Monday, December 20, 2010
In late September the installation of the Palm Beach residential design job took place, culminating sixteen months of work. I was a bit like giving birth, since I had specified every door knob, floor tile, stone surface, cabinetry, towel bar and even TP holders. It was also the first time I had designed fireplace surrounds and a residential wine bar room (complete with iron gates, sand textured walls and a papered ceiling). I am especially proud of the design of the office fireplace, and the craftsmanship of the local artisans who fabricated it.
In late October we celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday with a trip to Western Maryland and Pennsylvania, including my aunt Clara (my mother’s sister-in-law and best friend) on the trip. We especially enjoyed the food at the Bedford Springs Resort (lunch and breakfast), but we had mother’s birthday dinner at the nearby Jean Bonnet Tavern (est. 1762), a handsome stone inn. An unexpected adventure was my participation in righting the derailment of the steam locomotive that powered us through the spectacular scenery of western Maryland when the fall foliage was at its peak.
I’m guessing not many people take a day trip to San Francisco from the east coast, but that’s exactly what I did in early November, in order to top off my frequent flier account with United Airlines (to maintain premiere status). I spent ten and a half hours on the ground, taking in a fascinating architectural walking tour led by a local professor. Highly recommended. I spent the rest of the time following a self-guided walking tour downloaded onto my recently purchased Kindle, to which I’ve become unnaturally addicted. By 11:00 pm I was on the red-eye flight back to DC.
In mid November I bought a Smart Car, shown here at actual size, prompting me to purchase my first ever vanity license plate: AKSHL SZ.
It's more an adult toy than a car, actually. Paddle shifters, 3 cylinders and a whopping 70 hp. But at a mere 8 feet in length, you can park it anywhere.
I spent Thanksgiving week in Santa Monica, California, sporting around the L.A. area in a rented Smart Car convertible (park it anywhere!). Travel pal Rob (and fellow car nerd) and I took in the L.A. Auto Show. While the convention center lies a scant 14 miles east of Santa Monica, it took two hours and ten minutes to get there. I had the demented notion that traveling across L.A. during rush hour on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving was a good idea. I would be proved wrong, so wrong. Highlights of the rest of the trip included the recently restored Griffith Observatory, Thanksgiving dinner aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach (Rob’s aunt had sailed on this ship in August, 1954), a ferry excursion over to Catalina Island, a visit to the recently restored and reopened Getty Villa Museum of Antiquities, and a day trip to Malibu and the Paradise Cove Pier. Not to mention a walking tour of the Venice Beach boardwalk and canals. Below is Avalon harbor on Catalina Island.
December has been the usual blur of musical performances. I have practically lived in a tuxedo and can probably play most of the harpsichord part for Handel’s Messiah from memory. Highlights have been performances of Hanukkah music at the Lansdown Leisure World as a warm up to a Hanukkah concert at Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, where I have worked for more than 20 years. The pair of Christmas concerts (with full orchestra) at Vienna Presbyterian Church took place last weekend (I played four other concerts that weekend, no lie). Vienna Pres has furnished a 2-octave set of hand chimes to kick off an outreach project at Cameron Glen nursing home in Reston, begun November 27 under the leadership of Laura Macqueen, a member of my Exsultate Handbell choir. Vienna Pres bell choir participants (myself included) assist Laura in this worthwhile effort that gets residents out of their rooms and away from the TV.
All this frantic seasonal activity requires some down time, so I’m looking forward to a trip to Delray Beach, Florida, to celebrate the New Year and just unplug for a few days. Home base will be the Colony Hotel (built in 1926, another member of Historic Hotels of America; photo above). Even though I have a Kennedy Center Messiah performance coming up tonight and five Christmas Eve services at Vienna Pres, we’ve gotten over the hump of the Winter Solstice, and I take comfort in the fact that each subsequent day has a few more minutes of daylight than the one before.
As for words of wisdom, my favorite quote of the year:
“Inside every old person is a young person who wonders what the hell happened.”
Peace and love during the holiday season.
P.S. The Sunday after Christmas I spent an overnight in NYC. Snow had followed me up the coast, but I was unaware of the amount of snowfall forecast. I slept all the way from DC , so I was surprised to see a city really blanketed in snow upon arrival. My purpose was to meet Robert and Ingrid, who were staying a week in a time share opposite Carnegie Hall. We headed to the Campbell Apartment (see photo) a luxe bar at Grand Central Terminal for drinks and reminiscing.
As we were leaving, we stepped into the cavernous main room of Grand Central Station to see the holiday laser show. To the music of Duke Ellington’s “Take The A-Train,” lasers projected onto the ceiling two commuter trains arriving from opposite directions. The trains pulled to a stop, and a reindeer leapt out of each one and crossed over to the other train. Then a laser beam traced the outline of one of the zodiac constellations painted on the ceiling. The crab (Cancer) sprang to life and became a train conductor, sidling down the center aisle of the car, punching the reindeers’ ticket stubs with its claws.
Delighted tourists supported each other as they leaned over backward to gaze at the overhead display 125 ft. above their heads. The music of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite filled the enormous room. As “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” began, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building sprouted arms, bowed to each other, and began waltzing across the ceiling. The show ended with giant sprigs of mistletoe appearing over the heads of the commuters and tourists. Cell phones came out of purses and pockets as tiny flashes captured affectionate real-life kisses and lingering hugs by those who had just watched the show. New York City never fails to inspire.