Thursday, August 5, 2010
So, it's been a few days now, and I'm slowly recovering from the most Awesomely-AWESOME weekend I've had in a long, long while. As I type this I'm sitting in the lobby of a very nice hotel in Cleveland, OH, sipping wine and missing my Jovi-Gal Pals. It's just not nearly as fun drinking in a hotel lobby without them.
Ah, where to begin...
Well, it's summer. Time for family vacations, right? This year our clan was due for one of those load-up-the-family-truckster road trips to visit Hub's relatives, aka "The Outlaws." I saw this one coming a mile away; it has been three years since we last visited. Being the resourceful Catte I am, I decided early-on to work this situation to my advantage.
Now, Hub and I have been together for 23 years. His family seemed normal enough in the beginning; but then again I was young and naive and in love. See, Hub has one of those big, boisterous Polish Catholic families who do EVERYTHING together. They can't go out to the mailbox without calling each other first. Needless to say, being the extremely independent and impatient person I am, my tolerance for this level of togetherness is low. In fact, the window is about 12 hours.
But because it's what you do for the one you love, when the topic of a family visit came up earlier this year I gritted my teeth and said "Sure, Honey. We'll go spend a week with your mother this summer." I knew then it was gonna be the longest week of my life. (And turns out it was... If you've been following me on Twitter the past week and a half, you know what I mean.)
But once again the Bon Jovi Boys came to my rescue. They announced their North American Stadium swing, ending at Soldier Field in Chicago, a mere hour away from The Outlaws. Sweet Salvation. And not only that, the show was smack-dab between Hub's birthday and mine. Perfect excuse to leave the Cattelet with her Grammy and escape to the city for a long weekend.
It didn't take much to convince Hub about the weekend sans kid, and he was positively drooling at the idea of staying at the very sexy Hard Rock Hotel. He also saw the brilliance of having said hotel room immediately available post-show, when his wife was still deep in the throes of Sambora-rapture. Hub may be a PITA sometimes, but he ain't stupid. :)
So it came to pass that Hub had a Spiritual Experience last Friday night. A Jovi-Virgin for 23 years, he finally got to see what exactly all the fuss was about; why his wife spent the past four months and undisclosed amounts of cash schlepping around the country to rock-and-roll shows far and near. I'm proud to say he thoroughly enjoyed it. And the concert too, LOL.
It would probably be going a bit far to say Hub is now a devoted member of Jonny's Church of Rock and Roll. He won't be insisting I take him with me to all the shows on the next leg of The Circle Tour (Thank God). But he gets it. And he admits that Friday night's Bon Jovi concert in Chicago was one of the best he's ever seen.
Friday morning we hopped the train from Northern Indiana with about 500 other future concert goers, then wheeled our luggage 2 blocks to our very nice, very hip hotel. Jovi Gals Willow and Deb and Jean were arriving about the same time, and we all met up at Navy Pier for a nice lunch. This served as an initiation of sorts for Hub; Willow and I figured we should ease him into the madcap Fandom World a little at a time so he wouldn't be overwhelmed (or scared). After everyone got acquainted we returned to our various hotels to get ready for the show, with a plan to reconvene at our hotel for pre-show drinks in the bar.
Pre-show drinks in the bar turned into 2 bottles of wine in our hotel room (Three Blind Moose Pinot Grigio and Red Guitar Tempranillo). We Gals played "guess the setlist" (and were pretty damned close), and teased Hub about staging a photo shoot a la the naughty puppy pics of Jonny that had just surfaced that week. He didn't quite get it... which was probably a good thing. : )
After our refreshments we all piled into a cab for the trek to Soldier Field. We managed to get a cabbie who had no idea how bad traffic would be, and the one-mile ride took 35 minutes. Good thing we all like each other. Once we arrived we hiked ALL the way around the stadium to claim our tickets at the Backstage tent, then navigated security and beer and bathroom lines.
Once we tried to actually get to our seats the fun began. Seems Soldier Field had never hosted a concert before -- or at least that's how they acted. After being sent to three different places we finally obtained the required wristbands and headed for our seats, before Kid Rock started his set.
