Normally, the journey from Cleveland to Akron to Canton takes about an hour on I-77. However, my recent expedition lasted a little bit longer. 4 days to be precise. With a trip back to Pittsburgh thrown in the mix. Again, again and again.
I managed to hit up 3 high profile events. None of which are remotely connected in the slightest way whatsoever. In less than a span of 100 hours, I was exposed to some of the most heavily diverse segments of the population one could conceivably fathom. Such was the case from a Northeast Ohio population perspective.
Thursday night was the inaugural Republican Presidential debate on Fox. Sensing the political buzz and convenient proximity of Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland, I felt physically compelled to scope it out. Hey, what better a location to harass some high profile human beings about my asymmetric national security issue. Some were willing to speak. Others were unwilling to talk. Most would prefer to ignore or avoid me. So let me pose this question. Do you honestly think I care about the emotional predicaments of ANY of the 17 Republican presidential candidates? No. Newsflash: I neither give a flying fuck, nor a liquefied shit nay a mineralized piss.
Anyone who takes an interest in my ramblings, knows about my concerns regarding obsolete emergency evacuation protocol for large, confined crowds. I tend not to keep it a secret. In fact, for the past month or so, I've been spamming the fuck out of every presidential prospect's facebook page. Democrats too. Although I derive far greater satisfaction from assaulting the aspiring Republicans.
Five of them have even blocked me from their pages (Carson, Huckabee, Kasich, Santorum and Pataki). I must confess --- each time I see one block me, I actually get goosebumps. It's a distinction I carry with tremendous pride. Hell, in my mind, it's a noteworthy component of the electronic paper trail that will someday be a part of history. That's assuming my predictions about the next 9/11 are generally accurate, of course.
If you don't follow politics, scroll down a bit.
I'm just going to focus on my personal highlight reel. Now here's what that really means. I see someone in the distance and go pester them. I try to be polite yet stern. Focused but not annoying. Pleasant, succinct and unrelenting. Let's just say it's a delicate balance.
I made it to Cleveland around 3pm and headed straight into the action. Sensing the utter futility in acquiring a ticket (I didn't even bother to try), I focused more on crowd observation. Technically speaking, tickets really weren't "available." A limited number of 4,500 had been allotted a while back to Republican donors and party representatives. Suffice to say, I'm not on this list. I'd be more likely to find myself on Schindler's list in a 70 year pre-embryonic stage. Regardless, I'm sure the Republican party would have my zygotic back. Huzzah.
I ran into all kinds of people that fateful night. But for me personally, these ones stood apart from the rest.
First up was this guy. He's running for president!
Originally, I thought it was Jean-Luc Picard from the Starship Enterprise. But it's actually K. Ross Newland from Rockford, Illinois. We spoke for a bit and exchanged "platforms." His main theme was mostly about putting "Christ back into our country." You know, lap dancing with Jesus. Miscellaneous lordy lovin' and such. I suggested he team up with our very own Chrisagis Brothers. Maybe persuade them to do his campaign speech intro music. I did explain the risk factors though... the prospect of being overshadowed as well as the chortling laughter and vivacious crotch shots.
He had other positions too. Enhanced border security, liveable wages and fair taxation. Unfortunately, you won't be seeing him on the debate stage anytime soon. In all honesty, I doubt I'd vote for him (due to the religious crap), but I will tell you something... he's definitely a "man of the people." I give him credit.
Next up. Debbie Wasserman Shultz --- the Chair of the Democratic Party. My mom's a big fan.
She was doing some "rebuttal" interviews for CNN. She was pleasant but pretty busy. Dressed to impress as well. Wearing an extremely form-fitting black and white dress. Let's just say... for a diminutive white gal... baby got back! Her junk in the trunk would be the envy of any salvage operation. She referred me to one of her aides. Fellow Floridian Sean Bartlett. He was incredibly engaging. Totally understood my concerns and asked a few relevant questions and made some decent observations. I emailed him as promised, but won't be holding my breath waiting for a reply.
Watched this woman for a while at the Fox News tent.
She's outstanding. Former press secretary for George Bush. I've always had a lot of respect for Dana Perino. Stealth, professional delivery.
The pace was slowly picking up. This dashing young man below was chatting with someone and asked me to snap their picture.
I kindly obliged, "No problem at all, but you'll have to listen to my concerns about stadium safety."
Yep, it was former CNN and now Fox News O'Reilly substitute Juan Williams. Now this is one sharp dressed man. As I introduced my material, he said (and I quote), "Yeah, I've actually heard about this issue. I've personally never researched the subject but I totally see the problem. And I understand why none of the candidates would want to have anything to do with it." Now that got my heart pumping. He was incredibly authentic. Considering the setting, I can't fathom any reason he would possibly lie. And he totally got the catch-22. Just as my journo-man crush began to consume my stampeding groin, he informed me that he needed to get inside the arena. But he assured me he'd look into the matter further.
Gigi called me and told me I should find the MSNBC crew who were doing extensive live coverage nearby. They had a pretty big crowd. Enthusiastic too. Great set up. I snagged a free Hardball w/ Chris Matthews t-shirt for my woman. She thinks he should run for PA governor. I concur. I'd take it one step further and say... POTUS.
