Karl & Joe's Excellent Adventure
by Joe Santulli

(1992) On the plane ride back from this year's Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, I tried to think of a way to summarize, in one paragraph, the "intangibles" of the trip - the things that videogamer's would only want to know about for background information. I flipped through the brochures and magazines that I'd picked up during our three-day visit and in no time I realized that these intangibles were actually much more interesting than the CES itself. So if you're an info-maniac, just skip this part and jump into the CES highlights. The rest of you, especially those who have never been to Chicago, I submit to you the tale of this most excellent adventure. At no point in the planning of this trip did I expect to spend the majority of the time actually AT the show. Sure, we wanted to see what was new and exciting in the videogame world, but what a perfect opportunity to conduct a non-stop, full circuit, balls-out assault on the windy city. In our eyes, at the end of the trip, that's exactly what we did. Here are some of the notes I compiled while touring CHI-town.

Lesson one. Never, never call your wife at the END of a day (say, 10:30 at night) when away from home. I'm recently married, still learning. 'Nuff said.

Coming from the NYC area, I didn't figure the Sears Tower would be a big thrill. It wasn't. Our visit to the skydeck was undermined by long lines, a troupe of eighth graders, and WAY too many non-english speaking persons. In moments of weakness, I imagined people in line ahead of me, eighth graders, and about fifty Germans(?) sailing off the skydeck. I realized much later that this was probably punishment for sending another non-english-speaking traveler off in the wrong direction when she asked US for directions only hours earlier. What comes around goes around, I guess.

It was here, during a Saturday night game against the Red Sox, that Karl and I realized just how NICE people from Chicago are. The stadium is incredibly clean, the vendors courteous, and the fans just way too cool. Our luck was impeccable as well. We arrived early to see batting practice with upper deck seats, but picked a couple of seats close to the field near the third base line to hang until someone kicked us out. Nobody ever came to claim the seats we were in. By the fourth inning there were no two empty seats next to each other anywhere else in our section. Somehow we'd picked perfectly, unless two of the 42,000+ fans at Comiskey were too nice to kick us out of their seats. In Yankee Stadium, it's "high ticket stub wins" (you can get kicked out of a seat by someone with a better original seat than yours, even if they're not actually the seats you're getting kicked out of). We were able to see other sharp contrasts to the Yankee Stadium environment as well. For example, a fight broke out in the bleachers during the game, and fans around us were in absolute amazement. In Yankee Stadium, you're amazed when a fight doesn't break out in your ROW. About the only similar element between the two stadiums are the prices. Two dogs and a beer run about $8.00 in both places.

I've been to a few of these before - New York and San Francisco, but I must say that this one was the best experience. It's probably because it was Sunday and we were able to walk right in and up to the bar without a wait. Didn't try the food there, but the babe'age (pronounced bay-bej, Karl's term for attractive women) was plentiful. I should point out for the female readers that nearby North Pier also attracts studly young sailors. If you're the "rock n roll" type and like the opposite sex (have I left anyone out)? The Hard Rock is the place to be - at least on a Sunday afternoon.

As if there wasn't enough going on already, the Bulls/Knicks series was in game six in Chicago during our stay. We figured tickets into the stadium would be ridiculously priced, so we picked a local sports bar to catch the action at. There was no solace for a Knick fan that night. The cheering Bulls fans all around us and the cold shooting Knicks almost made the whole idea a bust. You couldn't go anywhere for the rest of the weekend without Bulls IN YOUR FACE. All we can do now is move along into the baseball season. Go Phoenix!

The most heinous thing that happened to us during this stay came in the form of an unexpected rainstorm. We took a taxi to a Chicago museum (the name escapes me) and entered when the skies were overcast. When we walked out, it was drizzling. By the time we had reached what we thought at the time would be a cabbie-rich avenue, it was coming down in buckets. We spent five minutes trying to hail a taxi when we realized that the rush hour had begun and even if it hadn't, no cab would dare stop on this fast-moving street. Another ten minutes was spent formulating a game plan inside a leaky roadside bus-stop. Our plan was to bolt back down the street towards the intersection at the other side. By the time we reached it we were already saturated, this time without even a bus-stop to duck into. We ended up walking through the pouring rain for nearly an hour before a taxi - dropping off a passenger - stopped nearby. There was no way that driver was leaving without us. We practically forced our way in and on our way back to the hotel we were informed by the driver exactly why no cab had stopped for us earlier. On a rainy rush hour, no cabbie wants to drive INTO downtown Chicago. Tired, soaking wet and frustrated, we returned to the room. Half an hour later we were off to party again.

Don't read this if you have a weak stomach. If you're ever looking to gross someone out (I know I'm not the only one who has these contests with my friends or family while eating a meal) try this one. "A fat chick in shorts squeezing pimples off of her inner thigh". We saw it quite by accident at O'Hare Int'l. airport on the way home. I couldn't eat again until the following day.

This is mainly a CES topic, but if you fell under the "info-maniac" heading, this probably wouldn't interest you. For a single guy like Karl, this must have been a paradise of sorts. I know from previous experience at shows like this that companies try to send their most attractive representatives, but the CES was an overstatement of female anatomy. At one point, Karl suggested we drop the Digital Press headline and consider doing a steamier, "Girls of the CES" similar to the Playboy college specials. For those of you who were there, how about the spokeswoman for Video Toaster, the PR gal for Vic Tokai, or the Cavewoman promoting "Lester the Unlikely" for CES rep of the year? Tell us what you think!

We did some other sightseeing inbetween major events, we ate at the original Pizzeria Uno, walked 'round that fountain that Al Bundy from "Married With Children" appears next to in the show's opening, and stood at the bottom of the stairs in the Chicago Train Station where that great slow-motion scene from "The Untouchables" was shot. I'd have to say Chicago was a great place. Thanks for having us.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 01, 2011 10:25 PM