My Oldest Piece Of Computing Gear Dies

There was no neat way to use this kludge. No matter which side faced forward there were wires protruding.

7004br.jpgUntil this afternoon an SMC 7004BR router sat on a small shelf above my desk. A strangely designed piece of equipment, it had cables plugged in front and back. Along with 5-Ethernet sockets there was one parallel and one serial port.

There was no neat way to use this kludge. No matter which side faced forward there were wires protruding.

The 7004BR’s claim to fame was its role as a router with built-in serial printer port. It was used solely for printing the past few years, its router functionality was taken over by a sleeker wireless model. I turned off the DHCP functionality and assigned it a static IP address.

Kevin Webster and I got these around the same time. Mine went into service allowing the family to share a single dial-up modem plugged into the serial port! One node went, via an Ethernet cable that still spans the attic, to Stef’s playroom, the other my office.

Recently the 7004BR has shown signs of its age. Printing was sporadic. I couldn’t connect to its web-like configuration interface. Finally today it stopped working entirely. I did a hard reset which should have brought it back to its factory configuration. Nothing.

I asked Helaine to stop by Staples to pick up a replacement–a single purpose Ethernet to USB print server. She called sheepishly from the store.

“What does it look like?” she asked.

I told her she’d better ask for help. As it turned out, she was nowhere near where this esoteric piece of gear was hidden.

“I would have never found it,” she said as the clerk handed it over.

I was glad I hadn’t described it, because the box was about ten times the size of the server itself!

Much of what the 7004BR did is no longer done. Computers no longer have serial or parallel ports–nor do printers. USB handles it all.

It’s a piece of gear I used but never thought about. It passed through my gaze, but I stopped seeing it long ago. It was forgotten before it was gone. It is a throwback to the very beginning of the networked home.

It was by far the oldest piece of gear in use here. It goes out with the trash.

My Friend Lucy and Cottage Country

Her family owned an island in Canada. Woodmere Island is right off of Tobin’s island on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka lakes. It is close to Port Carling. The island itself had been passed down through a few generations. Alas, it is no long in the family.

lucy_hauserman.jpgOne of the cool things about Facebook is coming across old friends. Recently I stumbled into Mary Lucy Hauserman. I met Lucy nearly 30 years ago in Philadelphia. I was a disk jockey back then.

Lucy was a teenager who wanted to get into radio. She made herself well known in the business and stuck with it. She is the production manager for a large cluster of stations in Philadelphia.

By the summer of ’81 I was in Buffalo. These were pre-email and cheap long distance days, but Lucy and I kept in touch.

Her family owned an island in Canada–Woodmere Island. Lucy tells me it’s right off of Tobin’s island on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka lakes. It is close to Port Carling. That’s a nice way of saying it’s way out in the boonies.

The island itself had been passed down through a few generations. It is no longer in the family.

This area of Ontario north of Toronto is often referred to as “cottage country.” It’s quite a drive from Buffalo, but doable.

When invited to spend the weekend on Woodmere Island I jumped at the chance. Lucy’s entire family was going to be there and I was looking forward to meeting them. Who knew there would be blogs by now–no notes. There are some parts of the weekend I still remember vividly.

Going to Canada from Buffalo wasn’t out-of-the-ordinary. Canada was where you went for Chinese food! I drove along for a few hours then stopped for a bite. I ordered a sandwich and Coke, handed the clerk a US $20 and received $22 Canadian in change! What a country.

By the time I arrived at the lakefront it was well after dark. The Hauserman’s were already there and settled in. The night was mild and calm. An beautiful classic wooden boat–I think mahogany–was waiting at the dock. I got on and Lucy gunned it!

I’ll let her pick up the story.

“I remember you screaming STOP we’re gonna hit Rocks or an otter or something! But you knew I knew the islands silhouettes like the back of my hand….I knew where all the buoy were too! So Funny!”

The island itself was beautiful. It was pristine and rustic. There were a few buildings as I remember. Nothing was fancy but everything was substantial. The lake water was very cold. Too cold for me.

I was only there once. Lucy was there every summer.

“I loved our lodge with the big tables and the wonderful fireplace. the boathouse , the beach, the cabins, the walkways with the hand made lights. Water skiing off the dock, hanging out with my family, the sound the water made when it lapped against the dock, the smell of the pine needles in the sun as you rounded the path towards the boathouse….It was incredibly special to me.”

