Friends

Ian Axel at North Star Bar in Philadelphia

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Some days are perfect. Yesterday was one such day. It began with a long call with my mom. While relaxing in the apartment (catching up on the last two episodes of Blue Bloods [great show]), the doorman rang up to say that someone left us a package. A few minutes later, I was tasting some incredible fudge, with exactly the right amount of peanut butter flavor. Heavenly!

After that, we got in the car and headed to Philadelphia. Our good friend Wes moved there last year. For a while now (9+ months!) we’ve been hearing him rave about his lady-friend, Jacklyn. We’ve almost managed to meet her a couple of times, but our collective crazy schedules conspired against it.

When we noticed that Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino were playing in Philly on May 8th, we immediately asked Wes and Jacklyn if they could join us for a leisurely dinner followed by the show. Thankfully, that worked for them, so we were finally going to get to meet Jacklyn. Getting to see Ian and Chad perform, well, no need to tell you how exciting that was for us as well.

The show was at North Star Bar. A quick scan of the menu coupled with the 5pm opening made that the perfect place to get together. I’ll heap additional praise on North Star Bar (NSB) later on as well, but the most important compliment I can give them is their complete and straightforward FAQ. Perhaps it’s because I’m old, but I like knowing what to expect (in advance) when going to a new venue. NSB delivered exactly the experience they said they would. Thanks!

I’ll circle back to the dinner later, as most people clicking on this are coming to find out whether Ian and Chad were their usual awesome selves (spoiler alert: they were!), but for us, meeting Jacklyn was reason enough to make the ride to Philly worthwhile, so I’ll wrap up with that and more on NSB in general.

Ian opened his set solo. This is from memory, so I could be reversing the song order: Leave Me Alone, Afterglow, Gone and Waltz. At each show, Ian seems to get a little more comfortable telling a story before playing a song. More, please! One of those stories preceded the final solo number, Say Something (this time on keyboards).

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After Ian wrote Say Something (an emotionally draining song, which probably gives only the slightest hint as to how emotionally draining the inspiration had to be!), Ian didn’t write another song for a year!

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It seemed fitting that when he called Chad Vaccarino up to the stage the first song they sang together was also the first song they wrote (they co-write most of Ian’s songs) after the year of Say Something was up, You’ll Be OK. Of course, their performance was amazing.

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More important than the performance was the story/transition from despair to hopefulness. Obviously, Ian went through that same transition during that year, but he also conveys it in the songs so that we can have a glimpse of the journey. For those experiencing the emotions in their own lives (most of us have, are or will), it’s much more personal than a glimpse.

Thankfully, Ian experienced it in the correct order and the songs were played in the correct order for us to be left more hopeful. Smile

Ian then invited Julia Nunes up to the stage. Ian switched to the ukulele and the three of them (Ian, Chad and Julia) shared one microphone. They sang Pacific Sun, with Julia taking the second verse lead (Chad normally sings that verse) and all three singing harmony on the chorus.

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Julia joined them for a new twist on Shorty Don’t Wait (one of my favorite songs). Chad sang the lead (as he typically does). Julia took a verse and belted it out wonderfully in a gospel-like voice (can I get an Amen!). Ian also sang lead and all three harmonized together. I loved it, no hesitation or reservation. But, with no disrespect to Julia, I missed Mike Campbell’s guitar playing and his harmony as well.

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After Julia left the stage, Ian and Chad introduced two new songs: Rockstar and Golddigger. Wow! Both are fantastic songs. Add to that the as-yet unrecorded Shorty, You’ll be OK (and an ancient, but still favorite of mine, Home), we’re well on our way to another amazing CD. Let’s get on it guys! Winking smile

They closed their set with This is the New Year, always awesome.

We bought a ton of merch (they have brand new T-Shirts in great colors). Thankfully, they now travel with a Square reader so they can take credit cards on their iPhones. Whew! Smile You can see a few of the T-Shirts hanging on the wall over Chad’s shoulder:

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Talain Rayne opened the show on keyboards and vocals. Talain has a very nice voice and plays the keyboards well. His entire set (the music portion) was pleasant enough. Unfortunately, while I could understand every word when he spoke between the songs, it seemed like he added an accent of sorts when he sang, making many of the words hard to follow.

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I found him to be quite funny between the songs, including plugging his phone into the PA system and calling his mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. Of course, he got her voicemail. All of us in the audience left a message for her. She called back during his last number and we got to say Happy Mother’s Day to her live.

I might have preferred that his whole set be comedy though, since the transitions from the comedy to the music (and back) were a little jarring. I spoke to another audience member who had the opposite reaction. That person felt the transitions were jarring, but wished it was all music and no talk/comedy. In any event, Talain is talented and will likely hit his stride sooner rather than later.

After Ian was done, Julia Nunes took the stage. While we were saying goodbye to Ian and Chad, we caught all of her first number, Maybe I Will. It’s an echo song (call/answer) and the crowd was totally into it, singing their hearts out with her. Nicely done!

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Unfortunately, we left as she started her second song because our garage closes at midnight. We made it back at 11:45pm, so we didn’t have much wiggle room and were thankful that there was significantly less traffic coming home than heading to Philly earlier in the day.

OK, rolling the clock back to 5pm. All four of us arrived minutes before NSB opened the front door. Lois, Wes and Jacklyn went in when the door opened and I went to our car to put away something that Wes gave me.

We like to surprise musicians that we’re friendly with when they play out of town (and therefore have no expectation of seeing us there). That didn’t work out last night. As I was closing the car door, I heard my name shouted out. I looked around and saw Ian in the passenger seat of their car, driving down the side street next to NSB. Oh well, cover blown early. Winking smile

We got to spend over two hours getting to know Jacklyn (a bit). We love her and completely understand why Wes has been raving about her for so long. We swapped life stories over beer (well, Lois had club soda, which looked like clear beer).

WesJacklyn

The food at NSB is excellent. I believe it was the owner who told us that he convinced the chef to join him when he (the chef) got tired of working at 4-star restaurants (with all that entails).

This is the opposite. The kitchen is tiny (I was led to believe that it’s a solo effort by the chef). The food comes out slowly (as their FAQ states!), because it’s all freshly prepared, by one person, in a tiny space. But, the man is truly a master, so get there early, enjoy the company of your friends (like we did!) and then enjoy some great cooking.

Don’t be frightened by the next photo. This is not available on the menu, so no one will force you to eat a portion this size. This plate was sitting in front of the owner. Lois took the photo from a few tables away (which is why it’s fuzzy). He explained to us that one of the perks of convincing the chef to come over was getting this kind of treatment for whatever special dish the chef chooses to make for him each day. Smile

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The draft beer selection was large. I had Tiger Beer (highly aromatic with a citrus smell and taste). Aside from draft Smithwick’s (pronounced Smiddicks) in Ireland, this is probably my favorite beer (they’re so different, let’s just call it a tie!). Between 5-7pm each day, beer is 1/2 price. What a deal, you can’t go wrong there.

