The last time I did one of these, the commute was 576 miles from Boston – this time it was only 500 miles from New Jersey. I’m still not sure if I like these better than coming in the night before but maybe I should ask my family who are up at 4:30 to drop me off at the airport.
I woke up this morning at about 4am and was on the road to the airport at about 4:45. By the time I got to the airport at 5:15, I was fully expecting to be through check-in and security within 5 minutes like the last time I visited Jersey. What caught me off guard was that the Porter employees hadn’t even set up their counters yet. So there were a few of us just standing at the entrance to the airport waiting for them to set up shop before we could proceed. That killed a good 10-15 minutes just watching them at their snail pace. Following that, there was no hassle at the check-in counter except that they printed the wrong gate on every passenger’s boarding pass and sent people going around in circles for a gate that didn’t exist. The security check was probably the nicest experience outside of the people at Logan even though it got a bit redundant. I am assuming the guard thought it was my first flight because he asked me take out my laptop, then take off my jacket, then my belt, then empty my pockets and then my shoes even though I am well familiar with the process by now.
The boarding which was scheduled for 6:25, started right on time even though I have no idea how long we waited in the plane because the flight landed nearly 45 minutes late. I remember falling asleep a little before takeoff, being woken up by the turbulence immediately after taking flight and again at breakfast. My usual routine on flights is get on board, fall asleep and wake up when we land. The flight crew was great as expected for Porter Airlines, where they came back to offer me breakfast even though I was sleeping through their first pass around. It wasn’t the greatest culinary experience of all time but a very decent offering of a blueberry muffin with fresh fruits and a cup of orange juice to start your workday.
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Being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, it doesn’t happen very often that you get to see two of the top teams in the league battle it out but that’s what happened when I saw the Bruins play host to the San Jose Sharks. After a minor ticketing fiasco, we ended up sitting in box seats for the game which was a much better result than the nose-bleed section. The game had a couple of fights, plenty of scoring opportunities to get the home crowd excited but the result was a disappointing 2-0 loss. Take away that shutout loss for Boston, and they have scored 19 goals in their last 4 games – it just happens they don’t score anything the night I am there. It was my first ever game at TD Gardens but the arena is definitely worth a visit with all the memorabilia inside of the legendary Celtics, the Great #77 for the Bruins and even jerseys of Brady and Manning during their rivalry years.
On the other end is Green Bay – By far the smallest city to have a professional sports team is once again the champion. This marks only the second time since I moved out here to North America that a professional team out of the four major sports that I root for has won the championship – it was also the Packers in 1997. As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993 when they won it all for a second year in a row, while the Leafs and Raptors have struggled just to make the playoffs this past decade, never mind being a contender to win it all.
I think I moved maybe once or twice from my seat once the game began and even tortured myself through the god-awful half time show just so I wouldn’t miss the beginning of the 2nd half especially since Pittsburgh had just scored to the end the half and the momentum was definitely beginning to shift. Most definitely the worst quarter to watch all season was the 3rd quarter. Packers struggled to do anything, punted on every single drive while gaining only 17 yards in the entire period.
What arguably feels like the longest week in a very, very long time is about to end. Last Friday I flew into Boston for the weekend to visit a friend to watch a hockey game and then the Super Bowl to see my beloved Packers play the Steelers. I was initially scheduled to come back from Boston Sunday night which I fortunately got changed to Monday morning. After having gone to bed after midnight, waking up at 4:30am and taking an hour and a half commute to the airport followed by a 100 minute wait and a 90 minute flight from the greatest airlines in North America (maybe outside of Jet Blue) and I was at work in Toronto at 11 – a lovely 576 mile international commute.
I don’t know how people in the US make those long commutes in NYC and Boston on a regular basis but I could never pull that off on a regular basis. Having spent the rest of the week playing Left 4 Dead 2 much later during the night than I really should have has really compounded my lethargic week. At least tomorrow is Friday which hopefully means I can sleep in at least one of the two days but knowing how my weekends go here, I really doubt it.
[Edit:] Note: my brother says the first game we saw might have been an earlier Packers/49ers game from 1996. He could be right because the only thing I remember for certain was that it was those two teams playing each other. [/Edit]
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many success stories regarding the teams that I follow. The Toronto Blue Jays last made the won the World Series (or made the playoffs) since before I moved here in 1995. The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a championship in 44 years and haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years. The Toronto Raptors had minor success making the playoffs 3 years in a row from 1999-2001 and twice in 2007 and ’08 but have struggled mightily the rest of the decade. The Green Bay Packers have won the division four times in the past nine years and made the playoffs seven times this decade but have not reached the championship game since 1997 (when they did back-to-back years). The last time the Green Bay Packers were in the Super Bowl, I was only 10 years old at the time and still had not started following football.
There is a funny story that goes with me and how I got introduced to the game of “football”. I moved here from Pakistan in the winter of 1995 and was just getting to know the western sports when I started school here in the 3rd grade. I went up to a new friend of mine and asked him if he wanted to play ‘futbol’ which I had known and meant as soccer as it is known here. The kid looked at me like I had three ears or two noses and probably thought why is this skinny, tooth pick of a kid wanting to play football? After spending all of recess trying to convince him that I knew and had played ‘futbol’ before, I gave up for the day. I did come to know the sport as soccer but I had forgotten about what the kid thought I meant when I said “football” – until 3 years later. I still chuckle to this day thinking what might have happened if I had played American football that day.
