Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sheryl Crow in Cleveland

There are a few artists that I will always see whenever they are in town, whether they have a great album or a crappy one. Sheryl Crow falls into that category. I first saw her in the early 90s and well, 15 years later, I am still a fan.

15 years? Wow. 

I love Sheryl's music and lyrics and the fact that she is a true musician. Remember back in the day when you went to a concert and there was no lip synching? You went horse screaming for an encore, your lighter held high, until it burnt your finger. That is what her show is like.

Now I admit, some of her shows are better than others. But in Cleveland (with the crowd barking for an encore) she really seemed to enjoy herself.  Laughing and joking and getting into the music and the crowd. I could see all of this because as I have gotten older, I have added a new rule. For my favorite acts, I want tickets in the first 10 rows. It isn't about just being in the building anymore. Now I want to see and hear everything.

The other thing that I love about Sheryl Crow is that she's cool. Allow me to explain.

It what seems like a lifetime ago, I worked at an outdoor amphitheatre. Beer and hot dogs sort of thing. And over the years, I had a variety of passing run ins with celebrity types. Some were nice, some, not so much.

It was Lilith Fair and it was raining. I was tired and my socks were wet and the Dixie Chicks and Sarah McLachlan almost ran me over in their golf cart. To say that I was cranky would be an understatement.

I was standing chatting up the beer guys with several plastic cups in my hands and I looked over my shoulder and squealed. It was Sheryl Crow walking her dog in the grassy area. I tried to maintain my cool but I just kept muttering...oh my god that is Sheryl Crow...what do I do....what do I do...you guys...that is Sheryl Crow!

The beer guys thought it was hilarious - and that I had lost my mind. And then she came closer. Yup, it was Sheryl.

I tried to be cool and look away, like seeing a rock star was a normal occurrence. But then she came even closer. It was a good thing that I had peed earlier because she was coming right towards me. Then it hit me, for a brief moment, I thought that she was going to make me clean up after her dog. I can say in all honesty I would have been ticked if she made me clean up after her dog. Bitter even. Okay, okay, bitter a lot.

As Sheryl got a few feet from me, I panicked. She asked me for one of the cups that I had to clean up after her own dog. Whew. I of course turn into a babbling idiot, "Hey, ummm...yeah, I can get you as many of those cups as you want." It was a true face palm moment. Sheryl was nice enough, took her cup, cleaned up after her dog and got ready for her show.

I tried to redeem myself in Cleveland, waiting to see Sheryl after the show, but all I saw was her walking briskly to her bus, iPad in hand. Oh well, maybe next time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cleveland Browns Stadium Tour

Are you ready for some football? I know I am, so to get myself fired up, I went to the Browns Stadium for a little tour. It wasn't until this summer that I realized that most of the sports teams have tours that they will give for a small fee. So, on a recent drive by visit to Cleveland, I went on a tour of Browns Stadium and Progressive Field. 

The tours were as different as the franchises. For the Indians tour, there was a decent crowd, it was incredibly organized and informative. The Indians has a whole crew that does nothing but give tours. 

The Browns on the other hand, have a staff member (he just graduated college) take me around. I was the only one on the tour and it was more of him walking me around and warning me to look out for midges and spiderwebs (advice I was incredibly thankful for).

The tour started in the Grille area and we walked through the dark stadium to the press box. It was a great view and would have been fantastic to go outside but there were swarms of midges and they looked pretty healthy, so we just looked out the window.

All along the hallways of the club area and the press area there were great programs of the past framed. This one was of the Browns v. the New York Yankees.

The team's actual training and locker rooms were off limits, but this was the training room for the visitors. It seemed very small to me. The staffer made a point to tell me that when the other team arrives, this is what the room looks like. The other team is expected to bring their own supplies. It was a big change from the Indians, where the other team arrives to a stocked facility.

The visiting locker room looked sparse to me. I don't know what I expected, but I thought there would be more. Again, big difference from the Indians, which had cushy leather chairs. At this point the staffer was relieved that I didn't want to see the bathrooms. It seems for some reason people want to see the urinals. No thank you.

You won't find this in the Steelers' locker room.

There were several posters like this around the locker rooms. It didn't seem very eye-catching and looked more like something you would see in a middle school gym.

All along the concrete in the bowels of the stadium, there are color coded lines. Sort of like the hospital. Press, follow the while line please. 

