Thursday, September 29, 2005

Stones/Pearl Jam - PNC Park

I drove 4 of the "regulars" to the Rolling Stones/Pearl Jam show last night. Obviously, this was a BIG one. I take that back. It was THE BIG ONE. I snagged them early but they opted for drinks in Robinson township before the show. I was a little worried but we got basicaly got there at crunch time. Everybody had already parked so the ride in was surprisingly effortless. I dropped them off and then parked the limo about 3/4 mile in the distance. I booked down to the stadium and briefly hooked up with Josh, Jess, Fuzz and G Max. The band had just started with the song "GO". There were plenty of extra tix, as expected. I asked a few people - one woman was adamant that she wanted $400. I replied, "C'mon let's go $20." She was not amused. I ran into my scalping buddy Brian and he set me up with a single from one of his other scalper buddies. Boom! 20 bucks! I think he did it more as a favor. I always set him up with food/water/beer at Starlake. This has to have been a first - with droves of extra tix in the parking lot, I bought mine from a black guy. Ironic.
Anyway, G Max and I went to the lower level directly opposite the stage. Good view, good seats. Since this is primarily a restaurant review column, I'll refer to the quality of seats we had in terms of chain restaurants. These lower level seats were probably $125 or so. I'd call them Outback Steakhouse seats. Anyway, Pearl Jam rocked as they always do. They played a sugarcoated set that lasted exactly 1 hour 7 minutes. They tended to play mostly their video hits, most of which I don't really care for (Black, Jeremy, Animal, Better Man). My favorite tunes were Alive and Corduroy. But I think they wanted to keep things a little familiar since most people were there for the Stones. Pearl Jam had a pretty big turnout of fans as well - pockets of them all over the ballpark. I'd say it was about 72% Stones/28% Pearl Jam. Needless to say, they closed with Rockin in the Free World which got everybody up. I think most of the older Stones fans began to realize just how much these guys rock.
Anyway, me and G Max went to see where the others seats were - Section 301. I made it up there and was in disbelief - I told them that these were the worst seats in the entire place. You couldn't see any portion of the big screen. Then, I softened my stance because there was about 12 rows behind them. So they were in the 12th worst row of the entire stadium. Not the place you want to be for the BIG one. Josh seemed to come around. The others opted to stay behind - comparable to riding out Hurricane Rita. Oh, I forgot - These seats were Elby's (I'm talking a vacant one 4 years after they went out of business). Anyway, I pointed to some good chunks of seats down below. Josh said he was going to make the move. Oddly enough, after having ridiculed the seats, I was like, cool let's roll - then, I started walking further up to the even shittier seats. Josh amusingly beckoned me and I quickly turned around. I think I was still in a daze from the opening act.
Anyway, we make it down to the first level about 20 rows up. Back to the good seats - let's call them Olive Garden. We sat around for awhile and strategized about how to get on the floor. They were checking tix very carefully. We were hoping for a surge but none was in sight. G Max went to about the 7th row off the floor. This would become the staging area - let's say Cheesecake Factory. We had a variety of ideas about how to get down. I suggested the double beer approach - just have your hands full and nod and say "It's cool, we're over there." That idea was dismissed - probably because that second large draft would have gotten pretty warm. Then, I offered the "Let's just discreetly hand him a five dollar bill approach." This one never even got off the ground. I think we were both hoping for a surge when the lights went out. Crunch time was approaching. Then, I noticed that a few people weren't showing their tix, just their hand stamp. I carefully examined the hand stamp of a floor goer. It was a simple light green circle. I started asking if anyone had a marker or a pen. The girl next to me offered an ink pen and a black sharpie. Which one should we go with? This was a tough one. G Max opted for the pen and I agreed. I adorned his hand with a circle and he went for the smear approach. Good move, G Max. Then, the lights went out. I quickly did mine and handed the pen back to the girl. I think she thought we were nuts. The girl behind us thought it was crazy we were from West Virginia. She laughed uncontrollably about the usual themes - incest, trailors, blah. Then I told her that 2 days ago, there was a man arrested in nearby Lafferty, Ohio for having sex with a neighbor's dog. This was on the FRONT PAGE. That really sent her into hysterics.
Anyway, I looked at G max and I was like it's now or never. Let's Roll. He said, ok, lead the way. I was like, fuck it Wolfman Bezerker style. We both zipped down the steps and showed the guy our temporary tattoos. BOOM! On the floor. Not even the slightest problem. We briefly celebrated and made our way to the back of the floor. We found a partially open section that was near perfect. These were probably the $250 seats. I'd say they were The Biltmore. For those of you who don't know, that's a wicked, upscale restaurant/resort in Scottsdale, AZ. We watched about 6 tunes and then went to take a piss. In the shuffle, I lost G max. Regrettably, I planned to leave aorund the 12th tune or so and make my trek back to the limo. I decided to look for Josh, just in case he was back at the Cheesecake Factory. Sure enough, there he was. I told him how we got on the floor and he was amused and eager. I found the same girl with the pen and we marked him up. I'm like, just follow me to the promised land, much like Moses leading the Israelites. Once again, smooth sailing. We went back to the Biltmore but G Max was nowhere in sight. I'd later learn that he made his way to the front area through a slight hole in the fence. Stuck around for 2 more songs and then had to bolt. I grudgingly left and snagged the limo. There must have been about 140 limos all jockeying for position. I'd never seen that many in my life. And there were still more parked up from the stadium. I picked up the crew at the home plate club with perfect timing and we made it through the mess of jubilant fans in 10 minutes. Outta there - West End, 279 South, 79 South, 70 West. Home in an hour. Then, the limo malfunctioned in Woodsdale, but that's a whole different story and this blogger is exhausted. PEACE

