ELEVATION: The Tour Diary ("For my sanity and your entertainment," M.) - Page 1
Well, I sit here stunned as the Yanks completed the World Series in five games, leaving me with Games 6 & 7 tix to be refunded. Damn Yankees! I love 'em, but couldn't they wait to go back to the Bronx?
Oh well. David Letterman's still a Go on Halloween. And there's still an outside chance of meeting up with U2 in Times Square on Monday...
Anyway, time to let the hype die down, get some rest, visit friends, soak in some art and music, forget about work, and play the week away...
LIVE from Grace Church in lower Manhattan, I'm ba-ack!
It's a long story how I got here.
I never thought a couple pints of Guinness and a shot of Rumplemints was "slacking", but the bartender, bless her, at Hogs & Heifers (yeah, the armpit of a bar made famous by Coyote Ugly) thought it was.
The events are kind of intertwined, but I'll spare the details on both counts.
So, the World Series didn't pan out, but the trip has been awesome, nonetheless. I'm doing my best to wear myself out so I can return home without a tan, no rest, and not really ready for much of anything.
While the weather has taken a turn for the colder, it's been nothing a Visa card can't cure. I'm enjoying my new hooded Yankees sweatshirt very much, thank you.
Oh, and the World Series Championship baseball cap is very sporting. If it's good enough for Joe Torre, it's good enough for me.
Anyway, it's after 11 p.m., it's been a long day, and I find myself about 30 minutes from obtaining All That You Can't Leave Behind. The past two weeks of bootleg listening have been great, but it'll be nice to have the lyrics and liner notes - and be a "legal" listener.
SO, here's the BIG story: I am so very pleased to say I traded words with Bono today!! After initially getting the boot from MTV's studios this morning, I made a casual reappearance and - BOOM! - I was on the guest list for Total Request Live on MTV! I don't know if I'm actually on TV (MTV is pretty preoccupied with demographics - that's a tirade for much later), but hopefully one of the three VCRs friends have working for me will have the program. (I screwed up my VCR by forgetting the clocks fell back over the weekend, so my timer is wrong!)
Anyway, as Keith Olbermann would say, "UN-believable!"
Yes, My Band was there. In fine form. They performed Elevation, Beautiful Day, and New York from the new album right on the studio rooftop in Times Square. And I was there, just yards away!
As Bono made his departure, I shouted out at him, he looked at me, and a moment of transcendental bonding occurred. It was awesome.
I could think of only one thing to say to my mentor: "Thanks for coming!" I yelled down from my spot a few feet above The Man.
And then he said...
Two words I will NEVER forget!
You have no idea what an awesome moment that was for me! It was surreal. It was... WOW! It's more satisfying than slapping Springsteen's hands a few months back, so the pressure is off to top that one on the U2 tour. Although tipping a Guinness with the B-man would be something to write home about.
Well, I better go. A friend has graciously admitted me into the church (one of seven protected landmarks in the city - it's quite excellent) to dispatch this CRUCIAL message.
For those of you who have written me in the past few days, I'll respond later. The e-mails are awaiting me, but time's been tight! As always, your patience is appreciated. I just had to share my story while it was fresh and "in the moment".
By the way, if any of this makes sense when I read this later, I'll be impressed.
Update: Check out my full TRL Experience article
There was a round of layoffs today at work. I had no idea our area would be hit so hard. Sheesh. What a crazy day...
I was quite burned up over the whole thing, so now I want to take a minute to indulge in some happy stuff.
I had Monday off and I spent it down at the Brown Palace interviewing the creators of Disney's Atlantis (coming soon to a theater near you...). It was so flippin' awesome to be there interviewing those guys along with other media types from the Post, the News, Channel 2, etc.
Along the way I even passed by a couple guys from Bon Jovi - but I was spaced out at the time and they got away before I could say "Hey!" (No biggie. They're good, but they're no U2.)
Then I sat on the patio of the Paramount Cafe and soaked up the sun, a beer, and a banana split. (Some people have commented on that being an odd combination. Whatever!) It was great to be out in the world instead of huddled up in a cube. And banana splits and beer go together like coffee and donuts!
As I basked in the sun, it occurred to me that I was so very darn happy with the work I was doing, a feeling I don't get very often down in the Tech Center... except on those extremely rare instances when upper management gets fired... And it also occurred to me that, while I might not be able to change the entire world, I can change my world. We'll see what comes of all those thoughts down the road... All good things take time.
