Thursday, October 29, 2009


Gig and I hit up half of the 4 night Pearl Jam stand at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philly. On the planet earth, Philadelphia is the place to be. Aside from a 4 night string of Pearl Jam shows, there's the World Series and a Sunday night Eagles-Giants game. Oh yeah, and it's Halloween. Every once in a while, the cosmic forces of music and sports combine to create a turbulent, frenzied atmosphere. This was one of those deals.
Pearl Jam reminds me of the Dead from 20 years ago. Obviously not the music, but the manner in which it's delivered. And of course the desire to "set up shop" in a city for an extended duration; then upon completion, get the hell out of town.
We hit the highway early Tuesday armed with only a sign...

(PA Turnpike)

I've always thought the PA turnpike subliminally discourages economic development in central PA. It seems like there's a subliminal message to get from one end of Pennsylvania to the other with as little exploration as possible. Sometimes, it's the unexpected destinations that define a vacation. And while there are those who extract enjoyment from purchasing a Penn State beanie baby at a Roy Rogers gift shop, suffice to say, I am not one of that ilk/mindset.
We got to our hotel (1/2 mile from the arena) by mid-afternoon. I chose the Holiday Inn by the stadium complex so we wouldn't have to worry about traffic/driving/parking. In retrospect, a wise decision. The hotel was loaded with Pearl Jam fans but was relatively calm and guarded. We set off on our ticket quest an hour before the show. We avoided the scalpers and walked up to the line of fans about to enter. This one kid offered Gigi a freebie which she snagged up. Not bad, $77 ticket for zilch. I ended up buying a single for 20 bucks. Again, not bad. I was prepared to dish out a little more than a twenty.
We met up with an unruly crowd in the parking lot - a half dozen characters in their mid 30's. While I explained my future 9/11 follow up predictions to a guy chugging a bottle of McMasters, Gigi spotted a backpack. McMac took my cue and predicted it was an IED. We went over to inspect, and lo and behold, it was filled with luke-cold Keystone Light. Sweet. I used to drink that stuff in college. The McMasters guy seemed to harp on the idea of having a threesome with me and Gig. We both found this oddly disturbing. I assumed he was joking but Gig thought he was for real. Perhaps, my small town yokel heritage has me immune to the aberrant sexual proclivites of the big city types.
Next, we split a large bag of generic potato chips with a local brother & sister couple and gulped down the rest of our drinks. We opted to skip the opening act Social Distortion. We zipped inside and took our favorite place on the right side of the stage. Pretty much eye-level with the band about four rows up from the floor. The first few rows were cautioned taped off, so we were pretty much front row, aisle seats on the side in front of Mike McCready. KILLER SEATS (especially, for 20 bucks total). It always ceases to amaze me that more concert goers don't flock to the side of the stage.
I was expecting a slow, anthem opener like Release or Long Road. Fuck that - Corduroy, Whipping and Hail Hail. Great energy. A few songs later they played my favorite song - Faithful (never heard it before live). Toward the end of the night, they played Leash - one of Gig's favorites. There was a group of a half dozen lesbians next to us with a young girl. They had a sign indicating it was her first Pearl Jam show. Towards the end of the night, one of the roadies handed her a large copy of the set list. This was BAD ASS. We have a picture of this. One of these days, I'll step into the 90's and learn how to upload this stuff. I imagine that it would necessitate learning how to take pictures or perhaps purchasing a camera.
After the show, we walked back to the hotel in a steady downpour. We were pretty much oblivious. We entered the hotel through the restricted employee area (I guess this was to compensate for not getting backstage at the Spectrum). Gig found a vending machine in the break room and purchased a cup of Ramen noodles. I'm not joking when I say, this was some of the best soup I've ever had. I'm not a chemical engineer for the Food and Drug Administration, but I'm pretty sure the main ingredient was salt.
Later that night, we were winding down and some kid mistakenly knocked on our door with a bag of McDonalds. Gig told him he had the wrong room - the kid was fucked up and disoriented. I thought it would have been great if she had snagged the bag of food and said "yoink" and shut the door on him. She showed a little discretion and let it go. Wise.
The next day we went to a diner near the stadium. I think it was called Oregon. Cheap, great food. She had a Spanish Omelette and I had a corned beef/pastrami reuben. I deemed it necessary to explore my Jew culinary leanings while in a real city on the East Coast. I was not disappointed. Arby's can take their reuben and stick it up their ass. Despite the cries of David Putty (Seinfeld), it does not feel like an Arby's night.
The show tonight would have a vastly different feel. Again, we snagged tickets for basically nothing (2 for $40). Keep in mind that face was $77 and the show was sold-out. Only the first night was not a sell-out. We made our way in and quickly realized it would be more challenging to get back our seats from the previous night. No caution taped off area and the security people were complete bitches. I realize they're just doing their jobs but this one black woman was a complete (rhymes with the last name of Candid Camera host Allan Funt).
We got jostled a little bit for the first few tunes. Once again, an aggressive opener - Animal. Five songs in we decided to bolt for the other side of the stage. A wise move. We found some good seats again. Right off the side of the stage but on the opposite side next to the keyboardist Boone Gasper. In retrospect, this was cool because we got a different angle of the band. The band was definitely "on" but I think we both this preconception that everything would happen just like the previous night. Both nights were really different.
A burlesque dancer in full regalia would walk out every so often with scoring updates of the Phillies/Yankees game. First it was 2-0, then 4-0, then 6-0 as the crowd went nuts each time. Very cool idea. At the end of the show, this big dude was pissed because some pipsqueak with a Yankees ball cap through an empty cup of beer at him. It hit him in the leg. He went over and started pushing and shoving. The security dude (a really cool black dude who I thanked after the show for not bitching about if we had the right tickets) broke it up. Then, one of the girlfriends started doing a windmill. We opted to take off.
Gig left her scarf on the other side of the arena. We were accosted by security and they said we weren't allowed to go over there. Meanwhile, there's tons of people everywhere and another scuffle breaks out between Phillies and Yankees fans in the hallway). We explained our case, but they weren't budging. Finally, I said "well, we're all doing the best we can" and walked through. We went over and retrieved the scarf. We then walked back over and showed it to the dude - much to our chagrin, he seemed indifferent.
Made it back to the hotel and crashed. Woke up early the next morning and I hustled us out the door by 9. On our way back, 376 was clogged up due to traffic. Gig showed me a shortcut. We were driving through the Regent Square section of town and watched this kid pick up and throw down to the ground this other kid. Then he started a brief session of "UFC ground and pound" as I watched in the rearview mirror (and yes, they played RV Mirror the first night). How prophetic. What is with all the mindless violence? I think it has something to do with this prevailing "rich, overweight suburban whitey trying to emulate the inner city Philly street thug" attitude. It might also explain why my neighbor has attained the status/nickname of "mother fucking cock sucking piece of shit ass."
So all in all, we got to see 50% of the East Coast tour. Not bad. Despite the fact that I'm rapidly approaching the big 40, it made me feel like a kid again. My concert traveling days are far behind me, but just this ONCE...

