Dining

theSet NYC at Le Poisson Rouge

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A month ago, I posted about a wonderful weekend that included catching Altar Boyz at New World Stages. As a result (I assume) I received an email from Pim, a member of the team that founded theSet NYC.

theSet NYC is a great idea. Collect a group of talented performers and promote a show featuring a bunch of them on the same night. The idea is to give these people an alternative to the grind of a pure open mic night. Pim used to do standup comedy (and might again in the future), so he was well aware of the difficulties of getting the appropriate breaks.

For the performers, it typically means a slightly longer set (roughly 15 minutes each) and a (hopefully) friendlier crowd. For the audience, it typically means a (slightly) more vetted group of performers (no one who just mustered up the courage five minutes ago to get up on the stage), and also a friendlier atmosphere (not oriented toward heckling, etc.).

theSet NYC aims to put on a show once a month. They use a number of venues, one of which is the lounge at New World Stages, which is how I guess Pim ended up finding me.

One of Pim’s roles is blogger outreach. Once he connected with me via email, he invited me to attend their next show, which was last night, at Le Poisson Rouge (LPR), in the Gallery Bar (downstairs, they also have a more traditional club upstairs). The show fit with our schedule, so we decided to attend.

Pim

Pim

Most of the shows have been free to date (including last night), though there’s no guarantee of that in the future. We arrived at 7pm (the show started at 8pm) because we intended to eat (and drink) at Gallery Bar first.

You can check out the menu to see the eclectic range of food and drink offered there. Lois had the Edamame. She raved non-stop while she was eating them. I had the Spicy Tuna Roll (absolutely incredible), and the Sloppy Kobe Joes. Folks, I do believe that this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Not quite a hamburger (because it’s not pressed together in a patty, since it’s a sloppy joe), and with a sauce that’s spicy (not hot, flavorful!) and fantastic.

If theSet NYC did nothing else for us, it introduced us to a place that we will return to for the food alone, no doubt! In addition, the lovely bartender made me a perfect Chocolate Martini. Thanks!

Gallery Bar Bartender

Gallery Bar Bartender

On to the show. Lois asked me to cover the performers in the order that we liked them, rather than in the order that they appeared. Seems fair enough to me, so here goes (I think we are in basic agreement on the order, but I’m not double checking with her, so technically, this is my personal order):

Evon Campbell was the most consistently funny of the comedians (which dominated last night’s show). He has a very relaxed style which relaxes the audience. He is then easily able to catch the audience off guard with very clever jokes that aren’t easy to predict (the best kind). Here’s a three minute video of him from a previous theSet NYC show (he didn’t repeat a single line from this clip last night!).

Evon Campbell

Evon Campbell

Arthur Carlson had the most professional delivery of the group last night. Here’s a clip of a bit he did last night as well. He was more in control of the audience than the rest, and appeared more comfortable and self-assured on stage than the rest. I’ll have a more general note at the end, in which I’ll have some more to say about Arthur.

Arthur Carlson

Arthur Carlson

Kai Raziq hosted the evening. He didn’t actually do any specific routines, but his style on stage was engaging, and we all chuckled at nearly everything he said, even though he wasn’t telling any jokes per se.

Kai Raziq

Kai Raziq

Alec Sobel held his own reasonably well. He too has a professional quality to his delivery. Here is a link to a five minute video that will give you a good sense of his style and genre. At the bottom of the page is a link to a different video that is a little less adult in nature (not much, but perhaps a little cursing removed).

Alec Sobel

Alec Sobel

Matt Rittberg was close behind Alec in my opinion. While he too has a pretty good command of the stage, he relied a bit too much on sexual jokes, and isn’t quite expert enough to walk that kind of tight rope. Here is a page with a variety of videos of Matt’s routines which includes stuff the seems cleverer than most of the material he did last night.

Matt Rittberg

Matt Rittberg

I’m going to present the next two performers (the only musical ones last night) in the order that Lois preferred them. For my taste, I would swap them, but I’ll predict and respect Lois’ choice.

Adontay sang two songs last night. The first was a cappella and we both enjoyed it more than we thought we would when he first started. Adontay has a very nice voice, and the song was pretty good too. Unfortunately, he didn’t carry that through to the second number. In that one, he had a soundtrack (played off of a laptop). The song wasn’t as good (in our opinion) and was a little too long. When the soundtrack ended, he continued a cappella, and to our ears, rambled off key and out of tune. He has a lot of talent, but he needs significantly more polish and practice.

Adontay

Adontay

Stephanie Carlin sang and played acoustic guitar. I think she has an excellent voice, plays the guitar well enough, and has a reasonable amount of stage presence. Unfortunately, neither of us was drawn to her two original songs. They brought her back on stage at the end because two of the scheduled performers didn’t show up, and we somewhat preferred the two covers she did then (a medley of Hit the Road Jack and Moondance). The raw talent (at least in the voice) is most definitely there, but the performance and musical selection isn’t our personal cup of tea.

Stephanie Carlin

Stephanie Carlin

Ranked last in both of our opinions, but opening the show (which made for a tense few minutes when we thought the rest of the night would be like this) was April Brucker. Her delivery last night was completely flat (close to zero energy). She started with very crude sexual jokes about her roommate, and then brought out the roommate (from a suitcase), a puppet called May.

April Brucker

April Brucker

April describes herself as an Inappropriate Ventriloquist. That’s an incredibly apt description. She’s a reasonably talented ventriloquist, and she’s beyond inappropriate. I’m sure that the college boys laugh like hell at that kind of shock you humor.

I can’t reconcile her lack of energy last night with this video. In the video, she has tremendous energy, but the same crude humor. At the four minute mark, she introduces May, so you can get a sense of that part of the act last night as well.

I have explained in a number of posts how much I love comedy (and laughing) in all forms, even crude ones. Lois isn’t as forgiving of pure crudeness, which she (correctly) equates with comic laziness. In other words, it’s easier to get a laugh by shocking your audience (especially if you’re female) than by actually being clever.

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all time, and he never resorts to cursing. He doesn’t resort to much sexual innuendo either, and when he does, it’s high level enough to be acceptable even if kids are in the room.

If I wasn’t sitting with Lois, and analyzing in my head the fact that a crude joke probably just rubbed her the wrong way, I would enjoy the crudeness a bit more myself. Still, fundamentally, I agree with her that it’s a cheap way to get a laugh.

That said, I mentioned above that I would circle back to Arthur Carlson. He had two routines that were 100% sexual in nature. One was actually gross (if you attempted to visualize it). Yet, I laughed like hell at both (even the gross one), and even Lois chuckled at the gross one, and liked the other one a lot.

There were three things that made us/Lois react differently to Arthur’s sexual jokes than to most other such references:

  1. His delivery is so professional that you’re listening to a true joke teller, not someone just trying to deliver a crude one-liner.
  2. Both jokes were very inventive. The punch lines weren’t predictable, so it wasn’t shock value that made you laugh, it was the imagery and the comedic absurdity of what he was saying.
  3. It was a change of pace for him. Since he was able to tell a bunch of clean jokes too, telling a clever sexual joke caught the audience more off guard than when they are coming at you one after another.

While this isn’t really Lois’ idea of a perfect night out, we both had a really good time, and would recommend catching a theSet NYC show to anyone who is interested in seeing fresh talent, in good quantity, in reasonably contained sets (in case any one performer isn’t to your liking), in a very pleasant and supportive atmosphere. If it’s in the Gallery Bar at Le Poisson Rouge, then we can recommend the food and drink very highly as well!

Thanks again to Pim for reaching out, and to Leo (the producer of the show) for making it happen!

Leo

Leo

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our ninth CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub. Yes, we already have our tickets for the next one, which will be #10. 🙂

They started at 6:35pm. This time, there were only four people on the stage, rather than the more typical five. There was a qualitative difference as well. As I’ve pointed out in the past, many of the songwriters are less-than-spectacular performers. On occasion, there’s a real full-time performer (e.g., Craig Morgan), or someone who could be if they wanted to be (e.g., Hillary Lindsey).

Aside from those exceptions (they were just examples, there are other professional performers on occasion), the talent level varies, pretty dramatically.

Last night saw three people, plus the ever-present Bob DiPiero, who were all excellent performers in their own right. In addition, they were every bit as interesting and entertaining in their story-telling as the more typical songwriters who are the backbone of this series.

From left-to-right on the stage:

Jimmy Wayne played the guitar and sang. He’s a singer-songwriter, meaning, he performs his own work, and cuts his own CDs, and tours. He’s opening for Brad Paisley this summer! He plays a superb finger-picking style on the guitar, and doesn’t need any further accompaniment to create an excellent sound to complement his singing.

Jimmy Wayne

Jimmy Wayne

Jimmy had a very rough childhood, and overcame more than most of us have to experience (thankfully so, on both fronts!). I thought he looked 25, but he’s 37. Because of his difficult upbringing, many of his songs are filled with those stories, including all of the anguish, but with hopeful or uplifting endings. In other words, he sings from the heart!

