Friday, September 2, 2011

Camden


On Finishing Up Jersey

Campbell's Field
Campbell's Field, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011
Campbell’s Field
Atlantic League
Camden, NJ
7:05 PM


Outside of the Game:
With a four-day weekend lying out before me, finishing the last checkbox of my agenda to see all pro teams in New Jersey seemed a gimmie. But frankly, this completion just asked more questions than it answered. Okay, I did Jersey. By completing one state, I have merely opened the door to doing ever other state. Sure, places such as Connecticut and Delaware would be easy, but do you have any idea how big New York is, for example? These implications were better left for analysis at another time.

All I had to do was get down to Camden and the rest would have to follow. It was the Friday of Labor Day weekend, however, and the direction I needed to go was south, so there were some inherent problems. I got done with a bunch of chores, shopping, and whatnot earlier in the day, and, due to the events of Hurricane Irene, I needed to go out to my parents’ house to retrieve my car. During the train ride to their house, I discovered that NJ Transit now uses double-decker train on some of their service lines, which would have been useful for me twenty years ago when I went to school on that line, but it is still sort of neat today.

Car acquired, I decided to take off fairly immediately for Camden, about two hours south. I got onto the Turnpike and sat through some expected traffic until I got past the Garden State Parkway juncture, where things transitioned to fairly smooth sailing. It only took about two and half hours or so to reach Camden, and after some TomTom wrangling to get me to the actual stadium, I parked up across the street from the park.

Going home was without any sort of traffic, it being night and I being travelling in the opposite direction from 99% of humanity that evening. I got home and parked in a largely abandoned Hoboken and went back to my apartment in peace on a Friday, which is largely unprecedented in this berg.


The Stadium & Fans:


Home to center, Campbell's Field
Home plate to center field, Campbell's Field

Campbell’s Field is named for the titular soup company, which has been the only good thing in Camden for about 100 years now. The “Soup Kids” adorn statuary outside the main entrance to the park, and the signage would meet Andy Warhol’s approval, with the can splashed all over the place.

The park itself was quite well done all-around (except for certain seating signage, to be addressed a little lower). The landscaping and the outside of the park fit in nicely to the post-industrial area it inhabits on the riverfront, and the stately Benjamin Franklin Bridge between Camden and Philadelphia offers a scenic backdrop to the outfield. The park apparently won some design awards, as boasted by a big sign at the main entrance.

As with most indie parks, it is one seating area that extends below the entrance level, accessed by a promenade that goes from left field to right field. Left field is anchored by a party deck and a merry-go-round, while the right field walkway ends in a covered party area and an extensive “active fun” zone for kids (with things as exotic as a climbing wall) that looks directly out into right field. Between the two extremes are various concessions and the team store right behind home plate. There is an upper deck behind home plate on top of the broadcast booth that houses the luxury suites and a specialty bar and concession areas for adults.

Tucked next to the entrance (and doubling as the team offices) is an edifice called the “South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame,” which is just about as specific a Hall of Fame as I’ve run across. New Jersey-shaped plaques near the entrance list the inductees, and a small exhibit area honors current and past teams in the area, as well as the achievements of ballplayers from southern New Jersey.
While it was the start of a holiday weekend, there was still a respectable crowd of a thousand or two in the seats, although they mostly sat on their hands unless there was something particularly of interest happening on the diamond. The between-innings activities were minor-league standard races, contests, and tomfoolery with the mascot Finley the Rivershark. (Get it? FINley?) There were some more unique location-specific events, such as the Party Patrol pretending to be a River Line train (which bounces back and forth between Camden and Philly over the Ben Franklin bridge in the background), and the particularly inexplicable “Trash Man”: a guy who comes out with a trash bag and dances badly for a while. There is probably some important back-story I’m missing on that one, to be honest. Or maybe it is just a guy with a trash bag – what do I know?


Mascot
Finley... get it?