I remember Lucy’s folks being very nice to me. I immediately felt I was part of the family.

On Saturday Lucy’s mom told me of the family’s plans for Sunday church. She said I could sleep in, but I asked if I could come along?

Sunday morning we all piled into the beautiful wooden boat and went to church. Though I am Jewish I found the whole experience as warm as it was foreign to me. Not to play down the religious aspect, but all I could see was how sweet this family was.

“That little church was so amazing on top of the rocky hill….and our antique boats that took us everywhere! What in incredible gift ! I am so happy to have shared it with you, for there are not many that I can speak to… that can understand the incredibleness of Muskoka and Woodmere Island.

I am very lucky to have a friend like Lucy. Don’t think I don’t know it.

The Opposite of Anonymous

“What’s the matter with you car,” he asked? How the hell did he know?

After 24 years in the market and nearly 20 years in our home, I’m pretty recognizable locally. I would be the wrong guy to send for porn or a package of Zig-Zags.

“Hey, aren’t you the weatherman,” the clerk would ask while pushing my copy of “Butts Galore” across the counter.

This afternoon on my way to work I started hearing wind noise from my driver’s side window. Maybe I hadn’t closed the car door correctly. I slowed down, but while still in motion opened and closed the door. The noise was still there.

I pulled to the side of the highway and stopped to assess the situation. The window had stopped working. It wasn’t moving and it wasn’t properly positioned. The noise was going to stay.

I came to work and called Helaine to tell her what had transpired. We weren’t on the phone more than a few minutes when call waiting chirped. It was Steve, my friend who has taken care of my car for all the time we’ve lived in Hamden.

“What’s the matter with you car,” he asked? How the hell did he know?

As it turns out, his wife was riding down the same highway and saw me off on the side. She called Steve. Then he called me as Helaine and I were talking about him!

I suppose being an anonymous face-in-the-crowd has its advantages. Just not today and not for me.

My 13-Ounce Dilemma

If there’s logic in the Postal Service’s madness, it evades me.

This is a story about Mother’s Day… sort of.

My wife Helaine, herself a mother, bought a nice gift for my mom, wrapped it and took the package (really a padded envelope) to our local Post Office where one of the clerks weighed it and affixed the postage. She didn’t mail it.

Helaine planned on mailing the gift when my folks returned from a vacation. That turned out to be Tuesday of last week, when she drove the envelope to the Post Office and dropped it in the box in the parking lot.

It was delivered the next day… back to us, with the sticker you see. Packages over 13 ounces, when mailed using stamps, must be physically presented to a clerk at the Post Office. Period. End of story.

It’s for security, the sticker said. In this post 9/11 world we’re not supposed to question security – but I will.

Here in Connecticut, more than most places, we understand what postal security means. This is where Ottilie Lundgren died. She was poisoned by anthrax that probably passed through the huge Wallingford mail distribution center where three million anthrax spores were later found and removed.

But if the Postal Service is worried about security, why in heaven’s name would they have my carrier bring it back to my house? If it was dangerous, it’s doubtful it would have the proper return address anyway. As I remember, the 2001 anthrax letters all had phony return addresses. The same was true when the Unabomber’s package exploded at Yale, less than a mile from where I’m writing this.

The whole process makes no sense to me. In fact, I’m so confused why the Postal Service is doing this, I asked them to comment.

The rule actually predates 9/11, going back to the mid-90s. The weight limit, recently lowered to 13-ounces, complies with the weight limits for Priority Mail.

In an email response response, Doug Bem from the US Postal Inspection Service included this all purpose line:

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to get into the specifics of those security issues because someone who could misuse that information might be a reader of your blog; all I can say is that the issues still exist today.”

I am not denying that.

All I’m asking is, why send it back to me? It’s either worrisome, and should be treated that way, or it’s not and can go to my mom’s house.

To a certain extent the Postal Service has their hands tied. They can’t open my mail to check what’s inside.

“(E)ven though we are the law enforcement and security officers of the Postal Service, we don’t have the right to open any First Class letter, Priority Mail or Express Mail package without explaining why to a federal judge, who would then give us a federal search warrant. It’s not practical to screen the 320 million or so pieces of those types of mail the Postal Service handles every day.”

So instead, they declare a one size fits all rule which treats all 13 ounce stamped packages as suspicious… and then they just wash their hands of them and drop them off at your house.