Hub and I had seats practically Circleside on David's side of the stage. The look on his face was priceless as I led him to our chairs, just 15 feet from the ramp. "Holy Shit!" he exclaimed. "How did you get such good seats?" I smirked and answered. "These seats? Well, they're okay. See, being in the Fan Club does have some benefits." I didn't think it would be prudent at that point to bring up the fact that Willow and I had Pit Seats for the next night; I just let him bask in my Awesomeness, LOL.
We took some photos, had a beer, then out came Kid Rock in all his greasy, sinewy, foul-mouthed glory. Hub was loving it; he thinks Kid... well, Rocks. And so he did. It was one helluva set. Hub was even more impressed by his "rock and roll experience" when Security busted five guys behind us who were passing around a little Wacky Tobaccy.
After Kid's set our seat-neighbors arrived and I had to laugh out loud at Hub's expression. The only words I can come up with to describe the "young lady" are "teenaged prostitute." Seriously: 5-inch heels and a 5-inch long skirt. The "young man" looked like he was headed to a Jay-Z show with his four-sizes-too-big denim shorts and Timberland work boots and Sox cap on sideways. Hey, as Jon often says, there is true diversity in this audience.
The lights went down, the video went up, and Hub excitedly snuggled his arm around my waist. "Not yet--wait 'til the show's over!" I hissed as he squeezed my ass. "Richie's coming out!" Then there he was, working the talkbox to the opening bars of Blood on Blood. And off we went.
Several times in the opening two songs I snuck a peek at Hub and saw him staring wide-eyed as Jon pranced and preened and threw his hands in the air and strummed furiously on that black Takamine. Apparently our frontman can cast the same spell over men as he can women, because Hub was mesmerized. By the time Bad Name came out, Hub was singing along, shouting out "YOU GIVE LO-O-O-VE A BAD NAME!!!" with gusto.
I could see my work was done.
On the show went, me dancing and singing and shaking my booty in between snapping photos and taking video, and Hub fully into it by my side. He even gasped out "Oh My God! I Love This Song!" when Jon launched into Lost Highway. I'm sure he'll deny ever making such a girlish statement when confronted. I got that one on video (it was one of the BEST performances of that song I've ever seen), and Hub has already watched it 5 times. And we're not even home yet.
It's My Life, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, We Got It Going On... Hub and I danced and sang and smooched and cuddled. He was having the time of his life. My heart almost burst with pride when he elbowed me and nodded toward our young seat-neighbors and said "what the Hell is THEIR problem?"
Girlie and her Boy had stood through exactly TWO songs -- Blood on Blood and It's My Life. The rest of the time they had been perched on their folding chairs, playing with her iPhone, trying to make phone calls, posing for goofy pictures of themselves, and sucking face. Needless to say the couple and their posse of 6 left somewhere mid-Runaway, never to return. Which was fine with us; we just scooted down Circleside.
(NOTE: If you haven't read Tony K's review of this show, you should. These idiots were the EXACT people he was talking about when he described the lackluster crowd.)
Anyway, Hub was totally into it, and was practically in a Jovi-frenzy when Kid & Co joined the band for the Jukebox Song, Bob Seger's Old Time Rock and Roll. I suspected that would be the night's selection and was glad Hub got to see it, as it is one of his favorite songs. Then we went to church with Richie (during which time I wasn't really aware Hub was even there, LOL), and it was time for Jonny on the circle.
We cuddled and sang to Bed of Roses and Diamond Ring (in between me gasping and shooting photos), and somewhere mid-I'll Be There For You Hub nuzzled up to my ear and softly cooed the most beautiful words I've heard him utter in years. "You're right, Babe. These guys are fucking awesome."
That right there GUARANTEED he was getting laid post-show. Repeatedly.
The rest of the show passed for me in a state of bliss -- my Hub GOT it. Watching him enjoy the show and seeing the performance through his eyes was absolutely exhilarating. It reminded me again just how this music can resonate with someone, with anyone; how it reaches in and touches your soul in a very personal way. I always suspected deep-down in my Dear Hub there was a Jovi fan waiting to be released. I was right.
