Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Vote For Franklyn and Dean!

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My buddies Franklyn and Dean have a short film submitted in this contest. Please visit www.cypherproductons.com for the link to vote!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No, I Don't Want Your (Insert Cashier Pitch Here)

After a few weeks of taking pot shots at the people who make decisions that affect all of us, today I’m going to rant about something that pisses me off on a daily basis. Yes, it’s all about me today.
But I really doubt that it’s just me that is annoyed by the practices that I’m about to describe. It seems obvious to me that quite a few people are going to agree with me.
Ok, ok, I’ll get to it.
I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to be bothered when I’m anywhere besides a bar. At this point in my life I can’t even contemplate grocery shopping without one of my Ipods…and wearing it everywhere else, including the bars, is not totally out of the question.
I want to make my purchases, or do whatever business I’m doing, and leave. Get me through the checkout and on my way.
Yet it’s becoming close to impossible to make a quiet purchase these days. At Best Buy they go on and on about magazines or credit card deals. Hey, morons, I already have a card for your store, and if I desired one of those four rags I’d already be getting them. Let me get home to watch my four-disc uncensored Cheaters box set.
It’s like this everywhere these days. K-Mart wants to sell me a Sears card (which makes no sense to me at all); Barnes and Noble have their discount card; even local coffee shops (except Black Sheep) try to push some junk on me. No, no, no.
Even the banks are getting into the act. Everybody knows how much I love my bank, particularly the branch at 26th and Minnesota. Well, I should amend that because all of my dream tellers have moved on to other locations or have done stupid things like get married and have kids. Some new babes have come in, but I seem to always get the dudes or the old ladies. C’mon, I live for watching eye candy count money.
Ok, I’m drifting away from the topic of the day. My bank has now gotten into this awful game of bothering me with crap I don’t want. I can’t go through the drive through these days without hearing about some special deal on shopper’s cards and high-rate CD’s. Please, the only CD’s I want are found at my other stops throughout town.
Yet it’s not just add-on sales pitches that are frustrating me these days. Technology is supposed to make things quicker and more efficient. The opposite is happening, as I found out a few weeks ago. I had forgotten to grab a deposit slip, so I was completely prepared to show an ID to verify that the checks that I had signed to put into the same account as the name on said checks were indeed mine. We’re talking 10 seconds additional time at most.
No, this became a fifteen minute ordeal. First, I was required to check in with my bank card. The problem is that I never use my bank card at ATM’s, so I had no idea what my PIN is. I’ve never needed it, and never will again. So I had to go through the process of selecting one, and verifying it, and then re-entering it one more time.
After this nightmare was completed, I swear the teller was writing my life story as she typed away. Since my new PIN number had successfully opened my account, should there have been anything more than entering an amount and clicking deposit? She pecked away for another five minutes or so before going into a sales pitch about that week’s special CD rate. Oh my God! (Or OMG, as the kids like to call it.) I could have downed two or three whiskey-cokes in the time it took me to get out of there.
Here’s a little note to all retailers. I know you’re not selling many Sports Illustrated subscriptions, or double value points…or not enough to pay for the training and time it’s costing you. The quicker you get us out of there, the more customers you can move in and out of your store. You’ll have shorter lines, and maybe you wouldn’t need so many cashiers working at any given time. It’s a win/win for all of us, and I beg you all to think about this before I become even more of a hermit and just do all of my shopping and banking online.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Munson's Crazy Veto

