August, 2008:

August 2008 Poker

Send to Kindle

Well, another month with a fair amount of poker frustration. That said, it was also a very good month on some other levels, including eeking out a small profit.

Without further ado, let’s get the economics out of the way: +$140.46.

Hardly earthshaking. In fact, as reported numerous times now, since I don’t play as much, and I tend to pay full freight in the bigger tourneys, my volatility is high. It takes big wins to cover the losing entry fees. This past month saw two nice wins on consecutive Saturdays, in the weekly big Omaha Hi/Lo tourney.

Last Saturday (the 23rd) I placed 6th, and received $1,050.00 for my $162 entry fee. Then yesterday, I played in the same tourney (the only one I played in yesterday) and finished 4th, receiving $1,500.00 for my $162. So, you’d think that I would be up a ton this month with those two scores, but, you already know that this wasn’t the case…

Tonight, in my last tourney of the month, I paid full freight for the weekly big Hold’Em tourney ($215). Because of the holiday weekend, there were only 758 entrants, so the top 80 got paid. Normally, the top 100 get paid. I was low on chips, but possibly had enough to slip into the money (not all that likely). So, I shoved UTG with 77. Only the big blind called. He had AKo. An A came on the flop, and I was out in 92nd, missing the money by 12 spots…

Oh well, clearly, the two big finishes in Omaha were extremely satisfying. Finishing close in the bigger weekly Hold’Em tourneys (I came reasonably close another time this month aside from tonight) is both frustrating and enjoyable, at the same time.

At least the account can handle another month of playing. 🙂

Home Depot Customer Service

Send to Kindle

There are many ways to tell this story, and I’m sure that I’ll pick the wrong one…

Before I start railing, let me state that for the most part, Lois and I like Home Depot, and the majority of our in-store experiences have been very positive.

On to our tale of woe. We have outdoor space in the city that had an old (but very nice) wooden table on it when we moved in. There were benches on either side, and a chair at both heads, for a 6-person seating area. It could still be used, but it has required some quickie repairs the past few years, and it’s clearly headed south.

Last summer we seriously shopped (entirely online) for a new patio set. They ain’t cheap, by any measure. We almost pulled the trigger, but thankfully, something took hold as my index finger was hovering over the submit button, and we decided to hold off for another season.

I say thankfully, because shortly thereafter, we lost all use of our deck for a year, when our building was required to make repairs according to Local Law 11. Our furniture got beaten up a ton more as it got moved back-and-forth by the workers, and if that had been new stuff, we wouldn’t have been too pleased…

While the table had some issues, it was really the benches that bugged Lois. A month ago, we found ourselves in a Home Depot near our house, explicitly for the benefit of Laura and Chris who were picking up stuff to get their apartment spruced up. While they were shopping, Lois spotted two wrought iron benches (that even swung a bit). They were on end-of-season super sale. We decided to buy them, even though they might look a bit odd with the wooden table.

After loading them up on a cart, Chris pointed out that since we hadn’t measured, it’s possible that they simply wouldn’t work with the existing table. That was a good point, so we aborted.

A week later, Laura called me from a Home Depot in Richmond, VA, and told me that the last of the patio furniture was still out and on sale, and that we should probably check it out when we got to Fredericksburg (scheduled for a few days later).

We did. We ended up buying an oval wrought iron table and six wrought iron chairs (that rock gently on springs). It’s the same set that the benches belong to, but we much preferred the chairs, and with the matching table, all of our measuring problems (and matching looks problems) were solved.

Lois waited at the Home Depot while I drove the table and two chairs to the office. I returned and loaded up the remaining four chairs and drove them back to the office with Lois. A few hours later, we decided that the sale was very good, so we drove back and bought two more chairs.

A week later, we drove the table and six chairs back to NYC (it was quite a feat fitting them all in to the SUV), leaving two chairs for this next trip. We set the table and chairs up on the deck, and they were perfect. In the past two weeks of nearly perfect NYC weather, we’ve had quite a few meals on the new furtniture, and have enjoyed every single one.

Temporary switching of gears…

We had another (very old) table on the deck that seats six people. Two years ago, Lois spray painted it grey (it was white). Now, inspired by the new wrought iron stuff, she painted it (by hand, very messily) black. It looks reasonably good, but she’s not satisfied (at all). In addition, we have plastic chairs (blue and white, plenty of both colors) that we use around that table. She hates the mish-mash of color and texture between the chairs and table.

