Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More on Tickets

I find myself, yet again, facing an uphill battle of defeating the evil oligarchs governing ticket sales. I'd like to go see one of six sold out Magnetic Fields shows at the Old Town School of Folk Music with my friend Kyle. I am faced with a very limited supply of available tickets. This doesn't appear so daunting because I have craigslist, right? Well, I suppose I'll see how my craigslist post ends up:

Hello. If you are reading this post, then there is a small chance that you have available Magnetic Fields tickets for any of their shows at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Let me take this moment to tell you that you are a skunk... a lucky ONE! (Had I the ability to use italics, I would have used them there (I really feel that italics best manifest true emotion, at least better than any other punctuation mark outside of the question mark/exclamation point combo!!!!?!?!?!))

I am looking for any quantity of tickets that you possess as I have an uncertain quantity of friends who have each failed to secure any tickets to this concert series. At the moment, I am knee deep in paper, pencils and other assorted office supplies trying to create a list of who my best friends are and how much they are worth. (Ouch! I think I just got stabbed in the shin by a circle compass). I have decided that I am worth a variable between $40 and $45, depending on my mood and ability to haul large objects for the greater good of commerce (or for the People's Republic (in that case I am worth a quart of goat milk and a loaf of bread))(let my democratic value = V). My best friend is worth $100-V. My next set of friends is hardly as valuable and decline in value at an asymptotic rate approaching the x-axis. My 6th best friend is only worth around face value for a ticket and Kevin Bacon is barely worth a cent to me. Although, I would have to add the variable that bringing Kevin Bacon to concert with me might help me score a free drink or meet a nice girl (with whom I can marry and start a family with and dance to Magnetic Fields songs as we recall that wonderful night we had at the Old Town School of Folk Music where we met, listened to the Fields and spilled a drink on Kevin Bacon). I’ll let that variable = Kb. Thus, the new formula for Magnetic Fields tickets is: Price= lim(x→∞) f(2008/(# friend²+100-V) + Kb)

Anyway, I have cash, a car and a burning desire to further the US dependency on foreign oil by driving to you and purchasing your tickets. Not that I'm a liberal whackadoo. But I can be for you. (Also sometimes late at night I find bathing in gasoline comforting on the skin, so I'll gather with friends or Kevin Bacon to do that occasionally). I know Hugo Chavez likes it when I do. He's clearly invited. Not to bathing with me, but to the Magnetic Fields concert. Of course, Hugo Chavez only sits in the front row. I'll warn him not to mosh, but I can't promise anything.

I can promise cash for your tickets, though. Or, of course, I can always offer you a straight up trade for goat cheese and a loaf of bread. But we're in America baby, where alcohol is a much more liquid asset (pun clearly intended).

So what do you say?!?!?!!!!???

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Purchasing Tickets at a Premium

Now, I consider myself adept in the art of buying and selling hard-to-get tickets. I have even had my share of successes in the art of selling easy-to-get tickets. I have bought and sold Cubs and concert tickets for profit on many occasions in the past. One of my funniest memories comes from when our international study group in Buenos Aires were issued 50 tickets to a World Championship Polo match in 2003. Because not all 50 American students wanted to go and see a Polo match, the few who did were left with a handful of extra tickets.

I have to note that I actually loved watching this Polo match and found it truly a window into the Argentine culture. I suppose that it would be like taking a foreigner to a baseball game of ours. They wouldn't completely understand it, but they would enjoy atmosphere and beer. (As polo is to baseball, so is soccer to American football). At the Polo Grounds, there are two stands. One is for the rich people and the other is for American Students. The Rich people rattled their jewelry when they cheered and to enjoy the match they drank wine or champagne. Everyone on our side hooted and smashed our beers together. I think we had more fun. Regardless, the most fun we had was in selling our 35 extra tickets before the match. We were a little hesitant at first. Foremost, because we had received the tickets a gift from the Sales Director of Argentina Polo himself. While we soon pushed past that moral road block, we found that we were a little nervous scalping tickets in a foreign country using a foreign language for, a quite literally, foreign event about which we knew nothing. What we did know, however, was how to sell tickets. So, after pushing past my initial hesitation, I took the stack of tickets and made my way to the end of the patron line.