Despite the rhetoric you may occasionally hear from me, Sioux Falls is a pretty unique little city. While it’s probably not the Best Little City in America, as Pat Lalley likes to say in every single column he writes in the Argus, this town has an amazing ability to continue to prosper as the rest of the country may be floundering.
Our economy continues to grow, including the housing market. Supposedly, ten people per day move into our community, which obviously leads to more restaurants, retail stores, and other options for activities for our residents.
Due to the increased expansion, it’s inevitable that our city’s boundaries continue to expand. Take a drive around the city’s outer limits and you’ll see new housing and retail developments to the north, south, east, and west.
Along with the good, though, there’s some bad. Crime rates have to increase, and if our Mayor is to be believed we now even have a ghetto. (Look back to past rants to see my opinions on this topic.)
It seems obvious to me that the combination of increased space and crime leads to a need for more police officers. How can anybody even argue against that point? We even have a law that necessitates the need for more police as the city expands.
Councilor Kevin Kavanaugh clearly gets this simple idea, and last week introduced an amendment to the city’s budget that would clear the way for the hiring of six officers to satisfy the 1.5 cops to every thousand people requirement. To pay for these officers, Kavanaugh cut the city’s budget by 1/3 of one percent. This was an across the board cut, with every department sharing in this expense. One third of one percent – that’s such an insignificant number. If your budget is $100,000, this means that $333 was taken away.
If you really analyze the numbers, though, this wasn’t really a true cut. This is money deducted from next year’s budget, which I would bet is uniformly higher than last year’s budgeted dollars. For example, if your department received $90,000 last year and a budget increase brought you up to $100,000 for next year, you would now get $99,667. See how minor these changes really are?
The amendment passed by a 5–3 vote, but our silly little Mayor, who broke a tie-breaker to get that police ratio passed a few years ago, vetoed this amendment last week. This past Monday, the City Council’s attempt to override this veto was defeated by a 5-3 vote, with the deciding vote cast by Munson’s favorite crony, De Knudson.
Why would Munson do something so silly? After all, this was his law, and he’s the one who keeps promoting this idea that the area west of downtown is such a troubled area. And we’re also once again hearing propaganda that “gangs” have returned to town (which always cracks me up).
Munson made the media rounds last week to explain his decision, and as usual he looked like a fool. “I don't want to get to the point when I have to go to the departments and to say the only choice we have is to lay people off or to do a reduction in force. That's not responsible and that's not what I'm going to do”, he incredulously said at one point.
At another point he claimed to be looking at the financial future of the city - “We don't want to get the city in a financial pinch that we can't get out of." Oh the irony of this coming from the man who has never ever looked at the future costs of any of his cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs plans.
In fact, I think the real reason he vetoed this amendment is simple – none of his business buddies downtown could possibly make a cent off the hiring of more officers. He can’t arrange big paydays to his buddies downtown if the money is going to hiring more officers. No, in Munson’s world, you cut crime by letting your pals tear down cheap rental houses so they can build more casinos and office buildings. Who needs cops when you can just kick the lower class out of their homes?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six thousand Tickets in Five Minutes? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight

Over the course of the last few days, there’s been one question that I’ve been asked over and over. It’s a question that really shows how people just don’t know anything about me or my cultural tastes.
The question is whether I plan on going to the Elton John concert. Uh, no. The only way I would go see him is if he played nothing later than 1976. No stupid Disney tunes, no godawful Princess Diana tributes. In fact, there are a good number of pre-76 tunes that I’d rather not hear ever again let alone see him play. (One way that would get me to go to the show would be to have the cast of Almost Famous recreate their Tiny Dancer singalong, but I doubt that will ever happen.)
Not that I have anything against Sir Elton. A good percentage of that pre-76 catalog is pretty damned good. Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Chateau, and even Goodbye Yellow Brick Road are all great albums, and his collaborations with songwriter Bernie Taupin rank right up there with Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards. Since the pair broke up in 1976, though, Elton has become more of a celebrity that makes records than a true artist.
I’m sure, though, that if you can stomach Lion King songs this will be a great show. But let’s keep things in perspective here. Despite the rhetoric in the paper and television, this isn’t the Beatles at Shea Stadium, or the Stones’ legendary 1972 tour. It’s not even Guns ‘n’ Roses at the peak of their career. It’s a veteran entertainer finally making his run of C-level markets.
I did have family members that wanted tickets to this show, and I showed one of my sisters how to get into Ticketmaster the moment tickets went on sale. Within a minute of the tickets being available, she feverishly called me to say they were already finished selling them. Not believing this to be true, I also logged in. At 9:33, sales had already been cut off.
The next day’s paper claimed that the show sold out in 18 minutes, which makes no sense when the online sales were over within a couple of minutes. I call Bravo Sierra on the whole process. There’s no way 6,000 Elton John tickets were sold so quickly, especially considering the track record of prior concerts by artists of a similar stature.
In fact, I think there’s something fishy about this whole concert. The minute this show was signed the drumbeats for a new arena were once again raised. The lack of concerts in this town is not because of our city’s poor history in attendance; it’s because we need to build something three times the size of the Arena. Say what?
I’m not going to once again debate the issue of whether we need a new Arena. Everybody knows my view, and at this point all I’ll say is that if it’s going to happen just PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have the sense to NOT put it downtown.
I do believe, however, that this concert’s quick sellout isn’t because of actual demand but due to some behind-the-scenes shenanigans. That’s right, shenanigans! I’ve thought about many scenarios but what makes the most sense to me is that some major player in this town who has some stake in a new Arena was given the opportunity to make a major buy prior to the tickets hitting the street. (In fact, I have heard more than one person claim they somehow obtained tickets before they went on sale.) Somebody check billionaire Sanford’s safe!
I actually have few problems if that’s the case, but if this show is going to be used as the test case for whether we need a new facility it should be based on the public’s actual response instead of phony stunts. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since our local press is to busy cheering to actually do any real investigating.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Munson's New Developer Welfare Program