The game credentials for last season. The funny thing about these, is no one really looks at them unless you are on the field. I work in another NFL stadium, and no one looks for passes unless you try to get into the locker room or on the field. Black pants and a white shirt will get you just about anywhere.

This is the view of the players when they come out of the tunnel. Very cool.
We ran down the stairs to the field to escape the midge swarm, dodging giant spider webs along the way. At one point, the Browns staffer was incredibly chivalrous and knocked down spider webs for me.

 Like other places, we could walk around the field but there was a no touching/no stepping rule in effect. The day would have been perfect if the midges weren't swarming and all over the place. 

The tours are on a call and reserve basis. There are no set times, it is more when the staff has time to walk you around. They were very cool with all my picture taking and question asking. 

Unlike the Indian's tour, which had a set script that the guides followed, this was more casual and felt like a friend was doing me a favor and showing me around. Definitely a great way to spend 5 bucks.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Progressive Field Tour

I recently made it back to Cleveland and I tried my very best to be a tourist and do the touristy things that I have always wanted to do. One of the many things that I did was take a tour of Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians.

So sit back and enjoy my commentary and loads of pictures.

I have always wanted to tour the Indians' ballpark. For some reason I always missed it.

I arrived a little early for the tour and went through the Team Shop, buying a couple of ball caps and a spring training mug.

The tour left exactly on time, so if you are going by all means do not be late.

First stop was the broadcast booth. It is the largest in major league baseball. The windows all slide open and our guide told us that many times a ball will fly through and since writers are not athletes, most of them duck under the tables. And then chase after the ball. The tour guide was amazing, talking about the history of the franchise and the stadiums.

There was something going on at the park, so we were not able to go into Heritage Park. As a consolation prize, we were able to go into the visiting locker room. This is not a regular part of the tour. It was a stark difference between the Indians away locker room and the Browns away room (that will be another post). The Indians' room for the opposing team was comfy and luxurious, for a locker room anyway.  The area is assigned, with the players in numerical order going around the room. Except if a player is superstitious or if the pitcher and catcher want to be next to each other (that is a common request). Jim Thome always likes to be in the corner.

There are TVs, Golden Tee and video games everywhere. We were told that there is something like 1000 movies available to watch. With all of the game systems shown in the picture, the most popular with players is old school Nintendo.

Finally, we hit what I was waiting for. The chance to go on to the field.  The guide was very clear in that we were not allowed on the grass or to even touch it. I obeyed. The warning track that we walked on was very springy and bouncy to walk on. It helps with drainage but can be incredibly slick when wet. So remember that if you are down there.

Standing behind home plate was a great feeling. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, there wasn't a midge in sight.

The Indians Dugout. Walking down into it, you see the bat boxes, the shelves for the helmets, the phone used to make "the call."

Inside the Dugout, there is a small ledge next to the fence. I climb up onto and tried to hang over the railing like the players do. Too bad I didn't have any bubble gum.

Then I took a seat. A great view for the game.

I don't know what I expected, but the Dugout isn't very glamorous. The Indians' and the away Dugout looks the same.

Right off of the Dugout, the Indians have their batting cages.

 There are 6 cages or so down here. Several are set up for live pitchers to throw balls. This area is actually computerized and from a terminal the pitching coach can send a series of pitches to the batter.

 These numbered tennis balls may be one of the most interesting things on the tour. One of the coaches will put these in a pitching machine and chuck them at a player at a game speed, maybe 100 mph (although the machine can pitch as fast as 140 mph). The batter doesn't have to hit the ball. He has to be able to read back the number and color of the number as it whizzes by.

Ok, this picture is incredibly fuzzy. But it was behind one of the batting cages. The guide laughed and said she wasn't entirely sure what they did with the deer. I can only imagine. She shared that a lot of the guys are hunters or they like to fish.

 The entryway for the elevators going from the batting cages back up were decked out with this Grady/Jhonny banner. There were 4 or 5 of them hanging, so I have to assume it is some inside joke.

The tour ended after about an hour. It was well worth the $7.50 and proceeds for the tours go to Cleveland Indians Charities. The guide was incredibly knowledgeable on all things Indians and really seemed to have a love for the team and organization.

Monday, June 14, 2010

When is a Home Your Home?

