Although memories of HE '04 have faded to gray, I've been asked -- ordered -- to submit a show report. Due to medi-cation, all I recall of New York are a handful of daily quotes submitted herewith.

Day 1: "Why don't you...go next door?"
The first person I met at HE was fellow mooner Chip Stern with whom I had exchanged uproarious emails including all manner of mutual threats of audiophile disfigurements. It was the first time we had met. I was surprised by so much mass on the hoof. As we exchanged handshakes, I faked a left uppercut. Chip didn't flinch. 'Give it your best shot," he challenged, a manly proposition under the circumstances. I did not make Chip the same offer. He outclasses me by forty pounds.

Being press day and Chip very cordial, I thought to hang with him to see a few displays. At the first room we entered, the exhibitor seemed mildly uneasy. Chip's previous gig at Stereophile had apparently won him some notoriety.

As we nestled into the best seats in the house, a couple of studious-looking gentlemen took chairs in front of us. "Uh-oh," groaned Chip in a low growl. "Those dweebs are gonna wanna play their demo disc, a flute solo or some other audiophile crap. I don't have time for that. Here, take this." He handed me a jewel box containing a compact disc labeled (C)Hipster Recordings.

"Tell the head cheese to play your disc first," he said. "Hurry."
"Why don't you tell him yourself?" I replied.
"Look" said the Chipster, "do you wanna help me or not?"

Ever compliant, I took the CD and submitted it to the man in charge of the demonstration. "Would you play this, please?"
"Certainly. What track would you like," the man responded with a sedate grimace.
"Track one is a good place to start," I said without moving my lips. Chip was playing ventriloquist.
ue track one.

A sound like "BLAAAAH, WHAAA, WHOOO, WHYEEE" erupted from the loudspeakers. "That's great!" said Chip. "Turn it up," he yelled to the exhibitor. "I think it's loud enough," the man protested, his voice drowned out by a cacophony of guitar distortion over relentless grunge. The gentlemen in front of us covered their ears.

"Play track 2," I seemed to call out. Chip was throwing his voice again. The second track may have been of bombs exploding in a subway station, except louder and scarier. The two gents rose to leave at which point the exhibitor ejected the disc and handed it to me. "Sir," he said, "why don't you take your CD and go next door? Bother someone else."

Chip snatched the disc away. "Let me see that," he said, inspecting the label. "This is interesting stuff. In audiophile self-defense, I musta put all the non-approved tracks at the beginning. See, female vocals start at track 3 and I even got solo harp coming up a bit further down." I stood there nonplussed. Finally I said, "Come on, Chip, let's go."

Chip had already moved away, disassociating himself from the madman who had subverted the demo with a nightmare recording. "Whaddya mean, fella," he snarled. "I don't even know you." Yikes, I had been set up by an urban guerilla and cleanly dispatched like a dunce. Lesson of the day? Never trust anyone associated, past or present, with Stereophile.

Day 2: "I need a new stereo."
That evening, I visited the home of Steve Warren, a hi-fi hobbyist who lives in Manhattan. Steve had endured my stereo system in Paradise and I wanted to repay the favor. A man of high character and gentle humor, Steve is one of my favorite people. Why then do I cause him grief? Am I of low character and prickly wit? Maybe so.

"You've got great sound here, Steve," I said when the music stopped. "But to my ears, it seems a little rolled-off in the highs. Have you considered a super tweeter?" What else could I say? A prickly wit has to be itself.

"Do you think there's a roll-off? What should I do," he replied earnest as always. For some reason, we decided to pull the preamp out of Steve's system and run the CD player open-throttle into the amplifier. The level was uncomfortably loud but the sound was clearer and more rhythmic. I stuck to form though, opining that the highs were still rolled off. I mean, they could have been - in for a penny, in for a pound.

"You have to change your loudspeakers," I said, "or maybe the cables. I'm not convinced that your amplifier is all that good, either." "Please don't say that," squirmed Steve. "I love the speakers, the cables cost me a fortune and I just bought the amp." My comments had struck a nerve but prickly is as prickly does. Why must I always play the gremlin?

The next day, Steve volunteered to roam the Hilton halls with me. Each time I saw an inexpensive product, I would say something humorous like, "There you go, Steve, a pair of thousand dollar speakers that sound better than your big Reveals." Or, "Hey, Steve, here's an entire stereo system for $1,500. Sell your expensive gear, buy this and have money left over to visit Paradise." Although Steve seemed to laugh, the joshing was starting to erode his psyche.