A year or so ago, our silly Mayor made headlines by declaring the area west of downtown as a “ghetto”. Well, he didn’t use that word but he might as well have.
Ok, the area is not one of the crown jewels of our city. But let’s be real. There’s some idiots that drink and smoke and snort (and maybe even shoot up), but you can find people like that anywhere. Despite the Mayor’s rhetoric, it’s as safe as anywhere else. Anybody can walk the area at anytime of the day or night.
But statistically, the area does have more police calls than anywhere else. So the police have done exactly what they’re supposed to do. They’ve beefed up the patrols in that neighborhood, which is something they maybe should have been doing years ago.
Our local media, though, loves to latch onto something they can run with for months and months…and they love this story. Any incident that does happen in that section of town is guaranteed a spot on their telecast, and inevitably includes a reference to the Mayor’s proclamation. In fact, I heard this line repeated just yesterday.
The worst story I’ve seen in regard to this issue occurred when they had that block party a few weeks ago, and included a shot of a neighboring house that shockingly did not participate. Hell, I don’t participate when my neighbor’s get together. And who knows if those folks didn’t at some point walk across the street and have a hot dog or two?
I guess I should have expected that our fearful leader had some plan to line his buddy’s pockets somehow. Why else would he have been babbling about a Sioux Falls ghetto if there wasn’t some opportunity for profit?
I’m just surprised it took so much time for the leeches to come forward. A few weeks ago, Dumb Dave’s former employers at Citibank made an announcement that they have plans to offer our city up to five million bucks in credit to buy up that entire area.
If this plan does come to fruition, look for a few people to make some serious dough at our expense. Obviously, Citibank is not doing this out of the good of their hearts…and there’s nothing wrong with that. Plus, it’s good P.R. on their part.
The slumlords who own those rental properties are bound to ask for much more than their property’s worth. Many have already said that’s their plan. Why wouldn’t they? Unfortunately, it’s our taxes that will be used to pay for this land.
It’s the last step of this process that angers me the most. I “guaran-effing-tee” that we’ll see nothing but the usual suspects in the list of people wishing to buy this property back from the city for development. I also guarantee that the total amount of money the city gets back from these people will be far less than what was spent. That’s the way it works with Munson and his pals. Hell, the sales will probably go through before the City Council even has a chance to look at the plans.
There’s one other problem that I have yet to see anybody address. Where will the current residents of this area go? This is a city with a serious lack of affordable housing for low-income families. The problems in this area are caused by a select few; most of the residents are law-abiding people struggling to make ends meet. They don’t have a lot of options. As for those that aren’t law-abiding, isn’t it better to have them in such a well-lit, well-traveled area where the cops can watch them?
It seems to me that the current plan is the smartest plan. Enforce the standards and regulations on rental properties. Beef up the police presence even higher than what we have today. If taxpayer money has to be used, maybe instead of using it to make the rich even richer it could be used to entice businesses other than casinos and payday loan companies. Oh wait, that would benefit too many of the commoners. We can’t have that.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Twenty Years Ago, the 'Mats Came to Town

