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August 25, 2008

Green Sunday at Red Rocks in Morrison

My neighbor told me that the Democrats had some special concert going at Red Rocks tonight and I was so stupid....I was like...I think I'll go.

She's like..."um...I don't quite know how to tell you this but...it's for Democrats...like...you can't get in. Security will be tighter than a frog's ass"

And I'm like..."Aha. A challenge. I love a challenge."

And she doesn't get it. Not many people do. But my deal is...I can walk into anything. Any event. Any concert. Any sporting event. I don't care how clever you think their security is...I can beat it. I've done it my whole life. I have Todd Wooten to thank for it. He taught me the secret.

I've walked into Stanley Cup finals games. Walked into professional baseball games...football games...air shows....it doesn't matter.

My deal is that, if you say I can't get in...watch out. Because I'm a' goin'.

So, I thought that I could get into the concert tonight at Red Rocks. Boy, was I wrong. I had no idea how tight security would be. But then, you have to figure...they're not going to let just anyone in.

I mean...the advertised speakers are Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Colorado Governor Bill Richardson, U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, Robert Kennedy Jr., Van Jones, and Bill McDonough. Mayor John Hickenlooper and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. The bands performing are Sugarland, Dave Matthews, and Sheryl Crow. Tickets were selling for $600 a piece.

So, it was pretty stupid of me to think that I could just go down there and show up for the event. Like...this isn't going to be your typical Red Rocks concert, obviously. The security is going to be provided by the FBI and the Secret Service, instead of the Morrison Police Department.

Still, something inside of me decided that I'd have to try. That I'd have to see if I couldn't get into the concert by hook or by crook. So, I Googled "Obama Press Credentials" and found something reasonably close. I brought it into Adobe Photoshop CS3 and sharpened it up a bit with the "unsharp mask". Then, I printed it out on photo paper and laminated it with a laminator I bought for Jennifer a few months ago that we've never used.

It looked pretty good when it came out of the laminator and I trimmed it up to about a "Hogan's Heroes" quality forged document and then I started thinking about a plan.

What would I wear? What does a photographer look like? Which entrance would I hit?

I'd have to ride my motorcycle, of course, because my truck is empty and I have no gas money. So, the motorcycle is a no-brainer. Then, I'm thinking...what will I wear?

I decided to shave and put on some clothes that weren't ripped or covered in drywall mud or Kilz.

I pull out a suit and look and it and I think..."No.....too formal." So, instead, I wear black pants, black coat, black shirt. I grab my short lens and frame and bracket mounted flash. I don't even bother to take my long lens because, lets be honest...what's the point? I'm going to be shooting at night, so the long lens is next to worthless.

I'm thinking I'll try to go in the back way to Red Rocks. Now, mind you, there are several entrances. I'm thinking I'll take the least traveled one. And, sure...I know...it looks stupid to see a guy pulling up on a red dirt bike wearing a matrix length black wool Banana Republic coat, black striped shirt, and black pants, with a Canon EOS 40D camera around his neck and a camera bag. But this is where I am.

Now....a smarter man would have turned back. The Democratic convention is this week, and there's at least one warrant out for my arrest, probably two. My plates are expired. I have no money. As in none. I have less than $100 cash in my pocket, and this is all the money I have on this earth.

So, obviously, a smarter man would have turned back. But no one has ever accused me of being overly bright. I decide to go for it.

On the way down, it looks like it might rain. About halfway there, my motorcycle runs out of gas, so I switch over to reserve in a downhill curve on Highway 28 and now I'm riding down to the concert on fumes, basically, and heading into a thunderstorm.

Again, a wiser man would have turned around a thousand times by now, but not me.

I practice what I'll tell them when I try to clear security. Who do I work for? I try to remember the Mayor of Denver's name. Is it John Hickenloop or John Hickenlooper? I decide that I'll say I work for John Hickenloop-"uh" and that will cover me.

Predictably, the Morrison Police are guarding the easiest entrance to Red Rocks. So, I turn left and go for the second easiest entrance. I have my fake credential in my pocket and I pull up to a little road block and there's a few people there and I'm thinking...."this is it". Like, either they wave me through, or the call in the Secret Service and ship me off to gitmo where they'll drive bamboo shoots under my fingernails and waterboard me.

