So, I'm back in Portland after a day up north in the land of the big pointy thing, and all things lime green. I always have good adventures up there, but I rarely go north lately except for watching soccer, so it was a different feeling to be getting ready for a trip that didn't involve getting soccer gear ready to go. Oh, yes, and it was full of highlights..
9:00 AM - I thoroughly love to sleep in, especially on days where I know that I'm not going to work. However, I couldn't sleep in too late, because there were things to do before heading up north. Girl and I had worked on cleaning out part of our garage and attic all day Sunday, so I hadn't had much time to check email or write my blog for my other job. So, I woke up early to get my entry done in time so it was relevant, and not too terrible. I must say, it all came together after finding some nice pictures from Saturday, and the rest wrote itself. I was able to eat some breakfast hurriedly, shower up, read my emails, and then head upstairs to dress.
11:30 AM - I was finally shaved and getting ready to dress when I walked into our bedroom, and girl asked me if I was running late. I said just a touch, but nothing that is a big issue. I know she's a huge proponent for being on time to places, and I'm getting so much better after years of being the late one to my friends. I was constantly late, an annoying habit that I learned from my mother, and only broke after many years of being embarrassed by it. It usually came down to not properly judging how much time it would take to get somewhere, and knowing that we had an appointment at noon, I felt we had plenty of time to be there. I grabbed a dress shirt, which girl vetoed, mostly because it was hot outside. I just wanted to look nice for the show, and so I found a nice t-shirt and pressed shorts, and we were ready to go.
11:45 AM - Girl and I got into our car, Sergio, and headed up to Enterprise Rent A Car to pick up our rental. This might seem like an odd thing, especially since Sergio is a very roomy car, gets great gas mileage, and is extremely comfortable for long trips. He's also covered in Timbers gear and stickers, and going into the land of the flounder, we felt he would be a very easy target for vandalism. We read a story about a friend of green sailor's, a gal we know from the TA, who had her car vandalized up there when she was there for 3 hours. We decided not to risk it, and left for Enterprise, who had given us a great rental deal with a coupon.
11:53 AM - It helps if you remember the damn coupon, which needed to be presented at the time of rental. I had a sneaking suspicion I'd forgot something, and I was right. I remembered the confirmation email, licenses, credit card, but the coupon escaped me. We hurried back to the house to grab it, and then head to the rental car place.
12:05 PM - We pulled into Enterprise, and they had a couple of silver cars in the parking lot, so we knew that we would have a choice between non-descript and non-descript. No bright colors, no big cars, just something to blend in, which is what we were looking for. The Enterprise clerk greeted us nicely, and we briefly chatted about our information, rental details, and then he asked what we were doing with the car. Girl mentioned we were heading to the Depeche Mode show up north, but that since our car was covered in soccer stuff, we needed to rent a car that wasn't a moving target for vandals. His exact words were, "Timbers Army?", and we both nodded. We didn't even mention the Timbers, or the whole MLS thing, he just knew and understood. The fact we didn't have to pay an extra damage deposit was awesome. We checked out the car, then headed back home for some final details, and then planned our trip northward.
1:00 PM - Google maps made our expected destination seem easy to find, with very detailed directions, so I felt confident that we could find where we were going. Ok, Key Arena is a big freaking building next to a big pointy thing, so how hard can it be to find? Girl attended to some last minute details, gathered up her discology of Depeche Mode discs, and we headed out to Freddy's for some quick snacks and the ATM before leaving.
1:20 PM - I pull into Freddy's with a small, but important list of things needed for the trip. I tend to sneeze while driving, and having tissues about is very important, and we also wanted to get some munchies for the road, and some cash for parking, concert stuff, and foods. As I left U-Scan, I saw a group of elderly folks getting off their shuttle bus to go shopping at Freddy's. I was about to miss the old folks shopping, and I was happy. Look, I love older folks, but when you are in a hurry to get somewhere, you don't want to get stuck behind someone who might be moving at a slower pace.
