It’s been a few days, and I’m still kind of stunned the world didn’t come to an end over the weekend.
Something I thought might never happen, something fate seemed to be going out of its way to prevent for reasons I figured had to be cataclysmic, occurred at long last.
I made it to Canada, eh!
I have a moose stuffed animal with a maple leaf sweater, packages of ketchup chips, photos of me in a metropolis north of the U.S. border and a stamp on my passport from Celine Dion’s homeland to prove it, too.
Armageddon didn’t happen. Frigid Canadian air did not violently disseminate and turn the planet into an icebox. The plague known as Justin Bieber Fever wasn’t unleashed on the world.
Well, at least the first two didn’t happen.
Let me explain why the smile on my face was so huge when the friendly Canadian border agent asked me to repeat my weird story twice Saturday morning and then agreed to let me walk into Toronto after saying, “Welcome here … finally!”
As the Utah Jazz beat writer, my job duties entail traveling wherever the team goes.
In any given week, I could be driving a muscle car in SoCal, writing stories with the Laverne & Shirley theme rattling through my head in Milwaukee, or soaking in the scenery and sun of South Beach (uh, I mean laboring diligently in grueling Miami conditions).
Cosmic forces conspired against me making it to Toronto.
OF COURSE! Why else would I blog about it? But consider the facts and you’ll see why I wondered until this past Saturday if Canada would collapse or the globe would spontaneously combust if I actually made it to Ontario and the Air Canada Centre (those cute French spellers!) for a Jazz game.
• MAN vs. FATE, Round 1: What can Brown do for me?
Three NBA seasons ago, Mother Nature, the United Parcel Service, the Buffalo Tourism Department and my packing/memory ineptitude came together to keep me separated from my passport and from the team I cover.
Instead of making it to Toronto, an international city people raved about, I ended up being stranded in Buffalo for two days in the 2010-11 season. In the winter. By myself. It was like getting deserted in Tijuana when Los Angeles was the intended destination. At least the wings were great.
This misadventure started when I forgot to stuff my nightstand (or at least the passport inside) into my luggage. I realized the misadventure had started when I was at the Salt Lake airport for a redeye flight to New York City and was talking to a buddy about his international trip to South America when it donned on me that, “Oh yeah! Canada is one of those international countries and I’m supposed to be going there on this trip after a couple of days in New York and … AAAAARGHHHHH! MY PASSPORT IS IN MY NIGHTSTAND TWENTY-FIVE MILES AWAY AND WE’RE BOARDING NOW!!!” (I might’ve only said AARGHH, but the extra As and Hs reflected my feeling of frustration after having recently gone through the hassle of renewing my passport and then absent-mindedly forgetting to pack it for the one reason I got the darn thing!)
While going to my seat on the 757 jet, I called my wife in a panic at about 11:45 p.m. that Saturday night. “Please FedEx my passport overnight as soon as you can!” We had a couple of days to spare because the Jazz played in New York on Monday. I didn’t leave for Canada until Tuesday, so I felt confident that my important documents and I would be reunited in time.
• Problem 2: UPS. My wife decided to save a few bucks and see what Brown could do for us with its next-day shipping.
• Problem 3: A bad storm hammered the main UPS shipping center in Louisville, Ky., where my package first went from Utah before being sent on to another re-routing facility in New Jersey.
• Problem 4: I believed UPS employees’ multiple guarantees that the package would get to me in New York and then in Buffalo, where I flew while waiting for my passport.
• Problem 5: The shipment didn’t arrive in New York City on Tuesday morning or in Buffalo on Tuesday night or in Buffalo on Wednesday morning as confused UPS employees had assured me would happen.
• Problem 6: I had to make the dreaded phone call, “Um, hey awesome boss! You know how you spent lots of money to send me to cover the Jazz? Yeah, I can do it in the United States, but not in Canada for Wednesday night’s game. Or maybe I can sneak into Canada and cover that game, but getting back into the U.S. sans my passport might be tricky. The good news: There is a Buffalo Wild Wings in Buffalo! How are your beautiful wife and kids, anyway?”