Other rankings (scale of 1-100):

Scalping - didn't have the time.
Parking - controlled chaos. These idiot parking attendants are still on strike. Kind of like the George Costanza line - "THESE PRETZELS ARE MAKING ME THIRSTY!"
Stones - sounded great for a bunch of 60 years olds. Let's give them an 88.
Pearl Jam - I'm biased. The best opener of the tour. My favorite touring rock band. Even though they played a pretty boring short set. Sounded great though - 93.
Tailgating - didn't have the time and it's irrelevant because I'm the designated driver.
The Stage show - The clear winner. 99 - I've never seen anything like it and I've seen a few stadium shows in my time.

To sum it up:
This show made me realize that you can always get what you want.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Metropolitan Grill

Sometimes I take a little heat for the hostility expressed in this restaurant review blog. Random strangers approach me and say, "Saf, your reviews are caustic and biting." I swear, those are their exact words. Well, there is a new restaurant in town and it is the best establishment that Wheeling has ever seen. My only real complaint is that the entity known as Wheeling doesn't deserve a restaurant of this caliber. The only thing Wheeling deserves is extra ranch with their fuckin' wing dings. The words "fine dining" and "Wheeling" have never been compatible, UNTIL NOW.
Apparently, the head chef from the Wheeling Downs decided to open his own place. He remodeled the old Lanos Kraus Deli on Chapline and did a fantastic job. The set-up is spectacular. Once again, the only problem is that this place is too good for the Wheeling moronathons. They'll probably start picketing the place. Their demands - more bologna and olive loaf sandwich offerings. Extra ketchup, damnit!
Anyway, Amanda and I ate there yesterday. The place was packed but we got there early, so it wasn't an issue. Off in the corner was the President of the Lunchables and his crew. The President shirked his responsibilities so everyone had to sit all cramped together at the bar. Anyway, that's pretty much irrelevant.
The service and ambience were professional and exceptional. The food was fantastic. Finally, a house salad without a clump of iceberg that resembles the thing that brought down Titanic. Great house dressing too - just a simple balsamic viniagrette. Amanda had the shrimp pasta and I had this artichoke/salmon pasta concoction. Both were really strong. We also had an appetizer of stuffed banana peppers which were very potent. I could go on indefinitely about just how good this place is but I'd rather focus on the more pressing issue - Wheeling doesn't deserve this place. 82% of the people who live in this area are complete idiots. They embrace Perkins just like Sally Struthers used to care for those starving Ethiopian kids. They crave Bob Evans much in the same way that a Catholic priest craves young boys. Simply put, we as a people, aren't deserving of this place. We aren't good enough. Now that's a tough and unpopular stance, but I'm sticking with it. The Met Grill rocks and we suck. If this place goes out of business, I will weep uncontrollably and then I shall atone for the sins of Wheeling.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"I'd Rather Go Back To Work"

These were the cries of Jenn D. as she departed the Sternwheeler Festival. G Max, the current tyrannical despot of The Lunchables, insisted we go to The Sternwheeler Fest for lunch today. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this Wheeling Festival, I'll try to hazard an explanation. Once a year about 20 boats dock in downtown Wheeling. In a feeble attempt to emulate Crockett from Miami Vice, these morons ride their boats down the Ohio River and set up shop in Wheeling. It is site of the former Wharf Parking Garage where they congregate and tell exciting tales of their journey. How they navigated the turbulent waters, the giant carp they caught last night, and the closest place to buy a case of cheap beer - these all become stories of yore. If you want, you can board their vessels. This can become a little dangerous. I mean really, you're knocking on their front door like a Jehovah's Witness, basically begging to come aboard and inspect their homes. You'd think these boat people would welcome you with open arms. Wrong. It's kind of like auditioning for American Idol and being ridiculed by that Simon dude, except the boat people are drunk and somewhat hostile. Their collective sneers are the one thing that seems to unite them.
But hey, this is really about the food. An allegiant throng of 4 people showed up for the first ever meeting of The Lunchables. G Max, Jenn D., Heather and myself showed up at a pre-determined meeting place. Everyone was punctual - at least one of my earlier sticking points was adhered to. We strolled through about 20 vendors. I bought a gyro from one of those carnie stands and Jenn D. & G Max got sausage sandwiches from Tambellinis. Heather got some kind of shells & cheese concoction. We settled down at a table where a lone retarded women was sitting on the end. This red-headed woman, you might refer to her as the red-headed retard, quickly departed. Incidentally, she was wearing an unflattering red t-shirt as well. She looked upon me with the same disdain I would later get from the gawking boat people - a look of just absolute, unbridled, unwavering disgust. Anyway, as G Max started to peel back the labia-like casing from his sausage sandwich, I looked at the women folk who seemed a bit distracted from the heat. Both Jenn and Heather seemed to enjoy their respective meals. G Max stammered, "Mmmmm" and then complained about the lack of water. My gyro was, well let's just call it the patron sandwich of mediocrity.

