Chris Botti at Ruth Eckerd Hall Clearwater

A couple of months ago I was looking at trying to find things to do with my friends before I leave.  I used to go to several Chris Boitti concerts a year with a group of friends.  Chris Botti plays trumpet and I first saw him opening for Josh Groban in 2004.  There were two good seats in Row G left.  It was fate.

After worrying if Kathy and I were going to be able to make it on time, Kathy was able to move her schedule and have someone cover the end of her class.  We were off for the normally 1.5 hour drive before 4:30.  At 6:30, after a fun detour through Ybor City and a drive by Tropicana Field (where the Tampa Bay Rays play), we were still on the causeway over to Clearwater.  Traffic was crawling and we were starved, starved enough to grab Checkers down the road and scarf it down in the parking lot.

First off, I really loved Ruth Eckerd Hall.  I have been trying to go to a show there for years, it is just so hard to get to Clearwater since there are always tons of people going in the few ways there are to get in.  The place is a little old and outdated in looks, which is a common thing in Florida, especially for nice places near/on the beach. The seats were velvet covered and cushy and most importantly, the sound was AMAZING.  Definitely the best sound I have heard in Florida.  The seats were great.  Not the closest seats I have ever had, great for sound though and overall view.  Pictures were not as good as at the Hard Rock though.  The lighting was not as good either, which is my excuse :).

Best part was probably the fact there was no opening act.  That is right, all Chris, no sitting through another painful opening act.  Makes me happy that the entire time was to Chris.  Only it was not just Chris.  Chris has always had a top-notch band backing him up.  Only this time it was all mixed up.  His long time guitarist was out and the other members were a mash-up of new and old.

Robert Hurst was on bass.  He went to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp like I did, makes me like him even more, though it is not necessary.  He is awesome and always gets a great groove moving.  Geoffrey Keezer was on keys.  I really loved he and Chris playing my Funny Valentine at the end, very smooth.  On drums is the always there Billy Kilson.  I only think he missed one show I have ever been at.  Billy rocks.  He is always chewing gum and is really a machine. I could not remember the name of the violinist and I believe Mark was replaced on guitar by Leonardo Amued, an amazing guitarist from Brazil.

The most amazing part of the band to me was Lisa Fischer by far (does she have an official page any where I can link to and get info from?).  She might have been the highlight of the whole show.  When she started the look of love she did this vocal playing at the front of the song that was just so amazing.  I cannot explain it.  This does not give it justice, but here is a You tube Video of a performance of her with Chris.  I do believe Billy and Geoffrey are there too.  She has sung with so many great people, Rolling Stones, Sting, Luther Vandross, etc. but she steals the show.  Really, look her up and see her in person.  It was amazing.

Kathy and I decided that this was the best sounding concert we have been to.  It was truly amazing.  Also, before we left her daughter was crying because she thought that was the last time she was going to be able to see me.  However, it was just the last time she was going to be able to see Jack, my dog.  So, I bought a ridiculously priced poster and after the show we had Chris sign it to Helen, don’t cry.  It was cute.

So, since I cannot remember the set list and the funny details of our adventure since I did not write this fast enough, I will let pictures tell the rest of the story…

The many expressions of Mr. Billy Kilson:

And, Kathy, Chris and I after the show!

If there is an easier way to get photos in a slide show or presented neatly let me know please!

More photos here.

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Pay attention to the here in now or you might step into a big pile of dog….

Jack is gone

So, its a bittersweet day.  I am one HUGE step closer to leaving, but that step involved my wonderful, loving, best friend, caring, sweetheart, cuddly dog, Jack, to make his way to Michigan with my parents.  I have to admit, its hard to even type this.  I feel like such a jerk for abandoning my dog, even though I know it is better for him to not be here now.  Heck, it might have been better for him to be there even if I was not leaving. Since this kind of leads into the middle of the story, let me start from the beginning…

Where are you? In Savannah

So my mom was coming and then not coming and then she wasn’t coming but eventually when I told her that she could take Jack she decided she could brave her “nerves” and make the trip to Florida. It is a long drive and they were planning on driving straight through Friday morning to Saturday. Worked out perfectly since Friday night I was going to a Chris Botti concert (review next!) with my friend Kathy.  It also allowed Jack to go over and say good bye to Kathy and her family one last time.

So Friday morning at work I was mostly worried about whether we were going to get there on time if we left at 430 (barely) and if I could get in a nap before I left.  So I get a call at 720.  It is my mom, “So, where are you?.”  I replied cautiously, “Um…I am at work, where are you?”

“In Savannah.  See you soon.”

