A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I always have a few friends over for “Friendsgiving”. I think Steve was the one that named it that, in response to a particularly egregious family travesty on the holiday before. In all fairness, Steve’s relationship to his family is an absolute mess, but that’s a long story.
Nick was in the kitchen, giving me a hard time about the stuffing. As usual. Dude cannot let it a single thing go. Two years before, I’d put bacon into the recipe because bacon. Being a vegan — something none of us saw coming — he was livid. Then, with all the full-fat cream I’d dosed the potatoes with, he practically lost his mind. If Tony hadn’t distracted him with that impromptu dance routine, it would have gotten ugly. But the upshot was that Nick almost never left the kitchen until the meal was served.
Luckily, he was a whiz with a knife. He was standing at the counter, a pile of neatly chopped celery and powdered herbs sat in neat little bowls nearby. The tip of that 10″ Kramer chef knife held loosely in his hand, though, was tracking my face as he glowered at me. “And where,” he said, “are the onions?”
“Right — hold on.” Bruce was standing in the pantry door, picking over the spices. “Who really uses ‘star anise’, anyway?” I had to shove him out of the way, grabbed an onion, tossed it over the island to Nick. A grunt, a slap, two cuts, a moment to peel, and then he did that thing that the android Bishop did in the movie Aliens. It’s freaky to watch, but the onion seems to jump into tiny pieces pretty much by itself. A sweep into the bowl, and another arched eyebrow. “We’re gonna need a few more than that if The Stomach shows up.” I walked the bag over to him.
Steve came in from the deck, where the smoker was handling two of the four 20lb birds we were prepping (and that stupid tofurkey thing that Nick brought). Seeing him in that BBQ apron is pretty friggin’ hilarious, though, but that grin on his face spoke volumes for how things were going with the smoker. Bruce had duty over the roasting birds in the oven, a little doojabber in his pocket was feeding him what I could only guess was real-time temp information on the two birds browning gently.
Steven handed me a bottle of Flying Dog Winter Ale, clanked, and took a long pull.
That’s when Tony rolled in.
Let me back up a step.
During the week, UPS dropped off a rather hefty looking package from Peachtree Audio. The all-in-one loudspeaker inside of that package was very black, very tidy and well turned out (I really liked the feel of the matte-finished semi-rubberized top and sides). I plunked it onto the kitchen counter, plugged it in and then realized that I had a Bluetooth speaker on hand — and not another speaker for my Sonos system.
I’m the first to admit it — I’m not usually an “early adopter” when it comes to audio. I still have a turntable and use it regularly, and my amplifier has vacuum tubes sticking out of it. I just don’t care. My Big Rig works, it works great, and I’m absolutely in love with the sound I get out of that system.
I recently picked up a couple of pieces of the Sonos setup because my old Bose Wave Radio finally kicked the bucket. More accurately, it failed to survive a direct hit from a ladder I knocked over while painting. Yes, I paint. I’m not exactly handy, but I have been known to tackle a household task or two. So there.
Anyway, the Sonos system I have is a replacement for what was, essentially, a radio. Which I essentially used for the news. Yep. That’s it. Just news. How sad is that? So, the Sonos system was supposed to help me “do more”, leverage that large library of digital audio files that I’d accumulated (I like vinyl and tubes, yes, but I’m not a caveman), and play Pandora and Spotify. I dropped a Bridge down next to my ISP’s router, and wired a Sonos Connect into my home theater and a Play:5 into the kitchen, in place of that pile of rubble from Bose.
The upgrade from the Bose was instantly and painfully obvious — that little sucker could really fill a room. While the Bose system did weird Bose things with the frequencies down low (muddled the living hell out of the mid-range and mid/bass), the Play:5 hit hard down low and provided a very credible sense of a coherence all the way up the range. It played loud, voices (especially male voices) were clear and articulate, with no boom, bloat, or wool. It wasn’t as dynamic as my Big Rig, or as focused as my A/V system, but it was — and is — entertaining as all hell.
The best part? How crazy-stupid-easy it was to set up. The instructions were on a fold out card, in bold colors and block printing. Push here, hold, et voila. You are done. I was stunned. I was (almost) convinced my dad could do it, unaided. I added Pandora, and I was off.
That was what I use in the kitchen. That was what was not on when Tony made an appearance.
The sound that rolled out, completely unexpectedly, was enormous. Bass was percussive. The volume was way too friggin’ loud. But I knew what was happening when the first couple of bars blasted in.
As he rounded the corner, Rhody and Sam in tow and both shaking their heads, Tony had his arms out wide as if to say “I’m here, let’s get this party started.”
