Last weekend I saw NIN play at a small venue in Chicago. Supposedly, these few shows in NYC, Chicago, and Los Angeles are the last for Reznor for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to believe artists who claim they are done touring when they clearly have a large following willing to fork over 60 bucks a ticket, but I digress. The show was jam packed and I spent most of the time near the back of the venue but during Burn, I was unable to control the urge to get as close as possible. Forward thinking as I am, I left my phone and wallet with a friend just in case I was forced to crowd surface my way to the front of the stage. Somehow, I was able to slither my body through the sweaty penguin huddle and to within 30ft of Trent Reznor yet I was without a camera phone to document my success.  Instead, I was only able to capture a blurry shot from afar.

After the show, we stopped at a nearby convenience store.  For my fellow concert goers: cigarettes.  For me: two taquitos and a bag of chips.  Waiting in line, I noticed a nice gentleman pondering the perfect flower arrangement for his loved one.  I offered to pay for his gift if I could take a picture.  Small price to pay for this gem.  Outside the store, I bumped into an individual selling two tickets to a Marilyn Manson show in Milwaukee, WI.  After haggling, a deal was struck: 5 bucks for both tickets.  And although it’s unlikely I’ll be able to attend, you can’t beat the price.


Sin City pilgrimage before sending another lamb to the slaughter

A few months ago, an E2 brother announced his intention to exit the rat race I call dating.  One less Sigma Pi for the single ladies to compete for.  Who am I kidding?  E2’s were never lady killers but at least we weren’t Tekes.

For me, the trip started early Friday.  I arrived at McCarran before 9:30am and, after checking my bags at the Hard Rock, was at the Flamingo poker room by 10:30am.  This is where the trip begins it’s downward spiral.  I confess I’m no professional but I’m far from a beginning poker player yet I could not get anything going.  I consistently turned over the second best hand and had it not been for the free drinks, I would have considered the afternoon a complete failure.  My pockets $300 lighter, I headed back to the Hard Rock to check-in.

In search of some free entertainment, the Bachelor party headed to the pool.  After some sun worshiping and mild drinking, I decided that jumping on the beds was an appropriate activity.  I somehow convinced the Bachelor to join me, which he did, even though he refused to put his drink down.  Later that evening, we enjoyed an excellent dinner at Nobu in the Hard Rock.

Having lost my limit the very first night, I decided to spend the rest of the weekend at the pool.  Rehab was debauchery as per usual but this year the pool appeared more disgusting than normal.  I’d guess the pool holds at least a thousand drunk people and rarely was there a line deeper than 15 people for the bathrooms.  I’ll let you connect the dots.

And for the McKay alumni keeping score, Margo met up on Sunday afternoon since she lives less than two hours from Las Vegas.  I suspect she really came for the pool though.

13 years later…

If you call me Freddy, you already know the name Margo Smith.  If you call me Fred or Fredrick, I need to bring you up to speed.

Margo was one of my best friends in high school.  Never were there more an unlikely pair of friends and if you had asked me then how we became BFFs, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.  I only knew that I never laughed as much or as hard as I did when we were together.  After high school, like most BFFs, we went our seperate ways, different colleges, different states, and for her even different countries.  In the 13 years since the class of ’96 graduated, I had only seen Margo once and that was a brief chat at our 10 year reunion.

Fast forward to 2009 and with the power of the Internets, we become friends again… Facebook friends that is.  We all know that slightly awkward yet obligatory, “Hey, remember me, blah blah blah” Facebook message well ours went like this, verbatim.  Please excuse the poor writing, just like gravity in the Matrix, correct punctuation and grammar doesn’t exist in Cyberspace.

Margo Smith, July 24 at 2:31pm: this friend invite should have happened long ago…I was in salem last week and I thought I saw your brother…could that have been? when can I come visit?

Fredrick Berning, July 24 at 2:53pm: It definitely should have happened some time ago. It was probably my bro, he lives in Salem. And you can definitely come visit since I’m pretty sure I saw a Tapout t-shirt in one of your photos.

Margo Smith, July 26 at 3:47pm: can I come visit over labor day? how many days should I plan to really get a fun trip in?

At this point, I realize Margo, being the spontaneous person that she is and always has been, is serious about coming.  Remember, I haven’t known her for 13 years.  A lot could have changed.  I take a couple days to ponder my response.

Fredrick Berning, July 28 at 5:21pm: I checked my work schedule and I have some work to do that Saturday evening but that’s it.

Tough question, depends on what you want to do. You can hit all the super touristy stuff in a day or two. What do you like to do when you visit cities? Are you traveling with anyone else? Are you trying to keep it cheap?

Notice I ask only a few questions but I really had a lot more.  Like, do I even know this person anymore?

Well, Margo decides to call me after receiving my last Facebook message and after an hour of speaking we end the call, and instead of waiting till Labor Day, she books a flight for the following Tuesday.  Not sure how that all happened so quickly but hey, I love a good adventure.  I picked Margo up from Midway and it took us about 24 seconds to realize this was going to be a fun time.  Here are the highlights from the week/weekend.

Margo somehow convinced me to go to Six Flags and ride this monstrosity.  I pretended to be fearless but as soon as that thing dropped off a cliff, I cussed like a sailor (at least, I didn’t scream like a tween).  I should have apologized to the children strapped into my row but I’ll just assume they’ve already heard those words before.  We went on some water ride and little did we know we’d be soaked after.  We hit an old wooden coaster and carved our names in the supports, how precious right?  It was a nice day in Chicago, so the park was pretty busy and we stayed until closing, which was 10pm.  We took our final ride about 9:45pm, which means we were now riding these coasters in mostly darkness.  On the recommendation of a helpful 12 year old, we choose Raging Bull for our last ride.  This was us before the ride started.  I wish I had a picture of what I looked like during the ride but I was too busy clutching the handlebars and begging for the Grim Reaper to take me just so the experience would end.  Ok, I wasn’t that bad but I’ll concede some of those rides are downright terrifying.  On the way home we stopped off at a McKay favorite, Red Robin, and I ordered the obligatory cookies and creme milkshake.

On Margo’s final day in Chicago, we stopped by a church she wanted to see.  I had planned on proposing to her in the church but as soon as we drove up the gates slammed shut and I suddenly felt like I was going to burst into flames. I’m joking, I didn’t propose to Margo, but I did feel like I was going to burst into flames.  We then proceeded to pretend it was Senior picture day and take goofy staged photos.  She caught me looking at her ass but I think this photo clearly shows she was too.

Perfect ending to a unexpectedly great weekend.  Come back soon, Margo.