Posted by mike On April 30, 2019
To recline or not to recline. This is the age old question that has divided travellers on planes since the, uh, inception of reclining chairs on planes. Recently, however, that debate has crossed over into other facets of life where extra comfort is an option. Take movie theatres, for example. Some of them are equipped with reclining seats that let you lean back like you’re Fat Joe in 2004. And I use movies as an example, because, recently, I found myself smack dab in the middle of the reclining seat debate.
The scene was the local Cineplex, during the opening weekend of Avengers: Endgame. B and I had purchased tickets beforehand, and the theatre was jammed pack. In front of us was a man, with three boys. Irrelevant detail – the man kind of looked like the Trivago Guy. Second irrelevant detail – the man had a giant bottle of fancy water, which he clearly bought at a grocery store beforehand.
As the movie was about to start, a group of kids filtered in with some adult chaperones, who were all there for a birthday party. They weren’t especially quiet, so the man in front of us took it upon himself to loudly yell at them about how noisy they were. The same message probably could have been conveyed politely, and not so rudely, but I digress. Anyway, not long after, the man decided to recline his seat.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve been to a Cineplex with recliners, but you can get a pretty good lean on, and this guy had a nice one going. He was in front of B, but if he was in front of me, he would have squished my legs. B seemed pretty chill, though, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. The man spent the rest of the movie in varying degrees of recline. At one point, it almost looked like he was in a rocket ship during takeoff (OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point). Again, though, B was fine with it. I did try to recline once, too, but I immediately felt a knee behind me, so I propped back up.
B was cool, but he also was fidgety. It’s a looooong movie, after all. While adjusting in his seat, I did see him once, accidentally, kick Fat Joe’s, err, I mean Trivago Guy’s, err, I mean the reclining man’s seat lightly. The man didn’t say anything, but I told B to watch his feet, and not kick his seat. Even though his leg space was severely hampered, that was the polite, well-mannered thing to do. It wasn’t like we could move to another seat, either, as every one was filled.
Flash forward to the end of the movie. I saw B accidentally kick the seat again,
while Rocket Man was getting ready for takeoff as the man was reclined far back. The man then whipped around, and yelled at B to stop kicking his seat.
If this happened to you, and your child, what would you do?
Uh, I guess that’s an option, but not what I chose.
See, I was really annoyed. He could have just asked B politely, to stop. When it comes to kids, and there is an issue, I tend to take it up with the parents. If this man channelled his inner Hulk and just had to rage about the incidental kicking, he easily could have yelled at me instead. Snapping on B in this case seemed kind of bully-ish. Regardless, B did not deserve to be yelled at, in my opinion.
In the ‘to recline or not to recline’ debate, the main argument for reclining is that, hey, you paid for the seat, so you can sit however you want in it. If other people aren’t comfortable, too bad. The thing is, though, to misuse Newton’s Third Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you choose to recline so far back in your seat that you are compromising the person behind you, then there will probably be some kind of consequence. Knowing that, are you really in any position to get upset at the resulting consequence? Dude is all up on B’s spot, so B can barely move without touching his seat, so dude gets mad that B touched his seat? To quote The Nappy Roots – awnaw, hell naw!
Sensing a confrontation going bad, and not wanting to miss the end of Endgame, I waited until the movie was over, to approach the man. He ducked into the washroom, which B had to use, too, so I waited there, near his group of boys, until he re-emerged. When he did, I basically told him, sternly, that he spent the whole movie leaned far back into B, and he had no right to yell at him for kicking his seat accidentally. He, wasn’t having it (shocker), and started to yell (More yelling? Double shocker) about how he wasn’t that far back, and that B and I didn’t have any manners, unlike his kids. I walked away as he raged on and on. I said my piece, but he didn’t get it, and I didn’t want to make the news over some pettiness.
So what are the takeaways here? Well, for one, until reclining seats are abolished, I guess it’s is on us to know the etiquette in using them, and to be aware of the effects on those behind you. I personally think that, if movie theatres, planes or wherever are going to be equipped with them, then the space in between the rows needs to be bigger, to not take away someone’s leg space. Clearly, this isn’t practical or realistic, but a dreamer’s gotta dream, right? Finally, based on my own informal research among some parenting peers, screaming at someone else’s child is a big no-no. Whatever side of the ‘to recline or not to recline’ argument you choose, and even if you think the man in front of us was justified in being mad at B, yelling at a stranger’s kid over something trivial is a real prick move.
Speaking of prick moves, B told me that, while in the bathroom, after our Trivago Guy-looking friend relieved himself, he washed his hands. However, instead of drying them, he shook them off, shamelessly spraying water droplets onto B and a couple of other people. Now on that, I hope we can all agree, no debate……
That’s just gross and ignorant.
Posted by mike On March 26, 2019
Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.
Now, that probably sounds like the ending to some cheesy, cliche sports story. It’s not, though! It’s the beginning to this non-cheesy, non-cliche sports story. Trust me, it’ll make sense later.
