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Celebrity Death Watch: Joe Bellino was the first Navy football player to win the Heisman trophy. David White was a doo-wop singer and songwriter, whose hits included At the Hop." Nipsey Hussle was a rapper. Dan Robbins invented paint-by-number. Vonda McIntyre was a science fiction writer. Philip George Furia wrote books about Tin Pan Alley, with a focus on lyricists. John Quamby played the Health Insprector on Fawlty Towers. Marilynn Smith was one of the women who founded the LPGA

Ernest "Fritz" Hollings served as a Senator from South Carolina for almost 40 years, after having been governor of South Carolina before that. He started out as a segregationist but came to support at least some civil rights issues. He championed food stamps. He also created NOAA. On the minus side, he voted against the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and supported the interests of the media industry with respect to emerging telecommunications issues. Overall, he was relatively liberal for a Southern Democrat. I should also note that he earned me 24 ghoul pool points.

Trip to El Paso: I went to El Paso for the weekend. Getting there was not too bad and I even had time to grab dinner at IAH during my layover. I walked over to the Downtown Artists and Farmers Market on Saturday morning, where I discovered that most of what is farmed in El Paso appears to be jams, baked goods, and the like, with the only produce for sale at the market being microgreens. The artist goods ran heavily towards fancy soaps and fiber things I could make myself, though I did happen to see (and buy)something that will be a perfect gift for a friend. It was still pleasant walking around and talking with the merchants.

Then I followed part of a walking tour of historical architecture. Much of the central part of the city was designed by one architect, Henry Trost, during the early 20th century, leading to a distinctive look for the city. Then I went to the Art Museum, where the most notable works include a collection of retablos (Mexican devotional paintings, sort of a Catholic folk art equivalent of an icon) and a rather disturbing exhibit of pieces by Julie Speed. At that point I was ready for a late lunch and went to a place called Elemi that sounded interesting. I wasn’t super hungry, as I’d had a largish breakfast at my hotel, so I just got two tacos – one chicharron de pescado (cod, slaw, grapefruit, and lime aioli) and one coliflor almendrado (cauliflower, almond mole, almond "cojita," and cashew crema). Both were on blue corn tortillas and both were delicious. The cauliflower one, in particular, may be the best vegan dish I have ever had. I also had strawberry lemonade to drink, which was quite tasty. I would definitely be happy to eat there again.

I had contemplated going to the El Paso History Museum, but I decided I needed a nap more, so went back to my hotel for a couple of hours. In the early evening, I walked over to Southwest University Park for a minor league baseball game – the El Paso Chihuahuas vs. the Las Vegas Aviators. The ballpark felt pretty average to me, but I may have been negatively biased because I had a really uncomfortable seat on a metal chair in the last row, vs. one of the plastic ones in any of the other rows. On the plus side, the food offerings had a lot of local flavor. The fans didn’t seem super enthusiastic, but that may have also been because the Chihuahuas didn’t play well. Cal Quantrill’s pitching was inadequate and he was out by the 4th inning. There were also a couple of errors by third baseman Ty France. In the end, Las Vegas won 12 to 5.

Speaking of Baseball: I am hoping that being at home will restore my Red Sox to what they should be.

Travel Hell: Getting home from El Paso on Sunday was, er, challenging. There were severe thunderstorms around Houston, leading to a ground hold on everything coming into IAH. Seeing that the 8:18 flight was delayed and figuring my 10:05 flight would also be delayed, I switched to the 8:18, hoping that would give me time to get my 2:30 connection from IAH to IAD. That would have worked – except that IAH closed and the plane I was on got diverted to DFW. We needed to refuel at that point, by the way. We ended up being on the ground at DFW for about 5 hours, if I recall correctly. I changed my IAH to IAD flight to a significantly later IAH to DCA one. I also discovered that my original flight from ELP was delayed almost 4 hours so, yes, changing planes had been the right thing to do. In the end, I got home about 7 hours late. But I did get home safely, which is what counts.

Tonic at Quigley’s: I went to a play with a friend last night (about which, more below) and we had dinner before at Tonic at Quigley’s. This place has a reputation as being largely a hangout for GW students, but French President Emmanuel Macron had dinner with Congressman John Lewis there last year. My friend got a burger and tater tots, which is pretty much what Macron had eaten. I went for the ahi tuna salad, which was quite good. I also had a G&T because how could I not at a place named Tonic?

Ada and the Engine: What we went to was a staged reading of Lauren Gunderson’s play Ada and the Engine, about Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. This was art of the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The director, Samantha Wyer Bello, introduced the program, noting that they’d had a whopping five hours of rehearsal. Obviously, that meant that the actors were reading from scripts, with another performer reading the stage directions. The short prep time did lead to a few flubs here and there, but, overall, I was impressed by the readings. Chelsea Mayo was a very charming Ada Byron Lovelace, David Bishins was passionate as Charles Babbage, and Jonathan Uffleman was surprisingly likeable as Lord Lovelace, who didn’t understand his wife, but sincerely wanted her to be happy, while Nicole Brewer was up to the challenge of being the unlikeable Lady Anabella Byron. There were a lot of interesting ideas in the script, touching on visions of the future from Industrial Revolution England to how the arts and science interact to the role of women in society. The stage directions were quite detailed and seemed to me to present some serious challenges for a full-up prpduction. What none of that tells you is how funny the script was. This was a delightful presentation and I would love to see a fully-staged version.

There was also a short talk-back with the playwright after the reading, which came about somewhat by chance. Gunderson had just flown in (she lives in San Francisco) because of a commission at the Kennedy Center. She talked about her interest in women in science and mathematics and about the research she did in writing the play. She also noted that doing the reading at NAS was interesting because there was such a nerdy audience, with people laughing at lines that don’t usually get such a strong reaction.

I have probably said this before, but I truly appreciate living somewhere with such amazing cultural opportunities.

Yawn: Two nights in a row of under 6 hours of sleep is definitely sub-optimal. It also didn’t help that we had a power outage at my complex this morning. I plan to collapse right after supper tonight.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Randy Jackson was the last player to hit a home run for the Dodgers before they moved to Los Angeles. Scott Walker was a pop singer with the Walker Brothers and on his own. Rafi Eitan was an Israeli spymaster who captured Adolf Eichmann, but (on the minus side) ran Jonathan Pollard as one of his informants. Larry Cohen directed horror movies. Andrew Marshall directed the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment. Gabriel Okara was a pioneer in English language literature (poetry and novels) in Nigeria. Fred Malek was an advisor to Richard Nixon and is particularly notorious for giving Nixon a list of Jews at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. W. H. Pugmire wrote horror fiction. Ranking Roger was a ska singer, who headed up The (English) Beat. Michel Bacos was the Air France pilot who stayed with the Jewish and Israeli hostages when his plane was hijacked to Entebbe. Valery Bykovsky was a cosmonaut.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was stranded somewhere, possibly England, with all planes grounded, possibly after 9/11. Finally, they (not that I have any idea who "they" were) decided to bus everyone where they were going. Somehow, I ended up on a bus with only 3 other people. The driver got lost and we ended up going back to where we had been waiting. Apparently, everyone else had left. We had to wait for our bus to be repaired before we could go. I wondered how we were going to drive across the ocean, but it seemed we only had to drive to a ferry to cross the Atlantic.

MIT Intern Reception: Monday night was the annual reception for MIT students in the policy internship program. There weren’t any students interested in space policy this year, so I could just focus on giving general advice, aka corrupting young minds. One young woman told me I’d reassured her a lot when I told her it was okay not to know what she wanted to do, so I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to.

By the way, they changed venues this year. They've used a room in one of the House office buildings in the past. This time, they rented an event space next to the Shakespeare Theatre. The space looked attractive, but they didn't have as wide a variety of food. And it was very noisy.

Proper 21: A friend and I went out to dinner before theatre-going last night. This place was chosen entirely for a convenient location. The food was pretty good – or, at least, the roasted chicken with chimichurri sauce I had was good. But the service was mediocre (e.g. we had to ask a few times before getting our bill) and the noise level was outrageously loud. I won’t be going back unless I am with someone I really don’t want to converse with.

A Bronx Tale: The show we were going to see was A Bronx Tale at The National Theatre. I had seen neither Chazz Palminteri’s one man show nor the movie based on it, so I really had no idea what to expect. The basic story involves a boy named Calogero who witnesses a Mafia-related murder and, as a result of keeping quiet about it, gets involved with Sonny, the Mafioso, who treats him like a combination good-luck charm and son. That leads to conflict with Calogero’s parents. As Calogero grows up, race becomes a big issue, since he falls for a black girl in high school. His friends are ready to set off Molotov cocktails at a nightclub in the black neighborhood and Sonny keeps him from going along with them – which is fortunate, as they get blown up in their car. But Sonny gets killed by the son of the guy he’d killed at the beginning.

This is supposedly based on Palminteri’s life story, but I found parts of it rather implausible. Sonny’s lack of racism, for example, did not ring true. Nor did his encouraging Calogero to get out of the mob life. But, hey, I am a firm believer in emotional truths over facts, so I can suspend some disbelief.

This is a musical and I thought the music (by Alan Menken) worked reasonably well in pushing the story along. The most notable song is "Nicky Machiavelli," sung by Sonny to Calogero explaining his philosophy. And, while I like doo-wop, I do wish there had been a bit more of an ethnic flavor to the score.

I also wish there were local performers in it, but that is too much to ask for a short-run touring production of a Broadway musical. And several of the performers had been in the show on Broadway. I’ll particularly note Brianna-Marie Bell, who played Jane, and whose voice was particularly powerful in the song, "Webster Avenue," which opened the second act.

Overall, I enjoyed seeing this, but I wouldn’t put it into the essential musicals category.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Jim Raman was one of the Married Dentists on The Amazing Race. Joffre Stewart was a beat poet. W. S. Merwin was an off-beat poet. No, actually, he wrote about nature and won the Pulitzer, but I couldn’t resist. Marjorie Weinman Sharmat wrote children’s books, notably the Nate the Great series. Frank Cali was the head of the Gambino crime family. Tom Hatten acted in numerous movies but is more famous for hosting children’s television shows in Los Angeles. Richard Erdman acted in over 160 movies. Dick Dale was a guitarist, known primarily for surf music.