We enjoyed every one of Jimmy’s numbers, and his stories were touching and much appreciated as well. He has a winning smile. For the first time in our nine appearances at this series, we experienced women screaming to Jimmy about him, rather than just about the songs. If he wanted to go home with someone, he could have had his pick. 😉

Bob DiPiero played the guitar and sang. Bob did his usual giant hits, and also introduced a brand new one that was just cut by Brooks and Dunn. Nice to know that when you hit the CMA Writers Hall of Fame, you don’t stop writing new ones. 😉

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Scotty Emerick played the guitar and sang. Scotty is a master guitarist (again, an anomaly for this kind of show, but not unheard of). Jimmy Wayne is excellent, but Scotty is better, exhibiting more styles. Scotty often writes with/for Toby Keith, which meant we got to hear a couple of our favorite Country songs, Beer for My Horses and I Love this Bar (both huge Toby Keith hits!).

Scotty Emerick

Scotty Emerick

Scotty has a gorgeous voice (click from the above site to his MySpace page to hear four of his songs). Couple that with his guitar playing, and he could be a full-time performer. Unlike Jimmy, he concentrates more on song-writing. That said, he does have a CD out, and Lois bought it last night (signed, of course).

Aside from getting to hear the Toby Keith songs, Scotty also played some hysterical songs, including the first cut from his CD (also available for you to listen to on MySpace) called Love Me Like My Dog! I laughed out loud at each and every line in the song. Aside from being funny, it’s also a good song musically. He’s a real talent!

He sang another song that broke up the crowd on every verse as well, I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again. If you want to see Scotty sing and play the guitar for yourself, then enjoy this YouTube version yourself:

Dean Dillon played guitar and sang. Dean was a professional performer for many years, so it was no surprise that he was excellent last night as well. However, he concentrates more nowadays on his writing, and it has more than paid off for him. George Strait has cut more than 30 of Dean’s songs!

Dean Dillon

Dean Dillon

I am sure that Dean and Scotty are good friends, and I think I heard them say that they have written together as well. That came across last night when they each sang harmony on the other’s songs. For example, in the video above, Scotty and Toby Keith sing harmony, and Dean played the Toby part last night (just for the harmony, as Scotty sang each of the verses).

In addition, Scotty played lead guitar on many of Dean’s numbers, enriching Dean’s performance very nicely. Well done by both of them.

As much as the crowd always goes nuts for anything/everything that Bob DiPiero sings or says, surrounding himself with three people who can all sing and play so much better than him is a testament to his committment to bring extrmeley talented people for us New Yorker’s to enjoy! Bravo Bob!

That’s it for the show. We had a little adventure that worked out in the end…

We walked to Joe’s Pub last night, something we haven’t done before. We got there in plenty of time, and were probably 20th on line. When we finally got in, for the first time ever, our name was not in the computer for a dinner reservation. Aside from being hungry, you need a dinner reservation if you want to sit. No reservation? You might end up standing, especially if the show sells out (which the CMA does nearly every time).

We’re super-regulars at Joe’s and were treated extremely curteously by the staff, who never accused us of lying about not having a dinner reservation, etc. They put us in a roped-off VIP area (communal seating) while they sorted it out. As they started putting other people in there with us, we heard the same story over and over, that these people also had reservations which were lost.

This was a first, and we’ve been to Joe’s so many times, so we’ll definitely forgive them.

10 minutes into the show (so two songs were played already), they came and got us and gave us a table. Well, not just a table, but rather our table, meaning, the exact table that we request in advance every time we call for a reservation. So, no harm no foul.

I got to eat my Tuna Steak, which was cooked to perfection! I also had a perfect Chocolate Martini (they make them so well there, it’s a crime not to order one!). 😉

Next CMA show is July 30th. See you there! 🙂

Happy Birthday Lois

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Lois and I rarely exchange gifts or cards on any occasion, including birthdays. The main exception is that Lois has gone out of her way to make some of my milestone birthdays very special affairs. That included my 30th, 35th and 50th.

This was not a milestone birthday for Lois, but I decided to give her a small surprise nonetheless. Surprising Lois is no easy feat. She’s curious about lots of things, and not shy to ask questions, so some outright lying is required, something I am normally loathe to do. C’est la vie! 😉

We spend a lot of time working in Fredericksburg, VA, and often spend the intervening weekend in Richmond, VA, where we have more good friends than you can shake a stick at (always a fun thing to do). I noticed that there was a Bluegrass Festival (specifically, the City Slickers Bluegrass Festival) on Lois’ actual birthday. I knew that this would be a cool thing to do, with as many of our friends as could make it.

I already covered the event itself in a post yesterday. This post will cover the details leading up to it, and a bit of the rest of the weekend after as well.

Once I decided on this event, I wrote to a bunch of people and invited them to join us. One after another, I got back regrets that people would be out of town. Of course, it turned out that this was Mothers Day Weekend, and our closest friends were coupling that by attending a Law School Graduation for the son of another friend.

For a couple of days, it looked like it might just be Lois and me. Not that it wouldn’t be fun, but it wouldn’t be a party. 😉

Then I got one yes, followed by one maybe. That’s where the count stood for a few weeks. I bought four tickets, and figured at least we were set for a good time, and put it out of my mind.

A week out, I got another two tentative attendees, and they asked me not to purchase tickets in advance, in case they couldn’t make it. Thankfully, they were able to make it. In a wonderful surprise, someone else who was planning on being out of town ended up staying in Richmond, partially to help celebrate Lois’ birthday, so seven of us all enjoyed the show together!

Along the way, there were some twists and turns. Lois reached out to a number of friends independently, knowing that we would have more time to run around than usual, given that we would be house sitting (and dog sitting) for our friends. Behind her back, I was telling people that they should respond however they want (make plans, don’t make plans, etc., but not to reveal the surprise!).

In fact, I asked one of the confirmed people to suggest coming to see Lois at 2pm on Saturday (the gates for the Festival opened at 2:30pm) so that I could be sure Lois would want to be at the house at the correct hour. That worked out perfectly (or so I thought it would).

One of the women that Lois reached out to invited us for dinner on Friday evening to spend some time with them and their now-crawling baby girl. We were delighted and accepted right away. An hour later, she emailed again (to Lois) asking if we could move it to Saturday night. Lois instantly accepted and (thankfully!) informed me after the fact.

I wrote to our friend and said that I didn’t intend to officially cancel, which would make Lois suspicious, but that we would not be able to make dinner on Saturday because of the concert. At this point I was pretty sure that the surprise would be revealed sooner rather than later, purely for logistics reasons, or from being caught in a silly lie.

On Friday, we had lunch with our attorney in Richmond. We bumped into our hostess for Saturday night waiting for the elevator (she works for a consulting firm which is part of the same law firm). Later that afternoon, I emailed her and asked her to write to Lois and move our meal up to lunch. She did.

Lois became suspicious immediately. This was now the second time that the meal had been rescheduled. I did my best to downplay the changes. Lois was now nervous that we wouldn’t get back in time for the 2pm meeting at the house. I assured her we would.

Then Lois wrote to another person who was coming to the concert, and asked to get together for breakfast on Saturday. That person wrote to me and asked what she should do. 😉 I told her that breakfast would be fine, as long as it didn’t interfere with her ability to join us for the concert. She said it wouldn’t, and she showed up at 9:30am at the house on Saturday.

We ended up at our appointed lunch at exactly noon, perfect. We had a wonderful time catching up with our friends, and playing with the baby (a complete delight!). When it got close to 2pm, Lois was getting nervous about the person who was coming to the house. Of course, I had already redirected her to where we were (she’s the sister of the husband of the couple we were visiting). I pretended to email her, and pretended that she said she would come there instead. 🙂

Baby

Baby

Baby and Hadar

Baby and Hadar

We had a fantastic meal (home cooked) outside in the garden behind their house. It’s now three days later, and Lois and I are still talking about it.

Amazing Outdoor Meal

Amazing Outdoor Meal

At 2:30, I excused myself to go back to the house to walk the dog and feed the fish. Half an hour later, Lois showed up, and the other couple was already there. Now she finally knew something was up, but she still thought it was just going to be a get-together at the house, to say Happy Birthday.

I told her not to sit down, that we were heading to the Science Museum. She didn’t believe me. It was the truth, as the Festival was held on the grounds of the Science Museum of VA, in the Garner Pavilion. I joked that there were 6,000 strangers waiting there to sing Happy Birthday to her (and she was a little more than nervous that perhaps I was telling the truth!).

Science Museum of VA

Science Museum of VA

Until we were in the parking lot, she had no idea what we were about to do. Thankfully, she loved the idea, and the actual show, beyond my hopeful expectations. So, I done good! 🙂

After the show, we went to one of the couples’ house for home made birthday cake (chocolate-chocolate, which was beyond awesome!), and ice cream. The next day we joined most of the people who joined us for the show for an incredible Mothers Day celebration at the local country club. It was magical, with three generations of mothers in attendance, all mothers-in-law to each other.