I don’t know about you, but I worry about what kind of people my children will be, when they’re older. B, in particular can be a handful, to put it mildly. We try to instil as much as we can, but at the end of the day, it’s on B to accept it or reject it. As such, putting him in the right environments is always a big factor for K and I. Sports, for example, are perfect, as they expose him to all kinds of life lessons in a structured, fun way.
Luckily, B loves basketball, and he played on a rep team in Hamilton this year. Even more luckily, the team was comprised of a good group of boys. Sure, skill and talent-wise, they were OK, but everyone got along, and their attitudes were fine. Off the court, whereas B’s the type who takes goofing around to new levels, I was surprised to see that, when with his team, he wasn’t any more rambunctious as anyone else (usually).
After an up and down season, the team competed in the provincial championships recently. The tournament covered a whole weekend, which meant staying out of town in a hotel. After the first game Friday evening, the team went out to a restaurant for dinner.
While there, some of the boys ended up at the bar area, to watch the Toronto Raptors game on TV, including B. Don’t worry, they weren’t drinking (they’re 9 years old. C’mon now). Eventually, though, B came running over to K and I, excited. He had worn his warm-up shirt to the restaurant, but now, he just had his jersey on. He told us that he gave away his shirt, to a kid at the bar. Since we had paid for the shirt, as part of his uniform, and B has a track record for silliness, like I mentioned earlier, our immediate reaction was to cut him off, and tell him to go get the shirt back. He ran back to the bar, and came back to show us that he got it.
I’ll admit to screwing up here, folks. Sometimes, like the Fresh Prince said, parents just don’t understand. After the shirt incident, J went over to snoop on her big bro, and reported back that the boy who the team was hanging with at the bar had a disability (not her words, but I’ll error on the side of vagueness here). Then, we started hearing from B’s teammates that the boy was really excited to be talking to, and chilling with, the team. Then, we heard that B and one of his buddies had given him their shirts, as a token of friendship, and that the boy was super excited about receiving them. B had come over to explain this, but K and I kiboshed it.
When B walked by, after we found out about his gesture, we told him that, of course, he could give his shirt to his new friend, if he wanted to. So he did. He then returned to say that the boy’s mom wanted to know where our games were the next day, as they wanted to come watch. K jotted down the address on a paper, which B delivered. Afterwards, when it was time to go, the mom approached the parents on the team, to say thank you, and compliment the boys.
The next morning, B kept nervously wondering if his new pal would actually show up, with his mom. As game time neared, I looked around the gym, and didn’t see them, which was disappointing, but understandable. Right before tip-off, though, they walked in! The dude was even rocking B’s warm-up shirt. B broke into a goofy grin, which made me goofily grin, too. After the game, the team went over to say hi, and give the boy props and stuff, which he was clearly thrilled about.
Needless to say, I was proud that B, unsolicited and unprompted, made a new buddy, not because he was ‘different’, not because it was ‘the right thing to do’, but just…….because. Maybe that guy will be alright, after all. We could all stand to be more tolerant, accepting and not quick to judge, right?
The only part that sucked was that the team kind of got killed in that game. However…..
Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.
Told ya that it would make sense. Til the next one, later!
Posted by mike On March 21, 2019
Three quick posts for the price of one today, dawg. Let’s go!
TRAPPED IN A CLOSET
A while ago, lil KJ outgrew his crib, so we upgraded him to his own bed. For the most part, it’s been alright. Sometimes, though, I miss the containment of the crib. Take the other night, for example.
I had put him down to sleep, which was a laborious, time-consuming process. About an hour later, I heard his door open. He happily came bouncing down the stairs, fresh as a daisy.
The increase in bed freedom has led to an increase in late night wandering. He usually comes to our room later, though. Why he was up so early now, no clue. Regardless, I took him back to his room, and he was out within minutes.
I had promised J that I would crash in her bed (that’s a whole ‘nother story), so that’s where I ended up. At around 3AM, I was awakened to KJ screaming for me, and crying. In theory, I should have just gotten up, but I was barely conscious, so I yelled for him to come to me. I must have dozed off, because, the next thing that I know, I heard KJ frantically yelling for me, plus a lot of indecipherable, two year old toddler gibberish (“Daddy, lkfjk$ajfuebt! Daddy!”). I had to get up now. I stumbled around upstairs, in the dark, trying to find where the yells were coming from. It was like the sorriest game of Marco Polo ever. Eventually, I realized that the screaming was coming from B’s room.
Or more specifically, B’s closet.
See, B has a dresser in his closet, with a gap between it and the wall. The gap is roomy enough for me to stand there, for example, but I’m too big to easily wedge myself into it. KJ, presumably in his hunt for me, in the dark, decided that I must have been in that gap.
He got himself into it, but then couldn’t get back out, and started freaking. I saw him, lifted him up, and as soon as I did, he calmed down. Fresh as a daisy, he then said ‘Oh, hi daddy!’ as if he was surprised to see me.
Legit, I think that, with R. Kelly making headlines, I had been reading a lot about him and his music lately. KJ must have been secretly reading along with me, too. Otherwise I don’t think that I’ll ever understand why he was trapped in a closet.
Speaking of big new stories, the Momo Challenge was a huge deal recently. As parents, K and I had the same sense of moral panic that you probably did, which meant that we had to confront what our kids were consuming on social media head-on. It’s crazy how impressionable a child’s mind is.
