Last Thursday, Gigi and I zipped across the state to see our friends Brandon and Pamela (celeb name Brandela). They moved to Manayunk a few months ago. It's an industrial/eclectic suburb about 10 miles west of downtown Philadelphia. Our mission: back to back Pearl Jam concerts.
But our adventure started the day before when I took the plunge and bought a new car. That's right! I finally discarded the 2001 Subar-Jew Outback. Truth be told, it wouldn't pass the stringent Pennsylvania emissions inspection. The repairs were starting to outweigh the net worth of the car. Never a good sign. So I went to a local dealership and snagged a 2013 Outback. Way to go Saf! Congratulations! Well, maybe not.
You see, I never actually paid them for the car because they physically weren't in "possession" of the title. Thus, they couldn't finalize the paperwork. So the best decision seemed to be --- leave my rusted piece of shit car in the back of their lot and drive off with the newer model. And that's exactly what happened.
But on the way home, I started to notice some, shall we say, "inconsistencies." The front passenger window wouldn't go down. In retrospect, I probably should have tested it. And there was a plethora of tiny stones trapped in the rubber tire treads. Not a good omen for them just having detailed it. I also got zapped, a feeling I've experienced all too often from my previous vehicles. Not sure why I keep falling victim to car electro-shock. That 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee was the equivalent of a CIA sadomasochistic/pornographic dungeon website.
Come to think about it, the Carfax didn't have any oil changes and also showed some work on the suspension. This is supposed to be a 2013 "certified" model. Trust me... the only thing accurately certified on that day was my ass, and to a lesser extent, groin. I arrived at the following conclusion --- that someone literally beat the shit out of this car in a manner consistent with UFC heavyweight ground and pound.
So here's the deal. I will NOT be purchasing this particular vehicle. However, that would not necessarily preclude me from putting 600+ miles on it. Can you imagine that there's a jag-off on this planet who would treat a car dealership with such temerity and disrespect? Ohh, the unmitigated effrontery and unregulated audacity. For any of you fellow atheist Jews out there... that means chutzpah. Long story short, I'm still gonna buy a car from them. Just not this one. I'm now leaning toward a new Impreza hatchback.
So we set out on our journey to Philly. And that means one word --- turnpike. I used to have a "passive aggressive beef" when the toll was in the low twenties. Now, it has been upped to $32.80 each way. Damn! What a fucking nonsense rip off. And the mafia thinks they're the kings of extortion. Trust me, they got nothin' on the PA Deptartment of Highways. Seriously, what a racket!
So we made it to Pam and Brandon's place, exchanged pleasantries and settled in. Then, we zipped down to the Wells Fargo Center for night #1 of Pearl Jam. Cold and windy conditions seemed appropriate for our Gnarly Head Cabernet. Had a predictable run-in with my friend Heidi and her 13 year old son from Wheeling. It was his first concert. Not a bad choice. They seemed psyched.
As usual, we were ticketless. But we quickly acquired 2 limited view tickets for $50. Whatever. Notice how they misspelled the word "Foundatoin."
I realize it's a rock concert and not the Grammar Jubilee, but isn't it crazy how that stuff still happens in this day and age? And it wasn't only the print-outs. The same error was on the regular tickets as well.
Anyway, screw the behind the stage seats. Fuck them. Those tickets are dealt to people with paper assholes. An inside joke from my father's Wednesday night poker group --- "you deal like a man with a paper asshole."
We sneaked down on the floor. There was a convenient row of mostly unused seats directly in front of the soundboard. Perfect spot. As usual, killer show. We didn't get a copy of the set list this time. Strangely enough, an original ended up in the hands of Heidi's son. That's a pretty high-end memento for your first concert. We settled for this pic.
Highlights for me: See My Friend, Wishlist, In My Tree, Evolution, Porch and OCEANS.
The next day we watched two episodes of the new show Containment. Love the scenario. I won't go into a deep explanation. Suffice it to say, there are a ton of parallels with the current presidential race. Fear-mongering, building walls, government overreach and bureaucracy, etc. Me thinks it's not an accident.
Onto night #2.
