say how you didn't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy a baseball road trip. He argued the game only takes a few hours and you and your significant other can spend the rest of the time exploring a city.
I had to get out of town a couple of days because people were breaking me down, in the words of Texas Ranger outfielder Milton Bradley. I'm in his corner.
And Toronto was the perfect tonic.
The Cubs (the best team in baseball) are here. I don't expect them to do well on this domed/Astroturf road trip, but Toronto already has been very very good to me......

....I left Chicago after Wednesday night's Cubs game, got a cheap Patel Cartel motel room in New Buffalo, Mich. and made it to Detroit in time to see the Tigers beat the White Sox 2-1 in a quick battle of two crafty lefties (Kenny Rogers and Mark Buehrle).
Lots of Sox fans there and they were as surly as they are in Chicago.
"I'm on my way to Toronto to see the Cubs," I told a fellow right field grandstander in a White Sox replica jersey with his mother in a White Sox jersey. "But I'll root for the Sox today."
They just stared at me like I had stopped their elevator. I wasn't even wearing Cubs stuff.

Fueled up by Tim Horton coffee I roared down Canada's 401 East and got to Toronto by 9 p.m. Thursday, in time to catch two fine bands at North by Northeast, Canada's version of South by Southwest in Austin, Tx.
Do what you can to find the music of Alex Cuba. A transplant from Cuba into rural Vancouver, B.C. he blends flamenco-influenced guitar with Cuban rhythms and neo-soul. His independent release "Agua del Pozo" (Water From The Well)" has hit No. 1 on the iTunes U.S. Latin Tropical Chart. (His label is Caracol). I saw him solo acoustic at a place called the Tattoo Rock Parlor, 567 Queen St. West. The upscale music venue also features a large tattoo parlor. Now there's a great idea.
Earlier, down the street at the wonderfully named Bovine Sex Club, 542 Queen St. West I loved the Brown Hornets. I was in the back of the narrow room and not taking notes since on a "vacation day." There were at least four dudes in the Toronto-based band and they mixed hard country with feisty punk and gospel. The lead singer had pure pop vocals in the style of Canadian Bob Seagrini and he played keyboards. I loved this band as much as I loved the tiny club decked out in Christmas lights, body odor and empty Jagermeister bottles. It seems everyone in Toronto drinks Jagermeister. I wanted to stay for more but Alex Cuba was calling.
My excellent friend Michelle from 15 years ago scored me a room at the Renaissance Hotel next to the Rogers Center (formerly the Skydome) with a view and window overlooking center field. This was unexpected. I heard about these rooms when Skydome opened in 1989 and people messed around and got nekkid in full view of the game.
Words cannot describe what it is like to open the curtains in the morning and see a major league baseball field. Right now the Cubs are taking batting practice to a soundtrack that includes Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and Deep Purple's "Hush."
My window opens up so I gotta go and scream some pitching tips to Jason Marquis.

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It's unfortunately been several years since my last trip to Toronto, so I was glad to travel virtually through this blog. Other than a family trip with my parents when I was a kid, all of my Toronto trips have centered around "La Femme Nikita" fan-related activites from conventions and charity auctions for the former USA Network TV show to driving up mainly to check out the fabulous Don Francks (Walter on "LFN") at the city's Montreal Bistro & Jazz Club.

Since I don't follow baseball much, my memories of the Skydome are connected more with seeing it on screen in TV and film (namely the fabulous exchange scene in LFN's "Sleeping With the Enemy" episode) although I do remember admiring the architecture from the outside during a walk in downtown Toronto. Needless to say, a number of people have called Toronto the European version of Chicago, and I must agree. I've always felt right at home in the city and always enjoyed starting off a day in Toronto with something from the ever-present Tim Horton's.

Thanks for bringing back some great memories!

Thanks Jessi;
I gotta find time to write about the great shopping on Queen West. I hadn't been to Toronto in about 15 years. All I knew then was Younge Street.
Actually saw the Blue Jays at the old Exhibition Stadium.



The last time I was in Toronto was 1979.
Supertramp, with Jean Luc Ponty opening.

The next day we snuck into a BB King show.

Oh, I almost got laid to "Nights in White Satin"

Too much Molson.

Go Cubs

Mark, where are you/?
This is the ¥ear----Dave

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on June 13, 2008 4:28 PM.

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