As I watched Hub discover the Joy of Jovi I had to laugh at how excited he got when The Boys started playing Who Says You Can't Go Home... and I didn't. He gave me a look that clearly said "What is WRONG with you?" then proceeded to throw his hands in the air and shout "It's Alright!" while I checked Twitter on my Blackberry before shooting a few more photos.
Then IT happened... Sympathy for the Devil, right in the middle of Keep the Faith. I was shooting photos and saw Jon look at Hugh. I gasped and squealed to Hub "OH MY GOD! HE'S GONNA DO IT!" and hit the "record" button on my camera. Hub didn't know what the Hell I was talking about, but the minute he heard those notes he went nuts too. I daresay our marriage became even more "forever" in that moment.
We took a breather before the encore, and I was proud that Hub didn't even attempt to sit. He kept saying "What are they gonna do? What songs did you girls predict?" He was almost giddy; it was adorable. Then we got Always (my prediction). Again Hub and I snuggled and smooched, then we swayed and sang along with Wanted and bounced along with Prayer. Hub didn't even roll his eyes when I squealed and snapped away when Jonny stripped to don the Blackhawks Jersey somebody had tossed onstage. Good Man, my Hub.
Then it was done. Hub actually looked sad. I was on the highest of highs -- everything had gone as I hoped. We got one helluva show, one that seemed tailor-made to convince Hub that all those concerts I had previously attended with the girls were in fact worth it. Jon must have had that little voice in his ear as he made out the setlist... "Hey, do this one for Mr. Catte." Damned if he didn't nail it.
By this time it was nearly midnight... and almost my birthday. We were celebrating Deb's birthday on Friday night; mine was Saturday. We were both of the same mind: what better way to celebrate than with Bon Jovi -- in The Pit?" Deb had scored third-row pit seats via the secondary market, and when she got to the venue she discovered to her delight she and Jean got "The Chairs." My response to her excited text was "WOW! How Cool!" followed by "How the Hell are you gonna get them home?" (Turns out it cost $190.00 to UPS them).
Well, as we were gathering our wits and our swag to go, Willow got a text from Deb. She turned to me and shrieked "Hurry! She got us CHAIRS!" And indeed our dear Deb had. Seems the couple sitting in front of her and Jean had split before the show was over, abandoning their fancy-schmancy Bon Jovi folding chairs. Being quick of mind and even quicker of hand, Deb grabbed them both and smuggled them out of the Pit for us. I will be forever grateful to her for that, despite the fact we had to lug them about 2 1/2 miles before we could find a cab. (I'm also insanely jealous that Jean got one of Richie's guitar picks, but I digress.)
So, to the strains of Sinatra crooning "My Kind of Town... Chicago is..." we made our way out of Soldier Field, folding chairs in our hands, songs in our hearts. We were directed to hike to Michigan Avenue to hail a cab, only to find everybody else and their mothers were doing the same thing. So we started to hike up Michigan Ave, carrying folding chairs.
We must have been asked at least a hundred times, "Ummm... why are you carrying chairs?" Of course, it didn't dawn on us to just park the damned chairs on the corner and sit down and wait for a cab. But they did come in handy when we decided to stop at Subway for a sandwich and drink after an hour of trudging/lugging. There were five of us, two tables on the patio, and one chair. Perfect. We clunked down our chairs, opened 'em up, and sat.
Finally, after about 20 minutes of rest and nourishment we were able to hail a cab back to the Hard Rock Hotel. After a few more glasses of wine in our room and much "oohing" and "aahing" over each others' photos, Deb, Jean, and Willow said their goodnights. It was 3:30 a.m. About normal for a Jovi Night.
As for what happened after that, I'll be modest for once and leave it to your imagination. Let's just say Hub and I enjoyed watching the sun rise over Michigan Ave from the amazing view of our hotel room.
My Kind of Town, Chicago Is....
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2....
Friday, May 21, 2010
Well, it was this week, anyway....