The bartender, waiter and presumed owner (presumed by me) were all funny, helpful and good at their jobs. Even though it’s a standing only venue for the show (we sat for dinner), we would return to NSB in a heartbeat to see another show. If we lived in Philly, we’d hang out there for drinks and dinner regardless of the show.

Like I said, a perfect day! Now to create another one today (my goal for every day!)…

The Southern Wedding

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One of the major events in being a godparent is seeing your godchild get married. Nearly three years ago we got our first taste when Laura married Chris (captured in this post). This past Saturday, her brother (David) completed this stage by marrying the most wonderful woman (Rebecca) we could have imagined for him.

We arrived in Birmingham, AL late Monday. The festivities began in earnest on Tuesday morning, when we helped David’s parents move the remaining belongings from his apartment to his bride-to-be’s home. The ladies packed and scrubbed, the men hauled and drove. The next morning we sat in the new home waiting for the cable guy (he was only five minutes late, but that was five minutes after the full allotted time). In other words, a zesty start. Winking smile

On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings we had wonderful meals with the groom, his parents and his future in-laws. That’s more like it! Smile

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(All photos in the post can be clicked on for larger versions that will open in a separate tab/window. A few of them are courtesy of another wedding guest, Maggie, who took great shots with a better camera. I didn’t ask permission before snagging them, so I hope Maggie is OK with it, or doesn’t see this blog…) Winking smile

Thursday became more wedding-y. I picked up my tux (yes, it was a big deal, those of you who know me, are either smiling or shaking your head in disbelief while reading that). Not just a tux, one with tails!

After that, it was off to the bachelor party. If you’re easily offended, you might want to skip ahead now. Just kidding! David is a devout Christian, as was everyone in the entire wedding party, so no one needed to worry about any possible debauchery with this crowd. One of those times that the bride could concentrate on her night out with the gals, without wondering what was happening across town.

We started off the evening with bowling. If you know me, you know that’s right up my alley (I know, but I couldn’t resist, sorry!). Eight of us bowled two games each.

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Not to brag, but to remember this years later, I started off my second game with four consecutive strikes. It devolved from there, but I still ended up with a 185. The photo below shows the name Bob next to that score. Bob left after the first game to pick up another reveler and asked me to bowl for him. When he returned, I had just finished up the fourth frame. He took over my game on the second lane and kindly let me play out his.

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We then headed over to Buffalo Wild Wings, picking up a few more people who couldn’t make it over in time for bowling. We watched ACC Basketball while drinking some beer (that’s as wild as it got) and enjoying an excellent meal (my first time at a BWW, I’d happily return).

After that we headed back to the hotel and played poker for a couple of hours in the breakfast area. We got to greet more wedding guests as they arrived late into the night. Speaking of late arrivals, the groom’s sister and her husband were delayed getting out of NYC and arrived after 3am!

Anyone that wasn’t part of the bachelor or bachelorette night out was invited for a meal at the bride’s parents’ home. On Friday, the bride’s father called the groom’s father and told him to bring people over for leftovers (the gals were having a bride and bridesmaids tea). I knew that the bride’s mom was an excellent cook and baker already (we’ve had quite a number of meals there), but her leftover chicken salad (with red grapes in it) still took me completely by surprise (straight out of the fridge). Wow!

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Here are some photos from the tea:

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We were supposed to be at the church at 5pm for the rehearsal. I have come to trust my GPS. It rarely lets me down. It didn’t this time either. It took me exactly where I told it to. Unfortunately, I punched in the wrong address (a different church). Oops, operator error. Still, even after fighting traffic from the wrong church to the correct one, we walked in the door at precisely 5pm. Whew.

One example of the lighthearted spirit during the rehearsal. When they were practicing placing the rings, there was more fumbling than exchanging. The Pastor, Dr. Dennis W. Foust (who is the doppleganger for Bill Engvall, in my opinion) said to David: “It feels like this is your first time”. Perfect! Smile

The bride’s family is very large (she has four siblings, three of whom are married, each with at least two children). Most of the kids (ages 2+) were part of the ceremony (ring bearers, flower girls, junior bridesmaid). During the rehearsal, one of the two-year-old boys was told to go up the stairs and stand in a certain position. He declared, loudly, that he didn’t want to go up there, because he didn’t want to get married! Winking smile

On to the rehearsal dinner. At some weddings this is a very small gathering, restricted to the wedding party only. Even if this one were restricted to that subset, it would have been a large party. Since everyone on the groom’s side was an out-of-towner, with his family hailing from Richmond, VA and Lincoln, NE, The Preserve (the very special place where the rehearsal dinner was hosted) was at capacity, 100 people!

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Everything about the dinner was fantastic (the food, prepared by “Chef Bob”), the wine (brought by the groom’s dad from Richmond) and the company. After the meal, they projected a slide show with music. The photos were of David and Rebecca from babies all the way through to couple-hood. The families submitted the photos. The presentation was put together by Laura (David’s sister) and her husband Chris.

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Laura selected perfect songs to accompany every stage of each of David and Rebecca’s lives. This culminated in a huge surprise for us when we heard the song she picked for David and Rebecca coming together (photos of the two of them over the past 18 months). Our own Ian Axel’s We Are. Here are a few of the lyrics, to give you a sense of why I think her choice was perfect:

I’ll believe in you if you believe in me

We are the lucky ones

I won’t let you down (repeated 16 times!)

Sounds just about right to me. If every married couple took those three lines to heart there would be no divorce!

After that, speeches from some of the bridesmaids and groomsmen (including the dad, who was also the Best Man!). With each speech came humor, love, celebration and some added understanding of how/why both David and Rebecca are so special (individually and as a couple).

That was followed by Rebecca and David giving speeches of their own, both extremely moving. The Dad led us in a toast and we called the night before the big day over.

The week started out with horrible weather: heavy rain (and cold) punctuating Tuesday and Wednesday. In fact, on Wednesday evening, the rain was so hard, it felt like a portent of end-of-days to me (or at least the return of the need for an Ark). Thursday was dry but cold. Friday was very nice, but still a tad on the chilly side.

Saturday, the big day, was extraordinary. Low 70’s, sunny, crisp, perfect. Someone was smiling on our happy couple!

After gathering for breakfast in the hotel, various groups of people went off to explore the city (Botanical Gardens, Vulcan Park, Civil Rights Museum). The boys (lots of ‘em) went to the park and burned off their nervous energy.

Breakfast

Lois and I met up with them and most of their wives for lunch, at one of my favorite BBQ places, Jim ‘N Nicks (this was my fourth location, many more to try). Not including babies (at least three), there were 18 of us at lunch. Another winning meal in a week full of them.

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Barely time to clean up and get dressed for the wedding party to get to the church for photos. For the groomsmen and ushers (and me), it was mostly a game of hurry up and wait. The Duke game was on. David and a number of his groomsmen are Duke graduates. Tim (a groomsman and brother of the bride) performed yeoman’s duty and got a PC in the music room hooked up to a giant screen and streamed the game on ESPN3.com. Yay! Duke won (of course!).

