The Greatest TV Show Of The Last 25 Years.

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For the next five weeks, The CDP will be conducting a tournament for the ages.

You’re going to help decide the GREATEST TELEVISION SHOW OF THE LAST 25 YEARS in a winner-take-all, 128 show battle for generational Pop Culture supremacy.

Each day, starting next Monday, you will be given the opportunity to vote on tournament matchups as we work our way down to the finals. What’s your favorite show? Think you already know who’s going to win? Is there a show in the tournament you think is criminally underrated? You’ll be able to vote, debate, convince, argue and sway the rest of the crowd to see things your way.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

Let’s get this out of the way early: Here are the two things that might piss you off about the tournament.

1. While you and CDP readers across the globe will be the deciding factor in voting for the shows you like, I got to pick and sort the initial field of 128. I did this for a couple reasons. First, an Internet vote just to see what shows made the tournament would have taken forever and probably doomed the whole thing from the start. Secondly, this is my page after all, and I figured it was the least I could do. Once the voting begins, I will only participate in order to break ties. Otherwise, I will not be voting. It’s completely up to you. Fair enough?

2. To keep this tournament from containing 8,000 shows, I had to set parameters for who got to make it in. It is for these reasons that the tournament is almost exclusively SCRIPTED AMERICAN COMEDIES AND DRAMAS. Variety shows, reality shows, overseas shows and mini-series are rampant in the landscape of 21st Century television, but I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the tournament. Furthermore, if your all-time favorite TV show of the last 25 years didn’t make this list, I assume I’d never have been able to make you happy in the first place. I fully understand the magnitude of American Idol, Cops, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Survivor and The Daily Show, but sacrifices had to be made in order to make this whole thing a reality.

I repeat: I did my best to make this as fair and across-the-board as possible. Yes, I took personal interests and the overall interest of CDP readers into the slightest of consideration, but I put more stock in ratings, critical reception, longevity and legacy/buzz. It took me over a year to put this together; I implore you to find a fairer tournament that isn’t a complete mess. Let’s move on.

FAQ.

Where’s the bracket?

The entire 128-show field will be revealed THIS FRIDAY. As rounds are completed, I will update accordingly right here on the CDP. Each day over the next five weeks, you’ll be given the opportunity to vote on matchups in a specific part of the bracket as we work our way to the finals.

How are the brackets sorted?

64 comedies, 64 dramas. I know there are a few shows that critically fall somewhere in between, so I used my best discretion to determine what category they should fall under. The 64 comedies are sorted into 4 groups of 16 shows based on chronology/era. Same goes for dramas. The goal is to have a decent balance of comedies and dramas from the last 25 years lasting deep into the tournament, with the final comedy and drama slugging it out in the finals. A random pairing seemed less fair to me for some reason, and this format allows for more intriguing matchups down the road.

Hey, a couple of these shows premiered over 25 years ago. What gives?

A couple (literally two) shows premiered slightly over 25 years ago as of this week. I did this because I’d rather include them than a couple of brand-new 2014 shows that haven’t proven their worth, and 2014 just started. It’s extremely close to a perfect 25 year list, however. Every year is represented with a handful of both comedies and dramas, and I made sure to include a reasonable amount from each year/era. We could have easily weighed the tournament down with 90’s sitcoms and 2000’s dramas, but I wanted to make it as equal across the years as I could. Besides, it makes for more interesting conversation.

Hey, my favorite show didn’t make the tournament! And hey, why did THIS show make the tournament, and not THIS one?

See above. I did my best. Do your own next time. In fact, please do. I’d love to participate.

How do I vote?

ANY DAMN WAY YOU PLEASE! For each day of voting (and there will be 20 total opportunities to vote), you can get your picks to me nearly any way you’d like. Leave them in the respective comments section here on the CDP. Leave them on my Facebook wall. Tweet them to me. Hell, you can even e-mail them to me. Just get them to me before that day’s deadline, and they will be counted, I promise. I could have gone the ‘automatic’ poll widget route, but I felt that was impersonal and limited discussion/debate, so I’m doing it all by hand. For you. All for you, my sweet baby coconuts.

And hey, please only vote once per day/matchup (again, there will be 20 voting days). I can’t fully prevent cheating, but we’re all trying to have fun here, and I reserve the right the right to throw out any votes I feel might be indicative of ballot stuffing. Be cool. No early voting, either; votes only count on the day the matchups are announced.

