With possible Armageddon & my 30th birthday on the horizon, I’ve decided to dig deep into my well of memories and share some of my favorite stories from the last ten years of my life. FULL DISCLOSURE: While I will be as [karate] honest as possible in the retelling of these tales there will be certain things omitted due to a probable (more thank likely) drunken haze, old-age forgetfulness, and the protection of the
guiltyinnocent. This will also be done in a very non-linear style, since whatever story I post will be based on what pops into my head first, not chronologically.
How does one attempt to follow-up a near two thousand word opus about their first experience at a Journey cover band? Well for any sequel, you’ve got to go bigger and better. In my opinion there was no event more epic than our New Year’s trip to Canada in 2007, also known as HELL YEAR to the uninitiated.
A quick history of HELL YEAR. In the fall of 2005 a group of us took a road trip to Vermont for a wrestling show out in the middle of nowhere. I had just come back into the business after a two-year sabbatical, and was excited to be back out on the road. With my new-found friend Jon Thornhill (Thorny) driving, we were accompanied by Doug Summers, Chris Venom, and Bryce Andrews (recently signed WWE developmental prospect Chase Donovan!) who were also working the show with us. The show itself was nothing to write home about, save for a giant wooden paddle that one of the female valets had been using as a prop. Being who we are, we immediately began whacking each other with the paddle. We especially brutalized for Bryce, who we kept referring to as ‘Pledge’ while beating him mercilessly. “It’s HELL YEAR Pledge! Eat that mud or you’re gonna get whacked! You like that paddle Pledge? Do ya?!?” WHACK.
Really enjoying our time hazing poor Bryce, we brought the HELL YEAR concept with us that December when a group of us went to Canada for our first big New Year’s trip, establishing a tradition we keep to this day (whenever there’s a newbie, they must automatically pledge in order to be “in” the group). Yes we’re very mature, why do you ask?
Not only was our second trip to the great white north going to be a New Year’s celebration, it was also going to be a reunion for us as our buddy Tim Pittman was on holiday from Japan where he had been teaching young children the arts of English, and would be joining us on our adventure. Three hotel rooms had been reserved, and while we would be ringing 2008 in the city of Montreal, we’d be making a pit stop first at Niagara Falls as Timmy really wanted to see the Falls while on retreat.
Both Richard Pacifico and I decided to rent cars for the trip while Thorny planned to drive up in his own car along with his jail-bait girlfriend Bianca (Baby B). I’ve known Rich since we were 14, and is without a doubt one of the oddest people I’ve ever met. He’s also one of the most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and doesn’t have a dishonest bone in his body. He also doesn’t have kidney stones, as we would soon find out when he began passing his stones on our fateful trip to Canada. Rich rented a Dodge Charger, wanting to splurge some extra cash for style while I thought it was more economical to get something with a little substance– a silver PT Cruiser.
The next step before leaving was drafting groups for each car, and who would go where. For years I’ve been the unofficial “leader” of the group, and not to brag but the seats in my car were a hot commodity despite the lameness of my silver stallion (the cruiser of course). “So who’s coming with me?” I asked after arriving at Ruy’s house around 11pm (in all reality we had already decided who’d be coming in my car, the only x-factor was Thorny). I had gone to sleep at around 6pm that night, resting up for the overnight drive since we decided to leave at midnight for Niagara Falls. Jon and B decided to head up to Montreal themselves, since they had their own hotel room and no interest in stopping in Toronto first.
After much back and forth, the teams were assembled;
- Ruy Batello
- Tim Pittman
- Mike Paiva
Team Finger Fuck
- Richard Pacifico
- Doug Summers
- Baby B
Now you may be wondering, why the hell would Richard willingly call his group Team Finger Fuck? Well that’s a very good question dear reader, and you’ll soon find out. We hit the road shortly after, with me taking the first leg of the trip in our P[ussy] T[itty] Cruiser. My plan was simple. Drive through the night until we reached Niagara Falls, and then not drive for the remainder of the trip. Things were going smoothly and without much happening until we were deep into New York. Focused on the road and in the zone, I failed to notice a small figure in the distance, laying right in the middle of the road. “Hey dude, watch out,” Ruy warned me.
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
Careening down the highway without regard I rammed the car directly over a dead goat that had been lying there for what had to have been awhile, sending the PT Cruiser flying into the air like a jet leaving the airport. Yep, I just hit a fucking goat.
Worried I had fucked up the under parts of the car, I pulled off to the next rest stop while trying to regain some form of composure. “Oh God, oh God, oh God,” I mumbled while trying to catch my breath. Ruy, Tim, and Mikey couldn’t stop laughing at what just happened, and while I was hyperventilating Timmy took the perfect opportunity to snap a picture. Since we were already stopped, we decided it was the perfect time for a snack break and to treat Tim to his first ever Dunkin’ Donuts flatbread sandwich! The flatbread debuted while Tim was off in Japan, and he had yet to taste the delectable wonder of a grilled cheese flatbread. Satisfied, composed, and full of donuts we hit the road getting back on track.