So, earlier this week, she had me look online, at homedepot.com, to see how much it would cost to buy more of the same chairs that we hauled up for our new table. For the eight chairs that we bought on sale at the store, we paid $79 per pair (plus tax), so just under $40 per chair. Online, they were $110/pair, but I believe that included shipping (tax would still be separate). Not an outrageous markup, but slightly annoying that it was more expensive.

We decided to hold off and check the local store again. Two days later, we visited the original store (where we saw the matching benches) and they were completely out of this particular set (tables and chairs). When we got home, I went online again, willing to pay the $110. Amazingly, it was now $199/pair. This was just two days later. That was more than I was willing to pay, so we decided to forget the idea.

Now the real part of the story begins, with humble apologies for the length of the intro

Lois decided to call around to some other nearby Home Depots, to see if they had any chairs in stock. We had the SKU (both from the online system, and from the receipt from the Fredericksburg store). She called at least five different Home Depots, all within an hour’s drive of the house, and only one claimed to have any in stock.

OK, it’s in stock, so Lois tells the guy who answered the phone that we’re on the way up. He tells her not to come, because they are not for sale! What? You have something in stock that you refuse to sell? Lois asks him if she can speak to a manager. After a minute, the manager gets on the phone. He tells Lois that indeed the system shows the chairs in stock, but without a visual inspection, he wouldn’t be comfortable telling us to make the drive.

He takes our number and says he’ll call back. We wait quite a while, with no callback. Lois calls again, gets the same original person. Again, he’s as nice as can be, even though he told her the chairs weren’t for sale. This time, he connects her with someone in the Garden department. The woman seemed to be aware of the search, so the manager likely asked her to do it.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t yet confirm that the chairs were there, and she too said she would call back.

In the meantime, we continued calling around. I found a store in NJ that claimed to have 16 boxes of the pair of chairs in stock. We decided to take the shot and head straight there. When we were driving up the lane in our development (just a minute from the house), Lois got a call from the first store (the woman in Gardens) who said she had eight chairs there. That store was supposedly 15 minutes closer, and the woman visually confirmed the chairs, so we headed there.

Sure enough, they had them. After struggling with the decision, instead of buying four chairs (which is what our plan was), we decided to take six. While we knew for sure that six chairs would fit in the SUV, having done it already, this time, four of the chairs were still in the two large boxes, so we didn’t know if we’d have to unpack them before getting them in the car. Luckily, it all fit in (barely) without needing to open the boxes.

One of the reasons we bought six chairs was the price. They were reduced again, to $66/pair in the store. So, online they cost $199/pair, and in the store, $66. That’s just nuts…

OK, so all’s well that ends well, right? Wrong…

Once we got home, Lois started conjecturing that they also carried a round table (44″) in this style, and that given the magnitude of the sale, we would be better off buying it and throwing out the one she just painted this past weekend!

I looked online, and the table had doubled in price (just like the chairs did) to a whopping $239! We called back the store we had just visited, and they had none. The in-store price, if they had it in stock, was down to $45. That’s practically a $200 savings, again, nuts! Now the saga really begins…

Lois asked the woman if any other area stores showed the table in stock. Indeed, a store roughly an hour from us showed two in stock. Lois called. They confirmed that the computer showed two in stock. Having learned the lesson earlier that a visual check is a good thing to ask for, Lois aked. They put her on hold, came back a few minutes later, and said that there were none in stock. 🙁

Lois asked if they could check if any other stores in their area had any. They checked, and yes, another store (also an hour from us) had six in stock. Lois called. They performed a visual check, and none were in stock. No one had a plausible explanation for how the computer showed so many in stock, but none were actually there.

Between last night and this morning, Lois called at least a dozen (yes, I’m not exaggerating!) Home Depot’s, all within an hour’s drive of our house (across three states!). None had the table in stock. 1/2 of them didn’t have it in the computer, but the other 1/2 all showed some in stock (with one store showing nine!), but none of those passed a visual check.

All-in-all, Lois was on the phone for roughly two hours, with tons of frustration along the way. Most (the majority) of the people she spoke to were very nice. A few weren’t. In the end, nice didn’t matter anyway. It was better to have two hours of phone frustration than two hours of round-trip driving to discover that the computer was wrong, but still, it was no fun.

So, what are our beefs?

