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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! 🙂

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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I know I’m boring my regular readers by repeating that Girlyman is my favorite group. At least you now that this continues to be the case. 😉

Last night was the ninth time that we’ve seen them perform live, and the fourth time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub, our favorite club. We love their music and on stage antics enough to want to see them over and over (in addition to listening to their CDs a ton as well). But, while there are repeats (mostly crowd favorites) among the shows, they always manage to keep thing fresh, even within a given tour.

Last night had some serious surprises, even for those that have seen them as often (or even more) than we have. They played three songs that we’ve never heard before.

The first was Mary, a cover of a Patty Griffin song. Absolutely gorgeous. They also told a funny side-story about it, and Patty, who was also on their recent Folk Cruise, Cayamo.

Next was a new song of theirs called Wherever You Keep. As much as I love all three of them as musicians, the magic of Girlyman is their harmony and lyrics. In this new song, Nate plays a beautiful finger-picked acoustic guitar, while Ty and Doris just sing, no instruments in hand. (Saying that Ty and Doris just sing is like saying that Lance Armstrong just rides a bike!) 😉

The fact that there’s only a quiet (but gorgeous!) guitar for the background, makes their voices so front-and-center, that you get the chills seconds into the song. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this new song, even though I’ve only heard it once! I’m praying that it will be on the new studio CD coming out later this year (they’re hard at work on it now!).

Either way, I will have a copy in a month or so. Girlyman records all of their live concerts, and you can order a CD for $20, right after the show, and have it mailed to you after the tour is over, and they have a chance to mix it. We have CDs of the last four shows we’ve seen (ever since they started offering this service), and we love them all. The CDs include the on stage banter as well.

The last of the new songs is by Doris, called Nothing Called Home. They joked that it hasn’t been arranged yet, and that each time they do it on stage it comes out differently. Doris apologized in advance that she even occasionally forgets some of the words. Last night, they nailed it, Doris didn’t miss a beat, and the random arrangement of the night (Nate joked that it was #57) sounded great to me!

For the past year, they’ve been closing the shows with Joyful Sign (the first song I ever heard of theirs, and one of my favorites). Last night they opened the show with it, setting a different tone than in most of the other shows. Like I said above, they keep it fresh.

They always have a request section, and they did two last night, Young James Dean and Speechless. Wonderful!

They did an absolutely incredible rendition of Maori. Lois and I love this song and listen to it in the car all the time. Neither of us can remember whether we’ve ever heard them do it live though. It’s possible, but given how many times we listen to it on the CD, it’s hard to be sure and separate our memory from reality.

I linked the lyrics above, because the song starts with a startling line:

When I first met you, I said
“My God, get away.
You smell like fish heads.”

Obviously, we know this by heart (and I even joked about it in a Facebook comment recently). Last night, Nate told the story behind the song, and it turns out that the above line is actually true! Anyway, the song is so rich, and their harmonies intricate, that it has to be a very difficult song to nail live (perhaps that’s one of the reasons they don’t do it often), but last night was perfect.

They played a bunch of other favorites, that I could list out (because I snagged the set list, like we always try to), but I’ll let the above stand as the differences, rather than repeat things I’ve said before. As for all four times that we’ve seen them at Joe’s, we were right up against the stage, smack in front of Nate.

Nate Borofsky

Nate Borofsky

Ty Greenstein

Ty Greenstein

Doris Muramatsu

Doris Muramatsu

They came out for an encore and played two songs, also done to perfection. After the show, we stood on line with the rest of their adoring fans and ordered our live CD from the show we just saw. We said our hellos and goodbyes to all three and headed back to the apartment, still aglow.

After we said goodnight to our two guests, we turned to each other and simultaneously said that we each thought that this was likely the best Girlyman show we’d been to. Of course, we both laughed that they’re all great, so it’s a little like splitting hairs, but still, that was our initial instinct, and it hasn’t faded, nearly 24 hours later.