If 13-ounce packages pose a threat, dispose of them. If not, deliver them.

If there’s logic in the Postal Service’s madness, it evades me.

Financial Talk From Geoff

It’s not just me, is it? Finances are confusing to everyone… right?

Oh please agree! I don’t want to be the Bozo on this bus&#185.

Helaine and I went through some financial papers today. Nothing dreadful, but each was more confusing than the last.

My insurance company sent me a notice saying they weren’t paying as much for recent dental work as the policy allows. My dentist is off network and out-of-state.

Uh, yeah. It’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island. I live in Connecticut. Of course it’s out-of state!

Here’s the funny part. They only said they weren’t paying me full reimbursement. In reality, they were. So, based on their paperwork, some clerk in Rhode Island and I got to spend quality time together that we’ll never get back.

Then Helaine showed me a statement from my 401-K at work. We’ve been participating over 20 years. There’s a significant amount of money in it now. It said one of the mutual funds we’re in went down over the past few months.

It was a time when the market in general was tanking. I saw that with a quick look at the Dow Jones Industrials Average (which I understand is a mainly worthless barometer).

Are we in the right funds? Not only don’t I know, no one knows!

The experts often make bad calls predicting the markets (and, hey, I know a little bit about predicting). You can get lucky, or just have time on your side. We used the latter.

Unfortunately, the difference between being right and being wrong, when stretched over 20+ years, can make a huge difference. Could I have clicked a different box two decades ago and now be set for life? I will never know if my decisions were the right ones.

We’re trying to get Stef on the right track with her finances. I’ve just applied for a credit card for her. She’ll be responsible, though Helaine and I have to guarantee that by co-signing.

I called my local bank office, spoke to the manager and was on my way… or so I thought. I had to return a call from the bank Monday. They needed to verify it was really me on the phone.

I wasn’t asked my birthdate or SSN. The bank’s operator said, “In the past you’ve owned property. I’ll give you a list, you tell me which one is right.” Then she did basically the same thing with cars I’d owned.

The answer to the car question was a 1992 Camry. “That’s 15 years old,” I said. “I’m not sure the year’s right.”

But it was Helaine who made the more cogent observation. “They know everything about us.”

Alas, they do. Neither the car nor any piece of property was financed through the bank.

Finally, Helaine showed me a mortgage statement on our house. We’ve been there 17 years and have refinanced twice. Each time, we tried to shorten the term and lower the interest rate.

We can actually see a day in the next few years when the house will really be ours.

Does anyone really think, when they buy a house, some day they’ll own it? I sure didn’t.

&#185 – Firesign Theater reference. Thanks for noticing.

Par For The Dollar

Back in 1980 I was working in Buffalo. My Philadelphia friend, Lucy, invited me to join her for a weekend at a family owned compound in what is referred to as “Cottage Country,” north of Toronto.

On a frigid, crystal clear lake, reachable only by their classic mahogany power boat, it was pretty close to heaven. For that weekend I was part of her family, joining them for every activity. I even went to church with them (and throughly enjoyed that experience too).

While driving up, I got hungry and stopped along the road for some food. I bought a sandwich and a Coke, handed the clerk a US $20 bill and got $22 Canadian change… plus my food!

What a country!

Actually, all that meant was, the US dollar was worth a lot more than its Canadian equivalent. As of today, they’re of nearly equal value. I think the proper term is, they’re at par.

I’m not an economist, but I’m pretty sure the value of a nations currency is directly tied to the strength of its economy. Our dollar is weak.

Over times, things tend to even out. A weaker US dollar makes our exports more reasonably priced overseas… at least it does with those things we still make here. Conversely, imports continue to cost more. That’s an incentive to buy American, here and abroad.

Still, having the US and Canadian dollars at par troubles me on an emotional level. Our dollar being more valuable has always been a given. It’s the first time in my life it’s not.

I don’t personally see signs of a weak economy, but obviously, others do. Our cheaper dollar is screaming that to anyone who will listen.

Abe Lincoln – Wired

I often listen to NPR while taking my shower. Today, on Talk of the Nation, Neil Conan spoke with Tom Wheeler who had an op-ed piece in this morning’s Washington Post and who also wrote the book, “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.”

