Roadtrip with Mario #1

Today's entry is going to be a classic tale of Eric's days gone by:

When I want to be, I'm quite the story teller. Sometimes they're even funny,

And sometimes I do nothing more than tell the same story over and over again. To the point where my friend Nancilynn Gatta would pipe up with "Hey, I know this one. It's an Eric Broz Rerun."

She's so cute.

So with that in mind, if you know this story, welcome to an Eric Broz Rerun.

If you're late to the game and haven't heard the stories of me and my buddy Mario Rotunna and our exploits chasing hockey around the country, welcome to Roadtripping with Mario, Part 1 - The Hockey Hall of Fame.

I met Mario through a friend of mine. We graduated from the same high school, years apart. I knew his cousin Terri. She was fucking hot. But Mario and I never met. Until we were both buying hockey cards from All Pro Cards & Comics in Warren, owned by my friend Mike Popadak.

Turns out that Mario loved hockey. He was a fan of the Hartford Whalers. And he was a big guy. Not tall. Big. Like 375-400 pound range. Red hair. Freckles. He had an engaging personality, a great brain, he was a snappy dresser on top of all of that.

He was "that fat guy" you see with the hot chicks and wonder what the hell he has going on. In Mario's case, there was a lot. First, he was a great friend. To everyone worthy of his friendship. He was funny. He was complimentary. He helped people without them realizing they needed help, or he was helping them. He was wise beyond his 19 years.

He was the guy that would add to every conversation, even if to say "I don't know anything about that but it's interesting." He was a Civil War fan, and we spent many nights playing trivia at Damon's. And no matter how big or small the group, he never let anyone feel left out. And unlike me, he never thought he knew it all and always wanted to learn more.

And he was my friend.

I miss him.

He moved to Florida a few years ago and we lost touch, and despite my best efforts I have yet to find him, even in this great age of electronic communication.

But enough sap. Let's get on to the tale of Roadripping With Mario - Part 1.

Being young and male, and having a few days off during the middle of a week in July, he and I decided, last minute, to go to Canada and see the Hockey Hall of Fame, and get drunk. I was his first "hockey loving friend" and with me, he wanted to see as much of the hockey world as his car and my driving could take us. Because he loved the roadtrip but he hated to drive. I love to drive. It was a great friendship.

It was July 1995. Mario was 19. I was 26. At that time, and I don't know if it's changed or not, but then, 19 was the legal drinking age in Canada. So Mario was looking to get six ways of fucked up. I was much the same. And having dated a fine Canadian woman for a summer, and having gotten a few up-close-and-personal-tours of bars on Younge Street, I knew just where to go.

So after we checked into our hotel, on Younge Street, we set off for an alcoholic-fueled adventure in a foreign country. And we were on foot. Because we knew we were getting ruined. We started out, at my suggestion, just walking down the street from our hotel, without stopping anywhere, despite his anxiousness to get into this place, that place, basically every place that was open and selling alcohol. And there are many of them.

But I kept telling him no.

Until we got about five blocks down from the hotel and had picked out six bars we wanted to visit. We entered Bar 1 and I explained the plan of working our way back to the hotel after we started drinking at the bar the furthest away. That was the first of many times that night he realized the true genius that can be me. The rest were those "Dude, this was the best idea you ever had" said in perfect drunkenese that only you and the person you're listening to can understand.

So we drank.

A lot.

At that time, the exchange rate was something like $1 US Dollar was worth $1.50 Canadian. And we had cashed in a lot of money. And being in Canada, my beloved Molson wasn't an export. It was the local slop. So it was cheap.

Mario was drinking Whiskey. Tossing out "beaver money" as he called it, having fun.

So we drank Canadian Club Whiskey.

And something the bartender said was Canadian vodka.

And something the bartender said was Canadian gin.

And something the bartender said was Canadian rum.

And anything else that looked like it would taste good.

