Grape Juice With a Kick

Tara and I met up with a friend to go wine tasting over the weekend. This was a new experience for us, and I gotta say, it made me feel like…

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I like wine, but I’m hardly a connoisseur. Hell, it took me several tries just to spell the word connoisseur. And I’m a professional writer! The whole experience is rather intimidating if you’re a wine novice like me. The person pouring the wine is talking about “oakiness” and “tannins” and “a nice finish” and I’m thinking ooh, what a pretty shade of purple. 

And then there’s the tasting menu. How are you supposed to pluck out “notes of grapefruit and lavender with a butterscotch finish”? All I taste is grape juice with a kick.

I think I was thrown off by the town itself. When we made plans to go wine tasting, I was picturing stops like this…

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Instead, we apparently wandered into that creepy town where the children of the corn resided.

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That would be Carlton, Oregon. I’d never even heard of the place before Saturday. Is it any wonder? Apparently those who wander into town never leave. Was this my payback for flirting with a nun, I wondered?

Creepy signs aside, at least the wine tasting in Carlton was convenient. The main street looked like this: wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, jam shop, wine shop, wine shop. We got buzzed without walking more than half a block. And then after leaving town, we did stop at the nicer-looking winery pictured above. There, we got into a heated debate that did not involve pinot noir vs. syrah, but rather, Prince vs. Michael Jackson.

OK, maybe we were really buzzed at that point.

But I loudly contended that Prince was a far better music artist than the vastly overrated Gloved One. Our friend Chris, on the other hand, thought I had lost my marbles.

“Billie Jean!” she declared.
“Purple Rain!” I countered.
“Thriller. Zombies.”
“‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.'”
“Your guy changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol,” she said.
“Your guy dangled a baby over a ledge and bought the Elephant Man’s bones,” I responded.

We were both rallying the people tasting wine around us to our side. Chris got some random woman to agree with her, but then her husband sided with me. I think the whole thing ended in a draw, but c’mon…

…I’ll take Prince over Michael Jackson any day.

How ’bout you?

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Hard Habit to Break

It’s official: I’m going to Hell.

Or whatever special place is reserved for those who flirt with nuns. Either way, I’m sure it’s going to be hot.

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In my defense, I had no idea the matronly looking woman three booths down was a nun. I just thought it would be fun to wink at her suggestively. And then, for added measure, lick my lips lasciviously. What else is one supposed to do when dining in a salad buffet restaurant with his wife and daughter?

OK, maybe most guys don’t try to catch the attention of older women in this fashion. Clearly I am not “most guys.” When I started chuckling, naturally my wife wanted to know what was so humorous.

“I’m flirting with that older lady down there,” I said. “Just for fun.”

“You mean the nun?” she responded, without missing a beat.

“Right. The n…umm…are you #@%^& kidding me?!”

Tara was not #@%^& kidding me. Somehow, I had completely overlooked the fact that the object of my fake affections was dressed in a black habit. I just thought she had long, dark hair!

Shit. Maybe I do need glasses.

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In any case, once I realized what had happened, I turned beet red. My wife and daughter, naturally, could not stop laughing. And promptly let me know I had secured a one-way ticket to Hades.

“I’ll be damned,” I said.

“Yep,” Tara replied. “Literally.”

“Maybe she didn’t see me,” I said hopefully. “I’m going to grab another cup of soup.”

I got up and casually glanced at the nun as I walked by, praying (ha!) she would be engrossed in conversation with her dining companion. Unfortunately, she was gazing at me intently. And were those lips of hers pursed? Why was I looking at her lips, anyway?! I started mentally compiling a list of the number of “hail Mary”s it would take to get myself out of this jam. The figure  was depressingly high, so I just quit. I thought about smoothing things over by telling her what a big fan of Sister Act I was. Then I remembered that Deloris Van Cartier wasn’t really a nun, but a lounge singer of questionable morals.

So much for that approach.

Come, pensive nun, devout and pure, sober steadfast, and demure, all in a robe of darkest grain, flowing with majestic train.

Because I’m an optimist, I cheerfully said this was a story we would still be laughing over ten years from now.

“Unless you get hit by a bus tomorrow,” Audrey pointed out.

Crap. I’ll be checking the weather forecast very carefully from now on. Gotta watch out for a stray bolt from the blue.

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Bribery By Wasabi

I was chatting with a coworker recently, and he started singing an old commercial jingle. If I had a dime for every time that happened, I’d have…

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Right. Ten whole cents. Point being, it was an odd topic of conversation. Regardless, it brought back a flood of memories. Remember this product?

