Homer’s Travel Misadventures and Game Report

892ABF86-C29A-4ACC-9909-24F0301EA370.jpegBy Homer J.

Homer begs your indulgence, as he is a bit late to the party this week, for he was unable to watch Sunday’s game as it happened. Thereby, as Shakespeare would say, hangs a tale. A tale of Paradise, turbulence, sexual assault, and tardiness.

Homer woke up Sunday morning in Paradise, which is actually a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Having covered the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as a young reporter, he had always wanted to visit Whitefish Bay (12 miles north of Paradise) and see the famous Shipwreck Museum, and this was the weekend to cross that one off the bucket list. And Sunday was the day to head back home.

So Homer awakened along the big lake they called Gitchee Goomee, and the gales of October were, indeed gloomy. Lake Superior can be every bit as nasty as advertised. Winds were whipping at a steady 40 mph, there was rain, and it was a 75 mile drive to the nearest airport, which was across the bridge in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario.

The drive was uneventful, save one misadventure while filling the tank of the rental SUV at the Meijer Superstore on the American side. The winds were so strong that, when he pulled the pump nozzle out of the gas tank, vapors and a few drops of gasoline were blown onto the windbreaker, fragrancing the inside of the car for a few minutes before the aroma of gasoline abated.

Homer and company arrived at the airport in plenty of time, hoping to grab breakfast at something called Santini’s On the Fly, the only restaurant on the premises. Unfortunately, the only employee of the only restaurant didn’t show up for work, so Homer had to find a Loonie or a Toonie (Canadian one and two dollar coins) to put in the Tim Horton machine and settle for a cup of Canadian coffee.

When the Porter Airlines check-in desk opened, they printed out Homer’s boarding pass, and noted the dreaded “SSSS.” Yep. Congrats. You’ve been randomly selected for enhanced security screening upon arrival in Toronto. The full patdown. But, meanwhile, please note that Environment Canada has issued Extreme Wind Warnings for the Greater Toronto Area, with wind gusts of up to 95 kilometers per hour. Oh, goody. We’d be flying a prop plane into little Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport with its tiny runways right on Lake Ontario in winds of 95kph. (55mph) Wait, it gets better.

So, when the incoming aircraft arrives 15 minutes late, they say there will be a further delay because, “we need to groom the aircraft.” Never heard that term before, and they didn’t go on there with big combs, or anything. But they did go on with some towels and something that looked like a Dirt Devil. “It was a rough flight, and not everything went into the airsick bag,” was the explanation.

Prior to boarding, they asked one woman if she would mind changing her assigned seat to another one. When she asked why, she was told that, “somebody got sick in your assigned seat, and we thought you’d rather sit somewhere else.”

The flight from the Soo to Toronto had maybe ten minutes of really bad turbulence, but was otherwise 70 people waiting for the worst, which never really came. It arrived about twenty minute behind schedule.

Upon arrival at Toronto City Airport, Homer was met by security and escorted from the jetway, through the departure lounge, up the elevator, and to the initial security check-point, where his female escort introduced him to a young man in a Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) uniform who was tasked with the enhanced security check.

Once again, as they had done at Sault Sainte Marie, they ran Homer’s baggage through security, and opened up the MacBook Air. They made Homer empty his pockets and walk through the magnetometer. And then, the young man asked if there was a request to do the enhanced patdown right there at the security checkpoint or in a private room.

“Let’s get it over with, right here,” was the immediate response.

The young man in the uniform of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority then performed a complete patdown, including a most thorough patdown of private areas. He certainly didn’t find any weapons, but was probably able to determine Homer’s religion, and Homer suppressed a fleeting thought to make some kind of wisecrack about not wanting a happy ending. Discretion, as they say, is the better part of saying something stupid and risking a full body cavity search.

Anyway, the young man finished his task and apologized for any inconvenience. Canadians, you see, are always well mannered, even when their job requires that they sexually assault you. He then sent Homer on his way.

Homer hurried down to the Porter Lounge, and turned on his computer as the Steeler game was about to begin, only to discover that his NFL video plan doesn’t seem to work in Canada. So the best he could do was a play-by-play without any video at all. Damn.

The flight from Toronto to Washington Dulles was also delayed—by more than an hour—so the game was into the third quarter before Porter Flight 727 boarded. And, after a smooth and uneventful flight, we learned upon landing that the Steelers had, indeed, prevailed.

There were at least half a dozen Steeler fans on the flight, sharing the good news on the moon buggy that takes you from international flights to the customs area at Dulles. After a quick pass through customs and a bus to the long term parking lot, it was time to get into the old Canyonero and head home.

By the time Homer made it home, the condensed version of the game was already available on NFL.com, and he turned it on, but dozed off from exhaustion and missed a big part of the third quarter.