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Every music fanatic has a dream of bringing their favorite band to their city. In fact, that’s the reason most concert promoters enter the profession.
Twenty years ago this month, I actually got to live out this dream. For one night only, I was a concert promoter. Well, to be honest I was an investor in a show. Don’t ruin my fantasy!
The story actually begins a few months before the actual show. I don’t recall the exact details, but I’m sure that in a drunken state I told then-fledgling promoter John Steever that if he ever got a chance to book the Replacements I’d do anything to help.
Imagine my surprise when John called me with the news that my favorite band of all time had an open date midway through their Pleased to Meet Me Tour! For a thousand bucks I could have a 25% stake in the show. I immediately called my buddy Pat and borrowed the funds.
Even with the necessary cash, the show was still not a done deal. There was still the matter of a facility to host the show. There weren’t a lot of options back then, and those that could hold a 1000 or so people didn’t have a lot of interest in a so-called “punk” band with a reputation for alcohol consumption.
It didn’t help that the old school building managers of that era were quite lazy. The facility that Steever had deemed appropriate for the show, the Sioux Falls Coliseum, wasn’t crazy about the idea of renting to us because it would be “too much work” to clean up after a flea market which was set to conclude two days before the planned show. Yeah, right.
The situation was quickly resolved, and the show was finally officially set. Now the real work of promotion began. Keep in mind that there was no internet back then, so the current method of utilizing MySpace and music blogs were not available. Even worse, even the traditional media had little interest in a band that wasn’t a household name. The daily paper rarely covered any music that wasn’t at the Arena or Sioux Empire Fair, and commercial radio obviously weren’t playing the band’s music. (KDLT did send a news crew to interview the band, but I believe the piece didn’t air until after the show had concluded.)
Since I had been music director of Augustana’s KAUR just two year’s earlier, and was still doing a weekly show, we did have that outlet to promote the show. Otherwise, flyers were our main source of promotion, and we spent a day hanging up posters at what seemed like every retailer in a 60-mile radius of Sioux Falls.
Finally, the day of the show arrived. The day began with a run around town to pick up the items in the band’s “rider”, a portion of the concert contract that listed items the bands “needed” to have backstage. Basically, that meant food, drinks, towels, and…uh, socks.
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Since the Coliseum didn’t have a room that could be reasonably called a dressing room, we had rented a mobile home for the band to use. A couple of hours before the show, the road manager alerted me that the band needed more ice. No problem! I knocked on the mobile home door and was surprised to see local legend Greg “Zap” McDonald serenading the band with a medley of Gap Band songs.
So there were my heroes. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson were sitting on one of the mini-couches, singing along with Zap. Across from them was Chris Mars, who couldn’t stop laughing. Somehow sprawled out across the cramped back bunk was the 6’ 6” frame of guitarist Slim Dunlap. I fixed myself a drink and never left the camper until the band’s set was due to begin.
There was one incident that needed to be tended to, however. During the opening act, a portion of the barricade had collapsed, and despite some last-minute repairs was still unsteady. My solution was to put one of our security guys at that spot between the barricade and the stage, but was told in all seriousness that Stinson would “kick him in the head”. Tommy said he’d be cool with me standing there, though. You mean I’d have a front row position at my own show? Of course I volunteered.
It was finally time for the show, but right before the band stepped onstage Tommy realized that something very important was left in the camper. “Will you get that bottle of whiskey?” I grabbed it, walked onstage, and eyeing my friends in the crowd took a big swig before handing it to Tommy. I recall hearing a bit of hooting and hollering from my pals, but it’s more likely that’s how I want to remember the moment.
For the next 90 minutes, I was obviously in heaven as the band tore through seemingly every major song of their career. “Can’t Hardly Wait”, “Little Mascara”, “I Will Dare”, “Bastards of Young” – I couldn’t have imagined a better set. Earlier in the evening, Slim had told me that they need a couple of days off after every third or fourth show as Westerberg had a tendency to shred his vocal cords. I could understand watching him fighting to be heard over the wall of sound the band was generating.
The show seemed to end just minutes after it began, and after a couple of more drinks we all went our separate ways. The next day, Zap surprised me with an envelope of black and white photos he took of the performance. A few days after that, Steever handed me an envelope of my share of the concert’s gross. I made around $700 above my initial grand, but I could have cared less if I had seen a cent of my investment. The experience and memories were more than enough profit.
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Believe It Or Not, I Like Big Brother

