Monday, September 23, 2019

I Got Kidnapped, Part 1: Berlin, OMD and The B52s

So yeah, Denise kidnapped me this weekend to a pair of '80s concerts at Foxwoods Casino. The Friday night show was at the Grand Theater in the Fox Tower (the newer and larger of Foxwoods' two main concert venues), and the Saturday night show was at the Fox Theater in the Grand Pequot Tower. (Confusing, right? It gets worse. I mentioned to one of the ushers how confusing the names seemed, and she told me that one night recently, it was even more befuddling. On that night, John Legend played at one of the venues, and Legends in Concert was featured at the other.)

Anyway, here's how it happened. I don't remember all of the machinations, but the gist of it is that originally, Denise was supposed to go for the weekend with one of her friends from her WLIR Facebook group. Then that person had to drop out. Then Denise drafted me to go. But after thinking about it, for a variety of reasons (that you know I'll get into), I asked her if she could find someone else to go with. She did. But then that person also had to cancel, so I was informed that I was back in. ("Please coach! Don't send me in!") (Btw, I'm not not naming names here to protect the innocent. I just don't even remember who she was going with.)

Here's why I originally didn't want to go. The #1 reason was leaving my son alone. He's been showing a little more maturity lately, but back when Denise originally planned the show, he was more touch-and-go with the judgment he was showing. I'm a terrible worrywart anyway, and the thought of leaving him alone for the weekend (and probably with access to my car) made me reluctant to go. (Actually, I think the car is what's been helping him to mature, though. He loves driving, and he knows that any mess ups or poor judgment mean loss of driving privileges. So his love of driving has been keeping him more on the straight and narrow.)

Also, I just didn't have the money. My agency took a salary cut near the end of last year, and we still haven't had full salaries restored, which is causing me to go more and more into debt every month. Not a great time for a casino vacation.

Then there were the concerts themselves. The B-52s are Denise's favorite band (along with Blondie), so we've seen them together at least eight or nine times. And we just saw OMD last year. (Although I'll admit, that was a great show.) Berlin was a nice sweetener, since I've only ever seen them once, and that was a couple of decades ago. But all told, given that I had seen them all at least once, I wouldn't have chosen to go out of town just to see them again. And as for Saturday's show -- well, I'll tell you all about in my next post. For now, suffice it to say it's an artist who Denise loves, but I never really had any interest in seeing.

And the fact that we wouldn't actually be staying at Foxwoods (because it's frickin' expensive!) was also an issue. These days, I wear out suddenly, and when I wear out, I just want to go to sleep. But when we hit the casinos, Denise almost always (always, actually) has more stamina than me. I like when we stay at Vernon Downs upstate, because when I'm done playing, I can just go up to the room without ruining Denise's good time. At Foxwoods, I wind up waiting around for her, which wasn't so bad when I was younger. But now, I don't want to conk out on a bench and wake up with no shoes, if you know what I mean.

And this time, there was also the matter of the tickets. Because Denise didn't originally buy them with me in mind, we didn't have the extra seat for either night, and she wasn't even sure we were on an aisle. Not knowing for sure we're going to fit comfortably into our seats always gives me a ton of anxiety.

And because we had tickets for concerts both nights, we wouldn't even have time for the thing we usually most like to do at Foxwoods (or at Turning Stone upstate) -- play high-stakes Bingo! For people with my body type and fitness level, Bingo is our kind of sport. Not very taxing, you might scoff. But you'd be wrong. Those of you who would say that have never played Marathon Bingo, or as I like to call it, "Death By Bingo"! Regular Bingo is a challenge in-and-of itself. The Warm-Ups and Early Birds usually start at 5PM and run until after 11PM. But Marathon Bingo runs an hour or two longer than that. The last time we tried it, I couldn't feel my butt cheeks for a week.

So anyway, no Bingo this time out. Unless we wanted to get up early on Saturday and play daytime Bingo. And that just wasn't happening.

As it turned out, most of these concerns turned out not to be the issues I anticipated. My son did reasonably well alone for the weekend (although he did manage to lock himself out of the house on Friday night. But he problem solved, and drove over to his sister's place to borrow her key, so I felt like he did pretty good.) Also, the seats did turn out to be aisle seats for both shows. And while they weren't necessarily the most comfortable, they were serviceable, anyway. I did spend too much money, but hey, that's what credit cards are for, right? (I have no idea why I'm always in money trouble.) And the other stuff I just dealt with.