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Lois snuck some photos of her own, before we gathered for the professional photo shoot:

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Since there were very few posed photos of the groomsmen, I won’t have trouble selecting one:

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After the photo session people started streaming in. As I mentioned, the bride has a very big family. Also, since she was getting married in the church that the family has been attending for decades, the guest list was very large. When everyone was seated it was time for the seating of the Grandparents and Parents. As godparents, we were the first to walk down the aisle (hence my wearing of the tails!). After us came the parents, followed by Rebecca’s one remaining grandmother.

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I mentioned above that Rebecca is one of five siblings. Actually, she is one of six, but the eldest daughter, Elizabeth, passed away nearly 21 years ago. In an extremely moving tribute to her loving memory, one of Rebecca’s sisters walked down the aisle, up the stairs in the center and lit a candle next to a bouquet of flowers. Amazing Grace was played on the horn to commemorate her short time on earth.

Everyone in Rebecca’s family plays a brass instrument (amazingly well). Including the parents, there are two trumpet players and five horn players (that’s the politically correct name for what used to be called the French Horn). To honor the love of brass instruments, there were two brass quintets, one on each side of the church (10 brass instruments in all, for those of you who didn’t feel like doing the math yourselves). Rebecca’s brother Tim (of the Duke fame above) performed double duty. He played the horn with the quintet on the left and also stood for the ceremony as one of the groomsmen (very busy day for Tim!).

The brass quintets were awesome in playing Canzona Per Sonare No. 2 by Giovanni Gabrieli as the Processional began.

The Bridal Processional was equally incredible. First, because she’s a stunning woman (not just a stunning bride), judge for yourself from the accompanying photos. Second, because the quintets continued to impress with Canzon Duodecimi Toni also by Gabrieli.

When the entire wedding party was in place the Reverend (Dr. Foust) greeted them and the congregation. After that, there were two Scripture Readings, one by Rebecca’s sister-in-law and the other by Laura.

The Marriage Vows were led by Dr. Foust. The Exchange of Rings was led by David’s uncle, a Reverend from Richmond, Dr. James Colvin. David and Rebecca then lit the Unity Candle.

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Reverend Colvin led us all in prayer followed by both Reverends simultaneously pronouncing David and Rebecca husband and wife, instructing them: “You may now Kiss your Spouse!” (that was a new one for me, I like it!). Since we were first in, we were last out in the Recessional.

The wedding party and families stayed at the church for additional photos while everyone else proceeded to the reception. We joined them all for a terrific celebration.

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For those of you who know us, you know that Lois and I attend a wee bit more than our fair share of live music. Over the years, we’ve dragged many guests along with us (some kicking and screaming), including our godchildren and their spouses. When we heard that Laura chose one of Ian Axel’s songs (someone we introduced her to) it was obviously gratifying.

Apparently, we had a musical effect on David as well. For the mother/son dance, he selected a song by another of our favorite artists, Vienna Teng. They danced to Harbor, another perfect choice (in my opinion). A few select lyrics (in case you require proof!): Winking smile

The light in me will guide you home

All I want is to be your harbor

You’ve got a journey to make

There’s your horizon to chase

So go far beyond where we stand

No matter the distance I’m holding your hand

Seriously, can a mother say anything more beautiful and meaningful to her son on the day she’s letting him go? I didn’t think so!

The father/daughter dance was to Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman. Another perfect choice. Unfortunately, we can’t take credit for that one. Winking smile

Both of those dances were serious affairs. When David and Rebecca danced their first dance (Feels Like Home by Chantal Kreviazuk), a much more lighthearted moment was created. Prancing on to the dance floor was a 2.5-year-old from Richmond, who just wanted to dance with the happy couple. The first photo shows them noticing something low, approaching them. Then David appears to be high fiving her in the second photo, before she was coaxed back to her parents. Precious!

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The rest of the evening was filled with music by a jazz quartet. The female sax player was incredible as was the electric guitarist.

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There were two absolutely incredible cakes, one for the bride and one for the groom. That made for two cake-cutting photo ops. Since the cakes were on opposite sides of the room, it enhanced the chance that guests would catch at least one. I caught both.

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I also caught the photo op (Lois didn’t, so I don’t have a photo to attach) with the person who introduced David and Rebecca. If she ever stops wanting to be a doctor (at least I believe she is), she can probably make a living as a matchmaker!

In a shocking turn of events, while the cakes were being cut, a group of hoodlums were vandalizing the couple’s car outside. It turns out that some good samaritans caught it all on camera, so the police shouldn’t have too much trouble bringing them to justice! Smile

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We all lined up outside to send the happy couple off on their well-deserved honeymoon. May they enjoy it at least a drop as much as the rest of us enjoyed sharing the last few days with them!

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A few straggler photos:

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William and Mary 2011 Alumni Medallion Award Winners

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Truly generous people don’t require thanks or recognition (not that it’s not completely appreciated!). They give because it’s one of the things that defines them and their beliefs. Generosity/giving comes in many forms. On occasion, it becomes obvious to many people how special a particular person is and we get together in groups to recognize and honor a lifetime’s worth of achievements. Yesterday was just such a day for five incredible people.

For many of us, our memories and affiliation with our university lasts a lifetime. I know roughly a dozen graduates of the College of William and Mary and can say unequivocally that each of those will be grateful for their experience and education at W&M throughout their lives. Yesterday, the W&M Alumni Association presented five exceptional people with the Medallion Award for 2011.

Each of these people built a career and a life on the foundation that they received at W&M. We have the privilege of calling one of them, Bob Mooney, our life-long friend. We had the additional privilege of hearing about the extraordinary accomplishments of the other four recipients and sharing their stories with their proud families and friends.

The ceremony began with the very talented W&M choir (undergrads who got up on a rainy Saturday morning to entertain and amaze us). They also closed the ceremony with an incredible rendition of Oh Shenandoah followed by the W&M Alma Mater.

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After some introductory remarks from the Vice President and President of the Alumni Association (both excellent speakers), each of the five recipients was introduced by another alumni via a video presentation. I will link each of the recipient’s names to the W&M page which houses those videos so that you can see some (and I stress that’s it’s only some) of the accomplishments that each of these people has achieved.

After each video presentation, the recipient of the Medallion Award gave a speech at the podium. It should surprise no one that all of them gave inspirational (and extremely humorous and self-deprecating) talks. It was obvious why each of these people has been able to move mountains by inspiring others to work with them. None of them are lone cowboys. Here is a video of part of each speech, put together by the W&M Alumni Association (I haven’t as yet found videos of each person’s full speech):

W&M Alumni Medallion Award winners for 2011

The first three recipients were:

Sue Hanna Gerdelman, Marilyn Ward Midyette and Rene A. Henry. Please click on each link and watch the tribute videos.

