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I have to say that after reading some reactions from the general public about finding a free U2 album on their ithing, I have severely underestimated the utter stupidity of the general public. If you've found the new U2 album on your device and you're blaming U2, you should probably turn your PC/Mac/whatever off, because you're probably too stupid to be using it.
Blaming U2 for Apple putting that album on your device is like having the post man drop someone else's mail in your mailbox, and you blame the mail.
So I had the afternoon off today to get a new crown on one of my molars, and as luck would have it, it was 80 degrees outside. So I rushed over to get the crown put on, then rushed home and suited up. It was a decent ride, but it's so hard to take it easy my first time out. My body might be 46, but I still have the motivation I did when I was 27, and I want to just get out there and put the hammer down. I put down just under 16 miles at a modest average, which considering the wind was not bad at all. I managed to burn off around 900 calories though, which is probably due to the wind and hills.
My butt is going to pay though. The first ride is always a freebie, but it takes two or three after that for the butt to acclimate to the seat, which is something I always dread. A necessary evil though, and once you're past that stage, it's smooth sailing.
I ran across a C&O trail volunteer rider. Those guys basically ride the C&O canal on mountain bikes and help people out. I like helping people, and I like riding, so I've been thinking about volunteering for some time now. There's only one problem though; the canal is a TOTALLY boring ride. It's completely flat, and double-track pea gravel and dirt. It would actually be the ideal terrain for a cyclo-cross bike, but I don't have one of those. But it would be an excuse to go ride, and I do have two nice mountain bikes.
Jessica is starting her own dance company, and I've been busy working on the website. We've had business cards printed up, and I'll be picking those up either tomorrow or the next day. Should be fun! Maybe if she brings in the big bucks, I can just ride and play with my Mini!
Speaking of my Mini, I put new shocks and struts on it a few weeks ago. Koni Sports, which are adjustable. Sort of. You can adjust the front just fine, but you have to totally remove the back to adjust them due to those lazy bastards at Koni not wanting to come up with a new design for the Mini. It turned out OK though, since I was able to guess the proper adjustment one the first try after doing some spring rate calculations. In Koni's defense, they're awesome units and the Mini is a different car after the install. I should have done this years ago.
This summer should be fun. We're doing a bit more work on the house, going on a cruise on the Queen Mary II, and catching a few more U2 gigs. Hopefully none of them will be like Athens!! If I go the rest of my life without another experience like that, it'll be just fine with me.
Jessica and I just got back from seeing U2 in Athens, Greece, in a concert that could have easily ended up with us both in a hospital, or worse.
But more on that later.
We booked this trip back in November of 2009, in what was supposed to be a trip back to Greece with my mom so that she could visit our relatives there. We conveniently planned the trip to coincide with U2, and far enough in advance to let our air miles pay for the trip. We'd leave my mom with family, catch the concert, and everything would go like clockwork.
Unfortunately, things rarely go like clockwork. In a nutshell, my mom canceled, but not before several months of indecision that would render our air miles mostly worthless. After some heavy thinking, we decided to go anyway. After all, it would be like the honeymoon that Jess and I never had. I mean come on! U2 in Greece? What's not to like? Well, as it turned out, PLENTY!
The first part of the trip was fine. We booked it through a travel agent, and gave us the week before the show to enjoy the sights. Jess booked us a 2-day bus tour, as well as a 13-hr cruise of the Islands Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. We had a few days to ourselves, sprinkled around the aforementioned tours, and figured we'd play those by ear.
Well, the antics started right after we landed. After deciding that 3 Euros and 20 cents for a bus was a better deal than $35 for a taxi, we promptly got on the wrong bus (my fault) and had an impromptu tour of the seedier parts of Athens. This turned a 30 minute bus ride into a multi-hour affair, with Jess looking none too happy by the time we hit bus #3. But in the end, we made it, albeit a few hours late.
The first day we decided to check out the acropolis. Who knew it would be 99 degrees and 99% humidity? We baked until we were well done, then headed back to the hotel for a shower. Then we dined on one of our many meat and starch dishes. I honestly have never gone so long without a single vegetable since I was a bachelor. I have no idea how these people can remain alive eating nothing but meat, bread, cheese, and the occasional potato product. After a few days, I was starting to feel the onset of scurvy.