For the billionth time, the tournament will be broken into 20 parts, and voting periods will be on the following days: April 7-10, April 14-17, April 21-24, April 28-May 1, May 5-8. This will make considerably more sense when you see it in action. Each day, you will vote on a portion of the bracket, and each Friday will be a recap of that week’s matchups and bracket updates. Again, I’m handling all of that stuff; all you gotta do is vote for the shows you like best.

What am I getting out of this?

A chance to participate in an unprecedented, Internet-wide vote on determining the Greatest TV Show of the Last 25 Years! For years following this tournament, when people search for ‘Greatest TV Show,’ chances are very likely they’re going to stumble upon this very tournament and see the show we’ve selected as a community. It’s unprecedented; it’s going to become the de facto opinion of an entire generation!

…Okay, none of that is guaranteed. But it’s going to be fun, it’s going to spark a lot of discussion and debate, and it’s going to make a lot of us re-watch some of the greatest TV shows of all-time. Oh, and just because I’m a nice guy, I’ll pick a voter at random when this is all over, and send you a free copy of my book. All you have to do to enter is vote in all 20 days/matchups. That’s as sweet of a deal as you’re going to get.

Okay, my body is ready. When does this start?

MONDAY, APRIL 7, and I’ll be holding your hand the entire way. Please direct any questions you may have to the comments section or my Facebook/Twitter wall. I’ll answer everything (except grumbling about how your ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SHOW didn’t make the tournament), and if your question is really good, I’ll add it to this post.

Remember to come back this Friday, when the entire 128-show field will be revealed. 

See you then; let’s do this!

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2005 Flashback – ‘Toronto Diary (5/5).’

DAY SEVEN.

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More days, more steps. This is the finale, kids.

1. We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. They had good omelets.

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(I’m happier than I appear to be. Promise.)

2. From there, we headed off to the Ontario Science Museum. This wasn’t originally on the itinerary, but I thought it looked interesting, and most everyone obliged. It was interesting, but there were children everywhere. Eventually, their screams and overall Neanderthal nature caused us to leave early.

3. We wanted ample time to fully explore the Art Gallery of Ontario, so we scheduled about five hours for it. However, due to construction, there was about 5% of the museum open, and we were out of things to do in less than an hour. Most of the pieces were blank canvases or some other arbitrary ode to conceptual art, so we grabbed some lunch there and headed back into the city.

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(Okay, I’m pretty cranky here, no doubt about it.)

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(At the art gallery, there were these cards you could draw on, and people would choose which ones would go in the gallery. I drew a stick figure saying “Art is hard!”, and took the liberty of just placing it in the gallery on my own. If you go there, it’s probably still up in the gallery. I said “gallery” five times in one paragraph.)

4. We went back to Much Music Studios for a tour of the Television Museum, which boasted antique television sets throughout the ages. They were closed, so back to the hotel we went.

5. Somewhere around this time, Ben and Sherry switched up driving and navigating privleges. Ben almost had us killed ten seconds in, but they quickly recovered and pulled it off without a hitch.

6. We were waiting for our reservations at the Biagio, a beautiful bistro in the heart of the city. We were hungry in the meantime, so we spotted an abandoned cake in an empty conference room. We helped ourselves to some, and ate them back in our rooms, without utensils.

7. The Biagio was an amazing place. The wine list was about 20 pages, and there were bottles of wine that were more expensive than my car. Even the bottle we requested was $45. How redneck of us to take a picture of my dessert.

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(It was good.)

$160 later, and we figured out we’d have just enough cash to make it back to Sun Prairie. We went back to the hotel and packed our things for the journey home.

DAY EIGHT.

8. The next morning, we found out that the hotel sort of screwed us on the bill, so we ended up paying a bit more than we wanted to. Nonetheless, it was dirt cheap thanks to Sherry’s discount, so I wasn’t complaining. We packed the car and hit the road.

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(I pack light.)

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(This all went to Canadian perscription drugs.)

9. People kept telling me that entering the U.S. would be a lot harder than entering Canada. After our initial experience, I was sincerely worried about the return venture. The guy at customs barely looked at us, however, and we entered the country without so much as a pat down.

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(Sherry likes to shop at the Duty Free shop.)

10. The drive back was peaceful and tiring. We slept on and off, listened to a lot of bad music (mostly mine) and made it back to Dane County safe and sound.

In closing…

Toronto was amazing in many ways as a city. It was massive, looming and foreign. Most people didn’t speak English, their money was funny looking and we were often discouraged with our lack of intelligence about the city. It was nothing if it wasn’t a learning experience. All the time, people ask me how it went, and I always tell them that I had a fantastic time. There was no other people that I would have wanted to share it with more, and I truly believe that we emerged from it just a little better off than we were before we arrived.