Birch Bayh was a senator from Indiana, who ran for President in 1976. He was responsible for two constitutional amendments (the 25th, dealing with Presidential disability and succession, and the 26th, which lowered the voting age to 18). But what was probably even more of an achievement was Title IX, which bans gender discrimination in higher education. He also worked on the Equal Rights Amendment and on an attempt to eliminate the Electoral College. In short, he was one of the good guys in my political reckoning. And he had a really cool name.

Weather: We had a day or two of lovely warmth, but it is now chilly again. The warmth inspired the trees to get ready for public sex and Thursday supposedly had the highest recorded tree pollen levels for March in the D.C. metro area. Sigh.

Hands on a Hardbody: I went to see Hands on a Hardbody at Keegan Theatre on Friday night. This is a musical that was only on Broadway for about a month, so is not well-known, but it sounded interesting. The premise is that 10 people are competing to win a truck from an East Texas dealership by lasting the longest at a contest, in which they have to stand with one hand on the truck at all times. They get only a 15 minute break every six hours. (This is, by the way, a real thing. The musical is based on a documentary about it.) The real story is, of course, who the people are and why they are willing to do this. Some of the stories are more compelling than others, of course. I particularly liked Jesus, who was saving up to go to veterinary school, and JD, who had been injured at work – and fired, as a result. The villain of the piece is Benny, who had won before. He’s trying again because his wife ran off with the truck he won the last time. In the end, he turns out to have a more sympathetic story than it seems at first. The other villain is Heather, who the dealership owner, Mike, has fixed to win. I had no sympathy for her.

The music was written by Amanda Green (who also did the lyrics) and Trey Anastasio (of the rock band, Phish) and is an interesting mix of styles. There wasn’t anything that was memorable, but it was an enjoyable enough score and fit the story well. I should also mention that the book was written by Doug Wright, who is probably best known for his Tony Award for I Am My Own Wife.

As for the performances, I particularly liked Shayla Lowe as Norma, John Loughney as Benny, and Duane Richards III as Chris. All of the performers were good, but some have fewer opportunities to be noticed as dramatically.

Overall, I thought this was worth seeing. I would also like to see the documentary it was based on.


Travel Show: I went to the Travel Show at the Convention Center on Saturday with a friend. I was pretty disappointed in it this year, though it may have been because I was tired after being out on Friday night. Plus, I had been to the much larger New York Travel Show in late January. I didn’t talk with people at any booth who made me excited about a destination I wasn’t already aware of. And none of the talks I went to were all that inspirational. I thought Peter Greenberg was particularly bad. While he was amusing, much of his advice was incorrect or irrelevant for most people. For example, he suggested that one should either carry-on or FedEx their baggage to their destination. Fine if you are going cross-country and staying in one place, but not feasible for a trip involving camping in the developing world. One person asked for suggestions about car rentals and he recommended either relying completely on Uber or using a European car company’s overseas purchase program. Oy.

I heard a little bit of Ian Brownlee from the State Department offering security tips, but he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know. And he was a less than engaging speaker. And then there was a talk by TV host Kellee Edwards on "How to Travel Safely and Explore More." I wouldn’t take advice on that subject from someone who got on the back of a motorcycle driven by a complete stranger when she got lost twice trying to find a waterfall near her hotel. She might have done better to have learned more than three words of the local language and to have found out how far a kilometer is.

Unconventional Diner: Because we were at the Convention Center, we got dinner at Unconventional Diner, right around the corner. I got a drink called Beast of Burden, which was, essentially, a glorified Moscow Mule – and quite tasty. As for food, I tried their chicken noodle soup, which was delicious. The broth was meaty tasting and slightly spicy, and was filled with chicken, alphabet noodles, carrots, mushrooms, and had two fluffy scallion matzoh balls. My friend was happy with her meatloaf, too. I got a scoop of raspberry-lychee sorbet for dessert, which was tasty, although, frankly, it would have been even better without the lychee.

Sunday: I had lots of household stuff I intended to get done. But I was out of the house for a few hours for a rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling show and did a couple of errands (e.g. grocery shopping) in the way back. Not nearly as much got done as should have. Oh, well.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Harris Wofford was a politician and civil rights activist. Maxine Brown was a country singer. Kaye Ballard was an actress and singer, best known for The Mothers-in-=Law on television in the 1960’s. Jonas Mekas was a film director. Diana Athill was a literary editor and memoirist. Meshulam Riklis was a businessman of the sort that gives Wall Street a bad name, but is better known for having married (and later divorced) Pia Zadora. Florence Knoll designed modern furniture, largely for offices. Fatima Ali competed on cooking-oriented reality TV. Michel Legrand was a composer, best known for the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair. Jumani Johansson claimed to be the illegitimate son of Malawi’s long-time president, Hastings Banda. Peter Magowan co-owned the San Francisco Giants. Rosemary Bryant Mariner was the first woman to fly jets for the Navy and the first to command a military aviation squadron. Patricia McBride Lousada (who is not the same person as Patricia McBride) was a founding member of New York City Ballet and a protége of George Balanchine and Merce Cunningham.

Oliver Mtukudzi was a Zimbabwean guitarist and cultural icon. I was privileged to see him perform in 2012 at the Lowell Folk Festival.

Russell Baker was one of my favorite writers. He wrote more columns for the New York Times than anyone else and won two Pulitzer prizes, including the first ever giver to a humorist. The other was for his memoir, Growing Up. He also scored me 15 ghoul pool points. (I’ve backfilled with Harry Reid.)


Errata: I didn’t watch someone die per se, but I did witness a suicide. I was in Prague, walking across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town after visiting the castle. A guy climbed up on a railing and leapt off. He landed on a plaza below, not in the river. I had nightmares the rest of the time I was in Prague and for about a week after I left.

New York State of Mind: I may be swamped at work, but I had made plans for a weekend in New York, so I took off Friday and took the train up. The excuse was a get-together, vaguely organized by some Travelers’ Cwntury Club folks, focused on the New York Times Travel Show. The hotel price (at the Doubletree on West 40th) was particularly good. One of my friends wanted to come, too, so we made some dinner and theatre plans. The catch came when she broke her ankle while on vacation. She decided to come anyway. The travel show could have been a huge issue, but it turns out that one can borrow a wheelchair (for free!) at the Javits Center and I was willing to push her around. We also had to use taxis and Lyft to get around, instead of just walking, but so be it. I’ve had experience with a broken ankle myself and it’s not like it was fun for her.

I figured out why the hotel was so cheap, by the way. Aside from the annoyingness of having to rearrange furniture (in this case, moving the desk) to close the curtains (a fairly common hotel problem) and absurdly slow elevators, the heat in my room was entirely inadequate. I finally got the room temperature up to something humanly tolerable by turning up the heat to 87 and putting it on high fan. The hotel restaurant (where we had breakfast with the group that had arranged the get-together) was pretty dreadful, with bland food and slow service. The really egregious problem came Saturday night, when we came back and they weren’t letting guests in the main door and two of the four elevators were reserved for their roof-top bar. They relented with my friend due to her broken leg, but I had to shove past them, with them threatening to call security, to get in. If two people are together, you should let both of them in, assholes. The two redeeming things were that the room was pretty well sound-proofed and the bellhop, with whom we had stored luggage on Sunday, was very helpful, offering us bottles of water and opening up a wider door so my friend could manage more easily.

But I was only in the hotel to sleep and I have experienced worse in my time There is a much better Doubletree on W. 36th, by the way.

Restaurants: On Friday night, we ate at Barbetta, suggested by another friend. This is the oldest Italian restaurant in New York and is quite formal. Some people might think that’s stuffy, but it was fine with us. Their prix fixe menu is normally $58, but because it was restaurant week, it was $43 for the three course meal. (The a la carte menu was also available.) I should have asked about prices for drinks, however, as they charged me $30 for a Campari and soda. Anyway, I got beet salad, paillard of chicken with fennel, and pears baked in red wine (something I actually had a craving for recently and am too lazy to make). All of it was quite good. The service was attentive, without being intrusive. And it was quiet enough to carry on a conversation.

On Saturday night, we went to the Third Avenue location of P. J. Clarke’s. This is another really old place and we chose it largely due to proximity to the theatre we were going to. The food is not very exciting (I had chicken pot pie), but they have a good beer list. The table we were initially seated at was by a window and there was a draft, but they moved us. It’s noisier than I’d have liked, but it was fine for what it is. Given my friend’s limited mobility, it was a good choice.


Come From Away: Friday night’s theatre excursion was to see Come From Away, which I’d been wanting to see for ages. It had done a pre-Broadway run at Ford’s Theatre but I never managed to make it work with my schedule. Anyway, for those who are not familiar with it, it tells the story of the diversion of 38 planes to Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 and the relationships that developed between the townspeople and the plane people. Some of the stories are composites, but several are of individual people – a woman from New York who was worried about her firefighter son, the first female captain of a commercial airline, etc. I mention those two in particular, because they were among the more moving stories. The music is suitable for Newfoundland, too, with its Celtic influences. This is a true ensemble piece, not least because the various actors all play multiple parts.

There are a couple of things I can quibble with. For one, during the song "Prayer," an Orthodox rabbi talks to a Jewish townsman who has been separated from his heritage since he was snet as a refugee from the Shoah and they sing "Oseh Shalom." While the melody is a very familiar one now, it was actually written by Nurit Hirsch for the 1969 Hasidic Song Festival, so a man who hasn’t had any Jewish exposure since he was a child in the 1940’s wouldn’t know it.

Later on, some of the plane people get screeched in, becoming honorary Newfoundlanders. This involves drinking Screech rum and kissing a cod. They all balk at the latter, but as someone who has experienced this ceremony itself, the rum is far worse than the cod.

Anyway, those are minor nits and did nothing to take away from how much I enjoyed this show. I would definitely be willing to see it again. Though I would bring a lot more Kleenex with me. Do go see it if you have the chance.