At the Game with Oogie:


Whoo
Whoo

On the holiday weekend, I pretty much had my choice of where to sit. Once again, I splurged for “expensive” seats behind the home dugout. One knock against Campbell’s Field is that the seat numbering needs some work. The lower seats by the field are on a different numbering system that the box seats above them, and once you walk down to the level of the field seats, there are no signs saying what section is what.

This led to a number of issues during the game, as people sitting around me were always trying to work out if they were in the right seats or not. Before getting settled in twenty minutes before the start of the game, I asked some stadium personnel to make sure I was in the right seat, so I was fairly certain I was in the correct place, but no less than three groups of people sat down and subsequently found out they were in the wrong section. (And, if you have a scorecard in your hand, people assume that you are an authority on things. All three of the groups at one point or another asked me what section it was, with some version of “you probably know this” added at the front or back of the question.)

When everyone finally got in their right seats, I was surrounded by families, as is often the case in indie and minor-league games. Since we were literally across the river from Philly, most of these families tended to be Phillies fans, which I tried very, very hard to not hold against them.


The Game:


First pitch, Barnstormers vs. Riversharks
First pitch, Barnstormers vs. Riversharks

This was a late-season contest between teams towards the top of their respective divisions in the Atlantic League. While the Barnstormers were in second place, they were below .500 in what I assumed to be the weaker division. Things seemed to be pointing towards the Riversharks, but things can often seem wrong.

The first went quietly for both teams, with some walks and hits scattered in. A leadoff walk in the top of the second would come back to bite the Riversharks, as a double sent the runner to third with one out, and a sacrifice fly brought him home, for a 1-0 Barnstormers lead.

The Riversharks only got a single hit in the bottom of the inning, and besides a bizarre error without proper backup that threatened a big inning in the top of the second, the Stormers couldn’t get him home. Both sides went more or less quietly until the bottom of the fourth. The Riversharks led with a double, but a weak pop-out to second temporarily put a damper on things. But the next batter walked, and the follolwing doubled, bringing home one run. The subsequent batter hit a sacrifice fly before a groundout to short ended the inning, with the Riverharks in command, 2-1.

It stayed that way through the eighth, as both teams scattered some base runners but did nothing substantive for the intervening time. In the top of the eighth, the Riversharks brought in another pitcher, and he was absolutely rifling through the Barnstomers, getting the first two outs on strikeouts looking. But the next batter got a single (that should have been caught if the center fielder was playing correctly), and the one after him crushed one over the wall in right, making it 3-2 Barnstormers.

The Riversharks tried to get some back in the bottom of the inning, with a one-out single and stolen base followed by a walk. But the rally ended with a fly out to center and a fielder’s choice to short. In the top of the ninth, the Barnstormers tacked on some insurance runs with a leadoff single, and then, on a grounder back to the mound, the pitcher threw the ball into right field. Again, the play was not properly backed up (no doubt leading to an increase in blood pressure in the Shark’s manager). The runner scored all the way from first, and the batter made it to second. A double brought him home before a new pitcher was able to close out the side with the Stormers leading, 5-3. The Riversharks weren’t up to the challenge, and the Barnstormers closer put them down 1-2-3, leaving the final score at that tally.


The Scorecard:


Barnstormers vs. Riversharks, 09-02-11. Barnstormers win, 5-3.Barnstormers vs. Riversharks, 09-02-11. Barnstormers win, 5-3.
Barnstormers vs. Riversharks, 09/02/11. Barnstormers win, 5-3.

The scorecard was a two-sided cardstock item, given away for free at one of the customer relation booths. They weren’t that easy to spot, and I had walked by them several times before I saw them (ready to go to the Eephus League Scorebook I carried around for just such occasions), but I eventually noticed them.

The scorecard itself was one of the more interesting designs I had run across in all my travels. It had a three/two row of boxes for balls and strikes on the left side of each scoring box, and then a small diamond on the right side. It made things a little on the cramped side, and I went with the line system for scoring instead of alphanumeric to make the most of the smaller space. I was more or less able to cram everything I needed in there.