• Problem 7: My passport didn’t catch up to me until Thursday morning. I was still in Buffalo. The Jazz had moved on to Minnesota about 10 hours earlier. What can Brown do for me? Buffalo instead of Toronto, that’s what. An overnight delivery evolved into an over-three-days delivery. Shocking that UPS hasn’t hired me to be a spokesman yet.
• Problem 8: I can be a scatterbrained moron sometimes.
On a positive note, I still made it to Niagara Falls. I also got to visit the birthplace of Buffalo wings, the Anchor Bar. My boss is still trying to forgive me, however, for the fact that I watched the game I was sent across the continent to cover IN TORONTO from a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar in upstate New York. My favorite part was asking the BWW waitress to put the Jazz-Raptors game on a TV near my booth and hearing this question: “What sport is that?”
When I finally caught up to the team two days later in Minnesota, Utah coach Tyrone Corbin called me “Buffalo.” Jazz fans on Twitter, who read a play-by-play of my misadventure (included below), have loved to remind me about Buffalo for years. I’ve deserved all the razzing.
My reason for missing out on the Toronto trip in the 2011-12 season was even more elaborate. Hundreds of NBA players and dozens of franchise owners colluded to stage a labor dispute. The ensuing NBA Lockout, meaning owners wouldn’t let players play, was simply a guise to keep me away from the Land of Loonies, Bare Naked Ladies (the musical group) and Pamela Anderson’s home and native land.
This fact came to light when the Jazz weren’t given a trip to the True North in the revised and shortened schedule.
Although it seemed sketchy, I was willing to overlook the missed Toronto trip (and zero Florida visits) when I realized Utah didn’t have to travel to Detroit or Milwaukee in the winter.
• MAN vs. FATE, Round 3: Daddy issues
For Round 3, the cosmic forces really outdid themselves.
In 2012, the NBA schedule-maker and The Stork teamed up to plan a special delivery to take place in my family right around the time the Jazz played in Toronto.
The Jazz’s four-game Eastern trip so happened to fall right in the time my wife was likely to deliver our fourth child. Heather didn’t tell me I couldn’t go on that trip. BUT she also didn’t tell me I could return if I chose to leave her in Utah to fend for herself with a newborn and three other kids, either.
Turns out, Baby Jack arrived just before the Toronto trip. I wisely opted to not enter a Man vs. Mother situation, especially because she was on medication and I wasn’t.
• MAN vs. FATE, Round 4: Overcoming all odds
This past summer, one of the first things I looked for when the 2013-14 NBA schedule came out was the date for the Toronto game. It landed on Nov. 9, again coming days after a game in New York.
My biggest worry?
After being kept out of Canada in three consecutive NBA seasons because of passport/UPS issues, a canceled game and a baby’s birth, I made a strange decision when booking my flight to Toronto this time around.
I bought a ticket to fly on an airline I’d never heard of in my life.
Multiple people assured me that Porter Airlines was not only legitimate, but it was an excellent choice because its airport is on a small island right next to downtown Toronto.
Wait!? Toronto has an island by it!?
Fortunately, I remembered to remind my wife to get my passport out of our safe deposit box at the credit union before it closed for the weekend before my Monday morning flight to New York. I then remembered to pack it in my backpack just in case Fate tried to lose my luggage.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I got off the plane at JFK airport at the beginning of my weeklong journey. The restaurant right next to my gate? Yep, Buffalo Wild Wings. (No, I wasn’t tempted to stay there for the game.) Fate continued to tease me as one of the first stores I saw while walking around New York City was a clothing shop on 26th Street called Buffalo Exchange.
Leading up to my Canadian adventure, the harassment levels increased.
Really looking forward to this (Man vs. Travel blog) all year long… Especially your inevitable trip to Buffalo! (Brett Crane @bjcseven)
Make sure you have your passport hahaha! (My wife)
I’m curious to see if he heads South or East or West… (Coach Corbin)
Any confirmation on if you’ll be in Toronto on Saturday? #nevergetsold (Kris @5kl)
Buffalo Forever!!!! (Max Chang @chang_max)
Next stop: Buffalo wings (Clint Peterson @Clintonite33)
Buffalo Soldier! (Bob Marley)
Those wings in Buffalo were dang good…hmmm, what if?! (me)
Pro tip: They looooove Dudley Doright jokes at customs. (Spurs writer Jeff McDonald)
A conversation with Tribune writer Aaron Falk in a taxi en route to the airport for our flight to Canada didn’t make me feel much better.