First and foremost, get the darn inventory correct. If the computer shows the item (or nine items!) to be in stock, it should be in stock!

Second, visual checks shouldn’t take so long either. There are many people in the store, and someone is usually near the Garden section, so a quick two-way radio check should be able to get a definitive answer.

Third, if you solve the first problem, then make sure that I, as a consumer, can see the inventory via the web, and don’t have to waste my time, and the store personnel’s time, with a phone call to check what the computer obviously knows!

Moreover (still on point #3), I should be able to type a SKU and ask for all stores within some radius that have it in stock. I should be able to trust the answer. I should be able to buy it on the spot, and have it pulled and waiting for me to pick it up. Many other retailers provide such a service, or will have the item sent to the store of your choice for pickup.

To summarize:

  • We love this particular style of patio furniture (Napa Plantation Patterns), which appears to be available only at Home Depot (kudos to the buyers at Home Depot for picking this out and for scoring an exclusive)
  • We love the end-of-season sale
  • We hate that it’s way more expensive online than the remainders that are in the stores
  • We hate that we can’t see what’s in stock in a specific store
  • We hate that we can’t ask which stores have it in stock, online
  • We can’t fathom how so many appear in stock, but none actually are
  • Most people in the stores are wonderful and truly helpful
  • Most people on the phone try to be helpful, but the process is so awkward as to rarely end up achieving that goal

We now have plenty of chairs, and a new main table that will give us years of enjoyment. Perhaps next season, we will pick up the round table, without paying an arm and a leg, when the season is 1/2 over. 😉

Lucky 8 Wedding

Send to Kindle

We have great friends who have two wonderful sons. Last year, the younger son married a terrific woman. We were invited and acknowledged that we would attend. A few weeks later, we were invited to another wedding on the same date. We knew that bride from her birth (25 years!), and ended up going to that wedding instead. We can’t begin to describe how badly we felt missing one wedding for another, but life often presents dilemmas.

We knew a year ago that the older son was marrying an equally terrific woman on 08/08/08. We promised that only the wedding of one of our godchildren would keep us from attending. Ironically, in a surprise, our goddaughter got married on July 5th. Thankfully, she didn’t pick 08/08/08. 🙂

The Chinese consider the number eight to be very lucky. Many couples picked that date with a number of interesting news articles written about the various events surrounding those weddings.

We checked Google Maps and saw that the drive from NYC to the Church (St. Mary’s By The Sea in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ) normally takes under 90 minutes. Given weekend beach traffic, we added an hour, believing we left plenty of time. We couldn’t have been more wrong. 🙁

It took us over an hour just to get to the Lincoln Tunnel, a trip that normally takes 10 minutes! So, we blew our cushion before the trip really started. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better after that. We sat for a while on the NJ Turnpike, and then again on the Garden State, and finally, the streets were very slow in Point Pleasant Beach itself. We were sure that we would miss the entire ceremony.

Somehow, miraculously, we arrived only 30 minutes late. I’m sure we missed some moving words, but we got there in time to hear the vows that the couple wrote for each other, and to witness the actual marriage. Whew! Here’s the proof. 🙂

The Marriage

The Marriage

The Church is beautiful and the ceremony was warm and inviting. The Priest (Father Jerry) from the groom’s Church in Northern, NJ and Father C. John Thompson-Quartey, the Saint Mary’s By The Sea cleric, jointly officiated. That was an extremely nice touch as well. Here’s a photo of both of them, along with a very touching moment as the Groom and Best Man held hands across the aisle in prayer:

Hand Holding Prayer

Hand Holding Prayer

In addition to seeing the actual marriage, the ceremony lasted an additional 45 minutes after we arrived, so even though we missed the beginning, we felt lucky and blessed to experience as much as we did.

Instead of throwing rice, everyone blew bubbles toward the couple as they came back up the center aisle. They couldn’t stop laughing, partially because one person had a high-speed bubble gun, and was able to shower them with bubbles. It was great fun! This picture is way too blurry. I shouldn’t even post it, but at least you can see the bubble gun on the right side:

Bubble Gun

Bubble Gun

Another lucky thing that day was the weather. August can be particularly brutal in this part of the country. Amazingly, the high for the day was roughly 83 degrees. There was a pleasant breeze as well. The only (bad) break in that weather occurred seconds after the ceremony was over (unfortunately). As the bridal party was heading to the limo, the heavens opened up in a downpour. In a coincidence (or was it?), there was a tremendous downpour after our goddaughter’s ceremony as well, though it held off for 20 minutes that day.