By the third day (I think) it was time for the bus tour. It was a really nice tour, and really worth the money. We got to wind our way up into central Greece, where we saw the villages of Delphi and Meteora. The latter was breathtaking, with ancient monasteries perched atop high plateaus (pics coming soon), and great views from the mountains of Greece. They even booked us into a really nice hotel for the overnight portion.
While on the bus tour, I learned that the rules of the road in Greece are TOTALLY different than in the US (or anywhere else I've been). They basically go like this:
Dotted line on the road = pass freely
Solid line on your side = only pass when the people coming the other way are not in the process of passing.
Double solid line = pass freely. Oncoming traffic will take to the shoulder
Green light = go no matter what
Yellow light = floor it
Red light = Go only if you are certain that the other guy will swerve first.
That's about it.
Needless to say, doing all this in a huge tour bus full of 100 people was... harrowing, to say the least. It's a wonder more people aren't killed on the roads there. Although maybe they are.
The 13-hr cruise was a lot more restful. Especially after we found the one spot on the boat that wasn't rife with the stench of diesel fumes. Not to mention all the cigarette smoke. I was totally floored by how many people in Greece still smoke. It must be close to half. I guess when you spend your life nearly being killed in your car every day, you figure smoking is the least of your worries.
Out of the three islands, Hydra was the most lovely. Cars are not allowed, so you have to either walk or take a donkey/mule. The donkeys and mules actually have license plates. It was very cool. There were also about 32,768 cats per acre of land on Hydra, and they knew that the arrival of the cruise ship meant free petting and possible hand-outs, so they greeted us in force (pics of that coming soon too). We got almost two hours to stroll around before heading off to the next port, but we wished we could have stayed longer. Maybe that'll be another trip (once my wits recover from this one).
After the cruise, we had a day off before the concert. We checked out our second hotel, checked out the venue, and got our game plan together.
On the day of the concert, we were up early. We asked for a wake-up call, but apparently those are more of a suggestion, regardless of how bad you really need one. Fortunately, we didn't sleep too long past our planned time, so we had breakfast and made it to the venue at around 7:45am. This was good enough to net us numbers 60 and 61. Great numbers, eh? Should have given us pretty much our pick of where to stand, right? Heh...
So, we get our numbers and break out the bubble wrap. It didn't take long for the Athens staff to show us that this was their first U2 gig since 83. They were totally unprepared for an event of this scope. The line-up was totally disorganized, and we were stuck in a pen that was about 50 feet wide by a few hundred feet long. Everyone sort of jammed into the space in an approximate numerical order, but it didn't take long for people to start "migrating". Soon there were people in front us with 3-digits. And after a few "false starts" that were inadvertently triggered by staff members, everyone was mashed together, hot, and irate.
Finally, a few of the more robust fans took matters into their own hands and re-arranged everyone in groups of 10, in order of their numbers, while the event staff looked on rather apathetically. I'm still amazed that so many of these venues fail to realize that it is in their OWN BEST INTEREST to respect the numbering system. Respect the numbers, and you have order. Ignore the numbers, and you are pretty much guaranteed chaos.
The re-arranging lasted until the staff triggered another false start. But this time, they decided to go with it. They let us all advance to the next barrier in groups of ~100 people. The problem was, whereas the initial standing area was just a huge rectangle, the area we advanced into was a set of back-and-forth snaking barriers. As soon as they let us go, everyone charged for the next checkpoint. People on the inside of the turn got crushed, while other people ran around the outside and gained places. Some people even jumped the barriers. Once you got to the next checkpoint, you were held back by a single red piece of tape. I wish I was making this up.