Take J, for instance. In her six year old eyes, a heavy set toy delivery man in a red suit, magic reindeers, unicorns and giant, chocolate-dropping bunnies are all very important to her. Shoot, for a minute, so was a ghost-hunting Elvis Presley.
Knowing this, a few weeks ago, J casually asked me the following:
“Is YouTube Real?”
I was slightly distracted, so I said of course it was real, without hesitation. Real live humans, posting real stuff. In retrospect, this was not the greatest idea. YouTube is reality, but there’s also a lot of phoney bologna which can fool a naive young brain. Later on, we had this conversation:
J – “Daddy, I’m scared of the Bad Elf.” ( J loves the Elf On A Shelf, and takes the whole thing very seriously. In turn, I have to treat it seriously. Imagine her dismay when she came across some dastardly video, of elves behaving badly and ruining Christmas for kids).
Me – “The Bad Elf isn’t real. You have nothing to be scared of.”
J – “But I saw him on YouTube.”
Me – “So?”
J – “You said YouTube is real.”
Oh. Right. I did say that.
Despite my attempts to explain myself, she was worried about this creepy little jerk for weeks afterwards.
Another time, while out for dinner, J casually told us that she had been watching the news. This was odd, as current events isn’t really her thing. She continued on by discussing how mermaids existed, and where you could go to find them. Believe it or not, she didn’t see this on CNN. It was some random YouTube news channel. Fake newz at its finest, which I had to explain to her.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite the Momo Challenge being (most likely) a hoax, the idea of the Momo Challenge was terrifying, because of how easy it could be real. In my house, anyway, it doesn’t always take much to sway one of my kids.
‘ROUND EVERY CORNER
Speaking of my house, I’d like to think it’s a pretty typical home. I still shake my head at the stuff that takes place in it, though. ‘Round every corner lies a possible surprise.
One night, I turned a corner and almost stepped on J. Instead of going to sleep as asked, she stubbornly put together a makeshift bed in her doorway, and slept there. I mean, based on the amount of effort that this would have taken, it would have been easier and more comfy to just to lie in her regular bed, but what do I know?
KJ was calling me here, on two phones (he drips too hard, as the kids say). They’re actually a calculator and a broken walkie talkie. The reception on those things is horrible.
On first glance, I was grossed out when I entered B’s room and almost stepped on this. Luckily, it’s just a brown deflated balloon.
B wasn’t home when I walked into his room to see this, so you can imagine my reaction. Luckily, it wasn’t some sort of bizarre, inappropriate class project. I found out later that he had an audition, and was practising some lines.
J decided to play dress up. Here she is, as Marshmello, the famous DJ. Curse you, Fortnite.
KJ was walking around eating and drinking. He then pulled a toddler David Blaine. I looked, and his snack had vanished. I finally found it here, down low, on a shoe rack. I’ve heard of waffle shoes before, but this is ridiculousness!
Anyway, you get the idea. You just never know what to expect, with kids.
One thing that I do know, however…..is that this post is over. Later, y’all.
Posted by mike On March 4, 2019
World Wrestling Entertainment’s Road To Wrestlemania Tour comes to Toronto this Friday, March 8, and thanks to my friends at the WWE, my family will be attendance for the show! It should be a great way to kick off March Break. As someone who’s been to an event or two over the years, I can tell you that the experiences are always memorable. Like, listicle worthy memorable. Check it out! Here are eight of my top WWE moments, experienced live, in person:
8. The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest shows of the year that the WWE puts on. I actually went to the very first show, in 1988, in my hometown of Hamilton. It also happened to be the first show that I went to. Even more memorably, despite coming from very modest means, my family somehow had floor seats, just a few rows from the ring!
7. While leaving the above event, heading back to our car, I had my first celebrity encounter! We bumped into legendary wrestler Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and legendary wrestling personality ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund outside of the rear entrance of what was then known as Copps Coliseum. As Jake was my favorite wrestler at the time, little kid me was in awe and starstruck. They had clearly downed “one too many” beforehand, but were incredibly nice and talked to us for a while. For those not around in the 80s, we couldn’t just bust out our phones, to take a selfie, if we met a star (crazy, eh?), so you’ll have to take my word on this encounter.
6. A couple of years later, I went to a house show with one of my sisters, also in Hamilton. Again, for reasons unknown to me now, we somehow had floor seats, a few rows from the ring. My favorite wrestler at that time, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, was scheduled to be on the card. One of his gimmicks was that, during his entrance, he would give his sunglasses to a child who was ringside. Knowing that we would be close, I brought my Bret Hart action figure with me, with the intention of waving it, and drawing Bret’s attention, so I could hopefully score a pair of shades. When the big moment came, and Bret came strutting to the ring, he took off his glasses, looked right at my frantically waving little butt, and headed over. BUT, before he got to me, he saw a kid rocking a Bret Hart shirt, so gave the glasses to that boy, instead. Yo, I didn’t say they were all of these top WWE moments were good moments, peeps.