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake

A fantastic weekend that will not be forgotten soon. Happy Birthday Lois! 🙂

P.S. We have a ton of good looking friends. Here is one tiny bit of proof of that fact!

Good Looking Friends

Good Looking Friends

Make the Time

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Lois and I have been, and continue to be blessed, in many ways. At or near the top of that list is the amazing group of friends that we have. Individually and collectively, they bring us immeasurable joy, and expand our horizons with each interaction.

I know that many people lead busy, complicated lives. We do too. Ours are a tad more complicated than most, because of our hectic travel schedule. Even that is subject to last-minute changes. That makes pinning social dates down somewhat tricky. When you factor in the jam-packed schedules of most of our friends, finding dates we can all agree to, and then sticking to them, is often a major hassle.

There’s one couple in particular where the scheduling conflict rears its ugly head more often than not.  Because of that, we don’t end up even trying as freqently as we should, so we end up seeing them every 18 months or so on average. That’s a major shame, as we always have a fantastic time, whenever we pull off a drive-by get-together.

Last night was one of those lucky evenings. As busy as they are (and folks, they qualify on a number of levels for leading pretty hectic, but productive lives), more often than not, they do the classy thing and come to our side of the river (to the apartment or the house), which we appreciate to no end (though we promised last night that next time, we’ll come to their house!).

They also came early (6pm), which us old folk appreciate beyond measure as well. It permits a long and relaxed evening, without having to be falling asleep at the height of the festivities. We had a simply amazing sushi meal.

Among the many topics we discussed all night was blogging, and Twitter. Both of them (claim they) are too busy to blog (though both have been encouraged to, for a numer of reasons), and neither sees the point of Twitter (something you hear a lot from non-Twitterers nowadays). I doubt I made a dent in either direction, but we’ll see.

One of the things we had some fun with was coming up with blog titles that were provocative (often already iconic cultural phrases) that might stand alone (content would be interesting, but unnecessary). 😉 In fact, I explained that this could be one reason to be Tweeting instead of blogging!

There were some obvious ones:

  • Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
  • Do the Right Thing
  • I’m Not Judging, but…
  • To Get Through Work, Only Two Decisions are Required: What to Wear and What to Eat
  • If I’m the Typical User, then it Should Be Designed for Me!

There were many more. Some were inspired by specific stories that had long philosophical discussions. For example, “Do the Right Thing” was about a situation where an older male colleague, fumbled over whether and how to handle the situation of walking a younger female colleague back to her hotel after a business function. There are lots of nuances in that situation, and in our opinion, our friend ended up on the wrong end of an overthought dilemma.

That spurred me to title this post in a similar vein, though it didn’t come up in our long list last night: Make the Time.

Every time that we make the time to get together with this particular couple, but in general with any of our friends, we feel enriched by the experience. So, we (and they) need to continue to pursue each other, even when scheduling appears to be impossible, and just Do the Right Thing. 😉

I’m including a photo of our friends without naming them. As you can plainly see, I don’t dress up for company. 😉 Also, as you might be able to tell by my glassy eyes, we enjoyed some nice wine as well.

Friends

Friends

I met the husband when I hired him in 1986 (give or take a year). I knew in the interview that he was a very special person. I was wrong, he was and is an exceptionally special person. He was as good an employee as I could have hoped for, and went on to a very long and successful Wall Street career in a number of top firms.

A number of years ago he started his own software company, and has made a wonderful success of that as well, and will continue to, I’m sure.

His wife is equally extraordinary in too many ways to list in this small space. To call either of them smart would be to insult them. They are also interesting, conversational, good listeners, etc. In other words, everything you could hope for in a friend.

Here’s to not letting as much time go by before the next visit (which will be at their place!). 🙂

Girlyman at Barns at Wolf Trap

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Another night, another fabulous Girlyman concert. Same old, same old, blah blah blah. Right? Wrong! 🙂

So, I just covered their April Fool’s NYC show at Joe’s Pub extensively in this post the other day. I’ll try not to be too repetitious, but I will highlight some of the similarities.

I mentioned in that post that Girlyman mixes it up, even on the same tour (in this case, in the same week). That was the case last night too. For the past year, Joyful Sign has been featured in every show, either as an opening number (at Joe’s) or a closing number (at Gravity Lounge, Birchmere, etc.). They didn’t play it last night. Not complaining, just reporting. 🙂

They opened the show with my favorite song, Hold It All At Bay. Since I closed my last post about them mentioning that, I’ll fantasize for a second and say that they did that to specifically make me happy. 😉

Girlyman

Girlyman

Next they played one of our favorites (a very silly thing to say, because 95% of their songs are amongst our favorites), On The Air, which they hadn’t played at Joe’s, but opened most of their 2008 shows with. During the set they also played their new cover of Mary by Patty Griffin, and their new song Wherever You Keep, both of which are so wonderful that it was great to hear them again and start to cement them in our minds.

They did not play Doris’ new song, Nothing Called Home, so we’ll have to wait for our CD of the live recording at Joe’s to hear it again.

So, why did I say that this night was not the same old, same old? (Aside from the obvious fact that all of their shows have a freshness to them!) Last year, at the Barns, they played their cover of Rock Me Amadeus (the previous link is not their version) by Falco. I have been dying to hear it again ever since. I’ve called it out a couple of times during the request section of their shows, to no avail.

Last night, they did the same bit that they did at the Barns last year (which was the only time I’ve seen them do it before). They had the audience vote on which of three whimsical songs they should do, based just on keywords. Of course, their fans know which songs are associated with which keyword, but any newbies wouldn’t know

The keywords were:

  • Backwards
  • German
  • Moose

They voted on them in the order: Backwards, Moose, German. Lois clapped her little heart out for Backwards. It moved the needle, but it was clear that the majority of the audience was holding their vote for one of the next two.

Next up was Moose, which got a ton of applause (Nate also noted some serious whistles as well). I was sure it was going to end up being Moose. Then we voted on German, which is what I wanted, badly. Thankfully, enough other fans wanted it too, as it ended up surpassing Moose. Whew!

Why was it so important to me to hear them do it again? Aside from the instantaneous enjoyment of the song (which they delivered on), I knew that I’d be buying a CD of the performance, so I would finally have a copy I could listen to forever, whenever I am in the mood. Sweet!

Of course, the audience sang the chorus out loud with them, so I’ll be able to enjoy remembering singing my little heart out as well. 🙂

They played a number of songs from Little Star (five in total!) only two of which they played at Joe’s on Wednesday night. They also played Good Enough, something I haven’t heard them play often live, so that was a real treat too.

For the request, so many titles were yelled out it was overwhelming. Nate joked that people had just yelled out their entire repertoire (which wasn’t so far from the truth!). Of course, with 400 people in the audience, even though all of them were Girlyfans, clearly, there would be a wide range of favorites.

After much discussion between the three of them on stage, they settled on Maori. I mentioned in the last post that Maori is stunning, and difficult to nail live. They clearly didn’t intend to do it at the Barns, but with enough people yelling for it (perhaps because they all read my last post!) 😉 they decided to do it again. Gorgeous!

They closed the show with This Is Me (one of the five Little Star songs). They returned to the stage quickly to a standing ovation. They played two more songs. In total, they were on the stage for 100 minutes. Let me correct myself, 100 blissful minutes!

After the show, we ordered our live CD (as we always do). Then we waited patiently to say our hellos, goodbyes and see you next times.

That’s it for the concert, but (unfortunately for those of you who can’t look away from an accident) nowhere near the end of the post itself. 😉

We bought tickets for last night’s show the minute we became aware of it, last October. We saw them at the same venue, the Barns at Wolf Trap last year, and loved the place (there should be no doubt about our loving Girlyman, right?). Even though the show was seven months away, in purchasing six tickets (at the time) together, the best we could do was the fourth row. Later on, we bought three more tickets, and those were relegated back in the 13th row…

Every seat at the Barns gets great sound, but aside from Lois’ poor vision, even well-sighted people lose a lot of the feel of a live performance when they sit further back, given that the faces of the performers are just a blur. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about Colin Hay, when the performers are funny (in addition to their obvious musical talent), you miss out on some of the raised eyebrows, smirks (at exactly the right second), etc.

Nate was so on last night (is he ever not?), that it was particularly cool to be close enough to him to catch every nuance of his between-song antics.

The fourth row was just fine for that, but our friends who ended up in the 13th row really loved the show, but admitted to seeing more of a blur on the stage than what we saw. Oh well, Girlyman fills the Barns (400 seats!), so you have to pounce early to get seats up front. I ended up in the middle seat in our row, dead center stage, which was perfect!