"Se Vende!" I quietly exclaimed. "Se Vende." A police officer was standing on the street. No bites. No problem, I reeled in. I considered myself a professional. I cast another line,"Se VENDE! Boletos... Muy baratos." A man came up to me. "Cuanto salen estos boletos?" How much do these tickets go for, he asked. I hesitated, SHOOT, I didn't know. The tickets didn't have prices on them, they were gifts. I looked at my friends, they didn't know either. My friend Ryan Adcock thought he had overheard someone saying $50 pesos each (which was the rough equivalent of U$15). I told the man in Castellano, "Forty Pesos for each ticket. They go for fifty at the ticket office." He pulled out four notes and paid for two. Then almost immediately, another man walked up. He was followed by yet another man, who was followed by two others. Soon, a very large and out of place crowd was gathered on our section of the street. "Shoot, guys, here take some tickets." I tried to pass a dozen tickets over the mob of people surrounding us. I began to sell Polo match tickets for forty pesos each. There was such chaos on the streets that I was forgetting who had paid and who I had already given their tickets. Among a mob of reaching arms and money I noticed that the police officer had come over. I panicked. For a brief moment I thought about stuffing my last couple of tickets into my mouth and running. I thought better of it. "Good day, sir." I nodded. He returned my greeting with a chuckle and walked away. Good grief! I sighed. In what can only be visually described as a storm of dust and disorder somewhat similar to a Warner Brothers' character scuffle, I sold my last ticket. Ryan and Blaine were all out of theirs as well. Good. We were done. We struggled away from the crowd and toward the entrance gate. We offered each other nods to signify a job well done. We laughed as we approached the entrance gate. Then, in a very comical and ironical realization we harmonized in our exclamation aloud; "OH NO!" Although our exclamation probably had at least one more unprintable word in it. What idiots we were! We had sold our own tickets!

We ran to the line we had just left, and very awkwardly waited until we ended closely enough to read the sign that had the prices on them. It read: "Polo Match Tickets still available- $30 pesos ea." What fortune!

The reason that I printed this story is simply therapeutic. You see, I have just been very recently defeated in my own game. I am forced to pay a large premium to attend the final Wilco show for their Riviera residency. I am hoping that this homeopathic recollection of one of my victories will let me forget that I will be without an arm and a leg tomorrow. But at least I will have seen Wilco play live for 3 hours. Eh, consider this a victory too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Patagonian Golfing at Llao Llao or Chasing a Tiny Ball to History

Somewhere west in Patagonia, sitting on the fringes of the Andean Mountain range lies a town called San Carlos de Bariloche. Somewhere in this small town of Bariloche is a very well maintained Hotel and Resort with a Golf Course named Llao Llao. Somewhere on Llao Llao’s golf course is a young caddy named Ricardo. Somewhere in Ricardo the Caddy’s memory lies one truly (un)forgettable story. That story is as follows:

I woke up on the warm March morning in 2004 (after all, we are in the southern hemisphere, and it is late summer) to go about my normal work. I drop my children at the bus station for school, I eat a breakfast lomito con huevo and I take a taxi to Llao Llao where I punch into the caddy shack. Everything would make today seem like a normal day. But no, my boss comes in with a smirk on his face and asks for Facundo and I to get ready to go out with a foursome. We gather our jerseys and walk out to the first tee. There we meet four Americans, three boys and a girl, who are on holiday from studying in the Capital. As usual, I introduce myself, grab two of their bags and explain the layout of the course. They smile and set up the first tee. The first boy takes a big swing and misses, but somehow breaks a tee. No problem, I grab another one from my shirt pocket and hand it to him. Little did I know what was about to happen. Truthfully, I don’t think Nostradamus himself could foresee anything that came next. This boy, Blaine, somehow broke his second tee and hit his gold ball backwards. I understand it’s tough to golf when others are watching and this is the first tee box after all. Blaine takes another big swing and hits his newly acquired Nike Llao Llao golf ball into the water. He laughs. We all laugh. But I wouldn’t be laughing long. Another young man, Christopher, walks up to the tee and hits his ball in the same lake. ‘What coincidence!’ I exclaim. The foursome looks at me as if to forewarn, no coincidence Ricardo…no, this is fate.