It was 1991. I was young and still finding my footing around the kitchen. The idea of opening a jar and creating a gourmet meal didn’t seem quite so farfetched back then. I wasn’t sure what “country French chicken” was, but by god it sounded high-falutin’, and I wanted to impress the girlfriend. So I picked me up a jar of Chicken Tonight and set to work putting together a meal to remember.

It was memorable, alright. ‘Cause it was godawful. And no amount of tarragon could disguise that fact. Actually, because of that single jar of Chicken Tonight, I despise tarragon to this day.

It’s no wonder they stopped selling this stuff in the U.S. But it’s still available in Europe, so if you ever travel across the pond…you have been warned.

This product reminded me of other food flops over the years. Some I actually tried. Like this.

EZ Squirt

And these.

newcokeflop

The lesson to be learned here: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We don’t want ketchup in bright colors – but we need a little color in our cola. Speaking of cola, if yours has been a worldwide hit for nearly 100 years, why change the formula?!

Fortunately, other products were before my time or never made it into my grocery cart.

Bacon in the toaster? Hello, grease fire. Gerber’s “gourmet” baby food for adults? I would never feel like creamed beef tonight. And celery flavored Jell-O? Hell-NO.

In contrast, some really good products over the years have since been discontinued. Like Wasabi Funyuns, which came out in 2005. Man, was I hooked! That salty, slightly spicy burn was like crack, I tell you. Not that I know what crack is like. But they were awesome. I remember working with a vendor who was trying to earn our business, and she thought she could win me over by showing up with a couple bags of Wasabi Funyuns. Shame on her for thinking I could be bribed so easily.

But, remember how I said they were awesome? Yeah. Bribery was easy, it turned out. ‘Cause she got our business, based solely on my Wasabi Funyun-inspired recommendation.

Sadly, they were gone within a year. But their memory lives on forever.

Funyuns-Wasabi

Are there any food products you despised? Or any you wish they’d bring back?

Gotta Love Russian Flight Attendants

I realized the other day that I’ll have some serious explaining to do if my laptop is ever confiscated. Take my recent Google search for teenage boys in dresses. That one would probably raise a few eyebrows, though – of course – it’s completely innocent. I was searching for a suitable image of Rusty’s homecoming outfit. A few of you thought that was an actual picture of him on my last post. Hate to burst your bubble, but I was merely trying to be funny. Rusty never even went to his homecoming dance.

Besides, if he had, he would have chosen something in a lacy chiffon instead.

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Note: this is not Rusty.

Years ago, when I was writing my novel, I had similar concerns. I was Googling things like how do shoulder-fired rocket launchers work and how much dynamite would it take to kill twelve men. Yikes! It’s a wonder the FBI didn’t come a-knockin’ on my door.

(Should a novel that includes shoulder-fired rocket launchers and enough dynamite to take out a dozen men sound appealing, and because I haven’t pimped it in some time, you can buy my book here. And ladies, there is plenty of romance, too. And a female heroine. Though not once does she wear a lacy chiffon dress).

Speaking of Google searches, you know what I love? Autocomplete. You know, the search results Google suggests when you start to type in a word or phrase. Some of ‘em are quite hilarious. Like this one.

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How come if you’re dead, you’re still Googling? And is your inability to poop in any way related to your death? Bet you tossed and turned all night worrying about that. It’s no wonder you can’t find anybody to love you!

Sometimes for fun, I’ll just start typing in random phrases to see what pops up. My aunt likes giraffes. I decided to ask Google about them.

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Damn selfish giraffes. They’re not even real! But if they were, they’d selfishly be gay, I’m sure.

Ever wonder why?

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No matter what, you really have to question some people’s sanity.

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I think the strangest thing on that list is accidentally buying Amazon Prime. That takes at least two mouse clicks and a valid credit card. It’s definitely more premeditated than the others.

Google is so helpful! I like how it tries to figure out what you meant even when you type in complete nonsense.

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Gotta love technology! You know what else you gotta love? Let’s find out!

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Russian flight attendants. Of course.

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Belle of the Ball

Kids grow up so damn fast. Audrey had her first homecoming dance Saturday night. It was the first time I ever saw her in a dress, and she looked great.

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Why, it seems like just yesterday that she looked like this.

sperm_and_egg_fertilizationThe years do fly by.

My friends ask me if having a daughter who is getting all gussied up to attend high school dances makes me feel old. No, I tell them, not at all! But the fact that I have to squint my eyes to read a damn text does.

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A close family friend once famously declared, “old age is hell.” He was 28 when he said this. All I can say is, I hear you, bro.

Loud and clear.

