Non-celebrity Death Watch: Another former colleague passed away earlier this month. Bernie Klem had an office catty-corner from mine, despite which we had an occasion on which we both flew from L.A. to Washington for me to give him a briefing. My favorite story about Bernie is the time he was checking into a hotel that asked him for a government ID to get the rate within per diem. He just said, "I'm traveling undercover" and they gave him the rate!
Three Holiday Parties: I have survived the party season, with minimal stress. My condo complex party has been less interesting since the Scottish guy realized that it wasn’t formal and, hence, gave up wearing his kilt to it. On the other hand, the food is good (as long as you get there early enough to get some of it) and the conversation can be interesting. It’s never a bad thing to get to know your neighbors at least a little bit.
The second party was at work and the stress level is lower now that they cater it, instead of doing pot luck. They were doing partial pot luck for a while, with folks doing appetizers and desserts, but they went full catered this year. They had okay Italian food with the definite highlight being the tiramisu for dessert. As for the white elephant gift exchange, my contribution was a hot cocoa gift box from Penzeys, which consists of cocoa, two hot chocolate mixes, a jar of cinnamon sticks (well, actually, cassia, but normal people are not as snobbish about this as I am), and bay leaves. Don’t ask me to explain the latter, because I can’t. Unfortunately, it got chosen towards the end, so it’s hard to say if it would have gotten stolen. I ended up with a set of teas and an infuser, along with hot chocolate sticks and a Trader Joe’s shopping bag.
The final party was at my former great-grandboss’s house. That one was pot luck and I find it intriguing that the offerings included Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy’s chili. I brought a Mediterranean pasta salad, for which I will offer a recipe below. There was good conversation and entertainment, in the form of our hosts (and their daughter) singing and me telling a couple of stories. The downside was that the party was in Manassas and, oy, that is a long drive. At least the morning ice storm was long since over and the roads were in good shape.
Flyertalk Dinner: I posted that it had been a while since we’d had a get-together, expecting people to suggest something after Christmas. But it turned out that a lot of people were free on Thursday night. We went to Sine Irish Pub in Pentagon City, which is always reliable. It was cold enough out to justify eating things like shepherd’s pie or fish and chips. And, of course, there was the usual travel conversation.
Silver Belles: This was a cute little holiday musical at Signature Theatre. The premise is that the Silver Belles of Silver Ridge, Tennessee put on an annual pageant for the local orphans. But now their leader, Oralene, had been struck dead by a bolt of lightning (which also, not coincidentally, destroyed her still) and they are struggling to put the pageant together. Oralene gets to influence things from beyond the grave.
There’s a lot of Southern-inflected humor and quirky characters and reasonably lively music. Donna Migliacci was excellent as Oralene. I want to particularly point out her expressive reactions to the crazy things the rest of the Belles do. There was also great chemistry between her and Dan Manning, who played her husband, Earl. The other outstanding performance is by the always wonderful Nova Payton. However, it bothered me that she as the one African-American performer was playing the sexy, vamp role.
I’m not big on either Christmas fare or country(ish) music, but I still thought this was worth seeing. It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than the umpty-umpth version of A Christmas Carol.
Carousel: Finally, I went to see Carousel at Arena Stage. I’ve always been lukewarm towards this musical. There is some lovely music, e.g. "The Carousel Waltz," but I have trouble with the whole "he’s your man, so you put up with him even when he hurts you" stuff. In short, I think Billy is a jerk and Julie is an idiot. And, yes, I understand the psychological damage abuse does and why Julie behaves the way she does, but it still annoys me.
The performances are excellent, with Nicholas Rodriguez as Billy Bigelow, Betsy Morgan as Julie Jordan, and Kate Rockwell as Carrie Pipperidge. It is also a pleasure to see actual dancing on stage. But, overall, I find the story too off-putting. If I have to see a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, give me South Pacific.