At his size, he could put the alcohol away, too.

I don't remember much after the third bar. I was, as Dave Attell talks about, time traveling.

But I didn't wake up three years later working at McDonalds banging the retarded girl on the fry-o-later.

I woke up in our room, in Toronto. Mario was snoring in the other bed. I was totally expecting some collateral damage to the room based on my lack of memory and the copious amounts of alcohol we consumed.

But nope. No vomit, anywhere.

Bathroom was clean, his bed was clean, my bed was clean. Clothes and shoes were clean.


So after I showered, I woke him up. He didn't much feel like breakfast, so I went down to graze at the hotel breakfast buffett. Back bacon (referred to here as Canadian bacon), eggs, muffins, jam, tea, coffee, toast, apple butter ... it was all good.

He came down, thought about breakfast and had some toast. Just toast. Dry, white toast. Like a Blues Brother.

He didn't look like he was hungry.

He looked hung-the-fuck-over.

And he wore it like a badge that only 19-year-olds can.

So we left and headed out to work our way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. On a Wednesday. I highly recommend it to any hockey fan. But you already knew that.

As we were making the drive down Younge Street, Mario was looking out the window with that "Holy shit what did I drink last night" look. We've all had it. But he was happy to know had his first big night out bar hopping. Without losing control of any bodily functions. No piss, no puke. He was proud of that.

So proud, in fact, he wanted to get a pack of those cool Canadian $8 cigarettes that had the warning label saying "Smoking will kill you." He sought out that particular label in the brand he wanted.

Hey, the alcohol didn't kill him. It just slowed him down a bit. So he figured the nicotine would give him a good jump start. He smoked, not a lot, but he did smoke, so I'm sure he was kind of craving one that morning after being out drinking the night before.

And he thought the warning was funny, being 19 and invincible. As we all feel at 19.

We stop, he grabs a pack of smokes from the store and a bottle of water. I grab some Macintosh Toffee (another great Canadian staple) and a Gatorade to help me with the dryness I was feeling from all the alcohol. We get back in the car to finish our journey to the Hockey Hall of Fame. We're about a mile away at this point.

Mario groans that "Man I drank way too much" groan.

He looks out the window again.

He grabs his killer Canadian cigarettes.

He packs them.

He breaks the shrinkwrap.

He pulls out a cigarette.

And his lighter.

He puts one to his lips.

He lights it.

Now I'm a non-smoker. But I will admit that the initial lighting of a cigarette has a very unique, pleasurable smell to me. After that first one, however, second-hand smoke sucks.

He inhales deeply.

He turns pale.

Like Casper pale.

Then green.

Like Shrek green.

He quickly puts his head out the window and lets out an incredible, monumental stream of vomit that coated the side of the car and a good portion of Younge Street.

I offer to pull over, he says just keep driving.

So I do.

And he keeps puking. Volumes.

About a minute after he finishes, he looks at me, after wiping his mouth and washing it out with some water he grabbed with the smokes and says, sincerely, "I can't believe how much litter there is in Canada."

To which I replied, "Yeah. I saw this huge stream of puke about half-a-mile back."

I laughed my ass off.

And I got the totally expected "Fuck you" that guys give other guys as a sign of respect in return.

Oh, the Hall of Fame was great.

We went back out that night and drank a lot, again. This time on the other side of Younge Street. And saw the most beautiful hooker I've ever seen. She had that classic look that makeup can't re-create, that women kill for. We really don't know if she was a hooker. I do know Mario wanted to go offer her whatever beaver money he had left (his term) for her beaver (again, his term). Me? I was his wingman. I kept him from doing just that.

We left the next morning.

That, my friends, was a fun trip.

And it set up the next trip ... the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, because Mario wanted to see the American version, because, after all, we're Americans.

And our money doesn't have beavers on it.

So that'll be the next entry in our "Roadtripping With Mario" series on the next Eric Broz Rerun blog.

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