Since we’re all aboard the Wayback Express, here’s a shot of Audrey on her first day of kindergarten.

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Actually, I think that was the day before the day before her first day of kindergarten. I took her to her deserted school on a weekend to pose for pictures in advance. For authenticity’s sake, that is her actual classroom, at least – and the same outfit she wore. Hey, I didn’t want to have to deal with swarms of kids and a gaggle of  parents armed with cameras taking photographs of their precious little ones on the first day of school. This still looks like her First Day Of School, so for all intents and purposes, it is.

As much as things change, they do sometimes remain the same. F’r instance, she liked wearing sunglasses back then…

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And still enjoys them now.

Relaxing on the ranch.

 

So, the high school years are underway. But for me it’s a great, big “again,” because I do have a son who went through this already and graduated last year.

Oh! That reminds me. In the interest of fairness, I should post a picture of Rusty preparing for his homecoming dance five years ago.

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Gosh, if he wasn’t the belle of the ball that year!

See what I mean? It’s like deja vu. I’ve already been through this already…

Carpet Diem

Portland has a reputation for weirdness. It’s something we embrace – and want you to, as well. We even advertise it on our buildings.

And if you think our unofficial city motto is just meant to be cute, well….

Darth-Vader-Playing-The-Bagpipes-While-Riding-A-Unicycle

Let’s just say it’s legit.

Nowhere is this more obvious than at PDX, our international airport. People are in love with the carpet there. In fact, it’s become a downright obsession for many folks. I’m not kidding. The PDX carpet has its own cult following. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof.

When the carpet was installed in the late 80s, airport officials wanted to invoke the spirit of the Pacific Northwest in the color scheme (greens and blues), while paying homage to the intersecting north/south runway, as seen from the control tower. Here’s what they came up with:

PDX, airport carpet

Local travelers fell in love with this carpet. It became a symbol of home, and marked a direct contrast from other boring, utilitarian airports around the world. This being Portland “put a bird on it” Oregon, we decided to put a carpet on it, too. You can buy all kinds of merchandise with the PDX carpet now. Socks, t-shirts, hats, water bottles, coffee mugs…you name it. Tara and I were in Powell’s last weekend, and came across these groovy coasters.

PDX carpet, coasters

The PDX carpet is so beloved, it has its own Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as an Instagram hashtag. Look up #pdxcarpet and you’ll see lots of photos that look like this:

#pdxcarpet

I love this city, but man, I’m beginning to think “weird” isn’t a strong enough word.  After all, we have a love affair with a rug. Top that, Austin.

And now, people are in mourning, because PDX has announced the beloved carpet is in need of replacement. They’ll begin tearing it up this year. But fear not, carpet lovers…they’ve come up with an updated, modern design that perfectly captures the aesthetic of the original PDX carpet while bringing it into the 21st century. This one adds additional runways, flight paths, the terminal, and even surrounding landscapes.

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I like it.

And I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they are selling PDX carpet-themed socks reflecting the new design.

In the meantime, you can always settle for these.

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I Want to Look More Portland

We went to a rock ‘n roll show Saturday night, and while standing in line, I realized I didn’t “fit in” with the rest of the crowd. In a sea of hipsters, I resembled a suburban dad. Granted, I am a suburban dad, but there’s no need to look the part out in public. Any survivalist will tell you the key to success is blending in with your environment.

With that in mind, I have decided I want to look more Portland.

(For the record, that would be Portland, Oregon – not the “other” Portland, in Maine. I imagine everybody there looks like they stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalogue and owns a different lobster bib for every day of the week).

Granted, I’ve made some positive strides over the years. “At least you’re wearing Kicks instead of white tennis shoes,” Tara pointed out. I may have the footwear figured out, but I’m way off base with the rest of the outfit. Take my black cargo shorts, for instance. Seriously: take them away when I’m going out to a concert! Everybody else was wearing jeans. I was sporting a Pink Floyd t-shirt, while the rest of the crowd looked like they were ready to ring in the new year (if the new year was 1994). One word: flannel.They wore beanies or hats while I displayed a $14 haircut from Great Clips. Oh, the shame.

My big mistake was dressing for comfort. It was a warmish evening, and I was too concerned with feeling cool when I should have realized my lack of sleeves and long pants would only serve to highlight the fact that my arms and legs were embarrassingly free of ink. They were smirking at my clean-shaven face through their whiskers, I just know it.

I have a better idea. Instead of writing about the essential items needed for that “Portland” look, I’ll present them visually.

Yes! This is perfect.  Look out, Portland!

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Err…other Portland…

The Crosby Show Airs Again!