They did this to us at least five times, and each time, the order got more and more screwed. At one point it was so bad that I was actually being dragged sideways by the collective force of the crowd. It's times like this when you read about people being trampled to death at some sporting event or fire. It really was that bad. And it wasn't just people getting innocently pushed. There were a lot of people who were deliberately being jackasses. For the first two rushes, I had a girl next to me who deliberately slammed her elbow into me while trying to get past me. I yelled "hey!" and she just shot me a dirty look and elbowed me again (while looking right at me). On my next step forward, I brought my leg up high, then drove my heel straight down onto her ankle. She shrieked, and glared at me, and I just smirked and shrugged. That was the end of the elbows.
When we finally got up to the ticket check, everything froze. After all that, the band wasn't even ready. We had to bake for another half hour plus, standing, before we could even go past the ticket check. The staff kept telling us to back up. HAH! It only takes ONE U2 gig to learn that you can move people forward, but moving them backwards is pretty much impossible. Especially people who waited around all day, only to find themselves standing next to someone who got there an hour ago.
Finally, after we were baked, crushed, dehydrated tired, and generally pissed off, we got to go in. By "in" I mean past the ticket check. We had another quarter mile of winding driveway before we got to the entrance. Of course, almost everyone ran - at first. Being in halfway decent shape, I can run at a pretty good clip for a decent distance. There were more than a few people who dashed past me, only to fizzle a few yards later as their crap diet and hundreds of cigarettes said, "Oooooh no you don't!!". As a result, I blew past a lot of wheezing fans, and picked up a bunch of places.
Jess and I had agreed to try to grab an outside rail spot near Edge, and that was something I figured would be no problem, given our numbers. But when I finally got inside the arena, I saw dozens of people who were already there, many of whom didn't even have a number. I'm pretty sure they had a second GA area, but never told anyone. Either that, or they let the people who showed up with GA tickets at the front door straight in without making them line up. Either way, I was a bit miffed. We did manage to get a rail spot on Edge's side, but it was way off to the left, near the foot of the claw.
The show itself was pretty good. I won't give away too many spoilers in case there are people deliberately avoiding setlists for this leg (like Jess was), but I will say that they did a good job with what they had. There was a bridge malfunction at the worst time during a song where the bridge is a key prop, and they boogered up the beginning of Vertigo THREE times in a row. Granted, they were in a bit of a hurry after not going on until 9:30 (!!!) and playing til close to midnight, but I don't think too many people were upset about that. Most of them were just glad to see U2 after so many years without. Some of them were maybe a bit too glad.
Before the show started, there was a bit of drama with this poor girl who passed out (likely from heat stroke or dehydration from the shittily organized line-up) and got dragged out of the pitch in front of everyone - her bra riding up, her boobs hanging out, all while peeing herself - before getting escorted to the first-aid area. Poor girl.
By the time the show started, the security staff was on a hair trigger, and considering those crazy Greek fans (of which I am sort of one), you can sort of see why. There was one brawny, military-looking guard who spent most of the concert pacing along the fence, fists clenched, staring at the floor. In fact he was so absorbed with looking tough that he was totally oblivious to one of the fans who lit a ROAD FLARE (with embers-a-spitting) during Streets and started waving it around inside the pit, much to the horror of the people trapped all around him. One of the other guards saw it, and ran past the brawny guy, gesticulating madly, with this look on his face like, "DUDE! PAY ATTENTION!".
When the brawny guy saw what was happening, he went into this frenzy, trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the catwalk, while the flare raged on. Eventually, he did get to the other side, but not before nearly knocking his brick-shaped head off on the edge of the catwalk, and not before the other guards had already gotten to the guy, causing the flare to be dropped on the floor, where it erupted into a small inferno (those crazy Greeks! Hah!). By this time, Bono noticed what was going on, and you could tell he was wondering whether coming back to Athens really was a good idea after all.
Oh well, this entry has gotten long, so I'll be back once I have pics. Sorry if it was a bit rambling but we just got off a 9-hr flight from Munich, after a 5-hr layover, after a 2-1/3 hr flight from Athens. Total travel time = around 18 hrs, once you count the waiting before the Athens flight left. Not to mention my body still being on Athens time.
Hopefully the pics will turn out OK!
Tuesday, Feb 9th was my birthday. The big four-five. I'm now officially what I have considered for most of my life to be a GEEZER! The funny part is, I don't really feel mentally all that different than I did at, say, 25. Sans the nagging back pain.