(I)nsight into our greatest president is possible through the nearly 1,000 messages he sent via the new telegraph technology. These 19th-century versions of e-mail messages preserve his spur-of-the-moment thoughts and are the closest we will come to a transcript of a conversation with Abraham Lincoln. In their unstructured form, Lincoln comes alive.

Are you kidding? Lincoln was our first president to communicate electronically. I guess he really was the Great Communicator.

This made Abraham Lincoln our first president with instant access to information. Imagine how that benefited him as he formulated our political and military strategy during the Civil War?

You owe it to yourself to read the op-ed column.

Oh, and Happy Birthday Abe.

Continue reading “Abe Lincoln – Wired”

The Trauma Continues

We are coming to the end of the dumpster entries. It is due to get picked up tomorrow morning, leaving for parts unknown.

On the phone this afternoon, my dad asked what I’d write about? It’s been my obsession for two weeks now.

I don’t have a clue.

I went shopping today in support of the dumpster campaign. Seriously. Having a dumpster means throwing things away and also making a commitment to properly store the things you keep.

I’m not good at shopping. To me, shopping is a traumatic experience. On my list of things to do, shopping is very close to my upcoming colonoscopy.

First stop was Home Depot. I had to return some utility shelving and desiccant (don’t ask) and pick up a few oddball light bulbs. As I got to the returns register, the clerk was being hassled by two (seemingly drunk) men, both with full beards, also returning something.

Next stop, BJ’s. Helaine said they’d have the storage bins I wanted for my office. I wanted six. They had three. While waiting in line, I noticed one of the tops was cracked.

I wheeled them back where they had been stored, walked to the car and drove back to Home Depot.

Home Depot had lots of bins in two sizes – too big and too small. I sensed my deodorant was beginning to fail.

I consulted Helaine on the phone. Target had some bins, she thought, and then she proceeded to tell me where they were in the store and how to get there (enter on the right side).

Whatever I am as a shopper, Helaine is the opposite. She is the master. She has no idea how much I respect her mad shopping skills.

Sure enough I got to Target and there was a plethora of bins just where she said they would be. In fact, there were so many, I freaked and couldn’t figure which size would be right.

In a flash I was back on the phone to Helaine, who was now questioning her 23+ year old decision to marry me.

I drove home with five 66 quart plastic storage bins and their attendant lids and spent much of the rest of the afternoon going at my office. Why five and not the six I’d planned for? Again, I’m clueless.

If shopping can be traumatic, it was for me today.

No Credit Where Credit Is Due – Southwest VISA Again

Yesterday I got a call from a woman at Chase Bank. They’re the folks who provide my one and only credit card. She was calling because my complaint to the Comptroller of the Currency hit their doorstep.

She didn’t call to offer a solution or explain what was going on. She just called to say they had gotten the complaint and would respond in 7-14 days.

This is probably a legal requirement. No extra points for customer service here.

My Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa has been the topic of many posts here, because it has been such a frustrating experience. Here’s a link to my last screed.

Like I said, I got so upset I wrote the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal agency that controls banks with “NA” at the end of their name.

So, yesterday I get their call and tonight… tonight they turn down the credit card again!

What a suspicious purchase. I was buying gas at a gas station I go to three or four times a month. I was using a Mobil Speedpass which is tied to the card.

I called the number on the back of the credit card and listened as an automated voice asked me if I recognized purchases, some going back two months, without giving me the name of the merchant… only the type of store in “credit cardese.”

Among the purchases they queried was Steffie’s Ipod. Whoa! That’s another purchase they turned down and had me call on in June. Good going. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

And, if there was a question about a June purchase, why not ask me in… June? The fact that I’ve already paid for that purchase without question never entered into their equation.

Oh, the gas station I was at – they had previously declined my card there too!

My account is perfect. My reputation is soiled.

As I walked into the gas station, the clerk addressed me by my first name and then told me they had refused the charge. Will he go home and tell people about Geoff Fox the deadbeat? I hope not, but it’s possible.

What if this would have happened in Birmingham last week?

Earlier this evening I wrote about Southwest Airlines’ policy change for frequent flier miles. I really don’t want to change my airline/credit card allegiance. I know tonight’s problem is 100% the bank and not Southwest. Still, it’s very frustrating.

My sense is, no one at the bank really cares. The sad truth is, in 2005 it’s too expensive to worry about customers on an individual basis. I’m much less of a problem when viewed in the aggregate.