During the Rene Henry video, when they catalog his accomplishments, they show a clip from a video he created to teach the art of shooting a basketball (it starts at the 1:43 mark). The audience erupted in laughter when the video panned out to show that Rene was instructing none other than Jerry West. I got to chat with Rene after the awards and he told me that he’s still in touch with all three men from that instructional video, Jerry West, Hot Rod Hundley and Pat Riley!

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Next up was our own Bob Mooney. Above, I said that each video only addresses some of each person’s accomplishments. Given our long friendship with Bob, I know that to be a fact. When you’ve dedicated your life to helping others, it’s not possible to chronicle that in a 4-minute video (though Jim Ukrop certainly made a valiant effort). I could add things that didn’t make it in, like his spear-heading the building of the Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond. But, inevitably, I too would fail in listing everything.

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Instead, I’d like to call out one of the things that Bob discussed in his speech (you can watch it for yourself in the embedded YouTube video above). First, Bob reminded everyone of the W&M tag line (many speakers repeated it yesterday):

Students come here wanting to change the world, and leave with the tools to do it!

That’s great, but it’s a tag line after all. Bob gives the more achievable message (in my opinion) and one we should all live by. He continues:

Some of the students here today will actually change the world. But all of us, all of the students and us here today can change someone’s world! So, whether you carry out your calling in changing the world or someone’s world, you will always find success in your work and significance in your life.

Please, I beg of you, read that paragraph 100 times, then go out and live it. It doesn’t get any simpler or more powerful than that. Strive to change someone’s world (not your own). The rewards are immeasurable and along the way, you might just end up changing the world as well. Bob certainly has.

Last, but certainly not least, was the youngest honoree, Michael K. Powell. I think that having a legacy to follow makes it more difficult to leave your mark on the world. Michael Powell has overcome that hurdle (I don’t think he can even see the hurdle in his rear view mirror). His proud parents (General Colin Powell and his wife Alma) were in attendance.

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Michael gave an extraordinary speech (the snippet in the above video is good, but in no way does justice to the entire speech). Lois and I were honored to have an opportunity to each shake his hand and tell him how moved we were by it.

I am certain that spending quality time with any of the award winners would be rewarding in so many ways. Lois and I consider ourselves very fortunate to be 100% sure of that in the case of Bob Mooney. There were many people in the audience who feel exactly the same way about the person they came to see.

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After the ceremony, there was a wonderful reception in the Alumni House. The food (quiches the size of quarters!) was unbelievably delicious.

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The Mooney party all headed over to W&M Mason Business School afterward. Bob was instrumental in getting that building built. He’s also the CFO of the Business School. In the center of the main hall is a statue of Pierre L’Enfant, the architect who laid out Washington, DC. The sculptor is Gordon Kray, also a W&M Alumni. Lois captured Bob and Gordon together at the reception shortly before we got to see the statue first hand.

BobMooneyGordonKrayPierreL'EnfantBobMooney

Alex Wong and Guests at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been a month since we’ve seen Alex Wong perform at Rockwood Music Hall. It’s not good to go much more than a month between doses of Alex, so it’s good that he had a show last night. Winking smile

In fact, after seeing his solo show at Rockwood 1 on December 9th, we saw him sit in for one song with Alex Berger at Rockwood 2 on the 13th. That night, they performed a song they had written that weekend (and just finished up the morning of the show!), called The Fighter. I wrote about how beautiful a song it is.

Alex opened last night’s show with that song, solo this time, at the piano. As much as I like the song, it also immediately reminded me of the fact that our beloved Alex Berger is now too many thousands of miles away, back in merry old England, leaving us less merry in these old United States…

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Next Alex invited Rachel Platten to join him. Rachel played the piano and Alex the guitar. They played a song they co-wrote about Alex’s first Christmas in NYC (one he spent here not by choice!). It’s a wonderful song called Make It Home. We’ve seen Alex perform it solo a number of times, but this is the first time we got to see Alex perform it with Rachel, harmonies included.

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The song is special for another reason. Alex and Rachel have made the song available for purchase at Bandcamp. It costs (a minimum of) $2.25 (please feel free to donate more, we did!). 100% of the proceeds go to City Harvest. The production quality is superb (no surprise, Alex is one of the best producers around!). You’ll get a great song and be donating to a very worth charity. Just do it, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and have the music to enjoy for years to come!

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Next Alex invited Melissa Tong and David Fallo to join him. I’ve written about both many times. Suffice it to say that any string section in any style of music would be instantly enhanced if either Melissa or David joined them. Both at the same time? Dream time!

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But wait, there’s more! I purposely left out one thing about Make It Home above because it fits better here. One of our favorite drummers is Adam Christgau. Adam was supposed to leave for a tour in Australia, yesterday morning. On Tuesday, his flight was canceled preemptively due to the anticipated snow storm (that wasn’t much of a storm after all). So, Adam was stranded in NYC (much as Alex had been in 2004, for different reasons). Alex dedicated Make It Home to Adam, who happened to be in the audience for Alex’s show.

With Melissa and David on stage, Alex coaxed Adam to join them to play the drums. Since Adam was there as a guest, he didn’t have his equipment with him. No worries. Seth Faulk, another top local drummer handed Adam his cymbals (Rockwood has the core drum set) and his brushes. Thanks Seth!

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With that, Alex proceeded to right a wrong that he perpetrated on his audience a month ago. As I mentioned in the post about that show, Alex teased us by playing the intro to Brooklyn Blurs (one of our favorite songs) and then changed his mind. Last night he played it, with the strings and drum, more than making up for his indiscretion the month before.

During the song, I could swear that I heard someone singing the ambeR Rubarth part (harmony) absolutely perfectly with Alex. I couldn’t see anyone doing it, and it wasn’t anyone on stage (it was a female voice). After the show, my friend turned to me and said: “Did you hear that woman over there singing the ambeR part perfectly?”. Yes, yes, I did! I honestly thought it was just me knowing the song so well that my mind filled in ambeR’s part on it’s own! Whew, I’m not totally addled just yet… Winking smile

Adam tried to get up after Brooklyn Blurs, but Alex cajoled him into playing one more song, Motion Sickness, with Melissa and David as well. Not just them, but the entire crowd was split into two to sing along with the chorus. I was on the side of the audience that in the previous two shows was assigned the “na na na na, na na na na, na na na na, na” part. Alex changed it up this time, and our side was given the “oh, oh, oh oh oh” part. I’m adept at both, so he didn’t throw me for the loop that he hoped to! Winking smile

After dismissing the band, Alex started his looping machine and tapped out some percussion on the guitar body. Then he added a whooshing sound by rubbing the strings. While that looped endlessly, he returned to the piano and played another new(-ish) song (I think it’s one he co-wrote with Paul Freeman). Absolutely wonderful!

For more Alex Wong / Paul Freeman goodness, check out their new project, Bellows Band where you can hear three songs stream for free!