Every year for my birthday, Jessica plans some extravagant trip for us. Two years ago it was dogsledding in PA. Last year it was swimming with the Manatees in Florida. So this year, I really didn't know what to expect. Well, to say she out-did herself would be an understatement. I have no idea how she kept this a secret.
A few years ago, I found out that I had a brother. My biological dad left when I was 4-1/2 years old, and I only saw him twice after that, the last time being when I was around 13. I had no idea what became of him, but a few years ago, my mom decided to try in earnest to find him. Well, she did find him, or rather his obit. We also found his address, and that's when we found out about my brother.
We both crafted a letter to my brother and his mom, not knowing if they even knew we existed. It turns out that they did, and after a trade of phone numbers, I got to talk to him on the phone. He's a tough guy to get ahold of, so several emails went unanswered. I wanted to fly to New Mexico (where he and his mom live), but I could never seem to get anything coordinated. But Jessica did, and that was my birthday trip.
We flew out to NM via Chicago. I was VERY excited when I realized where we were going. My brother, Adam (yes, we have half of U2, all we need is a Dave and a Larry now) lives near Taos. It's an amazing, beautiful place. We both have a LOT in common!
- Sour cream
- Raw tomatoes
We also both talk extensively through the use of our hands. And we both drive too fast, though he REALLY drives fast! We also have wide feet, but he's really fussy about food, which I'm not at all. He also owns GUNS, including an assault rifle!
He's a really, REALLY nice guy, and it was easy to like him right off the bat. We went skiing at Taos, and everyone knew him, so he basically got us in for free. We are both at about the same level as far as skiing ability goes, so we had a lot of fun.
His mom is great, and much more "hip" than my mom, likely because she's younger. They live in a really gorgeous house that my dad build from scratch (he always was a serious builder) and it has an amazing view of the mountains. It was a very relaxing place to stay, and they were great hosts. We really felt welcome.
I got to meet a lot of people who knew my dad. They all thought I looked a lot like him, more so than my brother. They all went on and on about what a great man my dad was (who knew?) and how they really felt privileged to have known him. My dad had a lot of problems when he was with my mom and me, so it's good to know that he found his footing later in life. It looks like he gave my brother and his mom a really good life, and my life has been pretty blessed too, so all's well that ends well.
All in all it was an amazing trip, and I'm happy to not have to tell people I'm an only child anymore.
Adam and me:
Our last show of this tour was Raleigh, NC. This makes seven shows we've seen this tour, with three of them being GA for me, and four for Jess. Of all the shows, Toronto 2 was hands-down the best (pics of the Toronto shows can be found in my gallery), with Raleigh a close second. The DC show was notable because of both the excellent organization of the FedEx field staff (they actually honored the fan-based numbering system, and had a narrow GA line) and the huge rip-off of an included parking charge whether you parked at the venue or not (and we did not).
The NC show was small, but homey. An excellent crowd who seemed to really appreciate U2 being there. They let me bring my good camera in, and I got some decent shots.
In DC, I was stuck with Jess's old, tiny camera, so I only got a few good shots. There were the best:
So that's it for now, unless of course Jessica buys more tickets for the 2010 leg of the tour. Seeing them in Greece might be fun, since I have family there. We'll see how things (namely our bank account) go by then.
Jessica and I just finished a fairly fast-paced trip to the UK, where we saw U2 play at Wembley Stadium (two shows) and a show in Glasgow, Scotland. I'll write up a report soon, but some pics for now.
It's funny how quickly time flies when summer rolls around.
Jess and I have been doing pretty well. We're finally managing to get some riding in, and we've also done a bit of camping as well. Over the July 4th weekend, we took a drive up to Maine (state motto: Sorry about the traffic ticket, but we're really broke) for some camping. This ended up not being the best choice, because it was 12 hrs up and 14 hrs back. A lot of driving for one day of camping!