America is frowned upon outside of itself, as it (probably) should be. This was made clear to us every single day of the trip. I wanted to explain to these people that we weren’t all crazy, and that 50% of us can’t stand the current situation as well. It was this bleak nature that tended to upset me at times, but also enlightened me as well. It made me feel good to know that my beliefs were shared with a good chunk of the planet. It just reaffirmed to me that I was right, which is always nice.

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The trip was over for us about a month ago, but I can still remember most of it immediately. Perhaps that will disintegrate as the months roll on, but I know that there are some things I’ll never forget. The view from the CN Tower. Spending my first anniversary in one of the biggest cities in the world. The customs guard yelling at us (“Get ‘oot of the way!”). The sound of Niagara Falls. Casa Loma. The Toronto traffic. A million people saying “eh?”, and not kidding. It really was amazing.

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2005 Flashback – ‘Toronto Diary (4/5).’

DAY SIX.

Here’s the day in eight more easy steps:

1. We had breakfast at Perkins. It took forever, we complained and almost walked out. The waiter was less than happy. He got a bad tip.

2. We went to the African Lion Safari, where you drive through the habitat and animals attack your car. You have to promise not to roll down your window, or they have no responsibility for your impending death by lion attack. Idiots still rolled their windows down, but they’ll go to hell someday, so I’m not worried.

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(This was known as the “elephant swim”, where the elephants all came out and dove into the lake at once. I was secretly hoping for a bit of an elephant rampage, especially directed towards the kid who wiped dirt on my jeans. Listen parents, pay attention to your kids, or next time I’ll throw them over the fence.)

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(These are lions. They were right outside our car.)

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(These are kinds of monkeys. They were everywhere.)

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(This monkey got on top of our car, and signaled us to stop. Sherry, notorious for her hard-braking, sent the monkey tumbling down the road. That is all true, except for the tumbling part.)

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(We drove through this for an hour. We were careful not to run anything over.)

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(This zebra needs to get herself an ab isolator.)

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(I love this shot, especially the Ostrich peeking in on the right. They were about a foot away from me.)

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(This giraffe loomed right over the top of our car. Personally, I think I took a brilliant photo here. The contrast of the grass with the horizon, the distancing of the giraffes, etc. I’m sick of people telling me that I can’t take a picture.)

3. After the safari, we went into the city for dinner at “Le’ Comensal”. In reality, it was more like “Le’ Cafeteria”. You filled up your tray, and paid by the gram. On the bright side, it was an all-vegetarian/vegan place, so we could eat anything and everything we wanted, provided it wasn’t heavy (expensive).

4. After leaving the cafeteria and relaxing at the hotel, we went across the street for drinks and dessert. It was then that I realized we spent about 80% of our cash on food and parking. We were seriously beginning to wonder if we’d have enough money to get back home.

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(Litres or not, this is an expensive tank of gas. We did this several times over the course of eight days.)

5. During an argument in the car, I coined the phrase “brake light colorblind”, in reference to Ben and Sherry’s combined refusal to pay attention to the cars in front of them on the highway. Every single time we had to brake, we had to brake hard. The brakes will need to be replaced as soon as we get home.

6. During yet another argument in the car, this time concerning where we were, Benjamin furiously pointed at the map and shouted, “here are we!”. Any seriousness he was going for went completely out the window after that ridiculous exclamation. Perhaps you had to be there.

7. Right outside of the airport, there was a strip club called “The Landing Strip”. This marks the first time I have ever seen a triple entendre used for the name of a business. I tip my hat to the brilliance of the name, but I’m also embarrassed and sad.

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(This marks the first time in history that someone took their own picture in a bathroom mirror, and used it on a Blog. I’m paving the way, here.)

8. Before we went to sleep, I went to the candy machine for a Nestle’s Crunch. Of course, the bar got stuck in the coils, so I tried to shake the machine to knock it loose. I thought the machine would be bolted to the ground, but it wasn’t. Completely overcompensating, I lifted the machine right off the ground, bringing it down with a deafening crash. I got my Nestle’s Crunch bar, along with a corkscrew from the top row. Good for me.

2005 Flashback – ‘Toronto Diary (3/5).’

DAY FOUR.

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Here is the day in pictures. I’ve had a bit of a long week, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. This was one of my favorite days of the vacation. Most everything went well, we stayed indoors for most of the day, and nobody got too cranky.