Another ball was hit into the rather tiny lake, but the fourth was hit perfectly onto of the lady’s tee box. The boy who hit it there had a nice view of the fairway for his second attempt, I gave him credit.

The three others ventured to our water hazard and, shocking both Facundo and I, climbed right in! ‘My Lord!’ I exclaimed, laughing a little. Blaine reminded us that the golf balls cost more than green fees on the course, so we understood. It was just funny to see the three American Students dive directly into the scummy waters. Christopher found his golf ball, while the other’s found their efforts fruitless. They dropped and continued on the hole. Blaine made four divots, hit three fences, lost two balls and killed a partridge in a pear tree. He won the first hole. Throughout the rest of the course I watched in complete and utter amazement as this foursome played what could possibly the worst round of golf since the conception of the game in the fifteenth century. I don’t hyperbolize when I write that between the first and last hole the Americans golfed we witnessed four sets of golfers play through, nine divots on the green, seventeen lost golf balls, twenty-four sand traps, seventy-five whiffs, two-hundred and a couple curse words and one parred hole.

Three hours and forty-five minutes later Facundo and I dropped the clubs to the ground and sighed. Each of the other caddies in the club house had started with their third group while we were covered in sweat from tracking Nike balls through woods and water. We were in awe at what had just happened. The Americans, unfazed, began to chuckle. They looked at each other and tallied score.

“Alright, well congratulations to Blaine who had the high score of 96. I think we owe him a round at the 19th tee. Let’s, see who was next?” A little more counting was done. Fingers went up and down at an unimaginable rate of speed. “Second place had a dozen more swings and, well, Chris…Chris got the high score of the day: 124. Well done.” They harmonized in laughter as I buckled in disgust at the nation of America. “Imagine the scores we’d have if we played all nine holes!” One of them exclaimed. I knew at that moment I would have an incredible story to tell my family tonight. This sole redeeming factor for a day of wasted caddying was unhinged when two of the guys came up to me and pulled me to the side. Christopher asked me politely to never recall this story to another living being for life. As he thanked me, he pulled out his wallet. Both Blaine and him each pulled out a $100 Peso note and gave it to me. “Thanks.” They said in unison and vanished off into ether of the distance.

I looked at Facundo who was holding a pile of money too, he looked back at me. We both gave each other an unspoken nod of assurance that we both knew what time it was. We slowly walked towards the lake, stripped to our shorts and exploded with jubilation! We jumped in the water, swam to the kayak from which our boss told us to keep away, boated over to the woman’s camp, pulled a bottle of Coca Light from our suddenly-appearing backpack, danced and boogied to the reflections of the moon off the hood of an old Fiat, stole the car and drove off into the ether of the future (of course returning and taking time to watch our children grow up along the way).

The end.

And that story comes directly from the nostalgia of a young Caddy named Ricardo who worked on a Hotel and Resort with a Golf Course named Llao Llao which lies somewhere in a small town named Bariloche which sits in Patagonia, Argentina on the fringes of the Andean Mountain range.

The end again.

**Note** Since I don’t know what happened after I left, I can only assume that Facundo and Ricardo did all those things which I made him do in the recollection of my story.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Monster Jam and Truck Pull

Throughout the entire span of the last seven years that I have been working at the Allstate Arena, I have never seen such enthusiasm at any event than I did today at the Monster Truck Jam. It was wild to see these truck fans (are they truck fans?) get so into watching these big-ass engines and wheels with a truck body on top wreck cars and jump around in dirt. My best guess is that the sold-out crowd's jubilation was a direct result of the truck fumes they'd been inhaling for years. I am also pretty sure that the pitch and decibel level of their cheering is a result of their damaged eardrums.