All kinds of celebrity journalists were offering commentary and rotating insight. Totally fascinating to watch the producers and the back and forth with New York. The way they shuffled the speakers, never missing a beat. I planted myself next to the monitors for the entire debate. During the course of the evening, I was literally plastered all over the MSNBC telecast. Don't fret. I wasn't one of those waving imbeciles or screeching jerk-offs. Rest assured, I worry about the herd. But I'm not a part of the herd.
Around 11pm, I was milling about and encountered this dude... who looked like a lady.
Totally blew my mind. What the fuck was Steven Tyler doing in Cleveland at the corner of East 4th and Huron? He was surrounded by a posse of 3 women and 1 other guy. They were walking away from the action. So naturally, I followed and started to engage him. The guy he was with tried to brush me off, but Steven Tyler CAME TO MY DEFENSE. "Let the man talk," he said. "Walk with us." As I explained the stampede issue and how he could essentially play a "Bob Barker-esque" role in preventing a future catastrophe, he started to get where I was coming from. It took him a while but he started to understand what I was yapping about. The blond girl in the crew stared at me intently. She said, "Holy shit, my friends and I have talked about this stuff. You think it's going to be "a hack," don't you?" I explained how there were numerous ways to create an artificially generated stampede.
After a few minutes, they said they had to "skedaddle" and wished me well. I later found out that he was there for the Hall of Fame game (more on that later). Aerosmith was performing at the televised ceremonies and had a follow-up concert at the Covelli Center in Youngstown. I had zero knowledge of any of this which made the accidental run-in very kewl. Seriously, a happen-chance meeting with Steven Tyler after the inaugural Republican primary debate. I'd have never seen that one comin' in a million years. It felt odd to literally tower over a celebrity. He couldn't be much taller than 5'6" or so. And thin as a rail.
Now for a big one.
This man stepped off the Hardball stage. I think he's second to last in the polls (behind former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore). Obviously in the mix hoping for a VP slot.
Yep. Former 3 term governor of New York, George Pataki. Naturally, I went in for the swift kill (with a little more guts than that asshole who killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe). Think in terms of being on the prowl. I asked him directly in front of a dozen people if he'd take 30 seconds to hear my concerns about a potential asymmetric national security issue that could conceivably rival 9/11. He tried to turn away and pivot but I followed explaining how nobody's willing to acknowledge the downside of wireless hyper-connectivity in every NFL stadium. That got everyone's attention.
Consummate politician. He didn't utter a word but gave me this hazed gaze. Like a deer stuck in headlights. Pataki had trouble processing the fact that some street-person-nobody would attempt to "rain on his parade." Hmmm, sounds pretty consistent with the Republican bigwigs. Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure he knew about my material. After all, his campaign team went through the trouble to block me from commenting on their facebook page. Considering I never curse or engage in ad hominem attacks, banning someone strikes me as pretty outside the norm. Pataki routinely gets about 40 replies when he posts a comment. Very miniscule social media presence. Not like Donald Trump with tens of thousands of bloodthirsty, menstruating commentators weighing in. Anyway, one of his aides played the role of "running interference" and tried to "absorb" the interrogation. I actually ended up speaking to him for a good bit and he had a pretty decent grasp regarding my concerns.
A little while passed and I ran into Chip Englander.
Now who the hell is this? Excellent question. It's Rand Paul's campaign manager. And he was a complete douchebag asshole. Totally petulant and unresponsive. At first, I assumed it was because his man Rand had an "off" night in the debate. I later learned that several of Rand's campaign staff just came under FBI indictments for basically taking bribes, multiple payments of $8,000. Seems like someone high up in the Justice Department doesn't wish to "stand with Rand."
Although there were several others, these two were my last major victims of the evening.
At least I got to finish on a high note. Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman. Love the former. Admire the latter. Nearing 1:30am, both were physically exhausted so I kept it brief. Chris pointedly asked me if anyone else is concerned about this issue. I replied, "plenty." Then he asked if anyone else had written about "this artificially generated stampede thing." I explained that I was the only one. He playfully smiled back with a light smirk. Still, he promised he'd look into it. Now I love Chris Matthews, but once again, I won't be holding my breath.
All in all, it was a scintillating night. I blew off plenty of steam and got my point across to the best of my ability. Will any of it matter? Of course not. But that's okay. I got to say my peace. And I wasn't even bullied by the Cleveland SWAT unit or the rooftop snipers. Seriously, the military presence was outrageous. What were they expecting anyway? An urban uprising from a bunch of 70 year old Caucasian grannies from Tyler, Texas and Juniper, Florida? What about all those neo-con policy wonk upstarts? Gimme a fuckin' break.
Anyway, mission accomplished. So it was around 2am and I decided to head down to Blossom Amphitheater in Akron for a Phish concert later that night. But I get near the general area and all the hotels rooms are booked because there's a PGA event at the Firestone course. I found a hotel but they wanted $250 for the night. Blah. So I tried to sleep in my car. After a half hour of tossing around, I just couldn't crash. So I went back to the Burgh.