We spent most of the day at the Eaton Centre, the world-famous big-ass mall in the bowels of Toronto.

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We had brunch in the food court, and split off to explore every inch of the mall’s splendor.

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The Missus and I had a drink in the bar on the top floor before noon. Buzzing from my “Love Potion #9,” we took in some of the upper-level views.

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After the Eaton Centre, we stopped by Much Music studios, in the aftermath of the big awards show.

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Much is way cooler than MTV, because they let you right in the door.

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We even met a VJ.

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After the stroll through Much Music, we headed for the Hard Rock Cafe. We saw memorabilia from such acts as Rush, Nickelback and Our Lady Peace. Psssh…Canada.

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With our stomachs full of horrendously priced desserts, we went to the nearest Googolplex to check out Batman Begins.

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The movie was actually very good. Big ups to Christopher Nolan, one of my favorite directors.

I’ll have plenty more to say about day five. We go to Niagara Falls tomorrow.

DAY FIVE.

Here’s the day in 10 easy steps:

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(Niagara Falls was huge. It felt like a constant earthquake all around you. I’m not much for land formations and whatnot, but Niagara Falls delivered the goods.)

1. Drive to Niagara Falls.

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(This boat took you right into the falls. I was in no mood to ruin my camera and wear a poncho.)

2. Enjoy Niagara Falls.

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(See Mom? I really was calling you right from the falls. I could use my cell phone in Canada briefly when it was bouncing off the New York tower back in the states. USA! USA!)

3. Enjoy Niagara Falls strip.

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(Ben and Sherry quietly contemplate where to dispose the body of Natalee Holloway.)

4. Enjoy Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum.

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(This was a life-size model of Dr. Atkins just seconds before his mysterious death.)

5. Enjoy Dinosaur Miniature Golf.

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(By this point in the day, Froggie here was the only person who would listen to what I had to say. The food at the Rainforest Cafe always sucks, so take a few pictures and move on.)

6. Enjoy Niagara Falls arcade.

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(Here in the states, we don’t have statues of cops in the street, so this seemed a bit out of place as far as I was concerned. Ben was arrested less than a minute later.)

7. Enjoy Hershey’s Chocolate store.

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(This place was beautiful. There was chocolate everywhere, even the money was made of chocolate. That reminds me, I have to deposit some of that chocolate money at the bank.)

8. Enjoy Kelsey’s restaurant for dinner.

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(This wasn’t a staged photo. I was really that happy to be there, holding my giant peanut butter and chocolate cookie.)

9. Drive to Toronto.

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(This shot is for the Abercrombie catalog. They just need to photoshop my clothes off.)

10. Sleep.

2005 Flashback – ‘Toronto Diary (2/5).’

DAY TWO.

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That first morning in the city, I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a vacation as much as it was going to be a whirlwind tour of duty. Sherry had meticulously planned out every angstrom of this trip, and we only had so much time to take in every single attraction in Toronto, one of the biggest cities on the planet.

Opening my eyes, it took me a while to realize just where I was. The lush, king-sized bed in the hotel room put a good three feet of space between me and the Missus, so while pawing around in the darkness; I thought I was all by myself. Knocking my watch off the nightstand, I grabbed the remote control and turned on the television, switching to Much Music, the Canadian equivalent of MTV.

A quick word on Much Music. It’s an interesting network. We used to have it here in the states, but about five years ago they pulled the plug in favor of Fuse, a network out of NYC. They play standard Music Television fare, but then they surprise you with Canadian bands that are still an underground novelty here in the states. The first thing I saw when I turned on the station was an Arcade Fire video, followed by DFA1979. I instantly felt that I belonged here.

“Happy Anniversary”, I told the Missus as she opened her bleary eyes.

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After breakfast, the first big Toronto stop was the world-famous CN Tower. This is the tallest observation deck in the world, at least that’s what the sign told me. The CN Tower is right next to the Rogers Centre, where the Toronto Blue Jays play. Ironically, the Milwaukee Brewers were in town that day for an afternoon ass-whooping.

It was here at the CN Tower where we exchanged more American money and bought a City Pass. A City Pass is a neat way to get admission to a bunch of local attractions for one price. For about $50, we got well over $100 worth of tickets to most of the things we had been planning on seeing in the first place.

Another quick word on Canadian money. They have one and two dollar coins in Canada. The one dollar coin has a picture of a Loon on it, so they are referred to as “Loonies”. The two dollar coin is referred to as a “Toonie”. Now you know.