So Homer didn’t have a chance to view the game and do film study until Tuesday, but you already know what happened. They beat the Chiefs. They ran on them. They ran the ball down their damned throats. And they ran some more. Bell ran halfway from KC to Saint Louis. But they left points on the field in the red zone, like they always do. As Pittsburgh Dad says, “they seem to think the Red Zone is the End Zone.”

Ben looked good, the offensive line looked great, Vance McDonald and Rosie Nix looked like road graders, Le’Veon Bell was more than fantastic, the defense was all over the field in the first half. The special teams were awful, no thanks to AB, whose TD reception was more amazing grace than luck. How he caught a deflection like that while keeping his balance and juking out a second defender defies belief and defies the laws of physics. Sean Davis was great, Artie Burns had a bad play that resulted in a TD, Mike Hilton was terrific again, and Mike Mitchell might have had the worst single play of the year when he whiffed on a sack at a key point in the game and—on the same play—took a 15 yard penalty for a cheap and dangerous late hit.

So Tomlin finally went to his bullpen and brought out the closer. The game ended up too close for comfort, but what a comfort it was to be able to call on James Harrison for the sack that helped seal the victory. Deebo. We love Deebo.

The other comfort is that the easiest part of the schedule is behind us. The Steelers are relatively healthy, and are looking forward to their toughest tests.

Being that they only lose to bad teams, that’s probably a good thing.

It is good to be home, which is far, far better than Paradise. Homer apologizes for the lateness of this game report and for any inconvenience, but, as you now know, there were extenuating circumstances.

6 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Had I known you were going to pass through Toronto, at one time known as the great sucking black hole that Canada revolves about, I would have offered my condolences in advance. I probably shouldn’t be so mean about Hogtown. I suspect it has developed some humility since I last visited.

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    • GTA envy? Toronto is great. It’s sorta like New York City, if run by the Swiss. It’s clean. You mind your manners and don’t cut in line. You don’t litter. There’s incredibly good food, especially in the ethnic neighborhoods. The subway system is clean, even though they have food courts down there, because you don’t litter. And the little downtown airport lets you actually walk from the plane to your hotel or the Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome). It used to be all boring and Anglican and all that, but – like Hogtown – that’s all ancient history.

      By the way, the Brits burned the White House in the War of 1812 in revenge for what we did to York (Toronto’s name back then). We even stole the mace from their old City Hall. But FDR gave it back to Canada in 1934, as a “goodwill gesture.” Not sure if Trump wants to steal it back, though.

      Homer loves Canada. He’s been working on the bucket list, and has done the True North from sea to sea…from Vancouver to Halifax, and has enjoyed every mile…..er, kilometer. Condolences, though, on the loss of Gord Downie. A terrible and tragic loss of a great poet and songsmith who wrote the soundtrack of the lives of two generations of Canadians.

      It’s probably a good thing that the Tragically Hip never made it big in the U-S, save for the border regions of upstate NY, Michigan, and the like. They remained Canada’s band, and their songs were uniquely and proudly Canadian. Other than New Orleans is Sinking, of course. They were terrific in every sense of the word. Those of us who were fans of The Hip knew it was coming (Gord died of brain cancer, the same type that John McCain has), but that doesn’t make it any easier.

      “…Wheat Kings and pretty things,
      Oh, that’s what tomorrow brings.”

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      • cold_old_steelers_fan

        It was the attitude of Torontonians combined with the reality of Canadian politics for many generations. I think the current crop of Torontonians may be more humble… it wouldn’t take much. Politically, the rest of the country, especially the west, felt Toronto and it’s issues dominated Canadian politics to the exclusion of the remaining regions. Alberta took over much of that role during the Harper years.

        Most Canadian cities are clean but Toronto earned some extra fame in that regard when an American film crew, having deliberately strewn trash around an ally before filing, went to lunch only to find their trash had been picked up (I may have details wrong but the story is fairly well known) while they were away.

        Trump will add it to the poison pill list for NAFTA.

        I was too early for the TH. I am more a fan of TheWeakerthans and John K Samson (I have had more exposure because they are local) but TH do have some great tunes and “Wheat Kings” is definitely on of them. It is a tragic song about a man who spent most of his adult life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Ironically, the man who was a key witness against him was likely the real culprit.

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        • cold_old_steelers_fan

          I really do know how to spell alley correctly. Not certain why I didn’t.

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          • Summer of ’16, Homer was in Toronto for a weekend baseball series between the Jays and the Rays, and they were giving out FREE BEER (taste of some local microbrew). Homer semi-inadvertantly cut in line, and you’d a thought he’d taken a wiz on the Queen or something like that, the way numerous people immediately pointed out the errors of his ways. Homer immediately went to the back of the line, rather than risk getting kicked out of the country.

            If people really do stand in line for FREE BEER, they’re a different breed than those of us south of the 49th parallel.

            By the way, Canada gave us Justin Bieber but kept the Hip. You guys definitely got the best of that deal.

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