Another truly bizarre play managed to work its way into this game. In the top of the third, a runner managed to hit into a 6-4-4-6 putout. It was as symmetrical as it was odd. With a man on first, a tailor-made double-play ball went to the shortstop, who fired it to the second baseman covering, who promptly missed it by a mile. No one was backing him up, so the second baseman completely lost possession, and then had to run after the ball to retrieve it, while the runner at first went to third and the batter turned first and went to second. The second baseman got the ball finally, and fired it over to the shortstop in time to cut down the runner, resulting in the scoring above.

In the home fifth, all the outs in the 1-2-3 inning involved the pitcher and first baseman (1-3, 1-3, 3-1), and the first out of the top of the sixth followed the pattern as well (1-3).

Truly odd things have been happening on the ball field recently.


The Accommodations:
Good ole Hoboken


2011 Stand-Alone Trip

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chicago


On Turning Two

US Cellular Field, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011
U.S. Cellular Field
MLB American League
Chicago, IL
7:05 PM


Outside the Game:
This was the second half of my day after the Cubs game. After that extra-innings contest was over, I braved the crushing crowd into the Red Line station to head to the South Side to catch the White Sox game for the extremely rare intra-city, two-team double header. Once I got onto the train, the ride itself was mundane. I just had to stand for about a half hour or so until the El spit me out right across the street from the stadium.

On the way back, most of the fans still at the stadium were watching the conclusion of the fireworks exhibition, so I thought I was being clever by ducking out early to get the train. Except that “scheduled maintenance” on the Red Line had me and all the other early jumpers waiting a good half hour for a north-bound train, and by that time, the rest of the stadium taking public transportation had emptied out anyway. I took the precaution of walking all the way to the end of the platform, so when the train did come, I was merely slammed in a car filled wall-to-wall with people, as opposed to having my nose forcibly pressed into some sweaty guy’s back.

While most of the trip back was an unpleasant amalgam of human smells and proximity, I did find myself wedged near a couple of Texas fans who were seeing baseball stadiums. I forgot how we got to talking, but I eventually entreated them to see PNC before they dumped off for their hotel somewhere just north of downtown.

With two games under my belt for the day, I eventually made it back to the Addison stop and a short walk back to the apartment.


The Stadium & Fans:


Home to center, US Cellular Field
Home plate to center field, US Cellular Field

I was… less than impressed with U.S. Cellular Field during my first visit years ago. The fact that I was having gastrointestinal problems certainly didn’t contribute to my positive thinking, but we had scored some tickets to the upper deck, and the way the stadium is arranged, they will not even let you set foot in the sacred lower level if you don’t have a lower-level ticket, so we couldn’t even walk around the main level of the park and were cast up into the relative Siberia of the upper level.

And that was a shame because nearly everything worth seeing at the park is downstairs. Now, in this era of new stadiums, U.S. Cellular is at best in the middle of the pack, but it is certainly a marked improvement of the upper-deck only experience, which left it scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I also got there relatively early this time and had time walk around the outside of the park, which was being remodeled. The park exterior is laid out quite oddly. There is a main entrance area across the street from the park, with a pedestrian bridge leading to the stadium itself, as well as the stadium proper, which has the expected entrances dotting the perimeter. “Champions Plaza” has tributes to all the retired numbers, as well as their (long-spaced) championships and a brick fan walk. Nearby, an Elvis impersonator (tribute artist? Whatever the PC-term for that is these days) gave a pre-game concert, which was the very first inkling I had that it was Elvis Night at the stadium.

I still had to navigate the largely inexplicably ramp system to get into the park, but this time, I was able to exit on the field-level concourse, which is a much more copacetic destination than upstairs. A concourse promenade extends around the entire of the field area, and the seats are stairs down from the main concourse. The home plate area of the promenade is littered with concession stands, the team store, and (of course) a U.S. Cellular Store.