Here's the scoop, live from Royal Victoria College, Montreal.
It looks to be a rainy day, which is a good thing; I've got to take it easy today because I'm not yet sure what's going on tonight.
That'll make more sense later. And hopefully this whole trip will start to make sense to ME by the time I'm done cranking it out here.
So, where should I start?
How about with my departure from DIA?
Thanks to the crack travel department at JD Edwards, my flight had to be re-routed. Seems they never bothered to tell me the leg from Cincinnati to Montreal was on a carrier currently ON STRIKE and not flying ANYWHERE! Apparently the strike has been going on for quite some time, too!! So, I had the added bonus of being re-routed and going from Cincinnati to Boston, THEN to Montreal. It added a few hours to my itinerary.
Complicating matters was the whole U2 Press Pass thing. A phone call (gosh, that cell phone has come in handy soooo many times now!) from Cincinnati confirmed that nothing was set yet. I got my PR contact's voicemail in Boston on the first attempt, then, after I successfully got a stand-by seat on a flight leaving an hour earlier than my "original replacement" flight, I called from the plane... only to confirm that nothing had been confirmed! (By the way, the flight was actually kinda cool; it was a small 30-seat commuter plane. Never been on one of those before!)
Finally, I got into Montreal at around 3:30 (having left Denver at 5:30, or 7:30 Eastern Time - a full 8 hours of travel later. Shoot - I coulda been 2/3 of the way to China for that amount of time!) Anyway, I arrived in Montreal with one thing on my mind: Get ahold of my PR person and get my room. (OK, that's two things...) Little did I know it would be quite a nightmare to get my voicemail from Canada, or at least it turned out to be. For some reason, I kept getting error messages. A phone call to the Sprint "response line" confirmed that service is NOT guaranteed in Canada - precisely what I did not need to hear! A person at a Bell phone shop tried to help, but her tips didn't work. I called Sprint again and got some real help... and the guy, Alfred (helping out the Mattman) empathized with my tale of woe and gave me 30 free "courtesy minutes"! But at first, his tips didn't work either. Yet somehow, after trying again, I finally got through to that crucial voicemail... and I DID GET A PRESS PASS! For Monday, May 27!!
Ahhh... I was numb.
Thankfully, there were a couple really cool and friendly guys working the desk of the dorm I'm staying in. (Yes, dorm, but for $30/night to be perfectly centrally located is a great thing. Besides, I spend very little time "hanging out" in hotel rooms! For this trip, it works great.) They offered some good pointers and got me taken care of... In keeping with how the trip had been going, my first room had not yet been cleaned! So, they put me up in a much nicer, bigger room (probably where the rich girls stay during school (I forgot to mention: It's an all-girls dorm during school, but NOT during the summer!)) Those mirrors all make me look sooo much thinner than I really am!
Where was I? Well, I put my junk away and strolled around St. Catherine, a street with all sorts of bars and restaurants. I walked a lot until I stumbled on what turned out to be a great Indian restaurant a little off the beaten path.
Gosh... I'll cut to the chase. I need to get some breakfast pretty soon!
It occurred to me around 2 or 3 yesterday morning that Monday is May 28. So, when my PR person said Monday, May 27, did she mean Sunday, May 27, or Monday, May 28??? Wow! The perfect ending message to the whole thing!
Regarding that pass, it's my understanding I'll be in the "pit" for the first three songs, taking pictures. The pit is basically the inside portion of U2's heart shaped stage. About 300 lucky people get to stand in the center - along with the media! In excited anticipation, I wanted to try to rent a camera locally (since, thanks to Memorial Day weekend, all the good cameras were rented in Denver). That became a mini-quest yesterday and I actually found a place with a Nikon F100 and 300mm 2.8 aperture lens. I have a Canon Rebel, but the lens is not ideal for this situation. I wanted to bring the BEST with me!
The salesguy, Jean, told me I was lucky - it was reserved, but the person never claimed it. In filling out the contract, he let me know the total value of the camera and lens was $9,420 CAD ($7,000 CAD for the lens alone)! I quickly absorbed that and moved on. I paid the $1,000 CAD depost with my Visa without hesitation. I was in blind ambition mode... I even had to take a pitstop in a park to ponder life's vicissitudes. My favorite Bono T-shirt was drenched in sweat by this point.
Having trundled the camera back to MattCentral, I tried to load the film and realized it just ain't like my Canon. And I didn't get the owners manual! A SECOND trip to the camera shop was called for...