All in all, not a glowing review for the first ever meeting of The Lunchables. I say it's time to elect a new leader. One with a little more inspiration and vision, one who will lead us boldly, where no one has dined before. G Max was only concerned about one thing - dumping some Time Warner securities. Is this who we want to control our collective destiny? I say FUCK NO. The uprising will start early next week. By Wednesday, I should be back in control of the minions. Seriously, if were up to G Max, he'd have us eating Matzah (unleavened bread) as we flee Benwood. Well I may be a some kind atheist self-hating Jew, but he ain't no Pharoah and I will not bow down to him or any other self-annointed God.

The only highlight that comes to mind was the "free hand sanitizers" in the Port-a-Cleans. If it were up to G Max and his bean-counterism, he'd have imposed some kind of hand-washing tariff on the Port-o-Crappers.
I neglected to mention that Heather and G Max both purchased over-sized Italian Ices. If I recall, Heather got blackberry and G Max got Pina Colada.

So, let's break it down (scale of 1-100):

Sternwheeler Fest - SUCKED
Heather's heel - broke
Heather panites - nonexistent
G Max's leadership as President of The Lunchables - I think that has been adequately covered
Gyro - 62
Tambellinis - 88
Free water from Wheeling Hospital - Refreshing
Red-headed Retard - moronic but not entirely offensive, 38
Boat People - 12
Heather's shrill rendition of some Pat Benatar song - 72
The dumpster in front of her song and dance routine - STUNK

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Backstreet Boys

A couple weeks ago, I took 5 teenagers (3 girls and 2 boys) as well as 2 moms to the Backstreet Boys concert at Starlake. We got a late 6pm start and bolted up. The ride up was noneventful. We entered the vacant parking lot right before 7pm. I asked one of the lot guys what the attendance was for this pavilion only show - he replied about 3,500. How depressing - their management should have booked them at Chevy Ampitheatre. Tix were pretty expensive and the 2 moms dished me out 2 freebies - which I sold below face for a grand total of $50.00. I was lucky to even find people to buy them. I decided not to go into the show. Instead, I hung out with the other limo drivers. The band really didn't sound that bad. They aren't really boys - I think they're all in their 30's. It slowly dawned on me that this show was a great place for a pedophile. Three thousand teens screaming in misguided ecstacy. Anyway, I set out to find the lone pedophile. Indeed, I found him near the end of the show walking up the steps. He was a balding dude in his late 40's. He had that weird, glazed look and that humpty dumpty persona which lends itself to the molestation process. I asked him what he thought of the show and he said it was fantastic. He'd never had such a good time but wanted to leave early so he could beat the rush. I said, "What rush? This is the weakest parking lot Starlake's seen all year" and he said, "Starlake??? This place is called the Post Gazette."
Anyway, the kids came back to the limo and were much more exuberant. Lots of yelling and screaming, cranking of the radio, and endless bickering about who farted. They informed me that they wanted to go to McDonalds. I had this ominous premonition about taking the limo through the drive thru at the Three Springs exit but I obliged them. My deepest fears turned into reality when the one kid started to place the order. All of this was totally haphazard. Absolute confusion. Everyone started chiming in with what they wanted. McFlurry! Cheeseburger with no onions! Large Fry! One blurted out McDogcrap. The poor McDonald girl looked at me with disgust as though I was to blame. I felt totally helpless. Then, the same kid looked at the girl and said (and I quote), "Keep the change, dollface." The entire limo errupted. Both moms in hysterics while simutaneously singing a Backstreet Boys song but substituting in the new lyrics about the dollface and her predisposition towards retaining the surplus cash. I bolted out of the drive thru and got back on 22. As expected, they were missing one of the sandwiches. However, they seemed to weather that storm. The entire ride home, the volume knob on the stereo fluctuated more than John Kerry's campaign tactics in 2004.
We finally made it to Woodsdale and they insisted on tipping me an extra 20 bucks event though I assured them that the 2 freebie tix were sufficient.
Reflecting on the negativity in this concert review, you'd think I had a bad time. But I kind of enjoyed that night. Sometimes I like to experience the annoying side of life. A little like that old Saved By The Bell episode where a young Screech gets his heart broken and a nurturing Miss Bliss plays the role of counseler. For that one special night, I became their Miss Bliss.