Next morning I hooked up with the duo of Maximum Joy in Wheeling. Ahh, a chauffeured ride to the Phish concert. I'm not going to explain what a Phish show is. For reference purposes, we'll just call it a big party.
Snagged a ticket for $40 off a guy who just paid $45 at the box office window. Hardly the deal of a lifetime, but it gave me just enough satisfaction. I'll provide three random excerpts.
- Met a confused, disoriented girl from Connecticut who couldn't find her way back to the car. She asked me, "Do you know where I'm supposed to be?" I once asked a similar question at Nelson Ledges (about 30 minutes up the road) back in 1998. Triggered an amusing memory.
- Bought a really limp grilled cheese sandwich after the show. Lamest, nonexistent grill marks in the history of any Phish lot. Shame on the girl who sold it to me. You know who you are. Instead of advertising "yummy grilled cheese," she should have been yelling "American cheese food on discount Wonder."
- Phish encored with Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times." I honestly prefer the cover done by Nuclear Assault. A little raw, but worthy of a quick glance.
So onto the finale. Gigi and I hit the NFL Hall of Fame game on Sunday. We skipped the 76 turnpike and decided to take the back-way because the weather was so pleasant. Plus it's the same time. Slightly over 2 hours. Mostly route 30W through most of PA and OH.
We didn't enter the actual Hall of Fame. Thirty bucks to stand in a 2 hour line waiting for an autograph. We also didn't play punt, pass or kick in the virtual Fun Zone. Blaring, distorted speakers churning out Sweet Child O' Mine on endless repeat. No $250 NFL official jersey. No $10 Bud Light drafts. No $5 hot dog. We didn't spend a dime. We're definitely not the NFL prototype consumers.
We snagged a couple freebie tickets though. A special thanks to our friends --- you know who you you are.
Note the "exposed cat ass" magnet in between the helmets. We call this "frig-worthy" in honor of Elaine Benes and those she deems "sponge-worthy."
Our seats were in different locations. Technically speaking, one of them wasn't a seat. Twas an all-access pass. So we grabbed some "obstructed view seats" next to a cameraman on the last row of the upper level. Best seats in Fawcett Stadium. Nothing's worse than those old-school high school bleacher seats... when the person tromps midway through the aisle and has the spot next to you... and they weigh close to the 400 lb. range. We watched this scenario unfold and felt horrible for all involved.
We saw the parachutists. We saw the towels. We saw the flyover. We saw the pyrotechnics. We saw the polar bear. We saw the marching band. We saw enough and bolted at the end of the third period.
On the way out, we scored a "stack" of NFL sticker books (30 in total). As Gigi would say, these will make excellent "stocking stuffers" for when Santa makes his annual Sewickley sojourn.
I was a little taken aback by the NFL's gimmicky generosity. But I figured they'd make nice little throw-away gifts to our friends with grade school kids. I even reflected... what an uplifting parting gift for those who made the trek to Canton. Maybe the NFL really does care about its fans!
Today, I opened the sticker book. They give you 10 "free" stickers. And then ask you to mail a check or money order for additional packets. So here's the reality. Each team has about 14 stickers. Each sticker costs 20 cents. That's $2.80 per team. If you wish to fill the book, that's 32 teams. For a grand total of $89.60 + $2.00 s/h = $91.60.
Then I found some additional "hidden" sticker add-ons. Ones representing the draft, Superbowl 50 and various Hall of Fame inductees. And last but not least, there was a page devoted exclusively to Roger Goodell's cock and balls. I don't know about you but I would most certainly pay .20 for a sticker of Goodell's circumcised prick. I'd even be willing to get a tattoo of his ass... on my ass!
This brought the total number of stickers to 476. That increased the total to $95.20 + s/h. Obviously, the goal here was to keep everything just under the $100 mark. C'mon Man! I nearly projectile vomited into an officially licensed NFL commode.
Could I have possibly been more naive. What a fucking racket! Kind of like their new special deal for college kids --- half off the NFL DirecTV package. So instead of $199 for all those dorm rooms and frat houses, you get every game for $100. What better a way to promote frugality and collegiate indoctrination.
I'd be curious to see how much the NFL grossed from this Hall of Fame rubbish. Back in the day, we went to a couple of them. 49ers vs. the Patriots and Browns vs. Cowboys. There was little fanfare or pomp and circumstance. For the most part, it was just the season kickoff. Now it has evolved into a hoopie vacation-land and carnie-like money grab on steroids.
Is it any wonder I'm the most hated person in the history of the NFL? In no particular order....
Heinz Field security harbors extreme animosity --- agsaf.org/analysis-of-the-jake-berlin-twitter-hoax-at-heinz-field
Tom Benson (Saints owner who I understand is senile) might hate my guts --- agsaf.org/new-orleans-superdome
NFL security can't stand me --- agsaf.org/nfl-emergency-evacuation-videos
The Super Bowl planners and Department of Homeland Security feel extreme acrimony as well --- agsaf.org/super-bowl-xlviii-security-and-the-artificially-generated-stampede
The irony of it all --- NOBODY'S ALLOWED TO SAY A SINGLE FUCKING WORD.