6/3/08 – The Tour’s Gritty Early Days

So, we’re beginning day three of the tour and if Jackie has learned nothing else, she’s learned this: keep me away from caffeine before a redeye flight. The silver lining was that there was an empty seat between us. Trying to follow a conversation with me was like trying to drink from a fire hose. But we completed about eight hours of brainstorming during the two-hour flight between Seattle and Vegas. Our plane was late and we barely made our connecting flight to D.C. This scene foreshadowed things to come — mainly the manic drive from D.C. to Philly the very next day. But, even with harbingers hovering, let’s keep up the suspense, shall we? I’ve got so little else…

The approach into National Airport was as magnificent as it was frighteningly low. Straight down the Potomac and over Georgetown University, Watergate, The Kennedy Center. Directly over the Lincoln Memorial and looked straight down the Mall to the Capitol Building with the White House and Jefferson Memorial balancing out the axis on either side of the Washington Monument. I grew up in this area and visit my family here often and never tire of looking at the monuments. Selfishly, I had taken the window seat and tried to point out stuff to Jackie, who hadn’t been to D.C. for more than twenty years. Sorry, Jackie — But that’s what you get for slipping me your Nyquil and then giving me the blow up pillow with a hole in it while I was in a weakened stupor. They look silly enough wrapped around a person’s neck while inflated, imagine how pathetic (and desperate) I looked with a flaccid pillow clinging to my shoulders with nothing but static to keep it in place? I arrived into D.C. Sunday morning with a crick in my neck. My dad and stepmom picked us up. Hi Dad! Know a good chiropractor?

After a relaxing day and dinner at my dad’s house with my Uncle Gerry, who’s not shy about mentioning his six handicap (and nor should he be – that’s golf, folks) we woke up the next morning refreshed and ready for our drive up to Philly for a 5:30 appearance on ComcastSport’s Daily News Live TV program. Afterward, we thought that we’d take in the 7PM Phillies v. Cinn game and Jackie noticed that Ken Griffey, Jr. was still aiming for #600 (home runs, folks) and that this could be his Big Night. As dad went out to fulfill his fatherly duties by filling up the car for us (he probably kicked a tire or two), Jackie got on-line to get tix for us but, instead of paying the $6-per-ticket “convenience” charge, we just figured that we’d get to Philly early and buy them at the box office before our interview. Our first misstep. We left my dad’s place at 1:30 to give us a good four hours to make the two-hour drive to Philadelphia. Our second misstep.

Rolling through my old stompin’ grounds – behind the wheel of my dad’s old Land Cruisr’ – it took me less than five minutes to get lost. Back on the road, we took I-95 through Baltimore, by Camden Yards, Fort McHenry and, surely, over a few open-air drug markets. We were cruising, making good time and mortgaging off the earnings from our next book in what was a small fortune in tolls. As soon as we hit the Delaware border – and handed over $5 for the privilege of doing so – we hit some traffic. That’s ok, I think, we’ve got two hours to make 46 miles. An hour later, we’re still in traffic and had traveled only 6 miles. Sweat ensues. Silence in the car. I’m afraid to speak, but do: “You know,” I say to Jackie, “if this doesn’t clear up within ten minutes, we aren’t going to make it.” Silence. Long pause. More silence. “I know.” What we didn’t know, however, was that it would clear up within five minutes. As soon as it did, I floored the beast and watched the needle on gas gauge slip into oblivion. Jackie called the producer who assured us that we’d make it. It was 5PM and we’d just passed Newark, Del – 38 miles away. I’m not sure what map he was looking at but he was right. I did what I was supposed to do — which is drive fast — and Jackie started changing and doing her make-up in the passenger seat. She also clicked some terrible photos of Philadelphia as we crossed the bridge into town.

We ran into the studio at 5:25 where Producer Brian was waiting for us. “See? You made it!” The same soothing soul who kept us sane on the road, assured us that we still had time to gussy up for the show and hit the make-up chair. Again, he was right. Maybe we hadn’t really made any missteps, after all. Maybe we were just being efficient.