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I took advantage of a rare opportunity yesterday. I went to hear Newt Gingrich (former Speaker of the House) speak at the Capitol Music Hall. As I approached the venue, there was a lone protester across the street with a sign that read

"Newt, where's your wife? ... FAMILY VALUES"

The sign was mangy, very ghetto and appeared hastily written. I gave the man a brief thumbs down and headed in. I had to sign in so I used my alias Eric Stone and my neighbor's address. I hope he gets plenty of teabagger-oriented direct mail in the future.
What was reported as a crowd of over 1,200 looked like about 700 tops. The crowd was overwhelmingly old and white. Not much of a minority presence but I honestly wasn't expecting that to be the case. I quietly took a seat on the right side. I couldn't help but notice an armed presence on both sides of the stage. 3 cops were on hand and several were outside milling in the lobby. The 3 cops directly in front kind of reminded me of The Doors movie when Jim Morrison's on stage and he harasses them. Rest assured, I had no plans to tar and feather Newt (Benny Hinn style) or even resort to the age-old "pie in the face" routine.
I must say, Newt is an incredibly gifted speaker. The speech itself centered around 5 main themes - be true to yourself, dream big, get an education, blah... Do you get the drift? Have you garnered my inference? I will say one thing though. At least he adapted the speech to fit the citizens and challenges of the Ohio Valley. And he did a very effective job. His biggest applause lines came when he railed against Hollywood and the 9th circuit. However, he did put forth an incredibly effective slogan -


Basically, it's a call for personal and governmental fiscal responsibility and accountability. The idea being, that if it doesn't sound right, it won't ad up. This would make a tremendous campaign theme for the Republicans in 2010. I would not be surprised if we see it in the future. The Republicans need a more resonant message than the endless, wuss-sounding homoerotic teabag refrain. Teabag? Just sounds plain weird and kind of has this elitist European twang. If I were a corpulent Republican 7th Day Adventist conservative running for office in the deep south, here's the slogan I would use...