5. When attending any event live, the crowd can really add to the experience . Wrestling is no exception to this. The hypest atmosphere of any concert/sport that I’ve been to occurred at the 2006 WWE Unforgiven Pay Per View, in Toronto, during the main event. Local hero Edge versus challenger John Cena, in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. The crowd was bananas for Edge, and the hatred for Cena was hilariously harsh, so the place was rockin’. When Cena ended up winning, grown men were legit furious. Just a very surreal match, to say the least!
4. 2007. Saturday Night’s Main Event, in Toronto. Batista’s music hits, followed by his pyro routine. Here’s an example of it, for reference:
Needless to say, it is LOUD! However, I looked over at my buddy…..and he was fast asleep. Slept through the whole thing. I was surprised, but impressed. It takes a special kind of tired to saw logs through that kind of noise explosion.
3. I’ll cheat a bit, as this wasn’t at an official WWE event. However, when a guy like ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase wants to lock you up in his signature move, The Million Dollar Dream, you suck it up and do it! Everyone has a price, right?
Tie 2. & 1. First times always trump everything, so my top moments are when I took my oldest two oldest kids to their first shows. B a few years ago, to a Smackdown house show, and J, last year, to a WWE NXT show. We had a good time, and they’re both looking forward to the upcoming Toronto show. At the end of the day, man, that’s what it’s all about – creating memories with your children. Who knows, maybe we’ll add to this list of top WWE moments Friday.
See you at the fights!
Posted by mike On January 17, 2019
In my house, we have a Fortnite problem. My son B is kind of obsessed, people. Lemme explain.
Now, truth be told, I’ll admit to being a casual gamer. I first discovered Fortnite when I saw a video of Drake playing it. Since I’m somewhat of a Drake Stan, I figured anything good enough for Drake is good enough for me. Plus, it was free. After playing it for a bit, I realized three things – firstly, I sucked. I was routinely killed quickly. Secondly, the game isn’t really free. It’s “freemium”. Like, it’s free to play, but your character is basic. To not be such a plain Jane, and to get better stuff so you might last longer, you have to either do well, to earn in-game currency (V-Bucks) to buy better stuff, or use real-life, hard earned currency to buy in-game currency. Running around dressed in a fish costume is cool, but not $20 cool to me. Thirdly, a big part of the appeal of the game is goofing around online with your friends. I have zero gaming buddies, though. Having strangers in weird outfits shooting my basic butt just wasn’t very enjoyable. Go figure.
Anyway, since the game is such a huge phenomenon worldwide, it was inevitable that B would discover it. It started off pretty harmless. One of his friends got him onto it, and the two of them would play together. Not long after, we got him a headset with a mic, since his buddy had one. Socialising with peers, no biggie, right? From there, things snowballed. Turns out, kids love Fortnite. Specifically, a lot of kids that B knows love Fortnite, including him. If he wasn’t playing, he was talking about playing. Or watching videos of people on YouTube playing. One time, he went off and came back wearing a ridiculous outfit. Backpack, goggles, Nerf gun, backwards hat. When I looked at him confused, he told me that he was wearing a Fortnite skin.
And don’t get me started on the dancing. OMG, the dancing! B is constantly busting out moves that he’s seen in Fortnite, which, while amusing, is also kind of annoying. Ever try to have a serious talk with someone, but midway through it, have to say “Hey! Stop flossing and listen!”? Oddly enough, pre-Fortnite, he was a stiff, awkward dancer. Now, though, he’s pretty slick. It seems as if other kids have stepped up their abilities to emulate the moves, too. At B’s basketball practises, boys who, on first glance, look like they have two left feet, all of the sudden will boogie like they’re auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. I guess I gotta give Epic Games props, for improving the next generation’s co-ordination, worldwide.
For a while, B was happy just playing the game. Unfortunately for B, like father, like son. He inherited his old man’s suckiness. Initial glee would turn to screams of ‘”No! Don’t kill me!” or sad comments like “Hey guys, can you wait for me? I died.”
Compounding the situation was that his friends all seemed to have upgraded characters and weapons. He was stuck with the cheapo, free ones. One day, he said this to me:
“My friends all have battle passes and make fun of me because I’m a newb. Can you buy me some V-Bucks?”
Those are all English words, but I didn’t know WTF those sentences meant. The gist of it was that he wanted real money, to buy stuff in the game, so he wouldn’t suck. Newbs are slang for beginners. His birthday was right around the corner, so, luckily for him, he did get his wish. He got a gift card that he used to get V-Bucks.
No joke, overnight, after he bought some new skins, he went from this sorry, basic B, to a cocky, bold, trash talker, making fun of newbs. Like, less than 24 hours ago, his game was lame, but now that he’s dressed as a giant tree making it rain, he’s stuntin’ on some fools?!
There’s a bunch of other parenting things, as well, about Fortnite, that need to be monitored. Being careful talking to strangers, for example. Making sure he’s playing nicely with his friends, for another. Keeping track of his time, too. Yo, If you ever want to see someone lose their mind, try telling a kid that they have five minutes left to play Fortnite, then, in five minutes when they protest that they need more time, turn the game off, anyway.