Over dinner that night, we analyzed the day's exhibits. "Well, my Reveals are better than anything I heard today," Steve ventured. I forked in the Thai food without saying a word. "And you have to admit, my amplifier is a bargain compared to the stuff you liked," he added. I kept eating in serene peace. "There wasn't a preamplifier I would buy even with your money," he concluded defiantly. Steve waited for argument but there was nothing to say. Then the accumulation of the day's evidence revealed the awful truth. With the quiet anguish of a penitent, he buried his face in his hands and moaned, "I need a new stereo."

I wish I could have offered a comforting pat but real men don't do that. I had to play out the hand. "You're right" was all I would offer. Lesson for this day? Never criticize a friend's hi-fi system.

Day 3: "Henny Youngman was my uncle.'
On Friday, I attended a downtown soiree given by Professor Jules Coleman, a leading member of the 6moons brain trust (which includes Les Turoczi and Chip Stern among other really smart people). As party photos show, Jules knows how to work a room. Invariably, he had people smiling, laughing or just feeling great to be engaged in sparkling conversation.

As we settled in to dinner at a nearby eatery, I realized the secret of Jules' party charm. He is the funniest man I have met in a decade. While we shuffled menus, his asides, comebacks and one-liners came so fast and furious I couldn't keep track. Finally, I could stand it no more.

"Jules, are you aware of your talent?" I interrupted. "Jokes just roll off your tongue. You could have played the Catskills and wound up as another Seinfeld."

Jules explains the vital needs to keep your cables as short as possible to avoid complications while Jonathan Halpern eagerly expects the usual reactions. Ken Micallef in the background meanwhile enjoys time off from the audiophile snake pits.

Jules isn't Coolman for nothing. He was matter-of-fact about it. "Humor runs in the family," he explained. "You saw it in my biography. Henny Youngman was my uncle."

"I read it," I replied, "but figured you were referring to the Henny Youngman who was a butcher in the Bronx." Take that, Jules. "Not quite," said Jules, spotting an opening, "that Henny Youngman, the butcher, was Henny Youngman the comedian's father, making him my great-uncle. Which means," he added without missing a beat, "I'm not only funny but carve a mean Thanksgiving turkey.'

Lesson today? Don't try to upstage Jules Coleman unless you are Seinfeld.

Day 4: "I'm an eight."
On Saturday, bossman Srajan invited musician/reviewer Ken Micallef and me to lunch. Ken is a strapping young man with a diffident manner and all-American good looks. He also has a very pretty girlfriend whom he dragged along to the HE. On our way to lunch, I fell into step with Ken's sweetie.

"How does a nice girl like you wind up coming to a show?" I asked. "I'm an eight," she replied. With visions of a corn-rowed Bo Derek running on the beach to the swells of Bolero, I replied, "Well, I'd say you're at least a nine." She ignored the gambit. "No, I mean an A-I-T. It stands for Audiophile in Training."

I pondered the concept. "Well, I'm new at this hobby myself. Maybe we can train together. How about meeting me this evening for some live - music?" Ken's girl is no rookie. "Are you hitting on me?" she purred. "Ken oh Ken," she called to her beau who was in conversation up ahead. "Your friend here is trying to pick me up."

Well, excuse me. I've been away too long. Ken, a New York sophisticate in these matters, understood the attraction and realized I didn't have a chance. "Just ignore him," he said. "He's all talk." Ken was right. Ms. Eight is geographically undesirable anyway. Wait 'til next year.

Lesson? Never flirt with an audiophile in training.

Day 5: "It's an endless loop..."
My favorite exhibit was the Anthony Gallo a/v demonstration featuring the man's new reference loudspeakers. On Sunday, I visited the room for the third time. I thought the sound and video of the drum corps competition from the movie Drumline was hugely entertaining. Spying Mr. Gallo standing alone, I went over to compliment him on a winning demo. "But aren't you getting a little tired of four days of drumming?" I asked.

"Can you believe it," he grinned. "We're using an endless loop. The same two teams compete over and over. Yet some people sit here watching for half an hour. They think it's a movie."

I was stunned. I had actually returned hoping to learn which of the "twelve" competing teams would win the competition. Damn. Now I'll never know.

Concluding lesson: Whenever you attend a show, prepare to be thrown for an endless loop.