Another Good Deed

I tried to print my boarding passes for tomorrow’s trip back home. Printing your own boarding passes has its advantages. USAir boards by zones (with assigned seating). Printing your own pass early gets you on the plane early, guaranteeing overhead rack space.

Unfortunately, the free remote printing doesn’t seem to work. Bringing my laptop to the business center didn’t help either.

I asked the clerk behind the reception desk, who admitted the printer wasn’t working. Then, instead of telling me “TS,” he offered to print them for me!

Thank you Hilton Garden Inn. You have a friend here.


For the last six months to a year our television station has reported on the ‘soon-to-be’ Ikea store about thirty thousand times. Well, why not? It’s a big deal. The largest retail opening in New Haven in anyone’s memory.

About a week ago the store opened, and we reported again. This time it was the traffic and the impact on the businesses nearby.

Tonight, as Ann Nyberg (one of our lead anchors) and I were heading to dinner, we decided to take a detour and see Ikea. Ann, of Swedish ancestry, treated this a like a homecoming or a visit to a long lost relative.

The store is immense – not only in square footage but in its vertical reach. The concept is similar to warehouse stores, like BJ’s or Costco, in that the stock is adjacent to the selling floor, stacked to the very high ceiling. Judging by the signs, the idea is to walk through Ikea as if you’re on a trail, going from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ and so on. Somehow we started at the end and walked against traffic for the rest of our visit.

On this Monday night, the parking lot was full and the store jammed. I have been told, and had seen on our news stories, that it was busier last week. That’s to be expected.

We turned first to the Swedish food section. Ann bought some sort of Scandinavian cookies which she later opened with her teeth as we drove back to work. I bought a small tin of herring&#185. Then we walked through the store.

The furniture and furnishings for sale are spartan but nicely designed… maybe aesthetically pleasing is a better phrase. Though the word Swedish is liberally thrown around when describing the place, I picked up a few items and they were all from China. I guess they were designed in Sweden. At least I hope they were.

As we waited to pay for our items, we ran into the Achilles heel of the organization – the checkout line. Though our items all had UPC stickers on them, the clerk had to look them up in a book and then scan those UPC codes.

For a store that’s so streamlined and efficient, the checkout was too long, too tedious.

As we waited to pay, two families from Fairfield County, shopping together for their, soon to be entering the workplace, daughters let us get ahead. This furniture is perfect for them. It’s also perfect for Ann’s daughter who will enter college in the fall. I could see it as the right thing for a spare room or a first house. It’s simple, functional and relatively inexpensive.

As long as you’ve got a way to carry it home, you’re set.

I’ll be curious to look back at this store in a year and see if the throngs are still here. I guess, since it scratches an itch unserved by others, it will do well. There are no others in New England, and the closest Ikea to our south is opposite Newark Airport.

I just wish everything wasn’t made in China.

&#185 – My tin of herring is 2.5 servings. Somewhere along the line the idea of nutritional information has become a scam with companies ‘gaming’ the serving size in order to post acceptable calorie, carbohydrate and other numbers.

Unusual Evening

I am behind on my schoolwork. Well, actually I’m ahead, but with plans for the weekend and little time to catch up, I’m behind.

Have I come close to explaining what I mean?

I took a 4th quarterly homework test in my Applied Climatology class this evening. It wasn’t too bad, and I squeezed it in between our 8:40 PM newsbrief and the 10:00 PM news.

I still have the corresponding test on my Radar Meteorology course. It will be significantly more difficult and end up eating into the weekend… when we have plans.

As soon as I get home from work, wash my makeup off (that’s still strange to say), and change into jeans, we’ll be heading out to the Jersey Shore. When Steffie was a baby, this was the type of trip we made all the time.

You would think traffic would be light at this time of night, but the Connecticut

Turnpike, New England Thruway, and Cross Bronx Expressway are in a constant state of disrepair. There are some areas that seem to have been work zones since I was a little boy.

So we’ll be taking the Merritt Parkway (lower speed limit, chance of running into a deer) and listening for traffic on the George Washington Bridge that would force us onto I-287 (I can’t spell Tappan Zee Bridge).

Since our hotel room won’t be ready until tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be spending a few hours with some friends – though how friendly can you be when you get there at 4:00 AM!