Camelina: On Saturday night, we went to see Carmelina as part of York Theatre’s Musicals in Mufti series. I have seen a number of productions there, although it was my second choice for the evening. My first choice was The Book of Merman but my friend had assumed I had meant The Book of Mormon and vetoed the idea since she’s seen that. I should have explained the parody version, but this was fine with me as I think York always does a great job.

Anyway, Carmelina was by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, with additional lyrics by Barry Harmon and book by Joseph Stein. It is based on the movie Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, though many of you are more likely to recognize the plot from Mama Mia. Carmelina, who lives in a small Italian village, made up a dead American war hero, Eddie Campbell, who she claimed was the father of her daughter, Gia. She had actually slept with three different American soldiers and has been extracting money from all three for 16 years. Old fashioned, indeed, as nowadays, they'd insist on DNA testing. All is fine until there’s a reunion of the American soldiers who served in that area. There is also a café owner, Vittorio, who has been mooning after her.

I should explain that the Mufti series involves minimal staging and actors are often still carrying their scripts. This was exactly the sort of show which the format is well suited for, since it doesn’t involve big production numbers. What it does have is a lovely score and a witty book. It flopped in 1979 (only 17 performances) because it was perceived as old fashioned, but I really loved it. The notable songs include "It’s Time for a Love Song," "Someone in April," "One More Walk Around the Garden," and "The Image of Me." It was also well-performed, with Andrea Burns as Carmelina, Anne Nathan as her maid, Rosa, and Joey Sorge as Vittorio. All in all, a delightful evening.

By the way, Burton Lane’s widow and his stepdaughter were there, sitting right next to my friend (who got moved to the front row because of her leg). And John Kander came over to talk to Mrs. Lane during intermission. I was proud of myself for refraining from swooning fan girl behavior.

Travel Show: Since the travel show was the ostensible reason for the trip, I should probably say something about it. I had gotten a deal for admission from one of the exhibitors – free ticket for one day, $5 plus service fee for the second day. On Saturday, we mostly went around the exhibit hall, collecting brochures and swag. I like to look at travel brochures for destinations I plan to travel to on my own, just to get itinerary ideas. I did also get some info on a couple of specific destinations I’m interested in. (I have booked at least three trips I found out about at either the New York or DC travel shows in the past.) We did also go over to the Ask the Experts area and talked to people about travel insurance and about Bolivia.

On Sunday, we went to a presentation on the Camino del Santiago. Then we went ot hear Pauline Frommer talk about up and coming destinations and new travel planning tools and such. And we went to a couple of other Ask the Experts tables to find out about gadgets and about what to do when things go wrong.

All in all, it was a good weekend, though tiring. I slept pretty much through from Newark to Baltimore on the train home.
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I went out with a friend last night to see the Harlem Globetrotters. We had dinner beforehand at Jaleo, largely because I was pretty sure she wasn’t adventurous enough for some of the other options in that general vicinity. We had a number of tasty dishes, including beet salad, something with quail and lentils, and a rather smoky asparagus dish. Also, a dessert that consisted of a sort of chocolate cake with ice cream that also came with a crispy brittle containing sage. While the food was good, the experience was marred a bit by a large family at a nearby table who let their young children run around the place entirely unsupervised. I have no problem with young children being taken to nice restaurants, but it is the obligation of parents to teach them how to behave appropriately when they’re there.

As for the Globetrotters, their shtick hasn’t really changed much over the years, though the background music has (except for Sweet Georgia Brown, which is eternal). The ball-handling remains showy. All in all, it was a fairly entertaining evening, though not necessarily something I’d need to do again.

By the way, our seats got upgraded for some reason. That put us close to the action, but it didn't give us any more leg room. Still, not too shabby for discount tickets from Goldstar.

Metro Woes

Dec. 12th, 2018 07:18 pm
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I went out to dinner with flyertalk friends last night. The metro was majorly screwed up - a cracked rail outside Foggy Bottom, leading to single tracking. It took me 45 minutes to get to Rosslyn, at which point I bailed and got a Lyft to the restaurant.

Mussel Bar is sort of lost on me, as I don’t do mollusks. The people who got mussels enjoyed them, though. I got onion soup, which was a bit too salty, and tuna tartare. The conversation was good and that’s more the point of these things.

I was luckier with metro going home. They were still single tracking, but I got to Ballston Station just a couple of minutes before my train.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Elder Roma Wilson was a gospel musician. Ntozake Shange was a poet and playwright, best known for For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. Bernard Bragg co-founded the National Theatre of the Deaf. Whitey Bulger was a gangster. Roy Hargrove was a jazz trumpeter. Raymond Chow was a film producer in Hong Kong, credited with discovering Bruce Lee. Donna Axum was Miss America 1964. Francis Lai wrote the score for the film A Man and a Woman. Evelyn Y. Davis was an activist shareholder and corporate gadfly, who at least once made the list of 25 Most Annoying Washingtonians. Micheal O Suilleabhain was an Irish composer and musician. Wallace Triplett was the first African-American to play in the NFL.

Willie McCovey was a baseball great, primarily playing first base for the San Francisco Giants. He holds the National League record for grand slam home runs. There’s an inlet outside of Whatever Telephone Company It is Named For Today Ball Park in San Francisco that is known as McCovey Cove.

Little Shop of Horrors: Before going away, I saw Little Shop of Horrors at The Kennedy Center. This was part of their Broadway Center Stage series, which are concert versions, i.e. minimally staged, with actors sometimes referring to scripts. The most notable part of the staging was that, instead of using puppets for Audrey II, the person playing the plant wore a suit and gloves to represent it. That worked better than I might have expected, though I still prefer the puppetry. Anyway, it remains a fun show, with an enjoyable score. The performances were also quite good, with Megan Hilty doing an excellent job as Audrey, very much akin to Ellen Greene’s intonations. Josh Radnor was also good as Seymour. Lee Wilkof, who played Mr. Mushnik, was the original Seymour off-Broadway. And Michael James Leslie embodied Audrey II (the plant). Overall, it worth the late weeknight.

NYC Weekend – Part 1: Nancy Drewinsky and the Search for the Missing Letter I had a trip to New York already planned when I realized that I could just go up earlier on Friday and see this Fringe show, written and performed by my friend, Robin Bady. Robin is an excellent storyteller and this piece has to do with how the McCarthy era affected her family. She was too young to be really aware of what was happening as her father, an engineer, was suspected of being a communist, along with several of his colleagues. The answer is complex and her attempts to find out the story were met with reluctance to talk about what happened. It was an interesting story and well-told, though still somewhat of a work in progress. I hope to see how Robin develops it further as time goes on.

NYC Weekend – Part 2: Museum Going Saturday was a dreary day – cold, with heavy rain. Fortunately, New York has plenty of museums to spend such days in. I started with the Guggenheim on the grounds that I had never been there. The architecture is as much a draw as the artwork. The main exhibit was of works by a Swedish artist named Hilma af Klint. The most interesting of her work was from a series called Paintings for the Temple, which was based on her involvement in mystical philosophies like Theosophy, leading her to a mixture of abstract symbols and characters. They reminded me of the magical symbols I used to draw on the corners of my papers in school during a flirtation with witchcraft in my early teen years.

There was also an exhibition from the Thannhauser Collection, which included Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and other art, including several pieces by Picasso. Overall, I enjoyed the museum, but it was crowded and the admission fee is on the high side.

I walked a few blocks north to the Jewish Museum, which is free on Saturdays. I started with their permanent collection, which had several interesting pieces. I was particularly taken by a portrait of an Ethiopian Jew by Kehinde Wiley and by a sculpture called Venus Pareve by Hannah Wilke. I should also note that I was impressed with how much art by women was part of the collection. I also really liked an exhibit of excerpts from television shows having to do with psychotherapy.

But the main reason I had gone to the museum was to look at a temporary exhibit of work by Marc Chagall and other artists active in Vitebsk in the period just after the Russian revolution. Having been in Vitebsk in early September, I felt almost obliged to see this. And, of course, Chagall has long been one of my favorite artists. The exhibit also included works by Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky and others. There was a good mix of works and I thought the exhibit (which runs through early January) was well worth seeing.

By the way, I was just leaving there to meet a friend for coffee when I heard about the Pittsburgh massacre. I will write about that and other political matters separately.

NYC Weekend – Part 3: They Might Be Giants The actual reason for the trip to NYC had been to see They Might Be Giants at Terminal 5, a cavernous night club in the extreme western part of midtown, a land populated largely by auto dealerships. I think of them mostly as a novelty act, due to songs like Particle Man and Istanbul and Why Does the Sun Shine? All of those were part of the show. But there was a lot of other material, not all of it funny, and much of it too loud for me. I liked the second set better than the first, but I am really too old to go to concerts that don’t start until 9 at night. Also, I was completely earwormed by The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

NYC Weekend – Part 4: Restaurant Going Friday night a bunch of us had dinner after the show at Cowgirl in the West Village. I got Frito pie, which amused Robin, who was unfamiliar with this wonderful dish of chili (vegetarian in my case, though they also have beef) with cheese and sour cream and the like served over an actual bag of Fritos. I also had a very good IPA, but I don’t remember what it was and they don’t have their drink menu on-line. If you want Tex-mex food in Manhattan, this would fill the bill, but it was on the noisy side.


Saturday night’s dinner before the concert was at Inti, a Peruvian restaurant on 10th Avenue. I got a very nice grilled chicken dish, with garlicky vegetables. Surprisingly reasonable prices for mid-town Manhattan, too. I’d eat there again.

Before leaving on Sunday, I had brunch with friends at Pete’s Tavern in the Gramercy Park area This is one of several places that claims to be the oldest restaurant in New York. The fried chicken sandwich was very tasty. Overall, everyone seemed happy with their food and drinks (I went for Irish coffee) and the conversation was lively and entertaining.

Business Trip: I got home about 9 at night, which meant rushing around to unpack and pack for a business trip to Layton, Utah. Aside from being exhausted and having a fairly intense work schedule, there’s not really anything to say about that. I was originally supposed to come back Thursday night, but the trip got extended because our team had to outbrief in the late afternoon. I spent most of Saturday in a state of suspended animation.

