Well, having won tickets to see Toby Keith and Trace Adkins at their "Tough Man Tour", Mrs. Doyle and I set out to enjoy our first concert together. My concert experiences have generally been a bit more to the rock side of life: Poison, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Heart, AC/DC to name a few. The kind of concert where parrot-like hair colors, leather and ear piercings large enough to put a roll of quarters in would not be that unusual. Come to think of it...I may have even seen a guy with a roll of quarters in his ear. Wait, that may have been taped to his...umm...never mind...I'm getting sidetracked. Anyway...Mrs. Doyle has been working to "Redneck-ify" me as best she can and I like all kinds of music so the show was bound to be enjoyable. I even bought a cowboy hat! When in Rome, act like a Roman--the saying goes. No way, people! Act like a gawking tourist, take a lot of photos and enjoy yourself. Behaving like a Roman would be no fun at all...those people live there, for crying out loud.
To start us off on the right track...a quick check of the website was in order because...well...I do have a tendency to drag my cameras about with me and most concerts do not allow anything more than a cell camera or some point and click (if that)...and that usually puts me into a foot stamping pout. But, I had agreed, if needed...(I think you can picture the head dropped, puppy dog eyes)...to...(sigh)...leave them at home. Ok...not at home. Safely hidden in my eye-spy, secret agent man hiding spot in the SUV...under the sweater, which was under the empty bag and between the seats next to the bag of recycled cans that had spilled into the floorboard before they managed to get recycled, despite my careful and skilled driving. Well...the website had no information but some shots of the ampitheater which was outdoors at the foot of the mountains in San Bernardino...over 100 miles away from us. Beautiful. Mapquest mentioned an hour and a half...or so. I sent the directions to my cell phone and loaded the spare battery for it into my shirt...then checked the GPS batteries...and loaded it too. Then checked my handy Rum traveling case, converted from one of your finer Ziplock, screw-on lid, plastic containers. Mrs. Doyle packed it in a whatever-they're-called-small-bag-that-keeps-things-cold thingee and a couple of beers for her. Judging from our drink of choice...she's better at being a country girl and I'm better at...umm...Hell, being a Pirate I guess. We also had directions to the Step-Mother-in-Law's house in case it got too late. She lived in Riverside but was in Hawaii with a friend. She also was about 90 miles closer to the venue.
So we set out to enjoy our ourselves...late. I don't want to cast blame for the late start since there were only the two of us...but I will say it wasn't my fault. At some point along the way, we discovered we had completely forgotten to eat. Anything. All day. Oh well...that could be rectified later. My directions took us there unerringly, like a randy sailor on leave finding the red-light district in the newest port. Only one incident happened to us along the way. In the middle of the 10-lane freeway dashed a beagle puppy, being chased by his Beagle mother. The slowing and swerving were obvious...but I couldn't help but think that had better not be some sort of omen. Anyway, animal lovers that Mrs. D and I are...I slowed, swerved and we both clinched our eyes tightly shut.
"I'm not looking," she said.
"Me either..." I said, peeking into the mirror. 18 wheeler Big Rigs can swerve, but not without scaring the fricken' BeJesus outta' the longhaired guy in the Dodge Dart with the FU hat and the Charles Manson, Helter Skelter look in his eyes...at least...that's what I thought his hat said. On an unrelated sidenote...I should point out that NO University name should start with the letter 'F'. Just saying.
Having discovered on the internet that parking was a mile away in a dirt field with an anticipated THREE HOUR exit time, we wisely opted for the VIP parking which, to be fair, was expensive, but awesome. We parked right by the entrance. It was there we ran into a parking guide employee sorta' person that showed us where to park. Not literally "ran into"--I know how some of you people think! So I parked and told the Mrs. I was going to ask THAT guy.
He doesn't look like he knows anything." Mrs. D was wisely pouring a beer and a drink since we were early enough. "Whatever. Ask about our chairs." The term 'Whatever' in this context is what we men recognize as a 'rocker' term. By that I mean that the meaning of the word can vary with each use. It can extend from, "You do it, you die." to "You don't do it, you die." and, in some situations, it can even mean 'whatever! I understood it to mean "That's a great idea. Get the all-important camera clearance!" and climbed out of the car.
"Excuse me, Sir..." I started.
"Huh? What?" he replied after checking over his shoulder to make certain I was talking to him.
"Can I take a camera in?"
"Umm. Yuh...I guess...why not?"
"Well...I'm talking a...I mean...a real camera."
I climbed into the car.."He said I can take it. He works here. Forget the D50...I'm switching lenses and taking the D200."
"What about chairs?" she asked, handing me my drink while I was attaching the 18-200mm wide-angle telephoto and checking my settings....
"Do we take in our own chairs?"
Ok. Now follow me here on this line of thinking. I have tickets. While they do say lawn on them...they also list Section Number, Row Number AND seat number. Clearly...they must have sections, rows and seats. It's rediculous to even pose the question. So a glance at the parking guy-in-chief...who I think was scratching himself and really missed his calling as a "Stay in school Kids" poster model...made it clear what I had to do.
"I'll ask him. Refill?" ...and I climbed out and went to ask him.
"Huh?" The man had eyes like I'd pointed a gun at him. "Whut?"
"I'm sorry..." I gestured toward the car, "She wants to know should we bring in chairs."
"If you wanna..."
"Umm. Well, I don't 'wanna' if there're ARE chairs already."
We looked at each other in silence. I think I blinked several times. I'd done my time. I wasn't going to ask 'Nope' WHAT? I climbed back into the car and grabbed my drink.
"I'll carry the chairs."
So, I slung my Nikon over my shoulder, then chair one...then chair two. I think we made it to the entry when the first sign appeared. "NO digital cameras permitted."