1:43 PM - We only have a quarter tank of gas, and so girl reminds me we should fill up before we go. She had mentioned it before, and the rental guy talked about it, but apparently, my mind was elsewhere at that point, and so we headed to Chevron for some gas. I had to pull over to find out what side of the car the gas tank was on, and once I pulled up to the pump, I realized that I was still sitting on my wallet. I pulled everything out of my pockets, realizing that I had indeed remembered the tickets, and girl put the things in cup holders and slots in the car to help with organization. Our rental only has a 12 gallon tank, so fuel economy will be important here. But it's a small Yaris, so I'm not worried too much.
1:55 PM - We leave Portland proper on I-205 North, and immediately encounter traffic. It could be an accident, or something, uh, no it's the cars piled up to get onto the Airport Way exit east. I was wrong in identifying the cause, but it didn't hold us up too much, and we were off.
2:02 PM - The first Depeche Mode disc is put into the CD player, and we are now listening to one of girl's favorite bands ever. She even taught in the town in England where most of the band is from, and has seen them 5 times already plus a few solo shows for their lead singer, Dave Gahan. I know that when you date someone, you learn more about their interests and want to know more about the things they love, so I was happy to hear more about the story of Mode. They've been around since 1980, and gone through different stages of musical development, drug issues, two near death experiences for Gahan, losing one of the original members, Vince Clarke, and the general history of a band over the years. What I'm impressed about as we motor along the freeway is the different musical styles and approaches this band takes. They take very unique influences, and arrange them in beautiful, haunting, rocking songs, and I can say that I've never fully appreciated their musical talent until now. Granted, I wasn't much into goth or dance music growing up, so I didn't run out and listen to them way back when. But, they do impress me with their musical talent.
3:30 PM - We pull into Scatter Creek rest stop in Washington, making great time, and I'm listening to more Mode, including the disastrous first album, which is really not good. OK, they had one hit song from the album, but the rest of it is pure crap. And listening to what they put out after it, I could see why they wanted Clarke to leave. The music seems to have more weight and substance to it, and the remaining guys seem to have more of a personal investment in the outcome. The rest stop is full of Mariners fans, heading up north for baseball. I felt like girl and I were the only people in the rest stop not wearing Mariners gear.
3:58 PM - Phantom traffic jam in Tacoma. Traffic always stops there, usually right near the Tacoma Dome. Not sure why, it's a rather ugly building from the outside, but maybe it's because it looks like a boob.
4:10 PM - The clouds had been picking up as we continued to head north. We left Portland in a sunny, hot state, and the clouds picked up more the further we headed north. I felt a few raindrops on the windscreen, and so I went to operate the windshield wipers. Trouble was, I wasn't 100 percent how to make them run, and the raindrops soon became an absolute downpour, and I'm in the fast lane going about 75. I try to not panic, and get over to the right to slow down and figure out things, and proceed to put my hand over the handle, so girl can't see what is going on. I finally pull down on the handle, and they start working, but it was a rather tense moment. I'm realizing that I should always do a car check to ensure I know how to run things before leaving, but that fact doesn't help me in the middle of I-5 going really fast. The crisis is averted, and we continue northward, passing Fife and the creepy water park.
4:35 PM - We finally have to stop just south of the Emerald City for traffic, and we can see Qwirst Field and Insurance Land to our left. Cars are darting from lane to lane, just to inch up closer to the car in front of them, but we are in no hurry. Our exit is Mercer, which is north of the downtown core, and so we just have to wait things out. But it appears that things are moving along slowly, then things magically free up just before the Seneca exit, and we are in the clear, as we take our exit and head east.
4:38 PM - This city sucks for signage. Thankfully, we ended up taking the right turn, but even Google maps couldn't point out how dumb it is to turn from a road to another road, but they are the same name. Whatever, we get past it, and move along Broad to get to Mercer, and soon, we are within sight of the Needle and Key Arena up close. I pull onto 1st Avenue, as we are looking for a specific parking garage to park, and I miss the entrance and have to loop back around. Apparently, girl did the same thing the last time she drove up here, so I don't feel bad, but we loop around, get into the right entrance, pay our money and we are parked at 4:49 PM. Not bad time considering.