WBRS Reception: I did drag myself out of the house on Sunday, first to go grocery shopping and later to go to a William Barton Rogers Society reception (related to giving to MIT) at the Spy Museum. There were heavy hors oeuvres (particularly good spicy tuna cones, as well as veggie tacos served in lime halves), along with lots of intelligent conversation. The main feature was a talk by Eric Alm, co-director of the Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics. His main point was that indigenous populations tend to have a more diverse microbiome population than people in the more developed world. He also had some interesting data on how quickly one’s microbiome can change in response to travel or illness. Fortunately, he didn’t mention any changes in response to dessert.


Things Still to Write About: Voting. Condo association annual meeting. How the Virginia Department of Transportation is going to screw us over. How Jeff Bezos is going to screw us over. Possibly a locked entry re: work.
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Another Colleague Gone: I heard that Lance Newman passed away recently. I worked with him for many years, including being his manager for a few of those and having him support me from one of my program office jobs. The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago, when our former secretary organized a luncheon reunion of sorts. It was just after his picture had been in the Washington Post, in an article about the first four African American students at a school in Arlington. He was a good engineer and a nice guy, smart and easy to work with. I will miss him.


A Rant About Scheduling: I am trying to be a responsible adult and schedule a couple of routine medical things. Labs are no issue, because they don’t require scheduling, per se, but just a drop in. The problem is that the person who schedules mammograms is not the same person who schedules anything else. So I had to go through the scheduler to get to the mammogram scheduler and then go back to the regular scheduler to schedule the blood pressure check. (Mammogram slots are a rarer commodity so it made snese to schedule that first.) The fact that I couldn’t do this on-line is particularly annoying to begin with, given my feelings about telephones.

I still have to schedule an ophthalmology appointment, but that is even tougher because I need to do it in the afternoon and I have more afternoon conflicts.


Speaking of Blood Pressure: The Red Sox – and, specifically, Craig Kimbrel, seem determined to raise mine.

Roy Zimmerman: I went to Roy Zimmerman’s house concert in Derwood, Maryland on Friday night. The drive there was really irritating, with two accidents along the way. I noticed the engine temperature in my car rising as I was crawling along and was afraid it would overheat, but it dropped rapidly once I began driving at a faster speed. I probably need to get something looked at.

Anyway, I got to the house just in time for the concert. Fortunately, it was worth going to. Roy sings funny songs about politics and they went over well with the crowd. There were some I’d heard before and several I had not. If you want a sample of his material, my favorite song of the evening was Psychedelic Relic:



By the way, the drive home was only mildly annoying, as they start doing roadwork on the Beltway at 10 p.m. on Friday nights. I really prefer going out to places that are reachable by metro.


Richmond Folk Festival: My friend, Paul, invited me to come down to Richmond and go to their annual Folk Festival with him. I made life far less stressful for myself by taking the train down, instead of coping with the inevitable roadwork on I-95 on the weekend. The catch is that only a few trains serve the Main Street Station downtown, but Paul picked me up at Staples Mill, which also meant a drive along Monument Avenue (and his tour guide commentary) along the way.

The festival is in downtown Richmond, close to the James River. There were 8 stages, though we ignored the children’s area and the Virginia Traditions Stage (which had things like an apple grafting demo and an oyster shucking contest). I wanted to hear Josh Goforth (who tells stories, but focused on ballads for what we were there for) so we went over to the Lyft Stage. That meant we also caught part of Lulo Reinhardt, Django’s great-nephew. He’s an excellent jazz guitarist and I liked his performance so much I bought one of his CDs later in the day, when we found one of the sales tents. Josh’s ballads were more familiar and also worth a listen.

We walked down to Brown’s Island, where we listened to Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners at the Dance Pavilion. I thought they were just okay. Then we got some gelato and walked out on the bridge for Paul to take photos of how high the water was after last week’s storm.

We meandered back up to the Lyft Stage and listened to Tamburaski Sastav Ponoc (a Balkan tamburitza band), who I enjoyed. I wanted to check out the crafts marketplace, so we went back down towards the river. The crafts were, alas, not generally to my taste. Then we walked (slowly, as my knee was aching by then) up the hill to stake out some space within earshot of the Altria Stage, where Mavis Staples was performing. She was, in my opinion, one of the must-sees of the festival, though rather too many other people thought so as well.

By the time she was done, we decided we needed dinner. All the festival food areas were downhill and I didn’t want to have climb back up the hill, so we trudged up through town to Perly’s, a Jewish deli I had heard good things about. I thought it was quite good, which is surprising for Richmond. The matzoh ball soup had lots of stuff in it (chicken, carrots, celery) as well as a matzoh ball with a good texture, though there was rather more dill than I’d have preferred. The tongue sandwich I got was excellent. Paul got something called a Jewish Sailor, which had pastrami, chopped liver, beef sausage, and red cabbage. (Apparently, the Sailor sandwich is a uniquely Virginia and mostly Richmond thing, and normally has pastrami, knockwurst, and cheese, by the way. Supposedly it originated with sailors studying at the University of Richmond during World War II.) I also had potato salad (reasonably good) and Paul had French fries, which he said were light and fluffy. Bottom line is that I would eat there again.

We walked back to Paul’s car and he drove me to the Hampton Inn, where I was spending the night. It's slightly weird, as it occupies the upper floors of a building, with a Homewood Suites on the lower floors. I got a train in the morning from the Main Street Station (much more convenient and quite grand, though with only limited service). Overall, it was a good trip and I got home in time to get a few things done at home, though I always have more to catch up on.
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I will get back to catching up on vacation (and pre-vacation) things, but I don’t want to fall further behind, so here is what I’ve done since I’ve gotten back.

Celebrity Death Watch: V.S Naipaul was a Nobel laureate in literature. Mark Baker was a (primarily) theatre actor, best known for playing Candide in the 1974 production of the Bernstein musical. Morgana King was a jazz singer and actress. She actually died in late March, but I didn’t see her obituary until mid-August. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India from 1998 to 2004. Kofi Annan was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997-2006. Barbara Harris was an actress, both on Broadway (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and The Apple Tree among others) and film (Nashville, Freaky Friday, etc.) Ed King played guitar with Strawberry Alarm Clock and Lynyrd Skynard and wrote the song, "Sweet Home Alabama." Martin Shubik was an economist whose work included analysis of the best pastrami sandwich in New York. Robin Leach hosted Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Princeton Lyman was a diplomat, credited with helping to end apartheid in South Africa. Marie Severin was a comic book artist. Paul Taylor was an influential modern dance choreographer. Peter Corris wrote crime novels. Susan Brown was a soap opera actress. Vanessa Marquez was an actress, best known for playing a nurse on E.R. Gloria Jean was an actress and singer, who appeared in several 1940’s and 1950’s films. Carole Shelley was an actress, whose roles included playing one of the Pigeon sisters in The Odd Couple. Randy Weston was a jazz pianist and composer. Christopher Lawford was the son of actor Pater Lawford and a nephew of JFK, who also became an actor and wrote a memoir about his struggles with drug addiction. Bill Dailey wa a character actor, known for appearing in I Dream of Jeannie and The Bob Newhart Show. Burt Reynolds was a television and movie actor, best known for Deliverance. Richard DeVos co-founded Amway. Mac Miller was a rapper. Sam Cornish was Boston’s first poet laureate.

I hope you don’t need me to tell you about Aretha Franklin. She was one of the greatest singers of all time and a truly iconic American voice. I’m usually not keen on people being dubbed royalty of some genre, but I will make an exception for the Queen of Soul.

Khaira Arby was a Malian singer. I heard her perform at the Festival Au Desert in 2011 and met her briefly in the market in Timbuktu while I was there. She was apparently the first Malian woman to start a career under her own name. She was also an activist for women’s rights and an advocate against female genital mutilation.

I assume I don’t need to tell you about John McCain. He was an interesting politician, something of a maverick among Republicans. While I often disagreed with him, I do think he had a lot of integrity. In an era of bad behavior, he seemed able to be a gentleman most of the time, which deserves credit in and of itself. He also scored on my ghoul pool list (and almost everyone else’s, alas.)

Neil Simon was a playwright, whose work focused on New York and the Jewish-American experience. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. His plays were a good example of my theory that funny and serious are not antonyms.



Please Don’t Analyze This Dream: I don’t remember the context, but there were a bunch of soldiers wearing triangular green-painted (or maybe enameled) metallic masks that I referred to as "Turkish death masks."



Passion: I saw Passion at Signature Theatre on Saturday. This is one of the more difficult Sondheim musicals, largely because Fosca is a fundamentally unlikeable character, stalking Giorgio, a sensitive man who has the heart of a poet in a soldier’s body. It’s an uncomfortable view of love, accompanied by emotional (and only sporadically humorous lyrics, mostly relating to the other soldiers’ reactions to Giorgio). Despite all that, Signature did an excellent job with it. Claybourne Elder was a convincing Giorgio. And Natascia Diaz made Fosca a little bit sympathetic. Overall, I thought it was worth seeing, but though I will never love the show the way I do most of Sondheim’s others.



Gelato Festival DC: On Sunday, I ignored the chill and rain and went off to the city for Gealto Festival DC. The idea is that you buy a wristband (for $30 plus fees) and get to taste all the gelato you want. There were several gelato makers competing, with flavors designed for the festival.

Crusty Fantasy from Gelato Gourment in Weston, FL was a mixture of caramel, cashews and rice krispies. The name is terrible, but the flavor was reasonably good.

Blue Majik from Gelato’oh Brick & Motor in Philadelphia was pineapple flavored with a blue coloring from algae. It supposedly also had ginger and apple juices, but I couldn’t detect them. I liked the idea of a sugar-free sorbetto, but it didn’t quite work for me, largely because the texture was not as smooth as is ideal.

Apurimac from local DC shop Pitango Gelato was a very intense chocolate. I know some people will doubt this is possible, but I thought it was actually too intense and I ate only a couple of spoonfuls.

Trinacrium from uGOgelato in Miami was my favorite. It was a mixture of pistachio and almonds, with a spray of orange. This was absolutely delicious – a lovely combination, with great flavors and texture. I was clearly not the only person who thought so, as it won the competition.

