Saturday, August 27, 2011

Adele Finally Arrives

Can we talk for a minute about how ridiculous service charges are for concert tickets? Good God, they can be close to 50% of the ticket price at times. Back in February when I was down by the venue The Depot I noticed they actually have a box office so you can buy tickets for their venue service charge free. I bought a ticket for Adele thinking not many folks probably knew who she was here in the U.S. but I hoped she could get a decent crowd, especially on Memorial Day weekend and it was only $25 free and clear! Little did I know her second record would be released and she’d blow up in America.

The day of the gig came. We were in the middle of moving house and I actually thought about not going but then thought it might be just what I needed. So I park in one of the parking decks downtown and start walking to the venue. I’m half-way there and I see tour buses parked outside and a crowd milling about. A homeless guy comes out of nowhere and says, “Are you going to that concert (pause waiting for a response) It’s cancelled!!!” He said that last bit with pure delight. I get up there and sure enough there are signs saying that they have cancelled the gig. We learned from her later that she was in the middle of her sound check and it was obvious that she couldn’t go on. She burst into tears and cancelled the rest of her North American dates. I called A and said, “The gig’s been cancelled. You want to go see Bridesmaids?” So the night was not a total bust.

The next week at work I overhear a work colleague that I know very casually sharing with someone else about the gig being cancelled and I couldn’t help myself, I had to go talk to her about it. This was like finding an oasis among all the people that look at me sideways at work when I mention going to a concert. We agreed when the dates got rescheduled, she (E) and I and our other co-worker who also had a ticket (M) would all go together.

So getting back to the service charges…they announce new dates and much to my disappointment, a different larger outdoor venue. I don’t mind outdoor venues but I think an Adele show is better suited to an indoors small club, but heck I’ve got a ticket and I didn’t pay the now $45 plus service charges at the new venue. As we were talking to others while waiting in the crowd, no one seemed to pay less than $70 for their ticket.

We got there super early and sweat in the sun until the gates opened. When they did M got in first. I got stuck at security behind the woman trying to bring a picnic into the venue. He was about three deep to the front of the stage. The venue kinda sucked. The layout was weird and the stage was really low which puts someone’s height into question and how well they can see the stage. M is 6’6”. Now if I were that tall would I go stand in the front of the stage, probably not, but Adele is his favorite and he was undoubtedly the most excited of us three to see the show. I was standing slightly behind him but had a good view of the stage. Then the three harpies came and stood next to me directly behind them. These were three probably college-age very short girls who were pounding the beers and talking about being so drunk when they went to see Britney Spears that they didn’t even remember the show. Okay, immediately my judgemental flag comes up, not because of the drinking but because they think Britney Spears is truly a good night out not understanding the irony of seeing a “concert” of someone who doesn’t even pretend to sing anymore . They are really loud, really obnoxious and start talking about how they’ll probably puke before the night is up. After knocking into me several times and me just ignoring it they start complaining about M and how he is ruining everything because he’s so tall. He needs to move and it gets much worse than that. He can’t hear any of this probably because of the huge distance between his ears and their filthy mouths. Finally right before the opener (Wanda Jackson), they start tapping him to tell him to move. I can’t take it anymore and explain to them that he paid for a ticket just like they did and if they can’t see they need to move somewhere else. This caused a huge argument and in my mind I was thinking of the headline, “Local Woman, 41 Takes out Rage of Past Bad Concertgoers on Three Short Students”. I calmed down, turned to the side and prepared to enjoy Wanda.

If you don’t know who Wanda Jackson is, she’s a contemporary of Elvis Presley, and Jack White recently produced a record for her. She is a living legend, and all I could think was wow, I’d skip Adele if I could go back and just listen to Wanda’s stories. She had a great rockabilly band backing her and she sounded fab. Well, of course the three harpies didn’t appreciate seeing an old woman on the stage and was openly mocking her as well as calling me a “tall bitch”. What’s funny about that is these girls didn’t realize they were secretly delighting me, I mean to focus in on the one physical quality I enjoy in myself, ha! I had the last laugh. But nevertheless, their constant shrill chatter was getting the best of me so I decided to relocate which was kind of a bummer because we had a great spot near Adele’s gay contingent who had great signs and provided a celebratory vibe, unlike “the three”.