The cell phone told us that we'd be stuck on the highway for over an hour... to travel a distance that would normally take 10 minutes. So we re-routed North and came in on Broad Street. Now I finally understand how the Flyers got the name "Broad Street Bullies." Everyone shifting lanes, no signaling, emergency sirens, horns-a-honking, roads-a-raging, fingers-a-flipping. You literally witness people bullying the hell outta everyone. Driver intimidation at its finest. Every car on Broad Street has one thing in common --- cracked bumpers and dented fenders. One other commonality, nobody leaves behind those little friendly, apologetic notes. It just don't work that way in the city of brotherly love.
The arena was totally sold-out. No extra tickets anywhere. Scalpers asking for ridiculous amounts. Lots of dejected people roaming outside the venue. Kind of reminiscent of a Dead concert.
We tried a variety of tactics. First was a sketchy side door for the roadies and security. That didn't work. Hey, we "needed" to use the restroom. Now there was a bit of truth to this as we both had to pee. But the gatekeeper wasn't going to naively fall for that degree of silliness. He basically told us to "go piss in the lot." Next up, a super-cool guy with a Villanova shirt told us to just follow his lead. He was going to smooth-talk the ticket scanner person. This man was a total bad ass. Villanova concocted an impromptu, sob-story about how he had lost our tickets and everything was his fault. He gave an almost 3 minute spiel. It seemed like he was gaining traction but the head security guy entered the fray and put the kibosh on it. Then, we ended up back at will call where they were preparing to close up shop for the night. One guy managed to solicit a couple unused tickets with a last ditch effort. His reward was at our expense. No more freebies were to be had.
We decided to make a final loop, and if nothing panned out, we agreed to call it a night, and head back to the apartment. Long story short, we eyed up an outdoor restaurant smoking patio connected to the arena. We then calmly slipped behind a steel barricade. And casually, albeit nervously, cruised right into the lower level. Bad news --- we missed the first 8 songs. Good news --- we didn't pay shit. Good news --- they played the album Ten in its entirety to commemorate 10 consecutive Philly sell-outs. Bad news --- we missed the bulk of it. Good news --- they played Oceans on two consecutive nights. Bad news --- only heard it once.
We celebrated our illegal entry victory by once again sneaking onto the floor. This time we went all the way to the back, behind the soundboard, along the hockey boards. I like this spot because you can lean against the boards and really feel the vibrations. Plus, there's a ton of room for me to play air guitar, and when absolutely necessary, lurch forward with unbridled enthusiasm. This happened multiple times during the late encore of Sonic Reducer. Highlights for me --- Given to Fly (anytime they play it), Breakerfall (haven't heard it in a long time), Leash (get outta my fuckin' face) and Just Breathe (one of "our" songs). Comfortably Numb was pretty cool too.
So here's what's crazy. Once again, we didn't get a set list. However, I did track down the guy who snagged it. It's the original. The one that nobody will ever get to see.
And here's the one posted on the official facebook Pearl Jam page.
Does anyone reading this find the discrepancies even remotely intriguing? I mean, I know that I do. But if you haven't noticed, I'm kind of a "nerdo weirdo" when it comes to rock concerts. Seriously, when Pearl Jam abruptly canceled their 2016 Raleigh, NC concert in defiance of the transgendered bathroom bill... let's just say it takes a "special" kind of person to saturate Pearl Jam-related facebook pages with the following comment ---
To the members of Pearl Jam --- Well done. #RepealHB2
Now let's take it a step further and expose the dirty little secret of the U.S. government and private industry. One that could potentially impact stadiums, ballparks, motor speedways, arenas and amphitheaters nationwide. This is an undiscussable human rights issue.
Alright, alright. Enough with the stampede propaganda. Hey, everyone has to pay a price for my agenda. Transformational issues regarding asymmetric U.S. national security threats come with a cost. I actually sympathize with Eddie Vedder, but I am absolutely certain that my mission would outweigh his personal, singular discomfort. Hell, my latest target has been the lamentable Bob Nutting, the Pittsburgh Pirates owner. Poor guy. And once again, I do sympathize. I am not a heartless clod. Just more of an assholic prick/disruptive douchebag.