The outfield promenade was where things got interesting. Ringing the outfield were statues of notable White Sox players (including an impossibly-muscled, superhero Carlton Fisk), as well as owner Charles Comiskey. The famous shower from Comiskey Park had been transferred to center field here, surrounded by specialty concession stands, anchored by the “Fan Porch” area in dead center. The kids area was its own elevated pavilion called “Fundamentals” (emphasis on “fun,” no doubt), but adults unaccompanied by children were not allowed up, so I will have to content myself with my wild imaginings of the fun and adventures that go on up there. I am convinced there is a pony, for example.

The crowd was quite respectable, given that the White Sox were on something of a run. There was unexpectedly large Rangers contingent present as well. There’s no Chicago-Texas connection I’m aware of, and this was much more than the standard amount of opposing fans that just seem to appear no matter where you are.

The South Side fans were into the game, but there was one lady near us who defied explanation. She was absolutely riding Sox starter Jake Peavy about doing better, even though at the time he was pitching a no-hitter. Hey, honey, he can hardly do much better than that. But that said, he did manage to implode later, so perhaps I owe her an apology. Also, the celebrity they brought in for their Seventh Inning Stretch song was some reality show “star” who didn’t even know the words, and just tried to lamely “conduct” the fans. Learn the song, or go home, Pretty Boy.

As mentioned, it was Elvis Night. In addition to the pre-game show, the stadium staff were all dressed up as Elvis or showgirls, and they were giving out “King Glasses” that had 70’s-Elvis sideburns attached to the big Vegas glasses. There were also two skydiving shows for the game. The first was just a jump before the game to bring down the American flag before the National Anthem. After the game, Flying Elvi jumped into the night sky with fireworks and jumpsuits to land on the field before the post-game concert.
The show started with Vegas showgirls dancing around at home plate before the same Elvis tribute artist from the pre-game show -- he was apparently an “award-winning” tribute artist (I wasn’t even aware they scored such things) – came out in a classic car to do a concert. As Elvis left the building, a post-game fireworks spectacular started up to the soundtrack of the actual Elvis. And it is then that I took my leave.


At the Game with Oogie:


First Elvis of the Night
First Elvis of the Night

The small world hypothesis gained some more data points this evening. When I eventually made my way to my field-box seats between third base and right field, I found myself sitting in the middle of two groups. On my left was a pair of female White Sox fans. On the other was a group of guys.

This group of guys were off doing a ballpark tour. This group of guys also had done the double-header with the Cubs earlier today. This group of guys was also from New York. And this group of guys were also Mets fans. I still think the guy in Japan I sat behind who had gone to America to see American teams was a little more coincidental, but this was pretty impressive.

Instead of the solitary travel or occasional partnership that I had made my particular endeavor, this was a group of four or five guys around my age who were doing this altogether, with some on “hall passes” from their wives. We talked baseball for most of the night while waiting for the rain delay in New York to pass so Pelfrey could get along with blowing a game in Queens on the out-of-town scoreboard.

I talked with the ladies to my left occasionally. When they went for concessions, they asked about what they had missed, and we actually had a scoring discussion or two on earned runs and the like. It seemed as though they may have been the only two groups in the stadium not specifically here for Elvis Night. Well, them and a terminally adorable five year-old girl a few section ahead of us who had her own hand-made sign for Carlos Quentin. For some reason, it was very reassuring to see that things such as this still go on.


The Game:


First pitch, Rangers vs. White Sox
First pitch, Rangers vs. White Sox

The White Sox looked like were walking away with this one early, but appearances can sometimes be deceiving. At least it was still Elvis Night.

While the Rangers went in order in the top of the first, the White Sox jumped on the Rangers immediately, as the first batter bunted his way on first. A strikeout was followed by a one-out walk, and then a double and single that scored the first two runners and left it second and third with one out. A ground out and strikeout prevented any more damage, with the Sox holding a 2-0 lead.