The final straw was a social studies test that B had recently. It was about looking at a map and naming the provinces and capitals in Canada. Normally, he gets good marks……but he failed it! Now, how in the world of Carmen Sandiego does a boy, who can easily look at a map in Fortnite, memorise every nook and cranny in it, and successfully parachute down to a location on the map of his choosing, not know where Ontario is, in Canada? He lives in freakin’ Ontario! Yeah, between that and some other issues, it was time to take away Fortnite for, uh, at least a fortnight.
And that’s where things are currently. B can talk about it all he wants, and do the dance moves, but he’s not allowed to play it.
To any other parent who thinks their child has a Fortnite problem….I feel your pain.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sneak in a round or two of Fortnite Battle Royale.
B can’t play, and there’s no point letting his V-Bucks go to waste. Later, newbs!
Posted by mike On December 31, 2018
What up, my dudes! Another year has almost come and gone, and looking back on it, I see that it’s been an interesting one, for real. Through the many trials, tribulations and experiences (some of which I’ve written about here), I’ve really learned a lot. For example:
– I spent some time behind the scenes, in the audience, and in front of the camera. The TV and film life is cool from a distance, but it isn’t for me.
– From my chaperoning adventure, supervising large groups of kids isn’t my forte. Yet.
– B’s hoop skills have improved a lot. It’s just a matter of time now before he beats me one on one. When this happens, chances are I’ll cry. In the meantime, if he’s close to winning, I’ll start faking an injury before the last bucket, so my L isn’t official.
– Fortnite. I don’t get it.
– J’s grown up a lot, too. Reading, for instance. She started the year as a pretty average reader for her age. She’s gotten a lot better, though, month by month, to the point that she now reads bedtime stories to me, instead of vice versa.
– Speaking of growing, check out her legs in this picture:
It’s from a modeling gig for a catalogue. I figured that there would be some photoshopping or whatever involved. However, of all the things to digitally enhance, I have no clue why the photographers settled on a six year old girl’s legs. Always expect the unexpected, was my takeaway from that experience.
– We booked a road trip to Lansing last year, in part to see uber baseball prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. About a week before our trip, he got called up to the next minor league level, so we didn’t see him. This season, I bought Toronto Blue Jays tickets in April, for a September game, thinking Vlad would be in Toronto by then. Then in May, I heard that Vlad was being called up to Buffalo soon, so we made plans to see him there in June. Before our game, though, he ended up on the injured list, so we missed him again. When September came around, the Jays didn’t call him up to the major leagues, so I didn’t see him there, either. Conclusion? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a unicorn who does not exist.
– Baby Shark. I don’t get it.
– KJ is a sweet lil dude overall, and hilarious, but the ‘terrible twos’ is still very much a thing. He spent the other day alternating between happily playing and losing his mind because he kept asking for “daddoo back”, and because I’m adult who speaks English, I had no idea what the heck he wanted. If daddoo back was a physical object, he probably would have beat me with it.
– The older I get, the more conservative I get. Take this story, for example, of P.K. Subban, Lindsey Vonn and friends, cliff jumping.
About a week before, no joke, I was in the same spot, same cliff, with some of my friends, who took the same plunge as in this video. Where’s my Instagram evidence, you ask? There is none. I chickened out. Those rocks look painful, yo!
– This Is Us. I don’t get it.
– If someone told you that, in the last twelve months, they hung out at a set where Drake filmed stuff on, saw Drake in concert, dressed up as Drake for Halloween, and In My Feelings was their most played song of 2018, you’d probably say, “Man, that teenager sure is a Drake fan!”. The fact that I’m actually talking about my thirtysomething year old self probably means that some of you are going to stop reading the rest of this now, out of Drake hate. Anyway, in 2018, I’ve discovered that I apparently really like Aubrey Graham.
– Finally, I think the most important lesson that was reiterated this year was to not take your family and friends for granted. Like Ferris Bueller said, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. So enjoy life, and the people in it who make it better.
From my fam to yours, Happy New Year, y’all! See you in 2K19!
Posted by mike On December 4, 2018
When I think of Cooperstown, New York, I think of one thing – baseball. Similar to how Augusta, Georgia is revered by golf aficionados, baseball fans like yours truly hold Cooperstown in the highest esteem. As such, many people flock there in the summer, especially during the Hall of Fame induction festivities. However, being so closely tied to a summer pastime does pose an interesting question- what the heck goes on in Cooperstown, after the bases are put away, and the diamonds are cleared up for the season? Fortunately for my family and I, we were able to find out the answer to that question, when my friends at This Is Cooperstown invited us down for a fun-filled
almost winter weekend!
Regular readers know that we love road trippin’, and Cooperstown was a perfect destination. To my fellow Canucks in the Hamilton/Toronto area – our drives there and back each took about five hours, with stops. Upon arrival, it becomes apparent quickly how unique a place Cooperstown is. It’s a small village, nestled at the end of a lake, basically. The downtown area has one stoplight. There’s only one grocery store in town. Main Street is lined with restaurants, shoppes and the Hall of Fame, but you can’t exactly drive very fast down it. I kind of felt like that I was in Stars Hollow, actually, and expected to bump into Rory or Lorelai Gilmore at any time. I don’t mean that to throw shade; I love Gilmore Girls. I’m just sayin’, picture Stars Hollow with a baseball focus, and that’s Cooperstown.