He followed that with a song he co-wrote with Nate Campany. I call it the Yeah Yeah Yeah song (that’s the entire chorus). Last time, Alex Berger sang the Yeah Yeah Yeah part in harmony with Wong. This time, the audience did. It was awesome. In particular, Seth Faulk (the aforementioned drummer) stood right over my left shoulder and sang incredible harmony with Alex. Nicely done all, but especially Seth who gave me a personal concert! Smile

I might be missing another song or two, but suffice it to say that the entire set was a blast.

Making it even better was running into three friends who we sat with (I didn’t know any of them would be at the show, though I could have guessed). We even got to introduce one to the other two, so the circle widens. Good music, good company and a good glass of wine. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Jess and Jesse Terry Wedding

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Yesterday’s post ended with: “Congratulations to Jesse and Jess as your new life together begins in a few hours!”

This is the sequel to that post, sharing some memories from an absolutely gorgeous wedding ceremony that we were honored to be invited to.

WeddingProgram

Just like the night before, things weren’t exactly hitch-less as far as timing is concerned. This time, traffic wasn’t to blame. Someone (I don’t know who, so I’m not just protecting the guilty party) Winking smile accidentally left the video camera in the hotel room. So, even though everyone was gathered, the ceremony was delayed until the camera was retrieved. We were sitting with three friends, so the time passed very quickly.

The wedding and reception were held at Tomes-Higgins House in Greenwich, CT. There was a grand piano in the corner (eventually played beautifully by Justin Coutu), but the majority of the music in the wedding came from an iPod, sitting in a speaker dock, sitting on top of that piano.

JustinCoutuiPodDock

The first song played was Over the Sun We’ll Fly, written by Jesse Terry as his engagement/proposal song for Jess (Jessica Groom). Here is a YouTube video of him singing it for her (and proposing in front of the audience!) at the Bluebird Café in Nashville:

Jesse Terry performing Over the Sun We’ll Fly at the Bluebird Cafe

After that song, they played Moon River, while the wedding party came down the aisle. The flower girl and ring bearer stole the show (a few times).

RingBearerAndPartialWeddingPartyFlowerGirlBeaming

Officiating was the Reverend Andrew Williams (Drew), Senior Pastor at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT. In these Internet-crazed days, most people associate WWW with World Wide Web. Yesterday, it was Pastor Drew’s: Wisdom, Warmth and Wit. All three were in full bloom and moved Lois and I throughout the ceremony.

PastorAndrewWilliams

I hesitate to share his first humorous statement, because I know it won’t come across with the warmth that was obvious in context. When Jess and Jesse settled in before him, he said that their entire lives were destined to bring them together on this day. “Both families prayed for this to happen. Looking at Jess, clearly, Jesse’s family prayed a bit harder.” Winking smile

JessTerryGreetingTheBrideToBe

There was a spontaneous roar and any worries that this would be a stiff ceremony were dispelled immediately.

The Pastor led us in prayer and song. Jesse’s grandfather read from First Corinthians 13 and his mother read A Prayer of St. Francis.

GrandfatherReadingFirstCorinthians13MotherReadingAPrayerOfStFrancis

The Pastor gave a number of inspirational talks and blessings. The one that overwhelmingly got to Lois was a message to the couple to go through life learning to dance together (poor paraphrase by me). He spoke about the various stages of learning to dance and the feelings people experience. He related them to his family (wife and kids) in a beautiful way, giving a more practical sense to a theoretical topic. The dance manual? The Bible, of course!

PastorAndrewWilliamsWeddingMessage

After the ceremony, Lois bolted straight to the Pastor and asked him whether he would be willing to give her a copy of his message so we could post it on the blog. He told her that he would email it to her. If/when he does, I’ll update the post and include it here.

Update: The Pastor emailed Lois today! I include the wonderful Dance Instructions in their entirety, unedited, at the bottom of this post!

I already mentioned the flower girl and ring bearer. The flower girl’s enthusiasm was literally bursting at the seams. When the Pastor asked for the rings, the tiny ring bearer jumped up and announced: “I have them!”. The entire room started giggling.

The Pastor was not the only one to crack a joke. Right after the ceremony concluded, our friend leaned over and said: “Not every bride is also a groom!”. If you don’t get it, check back to see Jess’ maiden name in the parens above. Smile

When the ceremony was over, all of the chairs were removed from the two rooms and tables were rolled in as the food was brought out. It was very nice not to have to run from one location to another to shift from the ceremony to the reception. As the wedding party took photos, the rest of the guests started the other kind of party, celebrating the happy couple’s nuptials.

MerrryAndJennifer

Jess and Jesse Terry are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. Sharing this joyous occasion with them and their loved ones was truly an honor. We wish them a life full of love and happiness and hope to share some of it with them along the way!

JessAndJesseTerry

FirstOfficialKissGrandfatherJesseAndMichaelTerry

BestManJoshuaGroomMumAndBrotherGroomJessAndJesseTerryMarjoryLee

Pastor Drew Williams’ Dance Instructions:

1.  Dancing Lessons

As you stand at the threshold of your marriage, I believe that the Lord would have me give you some dancing lessons.

Let me explain:

Your marriage is God’s gift to you both.

Not happenstance.

Not the outworking of a random series of events.

Your marriage is God’s gift to you both.

God has chosen you and He has chosen you for each other.

This gift is given in love and is part of God’s plan to enable you both to be all The Lord created you to be.

His desire for your marriage is that it should be a place where:

  • all your gifts
  • all that makes you both fully alive

all of this should have its fullest expression.

But for this happen – you are going to have to let the Lord teach you to how to dance.

‘A time to dance’ Ecclesiastes 3:4

Irony here is that I am of an age where according to my children I dance just like my father!

I would like to show you how to dance with your Heavenly Father.

In doing this I want to look at:

  • theory,
  • practical dance tips
  • and then an invitation.

Let’s look at some theory first.

2. Dance Theory

2.1 Following the Manual

There is a dance manual!

In the beginning it was the word of God that created.

God spoke and chaos became choreography.

Make this dance manual a living part of your marriage.

Read it together.

Work at it together.

Pray through it together.

2.2 Following Emmanuel

So there is a manual and there is ‘Emmanuel’ – God is with us.

Dance that is truly inspired always contains something that is extemporary.

The wind blows wherever it pleases.

You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.

So it is with everyone who is born of the Holy Spirit.

Let The Holy Spirit lead you

and you can be sure that you won’t have a ready answer for those who want to know your next move

but there will be moments in His leading when it will feel that you have been lifted off the dance floor altogether.

And here is where you find eternal perspective.

So there is some dance theory.

  • Embrace The Word of God.
  • Embrace the Holy Spirit.

What about some practical tips?

I had a list here of twenty five practical tips.

I have narrowed it down to two.

3. Practical Dance tips

What we have here in Jess and Jesse are two solo routines that now have to be re-cast by the Lord so as to be one amazing salsa partnership.

3.1 Practice

So the first practical tip is exactly that.