It’s been a long time since we were in Atlantic City. This will be Steffie’s first trip. We’re hoping to walk the boards in front of the casinos with her. It’s a very sleazy, honky tonk type atmosphere, but thoroughly enjoyable. Most of the boardwalk strollers have the physical beauty of a person in front of you in line at the DMV… or the clerk behind the counter.

We’re also hoping to see my friends Barry and Neal and their respective spouses. It’s been a really long time since I saw them.

So, all in all, rushing my schoolwork and driving through the night should be worth it. I’m not sure I believe that, but putting it in type might convince me.

Do I Look Like a Crook?

It’s the holiday season. Time to buy gifts. Is there a better way to buy something than with a credit card?

Our credit card of choice is affiliated with Southwest Airlines. As we pay for food and gas and gifts, we accumulate free airplane trips. And, since we pay off our bill each and every month, these trips cost no more than the yearly credit card fee. It’s a great deal.

It’s a great deal for the bank too. They get our yearly fee and make a cut on everything we buy. And, since we charge a lot, they get a lot.

There’s just one problem – the bank that actually issues the card and runs the program has cut it off three times.

It’s not like we’re bad people… this card has never had a late payment. And, we haven’t even been in the same neighborhood as our limit. Our problem is, we’ve used the card too many times in a single day.

I know – you thought they encouraged you to use the card. I thought that too.

Yesterday, as I’m told, our card was used 14 times. None of these purchases were extremely large. We charged a $230 airline ticket, some groceries, a gift or two or three. You get the idea.

To the bank, this looked like the pattern a thief would use. So, they flagged the card, and when Helaine tried to buy something for me online – delivered to our own address – the bank refused to accept the transaction.

I guess they’re entitled to do this, but here’s what bothers me. They cut us off and never told us. All they had to do was make a call. Mr. Fox, did you make this purchase? We found out when we tried to buy something.

My suspicion is, it’s cheaper for them to wait for the customer to contact them, or use the clerk at the store. For me… for my wife… this is astoundingly embarrassing. This time it was a mail order purchase, but the last time a clerk at the grocery store said to Helaine; “That happens to me when I go over my limit.” Great.

As a public person, I try and protect my public image. Now this bank gets to sully it, for no apparent reason. I have received every excuse known to man from the security department and no apologies.

I am beginning to simmer.

Am I John Mayer’s stalker?

Click here for more photos from the concert

As of Wednesday morning, I still hadn’t heard from John Mayer’s road manager, Scotty Crowe, as promised. Just a little worried (it is my nature), I sent another email to the management folks and got a reassuring email in return.

By early afternoon there was an upbeat voicemail at work. We were good to go (literally and figuratively). The only surprise was the time. “Meet and greet” is normally a post show event. Not with this show. John would be entertaining at 7:00 PM.

Anticipating Hartford traffic (which we never saw), Steffie and I arrived at The Meadows a bit before 6:00 PM. A line had already begun to form the entrance. People with tickets for the vast expanse of lawn wanted to stake their claim and find a good seat.

Good lawn seating is miles away from the stage. Bad seating is in another time zone.

We hit the “will call” window, looking for our “Meet and Greet” passes. Nada. But, that’s not at all unusual. As it turned out, the clerk was looking in the wrong place, and a turn to the left produced two round adhesive passes and a small Xeroxed set of instructions to the marshaling point.

The gates to The Meadows actually open at 6:30 PM. But the real excitement starts a few minutes earlier as a PA announcement lists what you can and cannot do… can and cannot bring.

Digital cameras were on the forbidden list. I decided to take it anyway and hope for the best. After all, meeting John and having the passes might be enough of a mitigating factor. As it turned out, the ‘frisker’ took a look at he camera, pondered for two seconds, and pronounced it within reason. My guess is, with the lens retracted, he thought it was a non-professional film camera.

My first rock concert was probably 1966 or 1967. I went with my Cousin Michael and Larry Lubetsky to the Village Theater, aka The Fillmore East. We did that often on Friday and Saturday nights. It was pure fun and music (with the Joshua Light Show and the smell of marijuana pungent enough to knock you on your butt).

Things have changed

If there is something that isn’t for sale, or marked with signage, I didn’t see it. I’m surprised a wheelchair company doesn’t sponsor the handicapped ramp.

In the parking lot were four perky post-teens (male and female) wearing red t-shirts. They would be passing out Trojan condoms throughout the evening.