Most of that focus obviously is on the town’s biggest attraction, the Baseball Hall Of Fame. As someone who’s dreamed of strolling the hallowed halls since I was a lil dude, I was in heaven. The amount of history that it covers, and the items and memorabilia on display, is overwhelming, but in the best way possible. Walking past the walls filled with the plaques of all of the inductees gave me goosies (word to Jennifer Lopez!). The Hall does provide a scavenger hunt for children to do, with a prize given out, for completing it. B and J, to their credit, were determined to finish it, which was cool. The only thing was that they zipped through the place to find the answers, and didn’t really want to drink in the awesomeness of it all, which meant that I couldn’t either. I left thirsty (for more). K thought that more interactive exhibits probably would have helped engage them better, which is probably true. Regardless, my family, who range in levels of baseball fandom, all enjoyed the Hall Of Fame to varying degrees, and it’s definitely THE must-see attraction, when in Cooperstown. Be sure to grab a bite at the iconic Doubleday Cafe, too, before or afterwards. Besides having delicious food with generous portions, it’s like a two minute walk from the Hall, and there’s lots of interesting baseball memorabilia on display there, as well.
Along those lines, a visit to the Cooperstown Bat Company was also in the cards. They offer tours of their factory, including a bat turning demonstration. The people there were very friendly, knowledgeable and legit seemed to love their jobs. To be honest, my kids, while initially really into it, did get bored after a while. Maybe just plan on a quick trip, if you go with little children. However, it’s a fascinating place. Don’t let the size of the facility fool you, too. Their capabilities and clients are impressive. One of the coolest things that they offer is a custom engraving service. A high quality wood bat with a name engraved on it makes a great souvenir. Since they have an online store that ships all over, it makes a great gift, too, for Christmas!
Along those lines, the timing of our trip (late November) happened to coincide with some local holiday festivities. For example, we braved the cold one night to check out the Santa’s Arrival Parade. Main Street was filled on both sides with families eagerly awaiting Santa’s appearance. There was a buzz in the air, as only St. Nick can create, among excited children. Well, a buzz and a lot of chattering, too. From people’s teeth. For real, it was chilly!
Eventually, after the floats and performers and whatnot went by, Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrived with their ‘reindeer”, police escort in tow, like they were rock stars or something. They set up shop in a park on Main Street, which had been transformed into a Christmas village. Kids then lined up to meet them, which was a nice touch, different from other parades that we’ve been to. Anyway, it was nice to see the community come out, to interact and enjoy the event. I really felt at home there, and not like a tourist.
Also on our agenda was an adventure on The Santa Express, courtesy of the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad. Train cars were decorated on the inside and outside with a holiday theme. While on board, we went for a slow, relaxing, heated ride along the tracks, while enjoying goodies and Christmas music. The highlight, of course, was an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus. They had gifts for each of the kids on board, and handed them out to everyone, by name. B and J couldn’t believe it, when they received a couple of toys on their wish lists. The magic of Christmas, I tell ya.
Along those lines, we were magically transported back in time, while in Cooperstown, too! Well, not really, but we did venture out to the Farmer’s Museum, to see what life what life was like 100+ years ago. Cooperstown in general has a throwback, old-school vibe to it, especially in terms of the architecture, but the Museum takes it up a notch. Past the main barn (which had various interactive exhibits and displays in it) was a historic village. It was comprised of buildings and characters which would have been common in the 18th and 19th centuries, like a school house (with a teacher) and a tavern/hotel. There’s also a farmstead on site. My kids’ favorite part, though, was the Empire State Carousel, a retro merry go round.
Along those lines, my family LOVED our accommodations for the weekend! We stayed at the Oneida Lodge North, courtesy of CooperstownLuxury.com. This was basically the most spectacular cottage that I’ve ever seen. The lodge was multi-levels, featuring a beautiful, intricately designed staircase that wrapped around a pine tree. It was huge and spacious, too, which meant that the kids had lots of room to run around acting lit, or in B’s case, to work on his Fortnite dance moves. I tried to play hide and seek with B and J at one point, but I gave up after one round, in trying to find them. The place was that big. It’s also located on a lake, with access to a boat house, and a dock. In the summer, it would be dope. However, even during a frosty November weekend, it was still fun. There was a games room, loaded with board games, and plenty of flat screen TVs throughout. Fireplaces, too, if you want to level up the cozy factor.
With lots of windows and balconies, the views were outstanding, and peaceful. Nature rules!
The kitchen was well stocked with utensils, and lots of modern appliances, including a dishwasher. No paper plates and plastic spoons for us. Everything about the lodge that I could see was high quality, made with a fine attention to details. The owners and staff were even nice and responsive. They were in communication our whole time, making sure things were going well. If you’re planning on staying with a large group of people, this is a great option, too, as our lodge could sleep 10, with bedrooms that were very roomy. Seriously, if want to treat yourself to something a bit different and more secluded than a regular hotel, I can’t recommend staying at a CooperstownLuxury.com property enough.