So I found myself wandering a bit for a good spot. Adele took the stage with just a piano to sing “Hometown Glory” and the crowd went wild. This venue fit about four times the amount of people as the original venue and also had a several floor parking deck that was full of people looking for a free show. She gave a shout out to the “car park” a few times during the show.

When someone sings a break up song and you’re no near a break up but you feel like she just summed up the way you feel, that’s the real deal. She sounded amazing. My favorite point came towards the end of the show after the sun had gone down and she sang a cover of Bob Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love, which is on her first record. It was difficult to find a good spot without a lot of chatter, a by-product of the outside venue I think, but during that song, I was by myself in a quiet place and I was moved to tears. When it was time for an encore she let the audience know she was supposed to go off the stage and act like she was done and then come back but she didn’t like encores so she was just going to step off for a moment, kick off her shoes, have a drink and be right back and she was. During the encore she played her most popular singles which the crowd was obviously waiting for. My pal E, having a huge grudge against the “johnny come lately” fans talked through the whole thing saying stuff like, “If she would have played this first I bet half the venue would have cleared out. These people aren’t really fans”. I get the point but again, the chatter was ruining the moment. Can’t that wait for the drive home?

All in all I’m glad I saw her but really wished it would have been back in May in that club setting.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Her Month with J Ends

The part of this trip that A has been on that gave me most worry was A flying home alone. The reason was because she would be dropped off not in Singapore, but in Phuket, Thailand because J’s family were continuing to sail for a few weeks. This meant A would have to take a one-way flight alone on an Asian budget airline to Singapore which got her to the airport at 1am and then her flight from Singapore would leave at 6am. That flight from Singapore by the way was a funny one. It stopped in Tokyo, then on to Atlanta. Then after a lengthy layover she’d have to fly five hours west home. I was worried about her getting her bags in Singapore, being in the airport alone for that length of time, etc. I contacted my work colleagues in Australia and New Zealand who fly through Singapore a lot. They assured me they’d done the same themselves and that the Singapore airport is very populated in the middle of the night and also a very nice airport. One of my colleagues even called me, asked for A’s plans and then emailed me back her cousin’s personal cell phone and work details because he was a senior engineer at the Singapore airport and said if anything came up, he’d be happy to make sure she got where she needed to be. My friends J and M in Atlanta said if she had any troubles with her flight home, they’d be happy to pick her up for the evening. I was so touched but not surprised at all by their generosity.

So it’s 3am in Singapore which means her first flight is over and A calls me over Skype (thank goodness for Skype!). She’s sniffling so I immediately get worried and ask her what’s wrong, is she having trouble getting checked in for Delta? She quickly dismisses all that and says she’s in for the next flight but that she’s tired and she misses me and doesn’t want to get on a plane for 20 hours. Unfortunately she’s inherited our inability to sleep on planes. She calmed down and started telling me about the trip. I was at work so I told her to call her dad and they talked for a good hour, and then she was ready to go.

The flight tracker on the airline websites now is awesome! We were able to keep up with her the whole way. She called from Atlanta in a much better mood having eaten some Krystal burgers. I told her she sounded much better than she did in Singapore and she said that it was because she wasn’t on the verge of an emotional breakdown, lol. She proceeded to tell me about all the fun Japanese candy she bought in the Tokyo Airport and how on the flight she was able to watch her all-time favorite movie from their movie library, Singing in the Rain.