Dodge sponsored this, Comcast that, and Channel 30 something else. Dunkin’ Donuts was passing out Fruit Coolatas, but most everything else was for sale and over priced beyond belief (again, please excuse my naivet�. I’m 53 and I’m not in the concert demo anymore).

Considering there is a law in Connecticut preventing a reseller from marking up a concert ticket by too much, you’d think the venue itself would follow that same policy when it came to bottled water or beer or pretzels. They could let you in for free and still make a profit.

A few minutes before 7:00 we met Scotty Crowe. It’s interesting how the Internet can catapult unlikely people into the limelight, and Scotty is one of them. Once I knew I’d be meeting him, I “Googled” him. Not only does he write John Mayer’s Road Journal, he also has some dedicated fans, including a Scotty Crowe bulletin board. Damn!

We went into the hallway that would serve as “Meet and Greet” central, and waited. I tried to make small talk with Scotty, but as is always the case when I do something like that, I came off as a total dork. At least I gave him a good PhotoShop tip (Ctl-L is perfect for enhancing video levels on digital photos).

John came out a few minutes later. I don’t notice these things, but Steffie said he was wearing the same outfit we saw him wear at Oakdale. He’s tall and thin and young and I’m jealous..

After saying hello and posing with the people in front of us, John came over. He was very nice (though after meeting him at KC-101, Oakdale and now here, I can’t help but wonder if he thinks I’m a stalker… or if I actually am a stalker).

As soon as he started to speak to Stefanie, he said, “You’re Stef, right?” I believe that was the magic moment as far as she was concerned. To be remembered by someone in his position, who meets so many people, was very gratifying.

I told John I thought he was smart, and a nice guy. But, I had seen others who had that… and lost it. I told him it was very important he remember to continue to be the kind of person he is now. I seriously think he will. But, as with Scotty a few minutes earlier, I felt like a dork after I said it. I hope he’ll think I was somewhat appropriate.

We had come very early and we found out we would be staying very late. Not only was John Mayer performing, so were the Counting Crows and an opening act before them. There was only so much we could take, so Steffie and I sat outside, people watching, while Stew (or possibly Stu… I wasn’t inside) performed.

We headed inside and found our seats before the Crows hit the stage.

If you have never been to The Meadows (and now that I’ve talked about all the commercialism, you should know, it’s the “ Meadows Music Centre). It is a huge, high roofed pavilion with theater seating and a removable rear wall. There is no air conditioning. There are no ceiling fans. It was hot and sticky and uncomfortable.

I had never seen the Counting Crows and I was favorably impressed. Lead singer Adam Duritz, his hair fashioned with somewhat wild dreadlocks, is very talented and (and I always like this in a performance) a commanding presence on stage.

Toward the end of the set, he told a story of going to school in Watertown, CT and flunking a music course. Judging by the description, it is probably The Taft School. A website FAQ confirms it.

The Crows got off after 10:00 PM. The venue had not cooled down. Every once in a while, a brief whisper of air would move by, and you’d think, maybe it’s going to cool down. But the ‘waft’ was short lived; a tease at best.

Not quite 11:00, John Mayer took the stage. As appreciative as the audience was for the Counting Crows, they stepped it up a notch and a half for John. There’s no doubt that a packed house is good for the home team, and he is the home town here.

He is an artist who sounds just like his Cd’s (I wanted to write records, but that would make me very old, wouldn’t it?). That means his artistry is real and not produced into being. Most of the house stood for most of the performance.

He did the hits, and some cuts from the new CD (out in a few weeks) and then a phenomenal guitar solo. As good as he is as a troubadour, John Mayer is a masterful guitarist; as good as I’ve heard

There’s obviously some BB King in his riffs, and probably others I don’t recognize, but mostly it is his ability to make the guitar become its own voice that makes his playing so good. It is my contention that if he weren’t singing, he’d have an amazing career as a guitarist.

At 11:45 PM he said goodnight, only to come back on stage alone to do the first of two encore numbers.

We were out by midnight. As soon as I turned on the car radio, I realized I wasn’t hearing quite as well as I did when I went in! Within ten minutes we had navigated Hartford and gotten onto I-91 southbound.

Though Steffie tried (and she has pre-season field hockey practice tomorrow morning) she had only a few minutes of sleep before we were home.

Great night. I’d do it again.

Click here for more photos from the concert