Last week, I reported on my run-in with the fake David Crosby outside the Keller Auditorium in Portland. I wondered who he was and why he enjoyed tricking people into believing he was a rock ‘n roll star, but figured that was pretty much the end of the story.

And then, while driving home from the Oregon coast on Sunday, I got a text from Audrey. My parents watched her while we celebrated our anniversary weekend, and took her to an Oktoberfest celebration in Portland. What Audrey texted caught our attention.

Your fake David Crosby is here. 

Wait. Seriously?! I didn’t really believe it was the same guy…until Audrey sent us the following photo.

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Here’s mine, from five days earlier.

10660365_10202875049578081_4602986690754332541_nLest there’s any doubt, when Audrey approached him, she showed him this pic and asked if the man in the photograph with his arm around dear ol’ dad was him. He confirmed that yes, indeed, it was.

Like father, like daughter. What are the odds?

I wish she’d called him out on his fakery, but then again, she’s only 14 and should not be provoking a strange man. Teach your children well and all that jazz, right?  I’m just dying to unravel the mystery.

A comment on that post did help to shed a little light on the situation. A man named David (I’m assuming that’s his real name, although my track record with Davids isn’t the greatest these days) was at the Crosby, Stills & Nash show last week, and had his own run-in with the un-Crosby. He wrote,

My wife (saw) him from 50 feet away when we were parking and yells “that’s David Crosby” and he waved. About 5 minutes later as we walked over all excited that he was still there I knew it was not THE David Crosby but a very close second. We talked to him for a few minutes when the REAL David Crosby came out of the back door of the Keller Auditorium 15 feet away from us and walked into his bus.
We did talk to the look-a-like for almost a 1/2 hour and watched the excitement he caused with people thinking he was the “real thing”. Very pleasant fellow that said he has been mistaken for Crosby for a very long time…several people came up to me after they seen me talking to the look-a-like and asked if it was really him and I told them politely that it was not. Some of these people did not believe me and I told them to just ask him……he was honest. Some of these people thought I was his body guard. Take a picture anyhow…….what would it hurt.

Interesting! It appears that Fake Crosby relishes the attention and doesn’t go out of his way to tell people he isn’t the real deal…but won’t continue the charade if asked point blank.

I don’t know how to feel about that. On the one hand, we’re the ones who assumed he was genuine, and you know how that equation goes: ass, u, me. On the other hand, he was signing CSNY albums.

Tsk, tsk.

Kind of Hard to Beat Brinner

Last night, we had brinner.

I don’t know about you, but there’s something especially exciting about having breakfast-for-dinner. It feels forbidden. Rebellious. Naughty, even. I couldn’t help but think to hell with convention as I bit into a sweet, chewy pumpkin waffle drizzled with maple syrup last night. By the time I speared the accompanying sausage links with my fork, I was waving my fist in the air and shouting, “Damn The Man!” Sure, Tara and Audrey looked at me peculiarly, but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

You know what I’m talking about, Christopher Turk!

So, how about you? Do you ever indulge in brinner? Does it feel like you’re breaking the law when you do? And what’s your favorite brinner meal – Poached eggs? Oatmeal? Pancakes? A frittata?  Do share.

A Tale of Two Sunsets

Tara and I got back from a weekend trip to the Oregon coast yesterday afternoon. It was my anniversary gift to her, and it seemed fitting. After all, we were married at the coast.

We always make it a point to catch the sunset when we’re there. Friday evening, we arrived with about 90 minutes to spare. The view from our second-floor, corner unit condo was unbelievable. As the sun sank toward the horizon, we sipped wine and watched as no fewer than a half dozen whales swam slowly by offshore. Talk about magical.

Friday evening's sunset.
Friday evening’s sunset.

After the sun dipped below the horizon – we watched it literally wink out – there was a long, slow fade to darkness. We watched the sky very gradually turn from orange to pink to black, a process that took a good ninety minutes.

Saturday night’s sunset was equally spectacular, but also very different. It had been perfectly clear all day and unusually warm for Newport, 80 degrees or so. Just as the sun was nearing the horizon, wisps of clouds from an offshore fog bank began to drift in. They raced across the sky on a stiff breeze, trying to blot out the sun.

Saturday evening's sunset.
Saturday evening’s sunset.

They didn’t quite make it, but instead added beauty and drama to the experience. The evening before, we’d had that long, slow fade to dark. Saturday night, three minutes after the above photo was taken – no exaggeration here – the world had gone completely gray. This is the photo I took then:

The same view, three minutes later.
The same view, three minutes later.

