Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers and A Trip To Dealey Plaza

Had been planning on going to a baseball game in Oklahoma City last weekend but ended up watching major league baseball down in Texas instead. That is what you would call a "baseball upgrade".

The famous San Diego Chicken came to town on Saturday night so a handful of us were planning on heading down to the Bricktown Ballpark to watch him but that was before my fellow Seattle Mariners fan Todd asked me if I wanted to head down to Arlington to watch the Mariners play the Texas Rangers. I like the Chicken but the chance to watch the Mariners in a ballpark I had never been to was a little too enticing. We ended up going to watch the teams play on both Friday and Saturday.

Arlington is just outside of Dallas (about 15 miles) and the drive down there usually takes a little over 3 hours. Unfortunately the freeway leading out of OKC is under heavy construction and that combined with Friday afternoon traffic made the commute a long one. We got to the game in the 5th inning and immediate noticed that there were some ugly clouds hanging over our heads. By the 6th inning there was lightning heavy winds were blowing garbage all over the field and the dirt was swirling like a tornado. In the 7th inning the skies opened up and the rain started coming down in buckets. MY FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL RAIN DELAY. That is the beauty of being a lifetime Mariners fan, most of the pro games I have been to have been in the Kingdome or Safeco Field with the retractable roof.

The Rangers were beating the Mariners 5-2 and the rain was coming down hard. I think most of us thought the game was going to be called off early as a game can be considered official after 5 innings. Todd and I didn't have anywhere else to go so we decided to hang out in the concourses with many of the other fans until we heard an announcement. At first most of the 40,000 fans stuck around to see what was going to happen.

The field crew covered the infield while almost everyone else hung out in the concourses to stay dry. A few kids did sneak out to the hill behind the centerfield wall and jumped the fence to slide downhill while thousands of people cheered them on but they were quickly escorted away from the area by security. Over the course of the next hour people gradually started to exit as it didn't look like the rain was going to stop. After over an hour of waiting they annouced that the fireworks show that was supposed to take place after the game was going to take place during the rain delay. Most of the fans stayed up under the covered seats to watch the fireworks but Todd and I decided to sit lower in the rain to show all the Texas fans what us Seattle natives are made of. The favorite line of the night from the Rangers fans that noticed we were wearing Mariners gear was "you guys are used to this weather". We told many of them that we are used to the rain but not the heavy rain that seems to hit the midwest.

The fireworks show was one of the best that I have ever seen and the rain stopped during the show. At the end of the show they announced that the rain delay was over and that they would conclude the game. Great news for us since we were already sitting lower than most of the fans. We decided to sit in the front row right behind the Mariners dugout, figuring that most of the fans were already gone and that we wouldn't be asked to move. Turns out we were right and we watched the last two innings from some of the best seats in the stadium. I even got a couple of pictures of Russell Branyan playing groundskeeper has he grabbed a rake and started shoveling water away from the area in front of the entire dugout. The Mariners made the game interesting but still lost 5-4 as the game ended right around midnight.

Saturday morning we headed into Dallas and went to Dealey Plaza where President Kennedy was killed in 1963. This was my 3rd trip to the historic site but I had never been inside the old Texas Book Depository Museum so we decided to head up to the 6th Floor Museum where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot. I wasn't expecting to see much in the museum but was pleasantly surprised to find that there was quite a bit in the way of pictures and videos of President JFK's life, the event itself as well as events that lead up to and followed the assassination. It is definitely a Dallas must see.

Saturday night we headed back to the stadium for another game only this time without the rain. We got there a couple hours early to check out the stadium. The stadium is located right next to Six Flags Amusement Park as well as the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. The two stadiums aren't quite as close together as the two Seattle pro sports teams as there are two very large parking lots seperating them but relatively speaking, they are close together.

