Peking Duck House

A Wicked Christmas Weekend

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We love so many people that we consider family. However, there are a few full families that are truly our extended family in every possible way. One of those families lives in Leesburg, VA. They (parents plus three children) were supposed to spend Thanksgiving with us in NYC. Unfortunately, life intervened and they had more urgent business to attend. Thankfully, we were able to reschedule to get them up for Christmas.

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On Friday (when they arrived), after having a fantastic meal at Jackson Hole (probably still our favorite burger place in NYC, though there are so many spectacular ones), we did something unusual for us (and them as well). We split up completely!

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The parents took the 5-year-old girl to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. They reported that it was fantastic and the girl was mesmerized throughout!

Lois took the 13-year-old to see the new Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Neither was too enamored with the movie. If a 13-year-old boy doesn’t come back raving about such a movie, that’s all I need to know about it. Winking smile

I took the 11-year-old to see Blue Man Group. It was my third time, his first. It’s been quite a while since I last saw it, so I was quite excited to go again. I was really pleased to see that while the basic show was the same, they created a few new acts, replacing some others, while keeping some real crowd pleasers. In other words, even I got to enjoy some new things (I enjoyed the original material as well).

Needless to say, the 11-year-old was thrilled and had many mind-blowing guffaws during the show. The toilet paper part (a staple) will probably live with him forever. Smile

All seven of us met up at our favorite NYC restaurant for dinner: The Peking Duck House. The parents had been there twice before, but this was a first for all three kids. The meal was a huge success (it never isn’t, but I feel compelled to report on it nonetheless). Even though everyone professed to be stuffed to the gills, when offered ice cream for dessert, amazingly, everyone found an extra spot to stick it in. Smile

TheKidsAtThePekingDuckHouse

Not to slight any other activity, because the weekend was 100% incredible, but the main event (and hence the title) was all seven of us going to see Wicked on Saturday afternoon. It was our (Lois and my) 12th time. It was a first for everyone else. I will admit to being a bit nervous as to whether the kids would like it.

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AtWicked

When we looked at our programs and saw that the two leads were the same ones we saw last time: Jackie Burns and Chandra Lee Schwartz, Lois and I knew that at a minimum, we would be enthralled. Thankfully, all seven of us loved the show.

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To be honest, the two ladies were even better this time than last time (and they were amazing last time). The only weakness in either of their performances came in the the last big number, For Good, which they had trouble with the previous time as well. This time it was better. Each had trouble with their solo, but they came together beautifully for their harmonies (not so last time). Otherwise, their acting and singing were pretty much flawless.

There were two other changes in significant characters. Madame Morrible was played by someone we hadn’t seen before. Neither Lois nor I liked her performance. In fact, Lois thought her acting threw Jackie Burns off a time or two (I think she might be right). She wasn’t bad, and if it was my first time I probably wouldn’t have known better. Still, practically every other Madame Morrible we’ve seen was better, including the last one, who we particularly liked.

Fiyero was new to us as well. I think that last time we saw an understudy for this one. I found his acting not quite as loose as some of the others (including the last one), but his singing was good. In particular, he nailed the difficult duet with Elphaba in the woods (As Long As You’re Mine). So much so, that Jackie Burns nailed her part. I dinged her a bit on that number the last time out.

The Wizard (Tom McGowan) was as wonderful as he has been each time we’ve seen him.

So, a huge success (like I said, every activity was, except for possibly Mission Impossible).

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We walked to the theater, having lunch at Z Deli around the corner. Afterward we walked back and headed straight to The Capital Grille. I like a lot of steak houses, The Capital Grille among them. While I’ve been there many times, this might have been my best meal there. It would be hard to imagine a more pleasant way to spend time with family on Christmas Eve!

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AtTheCapitalGrille

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After dinner I watched The Matrix with the boys (their first time). We paused a bunch of times early on to discuss the mind-bending plot. Once the real martial arts scenes kicked in, they were done discussing and were more intrigued by the acrobatics. Smile

We got to spend more quality time with everyone on Christmas morning, then they hit the road back to Leesburg. As sad as we were to see them go, our hearts were full from a literally perfect weekend with loved ones.

Rather than collapse, we continued the weekend festivities by meeting another good friend for lunch. I can’t speak for the ladies (each of whom ordered eggs), but my tuna melt was as good as it gets. So was our conversation, which we lingered over long after the meal was done.

P.S. The 11-year-old was enamored with my toy (my You Rock Guitar). He couldn’t put it down the entire weekend. Smile

YouRockGuitarYouRockGuitarContinued

Another Amazing Weekend

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This was our third consecutive weekend hosting out-of-town visitors. Since the last two were fantastic, the bar was set high for this one. Don’t worry, we cleared it.

When our friends (parents of our godchildren and our closest friends for nearly 30 years!) asked whether this weekend would be a good one for them to come up from VA, the automatic answer was of course! The only (minor) complication was our unmovable commitment to attending four sets of music on Saturday night.