The Boys are Back on the road and so am I! I couldn't resist road-tripping to Hershey, PA for the opening date of the Circle Tour stadium leg. Several weeks ago, realizing the Jovi Withdrawal was probably going to be severe at this point, Willow and I decided to grab a couple "cheap" tix and trek to Chocolate Town for what we originally thought would be a day trip.
Funny how plans change.
It all started with Willow getting to take the day off from work, then with Samantha texting to tell us she had decided to come to Hershey.... then it all kinda snowballed from there. But in a good way. Texts, e-mails, and phone calls flew fast and furious the few days preceding the show. Finally, after at least 9 versions of "The Plan" I drove to Jersey on Tuesday to meet Willow. The second she got off work we hopped in the JoviMobile and headed East, ultimately arriving at our hotel at the dinner hour.
Sam was waiting for us, dinner reservation in place. After a quick change to look presentable (this wasn't the kind of place that would welcome my driving-attire Aerosmith t-shirt and tennies), we three sophisticated ladies headed for the bottle of wine we just knew had our name on it. I felt quite worldly and adult being able to actually dine with two grown-ups for once (as opposed to my kid and husband), and I'm sure I had a smug little smirk on my face when we walked into the restaurant.
I'd like to think I kept my composure when the hostess led us over to our table about 15 feet from where Tico was sitting, dining with a friend. Holy Crap. Welcome to Hershey!
We sat, accepted our menus, ordered our wine, and remembered to turn off the Bon Jovi ringtones on our phones (could you IMAGINE?). I had a direct line of sight to the Hitman and I could hear his low, rumbly growl as he talked on his cell. I tried to read the menu and realized I would have to just ask for the "specialty of the house" because I couldn't read a blessed word on the page. Good Grief.
Luckily our server Gina (how's that for Karma?) brought the wine quickly and we all toasted and drank. Trying to resist the urge to stare and drool we came to some sort of decision about an appetizer. Before it arrived Tico and friend made their departure, strolling oh-so-casually out the door with only a little glance and smile in our direction.
*SIGH* Thank God. Now I could eat. I was freakin' starving.
Dinner was lovely and delicious, as was the company and the second bottle of wine. After our meal we took our glasses and retreated to the lounge across the hall, settling in for a little girl-talk. Soon another familiar figure strolled into the lounge and took a seat on the other side of the fireplace from where we girls were relaxing. "Mike Rew! No, wait! That's Paul K!" The giggly, slightly tipsy wide-eyed murmurs flew around our corner of the lounge. "Crap, how much wine have we had? WAITER!!!" Then a few minutes later in sauntered the Rock Star Himself.
No, not THAT one. Obie. God of all Jovi-Wit and Wisdom.
I couldn't stop grinning when I saw him.
Anyway, about that time two more lovely Jovi Gals arrived and we all proceeded to get acquainted, keeping one eye on the other side of the room. Somehow another bottle of wine arrived and soon Samantha leaned over and stage-whispered "Pssst! They're drinking wine! Should we send them a bottle?"
"Hell yeah!" I replied. In a cat-like leap Sam was on her feet and headed for the bar. I stayed curled up in my chair with my wine glass, watching her with what I'm sure was by now a stupid leer on my face. She gave her instructions and returned to our group, settling in to watch but pretend she wasn't watching like the rest of us.
Alas, several minutes later our lovely waiter came bearing the news that Obie and friends were departing and had declined our offer with thanks. Oh well. So much for that. We shrugged and resumed our conversation... until suddenly, there was Obie. Right there, behind Denise's chair. Holy Smokes, he's quick!
With a sweet smile and a wisecrack he thanked us for our gesture, apologizing that they were heading to bed to prepare for a long day tomorrow. It was very brief, but very kind of him to go to the trouble. Good guy, that Obie. : )
So, the objects of our distraction gone we proceeded to close out the bar then retreat to our room where we had more "imported" (i.e. schlepped from home) wine. And thus the hours flew by until finally around 4:00 am I drifted off to sleep, surrounded by half-drunk glasses of wine and Hershey chocolate wrappers.
10:00 am came damned early. At least I didn't have to work (poor Samantha).