If you read the last post, then you know that Elizabeth left me a comment that she’d be at the show too. She’s a major Girlyfan as well. She ended up sitting right behind us, and was finally able to bring her daughter to a show (she was too young to attend the last two times, when Elizabeth brought her son). Both her kids are big-time Girlyfans.

Elizabeth also stepped up her support for the band by volunteering at the Merch table. Kudos Elizabeth! We all need to find ways to help and support the people we love and who give us so much joy. Writing these blog posts about Girlyman is one of the ways we try to help, as is introducing them to as many people as we can convince to join us at their shows!

I know that Elizabeth reads my missives about Girlyman and pays attention. At least I know it now, after last night. I usually mention that we really do everything we can (including leaping onto the stage after the show) to snag a set list, whenever we can. That didn’t happen last night, because we were four rows back, and had a lot of people with us.

After we said our goodbyes to Girlyman, Lois told me that she had something in the car that she really wanted me to give to Girlyman. It was a one sheet printout of the last few paragraphs of my last blog about them, including the photo of the youngest Girlyfan. I went to the car and came back in to hand it to them and got back on line. Elizabeth spotted me with a piece of paper, waiting on line (looking like I wanted it signed by the band), and she said to me “Is that tonight’s Set List?”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t, but I applaud Elizabeth’s fortitude in making it through all my wordiness. 😉

On to what we did before the show. Nine of us had dinner at Hunan Lion. We accidentally discovered this wonderful restaurant last year, when we dined there before the Girlyman show. We were seated at a round table, so we were all able to enjoy each other’s company thoroughly. The food was great, again.

Here is a shot of our seven guests with Lois. Ironically, I am not the one taking the picture, as I was off getting the car. A patron who was about to enter the restaurant saw Lois snapping photos of our guests, and offered to take one with her in it. Thanks! 🙂

Guests at Hunan Lion

Guests at Hunan Lion

Recall that we purchased the tickets seven months ago. We didn’t look at them carefully, and we made a pretty big mistake. We were caught in bad traffic on I95 on our way to the restaurant, and we got there later than we had planned. Still, we thought we had plenty of time, because we thought the opening act came on the stage at 8pm.

After dinner, we headed over to the Barns (first incorrectly going to the main Wolf Trap, about 1/3 of a mile down the road). We walked in at 7:58pm, which was cutting it too close, but since we had assigned seats, we thought we were fine.

Unfortunately, the show started at 7:30pm, and the opening act, Adrianne, was about to start her last number. I felt badly that I messed up the schedule, but was grateful that we didn’t miss any Girlyman! Thankfully, they pumped Adrianne’s number in the cafe where we waited, and the sound system was excellent, so we got a taste of what a talent she is. A very beautiful voice!

Lois took a shot of our guests, with me in it this time, waiting in the cafe while Adrianne sang her last song:

Guests at Barns

Guests at Barns

A few minutes later, her set was over, and there was a 20 minute intermission, so we were able to get to our seats and settle in. You already know about the show, so I’ll leave you with one more baby Girlyfan story.

One of our guests was 6.5 months pregnant. After the opening number, Hold It All At Bay, she turned to us and said that the baby was kicking beyond belief. Before you freak out, that’s typically a very good thing, and the mother definitely took it that way! Amazingly, it was the same song that calmed down the 5-week-old that I reported about in the last post. Of course, I have similar tastes to newborns (or even nearly borns!). 😉

After the show, the mom-to-be reported that the baby continued to happily kick along throughout the show. She was very pleased.

If you made it all the way to this point, there just might be a pleasant surprise reward for you (depending on who you are). 😉

The next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman live (at least the next time we’re sure about) will be June 4th, 2009, at the Highline Ballroom in NYC. Since that is a much larger venue than Joe’s Pub, we’ve decided to invite a lot more people than we usually do.

On Friday, I sent a large blind distribution out to a bunch of our Tri-State area friends, inviting them to be our guests at the show. If you are a friend, and didn’t get an invitation from me (then apologies for accidentally leaving your name off the list!), and would like to attend, please let me know.

If you don’t live in the area, then you didn’t get an invitation, but if you will be around on June 4th, or are willing to commit to making the trip, then also let me know.

Hope to see everyone at the Highline Ballroom on June 4th. Let’s sell the place out! 🙂

Weekend Birthday Bash

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Our friends from Richmond came up to spend a very special birthday weekend with us in NYC. They were supposed arrive at our apartment by 10am on Friday. That didn’t happen. There were significant snow flurries in NYC (nothing stuck), and the navigation system on the airplane was unable to make an instrument landing at LaGuardia, so while they were descending in NY, they we rerouted to Philadelphia.

I was tracking the flight in real-time and saw that it landed safely. I just didn’t realize it wasn’t anywhere near us… They ended up catching a 12:05pm flight from Philadelphia to LaGuardia, which got in at around 1pm, but that was enough for us to have rejigger Friday’s plans.

We had a blowout lunch scheduled for Rock-N-Sake. I have only eaten there once before, and loved it. I was really looking forward to introducing them to it. We ended up having to cancel that reservation (because they close at 2:30pm and reopen at 5:30pm). Instead, we went up to see Laura at her office and grabbed a light (and very fresh) lunch at Chop’t (a place I was interested in trying after hearing Laura speak highly of it).

(It’s been a long while since I’ve mentioned that clicking on any photo in any of my posts will display a larger image in a separate window/tab, so I’ll mention it again, now.) 🙂

Chop't

Chop't

We walked back to the apartment after lunch and relaxed for a bit. Not too long thereafter, we headed up toward Lincoln Center for dinner. We had tickets to South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Theater for an 8pm show and we wanted to eat in the neighborhood. I searched the web and read a ton of reviews, and settled on an Indian restaurant called Sapphire.

We met Laura there. Unfortunately, Chris got hung up at work, and ended up joining us just as we ordered dessert. The food at Sapphire was simply extraordinary. The four of us who ate the Tandoori lamb all claimed that it was the best lamb we ever had. All of the other dishes were superb as well. As much as we were all looking forward to Rock-N-Sake for lunch, if we had eaten there, we would have opted for a very light dinner, and would not have discovered this jewel!

Saffron Shrimp

Saffron Shrimp

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

From there we walked over to see South Pacific. Laura thought of this as a special birthday gift for her dad, given his love for this show. She made a perfect choice, because love it he did! The two leads are exceptional. Interestingly, neither of the leads that we saw are the Tony winning actors. Kelli O’Hara left the show on March 7th and Paulo Szot took two month-long leaves, the second of which occurred during our show. Laura Osnes played Nellie Forbush, and David Pittsinger played Emile de Becque.

South Pacific

South Pacific

I suspect that Bob loved this show more than Wicked. As much as I enjoyed South Pacific, for me personally, there’s little comparison to Wicked. Since this was Bob’s birthday bash and not mine, South Pacific was the perfect choice! 🙂

When we got back, Lois and I conked out while the rest of them stayed up way too late watching the NCAA tournament.

Saturday morning we had breakfast outside on our deck. It was chilly, but the sun helped make it not-too-unpleasant. This was our first meal outside in 2009, so it was very special in that respect as well. As much as I love restaurant dining, there are few more special places to have a meal than our deck at the apartment, so I’m glad that the season is finally underway. 😉

Deck Breakfast

Deck Breakfast

After letting the food settle, Sally, Bob, Chris and I went for a long walk. Lois took care of things around the apartment, and Laura baked her magical Apple Pie for a birthday dessert. After walking roughly 2.5 miles, the three of them broke off and headed back to the apartment, making for a five mile walk in total. I continued on my normal walk, roughly 8.25 miles in total.

Mid-afternoon, we decided to foist our presents on Bob. He opened a bunch, one-by-one, but he had no idea what was in store for him as his special gift. After he thought it was all over, we broke out a package of gifts, specially created by his family and friends. In fact, it’s so cool that I will be devoting an entire post to it later on (could be as much as a week from now), but I’ll describe it briefly here as well.

We took a song by Colin Hay called What Would Bob Do, and seven of us wrote our own verses about our Bob. We then had it recorded by Jack Kapanka over a simple background acoustic guitar. We sent 100’s of photos to Jack, who put together a wonderful video synchronized to the words and music. He then produced a DVD of the movie/music. The song is 10 minutes long (we wrote lots of verses), and the result was phenomenal.

The six of us watched the DVD at least five times between Saturday and Sunday, and got a huge kick of out of it each and every time. In addition to the video, Lois created a book with the lyrics and photos, and some song-sheets with the lyrics as well. The full package was a wonderfully creative custom gift for a very special person, celebrating his life (to date) and his amazing accomplishments.

Watching the DVD

Watching the DVD

Like I said, more on this specific topic in about a week. 🙂

Right after viewing the DVD a number of times, we walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House. We had a fabulous meal (as always), and waddled back to the apartment.

