There we were at a packed Quicken Loans Arena, some six rows back. The arena was dark and mist-filled. Ominous. The crowd buzzed with anticipation and fear, palpable fear, filled the air, for soon we would be taken back to a time when...
DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH!
That's right, Walking with Dinosaurs had arrived in Cleveland. Alex and I scored a pair of tickets (thanks Lauren and Jeff) to what would surely prove an educational and terrifying trip back to the Jurassic period, some 200 million years ago. We hit the concession stands first and then made our way through the concourse toward Pangea, or rather, the arena's best impersonation of that single land mass that once comprised the earth's surface.
Places were found. Lights were dimmed as the curtain rose. The MC was blathering something about "evolution," but all I could think about as I slammed a hot dog was teeth and claws and so many tons of reptilian flesh and bone.
We heard mighty allosaurus before we ever saw it. A blood-curdling roar from the cunning hunter sent many a convoked Clevelander running for the exits. Children wailed as allosaurus reared its powerful head, jaw snapping in search of prey. And allosaurus had its animatronic day, feasting on a newborn plateosaurus, just hatched, whose mother had strayed dangerously far from the nest. Barely begun, life for this young fake dinosaur was already over. Tragedy? Hardly. Jurassic life was, and is, cruel. With predators lurking in every corner, carnivores prowling for a mechanized meal, life is tenuous at best.
And so went a night highlighted by one epic battle after another. Armored stegosaurus versus liliensternous. Gentle brachiosaurus defending her young from a ravenous pair of Utahraptors. T-rex taking on a tag-team combo of torosaurus and ankylosaurus. The spectacle of violence was unimaginable. Mayhem reigned, except during intermission. Fake meat and sinew were torn from bone. Crimson rivers trickled from lifeless corpses, gathering in ersatz pools of blood. Victims shrieked their dying laments while the roar of the victors shook the building to its very foundations. Surely no LeBron James dunk could match such a spectacle. Alex, mourning the death of a baby tyrannosaur, clung to me, inconsolable as I signaled to the vendor for a seventh beer. On went the carnage, the terror--all of it fake, and yet so real.
But like all good things, the show came to an end. The MC muttered something about life on earth being precious but delicate, but by then I was far too drunk to care. My mind was bent on other questions, like how am I going to drive home? and how long have my pants been off?
Finally, Alex gathered me up and drove us back to Akron. The world spun around me and I remember feeling happy, and so very blessed, just before blacking out. All of the prehistoric beasts we saw have long been extinct, but for one night we were, truly, walking with the dinosaurs.
This post is dedicated to Josh Shalek, who loves dinosaurs and who got to see Cat Power in concert and not me.