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The four of us got into the elevator, shooting us straight into the air at about 15 miles per hour. The elevator was glass, so it was nothing short of awful watching the ground disappear from under you so quickly. Our tour guide was a funny, sarcastic young woman who kept me from vomiting all over her. Here’s some sample dialogue that she had with us, some overall-wearing rednecks and a group of French-speaking tourists sharing an elevator:

Redneck: “How fast are we going?”
Guide: “About 15 miles per hour. This is actually the same speed as an opened parachute falling from a plane.”
Redneck: “A military parachute?”
Guide: “No. Actually, the military chutes fall a little faster because they’re in a hurry…to kill people.”

(Silence and muffled laughter by the four of us)

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The CN Tower gave us some truly amazing views of the city we were about to dissect. The tour guide also let us know that the Much Music Video Awards were going on tonight, and they were closing off some streets and broadcasting live. We decided that we would check that out if we had the chance, or at least watch it on television. Arcade Fire was playing live, so I was pretty adamant about checking it ‘oot.

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After seeing every square inch of the CN Tower, we found our car and were off to the Toronto Zoo. But first, a few words on parking.

Parking And You: How to Lose $100 a Day for No Reason.

Driving in Toronto is nothing short of a sick joke. However, I despise public transportation and choose to avoid it at all costs. It’s because of this that we spent literally hundreds of dollars just on parking in those eight short days.

Parking at the Rogers Centre was $14, and we found places that were as cheap as $6 throughout the week, but we usually had to park at anywhere from 2-5 different spots per day. You can do the math. Take it from me, if you plan on spending any length of time in Downtown Toronto, I strongly recommend taking the Subway or using some sort of tour bus. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.

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Now then, the Toronto Zoo was beckoning. Several hours and several more miles of walking later, we came to the conclusion that it was a pretty large zoo. We saw every animal you would think that would inhabit a zoo, and we also saw some things that I had never seen before. Like turtles mating.

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Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the sheer amount of walking. Maybe it was the pungent scent of sunscreen emitting from a million screaming children. Somewhere along the way, we all started to get a little cranky. So early into the trip, and we were starting to take potshots at each other and argue over insignificant stuff. The zoo was beautiful and one of a kind, but it was a welcome treat to get back to the air-conditioned vehicle.

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We had some time to kill before dinner, so we decided to check out one of the beaches in the city. I cannot stand beaches, as I can’t swim and my skin is milky white. I get sunburn just sitting too close to a computer monitor, so I normally don’t have many good things to say about beaches. This beach was no different. Some highlights were Ben getting hassled by a clearly intoxicated German man (“cut your hair!“), or a woman collecting litter dressed as a clown, complete with makeup and red nose. I couldn’t leave fast enough.

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My pants are rolled up in a fruity fashion because I didn’t want to get them dirty. Don’t worry about me.

Before getting back to the hotel, we drove by Much Music studios to check out the crowd for the awards show. There were already 15,000 people there three hours before show time, so we thought it better to watch the awards on television. We got dinner at the hotel, and the waitress bothered us about basically everything. She made poor Ben feel so guilty about not finishing his food, he wrapped it up just to make her feel better, knowing full well that we had no fridge or preserving device in our hotel. We had a mini-bar, but I instructed nobody to open that thing if they valued their money or sanity. A mini-bar in a hotel is like a Pandora’s Box of alcohol and cashews. Avoid it at all costs.

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During the Much Music Video Awards, we decided to quickly run to the nearest airport to exchange a bunch of money. This eventually resulted in an hour of wasted time, money wasted on parking, and no money exchanged. The changing station was perpetually closed, and the man we asked was nothing short of a complete ass to me and my friends. Again, we were starting to see how the rest of the planet viewed Americans. Then again, most of the inhabitants of Toronto are French, so it’s possible that they’re like this all the time. I kid the French only because they hate me. We made a vow to never return to the airport again (we returned two more times), and went back to watch the rest of the awards. By the time I got back in front of the television, Arcade Fire had already performed. I sipped my Guinness in shame, and felt very worthless and small.

DAY THREE.

Waking up on a Monday morning without having to go to work is a welcome feeling, but it’s usually accompanied by going right back to bed. Not in this case, as we had to get going to two of the biggest tourist attractions in all of Toronto; The Royal Ontario Museum and Casa Loma. While brushing my teeth, I realized that my toothbrush got smashed in the suitcase somewhere along the way, misaligning all my bristles. It works much better now, honestly.

