A nerd and her music: 24 hours to eat, shop, eat, and get your 80’s geek on in Philadelphia
12.07.2013 - 13.07.2013
I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: I am a big, fat nerd.
Okay. You probably already figured that out.
I was that kid in school that got hit in the face when a member of my own team served the volleyball. I was picked last for any and every sports activity. I had an electric organ in my room and would play Neil Diamond songs on it when I was 12. I had a 4.0 GPA and was in the Latin Club. The LATIN CLUB, people. I never learned to do a cartwheel, but I conjugate a verb like nobody’s business.
Things didn’t improve in high school. I wore clothes that were too big and out-of-style and I pulled my hair back in barrettes. Barrettes. IN HIGH SCHOOL. Even being in the band wasn’t nerdy enough for me. No, I was a Band Aide. That’s someone that’s not even cool enough to play an instrument. I carried the instruments.
The only time I ever skipped school, on Senior Skip Day….I asked my parents for permission.
Yes. I have always been a nerd.
When the other kids were out at parties, going to football games and dances, or trying out for cheerleading, I was writing bad poetry in my room while listening to obscure British bands that even my friends would make fun of.
Now that I am an adult, I desperately try to hide my nerdiness behind designer outfits, high heels, and blonde highlights, but, on the inside, I am still that dork sitting in her room with a bad perm, a spiral notebook, a pencil, and a mix tape full of OMD, New Order, and the Cure.
That’s why, when I saw that one of my favorite bands from the 80’s was going to be in concert in Philadelphia this summer, I immediately bought tickets. Chances to let the nerd inside come out and wave her geek flag are few and far between. The OMD concert was a chance to let her fly.
This is the point where most of you are going, “Who is OMD?”
Duh. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
If you didn’t think I was a nerd before, I bet you do now.
OMD was not a mainstream band in the U.S. They did have one big hit, however, and I bet most of you have heard that. Any 40-something woman is going to remember the prom song to the John Hughes movie, “Pretty in Pink,” right? Who can forget Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy kissing in the parking lot at the prom? Sigh.
That is probably the only experience any of you have had with OMD.
Oh, but to Nerd Girl Vicki, OMD were Gods of Music.
I remember my Honors English class in 1985. Yes. Honors English. Where else would a nerd be? Anyway, back to the story. Our teacher, in an effort to be “super cool and hip” let us each do a speech on our favorite band. We had 3 minutes to highlight something interesting and play a couple of clips of the music. This was in an effort to make us comfortable with public speaking.
I still cringe at the memory.
Oh dear sweet lord.
While the other kids had Madonna, Whitney Houston, John Cougar Mellancamp, Prince, or David Lee Roth……you guessed, I whipped out some OMD on them.
I can still see their faces as my presentation went into its 7th minute. I couldn’t stop. They all looked at me like I was a space alien as the teacher finally pulled the plug on my presentation.
Oh, the shame.
Just the memory of it makes me want to crawl under a table.
I still love their music, despite the fact that they were never mainstream music in the U.S. That’s what nerds do. We love something even if it makes us look weird. If you don’t believe me, just look outside a theater the next time a Star Trek movie premiers.
So, when I saw that OMD was playing in Philly, I not only bought show tickets, I bought VIP show tickets. I bought sound check tickets. I bought meet and greet tickets.
Hello Philadelphia. It was time to get my nerd on.
We flew into Philly early on a Friday morning. Lucky enough to score a non-stop flight, we were there by 9:00 a.m. We checked into our hotel and went in search of sustenance.
We found it at Federal Doughnuts. This modest little place with the happy awning serves up a simple menu: fried chicken and doughnuts. With doughnut flavors like pina colada, peanut butter-chocolate or raspberry-balsamic, this place is a mecca of fried sugary goodness.
You can only imagine my disappointment when I found out they didn’t start serving fried chicken until 11:00 a.m.