American Dream from Gelato Bliss in Hagerstown, MD had salted peanuts swirled with a coca-cola reduction. This was better than I expected from that description, but not something I wanted more of.

Butter Pecan from Marinucci’s in Reston, VA was disappointing. They apparently used European butter instead of cream, which gave it a weird mouth feel to me. This was another one where I didn’t eat more than a couple of spoonfuls.

Cheesecake with Cherries from Mike’s Gelato in Columbia, MD was exactly what it sounds like. It wasn’t bad, but I am just not crazy about cherries, so had just a small taste.

Nocciola Chocake from Zerogradi Gelateria in Ambler, PA was hazelnut gelato with chocolate sauce and chocolate cake crumbs. I liked this, but would have liked it better if there were more chocolate flavor.


There were also a few non-competitors:

PreGel apparently sells a gelato base to shops, rather than selling commercially. I tried two of their flavors – hazelnut and cannoli. The hazelnut was excellent, but then it’s a flavor that I tend to like a lot. The cannoli was good, but would have benefited from more crunch.

Bella Gelateria (not clear where they are) had some sort of caramel and coffee flavor. This was just okay. There was nothing wrong with it, but it seemed pretty ordinary.

Moorenko’s from Silver Spring, MD had two flavors. The burnt caramel and pear with walnuts was quite good, but could have used more pear flavor relative to the other ingredients. Their ginger, however, was sublime, with large chunks of fresh ginger in it. If this had been a competitor, I would probably have voted for it over the Trinacrium. Best of all, they said it’s available at a couple of local grocery stores!



Rosh Hashanah: I went to the traditional service at Sixth and I. On the plus side, I like the cantor, who is reasonably inclusive, versus some who think they’re performing as operatic soloists. On the minus side, the siddur they use has absolutely terrible English translations. And if I notice that, with my lack of Hebrew fluency, they must be really bad. I was also suffering a bit from difficulty focusing, which I will attribute to jet lag. At the very least, I got to spend time with a couple of friends who I see all too infrequently.

Happy 5779 everyone!

Loserfest

Aug. 13th, 2018 01:57 pm
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On Saturday, I drove up to Frederick, Maryland to go to Loserfest, a gathering of devotees of the Washington Post’s Style Invitational humor contest. Kyle organized a number of activities and people were free to choose which ones they wanted to attend.

I started with the tour of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Actually, I got to Frederick in time to grab a cup of coffee (from Beans and Bagels across the street) first. As for the tour, we got a 45 minute version of what would normally be a two-hour tour, which mostly meant that we didn’t have time to read many of the signs. Our guide, Bob, was informative and entertaining. We did get tags that would let us go back to see the rest of the museum, but I don’t think many of us managed to do that.

Next up was lunch at JoJo’s Restaurant and Tap House. I had a very nice seared tuna salad, with assorted greens (including spinach), goat cheese, raspberries, blackberries, and candied walnuts, along with a poppy seed vinaigrette. I think everybody was happy with what they got – and with the wide-ranging conversation.

After lunch, I browsed a couple of stores (including a comic book and game store, but I can’t really buy games until I inventory what I have) before walking over to see the annual National Clustered Spires High Wheel Race. The competitors ride a variety of pennyfarthings, both antique and modern. There were competitors who came from all over – including other countries, such as Sweden. The racer with the most interesting story was Bill Soloway, who had a specially decorated bike and a jersey supporting organ donation, as he was the recipient of a heart transplant. We watched the first qualifying heat, then made our way a few blocks south to Clue IQ for our next activity, an escape room.

The room we did was called Conspiracy and had a number of puzzles involving things like the Masons, faked moon landings, aliens, JFK’s assassination, and so on. The production values were high and the puzzles were interesting and challenging. We didn’t manage to escape within the allotted hour, but we had good teamwork and we had fun. We found out afterwards that it was their hardest room, which might not have been a good choice in that only two of us had ever done an escape room before. But it also allowed the largest number of people to participate.

We walked over to the Delaplaine Arts Center for a quick look at an exhibit called Tacky Treasures, which was moderately amusing but not really my thing. Kyle also had us look out a window at a mural of an angel on the Community Bridge over Carroll Creek. When we went out and looked at the angel straight on, it was decidedly distorted. That’s a good example of anamorphosis.

I stopped to check email and facebook briefly, then strolled up Market Street, stopping in a bookstore because I can’t not stop in bookstores. We met up for dinner at the White Rabbit Gastropub, which had an impressive beer menu (and the nice touch of offering their draft beers in 5 ounce servings for those of us who are not big drinkers). I got their steak and fries churrasco, which was tasty, although the fries were a bit saltier than I’d have preferred. I also split a chocolate taco (chocolate waffle shell with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce) with another attendee. I should also mentioned that the décor included a stuffed elk head, which we named Lawrence Elk.

After dinner we went over to Serendipity Market where Kyle had arranged for us to use their loft to play games. We stuck to the adult version of Code Names. I did remarkably well when it was my turn to be spymaster. But the best play of the evening was when Anne clued "dick" and "kitty" with "Whittington." Overall, it was a fun day

I had opted to stay overnight in Frederick, so I drove over to the Hilton Garden Inn. It was decently quiet and the bed was comfortable, but I still felt that I slept poorly. In the morning, I got breakfast at the nearby Silver Diner and drove home with no issues. I stopped at the supermarket once I got off the Beltway. I’d heard that there was going to be an attempt to fill up the parking lot at the Vienna Metro to keep the "Unite the Right" neo-Nazis from being able to find parking, but there appeared to be lots of spaces available at 10:40 or so. There was also a very visible police presence. News reports (including a couple from friends who were out counterprotesting) indicate that the white nationalists were far outnumbered by the civilized human beings opposing them.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Madeleine Kamman was a cookbook author. Gary Beach was an actor, best known for playing Roger De Bris in The Producers on Broadway (and on film). Burton Richter won a Nobel Prize in Physics. Adrian Cronauer was a disc jockey and inspired the movie Good Morning, Vietnam. Shinobu Hashimoto was the screenwriter for Seven Samurai and Rashomon.

Jonathan Gold was a restaurant critic in Los Angeles. I read him regularly in the L.A. Weekly and in the Times when I lived there and often looked at his reviews when I was going to be visiting. His reviews covered a wide range of restaurants, including some lesser known ethnic cuisines. He was also the first food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a couple of weeks before his death. On a personal note, one of his reviews led me to Jitlada, which I still think is one of the best Thai restaurants in the U.S.

Dave: I went to see a new musical at Arena Stage on Friday night. Based on the 1993 movie, Dave is the story of an ordinary good guy whose resemblance to the president of the U.S. leads him to a stint acting in that job after the real POTUS has a stroke. He’s manipulated by the Chief of Staff and the Communications Director, until he decides he can actually do good. That leads to an interesting situation with the First Lady, too. Obviously, the premise requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but this was an extremely funny show, with a fairly lively and tuneful score. I thought Drew Gehling was very appealing in the title role, but the most notable performances were by Mami Parris as Ellen (the FLOTUS) and Bryonha Marie Parham as Susan (the Communications Director). I also want to call out Douglas Sills as the Chief of Staff, Bob, and Josh Breckenridge as Duane, the Secret Service agent. Overall, this was a total hoot - an enjoyable evening out.

Too Much Rain: I was supposed to go to a story swap in Montgomery County on Saturday, but it was pouring and there were three accidents between my house and the Beltway, so I turned around (well, not literally – I exited the Beltway and drove back home). I did grocery shopping on the way home, but managed remarkably little housework once I got home. I also had a phone rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling event, which was helpful because the story in question was in the "here are a bunch of mosaic tiles but I have no idea how they fit together" stage. I also have an out in the form of permission to tell something else if I can't find the grout in time.

Fun House: Every summer, the National Building Museum has some sort of installation. I loved the miniature golf courses they did a few years ago and liked the maze they followed it with. A friend wanted to do the Fun House this year. It was, frankly, disappointing. I liked the marble track in the Playroom and thought some of the other features were fairly entertaining, especially the door in the bathroom that opened to show a shower of plastic balls being blown around. I never managed to find the kitchen, which was shown on the guide in one of the other rooms. The biggest draws were the pool and jacuzzi which were, essentially, large ball pits. But there were way too many children there, which made things less than relaxing. Overall, I didn’t think it was worth $16.

Supra: After the Fun House, we had lunch at Supra, a newish Georgian restaurant I had been wanting to try. I started with a cocktail called Tarkhuna Twist, that had gin, tarragon lemonade, luxardo maraschino, and tarragon oil. It was just okay – sweeter than I would have preferred. As for food, we got eggplant stuffed with walnuts (particularly delicious), beets with smoked cheese and salad, salmon with a tomato and walnut sauce, and imeruli (a type of khachapuri, i.e. cheese bread). My friend also ordered a side of turkey bacon, which I ignored. The food was very good and I would happily eat there again. It was more expensive than the Fun House, but well worth it.
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I went up to New York for the weekend. The Save the Deli group on Facebook was having a "meat-up" to try the last two kosher delis in the Bronx (as well as other events on Long Island). I had originally considered staying for the Sunday lunch, but I’m so far behind on things at home that decided I should take an earlier train. I also saw that it was a weekend with an Encores production at City Center, so that made it easy to decide what to do on Saturday night. For convenience, I used Marriott points to stay at the Residence Inn at Broadway and 54th. Aside from my usual hotel rants (why oh why do they hide the light switches? And does anybody really need 9 pillows?), it was perfectly acceptable. The sound proofing was above average. And the location was ideal for my purposes.

NYPL: I didn’t have any particular plans for Saturday morning. It was raining, so I decided against a stroll around Central Park. Instead, I walked down to 42nd Street and visited my touchstones – the Chrysler Building (the most beautiful skyscraper on the planet) and the New York Public Library. I should note that there is a lot of scaffolding up around the Salmon Tower Building, making hard to see the bas reliefs from across 42nd Street.

