Saturday, August 10, 2013

"The Friendly Confines": Two True Stories to Confirm that Wrigley Field is Appropriately Named

I've been to Wrigley Field twice in my life.  Here are the accounts of those two experiences.

At the end of June, my best friends from college, Annelise and Missy, and myself planned a weekend rendezvous in Chicago, where Missy lives and where Annie used to live.  Missy had already made plans for the Saturday night of the weekend that we chose.  But not just any plans.  She and her husband, Todd had been given tickets to a concert from his brother for Christmas.  But not just any concert.  It was Jason Aldean...who just happens to be Todd's favorite musician...confirmed by the fact that he sang every word of the song "Dirt Road Anthem" (including the country/rap part) at their wedding reception.  But the concert wasn't at just any venue.  it was at Wrigley Field.  

This being the case, Annie and I were left to our own devices to find entertainment for Saturday evening.  We had dinner with Missy, Todd, his brother and friend.  Then we joined them for the walk to Wrigley Field.  

We snapped a pic in front of the stadium, they went to the show and Annie and I looked at each other with a "what now?" look.  I suggested the Cubby Bear, a place an out-of-towner like myself thought was "iconic" while her look gave the impression that there were better places to hang out in Wrigleyville.  But she humored me and we went inside. 

We went to the bathroom and encountered a swarm of college-aged girls wearing their "country best" talking about stuff that college-aged girls wearing their "country best" talk about while they are in the bathroom.  Then we got a drink.  We sat at tables that were being methodically removed to make room for a dance floor.  Just before our table was taken away, two guys approached our table.  One was dark and tall...kind of resembling a cubby bear himself.  The other was short and slim and much quieter than his friend.  They ask if we were going to the concert tonight.  We responded "no", in a kind of a regretful tone.  They asked if we would like to go to the concert tonight.  Annie and I shot each other a puzzling glance and before we could respond they told us they had 2 free tickets.  I asked "No strings attached?"  They said "No strings attached."  In unison, Annie and I said we would take them!  As the "cubby bear", whose name was Chris, was producing the tickets he began to explain how they happened upon having 2 extras.  

The story turned about to be a rather sad one.  Chris and his wife, who were living in Philadelphia, had this weekend in Chicago planned for over a year including tickets to the Jason Aldean show.  Another couple was supposed to be joining them.  But now, Chris and his wife were going through a divorce and everyone had backed out of the trip, for obvious reasons.  So Chris was stuck with 4 concert tickets and a non-refundable condo for a weekend in Chicago.  Not wanting to throw it all away, he called up his friend, Aaron (short, slim, quieter...), whom he had grown up with in Buffalo, NY.  With 2 days notice, Aaron books a flight to join Chris for a weekend in Chicago.  And now they were sitting at the bar in the Cubby Bear assessing their options of whom to offer the two extra tickets to and Annie and I were the best they could find.  How friendly!

So, we're going to the concert!  I may have been slightly more excited about this than Annie as she's not much of a country music fan. But we both love live music and how often do you get free tickets to a concert at Wrigley Field?  Well, I never had, until now.  

The tickets weren't bad, along the 3rd base line, lower deck but covered (I'm sure there are more appropriate terms to describe where we sat but you get the idea...).  We had already missed the opener, Jake Owens but as we were taking our seats we were serenaded by Kelly Clarkson.  We texted Missy to let her know we made it to the show.  She came to hear the story of what had transpired and then went back to her seats right behind home plate.  

The seating arrangement became Annie, Me, Aaron and Chris.  We were enjoying the music... and maybe the people watching even more (placing bets on when the girl in front of us passed out, or what exactly the nature of the relationship was between the man and woman in front of us...Aaron thought they were mother and son which would have been weird considering their close proximity to one another and then the fact that he planted a fat one on her).  Annie was having a not so enjoyable experience as the girl next her kept encroaching on her space...even after we had moved over to leave an entire seat between us.  As Annie was guarding herself from thrown elbows and sweat flinging from hair, I struck up a conversation with Aaron.  He was still living in Buffalo.  I told him that I used to compete in a horse show outside of Rochester, New York.  He was familiar with the area and then told me that, speaking of horses, he had just gone to the Kentucky Derby.   I told him my brothers had gone to the Kentucky Derby for my brother's bachelor party.  He says he went there for HIS bachelor party.  Well, whaddya know!  Aaron is getting married in 6 days!  I nudge Annie... "Annie, he's getting married! In 6 days!"  That's one heck of a wingman to join your buddy for a "what could have been" weekend, the weekend before you get married.  AND, once heck of a fianc√© to be ok with it!  

In the meantime, I look over and Chris, who had been texting nearly the entire time, had tears streaming down his face.  I nudge Annie... "Annie, Chris is crying!"  She says, "He has been for the last 10 minutes that you've been talking to Aaron."  Whoops. 