The Texas Rangers were having their yearly Hall of Fame induction ceremony so they invited many of their former players to the park. There were probaby around 40 former players signing autographs before the game and then a ceremony took place right before the game to induct Toby Harrah and Ruben Sierra into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

The game itself was great as Ken Griffey Jr hit a 1st inning 3 run home run. I didn't think about it right away but it was the first time that I had seen Griffey hit a home run in person in over a decade. Felix Hernandez pitched a solid game and the Mariners won 7-2.

After the game we decided to walk across the parking lot to check out the new Dallas Cowboys stadium which is HUGE. The stadium has a capacity of around 100,000 people and cost over 1.1 billion dollars to build. The glass entrance is imposing and from the windows we could see most of the seating as well as the world's largest scoreboard. Very impressive.

We then hopped into the car and made the drive home, arriving at around 3am. Great weekend of baseball and taking in some of the sites that the Dallas area has to offer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oklahoma Panhandle- Guymon and Woodward Thunder Caravan Stops

Interesting day today. Cloudy and somewhat cool in Oklahoma City and yet Seattle is going to possibly have their warmest day on record. Selfishly I am rooting against breaking the record of 100 degrees set on July 20, 1994. I actually remember that day very well as it was the day before Squatch tryouts for the Seattle SuperSonics and I was responsible for making runs to the airport to pick up the mascot contestants. I was trying to explain to the guys that day that we were all hurting since it was our hottest day ever. I like my story and it won't be as good if the record is broken today and I'm not there.

Thought I was going to have a non eventful weekend last week but then I got a phone call on Wednesday night. I wasn't supposed to go on last weekend's Thunder caravan but a last second cancellation meant I was in. This was the road trip version of the caravan as we were going across the state to visit Guymon (about 260 miles away) and Woodward (130 miles away).

The Guymon apprearance was on Friday morning so we drove over on Thursday and arrived at around 9:30 that night. Guymon is west of OKC in the Oklahoma panhandle where the infamous dust bowl of the 1930s took place. Guymon is a nice little community but it is definitely out in the middle of nowhere. We passed through Woodward to get there but didn't see much in the way of people and places for the final two hours of the drive. Not to say that it looked like a scene out of Grapes of Wrath (don't think the drought of the 1930s had had much effect) but there wasn't much going on. We did pass by the city of Fort Supply which had a jail right next to the main road and had a highway sign that read "Caution, hitchhiker might be escaped inmates". Probably not the place to have your car break down.

Our Guymon event had a huge turnout of kids as we had a visit from a couple different kids groups. The temperature was around 100 and we gave away over 325 hot dogs in our two hours. We then broke everything down and headed 130 miles east to Woodward to spend an evening before our event there the following day. Included a nice picture on here of a family we met on the way back when stopping at a gas station. The kids were excited to see our Thunder fan and wanted to get their picture taken with us.

Once we got into Woodward, our staff went off in two different directions. Three of the ladies went off to a roller skating rink and the rest of us headed over to a place called Crystal Beach for a barbecque. Woodward is a town of 11,000 people and the main street going through town isn't exactly impressive but Crystal Beach is just a few blocks off the main drag and was very nice. It is a large park compex that I am told costs over $25 million. It has a small water park, walking pathes, playgrounds, a small man made lake and an arena for outdoor sporting events. There may have even been other things but those are just the things that I saw. We had a great BBQ with both Thunder and Mid First Bank employees. Mid First brings their large corporate grill to all of our caravan events and Thunder contracted employee Paul made a tradeout with his friend at Cusack Meats so we had an amazing meal at a picnic area. Definitely the highlight of the trip. Afterward we all met up over at the local Woodward bowling alley for some more "fun". Hate to say it but it was probably the worst bowling alley I've ever been to. The floor was extremely slippery, they didn't have very many balls to choose from and the bowling pins in our line where hardly ever lined up correctly. Their staff did provide us with some entertainment as they all went out for a smoke outside and left a 4 year old girl on the counter to eat her bag of chips while dipping her hand in a dirty fish bowl that was sitting on the main counter. Bad parenting and a few of us felt like saying something but what are you going to do. At least the alley was good for an interesting story.