Duck House

Duck House

We all gathered in Laura and Chris’ apartment to watch the Duke game, and couldn’t wait for half time to dig in to the Apple Pie. Again, Lois and I called it an early night, and the rest of them continued on with more NCAA action.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

On Sunday morning, the four of them had breakfast out, and then walked up to attend church services. We then all met up outside of Joe’s Pub at 12:45pm. We had tickets for a 2pm show for Eden Espinosa. This was her solo debut in NYC. Of the many Elphaba’s we’ve seen in Wicked, Eden was by far our favorite, so we were really looking forward to see her at our favorite club.

We had a nice lunch before the show, and she came on, with a five-piece band at about 2:05pm. She has a fantastic voice, with a surprising range (she hits incredibly high notes, with amazing power, and sustains them, even though you think, or at least I think, she’ll miss them). It was a real treat to see her, though I have some small nits to pick with the show.

Eden Espinosa

Eden Espinosa

The volume on the band was too high. They are superb musicians, and there was no distortion, but the place is too small to play that many pieces at that volume. While you could make out Eden’s voice even at the maximum volume of the group, that’s sheerly a testimony to how hard she was belting it out (and sweating as a result, even though it was on the cool side in the club).

Thankfully, she also did quite a number of songs with only the electric piano or acoustic guitar for accompaniment, so it wasn’t all top-of-the-lungs all the time. That brings me to my second nit. Song selection. While she’s great at the full range of songs she sang, I so much more enjoyed the ones with solo accompaniment (not just because of the volume). I don’t think she needs to prove her rock capabilities, at least not in a place as small as Joe’s.

She had a surprise guest, Katie Thompson. She came out and did a solo number, accompanying herself on the electric piano, called What Turns You On (available on the MySpace page linked above). She has one of the better voices we’ve heard, and she plays the piano marvelously as well. It was a real treat. After that, she played another of her songs, and Eden sang along with her, a bit of harmony (beautiful), but mostly alternating verses.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson

They played a third song together (with the rest of the band accompanying them as well), and then Katie left the stage.

Eden closed the show with an encore, singing Defying Gravity. We would have been disappointed to miss this one, so we were grateful that she came back out and gave us a taste of Wicked. 🙂

Even with the nits, I was very glad to see her (and discover Katie), and I suspect that I was more critical of the show than the rest of our guests, which is also a good thing!

Lois Eden Laura

Lois Eden Laura

Bob Eden Espinosa

Bob Eden Espinosa

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Three of us headed back to the apartment to relax, and three more headed to B&H for some browsing (in anticipation of future camera shopping). We all met up at the apartment for a little more snacking on Apple Pie and Cupcakes (and two people even had some shrimp), watched the DVD again, and then we headed out.

We dropped Bob and Sally back at LaGuardia, then headed up to the house. Other than being colder than predicted, and the nuisance of being routed to Philadelphia at the beginning of the trip, it was a picture-perfect weekend, and we hope Bob enjoyed his birthday blowout a fraction as much as we did!

Happy Birthday Bob!

Road Trip Completed

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My last post covered the first half of our long road trip south. We left off on Friday February 6th, while David was still on call. After our shopping trip, Lois and I spent the rest of the day at David’s (where that post was written). We left at 8:30pm and headed to TCBY for dinner (yes, once it hit 60 degrees, after the incredible cold earlier in the week, it was time for frozen yogurt for dinner!).

We weren’t the only ones with that thought, but I’m guessing that at that hour, for most people, it was dessert, not dinner. This was also the first TCBY I’d ever seen with a drive through window. The line of cars was long, but we went in to get ours.

We then headed to Bed Bath and Beyond for some late night shopping right before they closed. We got exactly what we were looking for, thankfully.

The next morning we headed back to David’s. He got there at around noon. Typically, he naps right away, but during this call, he was able to sneak in a whopping four hours of sleep, and he had a bit more energy than usual. We headed for lunch at Jason’s Deli (very good) followed by some shopping and coffee.

Included in the shopping was an impromptu stop at a stuffed animal store. Lois has been searching for a stuffed moose for a long time, and this store had two good choices. Lois got to turn the crank on the stuffing machine, while the owner of the store held the moose in place. So, not only did Lois get to find a stuffed moose, she got to stuff it herself!

David Hadar Stuffed Animals

David Hadar Stuffed Animals

We hung around the apartment in the afternoon, and David finally took an all-too-brief nap. When we headed out again, we bought some DVD’s at Best Buy, and then headed for dinner at the same mall we had lunch in. David picked a Mexican restaurant called Cocina Superior. From the look of it (and the location), I just assumed it was a chain. But, looking at the link now, I see that this is the only location.

When we got there, it was jammed near the front desk. There were quite a number of tables open inside (the place is huge), but for whatever reason, we were told it would be a 30 minute wait. We decided to wait outside (it was on the cool side, but still nice). It took nearly 50 minutes for them to seat us. We had a great meal, so no one minded the wait after the fact.

I know there’s unreal hardship all over, but whenever I see mob scenes like this, at reasonably high-end places, I can’t help but remark to Lois: What Recession?

When we got back to David’s, we were all too pooped for a movie. Instead, David put on the first two episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm (he had the first six episodes on a Netflix DVD). I had never seen an episode before, but lots of people told me that I would like it, especially since I loved Seinfeld.

They were correct. Larry David is essentially a successful George. He gets himself into the same situations that George would, but he’s rich and famous (and has rich and famous friends). I laughed a bunch. Definitely not Lois’ cup of tea… Since we were all pretty tired, we headed back to the hotel.

We picked David up mid-morning on Sunday, and headed for brunch at V. Richards. If you click on “About Us” you’ll see a picture of the outdoor patio where we ate. David and I both had the breakfast casserole. It was awesome.

We then headed to Vulcan Park (home of the famous Vulcan Statue). We didn’t get to see it (other than from a distance) during our last trip to Birmingham, due to bad weather. This time, it was in the upper 60’s, and we were heading there in T-Shirts!

Vulcan Structure

Vulcan Structure

On the road up the hill toward the park, I jokingly asked David whether the Vulcan was named after Spock. He chuckled and told me that ironically, Leonard Nemoy was in town two days earlier (on Friday). He had recently completed a study of obese nudes, and exhibited them in Birmingham.

Lois was in her own world in the back seat, taking dozens of pictures, not really listening to our conversation. Obviously, something caught her attention, and just as we were coming into Vulcan Park itself, she says “Who’s Obie Snoods?”

David and I just looked at each other and smiled, both assuming that Lois was just being funny. A few seconds later, she asked again “Who’s Obie Snoods?”. I then explained the conversation we just had, and when she realized it was obese nudes, she just lost it. Of course, once we saw Lois laughing uncontrollably, we lost it too.

That became a theme for the rest of the trip. At various points along the way, either I or Lois would turn to the 0ther and ask “Who’s Obie Snoods?” 🙂

The statue isn’t correctly proportioned. Both the head and the butt stick out, as you can see in this photo below:

Vulcan Proportions

Vulcan Proportions

Two more photos, one from the front and the other, a shot of the statue, behind a replica of the statue:

Vulcan Statue

Vulcan Statue

Vulcan and Replica

Vulcan and Replica

We walked around the statue and looked over the city. We then took an hour-long walk on a trail around the park. It was good to get a little exercise in, given all of the feasting we’d done the week before.

David Lois Hadar Vulcan Park

David Lois Hadar Vulcan Park

When we got back, we watched one of the DVD’s we bought the night before, Get Smart. It was one of my favorite shows growing up. While I had a real interest in seeing it, I was actually quite afraid that it would pale in comparison to the original show. I was pleasantly surprised that they did a nice job all around.

David wasn’t hungry for lunch, so Lois and I made another TCBY run, bringing it back to the apartment. Yummy.

After that, I decided to play my very first game of PlayStation 3 Football. I begged David to be gentle with me. He gave me a quick lesson on using the controller, and then suggested that I pick a very strong team (I chose the Georgia Bulldogs). He picked Duke. While a sentimental favorite for him, clearly, not a college football powerhouse.

I was surprised that I was able to hold my own during most of the game. That said, David helped me out a few times. Specifically, when my play clock was running out, he called a defensive timeout (three times, wasting all of his timeouts), saving me from a penalty. Thanks David! 🙂

In the fourth quarter, David took the lead. I then scored and took it back. We decided to head out for dinner and finish the game later. We went to Surin West, a Thai restaurant that also serves a complete Sushi selection. We all enjoyed our meals tremendously. Mine was a recommendation from the waiter, who convinced me to switch from the duck dish I ordered, to the one he said all of the waiters preferred. He also recommended the potstickers appetizer, which was heavenly.

We headed back to the apartment to finish the game. David scored to take the lead again. Since I couldn’t master any kind of kicking, I missed every extra point and field goal attempt. So, I needed to score a touchdown to win. I had 1:37 left on the clock. I was able to engineer a long drive, including finally calling timeouts myself, and I scored with 10 seconds left to take a one point lead!