If you tuned in only to hear about the show, go away now. For the hardy among you, here are the background details of how we came to see the show, and the day that led up to it.

Last October, we bought tickets to see Girlyman this coming Saturday (4/4/09) at the Barns at Wolftrap. In keeping with that, we expected to be in Virginia for the week before that show so we purchased tickets to see Cherish The Ladies at the Barns for last night (4/1/09). We also bought tickets to see Colin Hay at the Birchmere tomorrow night (4/3/09).

I’ve written about Cherish The Ladies before. They are fantastic and I was really looking forward to seeing them again, especially on a bigger stage (more on that in a moment). We’ve never seen Colin Hay before, but he’s very quickly become a new favorite of ours, and we are excited to see him tomorrow night (yes, we’re down in Virginia now, so we’ll be able to make that show!).

A month ago, we found out that Girlyman was going to be at Joe’s Pub on 4/1. While I felt badly that we would miss them in our favorite venue, I told Lois that my vote would be to keep our original schedule, see Cherish The Ladies, and then see Girlyman a few days later, both at the Barns. She was torn and wanted to think about it.

After thinking about it for a few hours, she firmly decided that she’d prefer to see Girlyman. We gave our tickets to Cherish The Ladies away to a friend (and colleague at Zope). He went last night with his wife, and reported today that the show was great. In particular, he really liked the step dancers.

I mentioned above that I was interested in seeing them on a bigger stage (which is unusual for me, since I love tiny clubs!). That was precisely because I’ve seen YouTube videos of them playing venues that could support the step dancing, and I loved it, and really wanted to see it live. We saw them at an awesome venue, but a tiny one, where no dancers could fit.

So, even though I missed out, both of us were thrilled that the tickets went to good use. Of course, we were doubly glad that Girlyman created an even more magical night for us than we expected (and you all know, we have high expectations for them to begin with!).

We love to introduce as many people to the wonder and joys of Girlyman, so we never buy just two tickets to see them. Since this show was scheduled to begin at 9:30pm on a Wednesday, we only bought four tickets, because we knew it could be difficult to find people who would want to stay out that late on a school night.

We have been trying to get together for a while with a good friend of ours, and his new girlfriend (new to us, I don’t know how long they’ve been together). When I offered him to be our guests, he wrote back saying that she was a big Girlyman fan, and that they would be happy to join us. Obviously, we liked her instantly, even though we haven’t met her yet. 😉

Unfortunately, Tuesday morning, the day before the show, he let me know that both of them had horrible colds, and would be unable to attend. Uh oh, we realized that it might be tricky to find people at this late date. We were correct. A number of couples turned us down, one after another.

Finally, one friend told me that he would love to come, but his wife was in Japan with their baby. He said he’d understand if we passed and went for another couple. We liked the idea of filling one seat guaranteed, and being able to broaden our search to single people as well.

But, before we broadened our search, I called one of our favorite couples, and invited the husband only (and I made that invitation through the wife, so there was nothing nefarious involved), 😉 knowing that the wife wouldn’t want to be out that late under any circumstances. Thankfully, he accepted, and we were set. Whew.

The next day (yesterday, the day of the show), we had two friends over for lunch. We had the most amazing Sushi meal from our favorite sushi place (conveniently located exactly across the street from our apartment), Hane Sushi. In addition to many of my favorites, I tried the Spicy Lobster Tartar. It’s cooked, so I don’t know why they call it Tartar. That said, it’s one of the more exceptional dishes I’ve eaten lately. Yummy.

Neither of our guest husbands (not the same people that were over for lunch) had seen or heard Girlyman before. Both thoroughly enjoyed the show, and one of them became an instant fan, purchasing one of their CD’s (download) from Amazon minutes after he got home. 🙂

Update: after reading this post, their new fan wrote to me to say that he purchased three of their albums from Amazon downloads! Now he has something to do on the airplane on his upcoming trip. 🙂

The Boys

The Boys

One final Girlyman anecdote that happened today.