It’s no secret that I absolutely despise all reality programming, especially those that Ron and Fez’s Ron Bennington describes as “kick off the island” shows. I gave Survivor one season, but the product placements and clich├ęd “twists” turned me off forever. The same with The Apprentice, Amazing Race, Hell’s Kitchen, The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser, etc. etc. etc.
As with every rule, though, there is an exception. I’m not proud of this fact, either. I tell myself every summer that I won’t allow myself to be once again sucked in to this particular show. Usually, I’ll even miss the first couple of episodes. Inevitably, however, I begin to poke around the internet and I’m once again hooked.
The show in question is Big Brother, whose eighth season is rumored to conclude Tuesday, September 18. In fact, forget about the trio of shows that air each week. It’s the internet feeds, and the websites that document every action of the contestants, that are the “real” show.
Indiana network manager (and Ron and Fez Show Big Brother correspondent) “Mike H” completely relates to this opinion, and it’s the online feeds that led him to create www.Ilovereality.com. “I came across the show one night and then the next day I found out you could watch it for free over the net. That’s right – FREE. Of course that ended after the first year.”
Mike adds that Big Brother is also the only reality show that airs as the competition actually happens. “For comparison, take the other show that started about the same time, Survivor. That show is basically over when the first episode airs, so while the viewers don’t know who will be eliminated, the producers do, and they shape each and every episode towards that end.”
While Mike admits that because of the internet feeds he’s rarely surprised by the person who is eliminated, it is fascinating to see “all (or many) of the developments as they happen…On BB3 we listened to Chiara attempt to talk in code to the other girls about a relationship she had with a famous person. The sharp folks watching figured out her code and passed the information on the internet and within an hour Chiara was being admonished by the producers and calling the folks watching over the internet nasty names.”
Since the cameras are constantly on, contestant’s good and bad quality are out there for anybody to see. That doesn’t mean that the show’s contestants can’t make the usual complaints that selective editing distorts what actually happened, especially since the internet viewers pale in comparison to the millions that watch the CBS broadcasts. “The second house guest ever voted out of Big Brother – Jordan – told David Letterman she was edited badly”, says Mike. “As an example for this season, Jen was shown crying over her picture and being extremely emotional. As it turns out, that was the only time in the first month she cried, yet the viewers still remember those initial images.”
Mike adds that the addition of a nightly three-hour Showtime broadcast has put new pressure on the show’s editors. “I do think that the producers have felt the need to be more accurate in reporting certain incidents. The house guests are also very aware when the Showtime feeds are on, and during the first few weeks the production team would give the house guests alcohol thirty minutes or so before the feeds are on Showtime.”
What about this year’s contestants? I was one of those who were bored to tears for the first few weeks…but I must admit I say that every year. “Everyone complains each year that the cast isn’t as good as previous seasons”, says Mike. “It always takes a month or so for things to heat up. When you put fourteen people in a house some are going to be duds and until they are tossed out, there isn’t much reason for conflict. I would say that from a ‘game’ aspect”, this year is one of the better ones. If you are looking for beefcake, it’s all gone. ‘Showmances’ are over as well.” There has, however, been lots of crying from Amber, a Las Vegas “cocktail waitress”. Constant crying. Seriously, it never stops.
I must admit I agree with Mike. After an extremely slow start hampered by a silly twist that saw “enemies” of three of the contestants surprise the original eleven, the show has slowly built up momentum. Even the CBS broadcasts have relied less on the silly cheese; there’s actually not enough time in the week to show the tense bickering generally started by “Evil” Dick.
One other “twist” has been a constant source of derision from hardcore fans. One contestant, Eric, has been dubbed “America’s Player”, and after each episode viewers are to choose something he must perform before the next episode. Sometimes they’re silly stunts such as secretly messing up one of Jen’s shirts with mustard, but each week viewers also decide not only who he needs to push for nomination but his actual elimination vote. “I find the America’s Player thing a farce”, says Mike. “If anything it is setting Eric up for a downfall later on if he has to vote out one of his allies”. At press time, this has yet to occur, but his votes and the mustard incident almost led to his eviction on August 9.
In fact, houseguest chatter regarding Eric’s close call seems to prove a long-believed allegation about production interference. “Do the producers try to influence the outcome? Every year fans hear things on the live feeds that imply the production staff try to influence the mood in the house. The house guests quickly become aware that certain questions are being asked that in order to make the house guests feel a certain way. When Eric was up against Kail, both Jen and Amber reported to other house guests that they felt 'the diary room' (production staff) wanted them to vote to save Eric without saying it directly”
Big Brother is not the only show plagued by these rumors. “From what I have read over the years, this is a common occurrence in these types of shows. Survivor, The Bachelor, Joe Millionaire, any show where the participants vote others out is susceptible to influence by those producing the show in order to make a more entertaining program.” For those looking to apply for next year’s season, Mike has a number of suggestions for those who make the cut. “Just know that your every skeleton will be dug up. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, as people actually keep track of that. Watch every season of the show, but don’t let on that you have.
“Try not to sound too smart, as smart people become targets. At the same time don’t appear too dumb because dumb people are excluded. Never trust anyone 100% and don’t forget that a close ally one week may be a bitter enemy week two.
“Also learn to stay up late. If you are the first in bed you will miss out on potential strategy talk late at night. Mike was always in bed early this season. You remember Mike? He went home week three.”
A day after the initial e-mail interview, Mike sends me one more major suggestion. “Never forget that everything you say in the house may be being broadcast. Amber is going (if she hasn’t already) to walk out of that house being called a ‘Jew hater’ after (an incident August 8). What a dumbass.”