So, I’m one for one and may retire with a perfect record in PlayStation 3 College Football! Of course, if David hadn’t wasted three timeouts on my behalf, or he hadn’t chosen a weak opponent to my powerhouse one, I would have been toast. Consider it beginner’s luck. Either way, I had a great time playing the game.

We watched a bit of the Grammy’s and said our final goodbyes. We had an early, and long day ahead of us.

We spent Monday in the car. Roughly 12 hours of driving, 13 hours including the time zone change. We rolled into the hotel in FL after 8pm on Monday night, completely wiped out. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday with my parents.

We had two excellent buffet lunches out. The first day was Chinese, and we brought along a good friend of my mom’s.

Chinese Buffet Lunch

Chinese Buffet Lunch

I also went with them (and 24 other residents of their building) to see the movie The Reader. I enjoyed the movie, even though it’s too long, and reasonably slow at times. Kate Winslet is an exceptional actress. It’s a very interesting character study, more so than a great story.

Lois worked (surprise, surprise) so she missed the movie. But, at night, she insisted that I tell her about it, in great detail. I did, finishing up the second half of the movie in the car the next day on our way north. I was amazed at the insights that she had, many of them pointing out flaws in the movie. I was unable to say “No, if you had seen it, you would have felt differently”, because she was right.

Either way, it was a very interesting experience, to see a movie, describe it in detail, and then discuss it as if we’d both seen it, and learn a number of things from the person who didn’t see it…

We spent most of Thursday in the car heading for Florence, SC. On Friday, we continued our trek home, with a detour off of I95 to Durham, NC, to meet up with our friend Wes (who joined us last time we visited David in Birmingham, but was unable to make it this time). We had a fantastic lunch at PF Chang’s with him.

Wes Hadar

Wes Hadar

From there, we headed for Richmond, where we spent the night at our friends house. It was the first night in three weeks not spent in a hotel bed. On Saturday morning, we had a great breakfast out with them (at Perly’s on Grace Street). We headed home directly from the restaurant (with a brief stop at the office in Fredericksburg along the way).

One amazing fact from this three week journey was the total lack of significant traffic the entire time. We drove from NY to Leesburg, to Fredericksburg, to Richmond, to Nashville, to Atlanta, to Birmingham, to South Florida, to Florence, to Durham, to Richmond, to Fredericksburg, to NY, with no long tie-up.

In fact, the only real traffic was 30 minutes from home, when we were delayed a total of nine minutes due to very heavy volume. Other than that, there were a few constructions areas, including lane closures, that forced us to slow down to 50MPH, which is nothing to complain about.

We’re back for two weeks, and then the driving begins anew…

Two Flew South

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Lois asked me to name this post Two Flew South. She had a good reason, it was clever, so I didn’t hesitate in accepting her suggestion. Let’s not make it a habit though. This is my blog, not hers, and I intend to keep it that way. Of course, all of the photos are taken by her, so we’re partners in this, as we are in everything else in life. 🙂

Vacation is not a word that Lois or I use often. Even when we have a few days where we aren’t technically working, at least Lois (less so me), is working the Treo non-stop, and thinking about work issues non-stop as well. I’m better than she is at shutting that off, but I get sucked in, since I’m with her…

We’re on a two-week road trip at the moment, which is most definitely a vacation for me. Parts of it are even a vacation for Lois, though nowhere near the level that I am enjoying it. Since the road trip is mostly southbound, and there are two of us in the car, the title Two Flew South seems appropriate. It turns out it’s not the specific inspiration for the title (that’s coming later), but that’s why it was so easy to agree on.

The trip started nearly two weeks ago when we left NY and spent the day with our friends in Leesburg. We always have such a great time with them, even though seeing the dad suffer through his cancer treatments is heartbreaking. We then spent a week working at Zope.

Leesburg Friends

Leesburg Friends

We spent last weekend with our friends in Richmond, including a fantastic Super Bowl party at another friend’s house (10 of us enjoyed the game together). I was the only one rooting for the Steelers. That said, I really like Kurt Warner a lot, and wouldn’t have minded seeing him snag the victory. That made the last quarter all-the-more exciting, since the outcome was truly in doubt. A great game all around!

Richmond Friends

Richmond Friends

Super Bowl Party 1

Super Bowl Party 1

Super Bowl Party 2

Super Bowl Party 2

At 6:50am on Monday, we were on the road, officially on vacation (there’s that word again, I’m liking it a lot). 😉

We were headed straight for Nashville. On Ocotber 29th, 2008, we saw one of our many CMA Song Writer Series shows at Joe’s Pub. While the entire show was fantastic, we both were really blown away by Hillary Lindsey, and I highlighted that fact in a post the next day. Through that post, I ended up with an email relationship with a wonderful woman who lives and works in Nashville.

Through that email relationship, we had arranged to meet for dinner on Monday night. We had never even spoken on the phone, a true e-relationship. We asked her to select the restuarant. We met at 7pm at Tin Angel. We had the most wonderful evening. She’s a fascinating person and she picked an excellent restaurant (we all loved our meals). We ended up spending nearly three hours together, and we will definitely look her up the next time we’re in Nashville, and hope she does the same when she’s in NY!

New Nashville Friend

New Nashville Friend

The next day was carved out in advance to be spent with our good friend Jack Kapanka. It was freezing all over the south, Nashville included, so we decided in advance to see the sites from Jack’s car, rather than walk around the city. Jack picked us up at our hotel, and zigged and zagged all around Nashville, telling us about every building as we passed it. I loved every second of it!

We also took a long ride in the countryside, to and through Franklin, TN, gawking at mansion after mansion (they don’t call it Mansion Hill for nothing). We had lunch at a Pub in town (I should have written down the name, because we all really enjoyed our meals!). When we left, three men were approaching us (from quite a distance). Jack immediately recognized the middle man as James Otto. As we walked by them (they were headed to a Sushi restaurant for lunch) Lois casually said “Hi”, and James said hi back, so Lois can officially say that James Otto said hi to her. 😉

One Mansion

One Mansion

We then headed for Jack’s house, catching some incredible scenery along the way (including a bridge that isn’t obviously a bridge, until you’re on it, at which point everything around you is breathtakingly beautiful.

We had met Jack in person before, but this was the first time we were meeting his family. When we got to his house, his wife and toddler twins were there (the older girls were still in school). It’s hard to describe how/why you know you’ll be life-long friends with someone the instant you meet them, but there’s no doubt that this will be the case between us and Jack’s wife.

Jack's Wife

Jack's Wife

She’s an awesome person in her own right, on every level, but she might also be the best mom we’ve ever observed. That’s saying an awful lot, considering that our Richmond friends include a number of near-perfect moms (our godchildrens’ mom heading that list!). Lois can describe it better than I can, but no matter what’s going on around her, Jack’s wife exudes a strength and calmness, that nearly instantly tames all of those around her (her kids included!).

After meeting the older girls, and hanging for a bit, Jack and I took the oldest daughter and took a tour of their home town. Jack had been telling me for a while about another resident of the town, someone he had met in his church. He really wanted us to meet, so we stopped by his house. It took me all of 10 seconds to know how wonderful this man is, and why Jack likes him so much. We chatted for 20 minutes and then headed back to Jack’s house.

Jack and Older Daughters

Jack and Older Daughters

Shortly after getting back, we took two cars and headed to dinner with the entire family. We had an excellent meal at the Applebees right near our hotel. We said goodnight and were missing all of them by the time we were up in our room. Thanks for a wonderful day to all of the Kapankas! 🙂

Jack and Twins

Jack and Twins

The baby girl does fist bumps on cue!

Fist Bumping Baby

Fist Bumping Baby

On Wednesday morning, we worked in the room a bit, catching up on a ton of emails, then hit the road again. This time, our destination was Atlanta. We got there mid-afternoon, checked into the hotel, and did a bit more work.

At 5:30pm we headed over to a friend’s house. A number of our Atlanta friends also came over and we had an extraordinary home cooked meal. We brought wine from NY, and were really afraid (sure might be a better word) that it would spoil due to the extreme temperature swings throughout the trip (it was 19 degrees that morning in Nashville and Atlanta). Amazingly, the wine tasted yummy to me (and I hope our friends agreed).

Home Made Feast

Home Made Feast

Incredible Pie

Incredible Pie

The next morning we got together with a subset of the same folks we were with the night before for an incredible breakfast at Rise-N-Dine. It’s quite unusual to have an appetizer during breakfast, but we all split three Sweet Potato Pancakes as one. Wow. They were amazing, and I knew I would love my Polish Omelette as well (and I was correct!).

We said our sad goodbyes, lamenting that this wonderful whirlwind 18 hours was ending, and we hit the road for Birmingham to visit our godson. We settled into our hotel in Birmingham, and caught up with some more work. When David called to say he was on the way home from the hospital, we were thrilled to log off and head over to see him.