There is nothing wrong with eating fried chicken at 9:00 a.m. Absolutely nothing.
We had an entire day to kill, so we put a pretty good dent in it doing some Center City shopping. From the upscale shops of Rittenhouse Square to the funky boutiques scattered along Walnut, we found plenty of pretty, shiny things to fill our morning.
Lunch found us in the Old City, an eclectic neighborhood filled with unique shops and eateries.
We popped into Cuba Libre for a feast of caipirinhas and tapas.
I am not sure what we were thinking when we ordered. I think the 9:00 a.m. chicken denial had launched me into some kind of famine-survival-mode.
We had churros and chocolate, a bread basket, a Cuban pressed sandwich, a charcuterie board, fried plantains, and the chicharrones (crisp marinated chicken, skirt steak, pork belly, & chorizo).
My favorite, however, was the one-eyed ropa vieja hash: classic Cuban shredded beef brisket stewed with tomatoes, peppers and red wine on a hash of potatoes, boniato, maduros, and corn and topped with a fried egg.
We enjoyed some down time at the hotel after lunch. After all, I had to prepare for my Meet & Greet with the band, don’t you know.
Flashback to March 2011.
It was the first time I had a chance to see OMD live. They had put out a new album and were doing a few small shows in the U.S. They were playing a small venue in Atlanta. Matt and I flew down to see the show, staying at a hotel that was walking distance to the concert venue. A few hours before the show, we walked over to South City Kitchen, a midtown favorite. It was an odd time to eat so we weren’t surprised when there was only one other patron in the restaurant.
I was seated facing the middle aged man in a black turtleneck reading a book and eating a salad.
But I knew as soon as I sat down that I was facing Andy McCluskey, which means nothing to you, but to me, it meant I was staring at the lead singer of OMD, the voice that was the soundtrack of my youth.
Matt urged me to go over and say something, telling me I would regret it if I didn’t. He checked my teeth for food and shoved me in the general direction of the poor guy that was trying to eat his dinner. I kept thinking about the time a friend of mine met the lead singer of her favorite band and he was a total A-hole. It ruined it for her.
What if Andy McCluskey was a jackass?
I watched him eat another bite of salad. He didn’t eat his salad like a jackass.
I fidgeted. What to do?
We went to Beverly Hills once and got seated next to Steve Martin. I remember laughing and scoffing at the people around me who were making such idiots of themselves. What was the big deal? It was a guy eating a sandwich and doing a crossword puzzle. I remember telling Matt that I would never act like a goof if I ran into a celebrity.
But here I was. About to make a total ass of myself.
I waited until he finished eating, closed his book, and paid his check. I just knew I was going to be super cool. I’d be all, “Oh, hey, how are you? Just wanted to pop over and say ‘hello.’ I’m sure it will be a great show,” and then I’d say something super witty and clever and he would think I was the coolest person he ever met.
That might have happened if I wasn’t such a N-E-R-D.
No. I stammered and stumbled my way through the most awkward introduction that has ever existed between two human beings. I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve didn’t even have such an awkward meeting, despite the fact that they were new at being human, there might not have even been any language invented yet, and they were naked and being watched by God.
“Hi. I’m Vicki. Um. Yeah. Oh. Okay. And you’re Andy McCluskey. So. Sorry to bother you. While you are eating. Or actually, you’re done. Um. But. Um. I just wantedtosaythatIamsoexcitedtomeetyou. AndIloveyou. AndIthinkyourmusicisawesome. Okay. That’s it. Sorry to bother you. Bye.”
And then I stumbled awkwardly back to my table.
Oh dear God. My hands were shaking. Matt was laughing. I was mortified.
Nerd. Nerd. Nerd. Nerd.
Lucky for me, it turns out that Andy McCluskey is one of the nicest people on the planet. He came over to our table and gave me a second chance. He shook Matt’s hand. He spoke to us for several minutes. He was kind, gracious, and I was able to have a conversation that did not make me sound like a blathering fool.
