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Michael’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 23 Dec 2006

Location: Chicago, USA

MapOkay, so here goes with an attempt to catch up a little bit on the recent events...

Firstly, Monday was pretty much a day of nothing. After a bit of sleeping to make up for the ridiculous hour of waking up on Sunday for the gridiron, most of the day was spent lazing around the house. In fact, the only time we really left the house was to head to the shops to do some Christmas shopping. Aside from Richie buying some socks for himself, and me getting Dad's present, we left empty handed! In fact, we left pissed off and empty handed. The service in American shops has been abysmal to tell the truth and it hit a new low at the mall when Richie bought his socks. Not only did we wait over 10 minutes to get served (there was only one person in front of us), but when the lady at the counter finished with the girls purchase in front of us, she asked "Are you ready now?" I said in the most flat, non-emotional, cold tone I could - "Yeah". The nerve of asking if we were ready after wasting 10 minutes trying to ring up one pair of shoes - and that was no exaggeration at all - what a joke.

Tuesday was another monster day though - in fact, it was the start of a monster stretch. Mum, Dad, Richie and I left the house mid-morning and headed in to Chicago. We arrived at the NBC Towers at about midday and parked the car. By the time we parked the car and re-oriented ourselves and found the entrance it was about 1230pm. Why were we there? Jerry Springer taping. This wasn't a must do on my list of things for the trip, but I figured why not... how bad could it be. Well, let me tell you.

The tickets say first come, first seated, and that they start the seating at 230pm. As such, we rocked up at 1230, and we made to line up outside. Now it was cold on Tuesday, say about 5 degrees. And the tickets were so specific about what you can and can't wear, that we were standing outside, in nowhere near enough clothing. In fact Richie only had a polo shirt on. No white, no logos, no hoodies, must have a collar, etc. etc etc. So we find ourselves freezing our asses off outside waiting about 15 minutes just to get into the building. And that was the first time we had to wait - but not the last.

All in all, we were herded to 9 different waiting stations, the longest wait being about an hour, and the only one with chairs. It was the TV waiting room I guess. Well, 230pm came and went, and it was after 3pm before we were seated, which was the scheduled start time for filming. Finally we were seated, but despite getting there early enough to be about 20th in line (out of at least a couple hundred) we didn't get to choose our own seats, but instead were seated where told... oh well.

Finally, after more of the typical crap - clap, cheer, and donít make gang signs in the background - Westside! - The taping finally started at about 4pm, already an hour late. At the start of the show, the four of us got to shake Jerry's hand, so with any luck we may get on TV. But the show itself... how can I describe it? Let's just say, everyone has always been dubious as to just how legit the people that go on the show are. I can officially say that there is no question that there is more reality in the storylines that are presented in the WWE shows than there are on the Springer shows. However, the fights are much more real in the Springer Show. Let me explain...

I am still not entirely aware of what the title of the show will be, but it will involve a story line along the lines of - "My relationship with my partner isn't right, and I'm going to confront someone and beat the piss out of them to make it all better". Typical Springer.

Anyway, I won't bore you with the story lines (I'm here to tell you I'm sleeping with your girlfriend...) but it was clear that they were hired 'actors'. What gave it away? Well, for one, in the first story, there were two girls fighting, and when Steve 'broke it up', he tapped on girl on the shoulder and signaled her to get back in and keep fighting; apparently they didn't have enough good footage yet. In the second story, when one of the guys forgot his lines, they rang a bell like at a boxing match and the two guys just started throwing punches... it was so ridiculous. After 15 minutes, Richie and I were looking for a way out it was so crazy. But as I said, they were real punches that we connecting... REAL FIGHTS.

Anyway, that one finished at 530pm, and we raced out of the building and went and had dinner at Mike Dikta's restaurant... a Hall of Fame Chicago Bear's player and coach. We were in a real hurry and didn't get a great chance to savor the place, but it was a very up market looking place, and all we did was order 4 cheeseburgers.

From there we headed to the United Centre to see the Chicago Bulls take on the Los Angeles Lakers. That was an awesome night. We were sitting reasonably low in the stands, but on the corner of the baseline. The introductions, that became so well known in the Jordan era, were awesome. The lights out, the sound up, and the energy in the building climbing! If only the microphone on my camera didn't stuff up - all of the videos I have taken since getting to the USA have awful sound.

Anyway, Bulls versus Kobe... at least that's the way I saw it. Didn't really care much for the Lakers, but was happy to watch Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately it was a quiet night for Kobe. He managed to score nearly 20 points still, but found himself fouled out of a game for the first time in over a year. The true hero of the game was Loul Deng for the Chicago Bulls, one of just 6 or 7 players on the roster who are only in their third year in the league. If they can keep the team together for another year or two, it may come good for those guys... but they do lack a true superstar. Anyway, Bulls won comfortably in the end, 94-89, Deng having 23 points, 12 rebounds and Ben Gordon with 22 points.

After the game, we made a lap of the arena, with the temperature hitting freezing point, looking for the bronze Michael Jordan sculpture stature at the front. After almost making our way the whole circuit round the building, we found it, took our pictures, and bailed for the warmth of the car!