What killed me, though, were two things I hadn't even figured into the equation.

The first was job-related. I work for the adoption agency from which Denise and I adopted our two children ten years ago. And at some point after we had originally spoken about the idea of going away for this weekend, one of the families I've been working with scheduled their Covenant Ceremony.

Now at our agency, the Covenant Ceremony is the climax of everything. It's the ceremony at which the prospective adopting parents make their final promises to their maybe-children that they will always love them, protect them, and be their family forever, and the children make their decision to put their faith in their new parents' honesty, and vow to forever be their children. In this case, as the parent's transition worker, it was the climax of nearly two-and-a-half years of work I did with this family. It's a very emotional evening, and a physically exhausting one as well, as I had to be there early to move everything around and help to set up the room for this ceremony, then help to put it all back together after everything was over. For the last Covenant Ceremony I took part in, it took me almost two days to start to feel human again after it was over. And this ceremony wound up being scheduled for 6PM Thursday night on the night before our trip.

The other factor that helped to exhaust me before the weekend had even begun involved my daughter. I mentioned in a recent post that her job is making her go for training every day in Huntington. Sometimes she catches a ride back and forth with a co-worker who is training with her, and she usually at least gets her rides home from her boyfriend. Given that I had to be in Little Neck for the Covenant Ceremony at 6PM on Thursday night, I was really hoping she wouldn't need me to drive her Thursday morning. But as many of you know, well, Murphy was an Irishman. And he had a law, not-so-coincidentally named Murphy's Law. So you can see where this is going.

I wound up driving my daughter to Huntington to leave her at her job on Thursday at 12 noon. At that point, all of my options were lousy ones, so I decided it made more sense to just continue on to Little Neck five hours early than to drive all the way back to Patchogue only to have to drive to Little Neck two hours later. So I took her to Huntington at noon, drove to Little Neck at one, had the Covenant Ceremony at 6, and got home aching and exhausted at about 9:30. Then, just for fun, I had to drive her back to Huntington the next morning. (We left at 7:20AM so I could get her there by 9). I dropped her off, got some bloodwork done on the way home, packed my bag for the weekend, and left the house with Denise at 11:30 to catch a 1PM ferry in Port Jefferson. My back hurt, my feet hurt, and I was emotionally exhausted. And the weekend hadn't even started.

The trip to Connecticut was blessedly uneventful. We caught the ferry into Bridgeport with no problem. We hit a little bit of traffic on I-95, but it could have been worse.

Denise and I have been going to the casino area of Connecticut for years, and when we do, we usually use the town of Groton as our base of operations. It's midway between Foxwoods and The Mohegan Sun, and when there used to still be Jai Alai in Connecticut and Rhode Island, it was convenient enough for that, too. This time, we were staying at the Ramada Inn, where we'd stayed at least once or twice before. The motel has an indoor pool, which I like, and it's connected to an Indian restaurant. I remember once when we stayed there, we had a hell of the time finding the place. This time, though, we found it right away.

We got to the motel at a little after three, which gave us a couple of hours to rest before grabbing dinner and heading out. We ate at the Indian restaurant. The food was delicious, and tired as I still was, we discussed the possibility of maybe eating there again tomorrow. The prospect of just moping around at the motel all day sounded pretty good to me.

We made it out to Foxwoods at a little after 7 for an 8 o'clock show. As it turned out, our seats weren't exactly on an aisle -- they were actually in a corner, against a wall. But because the concert hall is pretty new, the seats were nice and wide, so were able to make do. We were on the far left side of the auditorium, near the back of the floor section. (There was only one row behind us.) The biggest downside was that we were pretty penned in. Our bladders needed to hold up, because we couldn't get out on my side. This meant that if we needed to use the restrooms, or get something from the concessions stand, we'd have to climb over (and inconvenience) the 17 people to Denise's right.

We also couldn't see the full stage. There was a "BERLIN" logo on the video screen at the back of the stage, but all we could see was "LIN".

We found ourselves in the midst of a nice little enclave of music fans of about our age, and traded music stories and info, and camera photos of shows we'd attended, with the couple in front of us and the couple to the right of us. (And Denise found a pack of fans behind her who were planning to be on the '80s Cruise she'll be going on next March.)

At 8 on the dot, the lights went down, and Berlin took the stage. Now as usual, I had done my due diligence and printed out setlists for all three bands playing this show, so I knew what to expect. (I had also been listening to the new Berlin album Transcendance in preparation for the show. It didn't interest me much at first, but some of the songs have since started to grow on me.)