I wave my fake credentials at the kid and he says, "You're with the press?" And he hands me something...some brochure and says, "Turn right and enjoy the show and he waves me through."

Next thing I know, I'm winding through the twisting backroads of Red Rocks like I've done so many times before and I go straight up to the top. To the very top of Red Rocks to the motorcycle parking where I won't have to hike up 7,000 feet or so and I park my bike and I'm thinking I'm home free, but when I try to get into the show, there's a problem.

Apparently, there's a "green sticker" for the day's event which I don't have. And now they're trying to call the ticket gate and asking me who I work for and I decide to just walk away and I climb back onto my bike and roll it downhill like they do in Peru to save gas.

After I get up a good head of steam, I kick it into 1st and pop the clutch and it fires up and a smart person would cut his losses and go home but this is where I decide to switch to Plan B.

Plan B is...if they don't let you in at one entrance, then try another entrance. Again...a smart person would go home, but a fool would press his luck until the Secret Service drags him into a back room with a bright light and files charges normally reserved for spies and illegal combatants.

So, I go for Plan B. I park at a spot below the amphitheatre and hike up. (Less desirable, due the climbing involved, but this is where I find myself tonight.)

So, I park my bike Now...mind you...it's an XR400. So, it doesn't have a key. Anyone that wanted to could drive it away with very little effort. I park it and and hang the helmet on the handlebars and start climbing into the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

When I get up to the guardians at the summit of the stairs, I just wave my fake press credentials. They're still warm from the laminator..

One guy looks at it and says "Is that what they're supposed to have?" and the other guy says "Yeah" and they wave me through.

So, I'm like..."Sweet!" and I go get in line for a beer because I need one.

I grab a beer for $7.00 and then I walk down to the front row and, waving my press credentials like I own the place, I innocently ask "where are we supposed to be?" and, of course, they point me right down to the front and center stage where all the photographers are on their knees shooting like mad.

Now...the people around me are wearing knee pads, down on their knees in jeans and tennis shoes, shooting about $8K worth of equipment per person. There are lines of people. They're on their knees shooting 400mm lenses without a flash. I have my gargantuan flash and I kneel down and start shooting away and the guy nearest me turns to me and says "they don't allow flashes here" and I'm like "Is my flash on?"

I move my beer so no one kicks it over and as I glance down the line, I realize that I'm the only drinking photographer in the group. I wish I'd brought my long lens and my backup frame.

The guys around me all have at least two cameras and they are shooting like mad. When they push the shutter on their frames, it sounds like the world is coming to an end. The shutters sound like playing cards in a kids bicycle spokes.

It's intimidating...I can tell you that.

They all have lanyards around their necks with scads of press credentials and I just have the one fake one prominently clipped to my lapel of my Banana Republic wool overcoat.

I turn off my flash and fiddle with the ISO, the shutter speed, and aperture, as if I know what I'm doing. I really have no clue. I'm just trying not to get arrested. Trying not to draw too much attention to myself. Trying to act cool, but failing miserably, and suddenly I realize that there's a Praying Mantis walking down my neck. Now, I'm reasonably sure I've never touched a Praying Mantis in my 40+ years on this planet. And, if you thought I was having a hard time fitting in before, imagine trying to be cool, calm, and collected whith a Praying Mantis walking down your neck. Right. I thought so.

So, in any event, I swatted the beast off of my neck and somehow, no one even noticed, I don't think. I took some photos of the thing - why, I cannot say.

After Sugarland plays their second song, all of the photographers stand up and leave, as if on cue. I, of course, am sitting here like an idiot and eventually, the security guards come and shoo me away.

Reluctantly, I get up and wander off to stage left, like Snagglepuss. I have no idea what is going on. All of the other photgraphers have little notebooks and they're writing things down. What? I have no clue but they're scribbling and writing little notes to themselves and I wish I had a pen. Or some paper. Or a cell phone. But I have none of this stuff. So, I just stand around like an idiot with my one lens and my one camera and my nearly empty camera bag.