At this point we had lost contact with Rich’s car and decided to just focus on getting us to Niagara as quickly as possible. By this time of night, we were the only car in sight during a looooong stretch of two lane highway as we made our way toward Buffalo. Out of nowhere a sporty black coupe with tinted windows came up beside us, possibly looking to race. Now being in such a finely tuned vehicle like the PT Cruiser, clearly the opposing car was intimidated. I mean, he had no idea what we had going on under this hood besides a little bit of goat carcass.
We soon found the car falling back behind us, riding up our bumper and pushing us around on this desolate strip. They would then speed up, go far enough head just to slam on their brakes and force us to slow down. The sports car also continued to block both lanes, preventing us from passing and basically trapped us out in the middle of nowhere. With all my knowledge being directly lifted from movies, I could only think of films like Joyride, Duel, and the Care Bears.
We were screwed.
After about twenty minutes of this BS, another car came up from the distance and basically killed any enjoyment this cocksucker was having fucking with us. Able to concentrate, we were finally on our way. We got to Niagara a little after 6am, and I was tired. I pulled over so Ruy could take the wheel, completing my unnecessary quest.
Niagara was great, especially so early in the morning. We met up with the others and after checking out the Falls we decided to hop the border and check things out on the Canadian side. In 2007 you still didn’t need passports to cross over, so it was relatively easy to enter the country (I had my license and birth certificate to get in). After crossing in, we realized that Rich, Doug, & MTE had yet to pull through and were still stuck at the check-in. After a couple of minutes, we saw that the group had been flagged and needed to be searched before entering the country. Oh Team Finger Fuck and their inconspicuous Dodge Charger.
It turns out the major reason the B Team (not to be confused with the Bianca Team) was pulled over was because of MTE’s welcoming comments to the Canadian Mountie on duty. “How do you boys know each other?” The officer wondered, asking the standard questions that they do when entering/leaving the country.
“We are all friends, and American Citizens,” MTE happily replied.
“Pull over here, please.”
After smuggling everyone in, we enjoyed the morning with some food, shopping, and a rousing game of bumper cars. After hitting up WWE Niagara (an overpriced merchandise outlet) and a couple of other gift shops where Timmy bought some magnets, we were ready to make the 6 hour drive to Montreal. Looking to avoid another cavity search with the Border Patrol Team FF decided to drive through Ontario, essentially opting to take the longest route possible just to avoid a finger in the ass.
The GrappleMasters re-entered the United States, taking the straight shot over to Quebec. Besides a little snow (a little snow being a lot of snow in all reality) we arrived in Montreal without incident. We settled into our hotel room and met up with the others and then went to meet up with Jon & B who was staying at their hotel down the street. After spending 2 hours driving the streets of Montreal in search of food, we finally ended our long ass day with a good night’s sleep (except for Mikey, who was kept up throughout the night with Ruy’s snoring).
New Year’s Eve was now upon us. HELL YEAR was upon us, and it was time to fuck shit up.
As with all of our trips to Montreal this would be filled with good food, great booze, lots of walking, and a few strippers sprinkled in for good measure. Driving around, we noticed a lot of commotion coming from the Charger as we looked for a place to park for the night. Thorny and Bianca had hopped into the Charger since the PT was already filled up with awesomeness. After finding suitable parking, we saw Pacifico bolt from the car. Apparently his kidney stones were really bothering him, and Thorny got to know Richard on a whole new level on the car ride over. All the kidney stone talk made us have to pee, and after a quick piss in the parking lot we hauled ass up to Cathedral Street so we could grab some grub.
After having a nice dinner with the crew, we decided to hit up the strip and find a couple of nudie bars to enjoy before finding a local bar to hole up in for the midnight festivities.
At the strip club we found great amusement in MTE arguing with the strippers over his french pronunciation, with them openly mocking him on the main floor. “Ah ha, you speak horrible French,” the stripper with summer teeth purred.
“What are you talking about?” MTE replied. “I speak PERFECT French. You speak French-Canadian.”
If there’s one thing you’ve got to respect about French Canadians it’s their constant disgust for the English language, oh and they sure do hate Americans.
Waiting for everyone to get rounded up, Mikey, Ruy, & I were hanging outside when a nice young Canadian offered Mikey some north of the border grass for his smoking pleasure. International extradition prevents me from revealing whether or not he accepted [God Bless America]. Heading over to the nearby bar, we rang in the New Year with a group of strangers and had a pretty damn good time doing it. I wish I could tell you something amazing happened, but all in all it was a pretty tame night. We had drinks, had fun, and after we closed out the bar we decided to head home. We were in desperate need of rickshaw on the way back to our cars, as Ruy was one pooped panda. Dressed like Mother Theresa, Thorny, Doug, & Pacifico pushed Mother Batello up the hill in a feat that needed to be seen to be truly believed.