Thankfully, it turned out to be a passing storm, and within 15 minutes, the skies were blue and the weather was perfect again. We waited in the Church until the storm passed before heading to the reception.

The reception was held at the Waterview Pavillion in Belmar, NJ. This is a gorgeous facility across the highway from the marina in Belmar. The setup was clever in addition to being beautiful. The main reception hall was set up with tables surrounding the dance floor. The ceiling is two stories tall, and the second floor is a wrap-around balcony (all four sides) looking down on the dance floor. We were all guided upstairs for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The spread was wonderful, with lots of choices.

I hate to single anything out (because it was all really good), but the Jumbo Shrimp and Lobster Pastries deserve a mention. 😉

Lois and I were among the first handful of people to arrive, so we ended up sitting alone at a round table. After a while, we were joined by people we hadn’t met previously, the cousin of the bride’s grandmother and her husband. We couldn’t have asked for two lovelier people to spend time with and get to know. A bit later, we were joined by friends of the groom’s parents who we met once before. They too are wonderful people who we would enjoy spending more time with than we have gotten to in the past.

Here is the couple we first met. We made sure to get her email address so I could share this link with her. Thanks for a lovely visit Joyce and John:

John Joyce

John Joyce

While we were enjoying ourselves upstairs, setup continued in the main hall. The tables were all set previously, but the appetizers (fresh strawberries) and rolls were being put out, and the DJ and Band were doing some sound checks. The band deserves a special mention, but I’ll defer that for a minute.

I mentioned earlier that the setup was clever. Here’s why. While the main hall had the tables surrounding the dance floor on three sides, not every seat has a great view of the entire dance floor. In other halls, the dance floor is at the head of the seating area, obscured from view of the majority of the tables. Because we were all upstairs, they were able to give us a very special perspective on a part of the reception that every wedding includes.

We were all asked to get up and stand at the railings on the second floor looking down on the dance floor as the wedding party was announced. First the Parents of the Bride. Then the Parents of the Groom. Then the groomsmen and bridesmaids (in pairs). Finally, the Bride and the Groom (now officially Mr. and Mrs.). Every one of us had a great view of the entire procession. Excellent!

Here are two photos of that (hopefully, you’ll get a good picture of what we all experienced). The first shows the procession all lined up making a bridge for the Bride and Groom to pass through. The second is after the Bride and Groom passed through, waving to everyone:

Awaiting the Bride and Groom

Awaiting the Bride and Groom

Welcoming the Bride and Groom

Welcoming the Bride and Groom

More special, the traditional first dances (Bride and Groom, then Father and Daughter and finally Mother and Son) were all the more special since 100% of the focus and attention was on them, with no conversation and eating going on in the hall itself. Like I said, beautiful and clever at the same time!

Immediately thereafter, we were all invited to take our seats downstairs in the main hall. At each seat, there was a half-glass of champagne already poured. There were three toasts. The first was from the Father of the Bride. Next came the best man, a Major in the Army and best friend (for roughly 20 years!) of the groom. Both were moving (and funny) speeches. Then the DJ asked us to stop for a second for a special toast from the Bride and Groom. At that moment, it was exactly 8:08pm, on 08/08/08. Another clever touch! 🙂

There were different sized tables around the hall. We were at a table for eight. All four couples were long-time friends of the parents of the groom. Lois had met one of the women last year at the shower for the younger son’s wife, but otherwise, we didn’t know the other couples. Given how much we love our friends, it was no surprise that their friends were great as well, making for a joyous and interesting evening. Without a doubt, it can be said that the friend of my friend is my friend. 🙂

One of the men at the table was 73 years old. He could definitely have passed for 58 (I certainly wouldn’t have questioned it if he was introduced as such). When we left, I shook his hand and told him that I could only hope to be just like him when I turn 73! Here’s a photo of him, along with the Major and the Father of the Groom:

The Boys

The Boys

Since we were both extremely impressed with the Major, in every respect, Lois snapped lots of photos of him. In fairness to the one above, with the Groom’s Father, here’s one with the Groom’s extremely lovely Mother:

Marybeth and the Major

Marybeth and the Major

As with our goddaughter’s wedding, the food was served buffet style, with individual tables being called up one at a time. Even though we were seated very close to the buffet, we were one of the last tables to be called up (perhaps the last). No worries, the food was still hot and plentiful, so we didn’t miss out on that either. 😉

Back to the basics, the reason we were all together to begin with! We’ve known the groom for many years. I wish I had captured the best man’s toast verbatim, because it truly captured the spirit of this fine young man. Aside from being an all-around good guy, he’s never had trouble with the ladies.

