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03 Jan, 2003

The annual trip to see the Raiders/Chiefs game in Oakland. Our fifth year I believe, but the first time without Michael. The game happened to fall on my birthday this year, so we decided to go despite the fact that Mike wouldn-t be there. Maybe that was even more of an incentive - to carry on the tradition in his honor. Arrived Friday night with my brother and Mike-s nephew. Met Danny, Perry and Kent (all Chief-s fans) at the Radisson at the Berkeley Marina. Dinner at "Skates" with LOTS of good seafood, and then back to the hotel to drink beer, tequila shots and smoke Cuban cigars while watching "The Oz Porns" on the TV. Room soon became a -slang thesaurus- of crude terms for that rather delicate part of the female anatomy (butcher-s window, flesh curtains, and hairy hatchet wound being among the crowd favorites). Earlier, Cuddy called to tell us that it was supposed to rain during the game, with high wind advisories. Thought he was sitting at home with his eyes glued to some weather channel instead of hanging with us, so called later to give him our own report with all kinds of bogus pseudo-scientific sounding meteorological terminology. Later learned that the poor guy was just sitting up with his young daughter who was ill, and happened to see a report on the local news. Woke up around 8:00 am and checked out the weather. Looked nice and clear with lots of patches of blue from my view of the Marina. Banged on Danny-s door, hoping he-d get up in an hour or so. Groans. Cuddy arrived and we assembled the troops (of course everyone was mildly hungover). Went to buy supplies for tailgate in Berkeley and stopped at a K-Mart to get a barbecue grill (that we could leave in the parking lot at the Coliseum). Being that this was the first time without Mike, and that he always supplied everything, predictably, we fell behind schedule. Managed to get the bare essentials, though. Heavy traffic on way to the stadium. Possibility that we wouldn-t get a space to tailgate, but then a -miracle- occurs. Danny is told by a parking attendant that there are no spaces left, but when he offers up a measly twenty, the guy hands him a piece of paper, which he in turn tears in half and gives to my brother who is driving my SUV. Although there is little printed on the -ticket-, and it doesn-t really seem like it-s the real deal (a parking pass), it works at two gates, with security personnel moving barricades, etc. to let us through. Amazingly, we are escorted to the most exclusive lot at the stadium. Danny gets out with a big smile on his face and says that Mike was watching over us (Mike always bent the rules and with ultra-aggressive maneuvers got us into parking lots without waiting in slow-moving traffic). I laughed at the thought, but it did seem kind of bizarre that all of the security personnel would initially tell us that we weren-t allowed in there, but would then look at our -ragged pass- with a zombie-like hypnotic stare, and then decide to let us through. After finding a space, we quickly set up grill and began mixing margaritas, etc. Weather remained nice as I began grilling on hot coals. Blasted Meshuggah over the SUV speakers, and continued to construct margaritas (without Cointreau! - which Mike would have remembered to bring). When everything was done, I noticed some serious black clouds were moving in... and fast. Had a feeling this wasn-t going to be pretty. Told Danny that he-d better get something to eat before we were in the middle of a down pour. But he was waiting for his friend who was bringing the Gates barbecue sauce. I know what Danny was thinking. That the -golden boy- was going to luck out once again. Perry would arrive with the Gates, and Danny would douse his meat, finishing his sandwich just minutes before the rain came. But he was wrong this time. We got pissed on good, and had to take shelter in our vehicles. Watched from the fogged up window as the fire went out in our Weber, and the damn thing filled with water. Soon Danny-s burger and pieces of chicken would be floating away in the parking lot. 20 minutes later Perry calls on his cell phone. He-s lost outside the stadium somewhere, drenched, but he does have two unopened bottles of Gates (too late, I-m afraid). We give him landmarks and soon he-s talking on the phone right in front of us. Technology in action (goddamn cell phones). Danny is wearing a red K.C. "Priest Holmes" jersey, and he-s taking lots of flak from the Raider faithful. Mostly good natured, though. Not like the old days in Los Angeles - because now the Raiders were winning. Cuddy is wearing a 49ers heavy jacket to protect him from the elements and is even getting more shit than Danny. Even security personnel, those who you-d think were supposed to remain neutral and just do their job, were on him. On and on it went in the pouring rain. Free refills from mother nature. So that-s what lite beer tastes like. We-re soaked to the bone, the field is a disaster (as Danny said, you could drown under a fumble pile up), and the game is one sided (especially without Holmes), with the Raiders shutting out the Chiefs for the first time in their forty year history. Even so, we left in the third quarter. In the end, only the final score mattered, as the Raiders will have home field advantage (?) throughout the playoffs. Hopefully next year they-ll play in the Fall. BMB

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