When is a home your home?
When I graduated high school, I couldn’t wait to leave my parent’s home. Leaving Mom and Dad’s nest for the University of Akron and my own little nest seemed like the best idea since Atari.
I had an overwhelming need to get out of the house and out from under all of their rules and restrictions. I was tired of hearing about my lengthy showers and leaving my empty milk glass in the sink.
Zoom! Off I ran to the University where I lived in a residence hall and then the sorority house and then an apartment. During that time, I would still go home to do laundry, mooch money and food - not quite yet on my own. When I left Ohio for graduate school in Iowa , I was much closer to a home of my own. I lived in an apartment off campus, alone. All the bills were mine; the second hand furniture was mine. Not quite my own home, but I was getting closer.
More years go by and I snag my first job in yet another state. I wasn’t thrilled with my apartment, but I was starting to call it home.   My mom would grimace when I would visit and say it was time to go home after a visit. My home.
Still more time passes and I move to Indiana and eventually buy my first house. My parents, now accepting the fact that I will not be returning, turn my room into a TV room. I was upset when I returned to visit for the holidays to discover that my room was no longer a shrine. “But honey, you can sleep on the bed in the spare room,” my mom cheerfully told me. I think I may have growled. 

Then one day, I can't even pinpoint what happened or when it was, I started to call Cleveland home again. As I packed up my car for a trip to see my folks, I told people I was going home.  But it wasn't my house, it was my parent's. It was Ohio.

I didn't know what I had until I left it behind.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Want Cake

I will be the first to admit I enjoy the office staple of cake. I love it round, sheet or cup. I don’t care if it’s layered or sponge. If the cake has some sort of frosting or sweet something I am happy.
There are a few occasions that I will turn down said tasty treat.  Very few. This past week was one of those moments.
I have recently started working out and eating a little healthier. Sadly, I can no longer eat like a 12 year old. Don’t get the wrong idea though. I’m not turning vegan nor am I one of those militant folks demanding fresh veggies or I will strike. I am trying to make more intelligent decisions and become more thoughtful in my meal planning. So if I eat a bacon cheeseburger for lunch, I probably shouldn’t eat one for dinner. I will instead go for a salad or maybe grilled chicken. It is painful, but I don’t want to become like the woman that was so large that her skin started to graft to her couch. Umm..no thank you.
This is where the cake comes in.
First thing one morning at work we had a birthday sheet cake, full of tasty moist layers slathered in colorful sugary frosting for a staff member. I had already enjoyed a breakfast of Mountain Dew and a peanut butter granola bar, so I decided that the cake would be pushing it. I would be strong and decline.
Co-Worker: “Here is a piece of cake.”
Me: “No, thank you.”
Now, one would think that would be enough. An offer is made, I politely declined. I don’t work in the mafia, so it should have ended there.
Co-Worker: Looking at me as if I were slowly growing a third eye in the middle of my forehead, “What? Why not? Have a piece of cake.”
Me: “No, thank you. Really, I am fine.”
I have not had to endure peer pressure like this since my senior prom.
Co-Worker: “Why don’t you want any cake? Just have some.”
Me: “No, thank you. Really, I am fine. I have started working out and trying to eat better so I am going to pass on the cake.”
Co-Worker: Staring at me as if I were speaking Farsi, “Well, that’s dumb. One piece of cake isn’t going to hurt you.”
Me: My patience was beginning to wear thin and again, I said, “No, thank you. I am trying to be good.”
Co-Worker: She wrinkled her brow, desperately trying to understand how on earth I could turn down a slice of cake, “It won’t kill you. You can look at it as a reward. You can just work harder tonight at the gym.”
Me: “Umm… thank you, but no.”
The conversation only ended because I walked out of the break room and hustled to my office.
One woman in the room was diabetic. I hope she made it out without a cake-induced coma.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Elmo Knows


Elmo knows a lot for a little furry monster.
Elmo knows how to count. Not quite as good as The Count, but he is learning.

Elmo knows his colors. He knows he is red. He knows that Grover is blue.

Elmo knows how to get people giggling.

Heck, Elmo even knows Sheryl Crow. 

One thing that Elmo knows is how to sneeze. 

Elmo is very unlike the rude and obnoxious woman I met yesterday. She was coughing and hacking and sneezing all over me. And now?

Now I am sneezing like Elmo.