After catching up for a bit in his apartment, we headed for dinner at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. I didn’t realize it was a chain until I just looked it up. It’s a beautiful place. The service was excellent. All that is nice, but get to the food Hadar! Man, it was unbelievable. They start you off with homemade corn muffins that are infused with cheese (subtle, but delectable) that melt in your mouth.

Feeding the Meter

Feeding the Meter

David and I both had the Pulled Pork platter, and Lois had Smoked Chicken that she raved about. We capped it off with some Starbucks and headed back to David’s to cath up on Lost. We were two episodes behind, but David was happy to watch the one he had seen already again, and then he too got to watch the new one from the night before. We’re all caught up now, and anxiously awaiting the next few episodes. The excitement is back (it never left for me, but Lois is into this season more than last year’s).

Being a first-year resident, David is one rung above an indentured slave. Today is one of his all-too-regular 30-hour calls (he leaves early in the morning for the hospital, and doesn’t return until the following afternoon!). That meant we were on own own today. We headed to his apartment after breakfast and set up our computers for more catching up (he was long gone, and yes, it’s still a vacation). 😉

Just before lunch, we headed out for a shopping spree. Being godparents, we had a severe need to populate every empty space in David’s apartment with useful things (OK, so it was really more of Lois’ maternal instincts, but I was happy to play along). We bought a bunch of stuff at Bed Bath and Beyond. Then I dropped Lois at Costco and headed to have lunch by myself.

When we were last in Birmingham, we had another of our friends along with us, Wes. During that trip, both Wes and David told us that their favorite fast-food place is Chick-Fil-A. They couldn’t believe that I had never been in one. We had an aborted attempt to have lunch from there one day (my fault). After the trip, Wes sent us a Chick-Fil-A gift card (thanks again Wes!) to ensure that we made it our business to check it out.

Amazingly, in two consecutive trips to Zope, we were unable to schedule a visit to any of the Chick-Fil-A’s, including the one that is 1/4 of a mile from our hotel! I was determined to make it to one on this trip, and this seemed to be the most opportune time.

So, I drove 1/4 of a mile from Costco and ate a #1 meal in the place. It was excellent, so I now understand why many people rave about Chick-Fil-A (since Wes and David, at least five additional friends have told me that they consider it the best fast-food place). Considering that I still have a couple more meals left on the gift card, I will be thanking Wes again (and again). 🙂

I wandered into the Costco, and was surprised that I didn’t have too much trouble finding Lois, even though she was in the diagonally opposite corner from the main entrance (a very long walk!). She was just about done, so we both were impressed with the timing of my arrival. You would not believe how much stuff she bought. Of course, you might, given that I got to drive to Chick-Fil-A, eat a meal there, and get back, before she was done shopping. 🙂

When we got back, we experienced a few weeks worth of weight-lifting exercise. There is a very steep set of stairs outside of David’s apartment complex, then two more landings inside to get to his unit. We lugged all of the booty up over the course of four or five trips. Given how cold it had been on this trip, I had forgotten that sweating was possible. In addition to the manual labor, the weather broke today, and it was 60 degrees while we were unpacking.

While I am finishing this blog, Lois is on the phone with a Zope engineer, working away (is anyone surprised?). We will relax the rest of the evening (a little late night shopping is on the current agenda, but not for David this time). We can’t wait to see David again tomorrow afternoon (or more appropriately, after his obligatory nap!).

So, what’s left to say? Just the real explanation of the title of the blog.

In addition to listening to a ton of music (live and on the iPod), Lois also reads about music a lot. When something sounds like she would like it, she makes a note. A few times a year, she emails a list to me telling me that the time has come to place a large order. Lois really prefers physical CDs, largely for the liner notes, and I prefer downloads, both because they are cheaper (typically) and immediate (always).

One of the groups that she had on her list was One Flew South. I downloaded it a while ago, but for any number of reasons, we hadn’t listened to it (or most of the others on her most recent list). During this trip, Lois fired up One Flew South. Instant love. Lois thought there were nine voices (the harmonies are so rich), but it turns out that it’s only three guys.

Lois usually zones in on a handful of songs on a CD and she plays them over-and-over, to the exclusion of the others. This happened on this CD as well, and the ones that sang to her, have been listened to more than I would care to admit.

So, after hearing them for the umpteenth time, Lois said, “When you blog, please title it Two Flew South“, and it was so. 🙂

One more week to go on this road trip, and I intend to savor every single moment!

Home For The Holidays

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Until this year, our closest friends could always count on their family being together for the holidays. Their kids (our godchildren) went to school in the vicinity, or at least were guaranteed to choose home (Richmond, VA) for the school break at the holidays.

Now, things aren’t as guaranteed. Laura is married and living in NYC. There will always be the possibility that she will choose (or need to be fair and accept) to spend a holiday with her husband’s family (the other coast entirely). David is in Birmingham, AL, and may not even be able to take time off for some future holiday (e.g., he was unable to get away for Thanksgiving this year, and Lois and I spent it with him in Birmingham).

Thankfully, the kids (yes, yes, they’re fully formed adults in all respects now, but they will always be kids to us!) were able to come home for Christmas this year. Laura and Chris will be out in CA next week so they’re not cheating his family out of the pleasure of their company, just delaying it by a week.

The Kids

The Kids

Lois and I felt blessed to be part of the festivities this year. Not only did that include the seven of us spending a lot of quality time together, we also got to see quite a number of dear Richmond-based friends as well. That included being part of the annual extended family get-together on Friday afternoon. Not only are all of Bob’s relatives a joy to be around, they all bring special food creations for the rest of us to enjoy.

Some random shots from the various gatherings:

Brother and Sister

Brother and Sister

Proud Grandpa

Proud Grandpa

Friends Drop By

Friends Drop By

Dave and Hadar

Dave and Hadar

Who cares if I gained a ridiculous amount of weight in the past few days. It was worth it! Aside from Bob’s always-groumet meals (he made a spectacular Thai dinner for nine on Saturday night), Nancy brought over an artichoke dip that kept calling me back. While I singled out the artichoke dip, every single thing that I sampled was unbelievable.

This photo is too fuzzy for you to appreciate how good the food looked, in addition to the above-mentioned great taste:

Fuzzy But Delicious

Fuzzy But Delicious

Laura created little droplets from heaven, otherwise known as homemade dumplings (with Hoisin and Soy sauces for sweet and savory dipping):

Homemade Dumplings

Homemade Dumplings

Bob has been known to share with Sally on more than one occasion. This year, he raised sharing to an art form. In the first photo, he’s inconspicuously reaching over with his telescoping fork, and in the second, he’s successfully snagged a piece of Thai Chicken. It’s only fair, since he went to all the trouble of cooking it in the first place. 🙂

Telescoping Fork

Telescoping Fork

Caught Red Handed

Caught Red Handed

Good food, good conversation, great laughs. Who could ask for anything more? Well, we didn’t ask, but we indeed received more. 🙂

A year ago, I wrote about the best gift-giver in my personal circle. One of the many amazing gifts he’s given me was my first (and until now, only) GPS, a Garmin StreetPilot 2620. When I got it, in May 2005, it was the top-of-the-line Garmin GPS. It has served us extremely well over the years, but on occasion, it also acts up a bit. Of course, it typically acts up when I need it the most, so it can be quite frustrating at times.

Lois has complained to me for months that we should just break down and buy a new one. I kept resisting, as the old gal still has some good life in her, and it pained me to kick her to the side of the road prematurely.

Well, the decision was taken out of my hands (thankfully!). Our friends (including David, Laura and Chris) bought us a Garmin Nuvi 265WT. It’s so cool, I encourage you to check out the features at the supplied link. But, here are a few of the things that it has that our old gal doesn’t, aside from the obvious svelte figure. 😉

  • Battery-powered portability (with pedestrian and bicycle modes)
  • Bluetooth that turns the Nuvi into a hands-free speakerphone for my Treo!
  • Ability to download Google Maps addresses (with notes and phone numbers)
  • Real-time traffic reports (free, but ad-supported)

We love it, so thank you very much for the amazing gift, and the perfect timing for it.

We’re not the only ones who enjoyed ripping into our gifts:

Ripping Open Gifts

Ripping Open Gifts

If you’re curious as to how gifts arrive in Richmond, the answer is obvious, just like they do elsewhere, via Santa Claus. Sometimes though, Santa has his normal sleigh in the shop, and he arrives in Richmond in style:

Santas Alternate Sleigh

Santa's Alternate Sleigh

Lots of other things to be thankful for this holiday season, and we are indeed thankful for all of them.

One of them is the family dog. He’s 16 years old, which is pretty darn amazing. On occasion, he still has some pep in his step. Whenever he gets groomed, they put a bow on him. It looks silly, but no one takes it off. Since this was a holiday, they put on a colorful kerchief instead. Lois couldn’t stop calling him The Sherrif of Nottingham every time he trundled by. It was definitely cuter than the bow. We probably should have gotten him a tiny cowboy hat to go with it, though he probably would have growled when we tried to fasten it… 🙂

Sheriff of Nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham

Here’s hoping that we will all have the opportunity to spend many more holiday seasons together!