Which reminds me, I still need to load the film!
Having just written that, it occurs to me there's a slight chance I'm in waaaay over my head! I just pulled out the MS Calculator: The package is ONLY $6,280 USD. Much better! And the rental fee is much less than Denver... Lugging that sucker around yesterday, though, and thinking of its value, I had a lot of thoughts running through my head... And U2 lyrics to fight them off!
"You are such a fool to worry like you... You've got to stand up straight, carry your own weight..." - Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Ofi>
Anyway, I did manage to see quite a bit of the city yesterday. There's a pier area along the water that's really nice; there's also a lot of old architecture and Montreal's own Notre Dame cathedral.
As for last night, it was odd. I wound up talking with this guy who had just recently moved from Quebec City and spoke rough English (but better than my French). He had broken up with his girlfriend of 8 years during the move and fancied himself a bit of a player, I guess you could say. He took me to a couple bars, one was pretty quiet, the other we had to wait on line to get in! Oh yeah - he was telling me he knew a guy, Vito, that worked at this place but the bouncers showed us the end of the line instead of welcoming us with open arms. Very surreal stuff. To top it off, he had never heard of U2!! (When I said I came out to see U2, he pointed to himself, questioningly... "You, too"??! Freak! But, he was a nice guy and it was fun to check out some spots I never would've found on my own. Too much the player, but...)
As for the French thing, I have had very little difficulty getting around. Most everybody speaks English, which in a way is disappointing. My French is very weak and unused, so I kinda wanted the communication challenge. But, then again, I do have my hands full with this U2 thing, so it might be just as well I don't have the communication barrier!
The people have been very cool and I'll have to come back some time to see all the things I won't be able to squeeze in. Like I said, it's been an odd trip so far, but when I think of the pictures I MIGHT be bringing home... WOW! This could be huge.
I just hope I don't come home looking like a fool... Hmmm... how does that song go again? Well, the next 48 hours promise to be rather intense. It's a good thing I packed all those extra boxers...
OK, Kids, First, let's take care of business.
Some of you out there want to peg me as a "U2 Freak." Well, lemme tell ya...
I just had a couple pints (note to self: this engine runs much more smoothly on Guinness than the ubiquitous Molson) with some folks following Night Two of U2 in Montreal. These were some amazing people! A couple girls are going to 17 shows on the tour. One guy, Ken, has ALREADY seen 17 shows and plans on hitting 33!
It makes me a mere wannabe (only 6 shows on the Elevation Tour) with such modest ambitions!
Having spent virtually the entire day waiting on line with some of them, with the goal being a prized spot inside the heart-shaped stage, I was in very good company.
So, with that clarified, let me continue...
Tonight was a concert experience that will be virtually impossible to top.
I did indeed got my press pass. It was such a monumental undertaking to get this thing! Even I don't know all the hows and whys of my getting so wrapped up in this endeavor. Pure blind ambition, I suppose.
After much confusion courtesy the crack security staff at the Centre Molson, I finally met up with U2's media coordinator about an hour later than expected (thus missing all of PJ Harvey's opening set). I made sooo many trips between the box office and the security entrance between yesterday and today, up and down stairs, around corners, down hallways, back and forth, coming and going... Sheesh! Like they've never had media there before or something!
The media coordinator, very cool and extremely cooperative, showed me the press list and I was indeed scheduled for SUNDAY night! Why the creep at the box office flat out told me I was not on the list, come back tomorrow, after appearing to have looked at "a list" is beyond me! Honesty is such a lonely word! A no-nonsense woman, she graciously cut me some slack and allowed to photograph the Monday show.
While waiting for my queue to enter the arena floor, I realized what an incredible world I was about to enter. "Willie" Williams breezed through the waiting area and greeted my "U2 savior." (Uhhh, Willie is U2's stage designer, and has been since 1982. He's the genius behind ZOO-TV and PopMart... and now, Elevation.) Then, finally, we were escorted into "the pit."
This is what I had been striving toward for months... This is TOTAL IMMERSION in all things U2!
A couple other photographers were there - and they DIDN'T WANT TO BE! The insanity of it all! How could you NOT want to be in this position! I explained that to one of the guys, but he was indifferent. He had taken a picture of Bono using a camcorder during a ZOO-TV performance - and one of the local papers re-ran it this morning (oops, it's already yesterday morning) in a glowing retrospective celebrating U2's return to Montreal. I guess it was some bizarre case of "been there, done that" for the guy! I should see the day...