"The sign says no digital cameras permitted," Mrs. Doyle offered.
"I have permission from an employee..."
Now...as I said, I have attended a concert or two in my day. I don't expect to be wanded or herded through metal detectors in my monkey suit (TUXEDO people...work with me here) when attending the symphony...I DO expect it at a rock concert or open air concert. I especially think at a concert like this...likely filled to overflowing with NRA card carrying members who account for most, if not all of the gun racks in pickup trucks in this nation...not to mention the ubiquitous Rebel Flag paint jobs and patches...someone might think about security. "Security" took my spikey bracelet at the Poison concert and I never saw it again...but THIS place? Someone checked Mrs. Doyle's purse...ok...it was MY purse but that's a whole different story...she borrowed it. Well...MAYBE it was security...somebody did check it though. But I never really saw a check point. Seriously. I could have brought in a studio sized movie camera, a case of Rum, a camera crew and a team of production assistants...and personal, bikini clad aides to fan me lightly with palm fronds and peel my grapes...I doubt anyone would have noticed unless I set my hair on fire.
"Do you know where we go?" Mrs. Doyle asked while showing the tickets to the guy who looked into the purse.
Ok...now GET this...his response was ONE-word...best described as " EYE-ohhhn-OH!"
"There's no assigned seats?"
So in we went....and I was glad. I had chairs and my Nikon...Life was gooOOOoood!
"Here looks good...you set up and I'll go get us a couple of beers."
Well...THAT worked for ME. Unfold two chairs and sit. I can DO that! So--well--I did that! I sat down, adjusted my camera settings, checked exposure with my light meter...then the lovely Mrs. Doyle returned with my beer...and joined me. As the sun dipped in a beautiful display of Southwestern SunDownsManShip and the bathwater warm air of the evening enveloped us in its lover's embrace...and the beer went down while the music went up...and...did I mention we had not eaten at all? As we enjoyed the music I began to get this sorta' pressing call to 'nature', so to speak.
Plenty of light...for now.
Now, having taken Mrs. Doyle to a rodeo in Orange County before, I was familiar with the fact that she seems to draw the guys in black cowboy hats like pole-dancers draw truck drivers. As I recall, hat color is how you tell the good guys from the bad guys in that world. I think we were there for about 10 minutes before she was being 'high-fived' for saying something that included the words "George Strait." Luckily, I exude manly man-ness-ocity from my very pores so I never feel threatened...
"Umm...Honey? Any idea where the bathrooms are?"
"Over there...by the beer. If you're going bring us back a couple."
I looked. I squinted. I looked some more. "That white speck?" To put it into scale for you...I think about 16 of them could have fit on my thumbnail and I bite my nails.
"That's the beer stand...the bathrooms are on the other side of it."
"Watch my camera."
And I was off. Now...it turns out that two semi-decent looking male singers can draw a crowd of semi decent looking female dancers. (I know...I hadn't considered that either.) Some hot lil burnette with a very short denim skirt and white cowboy hat for example...had I noticed...might have been there. I made pretty good time to get to the bathrooms as the place began to fill up. Naturally, they were some of your finer quality blue plastic restrooms, so I thanked God again for not making me a woman before I got inside...
I LOVED this...looked like sunset was ON stage!
Now...Picture this...it's like a complete magic trick from Vegas where an elephant disappears and you think it's a camera trick...I close the blue plastic door...flip the lever...and re-open it in less than a minute. And the beer stand line went from 'a few people' to 'where the Hell is the other end?' in scope and magnitude. Seriously. So I make my way around the crowds (in line) that are singing and dancing...and find the end. The line flows mercifully quick and the next thing I know I have two large beers in my hand and the sun has completely abandoned me. But for the stage lights there are no other lights. "This CANNOT be safe," I was thinking, when the song ended and the stage lights all....ALL...shut off...slipping me into some inky pool of silky black darkness. ...With two beers. I freeze. I could be the sole person on Earth now...but for the noises I hear around me.
Walking on lawn can be an issue since it isn't as level as...say...I dunno...pavement? I deduced right away that a sip or two from each beer was in order since they were way too full. I also sagely determined to slide my feet a tad as I walked, never really pulling them up from the ground. Some of the lights came back up on the stage as the next song commenced...I could make out the writhing bodies of jubilent beer drinkers and realized the lawn area WAS the happening, party place to be. As I slowly progressed to mid stage where I KNEW I belonged...I was butt bumped by some young cowchick with her hands both up in the traditional "WHOOOOO!" pose of a hot tequila drinking...umm...nice young lady. So, politeness deemed I should dance with her a tad. With a beer in each hand...we were both safe. As I danced, shuffling away, I discovered also that the shuffling feet idea had a drawback. People spread blankets on the lawn. As one proceeded to wrap itself around my right ankle, I super stepped over it and ended up with a black one on the next ankle...spilling some of...what I will now refer to as beer number one...on...black beer blanket number two. Clearly...an inequity in the beers would not be good. So I sipped beer number two to make them equal again. That's the kind, caring, giving kinda' guy I am! I make sure we have the same amount to share.
You can see how much light we in the audience had from this shot of Trace...
Now I was working out a plan to call...since I was clearly lost. So I danced up to some gal and asked her if should could do me a favor. "Depends," she said with a cherubic smile and a sparkle in her eye.
"Hold these!" I said handing her the beers...well...one of them...her boyfriend had decided to join us and he held one.
So I have the Mrs. on speed dial...and I called. No answer. So, I dropped the cell in my pocket...collected the beers and set out on my quest...knowing my camera was at the other end of it.
Not to spoil the suspense...but here's a shot of Toby taking the stage...
Part II....Finding my loved one...and taking some pictures with it. Also, Mrs. Doyle was there!