Friday, June 16, 2006

Fenway Park, but not baseball

Before I get into last night's conference party at Fenway Park, I have to talk about the shuttle bus situation here. Since the convention center is not close to any of the hotels, Microsoft has been running shuttle buses to and from the hotels. However, the traffic here is terrible, so the route that works one day may not work the next. The bus drivers don't know the city, so sometimes passengers on the bus have to tell the drivers where to go. Several times now I've had a shuttle bus from my hotel go the complete opposite direction from the convention center, taking a traffic-choked four-lane highway and then making a U-turn instead of the quicker route through the city. And to top things off, there's a labor dispute between the Teamsters and the shuttle bus companies, so management has been driving the buses for the past few days. At best, it's a SNAFU, and at worst a total disaster.

The way the bus problems tie into the conference party is as follows. Microsoft recommended that we not bring our bags to Fenway Park for the party, which meant that you could either check your bag overnight at the convention center or leave it at your hotel. However, they weren't running shuttles from the hotels to Fenway, just from the convention center. So if I wanted to use the "official" transportation system, I'd have to take a shuttle from the conference to the hotel, another shuttle back to the conference, then ANOTHER shuttle to Fenway. Instead, I took one shuttle to the hotel and relaxed for a while, then checked out the Public Library (across the street from my hotel) and then took the T to Fenway with a few Boston natives.

The party was more fun than I thought it would be. They gave us the run of the ballpark: access to all the concessions (and everything was free!), all the seating areas, and even the warning track from the visitors' dugout to the outfield. So while I haven't seen the Red Sox in person at Fenway, I have stood on the warning track and sat in the dugout, right where the Yankees sit. You can't really tell from TV or photos, but Fenway is TINY. I already knew that, but you have to see it to understand. It's probably the smallest baseball stadium I've ever seen. And most of the seats look like they date from the construction of the stadium. Since they gave us so much access, I walked around the park and took pictures from just about every vantage point: the Green Monster, the right field rooftop, the outfield, behind home plate, etc. Train came on around 8:30 and were better than I thought, but still mostly bland. The only excitement of the show was around 9 PM, when the band invited some women to dance on top of the Red Sox dugout (the small stage was set up on the field directly in front of the dugout). I didn't see it, but a woman fell off the edge of the dugout and they stopped the show for about 10 minutes to take care of that problem. When Train came back on, they played a few Led Zeppelin covers ("Going to California" and "Ramble On") before getting back to their own material. About 9:30 the singer asked "I guess you want to hear 'Drops of Jupiter,' right? OK." as if he wanted to know if we wanted fries with that. It was like he didn't give a damn about playing their biggest hit and the only song most people knew. When they finished that song I headed for the shuttle bus. Their performance was decent, and the crowd liked it, but there was nothing interesting about the band. They're bland, lite FM musicians, and they played like they were just picking up a paycheck.

The ride back wasn't without a little adventure. The driver went past our hotel and had to drive around the block a few times before we (the passengers) told him where to turn. I've only been here a week, and I know my way around better than some of these drivers.

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