I try to talk to some of the other photographers, and they're cordial, but they all want to know who I'm shooting for. And what do you say? I tell them I'm shooting for the City and County of Denver, which is a lie, of course. But they own Red Rocks. I know that much. So, I figure that it will put most people off right away, and it does.

I buy another beer and then I try to go sit in the press section, but I promptly get run off by a security Nazi that immediately realizes that I don't have the necessary green sticker for the day's events. She walks around bragging to the other security people how she "handled" the situation, and I feel stupid for pressing my luck.

So, I wander around and cross back over to the other side of Red Rocks where I had better luck with the less-informed security agents and buy another beer and when Sugarland leaves the stage, a few speakers come out in a row and I sit there, front and center, less than 10 feet away from Bill Richardson, Ken Salazar, Robert Kennedy Jr., Van Jones, and Bill McDonough, and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. I have no idea who they are, but I ask the chick next to me and she checks her notes and tells me who they are.

I'm just shooting like mad and, about halfway through the event, I realize that I've set my camera to shoot in the lowest possible resolution because of that horrible little buggy Microsoft application called Photosynth and I'm kicking myself but, this is where we are. So, I change it to shoot in the highest res mode and I set it to shoot as fast as humanly possible so that when I press the shutter, it sounds like playing cards in a kid's spokes.

Eventually, all of the politicians shut up and Dave Matthews comes out to perform with Tim Reynolds, but the saxophonist and founding member LeRoi Moore isn't here because he died in an ATV accident last week.

They let us go back down again for the first two Dave Matthews songs and, at some point, I decide that this is definitley what I need to be doing with my life. I need to be a photographer. And not just because you get into concerts for free and get to sit down front and center about 6 feet from the performer's nose, but also because it's fun.

I stay for the whole show and eventually, they quit selling $7.00 beers and I'm greatly disappointed, although I'm sure that it was a good thing they cut me off because I hadn't eaten anything all day and I could hardly stand by the end of the concert.

When it was over, of course, I stumbled down to my motorcycle and it was still there, helmet and all, and I as so hammered that when I left Red Rocks, all the pigs were waving for me to turn left, so I turned right just to spite them and raced up the canyon, taking the long way home.

I was only a few miles from my house when I ran out of gas. Now - running out of gas is never a good thing. When it's dark and you've been drinking and your plates are expired and you've got a few warrants out for your arrest - well that raises the stakes quite a bit, shall we say?

So I turned around and headed back down the mountain, coasting down the shoulder in the dark, snot-slinging drunk. I turned to go toward Tiny Town, but didn't make it far up Turkey Creek Road before I had to get off and start pushing. I was hoping that the gas station at Tiny Town would be open. Hoping I wouldn't pass a cop.

And then a motorcycle came blowing by and I waved him down. He turned around and came back and I said "Dude...I'm out of gas...Is Tiny Town open?"


"Could you take me to my house? I have a gas can there full of gas."

"Sure. Hop on."

So now, I'm riding on the back of this Suzuki GSX 600 crotch rocket, with my feet on the little metal footpegs, barking directions when we get to a hairpin or a turn. Eventually, we get back to my house and I say "Dude....come on in and have a shot of Tequila" and he says "No...I don't drink when I'm driving?" and I'm like "Suit yourself."

So, I change out of my uber-gay black outfit into Kilz covered blue jeans with a knee missing, hiking boots, a t-shirt, and heavy winter jacket while he waits outside.

Then I bound outside and throw a gas can in my backpack and say "let's go".

And he's all like "Dude...what is all of this stuff?"

And I'm like..."That's an M37...that's a DUKW...that's a weasel."

Eventually, we get back to my bike and I fill it up and kick start it and I try to give him some cash for gas but he just refuses it. Just flat refuses it. And I drive home in the dark and I think..."I wonder if my neighbors will believe my story."

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 25, 2008 at 1:00 AM


Great story. I was climbing Red Rock with you...and coasting down the mountain in the dark....the bamboo probably doesn't hurt as much as you've heard.

Posted by: sl on August 25, 2008 at 7:10 PM

You are my hero man!! That's awesome you made it in...never hurts to try right?? Next time i'll join you on my YZ490 although i'll need gas every 5 miles!

Posted by: Forny on August 26, 2008 at 1:51 PM

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