I’m sitting writing this post at the bar of Intercontinental Hotel, downtown Milwaukee, where I’m spending the night. Slow Jazz music playing in the background; sophisticatedly‐looking people around (except for a drunk German couple… see below), raining outside. People here seem to be having good times, I’m sitting at a table by myself with a cup of cappuccino, trying to finish all sorts of things before crashing to bed.
The distance between Chicago and Milwaukee is about two hours drive so there was absolutely no rush this morning. Woke up, took an outstandingly‐delightful shower, even had time to enjoy a few minutes stretching out wearing the hotel‐provided bathrobe. You know, I always had that sort‐of narcissist image of myself stretching out in a hotel wearing a bathrobe, for some reason it appears to be such a relaxing thing to do.
And it might have been, had the time not been 10:50am, ten minutes before check‐out time.
Packed everything, checked‐out, loaded the trunk of the car with everything and went out to the streets again (left car at garage; we had about 3 hours to kill before we had to take it out of there). Had breakfast at Cosi, a chain I have fond memories of from the last visit to Chicago two years ago.
I don’t have too much time to read books. I used to read a lot when I was growing up, say, up until I was 22 or so. Once I moved to Canada and became an independent consultant, I started an unprecedented reading spree of books that had nothing to do with fiction and everything to do with finances. II won’t deny the usefulness of those books, but really, after all, there’s a limit to how much you can read about stocks, investments and so forth. Well, it’s a subject I wanted to be proficient in, so I guess I took it too seriously.
Then, I started to get more and more into reading books about social science, human behaviour and so forth. I am definitely not referring to all sorts of self‐help books; whenever I pick a book to read about such subjects, it has to be based on some sort of research, or a life‐long work of the author… something with substance I can relate to, rather than quick‐tips for “self help” (which I really don’t need).
Why am I mentioning this? Well, one of the books I started reading before the tour started is called The Paradox of Choice, written by Barry Schwartz. Quite the best‐seller, this book makes a compelling argument against having too many choices to choose from—contrary to the common belief that one’s life quality is positively correlated to the choices available to him / her. Having too much to choose from can actually make you miserable, believe it or not. Fascinating book—I mean, what I got to read from it so far.
And the perfect evidence in favour of that argument came this morning when all I wanted was to get some food.
Entered Cosi, nice menu on the wall. Great. I’m reading it carefully. About 15 choices of breakfast. OK, I’m used to that. Thinking, thinking—OK! Great. Found something I like.
I’m telling the server what I want. To remind you, I am tired; I am hungry; I want food. Little did I know that I will have to answer five different questions. How do you want the eggs done? What kind of toast? What kind of this? How about that? Each question more annoying than the one before.
After a gruelling investigation into my culinary preferences, ONLY THEN the guy remembers that hey, it’s past 11:00am and they have no eggs left as the breakfast menu is unavailable anymore. I looked at him in total and utter astonishment. I was too hungry to get upset; you know, that state of mind when you’re really apathetic to whatever happens around you.
Looking at the lunch menu, took me about 2 more minutes to find something I want. And then… guess what! MORE QUESTIONS! What kind of bread? Do you want salt? Pepper? What kind of cheese? Believe me, folks, I was ready to just leave the store. I genuinely felt as if someone is trying to torture me with all bunch of questions I couldn’t care less for.
So… to all of you restaurateurs out there. Here’s a tip. Having the client being able to customize his sandwich doesn’t mean that you have to ask him all bunch of questions. List the item on the menu, explaining what it contains by default—and tell the customer he can customize whatever he wants. Stop bothering me with a f’n questionnaire every time I want to order a sandwich!
As weather sucked, I decided to pass the time at that cafe—doing some writing and working on a couple of side‐projects. Surprisingly productive for a tired man, I should say. Then I realized—hey, if I’m already seated on my ass in a cafe, why not get rid of the drive now rather than later? Called Nancy (as we were giving her a ride with us to Milwaukee), and within 30 minutes the three of us were in the car en route to Milwaukee.
The ride was slow—for some reason, the GPS didn’t lead us to the toll‐road but instead took us through a myriad of slow highways. Also, it was raining the entire time, and the road fogged to oblivion. Took us two hours to get to Hotel Intercontinental, right downtown Milwaukee on Kilburn Avenue on the east side of the bridge, about 5 minutes walk from the Riverside Theatre where the concert was to take place.
The Intercontinental, which I found for quite the bargain, is as elegant and impressive as the Hilton Conrad we stayed the night before in Chicago. Attached to the Milwaukee Centre shopping mall, this hotel features high ceilings, contemporary design, impressive lounge and galleries… the room wasn’t as impressive as the Conrad’s, but still very good.
We had a few hours to kill before the show; so first, we went to have lunch. While I was driving to Milwaukee, Jeroen did some research and concluded that we must go to a restaurant called Louise’s—an Italian restaurant, also conveniently located a few minutes walk from the hotel.
We went; and we loved it. Now that’s what I’m talking about, folks. I love Italian food and this restaurant excels in it. Chicken‐filled raviolis were consumed with unsurpassed passion, not before the pizza “snacks”. All three of us were satisfied. Very recommended. If ever in Milwaukee, go there. You won’t be disappointed.
Back at the hotel, still a couple of hours to kill so I went to the hotel’s lounge (actually, to exactly the same table I am seated at right now writing this post) to continue writing and working on those side‐projects. Good, productive work—much thanks to some help I received from Jeroen, being a scientific programmer with quite the skills (thanks pal, much appreciated).