However, It wasn’t until the playoffs of 1998 when the Green Bay Packers were robbed of a playoff win against the San Francisco 49ers that I watched my first ever American Football game with my brother. That game had NFL legends like Brett Favre, Reggie White, Steve Young and Jerry Rice – not a bad time to catch your first game. Even though they lost, that was the defining moment where I became a Green and Gold fan for life and my brother took the 49ers. Neither of us has waivered since.
We have had a tradition going back many years of gathering up a whole bunch of family members and watching the big game together. I’m not certain how well that will be this year since I am north of the border but I’m guessing there’s got to be some pack of Cheeseheads here that want to watch the game. On a related note, I had scheduled a trip to Boston last year which happened to fall on this upcoming Super Bowl weekend. Initially I had no problem with it because my plane would land in downtown Toronto just in time for a “normal” kickoff time because I had thought it would be around 8:30PM but apparently they go with a much earlier kickoff time of 6:30 which I only noticed a couple of days ago. I will be making a friendly call to the wonderful people of Porter Airlines later today and hopefully get that switched up with the one that will get me here in time for the game.
Boy, do I wish I was back home – just for that weekend. I have got to schedule a trip home for the Super Bowl weekend if I am still here next year.
One more game, Green Bay. One more.
Just like that, my mini-vacation is over. Last week, I had taken Thursday and Friday off and flew down to New Jersey via the great Porter Airlines for the first time.
A visit that lasted just over 3 full days makes it very hard to juggle anything else when I have well over 50 close relatives who were in the area. It is something I am becoming gradually accustomed to but visiting the family after a few months was really nice. Visiting at a time of a religious holiday can make it feel even shorter since we were busy pretty much the entire time I was there and even slipping away for a few hours to visit some old friends and roommates was hard to come by.
The airline and airport were a very pleasant surprise. I had never flown with Porter Airlines before but had heard some great things from some coworkers and an uncle. There is a free shuttle from the airline that runs about a block away from my place of work which became very convenient when my carry on bag became slightly heavier than I had anticipated. The shuttle took us to the ferry which motored all of about 200 meters (0.12 miles for you American folks) to the airport.
With minimal passengers, the time it took me to check in, pass security clearance and get to the waiting lounge was probably 10 minutes. That’s when things got to be really fun. I was still fasting the day of my departure and since it was getting very close to sunset time, I needed to find a place to eat. Since the airport was very small, I was having trouble find any sort of food vendors or even a vending machine to dispense so snacks. That is until I ran into a sign that said Café. As I prepared to dish out normal airport costs for minimal food items, I was shocked to see complementary foods and drinks for all passengers waiting in the lounge. It included items such as cookies, peanuts, coffee and all sorts of beverages. They even had a decent size “computer lab” filled with 10-15 Mac computers for people to use. I didn’t check if they offered free wifi but saw plenty of people using their own devices that it might have been the case.
The plane was about as big (or small) as I thought it would be, seating a capacity of 70 people but our flight had barely 20-25 people. The overhead compartment to place your luggage was rather small that it didn’t fit my bag but stowed away nicely underneath the seat. That was probably my only issue with the flight as food was served maybe 5 minutes after take off and the exotic vegetable potato chips probably were the craziest chips I had ever eaten. Besides the flight being just over an hour, I barely had any time to catch up on some much needed sleep – it didn’t help that I had taken coffee with chips earlier to kill off any chance of napping.
I am not sure what took me this long but I have been a heavy user of the program Skype to talk to both friends and cousins back south of the border. I recently got the 5.0 beta which allows video conferencing with up to 10 different people at the same time. It has also been pretty useful to stream videos between people at a much faster pace than each person having to get their own copy. If any of you out there use Skype, feel free to add me and maybe we’ll catch up sometime.
Ever since Ramadan began, it opened up an hour long block during my lunch break. Determined not to sit at my desk and surf or write away, I figured I would set out in the city and find 20 different thing within walking distance of work to view during the next 20 days of my work before my mini vacation begins on September 8th.
Here is the list of places I have been so far:
1. Hockey Hall of Fame Store
2. Hockey Night in Canada / CBC Radio Museum
3. Nathan Phillip’s Square
4. Porter Airlines Bus (Union Station)
Since August 11th, those have been my four stops and for that last one being yesterday, that is the free bus service from Porter Airlines to the Airport located in Downtown Toronto that I will be taking next month.
I am going to list some more places that I want to see below but I definitely won’t be able to fill all 30 so for those of you reading this, help me out.
Places I want to visit:
1. Air Canada Centre
2. Eaton’s Centre
3. Maple Leaf Square
4. Rogers Centre
5. CN Tower
6. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
7. City Hall
8. Roy Thompson Hall
9. Metro Toronto Convention Centre
10. Art Gallery of Ontario
This puts me at 14 places, leaving 6 more to figure out in the next 15 work days. If you know of a place that you want to recommend, let me know in the comments or reach me any other way you know how.