When we first met the bride-to-be, a couple of years ago, we knew instantly that he would be a fool if he ever let her slip away. Clearly, he’s no fool! 😉

She is as lovely a person as you could ever want to meet. Smart, funny, fun-loving, sensitive, and, did I mention, gorgeous? If I didn’t mention it, let me say it now, she’s a knock-out. One of the many wonderful things about her is her 24×7 smile, that lights up any room she’s in. Of course, looks don’t matter whatsoever (really!), and she’s got everything else that does matter, in spades. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the looks too. 😉

Here are the two very happy couples (the newlyweds and us!):

Two Happy Couples

Two Happy Couples

She’s also statuesque (code word for really tall). In fact, she played basketball for Northeastern University. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise (and yet, it did!), that there were more statuesque women at the reception than I’ve ever been around in my life. I was mildly surprised that a pick-up game didn’t break out on the dance floor. 😉

To make the point, here is the Bride, dancing with the shortest person in the wedding party:

Tall Short Dancing

Tall Short Dancing

Both bride and groom had a ton of friends at the wedding. It was heartwarming to see them all have so much fun together, and share their common love for the newlyweds. The dance floor was buzzing all night. Here is a nice photo of a group of lovely ladies:

Lovely Ladies

Lovely Ladies

That brings me to something I deferred earlier on. The band. Perhaps that’s a slight misnomer. The live music was provided by Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band. From the website, I can see that they can provide a full range of musicians and band configurations. At this wedding, two of them were there, I believe John Hilton and Monica Moore. All I can say is that we loved every second that they played. The DJ played some background beats for them, but they supplied the calypso-style sound, perfectly. It was a light and uplifting sound throughout the evening.

Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band

Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band

When the dancing took center stage, they left, and the DJ (who performed double-duty as a superb emcee the entire night!) took over. He was great, both in personality and in his choice of music to play throughout the evening. While we could always stand (personally) to have the music be a little softer than it ever is, he was not over-the-top in volume, which was also a blessing.

Just like at our goddaughter’s wedding, we got up to dance exactly once, when they invited only the married couples onto the dance floor. Exactly as it was then, the point was to discover the couple who was married the longest. At our goddaughter’s wedding, the magic number was 46. Last night, there were two couples left on the floor after the rest of us lost. The winners were 54 and 55 years of marriage. Here is a photo of the winning couples:

Longest Married

Longest Married

The DJ asked if they had any words of wisdom for the newest couple. One of the couples offered the following:

Drink good wine, and learn to have a lot of patience

Sounds like sage advice to me! 🙂

We were driving all the way back to the house (90-120 minutes) after the wedding, so other than the sip of champagne for the toast, I didn’t drink any alcohol at all. I also wasn’t willing to leave until I had some of the wedding cake. I had two fabulous cups of coffee and a slice of the delicious cake, plus a few specialty desserts that were on a platter on each table. After that, we made our rounds of hugs, kisses and goodbyes, and drove home. It took 100 minutes (not bad at all) and we walked in the door at 12:30am.

Speaking of the cake, here it is being cut:

Cutting Cake

Cutting Cake

The happy couple is on their way (today) to Hawaii. Another sign that this marriage will last. The groom badly wanted to honeymoon in Alaska. They are both outdoors types, so the bride would normally enjoy roughing it in Alaska as well. Still, she had the sensibility of wanting a more relaxing honeymoon, and her brand-new husband appropriately compromised (by doing exactly what she wanted). 😉

Since I mentioned how badly we felt missing the other wedding last year, the least I can do is show you what a great looking couple they are as well. 🙂

Patrick Casey

Patrick Casey

I’ve mentioned my goddaughter’s wedding a number of times here. Here’s one last mention. Two weeks ago, we packed up my suit and other accessories and brought them from the house to the apartment. When I was getting dressed on Friday afternoon, I asked Lois to bring out the ties (I gave her three ties to pack so I could choose one at the last minute). Somehow, none of the ties got packed. Oh oh.