So, fast-forward two and a half hours. T minus eight hours 'til showtime. I'm standing in the lobby, showered, blow-dried, casually dressed, and looking only remotely hung over. Beside me is a pile of luggage as I waited for Willow to pull the car around.
And around the corner comes Obie. Our eyes meet, he grins and says hello. I'm pretty sure the thought running through his head was "Hey, it's the redhead from the bar! Betcha she's hung over!" I replied with what I hope wasn't a grimace. He paused and we chatted for a moment during which he assured me in a sing-songy sarcastic voice that he was "Hershey Happy!" (lol) Then with a smile and a wave he headed out the door, undoubtedly off to manage whatever crisis was looming.
That was cool. I've always loved Obie.
After packing the car Willow and I lunched and shopped and made dinner plans with Sam and our new friends. We also met up with the fabulous Rutpop and her adorable husband at Chocolate World. After buying way too much candy we wandered out into the parking lot that happened to be right beside Hershey Stadium. The sweet sound of guitar riffs from a familiar Beatles tune filled the air. "Ahhhh.... Richie!" Willow and I sighed together.
Then IT happened. One simple sentence, sung in that unmistakable blues-sexy wail. YOU SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!!
My knees buckled. I bumped against Willow. She laughed at me. I had literally swooned at Richie's vocal sneak-attack. Holy HELL.
But he didn't continue. Instead we heard Jon's voice counting down then soaring through the air. This one goes out to the man who mines for miracles...
Soundcheck had begun.
Of course we weren't going ANYWHERE out of earshot. So we delivered our purchases to the car and headed for the stadium, hoping to be able to peek through a fence or crawl through some bushes for a glimpse of the rehearsal. At the very least we were going to enjoy the free audio show.
We killed time listening to the expected set tunes while standing in line at the merch table. Toward the end of the check were rewarded with a full version of Birthday, this time with Jon on soft, croony vox with a slight hint of British accent. Apparently it actually was somebody's birthday, because he commented after the song "That's for you..." Thank you Birthday Boy, whoever you are!
A blissful hour later soundcheck was done, show tix were in hand from the Fan Club tent, and we headed out to dinner. We did a little Non-Raindance on the way as dark clouds had been swirling all day. But in all honesty after what I had just witnessed I didn't care if I had to stand in a downpour for 2 1/2 hours of Jovi Goodness. I was all set. The show was just icing on the cake. Ahhhh....
Showtime arrived with only a smattering of occasional raindrops. The crowd was enthusiastic and I heard lots of Oohs and Ahhs over the gargantuan stage setup. Man, they weren't kidding when they said this screen spanned a football field. It was ENORMOUS. And, as we would see when the show started, VERY cool.
After a half-hour in line for the Ladies Room (and I use that term loosely) Willow and I bolted for our seats just as we heard the tom-tom beat of This is Our House. We got settled just in time for the stadium to go dark and the big screen to light up with the familiar opening Circle graphics. Ahhhh, it felt good.
Then off they went... Richie's distinctive riff on Blood on Blood. After the opening bars up bounced Jon, strumming furiously on his black Takamine, pouting that sexy little ego-filled smirk.... and wearing that black zippered leather shirt he wore to the Grammys. The one I've obsessed about for months. Oh. My. God.
It's gonna be a good night.
As the Boys worked their way through the now-very-familiar setlist I was struck by the fact that they seemed very relaxed and happy. Lord knows they looked great, but it was apparent that they were having FUN. Not that they don't usually look happy on stage; quite the contrary. But tonight it really did feel like a reunion of sorts after a break, a "Hey Man, let's Jam" kinda vibe.
And apparently they were chilly, too. Jackets stayed on all night, and when Jon came out after his break in a black leather jacket and gorgeous black-and-white scarf every woman in the stadium (and probably some of the men too) let out one big collective gasp. For those of us dancing along in the crowd it was actually not that cold, but then again body heat from 15,000 of your "closest friends" can keep you pretty toasty.
Other than the AWESOME stage setup there weren't any surprises in the show. Those of us who had attended multiple arena dates were mildly startled when the usual order was juggled a bit. My biggest disappointment was that they didn't do the usual "jukebox song" in the middle of Bad Medicine. I was seriously jonzeing for a little Roadhouse Blues.