It went from light to dark in minutes, the complete opposite of the previous evening. Not that it mattered; we were tucked inside the condo listening to music, drinking alcohol, and cooking an amazing dinner. Fresh dungeness crab, rice pilaf, and corn on the cob.

All in all, the weekend was perfect, even though our plans were thwarted. Tara had booked a charter fishing trip for Saturday morning, so we got up at 5 AM, drove north to Depoe Bay, and joined a crowd of would-be fishermen and fisherwomen waiting to head out onto the Pacific ocean in pursuit of rockfish, lingcod, sea bass and crab. Unfortunately, all fishing trips that day were cancelled due to unusually large and dangerous swells. Their website explained why:

The ocean weather was marginal in the forecast to begin with but in one hour the ocean swell went from 7.2 foot to 8.2 foot to 9.8 foot and now at 10.5 foot. That is a really quick rise in swell in a real hurry. The result is a total cancellation from the Tradewinds fleet this morning. No wind to speak of but really rough especially at the entrance to the harbor.

Oh, well. We ended up walking along the bay front in Newport, watching the sea lions up close before heading to breakfast and Bloody Marys. Then we grabbed some fresh crab from the South Beach Fish Market because we had really had our hearts set on that crab.

All in all, a great weekend. Here are a few more pics from our getaway.

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Will the Real David Crosby Please Stand Up?

Last night, we saw Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Keller Auditorium in Portland. Some of our Facebook friends were surprised to learn that David Crosby is not dead. Truth is, he’s alive and well. And for one blissfully ignorant half-hour, we thought we had met this rock ‘n roll legend.

We had time to kill before the concert, so we were strolling around the auditorium. A couple of tour buses were parked in back and standing next to them, just minding his own business and leaning against a railing, was a very distinct looking man who was bald on top with a shaggy mane of white hair cascading down the sides and a big, bushy mustache.

“Holy shit!” we said. “It’s David Crosby!”

We don’t generally like to bother famous people, but he was introducing himself to his fans, posing for pictures, and chatting away. So we approached and shook his hand.

“I’m a big fan!” I announced.

Tara was wearing a t-shirt from our Tom Petty concert last month. “Tom Petty,” David Crosby snorted. “He sings through his nose!”

“We’re much more excited to see your show,” Tara said, stretching the truth a little but more than happy to butter the guy up. After all, it was David freakin’ Crosby. He played Woodstock, man.

“We hate to bother you, but could we pose for a picture?” we asked.

David Crosby was happy to oblige. He put his arm around me (OMG!), smiled, and joked about how “we go way back.” It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

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We thanked him for his time and walked away, immediately posting this picture to Facebook and Instagram. For the next thirty minutes, we could not believe our good fortune. It’s not every day you shake hands with a rock ‘n roll pioneer.

And then, Tara had to go and pull out her phone.

She clicked on a hashtag I had posted – #csny – and pulled up a whole bunch of photos of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Recent ones.

“Umm, that was not David Crosby,” she said.

“What are you talking about?!” I replied. “That was totally David Crosby.”

Only, she was right. The man we met was most definitely not David Crosby. THIS is David Crosby:

davidcrosby110613wWell, shit. In seconds I had gone from shooting the breeze with a rock ‘n roll legend to shaking hands with a weird, fat, sweaty Portland guy who put his arm around me.

Eww.

Yeah, he fooled us. The resemblance was pretty remarkable (though in looking at recent photos, not quite so much as we initially believed). At least we weren’t the only ones bamboozled by this weirdo. People were chatting him up left and right and taking pictures with the guy. One poor schmuck had him sign a CSNY record album he was toting around. Now, that would piss me off.

In retrospect, it did seem odd that David Crosby was just hanging around outside the auditorium 45 minutes before a show without a care in the world, taking the time to chat up everybody who happened to wander by.

That guy’s a real jackass, whoever he is. I’d almost rather have remained in the dark because boy, were my friends awed and impressed by this picture. For a few brief moments, I felt like a hero to them. But then Tara posted that he was in fact not the real deal, and the Crosby was out of the bag.

Oh, well. We did get to see the real David Crosby, at least. From the third row of the second balcony, but whatever. CSN put on a great show. The vocal harmonies may have diminished some from their heyday in the late 60s and 70s, but when they gelled, they were on. “Cathedral” was downright rockin’, “Guinnevere” gave me shivers, and the combination of “Helplessly Hoping” and “Our House” was executed flawlessly. Three hours had passed by the time they came out for a final encore, “Teach Your Children.” We got home really late for a work night, but it was totally worth it.

There's the real David Crosby: that tiny white-haired speck on the right.
There’s the real David Crosby: that tiny white-haired speck on the right.