At Zope, our VP of Finance and Administration is a big Girlyfan. So is her 5-year-old daughter. Both have seen them live (with us) twice. The mom just had another child less than a month ago. Today, via IM, she was telling Lois that he was particularly cranky, and she was having trouble settling him down.

Lois instantly suggested that she play one of Joyful Sign, Through To Sunrise or Kittery Tide (all three being very up-beat Girlyman songs). A few minutes later, the mom replied that the song that did the trick was Hold It All At Bay. She said “You should have seen the look on his face the minute that song started playing!”

For the few of you that made it this far (congratulations on being masochists), and somehow don’t know this yet, that’s my favorite Girlyman song. So, he’s a kindred spirit of mine, and Girlyman has just increased their lifelong fan club by one very young fan. 🙂

Update: with permission from the mom, here’s a photo of the confirmed youngest Girlyfan, as of 4/2/2009!

Youngest Girlyfan

Youngest Girlyfan

We Should All Be Ashamed

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I didn’t have quite the same reaction as most people did (and still do) regarding the AIG bonuses. Having worked on Wall Street for 16 years, I thought I had a different perspective than most, but still, I understood where the populist anger was coming from.

Unfortunately, it’s fueled by politicians, purely for political gain, in ways that remind me of the Salem Witch Trials.

I woke up this morning to find an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, written by someone I worked with for a few years when I was at UBS. I have come across very few people in my life who were more honorable, hard-working, smart, self-effacing, fiscally conservative (that’s a wild understatement) as well as being an all-around nice guy.

I read the piece with great interest. Here is a link to the full letter. I implore you to read it carefully, all the way through, because I think it captures much of what is wrong in this current postmortem blame game:

Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

Immediately after reading it aloud to Lois, I sent off the following note to Jake:

I just read your letter in the OpEd in the NY Times. Both Lois and I were so moved. It’s one of the most powerful and well written letters we have ever read. It is also obviously devastatingly accurate.

I believe we would feel that way even if we didn’t know you personally, and know what an honorable (and smart) person you are, but it’s all the more powerful knowing the writer, and therefore having zero doubt as to the veracity of the claims.

We wish you and your family the best in everything that lies ahead for you!

Only after Eliot Spitzer resigned as Governor did people have the courage to speak out about his unsavory abuse of power when he was Attorney General. Andrew Cuomo and Richard Blumenthal are currently too powerful for most to question their ethics as well.

I believe that in time, they too will be seen for the political opportunists that they are, rather than crusaders for the people that they wish to be seen as.

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!

Happy New Year

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For the past six years (2002-2007) we’ve spent New Year’s Eve in Richmond, VA. There are four couples there who get together each year and cook a very special (and sumptuous) dinner at each others houses (rotates each year), and we hitched our wagon to their tradition back in 2002. Of course, we were invited this year as well, and had originally accepted the invitation.

Unfortunately, our good friends in Leesburg, VA are going through a very rough time. The Dad has an aggressive form of cancer, and this week was undergoing a particularly aggressive round of chemotherapy. He was being treated daily, for a minimum of six hours of the life-extending poison being pushed (their term, not mine) through his veins.

As much as we knew we’d enjoy our annual New Year’s Eve get-together in Richmond, we also knew that helping our friends-in-need was the right thing to do, and we had no hesitation in offering our help. There were two things we could do directly:

  • logistics (driving the Dad to/from the hospital)
  • entertaining the boys, who clearly feel stressed worrying about their Dad

They have three kids, two boys ages 10 and eight and a girl, 2.8 years old. All three are adopted. We met the family when the 10-year-old was 18 months old, and they lived two doors down from Lois’ Mom’s apartment in NYC. We’ve remained very close to them even after they moved to VA seven years ago. So, we know the boys really well, and their various likes and dislikes.