A walk was all the Rangers could manage their next two turns up, while the White Sox tacked on another run when a leadoff triple in the bottom of the second got sent home on a sacrifice fly. The next four batters would go in order, leaving it 3-0 Sox.

Being no-hit for three and two-thirds, the Rangers finally came alive in the fourth with a single and a double to bring the lead runner home. A walk was followed by a homer to right that brought everybody home, leaving it 4-3 at the end of four and a half.

The Sox went in order in the bottom of the inning, and the Rangers went in order in the top of fifth. But the Sox were able to make something of a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning. The next batter attempted to sacrifice him over, but the short stop threw it away, leaving it first and third with no outs. The next batter tied it at 4-4 with a sacrifice fly. A wild pitch put the runner in scoring position with one out just as the pitcher gave up another walk and got chased from the game. His replacement got the next two in order to end the threat.

The tie lasted few pitches. The leadoff batter in the top of the sixth sent one out to right, making it 5-4 Rangers. Two quick fly outs gave hope of limited damage, but a single and another homer made it 7-4 before the bleeding was stopped. The wind went out of the White Sox’s sails, and they only managed one base runner on a walk for the rest of the game. Besides a threat in the top of the seventh, the Rangers mostly did the same, and the final tally was 7-4 Rangers before the Elvis Presleys would start dropping from the sky.


The Scorecard:


Rangers vs. White Sox, 08-19-11. Rangers win, 7-4.Rangers vs. White Sox, 08-19-11. Rangers win, 7-4.
Rangers vs. White Sox, 08/19/11. Rangers win, 7-4.

While the White Sox do offer their own scorecard, I generally only use the home scorecard the first time I go to a park, unless I’m particularly enamored with it. Since I had the Eephus League scorebook with me, I used that instead to score both games of the double-header.

Outside of continuing to experiment with putting the numerical designation for the field where hits went instead of using lines or bubbles, there really wasn’t anything weird going on scoring-wise in the game, although in the bottom of the sixth, the Rangers hit everything to right field: a home run, two fly outs, a single, another home run, and a final fly out. I also got to use the ejection line on the Eephus scorecard for the first time as the White Sox’s shortstop got tossed in the eighth inning for arguing a called third strike.


The Accommodations:
I finally got back to the apartment sometime around midnight. I had a brief chat with my host, who was just hanging out that night, and then I went to bed, as I had an early appointment at Wrigley the next morning.



On Seeing Where the Day Went

Wrigley Field


Saturday, August 20, 2011
Chicago, IL


Outside the Game:
Despite watching a double-header the day before, I still got in at a reasonable hour, and was well-rested going into my off-day. This was good, because I had a 9 AM tour ticket for Wrigley Field, and it was one of my primary reasons behind trying to find a sleeping location close to the park.

I grabbed some breakfast and walked over to the park in time to see everyone gathering at the main gate for the tour. I think we were the second group of the day, so all the tour guides were still fresh-faced and jocular. It turned out that our tour guide was married to one of the other tour guides, and so there was that kind of vibe going on.