Brandela cooked us up a classic bacon and eggs breakfast and we hit up the Philadelphia Convention Center. They tended to some extracurricular yet mandatory work obligations while we wandered through Chinatown and checked out a few landmarks. Most notably the Visitor Center. Hell, if you need to do a quickie tour of Philly in less than an hour, I think the Visitor Center is where it's at. No admission fee and you can catch a perfectly compartmentalized tour of all the landmarks. It's like reading the Philly Cliff Notes.
We zipped through the Reading Terminal Market (highly recommended) and hit up Federal Doughnuts. Normally, I never even consider eating a doughnut. It's not that I don't like them. I mean, seriously, who doesn't like a fresh doughnut? I just never contemplate that particular breakfast option. But these were easily the best doughnuts I've ever had. Mango poppy seed and the glazed pecan were stand-outs.
When we got back, Brandon made us some high-end chicken wings. Perfect seasoning with a fair amount of heat. You know it's a damn good chicken wing when there's no desire whatsoever to dip it in ranch or blue cheese.
Said our goodbyes and hit the turnpike. 32 dollars and 80 cents later we were back home. Watched Obama totally nail it with the Presidential Correspondents Dinner and crashed out.
The next morning came early for me. I decided to tackle the Pittsburgh Marathon, backwards. This blog is already pretty long. So I won't delve into the reasoning and methodology. Let's just say I started at the finish line and ended at the start. As opposed to last year, I got a late start. 6:34am to be precise. Took off down Liberty Avenue. Showcase Barbeque in Homewood is was where I saw the first runner. Last year I ran into the stampede of humanity on the Birmingham Bridge and the South Side. This year, the streets of madness came earlier, mostly in Oakland.
Highlights of this year's race:
* The energy from the crowd outside the big apartment complex in Homewood.
* A real rock'n'roll boy band in Shadyside playing a cover of Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times"
* Free samples of this all natural gummy candy that resembles Dots, but infinitely better. Just for the record, I'm well aware of the fact that Dots suck. These things were called Honey Stingers. Based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. If you see them, buy them. Kinda like this DHS-Wells Fargo Center ground score. Except the candy's legit. Department of Homeland Security... well, not so much. In retrospect, it's actually more of a "wall score."
So about 5 1/2 hours later, I checked out after the West End Bridge (about 22 miles in) and walked back to my car at the Stage AE lot. Skipped the North Side and the Strip District portion. I guess I could have finished the whole thing, but thought my time would be better spent walking through the Point State Park Runner's Village. Taking in the sights and smells. Translation - a dizzying array of "deodorantially deprived" people in various states of pain and agony, risking the mere fear of a fart... as to shit their shorts. I refer to this as the "anular conundrum." It's all about risk management when you get thrown that early morning wake-up without adequate time to conform to standard bodily excretion protocol. Sheldon, of the Big Bang Theory, has made this abundantly clear as he routinely moves his bowels between 8:10 to 8:20am. Ahhh, if only life was so predictable.
This whole Marathon Reverse Bandit thing has tremendous potential. I think me and Gig are going to try it in a few other cities. Maybe do one or two per year. Columbus, Cleveland and then work our way to the big ones... Boston, New York. Great way to explore the city and take it all in. You get to see every single runner (in theory) and there's no silly admission fee. Plus, you can make carefully scripted comments like, "Yeah, last week we 'did' the (insert name of city here) Marathon"... as everyone gasps in total disbelief.
So I walked back toward PNC Park and snagged a freebie for the Pirates/Reds game. The Pirates social media team FINALLY blocked me from their facebook page. Hey, it only took about a year's worth of degrading comments leveled at their security and ownership. Good to see they're at the top of their game.
Wolfed down a Primanti's and bolted in the 4th inning. That godforsaken game didn't end til around 6pm in the 11th inning. Four errors helped seal the deal. Watched some it when I got back home. I did like the 2 out John Jayso home run to tie it up in the bottom of the 9th. Even more so, I like the Mark Madden comment...
In time. All in good time.