4:50 PM - We decide to wander around the Center area, with the Needle, expo area, and other stuff to see around. The arena doesn't open until 7 PM, and we are hungry, so we wander about to find some food and get exercise. We walk around the park area, and see a few people laying on the grass, playing in the fountain, eating food, doing a lot of activities we see in Portland. We finally wander into the Center House, the food court area next to the Monorail. We scour the food option, and decide that a visit to the loo is in order. Once done, we examine the rest of the options, and realize that we are in the darkest, most scary food court ever. Over half the tables are empty, and the only people eating here seem to all have tourist maps and cameras about. We decide to wander around a bit more for exercise, and see if there are other food options around.
5:25 PM - We walked around the perimeter of the park, seeing the Needle up close, and both remembering when you didn't have to pay to get up there. It's now a good charge to catch the elevator up there, and so we wander amongst the rides and carnival games. For a city this large, I'm surprised about how bad of shape some of these rides are in, but people seem to be riding them. Well, except for the log ride, because nobody wants to get wet. We soon wander into one of the auditoriums where the bumper cars are at, and we find one of the claw games. For those of you that know us, we have quite a history of winning prizes in the claw games, and one of girl's favorite toys was won in a claw machine on this very site. She plunks a quarter into the machine, and soon realizes there is no joystick, it's just two buttons to press to go back and forth and right to left. She notes there is an whale that is on top of the pile, and jokes about getting him. After pressing the back and forth, she tries to go back more but the button gives out. In frustration, she pressed the right to left, and it goes down, grabs the whale, retrieves it to the top, and drops it in the prize slot. We're not sure what forces are going on here, but we're struck by the absolute hilarity of our situation. The whale is the mascot of our most hated rivals, and now we have a small representation of one. But, after considering it, we realize that it must have been karma at work. The whale didn't want to be there anymore, and wanted to come home with us. He was put into girl's purse, and we tried to determine a name for our new mascot, perhaps something spy like.
5:50 PM - We find a brew pub, and drink a few and eat some good happy hour food at a place not too far from Key Arena. The first round was 8 bucks, and we both got big drinks. We also saw the first group of Mode groupies gathering, as they were comparing backstage passes and concert shirts with each other. It was almost like watching people try to one up each other in a display of who loves them most, and what's funny is that I'm sitting next to probably the biggest Mode fan around, and she's doing her casual best here. She's seen their hometown, been to the school they went to, knows all their songs, but doesn't flaunt it.
7:15 PM - We hit the loo one more time, and then head to Key Arena to get in. I get my ticket, and we enter the security area, where girl needs to empty part of her purse before we can enter. She mentions her tissues, the whale she just won, the security gals says the whale is really cute, and just waives her in. The mascot is paying off big time, as we move inside the arena to find our seats. The first bit of confusion is that they don't use sections up here, they use aisles to show different areas of the arena. I end up heading in the wrong direction, but we're reoriented, and soon heading to Aisle 1. We find our seats, and sit down for a sec.
7:22 PM - Key Arena actually looks in great shape for something the NBA called the worst arena around. It certainly looks a lot better than the Memorial Coliseum, as the seats all look very clean, and the scaffolds are shiny. I see the stage to our left, and it's a huge jumbotron of video screens and lights. Right now, we are 2 of about 2,000 early arrivals. I decide to wander off to get a concert t-shirt for my sister and girl, and go upstairs.
7:25 PM - Concert shirts are bloody expensive, and they've got a lot of different versions of them, but the whole souvenir line is moving along quickly. Apparently, fans know what they want, even if the line is super long all over. I plunk down $80 in cash for 2 shirts, and I'm back to my seat within 15 minutes. The crowd is still filing in, but the arena is only 1/8 full as I return.
8:00 PM - Peter, Bjorn and John take the stage as the opening act, and they absolutely go nuts in their first couple of songs. Ok, they sound like the scandenavian part of Metalocalypse or the Swedish Chef, but they can play. One of the singers during a song jumps into the crowd on the floor, and lies down on about 5 empty seats and just starts singing on his back. He jumps around, hand slapping with some fans, and gets a present from security as he returns to stage. Apparently, he left his percussion instrument on the seats during his tour, and the crowd made sure to pass it back to him. 25 minutes after they started, they were done, and the stadium lights went back up. According to some reports, the union people that work at various union arenas have been protesting about hours and not getting breaks and lunches, so they are talking breaks during the show, which delays some of the set up and tear down. It happened in Madison Square Garden, and apparently, Key Arena has the same thing happen.