So, back to the music.  It had started to rain right before Jason Aldean took the stage, but that didn't deter the fans in the outfield.  Everyone was having a good time.  Except for Annie who was still enduring elbows and sweat-dripping hair... Which was soon to turn to sweaty arms in her space and dirty looks.  I was beginning to have flashbacks of my Mumford and Sons experience in Aspen the previous year when Luke had to separate me from a girl whom I accused of being "the mean girl from middle school" (I'm so harsh I know) while she threw around the threat "I play hockey!"  We were all shaking in our boots.

Being a Weaver (which means we ask a lot of questions...maybe more so than the average human, I've been told), I asked Aaron what he did for work.  In a hesitating manner he told me he did construction.  I was picking up that he thought that was something to be ashamed of for some reason and that he didn't really want to talk about it.  So I went back to the music...for about 5 minutes.  Then I decided that since working construction is nothing he should be ashamed of, I asked him what kind of construction he did.  Again, he hesitated.  He told me, "It's a lie.  I don't do construction."  Oh?  He takes out his wallet and produces a business card that indicates that Aaron, is not a construction worker, but an MD.  I nudge Annie... "He's a doctor!"  He tells us that when you tell people you are a doctor, people immediately treat you differently so he tells strangers he works construction, but that no one had ever asked him "what kind of construction."  Guess he had never met a Weaver before.  

And then Aaron offered that if I ended up needing any medical advice on my travels in the next year to fell free to contact him.  How friendly!

I did eventually switch seats with Annie... For the last 30 seconds of the show.  Finally, the girl next to her had stepped on Annie and there was a brief scuffle in which she told Annie to "just chill."  Remember this girl has taken up two seats and is working on her third...Annie's.  I had experience in this kind of situation (re: Mumford) and successfully maintained the peace... And then the concert was over.  

How about that?  Free tickets to a concert with good music... But the story behind the tickets may have been even better.

And just yesterday, I was reflecting on my friendly experience at Wrigley Field (minus the sweaty-armed bully sitting next to us) and was reminded of my first, and only other experience at Wrigley Field.

It was the summer of 2002.  I was taking 9 hours of independent study classes and waiting tables at Damon's down on the Peoria riverfront (which ceased to exist after that summer and probably explains my considerably low income that summer).  I decided to take a few days off and visit my friend Mindi in St. Joseph, Michigan.  We had a fun few days hanging on her parents boat on the lake and then I headed back to Peoria.  I had just crossed the border into Illinois when I got to thinking, "I've never been to Wrigley Field.  I'm not on the schedule to work for a few days... I should see if there is a Cubs game."  So I called my dad to have him do some research for me.  This was obviously in the era before smart phones, when my dad often served as a smart phone.  "Hey Dad, I'm in Denver.  Is there a Schlotszky's nearby?"  "Hey Dad, Vail Pass is closed.  Does it say when it will open?" "Hey Dad, I'm in Miami.  I can't remember who I rented my car from.  Here is my password for life.  Can you look it up in my email?" (I actually think I called Luke for that one.)  "Hey Dad, I'm in Chicago.  Is there a Cubs game today?"  He says, "Yep! One o'clock."  The clock on the dashboard says noon.  "Pops!  I'm going to see The Ivy!  See you in a few days!"  As an aside, I wouldn't really call myself a baseball fan.  I think I just wanted the experience more than anything else.  I loved the spontaneity of it and I loved that as a 21 year-old girl was doing this by herself.  I thought I was cool.  

So I head north on Lake Shore Drive and followed the signs to Wrigley Field ( smart phone or GPS).  I find a sign for parking.  I paid $16.  It seemed like a lot.  When I walked out from the alley I understood why.  The stadium was a half block away.  A guy on the corner was selling an extra ticket (if I knew then what I know now I would have tried my luck in the Cubby Bear for a free ticket!).  He wanted $10.  I had a $20 and eight $1bills. He gave it to me for $8.  Yes, I paid half as much for my ticket as I did for parking.  My seat was in the upper deck and it happened to be a rather cool, windy day,  AND it was Day Camp Day at the old ballpark. Considering that I was surrounded by approximately 500 screaming kids, I decided to find a better seat.  I bought a brat and a beer and made my way down to the 3rd base line.  I found 4 empty seats in the 4th row that seemed inviting.  I took a seat and a few minutes later 3 guys showed up.  I think they were rather amused by the single girl at the ball game, so they bought me a Cubs t-shirt.  How friendly!

And then they assured me that the guy they had given the 4th ticket to wouldn't show up.  Just as I asked the guys what they did for a living (I think they actually did work construction), the usher came down with the ticket-holder to my seat.  I got up to leave but again the guys assured me that it would be ok If I stayed.  The usher wasn't convinced so I found a new seat.  This time I went to right field and hung out with Sammy Sosa and enjoyed the rest of the game taking in all that makes Wrigley Field the unique place it is. 

And so my conclusion is this:  I know that the "Curse of the Billy Goat" has cast a long shadow on the Cubbies, but something must happen to people as they near the "Friendly Confines" and you just can't help but be friendly.  But maybe someone should have reminded the girl sitting next to Annie at the concert where she was...

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