Lois called our goddaughter (who lives in the same building we do), and asked whether she could loan me one of her husband’s ties (he was at work, but she doesn’t start for another two weeks, thankfully!). She brought one up a minute later, saying “See, it was good that I got married, or I wouldn’t have had a tie in my closet!”. Amen to that! 🙂

The Tie

The Tie

Earl Klugh at Blue Note

Send to Kindle

Last night we saw Earl Klugh perform at the Blue Note in NYC. There is a good back-story to this, but in deference to Lois’ tastes, I’ll leave it for the end. I encourage you to read all the way through, especially if you know us personally. 😉

A few weeks back we went to the Blue Note to see Chuck Mangione with Laura and Chris. We sat right up against the stage, dead center, and we really liked the seats. I wanted to get the same seats last night, and we did.

I’ve been a huge fan for very long (I’ll prove it in the back-story) but haven’t seen Earl in concert for quite a while. Suffice it to say I was very excited.

For the majority of the evening, there were five other people on the stage with Earl. Left-to-right, they were:

(apologies for the quality of all of the photos, and for the complete lack of a photo of Ron Otis. The Blue Note is very dark, and they don’t permit flash photography during the show…)

Al Duncan on keyboards. Sorry, I can’t find a good link directly to him… He’s been with Earl for a long time (over 10 years) and plays solidly. He was featured on two numbers early on, and played beautifully.

Al Duncan

Al Duncan

Lenny Price on Sax, Clarinet (or something that looked like a square clarinet!) and Wind Synthesizer (a great sound, from an instrument I’ve never seen before). He was amazing all night long. At the end of the evening, he played both the Sax and Clarinet at the same time. The audience went wild!

Lenny Price

Lenny Price

Lenny Price Playing Two Instruments

Lenny Price Playing Two Instruments

Earl Klugh was in the middle. I’ll come back to him after I say a few words about the rest of the band.

Earl Klugh

Earl Klugh

Al Turner played bass (both electric and a funky upright bass on a few tunes as well). He is an incredible musician. Lois and I had the double pleasure of sitting directly in front of him (1-2 feet away!) so we really got to see him cook. One of the songs they played last night, was the title cut from his new CD Movin‘. It features Al playing a smoking bass throughout the song. Excellent!

Al Turner

Al Turner

David Lee on keyboards. David was great all night as well. Al Duncan (above) was featured in the early numbers, and David was featured on the later ones. In the fantastic Earl Klugh and Bob James number, Kari, David played the part of Bob James.

David Lee

David Lee

Ron Otis on drums (tucked away in the far right corner of the stage). I couldn’t find a good link for him either, but on this page, there is a good photo of Ron and Al Turner as well, about 3/4’s of the way down. Just search for Otis and/or Turner. Ron is a great drummer who kept us all tapping, swaying, bobbing and grooving all night. He kept the band tight and clean the entire show.

I really didn’t want to include this next photo, since it’s so out of focus, but Lois insisted that I put at least one in with both Earl and me, and I relented, only so that you could see how close we were:

Hadar and Earl Klugh

Hadar and Earl Klugh

All of the above have played on so many albums, with so many greats, you should take the time to read each of their discographies, etc.

Now the great man himself, Earl Klugh. To begin with, I’ve been a fan forever. I just checked my iTunes/iPod and I have 17 of his CDs on there (yes, including the latest, The Spice of Life). I also have Cool by Bob James and Earl Klugh on there. I know that I own both of the other Bob James and Earl Klugh CDs, One on One and Two of a Kind, so now I realize I need to rip them this weekend when I’m back at the house. I might even have some additional vinyl albums of Earl’s, or some CDs that are hidden in the house and never got ripped. Suffice it to say, I’ve been in love with his music forever.

He’s a fantastic guitarist by any measure. But, he’s also a fantastic songwriter. His music is so soulful (like much of Acoustic Alchemy). As I’ve said to Lois (and even Laura) many times, even though they’re mostly instrumental (with a few exceptions), I hear words in my head when I listen to his music. His melodies and leads are so evocative emotionally, that ideas and thoughts spring into your head when you listen closely (which I always do).