We headed there Tuesday after working all day at Zope in Fredericksburg. On a whim, we stopped for dinner at Five Guys in Warrenton, VA. We’ve eaten at this Five Guys a number of times, because it’s roughly half way between Fredericksburg and Leesburg, and we occasionally meet our friends there on a weekend when we’re working at Zope. On Tuesday, it was just a convenient (and delicious) stopping point for us.

In an incredible small world story, a few bites into our meal, both Lois and I recognized a 10-year-old boy going over to fill up his drink. It turns out that really good friends of the friends that we were headed to visit had also stopped at Five Guys on their way to spend New Year’s in the Outer Banks! We were headed in opposite directions, with neither of us having planned to stop for dinner there. In another irony, they had visited our friends earlier that day!

Small World

Small World

On Wednesday morning, I drove the Dad to the hospital, and spent three hours keeping him company while he was undergoing the chemo. That turned out to be beneficial for him in another way. The hospital has free WiFi, but his work laptop needed to be coaxed to connect to it. In his condition, he was unable to get it going on Monday or Tuesday, but I was able to connect him, and he felt better about getting some work done on Wednesday.

Boys Only Moment

Boys Only Moment

At lunch time, I left him to join the rest of the family (Lois included) at our favorite local Chinese restaurant where we all enjoyed a buffet lunch. After lunch, Lois and I took the boys bowling. I haven’t bowled in years, but I love it every time I go. They had each bowled only once before (at a birthday party I think), and really liked it. We all had a blast and the boys played some video games afterward.

As you can see, all three boys had perfect form. Of course, my form is also over-flowing. I guess I need to get serious about that in 2009. So far, not so much…

Hadar Bowling

Hadar Bowling

8-year-old Bowling

8-year-old Bowling

10-year-old Bowling

10-year-old Bowling

A typical moment between me and the 8-year-old (this one, at the Bowling Alley):

Head Stand

Head Stand

Two best friends, sharing a moment:

Best Friends

Best Friends

We are prone to spoiling them over the years (often to the consternation of their parents), but we weren’t about to deny them much this week. So, after bowling and video games, we drove to Baskin Robbins (which is housed inside a Dunkin Donuts), and got them ice cream (well, one of them got ice cream, and the other one a smoothie). I had an excellent Lite Latte, quite delicious.

Chocolate Sprinkle Cone

Chocolate Sprinkle Cone

Smoothie Delight

Smoothie Delight

You’d think that this would be a jam-packed day, but you’d be wrong! From Baskin Robbins, we headed to the local movie theater to see Bedtime Stories. Of course, the four of us had to split a large popcorn. You gotta do what you gotta do. 😉

Keeper of the Popcorn

Keeper of the Popcorn

The movie is excellent. I highly recommend it. What sets it apart from most movies (including other kid-friendly ones) is that no one tries to sabotage anyone else. There is a nemesis (and you might even consider him an evil nemesis), but he doesn’t do underhanded things directly to Adam Sandler (our hero). It’s refreshing. The story itself is creative, while still being predictably formulaic. A very sweet movie. The boys loved it, so did we.

When we got home, we found out that another of the Dad’s friends stopped by to visit him in the afternoon, and was kind enough to bring him home. We had a lovely dinner together, followed by a little too much rough-housing between me and the eight-year-old (he loves to wrestle). I also played a ton with the little girl (more on that later).

Even though it was New Year’s Eve, we all went up to our rooms by 9:15, and Lois and I watched TV for 45 minutes, and hit the sack (completely exhausted)  at 10pm. No complaints about not ringing in the new year at midnight!

The clinic (attached to the hospital) was closed on New Year’s Day, so the Dad had to be checked in to the main hospital. I drove him in and watched in amazement as they couldn’t find him in the system, even though he was told in advance what room he would be in. The normal registration desk was closed so we had to navigate a maze to find the ER registration, which likely explains why they didn’t know how to do a normal admission.

I stayed with the Dad for two hours and then picked up Lois and the boys and we went bowling again! Everyone improved their scores from the day before, so it was a satisfying outing. We then headed to Cici’s Pizza Buffet. It was our first time (the boys love it) and we thoroughly enjoyed it (very tasty in addition to being a very good value!).

