Monday, March 08, 2004

March Madness

What a weekend.

Before I could leave Stow for Toledo this morning, I had to clean about 6" of snow off my car. This, after I've been talking and thinking about spring for at least a week or so. A return to winter weather certainly wasn't unexpected, but it wasn't exactly welcome either. I would have been just fine if we had seen our last snowfall of the year.

That capped off what was, for me, a rather strange weekend. A good one, no doubt (aren't they all?), but strange nonetheless.

I drove to Brandi's place in Stow immediately after work on Friday evening. I got there right around 7:00, as per usual, and Brandi and I decided to go have dinner at Olive Garden. It's probably our favorite place to eat, and we've been talking about going there for several weekends without actually making it, so that's where we went. We had to wait for about an hour, so we sat at the bar and had a couple glasses of wine and an appetizer (stuffed mushrooms). This always makes the wait more tolerable. Eventually we got our table and had a nice dinner.

At the end of dinner is when the weirdness first started, although I didn't recognize it right away. When I tried at first to pay for our meal, the waitress came back and said my credit card had been declined. I had trouble with this a couple of weeks ago as well, so I didn't think too much of it. The card gets a fair amount of use, and in my experience card readers will have trouble reading certain cards after they get used a lot. At any rate, it wasn't a huge deal, I just paid with my debit card instead.

The next morning (late in the morning--I love sleeping in) I was awakened to the sound of my cell phone buzzing, indicating that I had a voice mail. When I finally rolled out of bed and checked my messages, I had an automated message from my credit card company's fraud prevention department, asking me to contact them. Needless to say, this piqued my curiosity, so I called them. What it boils down to is that my account was "compromised," and someone other than myself tried to use my account number to charge more than $700 worth of merchandise. I'm not going to be responsible for those charges, but that particular account number was shut down. That's not a particularly huge deal, especially given the alternative, but it wasn't particularly convenient, as Brandi and I were planning to go to Cleveland for the day and I wasn't carrying any other credit cards (except my debit card) at the time.

Anyway, full steam ahead. Brandi and I decided to go to Cleveland anyway. Actually, she was more upset about the credit card thing than I was. Yeah, it sucks, but it's just one of those things that happens that you have to get through. Due to the diligence of my credit card company (and I have no idea how they discovered this, but I'm exceptionally glad they did), it's not going to cost me anything other than a few days' inconvenience while I wait for my new card. I was counting on it a little bit for our trip to Cleveland, but not so much that its loss prevented anything. The real problem would be in the event of some sort of unexpected situation (car trouble, etc.), in which case we would have to come up with some sort of unexpected solution.

That didn't happen, though. We went to Cleveland as scheduled. We were thinking about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but instead we went to Tower City, which is a pretty big shopping center/entertainment complex located downtown. That was pretty cool. We walked around for a while and then saw Starsky and Hutch. After that we walked over to Gund Arena to get tickets for that night's Cavs game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here our plans hit a bit of a snag. I had checked online on Friday and there were plenty of tickets left for the game, so I felt secure in our chances of being able to get a pair at the door. However, by the time we got there, they had only singles left--they didn't have two seats together. The game had become the event around which we had pretty much centered our entire day, so neither of us was particularly keen to leave Cleveland without going. Therefore our only option was to buy tickets from scalpers, and I wasn't carrying much cash (I never do).

There was a group of scalpers directly across the street from the Gund, so we went over there to get an idea of how much we were going to have to spend. That was not an experience I'm looking to repeat again anytime soon. There were five or six guys, all talking at once, shoving tickets in my face. I heard some numbers, and Brandi and I retreated back inside the Gund where I withdrew $100 from an ATM. We then walked about a block away from the arena, where we found a single scalper standing all by himself, and gave him $100 for a pair of tickets that had a face value of $20 each.

The game was an awesome time, though. The Cavs came out of the gate on fire, and held on to beat a pretty good Milwaukee team. Lebron had a good game and some spectacular dunks--he's worth the price of admission himself--and Carlos Boozer (a favorite of mine from his days at Duke) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas also had nice games and are fun to watch. The whole team is fun to watch. I didn't care about the NBA at all before this year, and I'm not a die-hard fan by any means, but it's definitely a good time.

At the game, we sat next to and met a nice man named Jack. He chatted with us throughout about the game and the players. Toward the end of the game he told us he's trying to get back together with his wife, and asked us to pray for him. Praying is not something I do, but Jack, I'm thinking about you, and I hope it works out for the best, one way or another.

After the game we went to a restaurant downtown called Fat Fish Blue. This was our third time there together. They've usually got some good live music, and neither of us had really eaten much all day, so we were pretty hungry. We sat by the window, and noticed three police cars line up out front while we were eating. Our waiter told us that the staff had to break up a fight, and that's why the police showed up--some guy shoved another guy's wife, and then the two guys engaged in some fisticuffs. We were in a different section, so we didn't see the fight, but we got to see the cops outside. They took someone away with them, too.

Brandi wanted to use the restroom before we left the restaurant, so I accompanied her to that area and waited for her. While she was in there, I was approached by a young man who assured me he wasn't going to ask me for money, and who then proceeded to ask me for money. When you're in the city, being asked for money is just part of the experience--it's happened to me in Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, and Chicago--and something you get used to. This is the first time I've been approached inside, though, so I was taken a little by surprise.

From there, our day in Cleveland was at an end, so we headed back to my car. To get there, we ended up on a street/ramp clearly marked "NO PEDESTRIANS," so we ran the whole way. I'm not sure why that made it better, but it was fun.

Other highlights from the day in Cleveland: Brandi running after a flock of fat birds, trying to see if they could/would fly; Brandi walking quickly after another fat bird to see if it would let her pet it (it wouldn't, but it also didn't fly just kept walking really fast); Brandi trying to get birds to eat popcorn from her hand. I'm beginning to get the idea that Brandi has the same weird fascination with birds that I have.

To compensate for our busy Saturday, we made Sunday as low-key as possible. We slept in, ate leftovers from Olive Garden, played The Sims, napped, had dinner at BW3, and watched movies (Wayne's World, Goldmember, and Shakespeare in Love).

All this, and the NCAA Tournament hasn't even started yet.

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