You need to Practice.

In the Old Testament David was a terrific dancer – he had all the moves.

But when he married he took a year out from the Battle field where David and his wife joined the Lord on the dance floor and worked out some new steps.

So take plenty of time in the next year to put in some practice;

push back the furniture,

roll back the carpet

and enjoy the music!

Tell your family and friends that you can’t come out – you are having some dancing lessons.

They will understand!

When we were first married my wife and I had some ballroom dancing lessons.

We learned a lot about each other in those evenings.

We learned that:

  • I had very poor rhythm but I could remember the next move.
  • We learned that my wife was great at keeping time but could not always remember what came next.

So we hurtled around the dance floor – her shouting out the rhythm in my left ear and me shouting out the next move and trying to avoid her feet.

Sometimes I was leading and sometimes there was really only the appearance that I was leading.

I see now that Lord was teaching us something that would serve us well.

A good dance partnership is clearly all about just that ‘partnership’ –

but there will be times when it will be your responsibility – Jesse(y) – to discern in God the next move – and take a strong lead.

There will be other times when you – Jess– will sense the Lord’s timing and you are going to have to help Jesse take that strong lead.

And all of this takes practice.

Sometimes it may feel to you that the Lord is using your marriage to slow you down.

Actually this is all about timing.

Don’t underestimate the deep significance of what God is doing through these slow tempo seasons.

And for later – the Lord would have you both remember Isaiah 40:11 ‘The Lord gently leads those that have little ones.’

3.2 Physical Touch

Practically speaking, there is something very Latin about the way the Lord dances.

‘When I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go.’ Song of Songs 3:4

This is a dance that you have to feel; to have and to hold.

I want to give you something – very precious.

My wife gave this to me on my wedding day.

It is one of the most precious things

I have and I had to ask her if it was OK for me to give it to you.

Can you feel that? On our wedding day, as we said our vows my wife held my hand and said that.

Can you feel what is being said here?

And in the days that have followed – during the birth of our children, in the moments before I was ordained, during times of great joy and in times of sorrow – she has held my hand and this is what she says to me.

And this is what I say back.

And nobody else knows except us and the Lord.

Find the same secret language – you are very welcome to borrow from our vocabulary – but find this physical language and use it.

Don’t let today be the last time you kiss your wife in public.

Be indiscreet on public transport and hold hands for goodness sake!

Physical touch is essential language in a great dance partnership.

So you have some theory and some practical tips and now I want to extend to you both an invitation.

4. Take hold my right hand

There is a clear warning in the Bible that the dance floor may be strewn with the occasional obstacle.

The apostle Peter, talks about many kinds of trial.

But even in that warning there is an incredible encouragement hidden in the cadence of the language.

The Greek word Peter chooses to describe these ‘many trials’ is ‘poikilos’, which literally means many or multi- coloured.

Peter uses that word only one other time and that is to describe the love of God ‘in its many colours.’ (1 Peter 4:10.)

His point is this.

Along the way, our troubles may be multi- coloured but so too is the Father’s love.

There is no colour in the human situation which the love of the Father cannot match.

‘For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.’ Isaiah 41:13

Take hold His right hand.

Dance with the Father.

Finally

How might I conclude?

In just a moment you are going to move from two solo dance routines to dance with one another.

It will last the rest of your life.

So then finally this:

Live every day of your long, happy and healthy marriage as if it were – the last dance.

Amen.

Antje Duvekot and Anne Heaton at House Concert

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Last night we attended our second ever house concert. I can easily see this becoming a habit. I started this blog 3.5 years ago with one goal in mind, document our lives so that as our memory fades (inevitable) we will have a permanent record to reflect back on.

A completely unexpected side-benefit has been the incredible people that we’ve met (both virtually and IRL: in real life) as a result of this endeavor and the heavy emphasis on blogging about musical events.

One person who I met through this blog (IRL, before he ever commented on the blog!) alerted me to someone who runs regular house concerts on the upper west side in NYC, telling me specifically about last night’s show. The host was kind enough to reserve two spots for Lois and me.

Antje Duvekot opened the show. We weren’t familiar with most of her work, but the very first time we saw the Bank of America commercial featuring Merry Go Round (written by Antje), we fell in love with the song. I was excited to hear more of her music live for my first impression. I’m now officially a big fan of Antje (personally) and her music.

AntjeDuvekot

Six weeks ago, Antje took a serious tumble off her bike. She broke her hand and shouldn’t have been playing guitar yet. She joked that none of us should be telling her hand surgeon that she was disobeying orders. Here’s hoping that my blog isn’t popular enough to be read by him/her. 😉

AntjeDuvekotCast

Even with a cast on, her guitar playing was beautiful. Her left pinkie was effectively immobilized (she didn’t use it all in the first set and barely did in the second). She finger-picks most of the songs and I look forward to seeing her again when she can use all of her fingers (though I wasn’t disappointed in the least in her delivery last night!).

Antje has a broad vocal range. For me, in all of my two experiences of a house concert, I don’t think you can properly judge a singer’s voice at the extremes in this kind of setting. For some, to hit the high notes, they need to belt it out. It’s obvious that they don’t want to overwhelm the small, close-in crowd, so they clearly pull back. I don’t know whether Antje was pulling back, or whether that’s how she normally sings the high notes.

In general, there is a smokey quality to her vocals.

She’s mostly hard-core folk (one of my favorite genre’s for over 40 years!) and she’s extremely good at it in every respect. She also did a Jason Mraz cover and her own Merry Go Round isn’t really folk either. She closed her part of the show with Merry Go Round. So great to see that live after being a fan of the song from the minute it was released.

Antje’s personality comes across wonderfully. Sweet, self-effacing, interesting, funny, warm (and probably a few other nice adjectives). She opened with an a capella number (which gave her an opportunity to showcase her cast). In my opinion it was a difficult and dangerous thing to do in such an intimate environment. She won me (and I’m guessing nearly everyone) over within the first verse!

Anne Heaton was the other headliner. We had not heard of her, but after mentioning her name to a few musician friends, all we heard were raves! Anne sings wonderfully and plays the keyboards really well. Her style is mostly Jazz so the contrast between Antje and Anne was big.

AnneHeaton

Not to be outdone by Antje’s obvious handicap, Anne topped her, by showing up 8.5 months pregnant! 😉

AnneHeatonPregnant

Her (understandable) obvious discomfort was made even clearer when she shared a huge scare that she underwent just two days earlier. In addition, she told us that the baby was pressing on her lungs. Yikes!

With all that, her vocal control and range were superb. I like Jazz in general (though I lean toward the instrumental smooth jazz variety), so I enjoyed her numbers, but it’s not typically the kind of stuff that makes my heart flutter.

She played a whimsical number that she wrote as a bridal toast (she was maid of honor) for her childhood friend. I loved every second of it (delivery, lyrics, style). The crowd loved it too, as many laughed throughout the song.