Driving to the Royal Ontario Museum took us straight into the very heart of Toronto. We parked our car just feet from the Eaton Centre, one of the largest shopping malls on the planet. We were just there to grab some cheap breakfast; shopping was for another day. I had never ate a veggie sub for breakfast before in an empty mall food court, but there’s a first time for everything.

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So early into the vacation, and we were all in wretched moods. I was already burned out on the hours, the Missus was in a lot of pain because she hurt her leg at the Zoo the previous day, and Ben and Sherry were constantly at each other over navigating and driving. This was the day that it all came to a head.

It was good to get it out of the way early on, as to enjoy the rest of the trip. Before we get to the meltdown, however, here are some fun facts about Canadian Television.

What’s On TV? Canadian Television And You.

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Canadian Television is basically the same crap that we have in the states; they just have a Canadian equivalent. We have MTV; they have Much Music, that sort of thing. The one thing they have that we certainly do NOT have is a French station that played nothing but terrifying children’s shows all morning. These French clowns would prance around, singing surreal songs and riding those old-fashioned bikes with the huge wheel in the front. Sometime in the evening, the children’s programming would cease in favor of soft-core porn. No thank you.

The morning programming was similar to ours, only their weathermen were simply never right. Every day, they predicted rain, and it never rained. In fact, the only time we saw a drop of rain was when we finally got back into Madison at the end of the trip. They did the traffic report, which was the same thing every morning:

Oh, looks like a lot of congestion on the 424. Good luck with all of that, ‘eh?

And now sports.

Back to business. The trouble started when Ben (or Sherry, it doesn’t matter who) misread the map. He claimed it was only “a few blocks” from our car to the Museum. Keep in mind that it was pushing 95 degrees that day, and the Missus was gimpy. A few blocks made all the difference.

In reality, a few blocks were about 20. The Museum was over two miles away.

As the Missus limped along with me, she said “I’d rather be at work”. I couldn’t blame her. When we finally got to the museum, the four of us split up as I tried to comfort the Missus, in tears because her leg hurt so much. When we all met back up towards the end of the Museum venture, things pretty much uncorked.

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For the sake of fair reporting, here’s where everyone went wrong.

Ben clearly misread the map, but he’s not to blame because he had a near-flawless record for 95% of the trip. He did a much better job than I ever could have, and I respect that immensely.

Sherry was a little sensitive because she had obviously worked very hard on planning out every day of this vacation. Criticizing things was like criticizing her. That being said, she was a masterful driver in the big city, and took on a task that I never could have done on my own. I respect her for that as well.

The Missus was sensitive because of a mixture of the blistering heat and her bum leg. She was really hurting, so any additional walking in the bowels of Toronto was quite hellish for anyone, especially her. She was quite furious, but was quick to apologize and fully understand the reality of the situation.

I was always the first to criticize everything. It would appear that I was never having fun, but I usually only open my mouth when I’m angry about something. Nonetheless, if I was truly angry about something, I’d do something about it. Apart from my crotchety old man routine, I felt as if I usually kept my logic and wits about me and made sure that nobody in the car killed me. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I brought anything useful to this trip besides my money.

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Looking back, I think we were all in bad moods for the same reason. We felt tiny. I mean, we are four intelligent, independent people who had absolutely no idea what they hell they were doing. Everything we did was done with hesitation. Every decision had to be voted upon. Simple tasks and directions were being swallowed whole by the city. We, as Americans, felt arrogant, pompous and quite loser-y. When a city backs you into a corner like that, it’s only normal to start lashing out at each other. It’s how us shaved apes keep order. If our petty little squabble was the worst thing that happened over the course of the week (and it probably was), then we all had a pretty good week.

Anyways, we came to the (simple) conclusion to take the subway back to our car. Had we been knowledgeable of the city to begin with, we would have done that right away and saved the headache. That boneheaded misstep was enough to put all of us back onto the same happy page again.

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We drove to Casa Loma, which had a nice free parking lot. This place was way more interesting and beautiful than I thought it would be. It also featured the scariest basement ever.

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The courtyard was amazing, and the views of the city were impressive. This brightened all of our spirits, and we eventually participated in a group tickle fight (I may have dreamed that last part. You should probably ignore it.).

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I purchased an iced tea in the outdoor beverage area, while Ben and Sherry split a Spongebob Squarepants popcicle.

