Thursday, September 21, 2006

High Holidays

The local stores have put up their Christmas Happy Holiday decorations. These pictures were taken last week of the displays at our neighborhood Restoration Hardware. We were also in Costco at the beginning of September and they already had Christmas Happy Holiday decorations and toys out. It looked like they already sold out most of the Halloween decorations.

What does that mean for me as a Jew? Time to find my Jewish calendar and figure out when the High Holidays are happening this year!

Erev Rosh Hashana, the start of the Jewish New Year 5767, is Friday, September 22nd.
Erev Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is Sunday, October 1st.
L’shanah tovah!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Night and day, Light and gay, Let us drink our cares away.*

Last week we attended our first opera of the season: Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” at San Francisco Opera. The piece is actually an operetta that has been elevated to the operatic repertoire. The plot is a very silly sex farce with lots of slapstick and running jokes. The story revolves around salacious infidelities of the Viennese upper crust. The opera also mocks many of the traditional opera elements. The music is a collection of grand toe-tapping waltzes. It was hilarious to watch the opera stars running around the stage performing antics like they just came off a production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”.

Earlier in the month we saw another performance that mocked and deconstructed opera elements. TheatreWorks in Palo Alto presented a revival of David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly”. The theatre last did the show 14 years ago with the same two leading actors: Francis Jue and Mark Capri. We loved the show. In fact we saw it twice, once on the theatre’s new “OutWorks” night and a week later when we organized a group of 40 from our GLBT running group. Francis and Mark did a magnificent job in their roles. The play is a brilliant exploration of love and politics. It is based on a true story of a French diplomat’s relationship with a glamorous Chinese opera star, an elusive “butterfly” that after a 20 year relationship is revealed to be a spy—and a man. The play is also a metaphor for the West’s (especially the US) naive and arrogant treatment of countries and cultures that are considered not as advanced or “third world”. My favorite line is when the French ambassador is talking to his diplomat about the beginning of the USA’s military involvement in Vietnam and how the Vietnamese would welcome the US military and democracy. He says: “Oh, the Americans always like to hear how welcome they'll be.” That is the same shortsightedness and self-delusional reasoning we have for our current Middle East mess.

* From English version of TRINKE LIEBCHEN, TRINKE SCHNELL, "Die Fledermaus" (Johann Strauss Jr.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Better than sex

E had a great weekend. First, one of our college kids stopped by late last week and emptied two rooms of furniture. He and a couple roommates filled the small moving truck with stuff and took it to their new off-campus rental house. One of the empty rooms will be our home office. E placed the order for the custom cherry wood furniture. The other room will be a guest room. Furnishing it will have to wait a couple months. Until then, guests will have to sleep on an air mattress.

But the big day for E was Saturday. That was the day we agreed that we would clean the garage. It was not going to be a simple sweep out and dusting. I am a packrat. I hate to throw anything out. I often have emotional attachments to my stuff, even if I don’t use it any longer. E is just the opposite. If it has not been used in a year, then out it goes. Cleanouts tend to be the most stressful activity we do together. Fortunately, I have been preparing for this day for a couple months. We had postponed the garage cleaning several times. I was finally emotionally ready for it. We got rid of a lot of stuff. A large pile was donated to Goodwill. A second big pile was hauled off to the dump. We didn’t have any full-size arguments. I didn’t cry about throwing anything out like I have done in the past. And E was ecstatic and overjoyed by the time we finished. Having such a clean garage was better then sex he said!I love my clean garage!

The day was topped off by going out to see a wonderful musical. One of my favorite musicals is “Grand Hotel, The Musical”. It is not done very often. Set in Berlin 1928, it features a cast of characters intertwined in a series of fateful encounters: the fading ballerina on her last tour, the charming but cash desperate Baron, the dying bookkeeper looking for life, the typist that longs to be a star, and the failing businessman who foreshadows the coming Depression. I saw a good production of it about 10 years ago but E has never seen it. A local, amateur theatre company just opened their season with it. We were not expecting much other than getting a flavor of the show, seeing how the plot plays out with the songs we knew from the CD. However, we were totally blown away by the production. The singing and acting was great and the choreography and direction was excellent. It was as good, if not better then some of the professional shows we’ve seen. It is playing in Foster City until October 1st at the Hillbarn Theatre.
Grand Hotel, the musical
cast of Grand Hotel

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hosting Labor Day Weekend

We spent the three day holiday weekend hosting a group of our friends at E’s family beach house. From Friday night through Monday afternoon we had almost a dozen friends stop by for a visit ranging from a few hours to several days. Some of the highlights of the weekend were “sleeping late”, afternoon runs on the sandy beach, watching a whale swim by, 5 PM cocktails and appetizers, and E’s wonderful dinners. Sunday’s dinner was outstanding. The theme was Peru. We had our picture album from our Machu Picchu trip, traditional Peruvian music playing on the CD player, and Pisco Sours for everyone. E prepared and cooked three mouth-watering dishes from his new Peruvian cookbook:

A classic, Peruvian, seafood dish, originated on the beaches of El Callao, where the name "chalaca" comes since the inhabitants are known by this nickname. This mussel appetizer, piled high with a lime-infused, fresh salsa of corn, garlic, peppers, tomato and red onions, is known by this name along the 3000 km of the Peruvian coast.

Made with chicken, this dish achieves one of the most captivating flavors for first-time samplers of Peruvian cuisine. A mixture of Hispanic and Quechian flavors, the dish relies on pecans, onions, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, garlic and a bread-crumb sauce to cover the chicken and several varieties of boiled potatoes (i.e., purple, yellow, sweet, etc.).

Locro, known also by its indigenous name 'rokro,' is one of the many stews consumed in Peru for over 2000 years. Paying tribute to winter squash, this shrimp dish also contains fresh corn, lima beans, red onion, garlic, fresh cheese, mint, cilantro, and pisco.

4) PISCO SOURS recipe, the national drink of Peru
2 parts Pisco (a type of brandy)
1 part lime juice
1 part simple syrup (granulated sugar melted in water)
1 egg white
3 parts ice
Angostura bitters
Blend together Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white with ice. Strain mixture into old-fashioned glasses. Top with a few drops of Angostura bitters.

We are not sure how many more chances we will have to visit and host parties at the beach house. It is for sale. Check it out if you have several million and would like a fantastic house on the beach along the Monterey coast.
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