I shouldn't be the one judging, and I won't. It's much too easy for me to criticize, who would ever understand my own addictions to baseball, topographical maps and sour patch kids? I won't pass judgment. To each his own. Having acknowledged that, I can say that I did not know that so many hicks lived in Chicago (and I use that term not in a denotative way, but purely in a circumstantial kind of way.) Where are they when their not at the Monster Truck Jam? What are they doing if their not cheering loudly for GRAVE DIGGER to rev his engine and smash up painted and stripped autos? I have no idea where they are. I can only assume that their driving their Ford F-150s down state to another truck pull.

I'll further admit that once I took the opportunity to put in ear plugs and venture out in the smog and dirt filled arena, I was drawn in. It was interesting to see the truck cabs bounce around on wheels bigger than my room. I watched IRON OUTLAW thrash around the arena floor and jumping over demolished cars. I felt the raw engine power of TAZ (One of Warner Bros. sponsored trucks) as I watched him freestyle over piles of dirt. Hell, I even watched the US AIR FORCE truck spin in circles until I finally got a little satiated. My indifference was clear when I realized I was spending much more time watching the crowd toss beer around and lift up their little kids over their heads. I could only assume that they wanted to offer sacrifices to the chrome Gods.

What was funny to me was how many dads had to buy their toddlers $20 Ear Muffs so that they could get through the sounds of the thundering engines. I noticed that a few families had to leave before the main event started simply because the kids were too scared of the noise. Good luck trying to get any of your $40/ticket back. Stop it Chris, you pay $40 to go sit 400 feet from a ballgame with hundreds of shirtless drunks on benches that can't pronounce the names of the Hispanic ball players for whom they are 'rooting', (and by 'rooting' I clearly mean 'shouting fewer obscenities at than they are shouting at the away players'.)

But anyway, watching the Monster Jam was a neat experience, however, instead of surrounding myself by frenzied fans and ear-splitting noises for two hours, I'd rather watch it on TV, not have to breathe in the exhaust and have the ability to change the channel at my leisure.

Now, I just have to get pumped up because tomorrow is the third and final Chicago competition, this event, of course, is preceded by a crew party for which we get to work and may be followed by a caravan of pickups and trailers driving down to the next jam. Maybe I'll join them, and then again I heard it was going to snow here and I'd rather shovel.

Oh, in case you want to know the results of Saturday's two Monster Jam competitions the link is here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day and NIU Shooting

A shooter opened fire in an Introductory Geology lecture classroom in Cole Hall this afternoon in DeKalb, Illinois at NIU leaving 6 others dead and 16 more wounded. The proximity of the shooting sends reverberations quickly and powerfully around the Chicagoland area. One of the victims was from my home town and a friend of my brother's. Dan Parmenter was a sophomore finance major who worked at the school newspaper, the Northern Star, and an innocent victim of an unforgivable crime. I know a handful of people studying at Northern Illinois and the crime is haunting. It seems that everyone will be affeced by what happened today. A good friend, Ben, who works at NIU's counseling center, was able to help students on campus understand and deal with the emergency. Thankfully, the rest of those I know are safe and home now with their families. Yet, the crime is callous, cold and cowardly. My prayers are sent out to the families and friends of those affected by this heinous crime.

The only bright side of this crisis was the resulting strength that the campus and community used to pull together through adversity and pain. Ben said that schools and centers from all over the area were calling his office to donate their services and help those struggling to cope. While the hatred and troubles we face have been stark and highlighted today, we can also see underlinings of good will and humanity.

On a side note: Doing what I do best, as I tend to smile my way through pain, I ponder the St. Valentine's Day design. I don't understand flowers for Valentine's Day. Now, maybe I'm bitter because I have no one to whom I can send dying flora, but I still can't see the point. 'Here, baby, my undying love for you is best represented by a bouquet of these finely cut and lacerated withering plants.' Now, I'm no botanist, but I'd say get her a desk calendar. It's February, they're 80% off. I guess I'm not a romantic either.

I suppose my dad put it best when he told us that he was debating on buying my mother a helium balloon from the dollar store today but realized he should spend his buck on a carton of Fritos Scoops for her instead. “Why waste a dollar on a balloon which can float away or deflate and become useless when you can fill your stomach with something delectable and useful?” He later commented. That's so shallow that it's actually deep Dad.