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This was a long day, and we wrapped everything up with a dinner from the hotel across the street from us. It was there that I consumed the single greatest veggie burger ever made. It took us a full three minutes to even determine if it was meat or not, that’s how good it was. I swear to you, burger technology is really moving onward and upward in leaps and bounds. A perfect ending to a rocky and important day.

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2005 Flashback – ‘Toronto Diary (1/5).’

DAY ONE.

At around 7:30am, the four of us weighed down the trunk with about 200 pounds of luggage and hit the road. The goal was to reach Toronto within ten hours (make that eleven hours, considering we’d be crossing into the Eastern Time Zone).

The travel was routine enough, as we mostly kept to ourselves in an attempt not to annoy each other. I had brought along several methods of subterfuge, including my IPod, GBA and back issues of Alternative Press magazine. I used none of these throughout the entire trip, instead deciding to bother everyone else in the car and stare longingly out the backseat window.

I was looking forward to driving through Chicago, not because I like the city, but because I wouldn’t have to stop in it. So many times have I had a complete psychotic breakdown on the Chicago Tollway; it was nothing less that a treat to give them their change, and quickly pass through their garbage city.

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Somewhere in this stretch of highway, this guy almost killed us because he was too busy eating.

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Chicago had the last laugh, though. Due to construction (which never ends in Chicago), they had raised their toll fees to an obscene level, robbing us of at least seven dollars by the time we ate brunch. We were in need of something to raise our spirits, and Alexander’s was just what we needed.

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Alexander’s was nothing short of a perfect 10. The place was spotless, the waiter got all of our special vegetarian orders correct without writing anything down, our food was on the table before we knew it, and it was reasonably priced. I ordered a vegetable omelette, which was my first of about 7 over the term of the vacation. Happy and well-fed, we were back on the road within an hour.

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The travel plan called for a trip through the heart of Michigan. This meant journeys through Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit and Flint. I made it very clear to everyone in the vehicle that we were not to stop in any of these locations, as I didn’t feel like getting shot so early in the trip. My terrified, white-boy attitude towards the murder capital of the world was frowned upon by the other cultured folk in the vehicle, but they heeded my warnings and made sure to get gas before the “death stretch” of highway.

Somewhere between Detroit and Canada, we stopped at the most backwoods gas station/bait shop that I’ve ever seen. As I was getting back into the car, I could hear gunshots just across the street.

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Before we knew it, we were quickly approaching the US/Canadian border. We had our identification in a folder for quick access, and went over some sample questions just to make sure we had the routine down cold once we got to Border Patrol. We began to see the giant bridge that led us out of the country, and immediately noticed the speed limit sign giving us an early indicator of what we were in for.

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After a lengthy wait in line, we got the car to the window, and began the question barrage with border patrol. Ben was driving the car, so he was the primary focus of most of the questions.

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At this time, I’d like to offer you a few tips with dealing with authorities at the border:

Border Patrol And You: 5 Tips to Keep You ‘Oot of Prison.

Tip #1 – When asked a question, don’t repeat the question back to the cop.
Tip #2 – When asked a question, don’t look at others in the car for the answer.
Tip #3 – When asked a question, answer the question.
Tip #4 – When asked a question, attempt to answer the question within 30 seconds. Patrol hates it when you hold up a line.
Tip #5 – When the patrol agent pauses and cocks his/her head, you’re screwed.

Ben whizzed the interview down his leg with flying colors. Before you could say “profiling”, the four of us were standing in front of the car while three cops were tearing our luggage apart. We had been in Canada for no less than two minutes, and we were already facing immediate deportation. I didn’t think for a second that it could go any other way. A highlight of getting the car torn up was when another car was trying to exit the search area. The four of us were standing in front of the exiting vehicle (where we were instructed to stand, mind you), and a Border Patrol authority yelled at us, “Get ‘oot of the way!” We were scared about the on goings, but it didn’t stop me from laughing right at this cop without even attempting to hide it.

Border Patrol found nothing (of course), but we were now running about two hours behind schedule. We made sure they didn’t steal any of our stuff, exhaled, and began to explore Ontario.

The first thing we noticed was the metric system. We had to look at the little white numbers on the speedometer, which aren’t very descriptive on American cars. Normally, there’s huge gaps in the metric speedometer, so you could be going anywhere from 45 to 90 miles per hour without really knowing it.

The temperature was another story. I have no idea what Celsius temperature means, so when they told me that it was 32 degrees out, it meant absolutely nothing. For a while, I was living under the assumption that in order to convert the scale, you had to multiply the Celsius temperature by ten. I soon realized that it wasn’t an apocolyptic 320 degrees in Ontario, but I still don’t know the right conversion formula.