Wrapping up our trip, I felt content with our adventure over the border. We started hitting the road that Tuesday morning (January 1st) and realized we were driving right into a snow storm. Now it had been snowing on and off pretty much our entire trip, so on the surface this was no big deal. Little did we know things were going to get a lot worse before they got better.
About a mile before the border, both cars stopped off at the local package store for snacks and other assorted items. Ruy, who had been obsessed with Cuban cigars for the majority of the trip (his short-lived obsession with cigars has always eluded me considering he has no real interest in smoking) picked up a couple of cigars in addition to the others he had Doug buy earlier in the trip. Richard, ever the alcoholic adventurer decided to buy some authentic Canadian beer for when he got back home. His beer of choice? Molson XXX.
As we arrived at the border, the contraband on our persons was growing by the minute. With Ruy’s Cuban cigars, Tim Pittman’s Saki straight from the orient, and Mike’s
Canadian grass [God Bless America], we were a potential nightmare for customs. Four gentlemanly gentlemen driving up to the checkpoint in our manly PT Cruiser, the officer inquired if we had anything to declare with Timmy driving us along.
“Umm, I don’t think so,” Tim wondered aloud. “Wait, I’ve got these magnets!”
“SEE YA,” the disgusted patrolman said as he watched us drive away. I think what made things funnier for us in the end was that despite being stocked and loaded with illegal goods the man was embarrassed that we’d actually have the nerve to declare magnets into the country, magnets that Tim actually bought in New York, not Canada it should be noted.
When it was time for Rich and company to cross the checkpoint, things didn’t go so well for them however. Though MTE kept his thoughts to himself this time around, when asked if they had anything to declare Rich meekly mentioned the beer he had just purchased. You know that special Canadian beer that you can buy at any packy in the U.S.
“Please pull over here.”
While they searched the trunk, a nervous Doug mentioned the illegal Cubans (cigars, not people) he had placed in his suitcase. Yes, Team Finger Fuck strikes again. With their shit confiscated and more time wasted, the whole crew was finally on their way home.
After an enlightening lunch at a Taco Bell/KFC in Vermont where Timmy got to know Mikey like never before, we hit the road in hopes of beating the storm. We were out of luck however, as we got slammed on the highway with one of the worst blizzards in years. Tim was clearly antsy about driving through it, but his “PUSH, PUSH, POUNCE” mentality kept him going despite his reservations.
We were going about 10 miles an hour, which was still too fast as our tires began spinning through the mounting layers of snow. While there were a few aggressive drivers on the road, the majority were going as slow as we were. Out of nowhere Timmy lost control of the car, and the car started spinning.
In a flash, life started flashing before my eyes.
I was in the front with Tim while Ruy and Mike were in the backseat. With our tires unable to gain any traction we began spinning 360º without any way to stop. Tim tried regaining control of the steering wheel to no avail. Before long I realized we were positioning ourselves straight into oncoming traffic, our headlights illuminating a fleet of cars barreling toward us.
All I could mutter was “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” unwilling to accept my fate.
Ruy and Mikey were silent in the back, making peace with their impending demise.
It should be noted that as all of this was happening, The Toadies were playing on the radio with their song “Possum Kingdom.” As the cars approached, the lyrics on the radio will forever send shivers down my spine.
“Do you wanna die? Do you wanna die?“
“DO YOU WANNA DIE?“
No thank you Toadies, I’d prefer to live. Tim was able to steer us back to the proper direction and I quickly changed the radio station. Now going about 5MPH, a State Trooper pulled up beside us. Ensuring there were no casualties or poop stains, the cop bolted without even really doing anything to validate our safety. It was now marshal law. HELL YEAR indeed.
At the next available exit we pulled off to get gas and regain some composure. Mike decided he would take the next leg of the trip, and everyone had a chance to calm down. While collecting my thoughts I was amazed to look down at our license plate and see a giant layer of snow/ice that had engulfed it. We were in one helluva storm, and we were lucky to survive it.
Looking back at this story, what’s telling to me is that the actual New Year’s itself was nothing to write home about. We hung out, we had fun, and that was that. But everything that came before it, and everything that came after it made it one of the most memorable trips of our lives and something we still look back on to this day. It really shows that it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey.
Quite the epiphany, eh?
Plus see how I brought “journey” back into the picture, bringing it full circle? You’re welcome internet.
– Surviving his vacation, Tim returned to Japan for another 7 months before finally coming home for good that summer. The whereabouts of the magnets are UNKNOWN at this time.
– Richard finally passed his kidney stones, I think.
– HELL YEAR has continued to be a proud tradition for our group. No one has come close to dying like we did however (except for maybe Davey Loomis, at his first Bartenders Ball).
– Ruy never did get his Cuban cigars.
– Contrary to what you’ve heard in relation to 9/11, rules updated to entering/leaving the country were due to the events of Team Finger Fuck.
– The goat made a full recovery.
– Actually, I lied. That goat is fucking dead.