Well, he wished me luck and hoped I enjoyed myself. Thanks, Chief.
As we entered the pit, a bit of a sinking feeling started to creep in. One of the other photographers had several cameras with him, with various lenses. I heard him comment that he figured one of them should do the trick. And there I was, with this Nikon F100 I never used before, my trusty Canon Rebel, and an idiot box (just in case everything went disastrously afoul, I even had a disposable on hand!). (By the way, loading film in a Nikon, as it turns out, is stunningly similar to loading film in a Canon. Whodathunkit?)
I thought to myself: I can put some words together in a sentence, yeah. And on occasion I can solve some software issues. But I'm no "photographer" - so what am I doing in the "pit" taking pictures of the Greatest Band in the History of Rock 'n' Roll?? Dunno. I might very well be meeting my Waterloo - in Quebec. Why didn't I experiment on something like a wedding or a bar mitzvah? You know - some event with less significance than a U2 concert?!!
I have no idea how they'll turn out. (If you never hear from me again, you'll know they didn't turn out well and I've assumed a different identity in some obscure city to restart my life as a Krispy Kreme manager.)
To give you an idea of the ultimate in stress: I'm in the pit and THE BAND is about to come on. I'm getting a focus error on the camera and I have no clue what's going on. A couple other people in the pit are of no help. And I didn't get much in the way of consolation from a woman roaming around the pit... but she turned out to be with Amnesty International, not the media - and she was amused by my camera woes! Finally, just moments before they hit the stage, I got it sorted out... I think. My Bonoman t-shirt was drenched in sweat by that point...
One observation: I never, ever thought I could be TOO CLOSE to the action, but that's exactly what happened! The 300 mm lens was just TOO BIG for shots of Bono walking by on the catwalk! I switched over to my Canon as he (gulp!) posed for me during Until the End of the World, but I'd swear the picture was blurred when the camera shutter snapped... What happened to "auto focus"?
(Much to my relief, I'm not alone in this experience. Ken encountered the same difficulty while shooting a show in California...)
Like I said, I'm no photographer. Regardless of the outcome, the past two shows were phenomenal and tonight in particular was a mind-blowing experience! At the very least, I've walked away with an educational experience.
U2 is my band for a reason. Along the way, they've somehow managed to inspire me to do some loopy stuff.
Last vacation was NY in October... and that whole MTV/Total Request Live thing.
I was satisfied with that being the ultimate U2 experience. But now the photo pass and "the pit" in a city I've never been to before...
For the remainder of the show, I was in the middle of the heart-shaped stage. Soaking my mind in the rockin' beats of U2 and elevating my soul with the soaring lyrics. It was truly unbelievable to be in the heart of the show! Even Adam smiled for my camera and - I think - he was amused by my jumping up and down at show's end. Maybe it was my shouting out "ADAM!! ADAM!!" that got his attention...
They're a restless group and my own restlessness has clearly fed off that. But now, I'm so tired I'm actually looking forward to a more laid back vacation.
And what better place to rest up than in New York, the city that never sleeps! With friends, the Yankees, Conan O'Brien... and two more nights with the Greatest Band in the History of Rock 'n' Roll.
Once upon a time, it was great to take a vacation just to go away. Hmmm... how about the countryside in Ireland? Maybe that'll be restful - AFTER Slane Castle! (By the way... It's 3 a.m. Pardon me if this is choppy. It's a scrambled brain right now...)
As the weekend unfolded, I swore I would never do this kind of thing to myself again. It was grueling, stressful, pressure-packed, mind-numbing... It sucked and it was GREAT!
After a couple pints of Guinness at Hurley's with fellow U2 groupies, I strolled back to McGill and passed the hotel the band was (allegedly) staying at (whoa! just a couple blocks down the street from me!).
By then, I was ready to do it all again... as soon as possible!
P.S. - Oh yes! After the show, I ran into the Amnesty woman again. She was hitting me up for a picture of Bono standing in front of the AI candle during One. Her sole mission, apparently, was to get a picture of Bono singing in front of the logo and, well, she biffed! She explained how it had all been mapped out for her, yet when the time came, the opportunity was blown! Ahhh... that was a nice turning of the tables, but by then the Nikon and Canon had been relegated to the backpack and stowed under the catwalk (the photo pass was only for taking photos during the first three songs) and the idiot box was out of film. All I want is ONE good picture. One. One life. One love. One hope. One photo...
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