We got the history lesson as we walked around downstairs, and then got taken up into the big white press booth. Because it was a game day, there were already broadcasters and tech teams in the booths, so we got a walk-through and didn’t get to go in a booth as per normal. After the broadcast booth, they had us sit in the area where I sat for the previous day’s game to get the second part of the history lesson.
After the upper-deck talk, we went down to the field level, and after some more talk, we went out onto the infield. We were allowed to take pictures and tool around the dugouts, but the infield itself was actually behind velvet ropes in case anyone decided to go crazy and make a run for it. After the infield bit, we got taken around to the bleachers for the last part of the tour. We got to mill around the center field bleacher area before being funneled outside. To their credit, the Wrigley tour was nearly all about the park and less a marketing hard-sell that it often is with other park tours, and it was rather enjoyable.
As soon as the tour ended, it started to rain. After doing some shopping at the tourist shops (I mean, who can turn down a bobble-head of a drunk Harray Caray? This is a trick question. No one can.), I quickly retreated to the apartment as the sky seriously opened up. I spent a half hour talking with my host about the options for the day. I was never much interested in the air show, and the weather looked to put the kibosh on the situation one way or the other. I had numerous suggestions to go to a hot dog place (and not gay bar, as one might think) named “Hot Doug’s.” I was aware there would be a wait, but “wait” clearly needed to be defined for me. My host knew the place well, and called up, informing me the wait, in the rain, was about two to two-and-a-half hours. I like a hot dog as much as the next guy, but I am not willing to spend my entire Saturday in the rain waiting in a line that might not get served before the place closes up for the afternoon.

We had some brief discussions on recommended indoor activities, and he said that the art museum is open later, so I decided to take some other advice and go to the Field Museum of Natural History first and then head up to the Art Institute.

So I tramped out into the rain to the Red Line station and headed south. After getting to the station for the museum, I go oriented and headed out in the rain in what I thought the correct direction. As I was trundling along, I came next to another questing family, and the grandfather of the group asked me if this was the right way to the museum, and I assured him that I hoped it was. There was a brief stop under a bridge out of the rain, and, indeed, the Field Museum lay just up a hill in the distance.
A damp uphill walk later, and I was at the museum. Once inside, there was next to no line, as the rain had thankfully kept attendance down. I got the all-inclusive day pass and set off museuming. I spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the Field, from bottom to top. One of the guilty pleasure highlights was a bank of instant-mold wax model-makers in the basement, where I got myself a shiny orange stegosaurus. Much like the natural history museum in New York, the Field is a weird mix of cutting-edge museum science and relic exhibits that haven’t changed in the last half-century. Particularly in the botanical sections, there were the large, wooden display cabinets that would have any proper Victorian gentleman nodding approvingly.
After taking in the two special exhibits and poking around all the nooks and crannies of the place, the sun finally decided it had just about enough of all this rain and came out as I was finishing with the last exhibits on the top floor. As it was approaching closing time anyway, I decided to head out to try my luck at the art institute further north. A quick walk along the lake showed my luck to be not good, as my host had been confused, and the late hours at the art institute was only Thursday nights and not Saturdays.
Seeing as I wasn’t clamoring to get into an art museum to begin with, along with the fact that I tend to take these off days as they come, I wasn’t too concerned. I just kept walking north to get to downtown and see what I could see. This took me past the famous Buckingham Fountain (which nearly compels your subconscious to play “Love and Marriage,”) and Millennium Park as I wandered up to the river. The beauty of not knowing where you are going and only having a vague goal of “north” is that you can never be lost.

Eventually I crossed the river and nearly ran into the Jack Brickhouse statue by the NBC building on the Miracle Mile. Thus oriented, I made my way to Portillo’s for a dog, also at the advice of many Chicago residents. I cut back across town and out to the Navy Pier, and even before I got there, I saw an advertisement for a touristy boat ride. As it was just about sundown and I am a sucker for such things, I bought a ticket and got on the next tour boat, which was just about to leave.

The tour was exactly what I expected it to be, with a smarmy (but not smarmy enough to offend the more conservative tourists) host talking all about the architecture of the city, interspersed with interesting anecdotes about the same. It was altogether a pleasant enough way to pass an hour and give me some practice with the new camera in variable lighting situations.