Wednesday morning we were up early again, and this time we were on the road for a trip to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, down near St. Louis (ok, an hour and a half away) where my parents went to University. Most of the day was spent traveling, but we arrived at the University basketball stadium just before 4pm and purchased tickets to the basketball game that night - Southern Illinois vs. Central Michigan.

After buying the ticket, and having a quick trip round the campus in order to purchase appropriate attire for the game, we headed to a restaurant that Mum and Dad used to go to years ago - Italian Village or IV's. Apparently I was there 15 years ago too? Go figure. Anyway, the place is old as the hills, and the walls are COVERED with writing. People have been writing their names on the walls for God only knows how long, so we all joined the long list... there's even a couple of plugs for my website on the walls now! Hahaha.

After our meals, we headed back to the stadium and took our seats next to the student section. It was tipped to be a pretty one sided match, and in the end, it was. Southern Illinois had the game under control for the duration, and it was good to see them take the victory. They are a decent team this year, but not great. For those that have some understanding of college rankings, they polled a few votes last week, but no where near enough yet to be a top 25 ranked team.

On a side note, for those that may have seen it last year - there was a cheerleader that fell off the top of a human pyramid and landed on her head. As she was being stretchered off the court, she kept doing the arm movements to the fight song as they played it. Well she was from Southern Illinois, and was still cheerleading while we were there. For the video of the incident:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki4Lw7Iy09c

On a final note from the game, it turns out that Mum and Dad LOVE the fight song for the uni, but there are no words... or so they told me and Richie. Anyway, the program had the words printed in there, which we didn't realise till later, but during the second half of the game, it dawned on me that it was the same tune as the Western Bulldogs theme song, so of course for the rest of the night I spent the fight songs singing the Bulldogs theme song! Amazingly they'd never picked up on it before...

After the game, the four of us headed out to a local pub that we found and proceeded to get our drink on. Mum had the one G&T, dad had a beer, and Richie and I dived straight into the Jager Bombs... it was going to be a long night. We had a couple of beers with Dad, and then they headed back to the hotel. We partied on. We continued with the Jager Bombs, and eventually decided to save money and have just Jager shots. Bad move. We started talking to a couple blokes who were yelling at the NBA game on TV, and when Dallas won (who they had money on) they bought us shots of Southern Comfort and Lime - nasty... and it was the second one we'd had for the night.

For the next few hours till the bar closed we took in Jager bombs, and as many $1.25 beers as we could handle. Though our lack of sobriety meant that we were tipping stupid amounts - but that probably was the only reason we didnít get cut-off or kicked out! We were so drunk we were testing our ESP on girls (if you've read The Game, you'll know what I am on about, if not... waaaaayyyy too long a story to explain here) and only one girl out of 7 or 8 didn't guess the same number as us between 1 and 10.

Finally the bar shut, and we managed to get a lift back to a girls house where there were after drinks. After waiting around for our lift to front up, we finally piled into the car and headed to a student apartment. At this stage the night is getting very blurry. About the bets my memory will allow is that they had a keg in the kitchen and Richie and I grabbed a beer each from the keg. It wasn't too much longer after that that a whole heap more people showed up - mainly blokes - and joined the party. Apparently we'd done something to piss them off (well, most of their comments were focused at me) and they wanted us to leave. It was the old security at a night club move - can we go outside and talk trick. In any case, I wasn't buying, and started getting into some verbal argument, asking what was their problem. Next thing I know, a black kid is accusing me of hitting him (I'd never seen him before) and it was about to get ugly. Thankfully Richie had the presence of mind to realise that we were outnumbered 10 to 2, and were drunk enough to not be able to fight to save ourselves, even if they were wasted too. Whilst I'm being all, sorry man, surely we can work this all out, watching the fire in the guyís eyes and waiting for him to snap, Richie is dragging me out the house. Guess they don't like the Aussie accent?

So now it's somewhere near 330am, we're in the middle of God only knows where (again) and have no idea where to find a taxi, or which way the hotel is. Then a God send comes... a taxi is moving down the street slowly. I wave him over, and the young driver winds down his window. I ask him to take us to Plaza Hotel on Route 13, and he says he can't I ask if he knows where it is, and he says he doesn't think so. What sort of a cabbie is he, and why am I getting such a hard time from this guy for a ride? The town isnít that big. In the end I say, "dude, it isn't that far away, the town isnít that big, I'll give you $20 to take us there". He says "I just gotta drop something off here and then I'll take you".

He pulls into a drive way, and we start walking think what a jerk. He turns around in the drive and as we reach the end of the street he says "Show me the $20". Richie flips it out of his wallet, and he says jump in. As he pulled up to the hotel car park, about to turn around, I said "chief, for $20 you can drop us off at the door thanks". He dropped us off at the front door, and drove away with a grin from ear to ear.

Somehow we got into our room, passed out on our beds, with ESPN on still, and blacked out till the knock on the door at 1030 am woke me (finally) from my deep slumber.

In reconstructing the previous night, it turns out that the car wasn't a taxi, but instead a pizza delivery vehicle, and that is why he insisted in not taking us home... apparently everyone has their price. After having a shower, we all headed for Denny's for breakfast, then set back on the road again to head to Champaign to University of Illinois...

More on that (Thursday) in my next entry... till then

MERRY CHRISTMAS!