After we picked her up last night we plugged her camera into the television and looked at her pictures, heard stories about gangs of monkeys, Universal Studios in Singapore, jetskiing, cats sitting in drink refrigerators on Thai islands, bartering in the markets, and the amazing food. Most of all we heard about all the laughs she and J had. They were emotional to part when the time came. I’m so glad they remain such close friends. She thanked us for the trip and then I was off to bed as she and H continued to talk. She’s had an amazing summer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Staycation Just Ain't Happening

After the road trip and a few days back home, I took A and J to the airport. They weren’t on the same flights but both of them were flying to Singapore to meet J’s mom and boyfriend, and J’s three brothers. A didn’t sleep a wink the night before. After getting J checked in and in the security line, I got A down to where she needed to be and got her checked in. I was trying to make her answer all the questions the airline agent was asking to start preparing her for getting herself to her connections through San Francisco and Tokyo. We got to the security line and she burst into tears from fear. It might have been fear but I also think she was just exhausted. She called me when she was on the flight to Tokyo and since then the cell phone has been turned off.

After Singapore they will be on to Malaysia and then sailing through some islands to Thailand. I got an email from J’s mom today saying they’ve been jet skiing, parasailing, night diving, and scuba diving and A has been game to do it all.

Here back at the ranch we were hoping to have a staycation after we dismissed ideas of travelling ourselves because of work schedules. Basically the two of us are working opposite schedules and on top of it we’ve both gone through a round of a very nasty cold so the anticipation of this time to ourselves has turned out to be better than the actual time. Oh well, at least one of us is having fun.

My friend T did invite me yesterday to take a drive to Mirror Lake while H was at work. It was absolutely gorgeous and at least twenty degrees cooler than back home due to the altitude I suppose. As she and I were driving up there I was getting so light-headed. When we got to the highest peak, we were at 11,000 feet and I truly thought I was going to throw up. I guess it was a mixture of not eating and altitude. I had no idea that could happen. But as you can see the surroundings were stunning.

Oh Amy

This post is long overdue but because of all the activity here I hadn’t had a moment to sit down and ponder. Amy Winehouse is so entwined in my English experience that I can’t think about it without thinking about her. She seemed to be the reigning tabloid queen the whole time we were there. My buddy K became a fan when we were both still in St. Louis before I did. But now Amy’s Back to Black record is about the only one that the three of us could put on in the car and not want to kill each other. My fave – Love is a Losing Game, H’s fave – Back to Black, and A’s fave – Tears Dry On Their Own.

After her divorce she ended up for months and months in St. Lucia and my good friend and work colleague happened to be vacationing in St. Lucia at the same resort as her for a few weeks. My friend’s portrait of Amy was quite different than what you read in The Daily Mail or The Sun. She was just a young woman who loved to laugh and sing. Hearing these stories from St. Lucia made me happy. She seemed to be getting back to herself and I couldn’t wait to hear more music.

I’m afraid her best came out of suffering so it’s probably right that there will be no more music. I’m attaching here my favorite performance of hers. It was after a swirl of bad media attention that she showed up and performed my favorite at the Mercury Prize Awards.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Road Trip Complete

We had always discussed going on a road trip when J visited so she could see more of America. It turned out due to H’s commitments, it was a girl’s road trip, just me and them. We both had our iPods packed with playlists and the night before the trip as I was driving home from work I burst into tears. J will be starting a new school in the fall and A will be 16 in just a few weeks and it all is moving so fast. I sometimes just want to hug A and tell her not to go so fast. Life starts to get more and more complicated from this point on. I guess I’m feeling pretty emotional about it all.

It was great to see the two of them still having such a strong bond, to see the two of them still skip to the car like babes after 16 hours at Disneyland, to sing along in the car to a song we all liked as we stared out the window at the desert landscape or the traffic depending on where we were. When we were driving through the Mohave Desert and my car struggled to keep us cool, J was asleep in the back and I had my iPod plugged in. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough came on and both A and I sang along. I had to look out the passenger window so she couldn’t see my face. Where has the time gone?

Portion Control

Having J in America for a few weeks has made me look at us through European eyes.  She commented on the portions at restaurants and how wasteful it seemed.  She was giving A a hard time for all of ther texting.  When I asked J if she texted that much she said no because she didn’t have an unlimited plan.  So does availability drive overindulgence?  I think so.  Funny though, as wasteful as Las Vegas is when you think about the energy expended for all that is, she was charmed beyond belief.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Apple Pan

I had a love/hate relationship with the Mildred Pierce miniseries this year.  Love the Kate Winslet but her American accent is pretty bad.  The storyline is pretty melodramatic but I loved the setting.  The Apple Pan reminds me of that Calfornia of old. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Disneyland for Two, Conan and James Dean for Me

The girls were at Disneyland from 8:20am to midnight. I couldn’t have done it. I was shocked to be driving to Anaheim to pick them up at midnight to be sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. I guess it’s the only time they could do road work.