Giving Thanks

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Lois and I are truly thankful every day of our lives. We’ve been blessed in so many ways, we couldn’t accurately count. Near the top of any list of blessings for us, you would find our wonderful godchildren. In 2008, we were extra-blessed, when Laura got married, and moved to NYC with her husband. They now live in the same building we do, so we get to see them more often than we ever used to!

Unfortunately, while Laura came north, David went south. He is doing his first year of medical residency at UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham). It was his first choice, and he loves it, but we miss him. We hadn’t seen him since Laura’s wedding on July 5th. For us, that’s an unusually long stretch not to see one of them.

We’ve now corrected that, and were rewarded (blessed) with a near-perfect long weekend!

On Tuesday afternoon, we drove from Zope to Durham and spent the night in a Hampton Inn there. The next morning we picked up a very good friend of David’s (and for a long time, ours too, once David introduced us) and we headed to Birmingham, AL. The drive was going along fine, including a successful detour off of I85 to avoid a horrible accident, until we hit Atlanta (mid-afternoon). We were stuck in traffic for nearly two hours, for what should have been a 15-20 minute drive-by. All things considered, not that bad.

We got to Birmingham at a reasonable hour nonetheless, and after checking out David’s apartment, headed for a wonderful meal at La Mesa Cantina and Grill. It’s a different type of Mexican Restaurant. The place is gorgeous (including the bathrooms). You can check out the photo gallery and the menu if you might ever find your way there. I had three soft tacos, two with fried oysters and one with grilled skirt steak. They were excellent, but the oysters were truly outstanding. Next time, I’d probably go for three of them!

David Wes Le Mesa

David and Wes at Le Mesa

After some coffee and catching up at David’s, Lois and I headed to the local Embassy Suites to check in, leaving Wes and David to catch up (and play NCAA Football on the PS3).

Epic Battle

Epic NCAA Battle

I have chronicled my WiFi woes at the hotel in two separate posts, here and here. Without that experience, I would have described this weekend as perfect as opposed to near-perfect. 😉

On Thanksgiving day we headed to David’s mid-morning and relaxed there for a while. We then headed out for lunch and a movie. Amazingly, there were no places open for lunch near the movie theater, which was at a giant outdoor mall called The Summit. We even drove around a bit in the surrounding neighborhood, and every single place (other than McDonalds) was closed.

We decided to be pragmatic and we bought prepared food at Brunos (a supermarket near the theater) and ate it at a table that they provide expressly for this purpose). No one would confuse our lunch for a gourmet meal, but we all enjoyed it nonetheless, and it ended up being very convenient.

Brunos Lunch

Brunos Lunch

We headed over to the movie early, which gave us enough time to split a large buttered popcorn (which was indeed gourmet!) 😉 between the three guys.

Popcorn

Popcorn

We saw Four Christmases. Most of it was laugh-out-loud funny, with a few way-too-stupid scenes thrown in to ensure that it wasn’t a great movie… Seriously though, if you like comedies, there are definitely a ton of laughs. Both Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon do a great job, and the majority of the supporting cast is excellent as well. Wes and I were repeating lines from the movie for days, so it definitely hit the funny bone.

In addition to the humor, there are a few reasonably deep family/life insights, most of which are delivered cleverly or at least in an interesting way, so there is even a bit of redeeming value to the movie. 🙂

We returned to David’s and relaxed the rest of the afternoon, and mentally prepared for the big Thanksgiving meal. Finally the time arrived, and we headed back to our hotel for the event. In the lobby of the Embassy Suites is a Ruth’s Chris. We’ve all had many great meals at various Ruth’s Chris restaurants over the years, so we had no doubt that this one wouldn’t disappoint. We were right.

We could have ordered a traditional TG Turkey dinner, but the boys all went for steak. No surprise, as we had been talking about it for a few days beforehand. We also shared an exceptional bottle of Ridge Zinfandel (2006). Don’t get me started about how great most bottles of any Ridge wine are. It’s one of my all-time favorite wine makers.

Ruth's Chris Thanksgiving

Ruth's Chris Thanksgiving Dinner

We skipped dessert there and headed back to David’s, where we had coffee and some cheesecake that we bought earlier at Bruno’s. It was fantastic.

The next morning (Friday), David left early for an overnight on call shift. That’s 30+ consecutive hours in the hospital, usually with little-to-no sleep. We don’t understand the point, but it’s a regular part of his life/schedule, so it’s just a fact of life at this point.

We decided to take the opportunity to create an adventure for the rest of us, which I’ve documented separately. The only thing wrong with Friday was that David didn’t get to enjoy it with us, and that we didn’t get to enjoy David’s company. Otherwise, a perfect day!

On Saturday, we headed to David’s mid-morning to hang with Wes. After a few hours, David called to say that he was headed home. Lois and I went out to bring lunch back in. The plan was Chick-Fil-A (which I’ve never had the pleasure of), but rather than go to the one Wes directed me to, I allowed the GPS to pick a closer one, which ended up being closed. We brought back Quiznos instead, which served the purpose just fine.

You can tell just how wiped David gets after being on call. He needed a slightly larger shot of caffeine than Wes did. 😉

Extra Caffeine

Extra Caffeine

Right after lunch, David napped while Wes and I watched college football and caught up with emails. I created a mini-panic when I tried to fix what felt like a flaky WiFi router in David’s apartment. We had no Internet connectivity for nearly an hour. Eventually, I got it all working again, and it seemed less flaky, but there were moments when I was wishing to have flaky back. 🙁

When David woke up, we watched more football. We didn’t want to go to dinner until the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs Auburn – Roll Tide!) was over, because we were headed to Dreamland BBQ, which we assumed would be a mob scene during the game. We had an excellent meal there (with yet another round of extraordinary service!). Also, since the menu is limited (but exactly what we were interested in), they are constantly cooking all of the available items, so it’s as lightning as fast food, but clearly as good as cooked to order.

On Sunday, we headed to David’s mid-morning again (broken record). We watched the first half of an amateur movie on DVD called The Pinecone Priority. The movie is pretty poorly executed, but it has some extremely clever lines and concepts in it. Wes is one of the stars, so we were happy to watch it, even though it was over-the-top campy… If you watch the teaser/trailer (linked above), you won’t get a sense of how the movie itself is poorly executed, but you’ll see another form of poor execution. Most of the trailer is black. At exactly the 1:24 mark, you can barely see one scene. Wes is the guy on the left in that scene.

Here’s a better picture of Wes, taken by Lois, while Wes was on the TV. This time, he’s on the right. 😉

Pinecone Priority

The Pinecone Priority

We headed for PF Changs for lunch (back at The Summit). All of us count it among our favorite restaurants. The meal was exquisite, including our first taste of the Kung Pao Scallops. David and I split an order of Moo Shoo Pork, which simply couldn’t have been any better. We then did a little shopping, including picking up a Blue Ray DVD of Tropic Thunder to watch later on.

We relaxed back at David’s the rest of the afternoon and finished up watching The Pinecone Priority, and then David, Wes and Lois headed to an evening church service. I stayed at the apartment and played (and lost) in my weekly big poker tournamet (I already reported about the crushing loss I took in November…). They brought back pizza for dinner. I called the order in to Dave’s Pizza while they were still in church. The timing worked out perfectly.

We then watched Tropic Thunder. This movie is way over the top, and was definitely not a hit with the entire crowd. That said, it had some pretty funny scenes and lines in it, and the concept was quite clever, if overdone in the delivery. It seems that no one associated with this movie ever heard of the word subtlety. Given that I am a sucker for most forms of comedy (even reasonably bad ones), I likely enjoyed it more than the rest of them, but honestly, even I don’t recommend this one to anyone. 😉

After coffee and one last slice of the heavenly cheesecake, Lois and I headed back for one last night at the Embassy Suites. In the morning, we headed over for one last hug from David, and headed on the long trek back to Fredericksburg (and Zope). We dropped Wes at Durham, after stopping in the Hampton Inn where we stayed a week ago. I had accidentaly left my Treo charger in the room, and they were kind enough to hold it for me. We had to drive back through Durham anyway, so it wasn’t as inconvenient as it could have been.

We made it back to the hotel at 8:30pm, which was almost exactly 12 hours after we left Birmingham. We had essentially zero traffic the entire way, which was extraordinary, and another thing we give thanks for on this weekend.

We couldn’t be more thankful for this wonderful visit, regardless of whether it was Thanksgiving proper or not. We’re already counting the days until we find our way back to Birmingham (and Atlanta). 🙂

And, just because Lois loves this one… 😉

Ernie Tea Cup

Ernie's Tea Cup