So there you have it. After spending three days in Cooperstown, I think that the question has been answered. What goes on there, after the baseball season has ended?
A lot of fun stuff still, that’s what.
Until the next one, peace!
Disclaimer: while we received complimentary accommodations and tickets/passes to various attractions, thoughts/opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Posted by mike On October 23, 2018
Have you ever watched a TV show or movie, and wondered about the people in the background? You know, the ones dancing up a storm at the party, or quietly working away at their cubicle, or cheering on the home team at the football game? What did they do to end up in that spot, and what was it like? Despite not being an actor, but always being up for a random adventure, I figured that I’d ditch the kids one evening, to find out, first hand.
My opportunity came from a Facebook post that my wife noticed, from a casting company looking for background ‘talent’ for a TV show that was filming in Hamilton (I can’t disclose the name, sorry). $14/hour, with more for speaking parts. I filled out the application, uploaded a head shot picture, giggled at the section asking for my acting resume, and fired it off. The next day, I got a call from the casting director saying that I was hired!
I was to play the role of an aircraft marshall, and possibly something else. No problem. I pictured myself being in a scene as a small blur from a distance, waving in a plane. Not long after, I received a call sheet, which was basically the schedule for the filming the next day.
Now, if you’re a fan of stifling boredom for long hours, being an extra is the job for you! My schedule involved meeting with wardrobe, then waiting for my scene about three hours later, followed by waiting for up to another three hours, for another potential scene.
The filming location was an old, small airport. Picture a hangar, a runway, and a couple of portable classroom-like bulidings, which doubled as a wardrobe department, and main hangout location, respectively. When I arrived, I changed into the attire that wardrobe selected for me, then I went to the hangout spot…..and hung out with the other extras.
Some of them were engaged in conversation with each other, while the rest were reading books, or playing around on their phones. Various crew members would also come there occasionally, all of whom were cordial ( I had heard horror stories about people treating background actors like trash on sets, but this wasn’t the case at all). I was given a stack of forms to fill out, which killed some time. I had brought some snacks, in case I got hungry, but luckily, this set had sweet craft services (as it is known in the biz), full of goodies. Lunch break for the crew also happen to coincide with my schedule, and they ordered enough for the extras, too. Yo, free food, can’t hate on that!
For this filming, there were no big name stars or anything. The scenes that they were doing were reenactments, as part of the series. Because I had nothing else to do, and totally felt out of my element, I eavesdropped on the other extras’ conversations, as I waited. There was a lot of stories about prior jobs that they had done. I was surrounded by some seasoned pros. Eventually, the talk turned to me. There were some raised eyebrows when I mentioned that I had never done anything like this before. And then it happened. Not long before lunch, one of the crew told me that I was needed on set!
I was surprised, as this scene wasn’t in the schedule, but off I went. I should note that it was really cold, and they were filming outdoors. The scene involved a jet plane, and a UFO sighting. Two extras playing pilots were already there. The director then explained what I was to do. Remember when I said that I assumed that I would just be off in the yonder, waving in a plane? Yeah, not so much. I had to actually ACT! Like walk, hit my cue, look certain ways, point into the sky, give various facial expressions, and pretend to talk on a walkie talkie. Instead of off in the distance, the cameras were all up in my grill. I did the best that I could, but I would say that my performance befit the level of someone who’s only acting experience was a grade 9 drama class many years ago.
But wait. There’s more!
Later, it was time for my actual scene. This time it was on the runway, again in the freezing cold. I was right about the waving in a plane part. And, for real, you think that would be easy, but I kept messing up. I guess that I was waving incorrectly, and looked unnatural (go figure), so they had to shoot me over and over. I was wrong about my involvement, too. Again, more closeups. Hopefully they didn’t catch my eyes watering from the chilly wind ripping across my face. And also, more acting, as I had to pretend to see and react to the UFO. One the one hand, I felt kind of bad about my amateur hour thespian skills. On the other hand…for 14 bucks an hour and some pizza, they couldn’t have expected to get Sidney Poitier, right?
Anyway, my day wasn’t done. One more scene, thankfully indoors, and, thankfully, just the background work that I initially expected. They switched up my outfit, and I would only be seen from behind, as part of a crowd of people at a window, looking at a UFO. The back of my head gave an Emmy-worthy performance, if I do say so myself. After that, I submitted my time sheet, and bounced, a job
well done, as the world’s worst aircraft marshall.
I can definitely see the appeal in background extra work. The actual time in front of the camera was fun. Depending on the set, the chance to see stars in action would be neat, too. A couple of the extras that I met were retirees, and they just wanted something cool to do, to keep busy, which makes sense. It also helps to live near a filming hot spot (Toronto, for me), where there are lots gigs to be had. However, it’s very repetitive work which requires a flexible schedule, the money isn’t great, and there’s long gaps of inaction on set, too, which can be a bit of a grind. I’m glad to say that I tried it, but I’m good now. Film studios, y’all are safe from my mediocre acting talents.
Until the next night out, peace!