In order to bypass the heavy traffic areas of Baltimore, Philly, NYC, and Boston, we avoided I-95 and instead went up through Harrisburg PA to I-81, then across I-84 to Connecticut. It was a nice drive, until we got to CT, where I had to bump the cruise control up around 10mph to avoid becoming a hood ornament on another car. It seems that CT is full of ex race car drivers or something. Average speed of CT drivers: 83mph.
The rest of the drive was calm, until we got to Maine. Many years ago, I had to take a drive across Ohio on I-70 (talk about boring! The road was so straight, if you had a coronary behind the wheel, you wouldn't crash until you got to Indianapolis, assuming your alignment was good) and I never thought I would see that many speed traps per mile again anywhere else in the world.
Well, Ohio ain't got nuthin on Maine! While there weren't quite as many speed traps as Ohio, the intensity of them was much higher. We're talking several cops per trap, and boy were they adamant. There were cops dressed as construction workers, cops in plain white vans, cops on overpasses, and cops in SUVs on the wrong side of the road. It was mayhem, but we managed to get through the state (in both directions) without getting nabbed, despite Jessica's lead paw.
The camping was fun. It rained, of course. It always rains when I go camping. But the tent held up pretty well. I took Jess to the top of Cadillac Mountain (named after the same guy the car was named after) and we got plenty of cool pics. We ate a lot of food (too much food in fact) and we both tried Lobster for the first time (yes, after all these years I'd never had lobster!). It was fun having lobster the proper way - in Maine, on the water.
Other than the Maine trip, we've basically been hanging around the house, watching the Tour de France, and counting the days until we leave for England to see U2. We have tickets to Wembley, and also to Glasgow. Should be a blast.
I'll end with a couple of Maine pics. It's a nice place to visit, even if I only make it back every 20 years.
The new U2 album came out last week, and I've been listening to it during my morning commute. It's not bad, and the more I listen, the more I mentally process the works. So far my favorite songs are "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", "Unknown Caller", and "Fez - Being Born". "Magnificent" is also pretty nice.
Tour dates are already starting to come out, and I expect it to be a year-long affair. Jess and I will probably head to the UK this time around, and see them in Glasgow and maybe London, we'll see. Fortunately we got a decent tax return (for once) so that'll help offset tour costs.
We'll probably also do Toronto and (of course) DC. If we do the whole GA line thing again, it'll probably be one of those two.
I'm wondering what song on the new album will be their opening song. Lots of possibilities. I guess we'll see once opening night happens.
I really, REALLY need a better camera!
Home Sweet Home
Jessica and I spent the week in Toronto, visiting her family and friends. As always, it was another eat-a-thon. Everywhere we went, there was food, food, and more food. We've both resolved to get back on a proper eating regimen, now that we have no huge events coming up. There's always an event, of course. Mom's birthday is coming up. Mine's a month after that. But those are one-day items, not solid weeks of eating like last week was.
I'm liking Toronto more and more each visit. Driving there is no picnic, but it's certainly better than driving in DC. Living in Toronto would make owning a car less practical, but I think you'd still need a car sometimes. Maybe the idea is to rent one when you need it - I dunno. But the town is full of good restaurants, decent people, and lots of Jessica's friends. The subway is cheap too. In fact, the total cost of the Toronto subway is less than the price that the DC Metro wants to raise rates by. Shows you how piss-poorly the DC Metro is managed. On the other hand, movies are bloody expensive. We paid around $25 for 2 people, at a matinee! That's more than primetime here.
On a side note, as we were walking out of the movie theatre, I saw someone who looked farmiliar. It ended up being Caroline Rhea, host of the Biggest Loser, sans make-up, and in a pink terrycloth leisure outfit. Kind of surreal.
Christmas itself was pretty good. I got all the things I wanted, and so did Jess. I spend a few nights playing Scrabble with Jess's mom and her friend Art, which was fun. Scrabble is starting to grow on me, though I'm not to fond of the "Scrabble Dictionary", which contains countless non-words that do not appear in the normal dictionary. It makes the game a contest of who has better knowledge of the Scrabble Dictionary, which usually isn't me. Jess hates the game passionately, although we did get her to play once, out of boredom. Jess's mom gave us a Scrabble game, so now we have it in the house. We'll see if Jess warms up to it.