I didn’t have a huge amount of time, so decided not to spend it in the microforms room (which has some items of genealogical interest). Instead, I went up to the third floor and looked at the McGraw Rotunda, the Rose Main Reading Room, and the Salomon Room (where I noted that nobody ever taught the Astors how to sit on a chair.) I also noted Lego reproductions of Patience and Fortitude (the library lions). And I did a brief browse through the library shop, but did not buy anything.


Loeser’s Deli: It was more complicated getting to Loeser’s than it would normally be, since the 1 Train wasn’t running north of 137th Street. I had to switch to the A Train at 59th Street, take it to the end at 207th Street, and then use a shuttle bus to 231st Street.. It was easy enough, but annoying.

Anyway, there were 8 of us at Loeser’s and the owner came out to greet us. I tasted a little bit of a kasha knish one of the other people ordered. It tasted fine, but the ratio of filling to crust was very skewed towards filling. I decided to order a combination sandwich – tongue, bologna, cole slaw, Russian dressing. I added a little mustard as well. It was okay, but not a lot of meat for the price. Given that their sign says "where a sandwich is a meal," I found that surprising. I ate only half the sandwich, because I wanted to save room for the next place. It took a long time to get them to wrap up the other half.

The skimpy sandwiches appeared to be the case for the sandwiches other people ordered. Customers cannot see pastrami coming through the rye here. I should also note that the cole slaw that came on the side was terrible. It was cut fine and had little flavor. What was on the sandwich worked okay, but I really like bigger shreds and a vinegary dressing. There were also two thin slices of pickles, which looked anemic but actually tasted pretty good.

Liebman’s: Three of us continued on to Liebman’s, which is about 0.6 miles away, according to google maps. What that doesn’t account for is elevation, and it was a steep walk. Still, we survived the hike. The atmosphere (like the neighborhood) was definitely more upscale, though the chairs and tables looked like every diner on Sunrise Highway on Long Island. (There’s something about an aqua vinyl booth…) There was a much more extensive menu. I opted for a chopped liver platter. This consisted of two absurdly large scoops of chopped liver, a scoop each of potato salad and cole slaw, a pile of cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions, and a stack of rye bread. The presentation was quite fancy. I’m sure they could do a chopped liver swan for a bar mitzvah or wedding.

I ate about 2/3 of one of the scoops of liver and some of the potato salad and cole slaw. All of it was very good. The cole slaw was so much better than Loeser’s! I also had one slice of pickle, which was fine. They were much faster than Loeser’s at wrapping up the leftovers, too. Liebman’s was the definite winner of the Bronx deli outing. But, frankly, there is no real reason to schlep to the Bronx as long as the 2nd Avenue Deli still exists in Manhattan.

Getting back to midtown involved taking a bus to the A Train to Columbus Circle. I had plenty of time to stick my leftovers in the refrigerator, change my clothes, and check email and facebook before going to the theatre.

Encores – Me and My Girl: It was a short walk over to City Center to see the Encores production of Me and My Girl. This was not as old a musical as most Encores productions, since they were using the 1984 (London) / 1986 (Broadway) version, not the original 1937 one. Interestingly, there is a production being done right now by 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco.

Anyway, the plot is a pretty thin one. Bill Snibson is revealed to be the new Earl of Hareford, but has to unlearn his Cockney ways and play the part. That gets in the way of his romance with Sally Smith – especially as the rapacious Lady Jaqueline Carstone is determined to marry the Hareford fortune. All of this is an excuse for lively music hall style songs (written by Noel Gay) and old (but funny) lines. For example, Maria (the duchess and Bill’s aunt) says, "when I’m down in the dumps, I buy a new hat" and Bill says, "oh, that’s where you get them." Not exactly surprising or original, but stuff like that still gets a good laugh.

As for the songs, I was fairly sure I would get earwormed by "The Lambeth Walk," which closes Act 1. Actually, the title song is just as sticky. And then there is "Leaning on a Lamp-Post," and the Gilbert and Sullivan inspired "The Family Solicitor."

Christian Borle played Bill, which is the sort of over-the-top role he seems to be getting known for. (He won a Tony as Shakespeare in Something Rotten and an earlier one as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher.} He’s clearly very talented and it would be interesting to see him in a role with more emotional depth. Lisa O’Hare, who played Lady Jaqueline, was also typecast, as that role was similar to her performance as Sibella in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Other notable performances included Laura Michelle Kelly as Sally, Mark Evans as the Honorable Gerald Bolingbroke (Lady Jaqueline’s love interest), and Don Stephenson as Mr. Parchester, the family solicitor. Simon Jones also had a smallish role and I was astonished at how old he has gotten. (I checked and he is 67, which is not really all that much older than I am.) While Encores productions are nominally concert versions, I did not notice any of the performers carrying scripts and, while the sets are somewhat scaled down, they are not completely minimalistic. This can stand up to any fully staged musical, particularly given the quality of the singing and dancing.

All in all, this was a lot of fun. Back at the hotel, I ate some of my leftover chopped liver for a late supper and collapsed.

Getting Home: The train home was fine and included eating the rest of my leftovers for lunch. didn’t run into any significant metro delays, either. I ran out to the supermarket to get the Sunday Post and a few groceries. (Strawberries and sour cream for supper to counteract the meatiness of the weekend.) I finished reading the Sunday Post, but, oops, that was last Sunday’s! I don’t even want to think about how much stuff I have to do at home, sigh. Still, it was an excellent weekend.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Matthew Mellon was a billionaire, via inheritance and cryptocurrency. Harry Anderson was a magician and actor, best known for his role on Night Court. Bruno Sammartino was the longest reinging heavyweight wrestling champion. Avicii was a Swedish musician. Verne Troyer was an actor, best known for playing Mini-Me In the Austin Powers movies. Richard Jenrette was an investor who spent a lot of money restoring historic houses.

Carl Kassell was an NPR journalist, best known as a host of Wait, Wiat, Don’t Tell Me. Getting his voice on one’s answering machine was an excellent prize. I never entered, since the timing wasn’t convenient for me, but I do own a doll of him, bought via the NPR website many years ago.

Barbara Bush was the wife of one president and mother of another. While I didn’t agree with much of her politics, I admired her outspokenness and her efforts on behalf of people with dyslexia. She wasn’t a perfect person by any means, but all of us are products of the environments we grow up in.


I Can’t Complain But Sometimes I Still Do: Work is okay most of the time, but I could live without wrestling with administrivia. In particular, I have various mandatory training courses to do, mostly for my customer, not my company. They’re on a couple of different systems and some work only on one browser, some work only on a different browser, and some just outright don’t work. It’s a tremendous waste of time getting to them and figuring out how to get them to run.

Cirque du Soleil: Cirque du Soleil has a touring show in Tyson’s Corner right now, called Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico. The basic concept has a fool as a tourist with his various encounters including musicians, acrobats, and giant puppets (e.g. a horse, a jaguar). Cirque is very good with creative costumes and highly engineered set designs. The latter included an elaborate waterfall curtain. The circus stunts included an excellent juggler, some very impressive hoop divers, and particularly notable aerial leaping between what I think are Russian swings. There was, alas, a contortionist, but I know most other people aren’t creeped out by contortionism the way I am. The Mexican aspect came in via costumes and music, by the way, but there was less of a plotline than with some other Cirque shows I've seen.

Legal Seafoods: The friends I went to Cirque with and I had dinner before the show at Legal Seafoods. I had a tuna sashimi rice bowl, which had about three times as much rice as I was capable of eating. There was very good seafood salad and tasty mushrooms, but the spinach was bland and the kimchi was just okay. The tuna was good, but the dipping sauces for it were somewhat too salty. It wasn’t the most exciting meal ever, but it was fine and reasonably convenient.

The Best Doctor in Town: A friend told me about this play he was in. It was produced by Shoestring Theatre Company, which has a mission to build bridges between Northern Virginia and Southwest Virginia. I know a little about the southwest part of the state because I’m familiar with a bookshop in Big Stone Gap. And I’ve driven up I-81 from Tennessee. Still, I’m much more culturally aligned with NoVa.

The play was written by Amelia Townsend and tells the story of a hospital in which a surprising number of patients seem to be dying. Old people die, so it isn’t completely clear there’s anything fishy going on. There’salso a missing piece of jewelry and both a reporter and a cop who think there may be more to the story, but who are stifled in investigating it by their editor and the high sheriff, respectively. And then there’s a young resident who has his own story, but no evidence. Overall, I found the story absorbing, with a good mix of humor and a serious message about what trust means. There was also an undercurrent associated with the decline of coal mining. It was worth seeing and I will definitely keep my eyes open for future productions by this company.

It’s playing for another week, so do go see it if you are around Fairfax. And they will be taking it to Big Stone Gap at the end of May, so folks in that part of the state should look for it.

Weather: It looks like it is finally settling into springtime. The down side is that the air is now about 25% pollen.
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Extended Restaurant Week: Some flyertalk friends invited me to join them for an extended restaurant week dinner at 2941, which is probably the best restaurant in Fairfax County. It’s an excellent place to go for this sort of thing, since one can’t normally get out of there for much under a hundred bucks, even without alcohol. They had a reasonable number of selections (3 or 4) for each course, with only one that had an upcharge. I had a nicely citrusy ceviche for the appetizer, which also had the interesting touch of fried tortilla strips for some crunch. For the main course, I got the duck Bolognese, which was quite tasty. The chocolate velvet (essentially a chocolate mousse) made an excellent wintertime dessert. And they are one of a handful of places that has drinkable decaf. The food was excellent and the atmosphere is quiet and highly conducive to conversation. It’s really a lovely place and I’m glad the others involved thought of me to fill out the party.

MiniFest:Saturday was the Folklore Society of Greater Washington Mid-Winter MiniFest. My set wasn’t until 4:30 in the afternoon, but I was carpooling with another teller, so ended up going for the whole day. There were some song and dance tracks I might have liked going to, but I have been having knee issues that I thought would make Intro to Morris Dancing a bad idea and the singing I most wanted to go to conflicted with some of the storytelling I most wanted to hear. So I spent almost the whole day at the storytelling room, with a couple of breaks to go to the Green Room for tea and snacks. I also did a minor bit of shopping, largely because I saw something which made me think of someone I know. And the same stall had local honey, which is something I had run out of a while back. (I have two other sources, but won’t see either for a while.)