Though the band sounded fantastic and Jon was his usual consummate showman self, it was obvious this show was a dress rehearsal for the upcoming week at Giants. Jon didn't seem to be using his full voice, though he still sounded great. I wondered if he was feeling under the weather, but he had sounded fabulous at soundcheck earlier. And if he wasn't feeling well it sure didn't slow him down. He still danced and bounced around the stage like a guy half his actual age. I can imagine the damp, chilly night wasn't much fun to perform in, though.
As for the stage itself, it was of course quite a bit larger than the arena setup. The main stage was flanked by two enormous jumbotrons, and the entire arched back of the stage was a huge video screen. Jon had a lot more room to move around and he did venture out onto the wings of both sides of the stage as well as out onto the circle ramp. Because the setup was larger so was the Pit, and Jon did not venture down "among the people" as he had during the arena shows. I also missed him dancing on the robotic platforms for We Got It Goin' On. Oh well--it would take a LOT of robots to do that on this stage!
When it was time to bring Richie out on the ramp to join him for I'll Be There For You, Jon joked that he hoped Richie packed a lunch "'cause it's FAR!" When David and Tico came out, they had to hustle to make it to the front of the ramp to kick off the song. It was kinda funny to watch, the little "whoas" and "oh craps" you could catch as the guys worked an unfamiliar setup. There were a few minor technical glitches throughout the night, but nothing major. It was still the polished performance we've all come to expect.
As Jon started to shake his maracas for Keep the Faith the raindrops began to fall. Luckily the sprinkle stayed just that -- a few passing drops. Apparently Obie's anti-rain VooDoo was working, lol. The encore was short, just Wanted and Prayer, then they were done. I'm sure the Boys were on a plane back to Teterboro before we even made it out of the parking lot.
All in all it was a pretty awesome 24 hours. The show was fun and upbeat, I got so see some old friends and make some new, and I got to relax and bask in the joy of Jovidom for a brief moment in time before having to return to real life.
Yep, Obie... you had it right. "Hershey Happy!"
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Hello again, it’s been awhile…
Yes, I know it’s been 2 months since my last post. I’ve been busy, what with 6 Jovi shows in the past 8 weeks plus several other adventures. Promise, I’ll catch you all up soon…
This morning I’m just popping in to comment on one of my favorite Rites of Spring, the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD), aka “NerdProm.” It was held last night at the Washington Hilton, and as usual it has had the entire city all a-Twitter for the past week.
Last year our favorite Rock Star attended his very first NerdProm with his lovely bride on his arm. By all accounts Jon reveled in the 2009 event, hanging out with the Stephanopoli (George and his hilarious wife Ali Wentworth), giving witty and enthusiastic soundbytes to practically any media outlet who shoved a microphone in his face, and hob-nobbing with the Pols at the Vanity Fair Afterparty and at a former Gore-Man’s private residence. He was EVERYWHERE.
Not so this year. Though for a brief, shining moment he did cut a handsome figure on the Red Carpet (he snuck in before the live feed coverage started on C-SPAN, Dammit!), for the most part Jon kept a low profile. The Bongiovis looked fantastic; Jon dashing as always in that perfectly-tailored tux with the classic bowtie and thin scarf and Dorothea gorgeous in knee-length black satin with a diamond brooch (though I didn’t love the shoes—sorry, Dot!) They paused only briefly for photogs before saying a few “hellos” and heading into the maze of no-press-allowed pre-dinner receptions.
I heard from a friend who attended that Jon worked the reception rooms with his usual savvy, but that he seemed rather subdued (POLITICO is reporting he seemed "grumpy").
Even the brief peek we got of Jonny listening to the President's speech showed him smiling, but not guffawing along with the rest of the crowd.
A little tour fatigue, perhaps? Can't blame the guy. It's not like he's slowed down much during the break. DKMS benefit on Thursday night, NerdProm, plus upcoming American Idol and who knows how many other Foundation- and Soul-related tasks?