“I’m here, let’s get this party started!” said Tony.
“AC/DC? Really?” this from Bruce.
“Turn that sh*t down,” called Nick, over his shoulder. I’m pretty sure he didn’t so much as twitch during the whole scene, and was still bent on doing extreme violence to vegetables, but I wouldn’t know, I was wiping beer off my face.
“Nice,” I said.
“Sorry,” said Steve. For whatever it’s worth, he did look embarrassed.
Tony came up, plucked a towel off the counter as he passed and used it to dab my face. “Got my present, I see!” His eyebrows were doing that waggling thing that made him seem a little unhinged.
“You noticed?” I said, dryly. He grinned. “Yeah, Bluetooth is pretty nifty. I think more speakers ought to do this, but honestly, most really suck at producing decent fidelity. This little baby,” he said, giving the Deepblue2 a happy little pat, “has a great codec in it that gets a whole lot closer to wire-quality. AptX. Great stuff. Where’s the beer?”
Bruce waved vaguely at Steve.
“Beer me?” Tony, to Steve as Rhody settled in on to a bar stool. Sam dropped a big bag of food next to Nick, “Mind if I cut in?”
Tony dropped a small, black remote on top of the speaker from Peachtree (apparently, he’d been palming it), and followed Steve out on to the deck.
The sound of the Deepblue, now that it was at something less than life-threatening levels, was really remarkable. Sitting on the granite counter, opposite from the working area, the sound was articulate, which is an interesting way to describe sound, but there you go. The bass, particularly, was exceptionally clean and punchy. AC/DC gave way to Lorde, and the bass drops were enough to draw an appreciative set of eyebrows from Rhody and even Bruce was nodding his head — and to the beat, too.
“Most excellent! Friends! Food! Music! This is most excellent indeed!”
I hadn’t been expecting Thor, aka, “The Stomach That Walks”, nor his brother, but their sudden appearance was completely in-character. Planning anything with them was just absurdly difficult.
“This little box is making all of this sound? Most excellent!” The enthusiasm was met with a significantly heartier slap that Tony’s. Given the slapper, it probably wasn’t surprising that the Deepblue gave up any pretense of surviving and promptly scattered its constituent pieces across the counter.
Loki did something weird with his hands and the pieces stood up and spun while he looked at them. There were five drivers in the thing, two 3″ drivers for the mid range, two 1″ tweeters for the highs, all arrayed around a single 6.5″ bass driver. He snapped his fingers, and all the bits flew back together. A moment later, Mozart was playing. I’m pretty sure Loki smirked before stalking out to the deck. “Uh,” was all I managed before Bruce patted me on the shoulder. “I’ll keep an eye on him,” he said. He didn’t look around at my face to see what I’m absolutely certain was narrowed eyes and a dubious look.
Nick, apparently content to have delegated knife duties to Sam, was leaning against the bar clinking beers with Rhody and the God of Thunder. I’m guessing he’d snagged them out of the fridge, but I must have missed that too. He pointed at the miraculously now-whole speaker.
“Sounds better than that other thing,” he said, gesturing vaguely at the Sonos Play:5. “Bigger. More expansive. Bass is way tighter.”
Perhaps in light of those happy comments, the audio chose that exact moment to stutter.
Tony, coming through the door, “Yeah, it does that. I take the Bluetooth transmitter too far away from the speaker and it gets … wonky.” He made a fluttering gesture with his free hand and rolled his eyes on that last word. “Wired is probably best — there’s a mini-jack and an optical in on the backside — but if you’re reasonably close to it, wireless is fine. And I can stream lossless from Tidal, directly off my Galaxy. Too bad about the iPhone though. No AptX. Tsk, tsk.”
I would have said something at this point, and probably was doing so, but a giant android burst into the room, mumbling something about “strings” and “puppets”, cooed at the Deepblue2 and scooped it off the counter as it were some errant baby, and then promptly blasted out of the room. Directly through the ceiling.
The ceiling I had just finished painting. Son of a b****.
Steve rushed in to the room, Tony was mumbling something about “This is all my fault” and somewhere, Loki was laughing his a** off.
This was, of course, exactly when my wife round the corner with Natasha, Pepper and Maria. My dear, long-suffering wife, staring slack-jawed at the hole in the ceiling of the kitchen that led directly through our bedroom above. I could see the laundry pile from here.
Son of a b****.
Natasha said, with a frown, “I don’t care. I’m not eating shawarma today. That place in New York was just hell on my guts.”