Cary Lu

Matt Mirapaul[hidden]

Cary once surprised me on the street in Manhattan. I recognized him before he saw me and I hailed him as he passed.

That two acquaintances -- one from Seattle, the other from Chicago -- should have a chance meeting on Sixth Avenue did not seem to faze him at all. We chatted for a few pleasant minutes, as if we had just collided on the floor of a PC Expo (yes, you MacExpo veterans, he attended those, too).

The most startling element to be gleaned from this impromptu encounter, though, was Cary's intended destination: a Sam Goody's store, where the orchestral-music section probably contained three versions of the same Mozart symphony, a dusty copy of "Hooked on Classics" and little else.

Cary's preferences in music were as exhaustively researched as everything else that captured his wide-ranging attention. When he became interested in a composition, he would familiarize himself with every conceivable recording and then make a faultlessly well-reasoned decision on which was the best. As a result, he tended to gravitate toward long-out-of-print LPs that could be found only in used-record shops.

So it was unthinkable to me that Goody's would "got" whatever it was that Cary was seeking. But then, you also may be aware of his ability to find valuable needles in seemingly hopeless haystacks.

For example, whenever I would mention a new piece of audio gear, Cary's rejoinder would be his description of how he had resurrected some abandoned, decrepit piece of stereo equipment. After scavenging it from a friend's castoff pile or a shopkeeper's parts bin, he would solder a capacitor here and affix some chewing gum there and pretty soon have it in fine working order -- and no doubt sounding better than some high-end rig in the audio showroom, too.

This utterly pragmatic, the-newest-and-most-complex-isn't-necessarily-the-best approach was one of the reasons his reviews were so valuable. When I was ready to buy my first modem for my Mac, I called Cary for advice. After giving me a summary of key features to look for and a comprehensive rundown of the available products, he then recommended a particular brand because it was the sole model with an LED readout that told you, in letters, what the modem was doing. Anne, my wife, still uses it.

A couple of months ago, I called Cary to discuss the next generation of microprocessors for the Mac. In a typically matter-of-fact fashion, he told me he was quite ill and that because he didn't expect to live out the year, he hadn't been following the issue too closely. And then, as always, he told me precisely what I need to know.

My fondest memory of Cary, though, occurred two years ago, while we were visiting the Seattle home of Steve Manes and Susan Kocik for Susan's 50th birthday party. As the celebration reverberated below, Cary, Anne and I chatted beneath the stars on the rooftop deck.

The conversation flowed from the amusing vicissitudes of the computer industry to the incomparable virtues of the Cleveland Orchestra to the endlessly delightful behavior of his children. On occasion, he would grab onto his own train of thought and exclaim, albeit in his own low-key way, "Now, that's interesting."

The expression -- "Now, that's interesting" -- was a highlight of many of our talks over the years. It meant that he had been intrigued, and that you would now be privileged enough to listen to him as he worked through a problem or sifted through a scenario.

Indeed, this was among his most endearing traits. Cary, who was so smart and who always appeared to know everything and who shared that knowledge so willingly, was perpetually delighted to discover that there was still more for him to learn. No one ever surprised Cary more than he surprised himself.