I am very tired.
The trip got off to a pretty innocuous start this afternoon. Ten of us were going between two vehicles. I realized (as I squeezed in between two female coworkers, both more overweight than I am) that I probably chose the wrong vehicle. The ride down to Chicago was cramped, but quicker than I'd expected. Nevertheless, I'm quite happy that we left at 1:00 instead of the 5:00 we'd all expected. It doesn't matter if you leave Madison at 3:00 or 5:00 -- if you hit rush hour traffic around Chicago, you might as well leave at 7:00.
We stopped at an Oasis on the way down. I got an expensive cup of coffee. It was very nice.
Checked in at the Hyatt Regency around 4:00. Nice place. Really nice place. I found my room (fifteenth floor, enormous bathroom, LAN connection, nice view into the office building across the street), threw a few clothes on hangers, and went downstairs to see where everybody else was.
The Hyatt Regency is pretty large -- two towers with at least thirty floors each, connected at the bottom. It's the kind of place where indoor fountains actually look cool, and the unmistakable late '70s decor is forgivable because it was so damned expensive. There are a number of stores on the lower floors, as well as a couple of bars and some restaurants. I found my coworkers in the main restaurant of the hotel, where a grilled cheese sandwich costs $7.50. I had a half reuben and bowl of potato leek soup, which cost the company $9.00. I'm so glad I'm not paying for this.
After dinner we walked over to Navy Pier. For those who've never been, Navy Pier is sort of a sprawling carnival/mall/children's museum which Chicago only tolerates. I saw They Might Be Giants perform a show there, and I'll never forgive myself for missing the Blue Oyster Cult show in 2002 which was released as A Long Days Night on DVD. There's always a huge crowd at Navy Pier, which makes for a huge crowd at musical events held there. This does not mean that it's a good performance venue.
Indeed, if there's anything to do at Navy Pier, it's eat, drink, and be merry. At Navy Pier, none of these things can happen unless coupled with at least one of the other two. I'm a strict teetotaler and I'd already eaten, so being merry was pretty much right out for me. My coworkers, on the other hand consumed beer after beer, and got pretty tipsy -- especially the manager who'd told us yesterday that he wanted us on our best behavior because he'd be responsible for misconduct.
It was incredibly entertaining.
I watched three of the four people I was with get smashed to the point that stairs and curbs were near-insurmountable obstacles. At this point, we found an open-air concert being performed by a band called Catfight, and watched them for awhile. Catfight is an all-female band who perform rap/rock/punk covers. They did not suck, but eventually the sky burst into rain, and they were forced to stop playing. We made it (with much stumbling) to a trolley, and found our way back to the hotel, meeting up with the rest of the group on the way.
Some of my coworkers hit the bar as soon as they walked into the hotel. I'm sharing my room with the guy who's obsessed with tropical fish, so while he was in the bar, I helped one of the girls we came with decorate his side of the room with slightly racy fish pictures. No, you don't want to know. After phone calls to April and Ellen, I headed down to the bar.
During the day, the Plexiglas walls and ceiling of the Big Bar in the Hyatt Regency make it look really cool. It's an illusion, of course. Night brings out all guests who don't want to drink outside the hotel, and it becomes an unpleasant, smoky din. The thunderstorm outside was spectacular, but that's not a selling point when the worst disco cover band I've ever heard is making it difficult to concentrate.
I don't even know what they were called.
The band was made up of four people -- a drummer, two guitarists in afro wigs, and a bassist in a cowboy hat. They were actually pretty good. There was also a woman who sang a little as she swayed in rhythm. She was pretty good. The lead singer was... Well, there's not a word for it. He danced enough to cover for the rest of the band and most of the audience, and his rendition of Funkytown was nearly unbearable. He stretches out the short vowel sounds -- ih, eh, aa and uh -- and exaggerates the dipthongs: "Wown't you take me to... Funkytahoooooon." I made it through Disco Inferno and a couple of Billy Joel covers that might have been good if the woman had been singing them, but Abba's Dancing Queen was too much for me, and I had to go back to my room.
Now I'm waiting for Ben to get back up here, and discover the provocatively posed fish on his nightstand, and then I'm going to bed.
The AEG says I'm going to love MasterCard seminars. We'll see.
At least it gets me out of town for a couple of days.