So what did I do while they were at Disney? I took a chance and drove over to Warner Brothers studios to see if I could get a standby ticket to watch a taping of Conan. The traffic gods were with me and got me there just in time to pick up a ticket at 10 and to be told to come back at 1pm to see if there were slots. In the interim I went over to Griffith Park Observatory. I’ve had an obsession with James Dean since I was a teenager when I read all the biographies and watched all his films so visiting a location from Rebel without a Cause was a must. I’ve been there once before with one of my high school friends but it was at night. It was a bonus on this visit to listen to a poor high school teacher trying to get a group of teenage boys to appreciate the architecture of the observatory. You can imagine how willing they were.

At 1 I found out that I had gotten a ticket and was trying to maintain composure when I was squealing inside. There’s a lot of waiting when you’re going to see a recording. They run you through a metal detector and then they make you wait in two different places, one outside the actual Warner Brothers lot and the other in a holding pattern on the lot. When it was time to finally go to the studio it was about a ten minute walk to our building and there were about five different handlers making sure we stayed in line and no one strayed.

I sat next to a guy in the military stationed in San Diego who was super excited to be there. He told me he’d been trying to see Conan for twelve years. I felt bad telling him I’d walked up and gotten a ticket that day. I asked him who the guests were and he rattled off Jon Favreau, Jayma Mayes, and a musical guest he wasn’t sure about.

The recording moves very quickly. There are no retakes. The only extension from the show you see on tv is an opening comedian and the band plays longer to pump up the crowd at the beginning. After the show wrapped Conan told the audience that usually this was the point where the taping ended but he needed to record another interview that he thought we’d enjoy so he was going to change his shirt and pretend it was another day. After he returned we found out that James Franco was coming out to be interviewed and the crowd went wild. He was definitely the best interview, very funny.

The bad part about going to see Conan was that they turned us loose at 5:30pm, and in the middle of rush hour. After getting through the traffic and checking into our Santa Monica hotel, I went to grab some food and took a quick nap before Disneyland pickup.

Beautiful flowers at a random Burbank gas station

A view from Griffith Park Observatory

Why can't those boys appreciate this beauty?

Ah, traffic!

Lindy Hop in Anaheim

Before driving to California, as the girls slept I went down to the lobby of New York New York to have some coffee and finish Rosemary’s Baby, which I had started to read before the trip. As an aside if you’ve ever thought about reading the book, just see the film. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was so faithfully brought to screen. It’s not a well-written book so Polanski’s adaptation is definitely better.

Anyway, they were playing some big band and Frank Sinatra and I thoroughly enjoyed this. While the girls walked around Downtown Disney later that night I headed to the live big band that was hosting a Lindy Hop dance contest. The music was so great. Big band music puts everyone in such a good mood. I was watching young and old approach break out into dance. Beautiful night, and fireworks to boot!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Little Downtown Disney

After we checked into the hotel we walked to Downtown Disney.  While Vegas was literally like walking around in a clothes dryer with hot breeze blowing in your face, Anaheim had a cool evening breeze and lots of sailors.

Day 2 - Vegas by Day

I really wanted to visit the Neon Boneyard while in Vegas and we could not get a reservation so we did a quick self-guided tour to some of the older signs.  In honor of The Killers, a quick visit to Sam's Town waaay off the strip was a must.  I really miss the kitschy, cheap steak dinner Vegas of old. 

The vintage signs are the best.  This was perfect against such a blue sky.

Oh Brandon, we've seen London, we've seen Sam's Town

The original Las Vegas Welcome

Unfortunately I spotted this great vintage shoe sign as we were leaving.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 1 - Vegas at Night

Strolling along the strip. Soundtrack - Friendly Fires' Show Me Lights