5...Make It 4 Days in New York City!




As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the programming on XM radio’s channel 202. Opie and Anthony were the main reason I even subscribed to the service, but in recent months I’ve become addicted to Ron and Fez.
Aiding this addiction is a video-messaging program called Paltalk. O&A’s show features live Paltalk studio cams that allow listeners to witness their silly shenanigans and also interact with other fans of the show. Studio cams are not a feature of the R&F show, but there is a room where fans from all over the world congregate to listen to the show.
Paltalk doesn’t end with the daily conclusions of these shows. There are a handful of rooms where fans (and a few non-listeners) can hang out at any time of the day and night. The most popular of these rooms is the O&A Fan Room, where I am now an admin. At any given time, a couple hundred people are drinking, fighting, flirting, or just chatting about anything and everything. In the 18 or so months I’ve been around I’ve become very close with many of these people.
Since the majority of O&A fans live in the New York area, it’s natural that there are occasions where they all meet up in real life. Last year, many of these events were at comedy festivals centered around comedians that make regular appearances on Opie and Anthony. The O&A Traveling Virus were booked at around a dozen venues, primarily on the East Coast.
Jealous of all the fun my friends were having, I decided that sometime this year I’d venture out east for one of this year’s shows. Thanks to a ticket purchased by my friend Nora along with the offer of a couch by my friend Casey and her husband Dave (a R&F show employee), I spent the summer saving up for an extended vacation that I called Paulisded Weekend (Paulisded is my Paltalk screenname). I even had fifty Paulisded Weekend shirts printed up to hand out to my friends.