Soon, like in three hours.  Apparently they left Thursday night to miss those horrible storms that whipped through Indiana and Kentucky.  And thank God they did, they just could have, ya know, called me.  So I call my boss and tell him I have to leave early (at 930) and I already worked over time (which I had hoped to cash in) so my hours were okay.  I worked like crazy to get a job done by the time I left and then ran like a crazy person home to clean, clean, clean.  My house was a mess.  boxes everywhere, dirty floor, dirty dishes, etc.  I cleaned like crazy and a in the few hours I had it was spotless, well almost spotless, just as they pulled in.

They brought two of their four dogs with them to make sure they got along with Jack and because mom does not do well without them any more.  It was an instant hit for my dog.  He just loved their dogs.  Their dogs tolerated him but mostly ignored him.  Abbea would chase the ball and Jack would chase Abbea.  It was funny, Abbea hardly even noticed he was there biting her ankles.

So fast forward to me going to the concert, going to Disney with my parents, packing stuff up for the yard sale, selling furniture on Craigslist, mom getting an emergency tooth extraction, and getting my first pair of real glasses and sun glasses with corrective lenses (love the sunglasses, not the regular glasses) and it was Thursday suddenly.  A whole week flew by.  Friday they were going to leave to Michigan.  I had to give up my precious Jack the very next day.

Final walk

So, instead of  going out to dinner to use my gift card I got for crappy service at a Darden owned restaurant, mom and dad brought home food and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory so Jack and I could spend the night with each other.  We went for our last walk around Cranes Roost together and then walked with Michelle and her dogs Hercules and H2.  And I admit, I balled.  I cried so hard people probably were wondering what was wrong with me.  As we were walking around Cranes Roost though, I realized I was so busy being upset and missing Jack and being preoccupied with moving that I was not actually spending the last moments I had WITH Jack.  Just being in the moment and walking my dog.  I realized this when I looked up at the sky.  It was a gorgeous sunset towards the west, bright pinks and oranges tinged with gold (much prettier with my new corrective sunglasses I must say).  To the North there were some intimidating black clouds that blew away very fast, leaving the smell of jasmine and orange blossoms in the air.  It was really the perfect Florida night.

If I was caught up in my emotion and attached to my own misery, I was not going to be able to spend this moment with Jack.  I would not have noticed the toddler getting chased by ducks, or the couple walking two massive dogs (not sure of the breed but HUGE) with a third little chihuahua leading the pack, or how in the east the sky was the most beautifully faded colors of blue and pink.  I would not have noticed the couple who wanted to say hi to Jack and who I had a great conversation with.  I also would not have noticed the pile of dog crap in the middle of the sidewalk, that some poor runner ran into.  I also would not have noticed the smile Jack looked up at me with his smiley face and wagging tale, questioning what adventure we were going on next.

My first goodbye

I know he is better off with them.  He was so much happier when they were here.  He was hardly ever alone (and hardly ever will be in Michigan) and when he was he had two friends to play with.  He loves mom and dad and the girls.  He did not chew on anything or pee on the floor.  He is much better off.  And at no point while I was walking around with Jack on our last walk did I think it was the wrong choice.  That did not make it any easier though.  This morning when mom and dad left at 5:30 (and they still have not called me with an update) I was a mess.  I forced Jack to cuddle with me on the couch one last time and took him to the car.  It was horrible, but necessary.

I also know he will be here when I get back, but in the mean time I have to come home and open a door where no happy puppy dog face greets me, shaking his ears and his collar tinkling. No one to cuddle with if I get scared at night.  No one to walk with at 2 in the morning when I cannot sleep.  No one to be there all the time so I never feel lonely.  No one to give me that unconditional love a dog gives.  I know it is all selfish, but I will miss him.  He was my baby.  No, he still IS my baby.  I just need to get over feeling as if I am abandoning him and feeling sorry for myself.

I realized though that I have been looking for something to come home to.  I did not think I had anything.  No boyfriend or kid.  I do not live near my family.  No house.  No job that makes me motivated to get up in the morning.  But, I had Jack all along.  I should have been a better mom to him.  Those, fairly frequent, times where I spent an hour later at work, were they really worth it?  Staying late and then going to yoga? Jack is definitely the number one thing I will miss.

My therapist pretty much told me today to keep on keeping on, in much more eloquent sounding words.  To use my skills I have developed to get this thing done.  Next weekend my lease is up.  So, I did what I do in such a situation, I went to yoga.  Happy Hour yoga at Altamonte Springs Yoga to be precise.  I even donated two bottles of wine (my parents brought four more down with them).  It was just what I needed. Then I chatted with and sold items to yoga friends, the yoga community is so nice to have at times like now.

So I am going to keep on keeping on.  Soon a post about the Chris Botti concert and Disney!  And I will probably take a trip to Epcot Flower and Garden Festival to take pictures.  I also need to find a place to stay after next week, which I am amazing not worried about.  And there are plenty more good byes to make.  But for now, I am going to go to bed.  There is a garage sale to tend to tomorrow; a day to say good bye to so much stuff!