From there, we headed to the movies again. This time, we went to the giant multi-plex to see The Tale of Despereaux. On the way there, in the middle of a conversation, both boys excitedly starting yelling look over there. It took us a second, but when we looked at the divider, there was a hawk sitting on top of the wrong way sign. Very cool!

Hawk

Hawk

Of course, another round of popcorn for the four of us. We all enjoyed this movie as well, but all four heartily agreed that Bedtime Stories was significantly better. In fact, the 10-year-old claimed that Bedtime Stories was his favorite movie.

After the movie, we dropped Lois and the eight-year-old back at home, and the 10-year-old and I headed to the hospital. Originally, we were told that the Dad would have to stay in the hospital for two nights, not getting out until Saturday morning. During the day, they changed their mind and decided he could come home each night. So, we headed there to keep him company until they released him, and watch some bowl games in his room. Shortly after the Rose Bowl started, he was released, and we brought him home.

We had another excellent dinner together, followed by watching the second half of the Rose Bowl. It didn’t get exciting until the last seven minutes, but it was a good distraction nonetheless. I was strong and successfully resisted all attempts to wrestle again. I was quite sore from the bowling and the wrestling up to that point. I did end up playing a bunch with the little girl again.

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

Previous to this trip, she hadn’t been all that verbal. While we’ve spent a reasonable amount of time around her, she was more of a remote cutie (like a doll) than like a real person. I was completely blown away this trip by how verbal she is. Not only does she talk up a storm, but her vocabulary is extensive (it’s almost frightening, seriously). If she pronounced all of the words better, I would swear she had the conversational skills of a 13-year-old, no kidding!

How many nearly-three-year-olds do you know who can form the following sentence (I’m not changing a single word!)?

Ho-dar, can you come to the family room and play with me and my toys?

OK, so she doesn’t always pronounce my name perfectly, but otherwise, pretty incredible. Here’s one other example of an actual conversation between us:

her: Ho-dar, I have my own telephone!

me: Really? Do you talk to people on the phone?

her: No, it doesn’t have any batteries in it, so I can’t!

Wow. Pretty cool to watch a personality come to life between one visit and the next!

Here I am with the kids, right after breakfast:

Pajama Gangstas

Pajama Gangstas

This morning, I took the Dad back to the clinic. I stayed with him for a few hours again and then headed back to pick up Lois and the boys. We had lunch at Chuck E. Cheese (a first for the two of us). We had no idea what we were in for (of course, the boys knew exactly what the deal was). We were surprised that they wanted pizza two days in a row. As you all probably know (and we didn’t), it wasn’t about the pizza at all. Chuck E. Cheese is all about the games.

They had a blast playing a ton of games and won roughly 300 tickets between them. Still, they couldn’t find a single prize that they wanted, so they saved their ticket receipt for the next time. We had hoped to see Madagascar 2 after lunch, but it was no longer playing in any theater near them. So, we headed to Walmart and let each of them pick out a DVD to watch at home.

When we got home, the Mom told us that she was going to pick up her husband when he was done. We already knew we would be leaving today, since the boys had Tae Kwan Do tonight and tomorrow morning again. Given the updated schedule, we decided to hit the road while it was still light, and we stopped by the Zope office before heading to the hotel to settle in for the night.

All-in-all, a very successful visit in every respect. In addition to accomplishing our mission, our friend also received very good news that his tumors appear to be responding to the chemo. He is incredibly nauseous all the time, and he is weak as can be, but hopefully, he’ll start feeling substantially better soon. He’s completely bald as well, but we both think it looks pretty good on him. We’ll see if he chooses to keep it that way. 🙂

For us, ringing in the new year with such good friends is as good as it gets! Thanks for hosting us. 🙂

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!