During the first of two sets, Antje played the first six songs (roughly) and Anne played the next six. But, they joined each other on at least four songs to harmonize (they do a lovely job, since they also perform together as part of Winterbloom). For the second set, they both remained on stage (in front of us) throughout, alternating songs, again harmonizing frequently.

Anne also has a wonderful stage presence. Obviously, the topics last night trended more around her current condition, but it’s clear that she can handle any audience in any situation.

I would guess that there were roughly 50 people in attendance. The hosts ran the evening as well as I could have hoped. There was beer/wine/cheese/cold cuts/soft drinks/fruit/etc., spread out in multiple spots so there were no long lines anywhere. They are delightful people who have found an incredible way to share their love of music while getting to experience it themselves in the best possible way!

I was sorry to run out the minute the show was over, but we were heading straight to the house and wanted to get on the road.

The Downside Risk at Wings Theatre

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Last night we attended the opening of The Downside Risk at the Wings Theatre. Our friend Shannon Black was one of the actors in it, and we enjoyed her performance in Next Stop, Nightmare (written and directed by her husband, Jason Black). This is a limited run show, eight performances through September 11th, so you still have time to go see it.

On the page linked above is the following quote:

Bill Svanoe’s play has been labeled the “Death of a Salesman for the Computer Age.”

I would say that’s accurate. Bill totally captures the life (lives) of people who are on the road selling non-stop. Of course, there is a toll on everyone around them, families, friends, customers, acquaintances, etc.

At intermission, the three of us (we attended with a friend) predicted the two major plot twists. We were correct. I wasn’t even slightly disappointed to have been correct. In fact, those were two of the more interesting and poignant scenes in the play. I was glad not to be shocked by a trick, but rather moved by a well-written, well-acted realistic turn of events.

It was opening night, so there was some shakiness expected. While there were a few tiny flubs (quickly and well repaired), I was surprised by how few, so a shout-out to the cast for working so hard to get it right the first time out of the gate.

In general, that cast was pretty good, though there was noticeable variability between the best and worst of them. If you read my post about Next Stop, Nightmare, you already know how highly we think of Shannon, so let me call out a few of the other actors.

Both Lois and I agreed that the best performance was delivered by Zade O’Blenes. While Zade was on stage for quite a bit of the play, she was not a central character. Yet, whenever she was in the scene (one very dramatic one in particular), she was incredible.

Geoff Schuppert played the lead. Geoff was in nearly every scene, so his ability to maintain focus and passion throughout was extremely impressive. A very few times his role felt a tad over-acted, but given how long he was on stage, and what a powerful performance he gave, I feel a bit guilty sharing that.

Matt Klane played another central character and was believable throughout in a role that could be very tricky to play correctly.

There were a number of other good performances in supporting roles.

The play lasted 1:50, including a 10 minute intermission. We enjoyed it, but with some quality editing, it could probably be shortened by 10-15 minutes and be improved at the same time. Still, a very solid show, worth catching, if you want to be pulled into a world many of us see only peripherally.

Lois took very few shots because she didn’t want to distract the actors (it feels totally different to a musical performance). Here is one good shot of Shannon (we were very close to this part of the stage) and part of the long line of actors who took a well-deserved curtain call:

ShannonBlack CurtainCallRayFieldShannonBlackEdMoroney

The friend we went with lives a block away from the theater. When we suggested we grab dinner before the show, he recommended Malatesta Trattoria which happened to be exactly across the street from the theatre.

We had an incredible meal there and got to relax and catch up with a good friend. The only thing to be forewarned about (I was, so it wasn’t a problem for me) is that this place is cash only. The restaurant staff couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. Two of us had the Swordfish (which was one of the specials of the day) and was awesome. I also highly recommend the latte.

Breaking Social Networking Interconnections

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Many (most?) people post updates to multiple Social Networks. Rather than hand-picking which networks get which updates, most of the multi-network types (nearly all?) post the identical update to all networks, simultaneously, automatically.

There are many ways to do that, including services specifically meant to accomplish that (Ping.fm, FriendFeed, etc.), or multi-protocol clients (Seesmic, TweetDeck, Digsby, HootSuite, PeopleBrowsr, etc.). In addition, networks like Facebook and Google Buzz can also pull data from various feeds (including blogs, not just other social networks).

It’s totally understandable why people do it. Who wants their incredible update to be missed by a single person. Why not create it once and have it beamed all over the planet with one click?

If your livelihood depends on getting the word out (I follow many musicians for example), then by all means, when you announce something (e.g., a new show), you want to hit every conceivable network so that you don’t miss a soul on the planet.

If you’re telling your friends what you had for lunch, making sure that Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Identi.ca, Buzz, FriendFeed, Friendster, Orkut, LinkedIn, Beebo, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., all get that update feels a drop like overkill. 😉

Until a few minutes ago, I was guilty of this behavior as well. I have a FriendFeed account which was connected to many of my other accounts. I then connected that FriendFeed account to Facebook. Independently, I had a Blog application connected to my Facebook account which injected an update whenever I published a new post.

That meant that I when I wrote a new post, if I tweeted the link (I know, it’s no longer politically correct to use that word, I don’t care, twittered sounds worse to me), my blog link would show up as three separate Facebook updates: 1) Blog app, 2) FriendFeed injection from my RSS feed, 3) FriendFeed injection from my tweet. Yikes! I certainly didn’t mean to hit my friends over the head with my announcement of a new post.

Ultimately that’s not why I cut the cord. I found that I was responding less and less on Twitter than I wanted to, because I was all too aware that it would end up in my Facebook feed, completely out of context to my friends while simultaneously cluttering my stream there.

I haven’t yet actively participated in Google Buzz, but I did connect it to my Twitter account, so every tweet was also buzzed. That’s no longer the case either. If I use Buzz, I want it to be a choice, not a side-effect.

So, I deleted FriendFeed from my Facebook account. I disconnected Buzz from Twitter. I left the Blog app in Facebook, so when I tweet a post I won’t also send that update to Facebook. That’s the only automatic connection I left.

From now on, I will be more active in Twitter (at least I think/hope I will) and I might give Buzz a real go as well. From my multi-protocol client I will choose which networks to update. Some messages might indeed go to many networks (I actively use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare at the moment). But, my silly Twitter interactions will most definitely stay exclusively on Twitter.

Feel free to unfollow me on Twitter if the noise level rises too much. Conversely, feel free to pay a bit more attention on Facebook if you previously felt that I was just spewing nonsense. 🙂

Wicked Still Rules

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Having previously seen Wicked eight times, it generally takes an external event to get us to go again. Of course, we are constantly on the lookout for such events, so it’s not hard to get us to go. 🙂

A few weeks ago, friends of ours mentioned that seeing Wicked was high on their list. Our lookout sensors kicked into gear and we picked a mutually agreed date, which turned out to be yesterday’s matinee.

My only criteria for pre-show excitement level is the quality of the two leads, Elphaba and Glinda. We’ve seen awesome ones (in both roles), and horrible ones (more so some of the Elphabas than the Glindas).