I guess my question in response would be, “Why do you feel that your wife of 28 years deserves such a wonderful $1.00 (plus tax) gift on this day of love?” Yet, we are left to contemplate why the more we waste on flowers reciprocates more love. At least I came up with a new pickup line today; "Hellow. I'm neither a botanist nor a romantic, but I sure am both prudent and frugal, would you like to buy me a drink?" I wonder if I'll be spending next Valentine's Day alone too...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Con Queso?

My family is enamored by traveling and exploration. My mother, father, brother and I have found how receptive other cultures are to our insatiable curiosity. From Argentina to Greece my family has created some memorable events. One of my favorites however was when we were in a Costa Rican souvenir shop and my father found a handful of items he wanted to purchase.

Not knowing the Spanish language very well, but also wanting to make an effort he brought a coconut, a seashell and a necklace up to the counter and inquiring their price he asked; “Con Queso?” The cashier looked at him in bewilderment, laughed and asked “Que tipo?”

“Does he want a tip?” My dad asked.
“No,” I replied, “you just asked for your souvenirs with cheese. What kind do you want?”

Friday, February 8, 2008

That Damn Grape

I know this is an odd way to begin a blog, but what I experienced and had to share this morning is, similarly, odd.

I was getting ready today, making a cup of coffee and starting the dishwasher when I decided it was about time to pull my McDonald's fruit and walnut salad from the fridge. Watching the coffee drip, I casually dug into my fruit salad. I was thinking about many things, such as how unforgiving the weather was going to be on the upcoming weekend and wondering what was to stop someone from buying an electronic item with "two AA batteries included!", replacing the batteries with dead ones and then returning the item. It was at this moment of deep and profound thought that I felt something fall off my fork.

Quick question, is it correct to eat fruit and yogurt with a fork or a spoon?

Moving on, I felt something fall off my fork. When I looked at my utensil, I realized that I had dropped a grape. Begrudgingly, I bent over to pick it off the floor, but I couldn't find it. (A quick caveat, I easily lose things.) However, this grape was truly elusive. I couldn't find it anywhere. It was after a minute of hunched-over frustration that I decided it best to get on the floor and crawl about in search of my missing grape. Unfortunately, I still couldn't find it. I mean, I seriously was on my belly looking around the kitchen floor. I lifted up chairs and looked under the fridge. Heck, I even crawled into the next room. I swear that I stopped the dishwasher at one point, opened it, and looked inside. This grape had mysteriously disappeared.

I ask, have you ever had a frustrating experience such as this? Indubitably, yes. Further, I ask, doesn't it begin to put things in perspective? YES!

While crawling on my belly, I decided to stop toiling over hot button issues that currently ravage our housing market, our economy or our international relations and focus on the real problem. I decided that I would vote for the candidate that could help me find my grape. I mean, I was THIS anxious to find where that little bugger had rolled. I began to panic as I asked myself, "Self, what will happen if you don't find this missing grape?" I was in such discord that I answered myself. "Inquiring other Self, I don't know...I just don't know". It wasn't the answer that I was looking for, so I got even more upset.

In a moment of passion I threw both my arms up towards the heavens and beckoned! Amongst all this bedlam, a tiny yet sharp stream of light shone through my window and lit my wrist to create a moment of clarity. WWJD. What would Jesus do? Well, he would probably be eating a date palm, but if he did lose a grape, he'd probably use his omnipotence to seek it out and turn it into wine. Me, incapable of uniting the powers of the earth, heavens and universe, I sat back down, dumbstruck and defeated.

Head down and frowning, I left the kitchen to begin the rest of my day. I call it; "Life after missing grape". Nothing was the same. The clouds didn't seem as bright. The coffee tasted bitter. My life had changed....

...Then in a wild turn of events as I reached for my keys, the clouds opened up, a choir began to sing aloud in the background, white light lit the earth (and, as if to bring life to an old cliche, my frown had turned upside down). My vision quest had ended as abruptly as it began. I found that the grape had wedged itself inside my right front jeans pocket. Order had been restored. Life can resume. Now we can begin to focus on feeding Sub-Saharan Africa.

The End,