Day 1

Thanks to my duties as a judge at Scarlett O’Hara’s amateur night competition, I woke up on the morning of my flight with a slight hangover. I finished packing, and headed out to the airport. Having some time to kill, I bought a drink at the airport bar and sent a pic out to all of my online friends. Given what happened over the next day and a half, I should have had a few more.
Everything ran smoothly at first. My flight was a little late, but not enough to worry me. I arrived in Chicago with just enough time to run over to my connecting flight, and started to become excited at the prospect of arriving in New York in an hour or two.
The plane made its way out to the runway…and stopped. After a little bit of time, the pilot came on to tell us that storms in western New York was causing LaGuardia to not accept any planes.
So we sat for the next two hours. Because I had used my phone’s online capabilities to show Cade from the KRRO some of the beauties I was going to hang out with during my trip, the battery on my phone was quickly dying. I texted Casey to tell her I was stuck on the runway, and waited.
Around 4:30, the pilot came back on to tell us that even though LaGuardia was now accepting flights, a storm was rapidly approaching Chicago so we were heading back to the terminal. Ten feet from the terminal, the storm hit the airport and because union rules do not allow employees to be on the tarmac during bad weather we were stuck.
This was a pretty violent storm, causing all kinds of vibrations in the plane. The situation wasn’t helped by a jackass sitting behind me who was monitoring CNN.com on his phone. Reading that a tornado had hit part of Chicago, he started yelling that we were in a tornado. Ugh.
I used what little battery was left to call Casey, and was shocked to discover that she was on her way to the airport to pick me up. United’s website said that we were only a half hour late! Uh, no.
When the storm finally ended, we were towed up to the terminal but advised to not venture too far from the plane as we could leave any second. Although I had not yet eaten all day, I stayed on the plane.
A half hour later, word came that we were going to leave. We pulled back onto the runway…and sat once again. An hour later, another storm was set to hit Chicago, and we made our way back to the terminal. Once again, we were stranded ten feet from the gate.
By the time the storm had passed, it was past 8:00, and I had spent seven hours on the Chicago runway. Although the pilot said that we were about to head back out, we were towed back in and then informed that our flight had been cancelled. WTF?
I had no clue what to do at this point. I had never been on a cancelled flight, and as I stated earlier my phone was completely dead. I followed the lead of some other travelers, and found myself in a customer service line that was over a quarter mile long (and that’s no exaggeration). After an hour or so of no movement, word came from another passenger that the customer service line in another terminal was a fraction of the length.
We jogged over to this area, and a few minutes later discovered that the earliest flight I could book was for 2:00 the next day. I reluctantly took it, but now the reality of my situation was hitting me in the face. The area hotels were rapidly filling up, but I couldn’t even attempt to book one as I had no phone. It looked as if I was going to spend a sleepless night at the airport.
I decided to search for an adaptor for my phone. Since I have an unusual model, this search was unsuccessful until I hit a clerk at a CD store said he thought he had one in the storage room. After another twenty minutes to find an unused outlet, I was finally able to call Casey to explain the situation.
At this point it was past eleven, and I was frazzled. I needed some place to sleep, and there was no way it was going to be in an airport. I finally found something in downtown Chicago that was going to cost me way more than I wanted to pay, but at this point I was not going to argue.
Yet there was more hassle in my story. Cabs were almost impossible to find, but luckily I found somebody who could not find the person they were there to pick up. Finally, after midnight I arrived at my hotel. It was after midnight.
I was beyond grungy at this point, but my clothes and bathroom accessories were back at the airport waiting to make the trip to New York. (Actually, I found out the next day my suitcase had somehow found a flight.) I did room service and took a long bath, and after a couple of drinks finally fell asleep.

Day 2

I awakened mid-morning to more bad news - another storm was set to hit Chicago. The local news said it could be any minute, the security guard at the front door said by noon, and the woman at check-in said she heard 3:00. I prayed that she was correct.
As I said before, I had no change of clothes, let alone essentials such as a toothbrush and deodorant. I purchased what I could at the hotel gift shop, including a lovely green Chicago t-shirt, but still felt like hell when I took my $50 cab ride back to the airport. I had made some attempts to book an earlier flight to not only Chicago but Newark and Philadelphia but was stuck with my original mid-afternoon plane.
Luckily, the promised storm never materialized and I breathed a sigh of relief when my flight indeed took off for New York. I finally arrived around 6:00, a full 26 hours later than I was scheduled.
Casey arrived a few minutes later, and at 7:00 I was safely in her Brooklyn Heights apartment. An hour of relaxation (and a hot shower) later, we made our way out to Bar 9, where a birthday party was being held for the owner of a R&F messageboard.
Bar 9 was a fantastic experience. While neither Ron nor Fez were present (they generally attend their fan’s gathering, particularly at this bar), I met quite a few great people, particularly GAZ (Great American Zero), Sheepy, Angry Missy, and Nora.
At one point, I was standing with Gaz when we saw a chubby, balding person at the entrance. Not thinking it was possible that a celebrity would show up, I asked GAZ if that was a Mr. Lovkin, a fan room regular. No, it was comedian Brian Posehn! Also found in the bar that night was Saturday Night Live’s Chris Parnell (who ordered a martini right next to me), comedian Eugene Mirman and Todd Barry, and the State’s Joe Lotrulio. Fan-boy that I am, I asked Posehn for a pic.
Casey had left earlier in the evening, so I finally grabbed a cab to head back to her place. For him to take me, though, I had to give him a cross street. As I scrambled back into the bar to see if anybody knew the info, I managed to text Casey. I still had to call her as the cabbie couldn’t find exactly where we were going.