He was great last night, but I do have a tiny complaint. The volume on his guitar was just a tad too soft. In fact, thankfully, they/he raised it a drop after the first song, when it was barely audible. That said, I sat between 2-3 feet away from him, with the neck of his guitar pointing in my direction. I also know every note of his songs by heart (I had never heard Movin’ before, because it’s an Al Turner song). So, even on the first number, Slow Boat to Rio (on the Sudden Burst of Energy CD), I could follow his fingers with the melody in my head, even though I could barely hear the guitar.

He was awesome nonetheless. It made me want to see him live again, as soon as possible. 🙂

I can’t describe how many Earl Klugh songs I count as favorites. It’s silly to even use the word favorite, when there are so many. So, seeing him live is also an adventure in finding out which of my favorites he will play. In addition to Movin’ (by Al Turner) and two songs from the new CD, he played a very tasty selection, including Living Inside Your Love, Dr. Macumba, Vonetta, Twinkle (where Al Turner rocked the house as well!), etc. A fanstastic set list. So fantastic, that we (and others!) swiped a Set List from the stage when they were done. Another advantage of sitting up against the stage. 😉

OK, finally, the back-story I’ve teased you about…

Lois and I met on the job in October 1981. I took an instant shine to her. She, not-as-much to me. At the time, Earl Klugh was my favorite musician. I listened to his records (yes, vinyl only at the time), non-stop. Even though I was as poor as dirt then, I bought two tickets to see Earl perform that November at Carnegie Hall. It was a birthday present from me, to me.

Lois and I lived 10 blocks apart, and we were hanging out some after work (mostly at her apartment). Again, to reiterate this very important point, she had little interest in me other than as a friend. Got it? Good!

But, I decided to take a shot anyway. My first attempt to formally ask Lois out was to invite her to join me for the Earl Klugh concert. She indeed said “No”. She told me that she was attending a wedding of her friends in Rochester, NY. I only found out later that this was a little white lie. Her friends (now my very good friends as well) were indeed getting married in Rochester that weekend, but Lois wasn’t going. She just wasn’t interested in dating me, and the fact that this was a big thing for me (birthday, expensive for me, etc.) freaked her out a bit as well.

In other words, she didn’t want to give me the wrong message, but she didn’t want to be explicit either. 😉

So, I took an ex-girlfriend instead, and had a great time. Speaking of ex-girlfriends, one last digression to explain how I discovered Earl Klugh to begin with.

A friend of mine set me up on a blind date (either in 1979 or 1980, I can’t recall). We double-dated once, then I took her out perhaps three or four times after that. On our first alone date, she suggested we go to a bar in midtown, where they had live jazz. It ended up costing me a bit more than I could afford, but we had a nice time. When I took her back to her apartment, she put on Heart String (that link is to the LP, obviously, the CD is available as well).

I was instantly mesmerized, and the next day went out and bought everything of his that I could find, and I’ve kept up with every new album ever since. So, even though the relationship didn’t work out, she gave me a great gift nonetheless!

So, it was not without a little nervousness, that I asked Lois whether she would go with me to see Earl Klugh this time around. Thankfully, this time, she said “Yes”. 😉

I got tied up with something in the middle of the afternoon, and we left a little later than we had hoped. It worked out fine as we still got the exact two seats we were shooting for. But, instead of taking the bus, I knew we would need to take a cab.

I flagged down a cab that had the off-duty sign (but still available). He pulled over to the curb 30 feet away from us, so I wasn’t sure he was responding to my hail. After a minute of staring at him, he waved for me to come over. I had to tell him through the passenger window where we were going. He didn’t know where it was (including not really being sure where Washington Square Park was). Uh oh.

He then said “If you can tell me how to get there, I’ll take you”. Deal! 😉

So, we hopped in. It turns out that this was his very first day driving a cab in NYC. Wow. Amazing that he passed the test, given that he doesn’t know where anything is. At least he followed my directions well, and got us there in reasonable time (of course, he wasn’t aggressive like most cab drivers, which was likely a good thing…).

In a full-circle, small-world happening, we drove right in front of the apartment of the ex-girlfriend who introduced me to Earl Klugh way back when. I found it at least a tad ironic…

I had the same dinner that I had when we were there a few weeks ago for Chuck Mangione. A perfectly cooked Marinated Skirt Steak. Yummy.

Anyway, a great night all around. If you aren’t familiar with Earl Klugh, and you like Smooth Jazz, you must buy some of his stuff. If you visit EarlKlugh.com, it will instantly start streaming some of his hits, so you can get a sense right away, or click on his MySpace page to hear some others.