8:52 PM - The crowd is still filtering in and is only about half full. A couple on the floor look like they belong in the Matrix trilogy, as she has the white coat and long hair of one of the characters, and the guy is decked out in a nice three piece suit. Some of the Mode cliches are present in the crowd, as one gal asks Dave to reach out and touch her with a sign, which happens at every show. There's also a lot of school girl outfits, and a few folks in bondage wear running about. While I understand there are some freaky people about, apparently some felt the need to advertise it. Much like the woman who sat in front of girl with her camera, showing her pictures to her friend during the entire first set. Her display was so bright, it was distracting.
9:00 PM - Mode hits the stage, and Dave's presence is immediately felt. I've only seen a few artists with the ability and energy to command a room, and Dave has that gift. The best I've seen is the late Michael Hutchence of INXS fame, who absolutely ruled the night at the old Spokane Coliseum, but Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand is very close to having that gift. The crowd absolutely was in Dave's hand, and he didn't disappoint with his twirling, nervous energy. His voice also boomed in that arena, and you felt his passion in the words. While Dave is the front man, Martin Gore is the artist and engine, as he plays various instruments, and even sings a few solo songs later in the set. He is more known for the more mellow, elegant songs, and he displays a vocal range that is as impressive as Dave. The fact this band has two accomplished singers is amazing. I also got to see the act that is Fletch, or Andy Fletcher, who is their band manager and keyboard guy. He may be a musician, but he's the whitest guy I've seen, as he has no rhythm whatsoever. He plays his boards, points at the crowd, wanders off to smoke, then comes back to press some buttons, raise his hands, and then wander off. Must be a great gig if you can get it.
11:00 PM - Two encores later, Mode had played most of their more famous songs, with some old gems and a few from their new album to start. It didn't seem like anyone was disappointed, although some in the 200 level didn't even move during the show. The gal sitting to the left of me never took off her coat, but I have to say that I enjoyed the show and the people spectacle on the floor. I even missed the poly couple behind us, as one guy and three gals spent the entire show fondling each other. Apparently, they are a threesome or couple, or whatever, but the guy would snuggle with one while the other two fondled each other, and then they would switch. Interesting stuff, and what I learned from the experience is that just like in soccer, the craziest fans are also the ones that tend to go casual.
12:00 AM Tuesday- We finally left the city after playing in traffic from the garage and trying to find our way on I-5, and it's time to head south. I'm doing the driving on the trip, so my biggest worry is staying awake. A few of the cars in the garage were playing Mode songs that they didn't hear during the show really loud, while on one of the streets, a truck was playing some crappy industrial music really loud for all to hear. Why is it that people with the worst musical tastes insist on playing their music so others can hear it?
1:00 AM Tuesday - We pull off in Tacoma at the Freedom Bridge to top off the gas tank a bit, and get some food for the road. The town here is so dead, the stoplights are all flashing 4 way stops. I rather enjoyed pumping my own gas, even if the nozzle kept sticking so my original 10 dollars turned into 12.50 in gas. The 7-11 next door was hopping, apparently being the only place open this late. We got some coffee, jerkey, and chips, and we were soon off.
3:00 AM Tuesday - We finally pulled into our house at exactly 3 hours. The drive back wasn't eventful at all, except for every 10 miles seeing another lane closure sign. The right lane is closed here, now the left lane is closed up here. The entire stretch of road between Fife and just north of Vancouver has some type of construction, either repaving or adding a new median. It kept me on my toes to pay attention to the signs, and girl played a lot of music while singing to some of the tunes. She has a great voice, and showed it off at points last night. I can't wait for more karaoke time when she really lets loose, but for now, it's time to pass out and get some rest.
We returned the car this morning, and I spend the day catching up on emails, checking into work, listening to Talk Timbers later in the night, and then working on the blog. Not a bad day indeed, but I'm impressed with the show, and the wonderful adventures we had on our trip. The city up north may be a rival of ours, but it can be a fun place to visit every now and then, especially if you escort a defector whale home.