After the tour ended, I wandered around the larger-than-it-looks Navy Pier, which really does go on for quite a bit into the lake. It seemed to be family oriented type fun, but there were a number of party bars and party boat launches along the length of it, even right underneath the large Ferris wheel. I walked all the way down to the end and all the way back, because, hell, why not?
Hungry again, I decided to find a place to eat, so I wandered back towards downtown. I stumbled across a self-described “Italian steakhouse”,” 437 Rush, settled in a table outside, and ordered a veal chop the size of my head. Apparently, all the walking around had gotten me hungry, because that chop did not stand a chance. During this process, the maître d and I got talking, and it turned out he was originally from Brooklyn. He comped me some potatoes and a free pass to a jazz club down the street. I had been doing some research on finding some place that had some decent single malts, and he assured me that the club had an adequate selection. And so an agenda managed to appear out of the ether again.
After I finished eating, I walked through a light intermittent rain to the club down the street, and I got there just as the band was ending a set, so people were leaving, and I got a seat up at the bar. A quick conversation with one of the bartenders established they did have acceptable scotch choices, and soon one was in front of me as I filled the break period with some alcohol. The band eventually came back and played several sets, and they were quite good. I was particularly fascinated by the guitarist, because for the first time, I actually knew enough to know exactly what he was playing, and how impossibly hard what he was doing actually was.

Later evidence seems to dictate that I made it to a Red Line train and back to the apartment, although there is no direct recollection of said events.


The Accommodations:
 I was at the AirBnB apartment again, but briefly. In the morning, I hung out a little with my host, and then I was off, not to return until some point Sunday morning. The details are not clear.



On Punching a Baby Right in the Damn Face

Return flight
Return flight

Sunday, August 21, 2011
Hoboken, NJ


Outside of the Game:
This day was the yang to the ying of the rest of my weekend. I woke up feeling sluggish and unenergized, almost as though I had spent a good deal of time drinking the night before. It was all so real...

I eventually dragged my ass out of bed and went to the kitchen to get some water. My host was already up and on the couch, having been up later and drank more than myself, but with the benefit of about twenty years less on the odometer. We talked for a little bit, and then he gave me the directions to the Einstein bagel place a few blocks from the apartment, as I was in desperate need of something resembling breakfast. I blearily walked the required distance, made a rambling order until I had said enough words that seemed to be appropriate to the amount of hungry I was, along with the order for my host. I paid the nice lady and made the return trip. Many fine bagels did not survive that trip back to the apartment, in addition to the bagel sandwich I ordered. Let us have a moment of silence for their sacrifice.

Back at the condo, we made short work of the survivors. We just sat around in the living room and talked for a while, mostly about how I needed to get out to the airport. With it being a Sunday and there being a big air show in town, he suggested that I allow myself an extra hour for the trip just in case, and it being O'Hare, he suggested that I get there at least two hours before my flight. After goofing off for as long as seemed reasonable, I went back to the room and repacked all of my accumulated stuff and headed out into the world about noon.

Following the given directions, I went out to catch an Addison bus that would take me out to the blue line for the airport. The first travel complication happened as a bus didn't show up after twenty minutes of waiting. A small group of us were huddled in the shade at the corner trying to keep an eye out for a bus that didn't seem to be coming. However, after a half hour, the item in question finally showed up, and we dutifly piled on. As we were travelling away from all the happenings, the ride out was without incident once it got started. I was dropped off at the blue line station for the airport train and just as I got to the base of the stairs, an O'Hare bound train appeared, and I was at the airport a little after 1 PM, plenty early for my 4 PM plane. As has been said before, I just had no idea how early.

I got my boarding pass at one of the arrayed kiosks, and then fatefully went up to the special people counter to ask if I could move up to the three PM flight to Newark instead. I had tried at the kiosk, but it had let me, and then had prevented me from doing so. Checking at the counter, the attendant told me that the flight was booked full and they didn't have any seats left. He asked if I'd like to go standby by the earlier flight, and in what was surely the most ill-advised statement of the day, I said, "Nah, I'll just wait the hour." Those words actually passed my lips. Those stupid, stupid words...