Flashforward to November 2011.
OMD decided to do a second leg of their U.S. tour. Matt had been bugging me to go to Las Vegas so he could play some poker and I had been vehemently refusing, since I consider Las Vegas to be the single most boring place on earth. When I saw that OMD was playing House of Blues in Las Vegas, Matt and I struck a deal.
Just to underscore how NICE Andy McCluskey is….he saw us in the front row (because nerds camp out at the door several hours early to get in first; if you don’t believe me, just look outside a theater the next time a Star Trek movie premiers) and waved, walked over with the microphone and said, “Good to see you both again.” Then he looked at Matt and said, “So she dragged you all the way to Vegas this time?”
I might have gotten so excited during that show that I might have grabbed onto Andy McCluskey’s leg while he was singing. Okay. I did it. I couldn’t help it. I was overwhelmed with nerdness and to do something impulsive and uncool was really the only option.
Flashforward to July 2013.
Of course I didn’t expect him to remember us after 2 years, but because my other encounters had been so awkward and uncomfortable, I couldn’t help but hope this was an opportunity to redeem myself. To be that super cool fan, not the geeked-out spaz that had shown up at the 2 previous shows. This time, I was not going to do anything embarrassing.
I had this.
We hit Continental Midtown before the show. While the lobster mac n’cheese and the jumbo lump crap pad thai were delicious, my favorite part was actually the swinging wicker chairs that were hung from the ceiling. Have a couple of drinks and that’s like a carnival ride!
Not planning on dessert, we couldn’t refuse when the waitress told us we could get 3, THREE, mini desserts on a try. THREE! A chocolate peanut butter cup, salty pretzels with beer ice cream, and a mini-pineapple upside down cake with toasted coconut ice cream might have been the most perfect end to a meal EVER.
It was time for the sound check which would be followed by a meet & greet with the band.
Cute outfit? Check.
Hair that took an hour to look casually tossed? Check.
Heels that I could dance in? Check.
Camera so that I could get a decent photo to replace that grainy iPhone pic? Check.
VIP tickets? Check.
Nerves of steel? Check.
I was ready to go.
By the time we reached the venue, it was raining. I don’t mean a little drizzle, I mean the sky is falling, buckets of rain are pouring, my feet are wet RAINING. And the wind was blowing sideways. Which makes an umbrella pretty ineffective.
They wouldn’t open the doors and left us all to huddle under a small awning for about 30 minutes.
That was just long enough to get us really wet.
We were given towels when we finally got inside and the staff apologized for not realizing how hard it was raining. Thankfully, we were able to sit in the lobby until the sound check.
Getting to be there for the soundcheck of your favorite band is just short of amazing. You basically get a 4-5 song concert played just for you and about 10 other people while standing just a few feet away from the stage.
You can only imagine how I felt when Andy McCluskey came on stage and, spotting Matt and I, waved and said, “Hello again. You had to come a little farther north this time, did you?”
The fact that he remembered us was both exhilarating and mortifying. Sure, I was thrilled that we were recognized, but was mortified because I was pretty sure it was because there was no way he could forget that awkward-bizarre-stalkeresque woman that hunted him down in restaurants and clung to his leg as he belted out “If You Leave.”
After the sound check, it was time for our Meet & Greet.
Flight to Philadelphia: 25,000 airmiles.
Hotel Room in Center City: $220
Taxi to Union Transfer: $15
VIP Tickets: $300
Not realizing your shirt was see through until you got home and saw the photo: Priceless.
Apparently, I am doomed to always be that person who never quite gets it right.
It all ended well enough, despite my wet dog hair and see-through shirt. Matt and I got to chat with Andy, who did remember us. I got my photo. I saw another fantastic show.
And Andy McCluskey was able to sing If You Leave right in front of me without me grabbing onto his leg once.
But I wanted to.
Once a nerd, always a nerd.