I hadn’t seen either of the current leads. I read a short review in the NY Times. I also watched a YouTube video of each doing one signature number. The voices sounded good, the acting wasn’t as good.

I am happy to say that they’ve either gotten way better as actresses, or the videos were somehow wildly unrepresentative of their abilities.

Katie Rose Clarke played Glinda. Her voice is magnificent. I could quibble that she’s a little over-the-top in her comedic acting, but it all worked, so I’m contradicting myself. The only (extremely minor) letdown in her performance was a relatively flat (not off key, but rather affect) in the song For Good. Not in my top three Glindas (this was, after all, our ninth time), but she’s spectacular.

Mandy Gonzalez played Elphaba. Her voice is also magnificent. Her acting was weaker than Katie and other Elphabas, but not bad in the least. A few too many smiles in scenes where smiles didn’t feel called for.

Both women hit the high notes crisply, cleanly and with power. Lovely!

The rest of the cast was very good, including the Wizard, who was either a stand-in, or so new to the cast that he wasn’t printed in the Playbill yet.

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I loved every minute of the performance, even the quibbles mentioned above (they’re more notes for my own recollection than critiques).

At some point in the not-too-distant future, we’ll hit double digits. It was roughly 11 months since the last time we saw Wicked, so it might not be right around the corner, but it’s coming, I can feel it. 🙂

Happy Birthday Lois

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I’ve mentioned that Lois just had a birthday in May in three separate posts:

The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel at Mercury Lounge

The Addams Family

Ian Axel and Joey Ryan at Rockwood Music Hall

In fact, many of our friends (and family) had May birthdays, at least one even more significant than Lois’ (see below). Because of the many celebrations, and that thing we don’t like to mention (or think about), work, I haven’t had the time to post about the actual celebration we held for Lois.

Now that May is officially behind us, I’ll do that here, and throw in two other May birthday celebrations for good measure. 🙂

In the last of the three posts linked above, I mentioned that we had a weekend-long celebration which included The Addams Family and a wonderful dinner at the Peking Duck House. More than just another incredible meal and fellowship at the Duck House, the gathering there was also meant to spring a wonderful surprise on Lois.

Time to rewind… Our friends in Richmond, VA and Birmingham, AL coordinated to come up to NYC and spend the weekend. That much Lois knew. What she didn’t know is that one of them, Sally Ann, in consultation with the others, came up with a great idea.

She designed a custom T-Shirt, using a photo of Lois from her teaching days, and invited all of us to submit sayings that we’ve learned from Lois throughout the years. From that list she chose 10 sayings to print on the back of the T-Shirt.

The idea wasn’t to present Lois with a T-Shirt, but rather to have her friends take photos of themselves in the shirt and have the results printed and put into an album for Lois. In addition, those that wanted could write a personal note to Lois for inclusion in the book as well.

I was blown away by the idea, knowing that it was the perfect gift for Lois. The southern crew ordered their own shirts and took their photos. I ordered a bunch of shirts and handed a few out locally, but mostly FedEx’ed T-Shirts all over the globe (yes, more money was spent shipping the shirts than ordering them!). 😉

The furthest photo came from a family in Tokyo that Lois befriended 16 years ago.

Sachi

The stealth involved for me to sneak out and create nearly 30 separate FedEx packages and ship them, over the course of three days went off nearly without a hitch. When I tried to make a physical handoff at a restaurant to our friends who live in Thailand, but were in town for one last night, she nearly caught me. I couldn’t explain my erratic behavior to her satisfaction and it was a point of irritation (and comedy) between us for a few weeks until I could finally explain what happened.

A similar thing happened when someone else emailed her with a subject line that I thought meant that the T-Shirt photo was attached (it wasn’t). I panicked and started yelling that she shouldn’t open the email. She looked at me like I had three heads. I couldn’t explain that either.

So, she knew something was up, but she had no clue, until the actual reveal, of exactly what was up, since it was such a creative surprise!

The reveal came in two stages. Everyone else went to the Duck House before we did. They claimed they wanted to walk, and Lois wanted to take a cab, so no misdirection was needed! When they got to the Duck House, they all had their T-Shirts on for Lois to see when we walked in. It was awesome.

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Here are two close-ups of the front and back:

Front Back

Stage one was complete, and of course, Lois thought that was the entire surprise. After the cake was served stage two was sprung on her, the book itself, with photos of people she never dreamed I would remember to contact! As predicted, Lois was crying non-stop as she flipped the pages. 🙂

LoisAlex LoisCake

My thanks to everyone who participated, with extra special thanks going to Sally Ann and Laura, not only for conceiving and shepherding the process, for their tireless work in producing the actual book, with gorgeous arrangements and reformatting of the notes and letters. It was truly an amazing work of art!

ClearlyDrunk VillageOnDeck

Two more May birthdays to recount (though there were more, that I apologize for not mentioning specifically). The very next weekend we were down in Richmond, VA for a 90th birthday party. It was awesome, and there is little that I can hope for in life more than to be just like Vivian when I’m 90! We love you Vivian, and it was an honor and a pleasure to celebrate with you!

Vivian

Finally, we ended May with a bang. Our wonderful Trevor turned 12 and the entire family came up for the Memorial Day weekend to celebrate. They went to the Statue of Liberty on Saturday (before they got to our apartment).

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After dinner at Jackson Hole (amazing burgers) we all went to the Top of the Rock. It was a gorgeous night and we all had a great time there. We let the boys stay up too late and watched National Treasure 2, and enjoyed every second of it (other than the boys squealing whenever someone kissed on screen). 😉

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Sunday was the big day. The boys, their dad, Lois and I went to see the Yankees play the Indians. We got there very early. While the boys were unable to get any autographs (apparently that doesn’t happen much any longer due to security concerns), they got something nearly as good. Derek Jeter hit a ball deep into the outfield during batting practice. The dad asked one of the Cleveland Indians players if he could retrieve it, and he was kind enough to do it. Cool!

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The Yankees were down 3-0. In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and two strikes, Derek Jeter hit a single which scored two runs. Following a double by Granderson, again with two strikes (obviously still two outs), Mark Teixeira hit a 3-run homer putting the Yankees up 5-3. They scored two more in the eighth, and then Mariano Rivera shut the Indians down in the ninth. It was awesome, and the crowd was in ecstasy (as were the boys!).

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The girls (other than Lois, who I still consider to be my girl) went to see Mary Poppins. They loved that too, so all seven of us had a delightful day.

We capped the night off with a wonderful Mexican meal at El Rio Grande followed by watching the original Karate Kid movie. The next day the family spent the day at Ground Zero and Battery Park, nearly walking all the way back to the apartment (until one of the kids cried uncle). After lunch on the deck, they hit the road back to VA, and even though it was Memorial Day, had no traffic and an excellent ride.

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An excellent end to a month-long celebration of wonderful people’s birthdays, Lois included. 🙂