Posted by mike On October 16, 2018
Of the numerous road trips that we’ve been on, the one that got the most confused reactions by far, when I told people where we were going, was our recent visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“Fort Wayne?? Why Fort Wayne?!”
Man, even my family was skeptical, initially. However, despite it not being a traditional weekend getaway destination, I had a hunch that this place might be a hidden gem. After spending four days there, courtesy of the generosity of my friends at Visit Fort Wayne, I can now say that my hunch was right.
So why Fort Wayne? There’s plenty of reasons actually.
The key to any weekend road trip with the family is travel time. In our case, with multiple stops, it was about a seven hour drive, which was fine. The kids watched a bunch of movies, which meant no boredom complaints. Plus, even though it is a bit of a trek, it’s the type of drive where you can leave in the morning, get there in the afternoon, and still have time to do stuff that day. As well, it’s not all that far from large cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Chicago.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT….AND ANOTHER RIVER….AND ANOTHER RIVER
Fort Wayne Outfitters hooked my family up with some bikes, so we went for a family bike ride along the riverfront. In theory, this should have been awesome. In reality, my daughter was a grump, and refused to ride, so she and I (because I couldn’t ride slow enough to match her stomping, sulking pace) went for bike walks. At least it was scenic.
FORT WAYNE CHILDREN’S ZOO
Speaking of the outdoors, checking out the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was a must on our list, and should be on yours, too. Even though my kids all loved it, don’t get it twisted; it’s not just a children’s zoo. I saw a lot of childless people there, which I am sure is the norm. Ranked as one of the top zoos in the US, it’s really well laid out, clean and interactive. The animals all looked healthy, and seemed to be in their more natural-looking habitats. We were able to get a nice view of almost all of them (instead of them hiding and/or being out of site, as is the case sometimes). It’s a decent sized zoo, but I didn’t feel winded after we strolled through it, and B and J didn’t whine once about being tired, either. There were also a bunch of rides, too, that were very reasonably priced and enjoyable.
While touring around the city, I noticed that there were a lot of places of worship. I later learned that Fort Wayne has been called ‘the city of churches’, because it has over 360 of them. There are also reports which indicate that Fort Wayne has one of the lower costs of living, in the USA. It seemed like the city was pretty spread out, too, with some pockets being better than others, like you’d expect from any big city. We were graciously given accommodations at the Hilton Fort Wayne At The Grand Wayne Convention Center. This hotel is located downtown, which is one of the nicer parts of the area, and is within walking distance to several attractions. When out and about, I never felt unsafe. I even walked around downtown basically in isolation one Sunday evening, as many businesses closed by 5pm.
All in all, my takeaway of Fort Wayne is that it’s a laid-back, down to earth city that’s family-friendly.
FALL FUN ON THE FARM!
One of the best things about travelling is when an experience completely blows away your expectations. Such was the case when we checked out Kuehnert Dairy Farm’s Fall Festival. We’ve been to events on farms before, but this was easily the best. It was well organized, and had a ton of stuff for the kids to do. Hay rides, corn pits, corn mazes, playgrounds, games, farm tours, jump pad, bonfires and ninja warrior courses, just to name a few. For me, the best part was the Mouse Trap, their famous grilled cheese sandwich.
The only bad thing was that the weather sucked, and the rain shortened our visit. Otherwise, we could have easily stayed there for the whole afternoon!
CULTURE (NO, NOT THE MIGOS ALBUM)
Besides the outdoorsy activities, Fort Wayne also has some nice indoor attractions, which are very sophistimicated and edumucational. Science Central is the only science center in the region, and it’s multi-level, with 200+ exhibits. The kids got their learn on, while playing and exploring the surroundings.
It also hosts events throughout the year. When we were there, a sci-fi convention was going on. Ohhhhh Chewy!
Debrand Fine Chocolates is the only chocolate store that I’ve been to where I felt like I needed to wear a suit and bow tie when entering it. You don’t need to dress up, of course, but the decor and ambience give it a very fancy feeling. We did a tour of the headquarters (highly recommended, plus tasty!), and the attention to detail that they put into each of their chocolates to ensure that they are of the finest quality is really impressive.
J and I hit up the Fort Wayne Museum Of Art. I will wholeheartedly admit to being clueless, in terms of being an art connoisseur. The people there all seemed to be enjoying silently taking in the artwork, though. I thought the Chuck Sperry exhibit was pretty wild. J really liked the kids area, where little ones can create their own masterpieces.
Also, time didn’t permit us to visit it, but the Botanical Conservatory looks very expansive, and beautiful.
Now, two things that Fort Wayne doesn’t have going for it are a major league sports team, and an amusement park. However, it does have minor league teams (sidenote: we only drove by, but Parkview Field looked like a cool place to watch a Tincaps baseball game!). In addition, it has Crazy Pinz, a 50,000 square foot entertainment complex, which features bowling, a rope course, laser tag, mini-golf, rock climbing, bar, restaurant and an arcade/prize store.
Do you see what I mean, now? Despite initial doubts, we ended up having an awesome little trip.
So, why Fort Wayne?
Until the next one, peace!
Disclosure: Visit Fort Wayne provided us with accommodations and passes to the attractions mentioned. Opinions expressed are my own.