Anyway, after the dinner Jon and Dot did the party rounds, like all good Celebs-with-a-Cause should. He put in an appearance at the MSNBC Afterparty, which was expected since he was at the Prom on an NBC ticket. Apparently he didn't stay long, high-tailing it to the Vanity Fair/Bloomberg Party at the residence of the French Ambassador.
The VF/Bloomberg party was definitely more Jon's preferred style; he attended last year with former NJ Gov Jon Corzine, and this year he was seen mingling with some of his known partners-in-crime including David & Susan Axelrod (below), Donatella Versace, and Jimmy Fallon.
So, even though Mr. Bongiovi's umpteenth trip to Washington was a rather low-key affair this time around, it sounds like he did the town up right. Looking forward to your next visit, Jonny. DC loves you.
If you missed the WHCD and would like to watch, you can see it at C-SPAN's White House Dinner Hub.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Man Alive, did I have one FUN Saturday! So FUN in fact, it took me all day Sunday to recover from it! We have these wonderful neighbors who have become dear friends. We find them delightful because a) they are a military family, as we once were, b) they have two adorable girls, the oldest the same age as our daughter, and c) they drink beer and love sports. And oh, by the way, they are HUGE Philadelphia Eagles fans. They are AWESOME. Anyway, when her lovely husband surprised her with two tickets to Eagles Academy for Women, my dear friend Stacey immediately thought of me. So it was that we found ourselves headed northbound to Philly this past Saturday morning, sipping coffee and giggling gleefully at the thought of a WHOLE DAY of football and sports bars and shopping with NO CHILDREN!!! Now before I go on with my tale, let me clarify: Eagles Academy for Women is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a football Fan Camp, held by the Philadelphia Eagles, exclusively for female fans. And let me tell ya, this isn't a "Hey honey, see that brown kinda-egg-shaped thing with the white stitching? They call that a football" kinda camp. This is serious business. For women who are SERIOUS about football. My kinda place. So, a bit before the 10:00 am start time we pulled into the lot outside the gorgeous NovaCare Complex and climbed the steps. After registering and receiving our team assignments (Team Cole!) we joined the other 200 or so women attending the Academy in the huge auditorium to receive our welcome. After a great opening by Channel 6 Sportscaster Jamie Apody we were off and running! First up for Team Cole: a visit to the hallowed halls of the Eagles Locker Room. After being led on a short tour of the facility, we gals were allowed to run amok (or at least wander at will) down the looooong row of lockers, photographing anything we wanted. I of course had to pause by fellow K-State Wildcat Darren Howard's locker, while Stacey worshipped at the threshhold of DeSean Jackson's rather blinged-out cubby (lol). After about ten minutes of gawking, it was time to get down to business. We settled into our desks at the rear of the locker room, opened our provided playbooks (Yes! Playbooks!) and gave our attention to the Scouting Coordinator. For about 20 minutes he explained how the Eagles scout not only college players coming into the draft but active NFL players as well, and what exactly it is they look for when they watch hours and hours and hours of game tape. It was quite enlightening. And kind of exhausting. I mean, I love to watch football on digital video as much as the next guy, but sheesh -- how many times can you really watch Jeremy Maclin go forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards off the line of scrimmage? I left that session with a true appreciation of just how much work a small staff of personnel guys (and gals, there are a few women in the profession) has to do all year long to keep building and re-building a great NFL team roster. After the Scouting session it was off for a quick tour of the MASSIVE weight room. Seriously, I've been in aircraft hangars the size of this thing! Stacey and I got a laugh out of how huge the weight plates were on many of the machines. Scary big. Then again, there are some BIG boys in the NFL. Then it was off to Defense, where the Assistant Linebackers Coach taught us about coverages and tackling and all kinds of other cool stuff. He seemed a little taken aback when we started asking questions like "would you pull the free safety out and slide the corner down if the offense shifted to a U-Pony Package?" or "What's the deal with Assante Samuel always going for the pick instead of the tackle? If he gets burned with that showboat crap one more time I'm