At around 7:00pm, we started walking towards the Riverside Theatre. Good thing it wasn’t raining… still it was a bit chilly outside. Collected the tickets—front row, two seats left from the centre—and then met Carol, who has been following my travel blogs ever since they started. Was nice meeting with her, seems like quite the cheerful lady!
The Riverside Theatre (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverside_Theater_%28Milwaukee%29) is located right beside the Milwaukee river (what a surprise) (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee_River), a 75 miles long river crossing Wisconsin north to south. It seats 2,460 and is not really as impressive (from the interior) as previous theatres I had been to already in this tour.
The reception area is extremely crowded—everybody’s stepping on everybody else’s toes. Very dangerous to walk around there with a drink in your hand; you are very likely to bump into millions of people by the time you enter the hall itself.
Pieta Brown & Bo Ramsey went on stage at 8:00pm and gave a great performance.
On 8:50pm, the band captured the stage and, for the next 2+ hours, gave one of the best concerts so far in this tour in my opinion.
The concert tonight was quite eventful, I should say. It began with the finger‐of‐death being pointed at a family that were seated right behind me—right at the second verse of the very first song. Well, what can you do. All you can do is really hope that the incident won’t destroy Mark’s concentration (he gets quite pissed off when being caught on video. And what’s frustrating is that people keep on video‐taping the performance despite instructions not to do so. An annoyed Knopfler underperforms a calm Knopfler. Come on folks, stop with the video recording).
It continued with a bunch of chatter at the second row (the very same family that were filming the concert before), which was pretty rude but, hey, I’m not here to get pissed. After a while, they shut up.
Later, Tim O’Brien baffled us all with some unbelievably cool work on whatever that instrument is called (someone please comment and let me know. I know it’s not a mandolin) during Donegan’s Gone. I can’t help but put a really stupid‐looking smile on my face whenever this guy does his part in this song, it’s just so… fitting. Well done.
It continued with the finger‐of‐death pointed once again, during Telegraph Road, now at a different imbecile. It went like “(Mark singing)… Telegraph… (Mark points his finger) Thank you (Mark continues to sing) Road”. Folks, STOP WITH THE GOD DAMN RECORDINGS. Mark, however, completely compensated for it with one of the best Telegraph Road outro solos I have ever head. One of those solos that make you feel like never playing guitar again as you have very little belief that you could ever produce such quality yourself so why bother.
It was a brilliant solo; I never turned to Mark directly in my blog, but I have to make an exception this time. Mark, thank you for that brilliant solo.
During So Far Away at the encore, some of the band members suddenly started to smile quite heartedly. I looked back and what I saw was really something out of the ordinary. There was this man, I’d say about 50 years old or so, literally walking on the centre aisle, backwards, facing the crowd, moving his hands as gesturing “GET YOUR ASSES UP” to the crowd. Most of the crowd followed, and whoever didn’t, had to follow at the end because before long EVERYBODY was standing. What a cool chap. Here he is—his name is Bill, I had a short chat with him after the performance. Hats off to you, Bill!
Nobody even thought about sitting down for the last song. Piper to the End sounds better when you stand up, no question about it. The crowd was so focused at the music, except for this stupid thug who verbally abused an innocent woman standing next to me, as he was trying to push himself onto the stage. But lets not let rude idiots ruin it; it was a great performance.
WOW, what a great concert. Bafflingly good. So good that, really, watching this concert live 87 times seems a bit too little.
After the concert, we bid Nancy goodbye again as she was going to get a ride with her friend Kathy back to Chicago, and then fly home to Philadelphia the next morning. Not to worry, though; we will meet Nancy again next week, in New‐Jersey. Also met Carol again after the show, along with her friend Donna. Goodbye hug & kiss and quickly back to the hotel as it started to rain.
Back at the hotel, I took my Netbook downstairs to the lounge to write this post (Jeroen joined as well as I guess he was bored). A young German couple was sitting at a nearby table. At some point, the guy disappeared; I wouldn’t have noticed it unless suddenly the lady called “excuse me” towards me.
– “Is it allowed to smoke in here?”
I wasn’t sure I’m hearing correctly. Very bizarre question, don’t you think. What am I, the department of health? So I approached, to make sure I hear correctly.
She repeated the question.
– “I don’t think so”, I replied. “But you should be OK smoking outside.”
– (Pointing at a side‐door that looked like an emergency exit) “Is this door OK to go outside? won’t sound an alarm or anything?”
It felt really nice, being considered the architect of the building.
– “I don’t know, but to be on the safe side, you may want to use the main entrance.”
– “OK. When my husband comes back, will you tell him I went out for a smoke?”
– “Sure, no problem.”
She looks at me and comes closer. I should say that she wasn’t too bad for the eyes.
– “Promise?” she asked, sort‐of whispering.
My mother told me to never say “no” to women, especially when they’re whispering, so I complied.
She then gazed me in a way that could either be interpreted in two ways: either she’s going to take me upstairs right now, or she was completely and utterly drunk.
By the fact that you’re reading this post now, you should be able to conclude that she was drunk.
– “Pinky‐promise?” she said, stretching her pinky towards me.
– “Yes”, I said. We had a pinky celebration and it was all over.
A few minutes after she was gone, her husband showed up. He found it a bit annoying when I told him that his wife went for a smoke. He didn’t seem to be too impressed. Later I realized that they both were ass‐drunk.
I am finishing this blog post with a strong taste of melancholia. Just received a rather discouraging email; guess another sleepless night is due. Had the bar been still open (2:30am now), I suppose a drink would be in order.
Minneapolis tomorrow… about five hours drive.