Our first stop in Canada was John’s Restaurant. We had a round of grilled cheeses, and I ordered a Labatt Blue. When I ordered the sandwich, they asked me if I wanted it on “white or brown” bread. I had never heard anything like this before, and I assumed that the waitress meant “brown” in reference to rye or wheat bread. I began to wonder just how simple Canadians were, considering they didn’t know the proper way to title bread. I, of course, was being an arrogant American.

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When we paid the check in American cash, we got our first taste of Canadian money. They have beautiful, multicolored cash, complete with hockey players, Queens and beavers. Sure, the $50 looks a little fruity, but anything’s better than American money. Now it’s time for a quick lesson aboot Canadian money:

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The Exchange Rate And You: 5 Tips to Keep You from Going Broke.

Tip #1 – When you give the exchange station $100, you will get about $125 back.
Tip #2 – Everything in Canada is 25%-400% more expensive than in Wisconsin.
Tip #3 – Gasoline in Canada is .94 cents… a liter.
Tip #4 – There are about 3.7 liters in a gallon. Figure it ‘oot.
Tip #5 – A beer is at least six dollars.

Ontario looks a lot like Wisconsin, and it really should. I mean, we have the same natural features as our neighbors to the north, although their street signs have little crowns on them instead of the badge-shaped markers we have signifying our highways. Essentially, there’s nothing of interest whatsoever in Ontario until you reach Toronto and the surrounding suburbs.

Then it gets interesting.

We found our hotel and checked in at about 11:30pm Eastern time, a few hours late of our goal. We settled in the best we could considering the shape we were in after a 15 hour excursion. We set the alarm clock for 7:00am, and tried to get some sleep. Tomorrow, the vacation officially began. This was the view from my bedroom window for a week.

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2004 Flashback – ‘Fat Kid Dunk Tank.’

Aren’t you sick to death of visiting someone’s Blog, and finding yet another picture of some inanimate object that they thought would make some sort of statement? I mean, do these people think they’re photographers or something? Listen dude, you’re not an artistic genius. You got an expensive digital camera that makes everything look good, and it doesn’t make you look like you have a sensitive, artistic side. Stop advancing the stereotype, you loser.

That being said, I think this is just a beautiful picture I took.

Moving on, this weekend marked 3 important events. First and foremost, the Missus and I went to the parade that kicked off the Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival. Celia loves parades, and I…well…

You get the point. I look like a pale, unshaven zombie.

On the good side, the weather was nice and nobody around me was acting like an ass. I’ve found that standing next to crying babies is a hundred times better than standing next to the group of loud teenagers with raver pants and Disturbed shirts on. I don’t like babies very much, but at least they don’t know what they’re doing.

Friday was a big day. Our friends Ben and Sherry exchanged vows in Winneconne, and are planning a big celebration/ceremony sometime next year. It was a small gathering, and I was very proud of them. I forgot to bring my camera with me, so here’s a picture of me playing a game of Guess Who with them.

God bless ’em. They’re moving to Green Bay together, where I’m certain we won’t be able to see them every week like we’re used to. Now we’ll have to take turns driving for hours and sleeping on each other’s floor. I’m kinda looking forward to that. Good luck with the move, and all the responsibilities that come with it. If I have any decent advice to give, it would be to not fight irrationally about money, work out a spending plan, and keep the place clean. Nothing makes someone more uncomfortable than coming home to a dirty house and a lazy spouse. Ben, I’m obviously talking to you. I’m much lazier than you though.

They joined us on Saturday for the Sweet Corn Festival, where we ate dozens of ears and pounds of butter. I spent 20 bucks on Mini-Donuts, dunk tanks, carnival games you can’t win and more Mini-Donuts. Again I have no picture of these events, so here’s a shot of me holding a kitten.

I’m alone in the apartment right now, as Celia is attending a “Passion Party” with some of her co-workers. I chose not to go in favor of catching up on some things I had to do, mainly eating alone at Culvers and watching football. A concrete chocolate malt always beats a sex toy in my book. Who knows though, maybe she’ll bring one home.

Watching the decathlon on the Olympics reminds me of when I was doing the shot put in 5th grade Gym class. I tried to throw it like a baseball, and tore everything in my arm from the shoulder to elbow. Then I pretended to throw it at a passing car, and the old man behind the wheel gave me the finger.

Enjoy our photography.