Boys Night Out

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Or rather, BNO, if you’re in the know, or are cool. 😉

If you worked at First Boston Corporation in the 80’s (now known as CSFB, or Credit Suisse First Boston), odds are you were somewhat cool. If you worked in the department that I did, while you were definitely a geek, you also had high odds of being smart and cool as well.

In the 90’s, most of the people in my department dispersed to other firms, with the overwhelming majority of them staying on Wall Street. At some point in the late 90’s, a bunch of them started getting together irregularly (at least once a year) for dinner. They called it Boys Night Out.

For the first few years, I wasn’t invited, and wasn’t even aware that these dinners were being held. I assume that they thought I wouldn’t be interested, but I’m not sure. After some number of missed dinners, I was finally invited, and I happily accepted. Since then, they’ve been kind enough to invite me every time (or at least I think so) 😉 and even take my crazy travel schedule into account in asking me when I’ll be in town before picking a date. Thanks for that too guys!

There is a core of seven of us who try hard to make it each time. There are a few additions that used to make it occasionally, and to be honest, I’m not sure they continue to be invited, having missed too many to prove their coolness (or is it loyalty?). One time, we even had a woman join us from the old group, though we staunchly insisted that it be called BNO, even that night.

Last night all seven of us confirmed that we could make it, but at the last minute, one person had to back out due to work requirements. All but two times, we eat at a top steak house. Last night was our second time (at least only my second time with the group) dining at Sparks Steakhouse. It’s a fantastic place, and gigantic to boot.

One of the things that distinguishes each member of the group (perhaps other than me!), is that they are each extremely witty/funny/sarcastic/sardonic/etc. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t hang out with these guys if you have a weak bladder or a fragile ego. After you soil yourself, you’ll also have low self-esteem.

While we occasionally (OK, perhaps rarely would be a more apt word) discuss serious things (aside from the normal catching up on what’s going on in everyone’s lives), most of the evening is a raucous romp, ending with my cheeks hurting pretty badly. It’s most definitely not politically correct, so it’s best that it remains BNO to the extent possible. Unfortunately, we are louder than I typically care to be in public (yes, I’m totally guilty of being carried away with the merriment). It’s probably OK, because these large steak houses tend to be pretty noisy, but if we offended anyone (with our content, or just our volume), I offer up my most humble apologies!

Last night marked at least the second time in a row (but by no means only the second time!) that one particular member of our group insisted on treating us. The last time he treated, it was the most expensive meal I have ever been a part of (I can’t bring myself to mention the number in public, it was jaw-dropping), so the last thing we expected was to be treated again.

In fact, we tried (not as hard as we should have!) to split it, but he would have none of it. Sparks is not cheap (in the least), and we always order multiple bottles of fine wine, so again, he picked up a big one (but I’m guessing that it was less than 20% of the really big one, mentioned above, with the same number of people!).

The rest of the gang teases him when he treats, saying that it’s appropriate that he do so, since he’s the only one in the group without a job! I like to point out that I’m semi-retired, meaning that I work full time, but have zero income. 😉

Of the six of us who were there last night, I directly hired three of them (including our benefactor), one of the others ended up working for me for seven straight years, even though I didn’t originally hire him, and the last guy worked with all of them, but the two of us never really worked together. That said, I’ve maintained more of an active relationship with him than with the others.

When I thanked our benefactor at the end, he told me that if I hadn’t given him a start on Wall Street (he had no college education at the time), he wouldn’t have been able to afford to treat. Obviously, I had a good eye for talent, as he greatly eclipsed my not-too-shabby career, long ago. The rest of them have all done very well for themselves as well, so in that regard, I’m proud of all of them!

Another fabulous evening in the books, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

P.S. I almost always order a Fillet Mignon when I order steak. I love it, love it, love it. When I mentioned last night that I was going to order it, two of them insisted that I was crazy, and that I had to try the Sirloin Shell Steak. I did, and it was perfect. It won’t get me off of Fillets as a rule, but I admit that I savored every single bite last night…

Everybody Clap For Everybody

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For Jewish folks, Lois and I listen to way more than our fair share of Christian music. Aside from the fact that we’re both Country/Bluegrass fans (which has more than it’s fair share of faith-based lyrics, even in normal songs), and aside from the fact that we both love Christmas music (buying quite a bit of it as well), we also purchase specifically Christian music.