gonna...." Told ya the women at this thing were hard-core fans! ;) After Defense, Offense. This one was hard and fast: the Offensive Quality Control Coach taught us seven basic offense packages, and at least five variations, with film, all in about twenty minutes. We all furiously scribbled Xs and Os and arrows in our playbooks while calling out questions like "And what if Jackson draws double coverage? Could Donovan go to Celek in the flat?" Hee Hee. It was awesome. I'm pretty sure when I could call a game as early as this fall, once I decipher all my cryptic notes. Or at least I can figure out how to navigate the Jersey traffic circles and jughandles. After that, on to Special Teams, were we learned 3 things: 1) Special Teams is the most important part of the game; they are the game-changers, the tempo-setters, the big-play busters 2) Kicking field goals is really, really hard, and 3) The chairs in the front of the auditorium are HUGE. They are made for 300+ pound NFLers. Seriously, my feet barely touched the ground, and I sat Indian-style with my knees just barely touching the armrests. But honestly, I now know exactly what's gonna happen on a kickoff return just by looking at the line. That will come in handy. Then we encountered what was probably the most amazing thing we would see all day -- lunch in the players' cafeteria. The food was INCREDIBLE, and there was a TON of it! I sampled grilled chicken, chicken marsala, some kind of Greek rice that was fantastic, a big salad, and a yummy bowl of fruit. They even had chocolate chip cookies! The lunch ladies laughed at all of us, putting little dabs of this or pieces of that on our plates. Apparently the players come through with two trays each! That made me feel a little less pig-ish as I chowed down like I hadn't eaten in days, lol. After lunch it was off to the practice field for the REAL deal -- drills! Team Cole was joined by three other teams of about 25 ladies each, and after a group stretching session we all split to different stations. Our team started with the obstacle course, which was a ton of fun. It involved jumping, blocking, catching, throwing, and in my case, doing a total face-plant on the turf after getting a little cocky and trying to hurdle one last obstacle without taking an extra step. (Hey, not the first time I've made a total doofus of myself in public!) But I did what I was supposed to do -- jumped up, caught a pass, threw a block, tossed a lateral and caught another one, then leveled the blocking dummy at the end of the course. WOOT! After that we moved on to receiving, which I ROCKED. I ran the assigned pattern, caught two short passes, then went long and..... was the FIRST woman to catch the 40-yard long ball! (Guess it paid off to date a quarterback in college). After that, on to kicking. And again we learned that kicking field goals is HARD! I managed to boot one through the small training uprights, but couldn't get the elevation for the real goalpoasts. Stacey and I took a vow never to cuss at a kicker again when he misses a 50-yarder. After a quick pause for a Team Cole photo with Swoop the Eagle mascot and Linbacker Omar Gaither we moved on to our final station, Passing. I was delighted to find I could still throw a nice, tight spiral (again, thanks Jersey Boy QB), but my accuracy is a bit lacking. I could hit the 25-yard targets just fine, but I lack the finesse for the short pass. Go figure. I'm not exactly a finesse kinda gal. Finally, after two hours of fun and games the Academy came to a close. We all gathered in the Center for a little Q & A with Omar, then we were presented our Certificates of Completion and some awesome parting gifts. I'm wearing my Eagles Snuggie right now. :) We are so TOTALLY going back next year! As if the day wasn't just too fun already, Stacey and I moved on to Part 2 of our Adventure in Philly: we met up with the Fabulous Miss Willow for after-camp drinkies at Chickie & Pete's. This was my first face-to-face meetup with Her Fabulousness, but I wasn't at all surprised when we all settled in to crab fries, lobster pizza, and merriment like we had known each other for years. And of course we all had to worship at the Philly Soul wall in the back room before leaving. After a delightful couple hours with Willow, Stacey and I decided we weren't ready to go home just yet. So we headed out to the King of Prussia Mall, which thanks to her GPS we found approximately an hour and a half later after a lovely tour of the winding back roads paralleling Highway 76. But once we were there it was all good. After a little shopping, including my new throwback Jaworski #7 tee, we finally flew home, tired but happy little Eagles. Can't wait for next year! E-A-G-L-E-S!!!