Me: “I probably shouldn’t have booked a flight to Toronto in an airline I’ve never heard of.”
Aaron: “It has good Yelp reviews.”
Me: “It’s kinda ridiculous that I have butterflies.”
Aaron: “If it doesn’t work out, I blame Bill (the former Jazz writer who convinced us to use this mystery airline).”
Me: “I blame Fate.”
Aaron: “I might blame you a little bit.”
Me: “Yeah. You shouldn’t have traveled with me.”
Taxi driver: “Which airline?”
Me: “Porter. Have you heard of it?”
Taxi driver: “(No response)”
The flight turned out to be terrific. While reading pamphlets in my seat’s barf bag pouch, I discovered that Porter Airlines originated in Toronto and uses some of the quietest planes in the world. Je parle francais (at least I did when I lived in France and Switzerland in the early 1990s), so it was fun to hear announcements on the plane in English and French.
The flight attendants also gave us a “Bon appetit!” snack box with naturally flavoured yougourt aromatise (they love adding extra Us in words), pound cake with chips au chocolat (French for chocolate), Porter-labeled spring water and a full can of Diet/Diète Coke. Keep in mind, I wasn’t in first class. In fact, I had to walk through the entire plane to get to the washroom (Canadian for restroom) in the front of the cabin.
In other words, step up your game, America! Pretzels aren’t going to cut it anymore.
I was half-expecting to have a crash landing or to experience a Man vs. Mounties scene upon my arrival to Toronto, but it went fairly smoothly. The border agent did make me repeat my story twice, perhaps slightly alarmed that I talked about failing to get into Canada the past three years.
I didn’t crack any Dudley Doright jokes, but I did talk LOUDLY and s-l-o-w-l-y so she’d understand my American English.
Then the border agent smiled, stamped my U.S. passport, told me to proceed into Canada and kindly offered, “Welcome here, finally!” My smile got even bigger on the airport shuttle as I passed a few streetlights with banners that read, “Welcome to Toronto. We’ve been expecting you.”
For approximately three years!
would like to use this tweet to formally welcome @DJJazzyJody to Toronto/Canada. yayyy, he made it!
— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) November 9, 2013
My first quest after being dropped off into downtown was to find another sign with the words Toronto or Canada on them, so I could take a photo to prove that I’d finally made it. It took about two kilometers (1.25 miles) lugging a large suitcase around before I found something that worked. Passersby thought I was a bit wacky, but I laid down and snapped a selfie of my cheesy grin and a carved-out stamp of the Toronto skyline and the city’s name in the sidewalk in front of my hotel.
I arrived in Canada! (Je suis arrivé au Canada!) Proof on a Toronto sidewalk. (Preuve sur un trottoir Toronto.) pic.twitter.com/cUWI8XUkvj
— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) November 9, 2013
I had a great afternoon in Toronto. I spent a couple of hours walking through the beautiful European-like city’s interesting streets (which don’t include any “Welcome to Canada” signs for photo ops), ate a tasty, cream-filled Tim Hortons’ Canadian Maple doughnut (sorry, Man vs. Diet), got told I “sound like a Canadian” by a woman from Vancouver, took the speedy 15 MPH elevator about 1,135 feet up the famous CN Tower (named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World) for amazing views and dinner before heading to the arena for work.
It was during the basketball game, about the time the Jazz trailed by 38 points, when I noticed my compatriots back in the States were turning on me.
Geez….@DJJazzyJody goes to Canada for the first time and the jazz are getting slammed by the Raps. Burn the passport!
— Dan Mortimer (@essentialmorty) November 10, 2013
— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) November 10, 2013
Considering the past three years, just watching a basketball game I was supposed to be at in Canada was enough of a reward.