Saturday's event at Woodward was very hot!! I thought I had heard that it was going to be cooler than the Guymon stop but it wasn't. I know that we drove by a bank about 40 miles from there on the way home that said 107 degrees and I would believe it. By the time we were done at 2pm we were drained. We did find a nice place to eat lunch in Woodward and they had big screen televisions that were showing a live MLS game from Qwest Field where the Sounders were playing Chicago. Fun to watch a Seattle sporting event on TV in Oklahoma.

Not too much else to report on for now. As I'm typing this the clouds have cleared out and the sun has arrived.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aerosmith and ZZ Top in Dallas, 2nd Caravan Weekend and JQ's Japanese Steakhouse Birthday Dinner

Another busy July weekend in OKC. Friday night a handful of us went to Musashi's Japanese Steakhouse for my friend Jason's birthday dinner. You did read that correctly, JAPANESE STEAKHOUSE IN OKLAHOMA CITY. Who knew.

It was a very busy weekend for the Thunder Events & Entertainment Department as the caravan was back on the road and the tryouts for the Thunder Girls dance team were also taking place. I know that some of my co-workers barely had time to sleep this past week so I'm sure the dinner was a nice diversion. We did get a group photo with a handful of cameras and I tried to ham it up a little when it was time to use my camera. Unfortunately as you can see, I failed to give the old school two finger bunny ears to my pal Tyler. How do you fail to give someone ears when they are standing right next to you??? We also managed to have some fun with the statues that stand outside the door. Pictures include me as well as my friend/boss John.

Most of the E & E staff was needed at the dance team tryouts on Saturday so they went to the "bullpen" and had me step in to run the caravan on Saturday. I have to laugh a little when I say run the event. I was put in charge but I had some world class people working with me that were much more versed in the entire routine so the supervisor portion was a breeze. The labor work was still a challenge as summer is in full effect. Fortunately it wasn't as hot as last weekend. We all met at the Thunder office at 5:30 am and made our way to our two stops in Weatherford (68 miles from the office) and Cordell (99 miles away). Another long day but I think a great time was had by all. I'm just glad I didn't ride the elevator while at the office on Saturday morning. Unfortunately my friend Sabrina did later on that morning and ended up getting stuck in the elevator for an hour and a half. Sabrina is the Dance Team Choreographer and the timing was bad as it was probably her busiest day of the year with her tryouts going on. Did I mention that she is also pregnant. Fortunately she made it out safely and the tryouts went on. I'm sure she will have a fun story to share with her child someday.

Since I didn't get enough live music at Rocklahoma last week, I headed down to Dallas on Sunday to see Aerosmith and ZZ Top play at the Superpages.com Amphitheater at the Texas State Fairgrounds. My buddy James invited me to this concert last week and I'm glad he did as we had a great time. We met up with a couple of James' friends: Dubs and Jordan, who like James are students at Oklahoma University. Jordan's parents live a few miles from where the concert was held so we arrived early and hung out there for a while. Jordan's parents are great people and his Mom lived in the Seattle area between 1979-1983. Always fun to meet someone down here with a Seattle connection.

I am not a huge fan of Aerosmith and ZZ Top but I do like them and hadn't seen them before so that was exciting but I think I got even more excited to drive by the Cotton Bowl which is located on the fairgrounds. The Cotton Bowl isn't quite the football mecca that it used to be, the actual Cotton Bowl game isn't even played there anymore as the new Dallas Cowboys stadium will now hold the January game, but it is still a historic stadium that has hosted many great college football games (Oklahoma and Texas will continue to play each other there every year) as well as being the home of the Dallas Cowboys up until 1971.