Anyway, everyone I heard did reasonably well. I was particularly pleased with the performances by the three members of The Twinbrook Tellers (our youth affiliate) who performed. As for my set, I had crowd-sourced some new similes to use in "The Baker Woman and the Miller’s Daughter," but forgot the one I had most wanted to use ("as hard as a rock café"). The story that got the best reaction was "Berel the Baker," and, having been there, I can truthfully assert that one cannot get a bagel in Chelm. I also told "Nasruddin’s Cat" and "Clever Greta." Why, yes, there was a food theme. Overall, I had fun both telling and performing.

Sunday: The weather was dreadful. There were a couple of things I might have gone out for, but nothing I absolutely had to. I got through a bunch of household paperwork, though not, alas, all of it. And I almost read the entire Washington Post.
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Celebrity Death Watch: John Bindernagel was a cryptozoologist, who researched Bigfoot. Stansfield Turner directed the CIA in the late 1970’s. Peter Mayle wrote about living in Provence. John Barton cofounded the Royal Shakespeare Company. Dorothy Malone was an actress, best known for Peyton Place. Jim Rodford played Bass for Argent, The Kinks, and the Zombies. Naomi Parker Fraley was the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter. John Coleman cofounded The Weather Channel. Paul Bocuse popularized nouvelle cuisine. Connie Sawyer was an actress, who continued working in film comedies into her 100s. Ursula K. LeGuin was a science fiction writer. Lari White was a country singer. John Morris was a film composer. Isaiah Zeldin founded the Stephen S. Wise Temple, a major Reform synagogue in Los Angeles. Jerry Butler was a porn actor who was married for several years to Lisa Loring, known for playing Wednesday Addams on The Addams Family. Rick McKay made documentaries about Broadway. Mark Salling was an actor on Glee. Victor Sidel cofounded Physicians for Social Responsibility and was active in opposing nuclear warfare. Nicholas von Hoffman was a journalist, whose career included writing a column for the Washington Post. Dennis Edwards sang with The Temptations.


Hugh Masekela was a South African jazz trumpeter and one of the finest musicians anywhere. His song "Bring Him Back Home," considered an anthem to free Nelson Mandela, is probably his best known. He played a wide variety of music, collaborating with people ranging from Herb Alpert to Paul Simon. It was a privilege to have heard his music.

Mort Walker was a cartoonist, known for Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois. He also had a major influence on Hallmark Cards.

Ingvar Kamprad founded Ikea. I can’t count how many people have been joking about assembling his coffin.

Louis Zorich was an actor who was best known for his role on Mad About You. Among other roles, he played the Russian Constable in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, played Mr. Maraczek in one of the revivals of She Loves Me, and recorded selections from the novel Moby Dick for Folkways Records. He was also married to Olympia Dukakis.


Obit Poems: What all of the above-mentioned have in common is that they weren’t on my ghoul pool list. I checked and didn’t score last year until February 6th, so I am not particularly disheartened. And only 6 out of the 20 players have scored so far this year.

But, speaking of competitions, I entered several obit poems in the Washington Post Style Invitational and none of them inked. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I can’t inflict them on you. I think the best of these is the one for J. Geils, but it does assume a familiarity with "Love Stinks."

Clifford Irving wrote a bio
Claimed to be of Howard Hughes
Now his bio is completed -
Cliff’s real bio, not fake news.

G is for Grafton, the mystery writer
Exploring the crime world, from A to Y
Too bad she never finished the alphabet
Instead of for Zero, her Z’s for good-bye.

Polish-born diplomat
Zbiggy Brzezinski
Advised Jimmy Carter
Committed no crimes.
Still he was hated
By doggerel poets
For having a surname
Permitting no rhymes.

And so it goes
To J. Geils goodbye
This thing they call death
It’s gonna make you cry
Death stinks, yeah yeah
(Death stinks)
Death stinks, yeah yeah

Three Shakers lived at Sabbathday Lake -
Frances Carr was one of those few.
Their practice of complete chastity
Means that there’s now only two.


Restaurant Week Dinner at Cedar: I went out to dinner at Cedar to take advantage of restaurant week. It started out with four people, but one cancelled and another no-showed (and still hasn’t gotten back to me, so I hope he’s okay). I felt slightly guilty about two of us occupying a four-top, but so it goes. Anyway, I had a smoked salmon appetizer, which was quite good. My main course was elk and pheasant sausages, which were tasty. The accompanying vegetables were, however, too salty. For dessert, I chose the chocolate mousse. That was fine, but their coffee was not very good. Still, overall, the food was good enough that I’d go there again. It appears that they have a pre-theatre menu, which could be convenient.

Unscheduled Time: Last weekend was unscheduled. Well, other than a friend coming over to get some things she’d been storing at my place. I did get some household things done, but I am still very far behind. I didn’t go out during the week, but I am still nowhere near caught up. And it doesn’t look like I will have another free weekend until at least May.

Month of Letters: Of course, I have inevitably made myself busier by taking on another project. The Month of Letters is something I’ve done before and involves writing an actual physical letter every postal day of February. That is, one doesn’t have to do weekends or Presidents’ Day. I’m mentioning it here because there may be somebody who is interested in seeing if my handwriting is really as bad as I claim it is. (Actually, I do aim for both legibility and wit in these.) If so, you can send me a message with your address and I’ll add you to my list.

My paternal grandfather was a shoemaker. Shouldn’t that make me entitled to have elves?
fauxklore: (Default)
I have been crazy busy, both with work and play. So what else is new?

Reno: I took a quick trip to Reno for Thanksgiving. Flying on the holiday itself is actually a good thing to do and resulted in my having an entire exit row to myself between IAD and SFO. I stayed at the Silver Legacy which is nice enough, but downtown Reno has deteriorated since I was there last. Vegas offers better people watching and more up-to-date gambling machines. Er, no, Cats is not a "hot new game" given that it has been around at least five years. Still, the flights were cheap and it was good to get out of town for a few days. Flights were more crowded coming back, but I did still have an empty middle seat next to me on the way home, by the way.

Rasika West End: I went out to dinner with flyertalk friends on Sunday night at the West End branch of this well-regarded Indian restaurant. The palaak chat was amazing. The Goan fish curry was good, but not quite as spectacular. It was good to see people I hadn’t seen in a while, including the out-of-towner who provided the excuse. And, of course, I love conversing with the tribe of travelers.

Angelique Kidjo: Last night, I went to see Angelique Kidjo at the Kennedy Center. She is one powerful woman and her concert focused (in part) on strong women who had influenced her – Miriam Makeba, Celia Cruz, and Nina Simone. She also managed to get a whole hall full of Washingtonians up and on their feet, dancing and singing along. I’ve loved her music for years, but this was the first time I’d seen her live. If I have any say in the matter, it won’t be the last. I should also note that I am pleased by the work she is doing to support educating girls in Africa. She’s not just a great singer, but a great human being.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Nancy Friday wrote about women’s sexual fantasies, thereby persuading my generation of women we weren’t abnormal. Richard F. Gordon, Jr. was an astronaut. Roy Halladay was a great baseball pitcher, and one of a handful who won Cy Young awards in both leagues. John Hillerman was an actor, best known for his role on Magnum, P.I.. Ray Lovelock played Fyedka in the movie version of Fiddler on the Roof. Jeffrey Richelson wrote books about the Intelligence Community and about satellites. Liz Smith was a gossip columnist. Nancy Zieman hosted a public television show about sewing. Salvatore Riina was the chief of the Sicilian Mafia.

Bobby Doerr played second base for the Red Sox and is in the Hall of Fame. Hehad been the oldest living former major leaguer for much of the last year of his life. He was also alleged to have been the person who taught Yaz to be a power hitter.

JGSGW Meeting – and a Couple of Related Personal Notes: A week ago Sunday was a very interesting Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington Meeting. Rabbi Gary Gans talked about his aunt, who was almost deported because she lost her citizenship by marrying an alien and voted illegally despite that. This led to an interesting discussion about family secrets and what it is and isn’t legitimate to reveal.

As far as family secrets go, I have a situation in which I know of someone who married in Europe. That person then remarried in another country after the Shoah, despite knowing their original spouse had survived. In this case, I do not have documentary proof, which is part of my rationale for not telling the details. But there is a certainly a potential lie of omission there.

The other interesting point has to do with my grandmother. She emigrated from Poland to the U.S. (New York) in 1920 and was naturalized in December 1923. She married my grandfather, who was a Polish citizen in Havana on 14 January 1930. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem because the law changed in 1922 and marrying an alien didn’t automatically cost a woman her U.S. citizenship. But, as I understand it, if a woman married an alien and lived outside the U.S. for more than 2 years, she did lose her citizenship. And Grandma and Grandpa stayed in Havana until May 1932. There isn’t any evidence that she re-naturalized. Grandpa was naturalized in January 1939. It can’t be that Grandma was covered by that, because she was one of the witnesses on his petition for naturalization. It all sounds rather suspiciously tangled to me.

Elections: Last Tuesday was election day. All of my choices won, which made me happy. I should note that the election which got the most press was in the next county over, where Danica Roehm of Prince William County became the first openly transgender person to win an office in a state legislature. Her opponent, Bob Marshall, has referred to himself as "Virginia’s chief homophobe" and made an issue of her being transgender. But the thing I think most people missed is that she focused her campaign on actual issues, notably transportation and, specifically, the need for improvements to Route 28. The triumph of substance over bigotry makes me especially happy.

Condo Association Annual Meeting: The next night was my condo association’s annual meeting, which was relatively short and painless.

Balkan Dinner: Then came Thursday night, when I went out to dinner with a few people from Flyertalk. We went to Ambar, which is a Balkan restaurant in Clarendon. While they have a $35 all you can eat small plates deal, we decided that we were better off going a la carte. I got roasted eggplant spread, the Balkan beef patty (essentially a spicy hamburger), and Brussel sprouts. The Brussel sprouts were disappointing, largely because the yogurt and lemon sauce didn’t work for me, but the rest was quite good. I would certainly be willing to eat there again

Story Swap: I hosted this month’s Voices in the Glen story swap on Saturday night. That meant a flurry of housecleaning. Unfortunately, by the time I would have been vacuuming, my back was killing me from the rest of what I’d done. I am glad that storytellers are a forgiving lot. We had a small group, but good stories and interesting conversation.