Berlin came out as a six-piece, which included original members Terry Nunn, David Diamond and John Crawford. Nunn was dressed in a some sort of black-sequined outfit, and looked good -- glamorous, and kind of sexy. (And why not? At four years younger than me, she's still a hot young thing.) More importantly, she also sounded really good, with a voice that was both strong and true.

The crowd gave Berlin a great response right away, which the band clearly enjoyed. They played their way through a (too short) eight-song set that included five of their classics, an AC/DC cover (of all things!), and my two favorite songs from the new album. Nunn even came out into the crowd over on our side as she sang "Take My Breath Away" from the soundtrack of the Top Gun movie, which was the band's highest-ranked single on the Billboard charts (at #1!) back in their heyday. Nunn looked legitimately touched by the outpouring of affection that she, and Berlin, received from this very-receptive audience.

The only negative to their set was that the sound was a little muddy throughout. Nunn's voice was pretty clear, but I really wanted the synth to be cranked more, especially for my favorite Berlin song, "Metro". (It did sound a little more distinct for my second-favorite track, "Masquerade".) Berlin's setlist can be found at

In between sets, Mandy and Tim from Denise's WLIR group came over by my wall to visit. They had gotten caught in some vicious traffic coming from Brooklyn (no ferry for them!), and as a result, they had missed the first three or four songs from Berlin's set. It turned out that they were sitting basically right behind us, in the first row of the next section back.

OMD was the next band to the stage. (I'm only going to spell out "Orchestral Manouevers in the Dark" this once for you. This write-up is long enough as it is!) Denise and I had seen them late in 2017 at Terminal 5 in Manhattan on their tour promoting their very tasty The Punishment of Luxury album. It was one of the best shows we saw that year.

This time out, though, the band had a different game plan, as they stuck almost entirely to their most popular '80s fare (with the exception of one song taken from their 2010 LP, History of Modern). Now I would have sworn that when we'd seen them in 2017, they'd played as a five-piece. But then I realized that I hadn't "seen them" much at all, as we'd had handicapped seats at the side of the room that night, and I couldn't really see a thing over the crowd. So anyway, they played as a 4-piece (all of them dressed in black), as usual.

This was another really strong outing by this band. They performed a full, 12-song set, that included one of my favorite songs of the '80s, "Tesla Girls", as well as other popular numbers such as "Enola Gay", "Secret", "If You Leave" and "Locomotion". This time out, I could see Andy McCluskey's dancing, which was pretty frightening. (And lest you think I'm just being mean -- perish the thought! -- he made fun of it himself). It was somewhere in between the movements of a person with severe neurological damage and a chicken, with maybe a little bit of Jerry Lewis thrown in for good measure.

The crowd danced up a storm during their set, including Denise, who (unbeknownst to her) pelted me mercilessly with the small purse flung over her arm as she swayed from side to side. She asked me later why I didn't tell her, but I figured it was better that she pummel me than the stranger sitting to her right. As it was, I sat watching fascinated throughout the set, as her purse repeatedly just missed the back of the head of the lady sitting in front of her (who was sitting leaned back throughout the night, nursing a broken foot.) She's a dangerous gal, my Denise.

OMD closed out their set with another of my favorites (and their oldest single), "Electricity". They then left the stage, to wild applause. You can see their full setlist at

At this point, I knew there'd be a bit of a break. OMD's equipment had been set up behind Berlin's, so the set-up time between those two bands had been relatively brief. But now they had to do a full set-up for the B's, so they ran a series of '80s music videos on the onstage screen. At this point, my bladder was doing reasonably well. However, I figured if I didn't go now, there was a chance I'd have to annoy everyone to go in and out to use the Men's room in the middle of the B-52s' set. So Denise and I decided to go together, so as to minimize the inconvenience. People (most of whom were our age) were very understanding as we climbed past them.

The line for the Men's room was immense, but moved pretty quickly. The line to the women's room moved less quickly.

At this point, I should tell you that I was dragging, and had been for the whole concert. I recognized that the bands were putting on a great show, and the crowd energy was right there to meet them. I, unfortunately wasn't. I was enjoying myself, but not nearly so much as I would have been if I hadn't had the hectic schedule I did on Thursday night and Friday morning.