Jordan made a couple of new friends at the concert (his new female friend will get mentioned in the next paragraph). He and I were walking around the venue when some random guy yelled out to him and flexed his bicep. Jordan has this beat up old Blue Oyster Cult t-shirt that he likes to wear at concerts and the guy saw us walking by. Turns out the guy has a Blue Oyster Cult tattoo on his bicep. he got it in the 1970s. When we were walking back to our seat we decided to stop by where the guy was sitting and got a picture of the two Blue Oyster Cult buddies.

The concert was a lot of fun. The amphitheater was a good old venue and the bands both sounded great. The best time might have been during the break between the two bands. Dubs ran into an ex co-worker and invited their group to sit right in front of us. We had general admission seats on a grassy hill. Their group was drinking the entire time and they were characters. One of the women came back with a margarita and Jordan asked her how it was. Instead of telling him, she decided to turn around and lick Jordan's lips so he could have a better taste. Jordan is the youngster of the group at 19 years old and the woman was 35. She was also attending the concert with her husband who conveniently was not sitting with us at the time. She then grabbed James hand and did a palm reading. For the record, we all decided she wasn't even close on the reading. After the show we drove directly back to Oklahoma City which was over 200 miles away. I got home at 3am.

Another story for the blog might be the things I didn't do over the last couple of days. The softball World Cup was in town and I was going to go to the Championship game between the US and Australia. I asked a few people if they wanted to go and all said no. I debated going by myself up until the very last second but in the end decided to watch it from the couch. The US won 3-1. I also almost ended up going to Tobey Keith's I Love This Bar yesterday to watch the finals of the dance team tryouts. I was going to go but found out 30 minutes before the start that the place was already packed. I didn't have a reserved seat and most of my co-workers that were attending were actually working the event so I again decided to stay home. No fun stories or pictures from those events.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wakeboard National Championships, Rocklahoma and Thunder Caravan

I'm a little slow on the blog this week as everything I am written about happened last week. I had an exciting 4 days starting last Thursday as I went to check out the Wakeboard National Championships on Thursday, attended the Rocklahoma music festival on Friday and again on Sunday and I worked the Thunder caravan on Saturday. I have some fun little stories of Rocklahoma that I hope people will find enjoyable, even if you don't like the music.

Thursday afternoon I had a meeting at the Thunder office and immediately afterward drove a few miles on over to the Oklahoma River where the Wakeboard National Championships were taking place. I am not a fan of water sports and don't like participating. Having said that, I still appreciate the talent that goes into performing on a wakeboard. My brother in law loves wakeboarding and heard that the championships were going on in OKC so he suggested that I go check it out. I figured that since I was already going to be downtown that day, I might as well see what it was all about. I got there at around 4:00 pm and it was over 100 degrees out, fortunately I had a pair of shorts and t-shirt in my car so I changed and went on over to see what the best wakeboarders were capable of doing. The championships were going on all weekend so Thursday they were doing preliminary competitions to try to qualify for the championships and I think they called the guys that I was watching the Junior Nationals, I'm guessing they were around 16 years old. Some of those kids were doing amazing things with flips and various tricks. I watched for about 2 hours which was just enough for me.

Friday afternoon I drove 150 miles Northeast up to Pryor, Oklahoma for the 3rd Annual Rocklahoma Festival. Pryor's venue is Oklahoma's version of the Gorge only not quite as scenic (probably more like White River Amphitheater since it is only about 40 miles from Tulsa) and has become the home to one of the nation's best Heavy Metal/Glam Rock festivals in the nation. I know I don't fit the profile but as many of my family and friends know, I grew up on Glam Rock (Heavy Metal, Big Hair Bands, or whatever you want to now call the genre) so having this festival not far from OKC was exciting for me. Much like Seattle, I don't know very many people in Oklahoma that appreciate this music so I went solo.