Anyway, with time to kill, I went and explored Terminal 1 at O'Hare, and having a lot of time to kill, I explored it all, eventually grabbing some lunch before I headed back to the gate just shy of my 3:30 boarding. And a funny thing happened at 3:30. Just as boarding was to begin, our departure time changed to 4:45 due to "air traffic control." Okay, great. Whatever. I killed another 45 minutes doing something or other lost to time. At 4:15, I was back, an, again, just as boarding was to begin, our departure time was changed to 6:00 PM due to "air traffic control." Okay, screw you, air traffic control.

I noticed that all the other flights to Newark had left and were scheduled to leave on time but ours, and I made some quick calls to Continental to try and get put on the 5 PM flight that was still labeled as on time. After talking with an OnePass agent at 4:30, I was assured I had a spot and I should get over to the gate and check in. I got to the gate at 4:31, and was on a line of two people ahead of me. It took the guy at the counter twenty minutes to clear those two people, and at 4:50, I was told they had no record of my reservation.

Even-handedness and the "oh well, what can you do" attitude left the building at this point. I called back OnePass spitting mad to find out why they had lied to me. And I found out that the people at the counter had automatically cancelled my reservation. Ready to do physical damage to myself or others, we eventually determined that because the addition was made so late that the system had called me a no-show because it took me until 4:50 to get to the front of line. I thanked the representative, and then calmly went back to the other departure gate to beat the ever-loving snot out of the counter clerk that cost me the earlier flight. Thankfully for all parties, he was not there.

It came as no real surprise that at 5:30 our departure time was changed to 6:45. But at 6:15, we were surprised to actually board the damn plane. With my fancy pass, I was able to get on early and watch as a family with a baby sat in front of me, a family with a baby sat behind me, and a family with a baby sat to my right. Upon closure of the cabin doors, things sorted themselves out, as the pilot came on and told us that we couldn't take off until 8 PM.

And then the babies started crying. Now, I get it. I was exactly in that mood as well, but it was socially acceptable for them to cry, so whatever. Except that the couple next to me had a future opera star. He cried and screamed and cried and screamed for nearly the entire time we were on the tarmac. And his father considerately had him pointed directly at my right ear for the entire time. And it was then that for the first time, I really considered punching a baby right in the damn face. The first shot would shut him up in surprise, but then he would no doubt continue, but I think by the third one he would get the hint that the process was not going to stop until he did. After a sustained scream in my ear for nearly a half-minute duration, I actually found myself making a fist, but instead followed that with a calm request to the father that he please point his child elsewhere, and he gave me an annoyed look, and then I nearly punched him.

Once we took off and the cabin lights dimmed, the child seemingly inexhaustible energy finally abated, and he went to sleep after nearly two hours of non-stop crying. At some point thereafter, I turned on my overhead light to read, and it woke him and he started crying at his father again, and, gods preserve me, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy that a little.

All things come to an end, more or less. And we eventually landed at Newark Liberty Freedom Guns & Apple Pie Airport a mere seven hours after we were scheduled to depart. Okay. We’re all alive. No one punched any babies. Let’s just go home.

Let’s… just… go… home… I just had my one carry-on bag, so I called my car service to let them know I was ready to be picked up. I was cheerily told that there was a fifteen minute wait. Fine… fine. FINE. You know what? Fine.

Twenty minutes pass. I call back again. Where’s my car? Five more minutes. Fine. Seven minutes pass, and Angry Oogie is now here, and he’s… well, you get the picture. I call up and ask very politely where in the bleeping bleep my mother-bleeping car is, and I’m politely told that the first two people I spoke with didn’t mark me as “arrived” at the airport, so no one knew to send a car.

You know, I kept my stuff together for most of the day. I’m mildly proud of that. That time had passed. I said, with amazing restraint, if the car wasn’t there in two minutes, I was taking a cab, and supervisors would be called and harassed until I felt I had gotten a fair trade of tirade to inconvenience. A car rapidly appeared, and I returned home, just after midnight.


The Accommodations:
Finally, Hoboken.

2011 Chicago