Twenty-four hours after arriving, I was on my way back to the good old U.S. of A. My heart was full of memories (cue Sarah McLachlan music) and, better yet, my luggage was loaded with Canadian candy (Smarties and Wunderbars!), moose and maple leaf souvenirs, a dozen Tim Hortons doughnuts and some delicious ketchup chips, the country’s best product this side of Michael J. Fox. I didn’t even mind that I didn’t hear any real-live Canucks say the words “eh” or “hoser” during my short stay.
Guess it gives me a reason to go back next year.
Unless Fate tries to keep me away again.
Twitter tales: Man vs. Passport
You might’ve noticed that I love to refer to Twitter in my blogs. Although I’m a Facebook regular and am learning Instagram, Twitter is my favorite social-media platform for my sportswriter job. I have a lot of fun — and waste waaaaay too much time — tweeting and interacting. The Passport Incident happened a few months after I joined Twitter in the 2010-11 season. I was searching through the archives to jog my memory and had fun reliving my “Banished to Buffalo” grief through my tweets of the somewhat embarrassing episode.
- I got a passport to go to Canada with the Jazz next week. I’m on a plane en route to NYC. My passport is in my SLC suburb home. #travelfail
- What a trip: Forgot passport, long redeye to NYC via Atlanta, cab driver thought I said Brooklyn not Buddakan (restaurant), broken umbrella.
- Passport update: Weather turned my overnight delivery into an over-two-nights delivery. Ugh. What a mess. Thanks Mother Nature and UPS!
- This means I have to stay in Buffalo tonight instead of world-class Toronto. That’s like getting stuck in Winnemucca en route to Las Vegas.
- I can only hope Buffalo has an Olive Garden. (I’d written an article teasing then-rookies Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans about eating at the Italian chain instead of experiencing amazing cuisine in Little Italy while in New York.)
- I’m going to ask the pilot to drop me off in Glenn Falls, N.Y. (Jimmermania was in full swing.)
- I’ll give Buffalo a chance. Even the water wants out of Canada so badly it’s willing to jump off cliffs. (My first-ever Niagara Falls joke!)
- If Canada runs out of ketchup chips by the time my passport arrives – thanks for nothing UPS! – I’m really going to be mad.
- I like how #UPS showed my delayed overnight package status as EXCEPTION. Dear UPS: This will be the exception for me not using #FedEx.
- UPS lady to me: Must’ve been miscommunication. Me to UPS lady: Yep. Miscommunication was me thinking overnight shipping meant overnight.
- When Quebec’s military attacks Ontario tonight in an effort to overtake Canada I’ll be relieved I’m banished in Buffalo.
- I wonder if UPS will hire me after the Deseret News fires me.
- I’m getting fidgety the closer tipoff gets. I might storm the border. Coming up: DJJazzyJody vs. The Mounties.
- Not off to a good start here at Buffalo Wild Wings. I asked to watch the Jazz-Raptors game and the hostess asked, “What sport is that?”
- For the record: The Jazz are in Toronto, my ill-fated passport is in New York City and I’m in Buffalo.
- MY PASSPORT ARRIVED!!! See ya later, Buffalo. Now, what time does that Jazz-Raptors game start? (This was the day after and the Jazz were already in Minnesota, by the way.)
- Despite UPS’ best efforts to thwart my visit, I made it to Canada. EH! (I drove up to Niagara Falls just to use my passport and to say I made it up North during that trip.)
- What’s up with everybody trying to get across the border into the U.S. Probably 100 cars. Hurry up hosers, eh!?
- I think I picked the border crossing line with most Canadian Taliban trying to get into U.S. S-l-o-w. And I’m running out of ketchup chips.
- Aaaaaaah. Back in Buffalo, USA. My home away from home.
- Sadly, my paid vacation in lovely Buffalo is about to end. Bring on Minnesohta!
- Just got major league grief and ribbing from Coach Corbin for taking an, um, vacation in Buffalo while team was in Toronto. Very funny. (He occasionally called me “Buffalo” over the years since.)
- New Jazz player (Marcus Cousin) wore a nameless Jazz jersey with zero on it (for a practice).
- If the Jazz did use UPS to ship Marcus Cousin’s new jersey, I’m guessing it is currently in Buffalo. Brown does stuff like that for you.