Day 3

Saturday was the day of the Traveling Virus show in Holmdel, NJ, and we hit the road in the late morning. I was finally able to see just what a mess New York is from a driving perspective, as there was bumper to bumper traffic for the first hour. A typical South Dakotan would never be able to maneuver the streets of New York.
O&A “pests” certainly know how to party, and I was amazed at the tailgate for this show. We arrived at 2:00 for the show that was not set to begin for another five hours, and there were already hundreds of drunk animals in the PNC parking lot. I’ve been to plenty of sporting event tailgates, and have never seen such a layout. Anything that could possibly be grilled was available, along with tons of beer and mixed drinks. DJ Dru Boogie was supplying tunes, and a Guitar Hero tournament was underway. Later, a wet t-shirt contest turned into almost a full girl-on-girl orgy.
Finally, I was meeting all of these people I had been interacting with for well over a year. There’s no way I can list everybody, but it was great meeting LeeMels, xxxmaulxxx, Legit Bill, Flight Benefits, HeyMotherKisser (one of my fave people in the world), the beyond beautiful Destanie, HappyTypingGirl, JMF, Babygirl, MephistosLoveChild, Friday (who introduced me to dozens of members of a rival messageboard), Jmich, Boater, Dick Whiskey, and so many more. (I know screennames are a strange way of acknowledging people, but it’s the easiest way to list them.)
Close to 7:00, I made my way into the show just in time for a surprise appearance by WWE’s Mick Foley. Rich Vos then did a short set before settling into his job at the host of the first half of the program, which also included Otto & George, Bob Kelly, Patrice O’Neal, and Bob Saget’s dirty act (which got old really, really quickly).
After an intermission, Opie and Anthony made their first appearance, and introduced the rest of the comedians – Louis CK, Lewis Black, and best-selling author(!) Jim Norton. Everybody had their moments, but for me Black was the highlight as I’ve always wanted to see his act. Although he tailored his act a bit for an O&A audience (less political material than you may expect), he lived up to everything I expected.
The show ended around 11, and although people went right back to partying and there was a meet-and-greet with the comedians, I was too exhausted to spend any more time at the facility.

Day 4

I stayed at a friend’s home in Jersey after the show, and she treated me to authentic New Jersey diner after we awakened on Sunday. Seriously, everything you’ve heard about Jersey eateries is completely true, as I had the best omelette ever.
It was mid-afternoon when I made it back to Casey and Dave’s, and after three days of constant action I was ready to relax. We spent the rest of the day chatting and watching TV (at some point I heard Brent Mugsburger describe a Little League player as a “cutie”), along with the best delivered Japanese cuisine I’ve ever had.
The plan for the next day was for sight seeing. Not the typical tourist traps; I wanted to visit the former home of CBGB’s, along with the Dakota Building where John Lennon was shot.

Day 5


As I struggled to sleep on Casey’s couch, her computer suddenly restarted. Casey was also having trouble falling asleep, and when I alerted her to her computer situation, she discovered that a Paltalk message stating that we were invited to a BBQ being held in my honor.
In the days prior to my trip, plans had been made for a party thrown by one of my favorite people in the world. Thanks to some online drama, though, the party had been cancelled. Now it was back on? I was confused.
Although we had some discussion as to whether to change our site-seeing plans, it was decided that we should probably attend. We also had tentative plans to visit some other friends who lived relatively close to the party’s location, so everything was going to work out perfectly.
Jen and her husband Tony live in a beautiful home on a lake, and they went all out in providing food and drink. Seriously, every few minutes she was bringing out new stuff. I was blown away by her hospitality.
Many of the people who attended were also at the PNC show on Saturday, but there were a few new faces that surprised me. After the chaos of Saturday’s tailgate, it was relaxing to sit back and have real conversations with a smaller group of friends.
I felt guilty leaving, but we did have another engagement to attend. Thos who listen to Ron and Fez will know who IrishAlkey and his lovely “wife” Silera (they’re not quite officially married) are. Medical problems have basically confined Alkey to his couch in recent months, so it’s a rare occurrence for anybody to see either of them. Despite all the food I had eaten earlier in the day, I couldn’t resist the ribs that Silera had cooked for us.
Once again, I arrived back at Casey and Dave’s completely exhausted.

Day 6

Ugh, my trip is over. Casey gave me a ride to the airport shortly after we woke up, and this time there were no delays. I had time to go online for awhile before my first flight, and time to eat during my layover in Chicago. This is how flying is supposed to work!