I was working for the Thunder early the next day so this was quite the commitment as it meant I wouldn't be sleeping much that night. I got to the festival at around 6:30 pm and got to listen to Warrant, Night Ranger and Ratt. I actually saw Warrant and Ratt in Clinton Oklahoma a few months back so my primary reason for making the trip was to see Night Ranger, a band that I have been a huge fan of since I was about 12 years old and have never seen in concert. Warrant was awesome as I knew they would be and Night Ranger was phenominal. Most of the guys in the band are probably in their late 40s but I have a feeling they are a little more conservative than some of the other bands of their era and haven't lived quite as hard as some of them. They were high energy, sounded great and were well worth the trip. I only listened to Ratt through the first 4 songs as I had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me and had to get up at 4:45 am the next morning. I had a great time and knew that the festival was going on all weekend and that I would be back.

Friday night I got less than 2 hours of sleep as I had to be at the Thunder offices at 6am on Saturday morning to work on the Thunder Caravan. The caravan takes place every weekend during the summer (usually only on Saturdays) and is an event in which we stop off in two different cities throughout the area to set up a carnival type of atmosphere for a couple of hours in order to promote the team. Our events last Saturday also included our mascot Rumble, a couple members from the Thunder Dance Team at each location as well as our play by play broadcaster Brian Davis (the same Brian Davis from back in Seattle).

Our caravan stops last Saturday were in Chickasha (about 45 miles southwest of OKC) and then Anadarko which was 15 miles west of Chickasha. Our day consisted of pulling into the Mid First Bank parking lot at 7am, setting up inflatables, a sport court, hoop, tents, tables, sodas, etc and then we were open to the public from 9:00-11:00. At the end we broke everything down and loaded up the 2 trucks and a van, went to Chickasha and set up all over again in another Mid First parking lot as they are our primary sponsor, open to the public from 3:00-5:00 and then break down and head for home. At the stop in Chickasha we were set up right across the street from JoeBob's Bail Bonds. Don't see too many places named JoeBob's in Seattle. Chickasha's stop was somewhat quiet as it was early in the morning. It also turned out that their annual Fish Derby was also taking place that morning so many potential fans were out catching fish. Anadarko was a much better turnout as we probably had around 250 people show up.

These events are a lot of fun but there is some labor work involved which is tough when it is over 100 degrees out and you are going on less than 2 hours of sleep. I felt faint at times but drank plenty of fluids throughout the day and let my adrenaline carry me. I wanted to go back to Rocklahoma that night as there were a couple of bands that I really wanted to see (Jackyl and Stryper) but I was just too tired to make that long drive and then go to a concert so I decided to head home, rest and get a good night of needed sleep.

Saturday night was a time for sleep so I didn't bother getting up any too early on Sunday. I knew that there were a lot of old school bands playing at Rocklahoma that I really wanted to hear so I hopped into my car and head back to Pryor where I hoped to see Vixen, Bonfire, Nelson, Great White, Skid Row and Twisted Sister.

Vixen was hitting the stage at around 12:30 and were one of the bands I really wanted to see. They were an all girl band that was big in the late 80s and although they no longer have the same lead singer, I still wanted to hear how the old tunes sounded. Unfortunately I got a late start and combined that with a one hour traffic delay going through Tulsa, I missed them entirely. I was bummed but I was still happy with my decision to sleep in.

Sunday was another hot day out, I'm guessing around 105 degrees. A German band called Bonfire was the first act that I saw on the main stage. Apparently they were somewhat popular in the mid 1980 but I had never heard of them. They sounded good though and I thought the lead signed was a little crazy for wearing a jean jacket and jeans in the heat. He did end up taking off the jean jacket and fortunately he kept the jeans on :-)

There was approx 45 minutes between bands and the parking lot was much closer to the stage than say the Gorge in George so I made it a point to use that time to head out to my car, lift the back door, plant my lawn chair in the shade of the door and read a book. That worked out really well. The next band was Nelson, twin brothers Gunnar and Mathew (sons of the late Rickey Nelson of music and Ozzie and Harriet fame). Nelson had a few hits right around 1990 and I've never been a huge fan but I do like them. I sat down to listen to a few songs but used some of their stage time to walk around the grounds, eat, drink and stand underneath the mist tents that were set up throughout the grounds. Don't know what we would have done without the mist.