The Indian food was also sitting like a rock in my stomach, and making me feel a little nauseous. (And Denise said the same). I don't blame the food for this -- I think it was delicious, and well cooked. But my system can't handle what it once could. Mentally, I revised my plan to revisit the same restaurant tomorrow night. I would choose something a little blander.

I visited briefly with Tim and Mandy as the set-up on stage continued. Then I waited for Denise, and we "Excuse Me"'d our way back across the row to our seats.

Not too long after that, the lights went down, and The B-52s took the stage.

Now the last time I saw the B's was last year at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. I hadn't really enjoyed them much that day, partly because a drunk doofus behind me thought that he was Keith Moon and our row of chairs was his drum kit, and partially because Cindy Wilson's throat that night had been raw humburger meat -- just painful to listen to. We've seen this band together a number of times over the years, and it seems like maybe two thirds of the time, Cindy has had vocal problems. (And on one or two the shows when she didn't, Kate Pierson did.) Tonight, happily, was a completely different story.

The B's played the show with a four-piece band backing Kate, Cindy and Fred Schneider. Cindy was in good voice tonight, Kate was in great voice, and Fred was ... well, Fred. They opened with one of my favorites, "Private Idaho", before playing Denise's favorite B's track, "Mesopotamia". She was a little disappointed, though -- she said that now that guitarist Keith Strickland has retired from touring, the song didn't have that little Egyptian riff he used to play that really makes the song for her.

(By the way, I should tell you that the keyboard on my laptop has a problem with the "B" key. Having two "B" bands in the lineup for this show -- Berlin and The B-52s -- is really starting to piss me off, as I have to go back and keep retyping their names. Can't wait for the Bastille show next Tuesday!)(Subtle Coming Attraction for you there.)

In any event, The B's continued their way through a very strong 12-song set before playing their two-tune encore. They made one change from the setlist I had printed out from last Tuesday's Washington, DC show, switching out "6060-842" for "Channel Z" (which was an upgrade as far as I was concerned.) They played most of the stuff you'd expect, including "Give Me Back My Man", "Deadbeat Club" (another of my favorites), "Roam", "Party Out of Bounds", "Strobe Lights", "Dance This Mess Around", and "Love Shack".

At one point, Fred disappeared from the stage for a full three songs, and I missed his contribution to "Deadbeat Club". When he was there, though, he was pretty actively engaged, playing a variety of hand instruments, including a tinkly little xylophone. And when he came back from his break, he was wearing a long blonde wig, sunglasses and a unicorn horn with unicorn ears to boot.

They started the encore with maybe my favorite B-52s song, the weird and eerie "Planet Claire". They then tore into their last number for the night, the obligatory "Rock Lobster". And towards the end of the song, a person came out dressed in a full lobster costume (kind of like a school mascot outfit if your school happens to be the University of Maine Lobsters or something.) The lobster then proceeded to dance around the stage for the rest of the song, and took a bow with the band. Fred then kindly led the lobster by the hand safely off of the stage, and I'm sure he or she couldn't see a thing from in there. Denise is really hoping they bring the lobster with them on the '80s Cruise.

You can find the B-52s setlist for the night at

We let out into the casino at midnight. It had been a full four-hour show. But it was a happy and satisfied crowd that left the theater.

At this point, Denise and I used the facilities once again. We then made a plan to meet up at 1AM, so Denise could play some slots.

Unfortunately, the Fox Tower of Foxwoods, where this show had taken place, has no non-smoking casino area (that I know of, anyway.) And the casino floor was smoky and disgusting, so I had no intention of playing.

Instead, I checked in with my son by text. (This was when I learned about the adventure of the lost keys.) I then bought some Pepto-Bismol tablets and a couple of waters (so Denise and I could take our night meds later) in one of their little casino stores. Killing time, I headed over to the Junior's Cheesecake stand, where I ran into Mandy and Tim grabbing some dessert. We compared notes briefly, and I left them to enjoy their treats. I then gimped my sore and tired body over to the hotel lobby, where I sat in the soft chairs for thirty minutes or so, eating my Junior's bagel and drinking an iced mocha while I waited to meet Denise.

We hooked up at 1 as scheduled, and headed back to our motel in Groton. By this time, I was one tired buckaroo.

By the way, if you happen to read this in time, all three of these bands are playing in Manhattan at the Central Park SummerStage on Tuesday night, September 24. They put on a great show. Denise is looking forward to seeing Berlin and The B's again on her '80s Cruise next March, although sadly, OMD won't be there.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of "I Got Kidnapped" later today.