Monday, May 02, 2005

The Engagement Story

What a weekend.

I took Friday afternoon off work. Brandi and I had tickets to see Edwin McCain in concert at the House of Blues in Cleveland that evening. We wanted to get there early to make sure we got a great spot--our preferred spot being dead center, right up against the stage--so we left Bowling Green around 2:00. After a couple of stops, we made it into Cleveland around 4:30.

We had dinner at the House of Blues, which was pretty good. They allow restaurant patrons to "pass the line" and get into the concert hall a few minutes before the general public, so we took advantage of that. Ironically enough, you have to stand in line in order to "pass the line," and we ended up getting in that line around 6:30. We were the first people in line, actually, but we weren't by ourselves for very long. The crowds at Edwin's concerts are generally really mellow, and we ended up near some cool people to chat with while we waited.

We spent about an hour in that line before they opened the doors for those of us getting in early. Most of the people in line with us wanted to grab seats along the sides or up in the balcony, so Brandi and I had no trouble getting our spot right up against the stage. Once there we had to wait another hour before the show started, but we again found some pretty cool people around us, so we chatted with them and the time passed by rather quickly.

The show was totally incredible. This was my first time at a House of Blues (the one in Cleveland is pretty new), but this one, at least, is a totally awesome venue. The sound is so clear, it was no trouble to make out the words to all the songs we heard, even when the opening acts were performing songs we hadn't heard before. I'd go back in a heartbeat, and that's awesome, because Edwin performs at House of Blues locations all the time.

The first opening act was a local Cleveland musician named Will Bowen. He played for about 45 minutes, and he was really good. He had a good voice, and he was pretty decent on the guitar as well. He definitely made some new fans with his performance. The second guy was Brian Vander Ark, who is the lead singer of the band The Verve Pipe. He put on an amazing show. He has a good, strong voice, and he wasn't afraid to show it off. He probably played for 45 minutes as well, doing an awesome cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and an a cappella version of the Verve Pipe hit "The Freshman," which happens to be one of my favorite songs. I didn't even know he was performing until we were in line before the show, so that was just an added bonus.

This was my tenth time seeing Edwin and the boys perform live, and what can I say? They get better each time out. They mixed up their set list and did some songs they hadn't played live for a while, and that was cool. They did most of the songs I really wanted to hear, although I was disappointed that they skipped their cover of "Maggie May," since I was totally ready to rock out to that one. Still, that was a minor disappointment, and the show was so good that it didn't even matter. They put so much emotion into their performances, and they are all such talented musicians, that it never gets old watching them do their thing. The time just flies by when I'm at a concert. They played for nearly two hours, but it didn't feel like it at all.

When the show was finished, Brandi and I headed out to the lobby area to loiter for a bit. We bought CDs by Will Bowen and Brian Vander Ark (we already have all of Edwin's CDs), and both of those guys were hanging out in the lobby as well, so we got both CDs autographed. We took a few moments to sit down and catch our breath, and then we headed out into the Cleveland night. On a whim, we decided to head out behind the venue, where Edwin's tour bus was parked, to see if we could catch the band on their way out. The venue itself has a no-photography policy, but we thought it would be nice to get some pictures with the guys if we could.

The drummer, Dave, was out there with some fans when we got there, so we chatted with him for a few minutes. Then Larry the guitarist came out, and Dave went into the bus. Brandi was pretty stoked, as she's infatuated with Larry. I don't mind, because he is a hell of a guitarist. He makes his instrument sing, and he makes it look so easy. We got to talk to him a little bit, and Brandi got a picture with him before he moved on as well. We had to wait a little while for Edwin himself to come out, and we were almost ready to give up when he finally showed up. We got an autograph and a photo with him while Brandi, a bit star-struck, chattered nearly incoherently.

After that, I had a bit of a special plan in mind. I've recently discovered an interest in digital imagery, so I asked Brandi to walk with me down to Terminal Tower so I could take a few snapshots. It took a little bit of talking on my part to warm her up to the idea--she was wearing uncomfortable shoes, and it was a little chilly and even drizzling just a little bit. I had something more important in mind than digital photos, though, and I finally talked her into it. Terminal Tower is just about a block over from the House of Blues, and on the short walk over there I went into a little spiel about how much Brandi means to me and what an important part of my life she has become.

(You can even see some of the raindrops.)

As we approached the plaza across from the Tower, we began to hear the sound of rushing water. I realized that there was a fountain in the plaza, and that played into my plans very well. I finished my "speech" as we entered the plaza and approached the fountain. I told Brandi to make a wish. We soon discovered that we didn't have any change to toss into the water, but I convinced her to make a wish anyway.

I had a feeling I knew what she would wish for (as she's made no secret of her desires for some time now), and I was right. Spoken aloud, she wished for us to be together and to be happy forever. At that point I went down on one knee and asked her to marry me, presenting her with the ring I had purchased a couple of months ago. Happily, she accepted.

The rest of the weekend was something of a blur. Portions of each Saturday and Sunday were spent talking to and/or otherwise communicating with friends and family, informing them of the happy news. Brandi also picked up some bridal magazines and guidebooks, through the local bookstore and from a friend, and spent some time poring over them. We also talked about some tentative plans. She's leaving tomorrow to visit her friend Cricket (who will be her maid of honor) in Texas, and we'll probably start making hardcore plans upon her return.

I think I've unleashed a monster.

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