Perhaps the best example of this is a group (really their leader) that we’re simply crazy about, Ceili Rain. We own all of the CDs. In this post I mentioned that we discovered them through Kathy Mattea. On September 13th, 2001, we were driving back to NYC from VA, and when we came around 495 approaching the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, and saw the smoke rising from the WTC site, the song Love Travels (from her Love Travels CD) started playing. Lois owned the CD for a while, but for whatever reason, this was the first time she popped it into the car CD player.

Clearly, the song got to us (but even more to Lois) instantly. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, Lois really cares about knowing who wrote a song. She looked it up and found out that Bob Halligan Jr., the head of Ceili Rain, wrote the song. He also wrote That’s All The Lumber, which Kathy also covered. We bought the CD Ceili Rain, by Ceili Rain, which has both of those songs on it. Kathy’s versions of both are gorgeous (in every way), but there’s a rawness to the way Ceili Rain does it that I prefer.

From there, we’ve ended up buying all of their stuff. Last August we bought a bunch of their CDs, including No You No Me. Since we’ve accumulated tons of music in the past year, it took a while for Lois to finally listen to all of them. She instantly fell in love and connected with the song Everybody Clap For Everybody. Lois is all about fairness toward everyone, always, no excuses and no compromises.

Most of our closest friends are deeply religious Christians (mostly Baptists, but not exclusively). One family home schools their children. I wrote about the 10-year-old recently, when we took him to see Girlyman at Joe’s Pub. He and his 7-year-old brother are sports fanatics (playing as well as watching). Lois thought that Everybody Clap For Everybody would be a great song/message to share with the boys. She asked me to get a copy of the CD for them.

I ordered it from a seller on the Amazon.com Marketplace. I had it shipped to us at Zope, expecting to deliver it in person to our friends in Leesburg the following weekend. It never showed up. 🙁

I waited a few weeks, and the USPS tracking number never got updated. The package appeared to be stuck in Elkton, MD. Meaning, the shipper sent it, but the Post Office lost it. Shocking, I know…

I contacted the seller, and he told me that one in 100 packages ends up in the ether. He immediately refunded my money and told me to keep the CD if it ever showed up. Wow, that’s great customer service, an extremely rare thing nowadays. That was on February 28th!

We were down at Zope at least two separate trips in March and then again on April 1st, and the CD never showed up. We spent the rest of April in NY. Yesterday, we left super early from NY to head back to Zope, stopping to visit our friends in Leesburg on the way. We got there in time to see the 10-year-old play in a baseball game. Unfortunately, the 7-year-old played at 9am, and we were unable to get there in time.

After spending the rest of the afternoon with them, we headed to Fredericksburg. We stopped into the office before heading to the hotel. Sitting on my desk was the CD of No You No Me! I couldn’t believe it. No one in the office gave me a heads up, which leads me to believe that it only showed up this past week (and they knew we were coming down).

It seemed amazing that I became aware of the CD on the same day that I watched a baseball game in Leesburg (the intended recipients of the CD). Not just that, but they played the best team in the league (undefeated) and valiantly came back from down 8-1 to lose 8-4, with some chances (blown calls by the umpires!) to narrow it further. The song would have been appropriate after that game. 😉

Anyway, aside from shipping the CD to our friends tomorrow, I contacted the seller and told him that I insist on paying him, even though he told me I could just keep it. I haven’t heard back yet, but one way or another, he’s getting rewarded for his excellent customer service.

Now, if all of us could just learn to clap for everybody, and let go of all of the pettiness that we feel and exhibit all too often, that would just be very cool indeed. In the meantime, to get you into the mood, go out and get some Ceili Rain and start soaking up the philosophy! 🙂