We spent the first few nights of our trip at Jess's brother's house. He lives in a small town about an hour outside Toronto. While there, we had Jess drive the Mini around an abandoned street. After a dozen or more stalls, and a few lurches, she just suddenly "got it" and made perfect start after perfect start. Then we drove around the neighborhood, which was strewn with stop signs, turns, red lights, and uphill starts. All pretty much perfect. On the return trip home, she did about 2-1/2 hours of the driving, and that was perfect too, including an uphill start at a red light, while turning left behind a slow-moving tractor trailer, with a mean-looking cop in the other lane. She's now officially a stick-shift driver.
So 2006 is almost over. Tonight is New Year's Eve, and of course we have no plans. We may just stick around the house and avoid all the drunk drivers. We'll see. We got some DVDs for Xmas, so we may just watch them. Hopefully 2007 will be as good for us as 2006 was.
Ok, I understand that this was a corporate event, and that it was never intended for public consumption, but it's SO not in the spirit of the original song.
On a related note, I once had a Bank of America credit card, and they do shady things (like changing the payment due date) so I cancelled it and picked up a Working Assets card from MBNA. This card donates portions of profits to non-profits and environmental groups.
Unfortunately, MBNA was recently bought out by Bank of America, so now I have to cancel my nice Working Assets card, because it's just about guaranteed that the WA card will inherit BoA's shady policies.
Jessica and I are looking forward to next weekend, when we'll be up in Toronto enjoying the InTO the Heart U2 fan festival. This will be my 3rd time attending, and Jessica will of course be dancing. Elevation will be the featured act, and it looks like they're playing for two nights. We'll miss the first night because we'll be on the plane, but the second night will be the usual blast.
I find myself missing Toronto. It's a great city - probably my favorite big city in fact - and Jess has a lot of cool friends there. Toronto also turns out to be a caloriefest whenever we go, and this time probably will be too. Oh well, it's that time of year, so who cares?
I had a bunch of old entries in my blog, but now that I've tied the blog to my blog on this forum I think I'm going to go ahead and start off with a clean slate. It'll be too much work to copy/paste the old stuff, and they'd be out of order with what's here now.
Not a big deal I suppose.
Our trip to Toronto was fun. After our rental car ordeal (Enterprise shafted us on a car) we finally made it to Toronto and saw not one but two Elevation shows. They were aweome, as usual, and I even got to help out by cueing the intro music the second night (after it had been botched up on the previous night, in front of 1500 fans).
Jessica danced both nights too. She did an awesome job, as usual. It was fun seeing all of our friends up there. While I loathe the idea of living in a big city, if I had to pick one to live in, Toronto would be it. Lots of very cool people and lots of stuff to do.
The trip home was a bit of a hair raiser. We hit a light snow storm around Buffalo, bit for my car, a light snow storm might as well be a blizzard. I got off the highway (sliding down the off-ramp with the ABS not doing a very good job of stopping us at all) and slid into a gas station. I honestly thought we were going to have to find a place to stay for the night, but I spoke with a few other people at the gas station who claimed the road was clear a few miles to the south. Since that's the way we were intending to go, I chanced it, and at a snail's pace we made it out of the snow and onto clear roads. Lucky break.
I think this car is going to have to be sold soon. The Honda is on its last leg, and the Cobra cannot be our only car. It just won't work that way.
The drive wasn't as bad as I expected. We drove 4-1/2 hours then at around midnight we found a fleabag motel in NW PA and hit the sack. We were back on the road this morning at a little around 7am and made it to Toronto by 1pm. Of course the first thing we did was eat.
Lots of fun stuff to do tonight. Elevation is playing, and that means Jess will be dancing on stage. But since she forgot all her makeup at home, she's rushing around like a madwoman right now, buying more. It should be a good time.
I'm still working out what to do with this blog. I have a blog at my personal website, and a journal on a U2 site, but having a third would just make too many places to type. So I think I'm going to blog here, then export it to my website. That would make the most sense.
Oh well. Gonna get some rest for now, and I'll check the boards a bit later.
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