I also discovered something on Sunday that I didn't realize on Friday which I thought was ingenious. Most of us had General Admission seats which meant we were further away from the stage. They set up this system in the middle of the stage where there was a fence going right out from the stage for about 100 yards and you could get in line to get close to the stage. You got in the line of people and every 3 or 4 minutes the security guards would wave 20-30 people forward and let them get up right next to the stage to watch the band. When your time was up they would make you exit along the other side of the fence to where you were able to either go back to the GA area or you could get back in the line again and work your way back up to the front of the stage for a few minutes. Early in the day when Bonfire was playing, you could stand right up by the stage and not get asked to exit at all. The lines started getting longer throughout the day and by the time Twisted Sister played that night, it took about 30 minutes to keep up to the stage. Great system!!

Great White played next and I had mixed feelings about seeing them. I am a huge fan of their music and had only seen them one other time, about 10 years ago in a club in Seattle. That night they were having equipment problems through the first 3 songs and during the 4th song their lead signer, Jack Russell walked off the stage and never returned. It was a funny night because the guy that was their opening act ended up running onto the stage and sang a few cover songs with the rest of the band so it wasn't a complete waste but I more or less decided that night that they ripped us off and that I wasn't going to go out of my way to ever go see them again. Since that night Great White has gone through so hardships as they were the band that was playing a club in Rhode Island a few years back when a pyro accident caught the place on fire and killed 100 people. Unfortunately I still have not seen them play a great show. They came onto the stage and Jack Russell limped out to the microphone and sounded awful. He was slurring a lot and I seriously wondered if he had possibly had some sort of stroke in the not so distant past. A few songs in Russell started talking to the crowd and told of how he had recently been in an accident and broke his pelvis, back and a bunch of other bones. I'm pretty sure that the slurring was the results of being on pain medication. He mentioned that it was either lay in bed with a drip going into him or play music so he choose music. I commend him for toughing it out but he was definitely not at his best.

Skid Row was next and they were worth the price of admission. They were one of my favorite bands in high school and I had never seen them until Rocklahoma. I was always questioning if I wanted to see them as they had a new lead signer. Turns out he was very good and sounded great singing their old hits.

Between Skid Row and Twisted Sister, I decided to check out some of the side stages. LA Guns was playing at the main side stage and it was packed. They were fairly big for a time back in my teen years and I was a little surprised that they were playing a side stage. I listened to one song and then decided to make my way over to another tent with a stage to check out a band. I walked in and there were only about 100 people listening to this group with 9 guys on the stage (3 guitar players, 1 drummer and 5 signers). It wasn't a very big stage and so they looked crowded but they looked like they were having a great time and they sounded really good. I found out that their name was Bang Camaro and that they are from Boston. I looked them up on the internet when I got home and found that when they play on the east coast closer to home, they sometimes have up to 15 or 20 people up on stage as they like having a big chorus sound. They made a new fan in me and I will definitely make it a point to see them if I ever have another chance.

I'm not a big Twisted Sister fan but I do like them and have always wanted to check them out. Very interesting band. They are very proud (and rightly so) that they have their same original 5 band members still intact and mentioned that a few times. This was also their 25th anniversary of their biggest album so to commemorate it they played every song on in the order that it appears on the album. This made for a few funny moments as lead signer Dee Snyder got a little confused about the order a couple of times and told a story about a song only to find it wasn't the one they were about to play. Interesting band in that Snyder still wears the make up from back in the day (other band members don't) and he also likes to drop f-bombs whenever he speaks. He told the crowd that they only play about 12 shows a year these days so it was cool to see them.

Good times in Pryor, OKC, Chickasha and Anadarko. I have a feeling my next blog might involve yet another concert. Stay tuned.