Toronto, More Than a Game

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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