The hosts of the show didn’t seem peeved that they were torn from their hard-hitting sports program to talk to a coupla chicks. In fact, I think they were talking about the 1983 NBA season, which ended when the 76ers swept the Lakers in the finals, in the segment before ours. And in we walk… but they were very generous with their time and the staff treated us very well. Hope they didn’t lose too many viewers.

Off we ran to the game, walking through the parking lot where fans were tailgating – sitting next to cases of Bud Light. And in full view of the police! This wouldn’t happen in Seattle, we thought. And then we said just that. Jackie was getting excited. “Let’s buy nice seats.” Didn’t need to convince me. Thus, the real coup of the day is that, as we started toward the ticket booth, we were approached by a scalper. “Need tickets? Better prices, right here.” We stalled. How could that be? “Do the Phillies have a gameday premium price at the window?” I asked (the Mariners and a few other places have that). Jackie and I had let go the $44 tickets (not including the service charges) on-line in Section 137, row 33. We were armed with information. Then I started pulling information from an article I’d recently written about scalping… I can do this. I bucked up. Hell, if I can take three scalpers out to lunch and tail seven of them for a game — finding out all their secrets – I should be the one woman on earth who is well-equipped for this transaction. “You get these from season ticket holders?” I asked. “Yes, I work with StubHub,” he said.”OK, what do you have?” Section 130, row 21. $44. He gave us the pair for $70. Again, maybe our lack of planning wasn’t really a misstep.

The Phillies Citizen Bank stadium has a very open, festival atmosphere that immediately swept us off our feet. And, when we like something, we are driven to shop and buy team merchandise, namely a Philly Phanatic doll for my son. We were even lured into the “restaurant” attached to the stadium, McFaddens, which was more beach bar than restaurant, with a few kids running about, live music and people actually smoking cigarettes. Post game, it turned into a Coyote Ugly-type scene w/ the waitresses dancing on the bar pouring drinks directly into the mouths of anxious men.

But, the game. First, no Griffey. The Comcast guys told us so we knew that going in. We took our beer and headed down to our seats, which is sooooo much better than heading up to your seats. Jackie found them and we nestled in. “Hey where’d you get these seats?” the guy next to us asked. Turns out he was the “season ticket holder.” I felt a little guilty that we got his tickets for $35 but we were very appreciative and I don’t think Dr. Steve really cared. He was there with his son and we chatted most of the game – me w/ Dr. Steve and Jackie w/ the people on the other side. Turns out Dr. Steve is a baseball memorabilia collector, which is an understatement, and we had a good time.

Game over in 8 ½ innings, 5-4. Great time. As we head out, Jackie’s thinking “Philly Cheese Steak.” Didn’t need to convince me. We go straight up Broad to Independence Hall looking for a suitable place and come up empty handed. We finally stop into a unfriendly place called the Friendly Tavern. Drink a beer and ask for a good place to get cheese steaks. It was 11PM and we had a two hour drive back to D.C. – this, we planned for. (Maybe that’s why we shouldn’t plan too much.) We were instructed to go to Geno’s to “go down, take a left, keep going for a couple blocks and then another left and a right and you’ll see it. You can walk.” OK. It’s late, we’re in Philly. We get in the car. Jackie tries to recite the directions and against all of my Portuguese blood, I listen. We ended up in an alley that was barely big enough for us to fit through. I take over. “It’s all in the ears, Jackie. The place is over here.” Eureka! I’m good for something. And we found Genos: A little slice of Vegas in the middle of Philadelphia brownstones.

The rest was pretty messy. Eating a Philly cheesesteak (with extra onions) while driving down I-95 at midnight. We got home at 2AM, giggled about our day and retired to our rooms. By morning, we had a few meaty orders (sans onions) from those who saw us on the Comcast show and a note from Dr. Steve. Not a bad take, I’d say.

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