Ah-ah-ah-choo!: I succumbed to the cold I’d been fighting off for several days and stayed home from work for two days this week. I’m not quite over it, but I am considerably more functional. Despite being sick, I did go to Storytelling on the Lake in Reston, where I told a story I call They Tried to Kill Us, They Failed, Let's Eat.. I was also really happy to hear David’s story of extreme holiday decorating again.

I have political rants to write and so on, but I also have work to get done. That's enough for now.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Vladimir Voevodsky was a mathematician. Tom Alter was in over 300 Bollywood films. Ralphie May was a comedian. Joseph Schmitt designed spacesuits for the earliest astronauts. Nora Johnson wrote The World of Henry Orient. Armando Calderon Sol was the first president of El Salvador after their civil war. Edna Dummerth played for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Connie Hawkins was a basketball player, whose career included the Harlem Globetrotters and the Phoenix Suns, among others. Herve Leroux was a fashion designer.

Embassy of Romania: Thursday night I went to a dinner at the Embassy of Romania, which was cosponsored by the MIT Club of Washington and the Harvard Club. You can tell events organized by the latter because they tend to be less organized. The ambassador talked about the history of Romania and was reasonably interesting, but the sound system was terrible. The buffet was quite good – a few types of dips, rice, vegetables, chicken, stuffed cabbage, mamaliga (i.e. polenta), and tiramisu and some sort of strudel-like things for dessert. It was a nice enough event, but I prefer there being tables to sit at when eating.

United Catering Operations: On Friday evening, I flew to Denver to go to a Frequent Flyer Giving event involving a tour of United Catering Operations. My flight out to Denver got delayed by a mechanical problem, so I didn’t get in until 11 at night and it took another half hour to get to my hotel. Fortunately,, the tour was worth it. We had to wear lab coats (personalized with our names, so we got to keep them) and hair nets. We went through various coolers and food preparation areas. United also caters for Frontier Airlines, British Air, Icelandair, as well as preparing food for the deli department at King Sooper and for the Air Force Academy. We had activities at some stations. For example, I put bread out on a conveyor belt for sandwich making for King Sooper and sliced cucumbers for a salad in the test kitchen. There were also trivia questions along the way, with chocolate coins as prizes. At the end, we got a tasty lunch (including rare bison on crostini, a salad with pears and acai and pomegranate dressing, a very tasty steak with asparagus, and triple mousse cake for dessert). There was also a charity auction, but I am trying to downsize. They gave everyone swag bags with a small Polaris pillow (which they discontinued because buttoning the pillowcase was too slow a process) and a couple of amenity kits. Then it was back to the airport and my flight home, which got in a half hour early. Overall, a fun but exhausting trip.

The Mistress Cycle: On Sunday afternoon, I went to see this show at Creative Cauldron. It’s more of a song cycle than a conventional musical, since there is a very minimal book. The piece tells the stories of five women, at different times and places in history. Ching (a composite character) was a 14-year old concubine in 12th-century China. Diane de Poitiers was the mistress of King Henri II in 16th-century France. Lulu White was forced into sex work at the age of 13 but went on to become a successful madam and the richest woman in New Orleans at the end of the 19th century. Anais Nin was the 20th century French writer of erotica. And Tess Walker was a composite of a modern 30-something woman.

I have some qualms about treating all of those characters as mistresses. I’d argue that there is a difference between the choices that some of the women (notably Anais Nin) made and being sold as a concubine. I also wish that the music had been more varied. Lulu White did get bluesy numbers (perfect for the vocal talents of Iyona Blake, who played that role) and Ching’s solos (especially "One in a Line") had a distinctive voice (and were well-performed by Justine Icy Moral), but the rest of the songs were a bit monotonous. That’s a pity since the performers were all quite good. Erica Clare was very expressive as Tess, so I wish she had had more interesting songs to sing. I thought the show was provocative and worth seeing, but the score didn’t excite me.

MIT School of Engineering Reception: Finally, Sunday night was a reception at the Willard for the MIT School of Engineering, in honor of selectees to the National Academy of Engineering. The food was pretty good (especially the desserts) and the conversation was lively and intelligent. The main talk had to do with increasing diversity in STEM. Overall, it was a pleasant evening out.
fauxklore: (travel)
I also collect state capitals. My specific goal is to do a volksmarch in every capital, generally involving the actual capitol building. Cheyenne was on my way back to Denver (where I’ve done the appropriate walk already) so made for a reasonable morning excursion.

I had not done a 10K volksmarch in nearly two years. I have been having sporadic foot issues, which were probably not helped by how much walking I did in New York the weekend before. It was hot out. It was not really fun.

It didn’t help that the walk wasn’t particularly interesting. There were a few sections of historic buildings, but there was a large part around a lake in a park and another large section through a cemetery, neither of which were notable. The area around the Capitol was better, but the Capitol itself is closed for renovation. There was an attractive Greek Orthodox church and a synagogue across from a statue of Robert Burns. I’d have liked more background on some of the historic houses. So, overall, I thought the walk was meh, but it did serve its purpose.

After the walk, I drove back to Denver and checked into the Hampton Inn near the airport for the night. I have stayed there countless times over the years and it remains reliable for what it is. I called some friends and we made plans for dinner. Normally, I’d have been up for meeting them downtown, but I was pretty worn out and suggested we eat near where I was. That required a bit of research and, through the simple expedient of seeing what the iphone said was nearby, we ended up at African Grill and Bar in the Green Valley Ranch shopping center, a couple of miles down Tower Road.

What a find! Okay, they didn’t actually have any African beers other than Tusker (which is Kenyan, so doesn’t really go with West African food). But the food was excellent. We ordered lamb samosas, fried plantains, spinach stew with oxtail, coconut stew with chicken, and okra stew with goat. The stews came with rice, too. Everything was tasty and all of the dishes were different from each other. Seeing as I do have occasions to be in that area, I am definitely going to keep this place on my go-to list for the future.

And the next day I flew home, though with a delay of a couple of hours. Thus ended an all too brief vacation.
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The NPL Con will get its own write-up, but I did some other things before that.

Celebrity Death Watch: First, a quick note about someone I mentioned last time. My friend, Megan, reminded me that Michael Bond not only wrote about Paddington Bear, but also wrote the Monsieur Pamplemousse series of mysteries. I’m not sure I’d ever connected up the name before.

Since then we’ve lost a number of people. Anthony Young was one of the losingest pitchers in baseball, losing 27 consecutive decisions for the Mets. Ketumile Masire was the second president of Botswana. Gary DeCarlo was responsible for "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." Simone Veil survived Auschwitz and went on to a prominent role dealing with women’s issues in France. Heathcote Williams was a poet and actor. Gene Conley pitched for the Braves (including a World Series championship in 1957) and won three NBA titles with the Celtics during the off-season. While Otto Graham also won championships in two major professional sports (football and basketball in his case), unlike Conley he didn’t play both during the same years. Sheila Michaels popularized the title "Ms." Spencer Johnson wrote Who Moved My Cheese, which, of course, became the biggest best-seller ever in Wisconsin. Neil Welch was behind the Abscam sting. Jon Underwood founded the Death Café movement. Interestingly, he apparently died suddenly (related to undiagnosed leukemia) at only 44. Shlomo Helbrans was the founder of the Chasidic cult Lev Tahor. Nelsan Ellis was an actor, best known for True Blood.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: John McLaughlin was a storyteller and baseball enthusiast in Florida.

Terry Duncan had filled several government leadership roles involving satellite communications. I had the privilege of working with him in two of his jobs and was always impressed by his calmness and ability to listen to his staff. He was only 46 and died within a few weeks of his cancer diagnosis.

Karl Hedrick had been a professor at MIT in my undergrad days and later went to Berkeley. I took a couple of classes from him at MIT. I will not remember the exact titles of because it was a long time ago, but one involved Linear Dynamic Systems and Estimation (i.e. Kalman filter type stuff) and the other had to do with Nonlinear Dynamics and Control. He was an excellent teacher and I appreciated his mentorship.

Geostock: This is a big party that friends in Colorado give every year. It’s mostly an event for hanging out, talking, eating, and drinking. In the food category, a definite highlight was the ice cream truck they’d hired for a couple of hours. We also drank a toast to a dear departed friend, which included a skype connection to another absent friend. Beyond that, lots of talk about aging parents and estate issues and how we need to clear out our own crap. And there are conversations you can have with people you’ve known for ages that you can’t have with other people. Also, noting children, there is something wrong with the rotation of the earth.

Hotel Note: I stayed at the Residence Inn in Louisville this time, because it was somewhat cheaper than the Hampton Inn. This was a mistake as they had a basketball court. That appeared to be immediately underneath my room and they let kids play basketball until after 11 at night. Sheesh. (It also hit another of my hotel peeves in that one had to practically climb over the built-in desk to close the drapes for the dining room window.)

Vegas: For complex frequent flyer reasons, it made sense to detour from Denver back to DC via Las Vegas. Vegas remains a great city for people watching, though I did have one somewhat annoying encounter this time.

30ish guy: Come on, say hi to me.

Me: you're drunk.

Him: no, I'm just a total asshole.

I guess there is something to be said for self-awareness, but he was still obnoxious. Beyond that, I spent my entertainment (i.e. gambling) budget for the night, but it took me long enough to do so that I was content.

Brine: I was back for Independence Day, which I spent trying to get caught up at home. I did also go out to lunch with a group of friends. We went to Brine, a seafood place in the Mosaic District. We all went for the simply grilled fish (trout, swordfish, soft-shell crabs among the six of us), which were served over arugula. We also sampled pretty much the entire dessert menu. I think the crème caramel (which had espresso and chocolate, so was not the traditional version) was the definite winner there. At any rate, the bottom line is good food, good service, and going on a quiet day at lunchtime made it quiet enough to be able to hear one another.

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