It's simple, powerful and sets a good framework for delivering a message of fiscal sanity in the wake of massive government spending. A prominent Republican, maybe a John Boehner (R-OH), should latch onto this. I'll never be a Republican spokesman, but trust me on this one.

Back to Newt's speech... He really is a gifted orator. I can see why the Republicans rallied around him in the early Clinton years. At the end of the speech, he took about 5 or 6 questions. I was really tempted to address him but chickened out. I was going to ask either of these 2 questions.

Mr. Ex-Speaker, during your speech you stressed the importance of science and education. The Republican party appears to be very anti-science these days, particularly regarding the theory of evolution. As a former professor and scholar, and having a major leadership role in the Republican party, how would resolve this inconsistency?

My other question which I really liked was...

Mr. Ex-Speaker, as an observer of the Georgia political scene, shortly after 9/11 in 2002, I followed the defeat of Max Clelland (D) to current Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss (R). It was regarded as one of the nastiest campaigns in U.S. history. Clelland was a triple amputee Vietnam veteran. Chambliss got repeated draft deferments during Vietnam because of his "bad knee." Chambliss' prominent tv ad implied that Clelland was a Bin Laden sympathizer and Al Quada supporter because he voted against a funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security. Do you think these political ads were reasonable and/or justified?

I would loved to see how the crowd responded to either of these. I wonder how many in the crowd would have known what the hell I'm talking about in regard to the 2nd question. I'm guessing about 5-10%, possibly more. I should have made my way to the front. I just seem to lack "balls" these days - I think it's called testicular fortitude. However, I am going to see Pearl Jam in Philly at the end of the month. That requires a minimal amount of passion.
All in all, I came away from Newt's speech with a better understanding and appreciation of the guy. If the Republican party wishes a a return to power, they should follow his lead. But they'll probably stick with the hot-button issues - abortion, guns and anything anti-gay. Anything that enrages and rallies the base. A word of advice for any Republican running for national office. Put the bible away for a year or so. Use a hand held calculator as a prop instead. And focus more on Congress cuz against Obama you got NO CHANCE.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Burlington Coat Factory Woman

Yesterday, a woman from Columbus, Ohio rented a Hummer limo and was dropped off in front of a Burlington Coat Factory. She told the crowd she had just won the lottery (1.5 million) and was going to pay for their purchases. Of course, she hadn't won shit. She was just a moron seeking adoration from anonymous strangers. Anyway, when the crowd finally determined it was all a hoax a riot ensued. Customers trashed the place and many made off with stolen merchandise.
I find this story amusing because it involves 2 things I have great disdain for (limos and the lottery). I'd like to encourage someone to try this in Wheeling. I'd even be willing to drive and you don't have to tip me.
We could hit TJ's Sportsgarden for the lunch rush. We'll pull up directly in front of the entrance and I'll put the hazards on. That will help create a minimal buzz. Can you fathom some idiots paying a grand for a limo and then having the wisdom to dine at TJ's. Sounds about right. Anyway, I'd love to see the fall-out from this one. You make the same announcement. Lunch and drinks are on me! People start ordering the most expensive item on the menu. I'm not sure what it is - maybe something called "Beef Tips and Noodles." People at the bar start ordering endless shots (probably Jagerbombs and Irish Car Bombs).
After you make a hasty exit, word starts to gradually spread that it was all a hoax. When the bills and bar tabs are delivered, people go apeshit. If I were there, I'd whip out a Swiss army knife and start carving up the felt surface of the pool tables. You could carve the words "Wheeling Feeling." Some drunken slob could knock over the popcorn machine. Little kids could piss outside the urinals. All the waitresses would be blowing those whistles around their necks. Total, absolute chaos.
On the way out, maybe the mob could tip over the TJ's delivery mobile. Have you seen this thing? Apparently, the new hotel up the road doesn't have room service but you can have food delivered from TJ's. Have you seen their Philly cheese steak lunch special? Wouldn't it be funny when someone orders that thing and they get that miniaturized shaved steak-um sandwich? The "famous" coleslaw (I'm not sure why it's designated as famous) would have spilled all over the sandwich. Mmmm, soggified steak-um shit. I wonder how many people have been dissatisfied with their meals and tried to send them back. I don't envy that delivery driver. He/she has their work cut out for them.