I’ve already written about the music separately, but since this is a post about the entire weekend, I’ll link them here again. Rebecca Haviland: covered here. Matt Simons: covered here. Sierra Noble: covered here. Chris Ayer: covered here.

We had a small scare before everything got rolling. Our friends called from the airport to say that there was a mechanical problem on the plane. While it was (theoretically) simple to fix, they didn’t know how long it would take the mechanic to show up. There was a chance that they wouldn’t even get out that night (Friday, July 1st).

That’s exactly how the first of these three weekends began, with David and Rebecca (their son and daughter-in-law) not getting out until the next morning! This case turned out differently. Not 15 minutes later they called back to say they were boarding. I’m guessing the mechanic was on a smoke break. Winking smile

Shortly after they arrived at the apartment, nine of us (counting a 2-year-old as a full person) Winking smile walked up to the Peking Duck House for dinner. It’s been a while since we’ve been there (a minor crime against humanity). We had been talking about our need to correct that for the past two weeks, so this worked out perfectly.

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The meal was perfect. I never doubted it would be, but I report it here for the record.

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PekingDuckHouse

Given our music-filled night, we decided that Saturday would be a day of rest for us (conserving our energy). The parents, their daughter and son-in-law went to the Doughnut Plant (the site currently lists a Lower East Side address only, but there is one at 220 W. 23rd St. as well, which is where they went). Afterward, they walked the Highline Park.

They headed over to Broadway to see How to Succeed in Business. All four of them said it was terrific and they were sure both of us would love it. Something to add to the list. Smile

The six of us had a wonderful dinner at El Rio Grande (our favorite Mexican restaurant). In a complete shock, we bumped into a few good friends who were dining there outside. We were seated inside (our choice) on the other side of the window from them. Even though our chats with them were brief (before our meal and after theirs), it was a special delight.

After nearly falling asleep (due to the amazing frozen margaritas), I somehow gathered myself for the epic night of music and easily made it all the way through! I don’t know what the others did, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they didn’t fight the feeling of sleep and succumbed to it. Winking smile

On Sunday morning the four of them attended Church services at Redeemer. They spent some time at the Cooper Hewitt Museum then returned to the apartment to relax a bit. This week is both our and Laura and Chris’ anniversaries. We decided to celebrate at the Old Homestead steakhouse. All six of us couldn’t stop raving about the meal afterward. At least three (perhaps as many as five) counted this meal (and therefore this restaurant) as their favorite steakhouse meal (that includes Lois saying that her Lobster was the best she’s ever had).

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I loved my meal (thoroughly), but I admitted (out loud) that The Palm is still my favorite. I promise not to complain or hesitate to return to the Old Homestead though, should anyone suggest it again. Smile

After dinner, we all wanted (and needed) to walk off the calories (please don’t make me estimate the full damage). We walked the super-long block from the restaurant to the 14th Street entrance to the Highline Park. This was my first time seeing it in person. We walked from 14th St. until the end, currently 30th St. It’s spectacular. I highly recommend making the effort to get there, whether you’re a New Yorker or an out-of-towner here on a visit.

HighlinePark

We collapsed when we got back to the apartment (well, at least Lois and I collapsed, the others may have gone dancing for all I know).

On Monday morning (the venerable July 4th), Chris and I went for a long walk. When we’re in the city, I typically take long walks for exercise. For me, that means somewhere between five and eight miles, depending on my mood and my schedule. I do it 2-3 times a week, if I have the time. Amazingly, blogging is often the cause of me not having the time to walk. The things we do for our readers… Winking smile

Few of you who read this know Chris. He served six years in the Navy and remains in amazing shape by regularly working out. My only hesitation in walking with him, ever, is that he can keep up a grueling pace forever. He can walk backward, faster than I walk forward, and keep it up seemingly forever as well. I negotiated through an intermediary (Laura) that he would drop the drill-sergeant routine this time.

When we got to the Brooklyn Bridge (typically as far as I’d walk), that marked the 3.9 mile point. That would be just under an eight mile walk if we turned around. Chris looked at me and asked if I’d walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I told him it had been over 30 years since I’d done that, but I was game. Instead, he suggested we just keep trucking further from the apartment. It had been a year since I’d done the loop I knew we were now committing to, but I (happily) agreed.

We continued south, past the Seaport, on to the Staten Island Ferry, where we headed north up the west side. At 34th Street we started the long trek over to the east side. When we arrived at the apartment, Chris was fresh as a daisy. I was a puddle of sweat who dreamt only of removing my sneakers from my feet. Total distance: 11.36 miles (I wear a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch that they all bought me for my birthday a couple of years ago). Total time was 3:14, but that included a stop in the World Financial Center to check out the progress at Ground Zero.

After a nice lunch out (Euro Diner if you’re keeping score) we veg’ed out all afternoon (I might have even slept a bit, shhh). All of that was to prepare for attending a July 4th party.

Up until three years ago, we used to host an annual 4th of July party on our deck. We had pretty good views of the Macy’s Fireworks when they had them on East River. This is the third year in a row that they were on the Hudson instead and we had no plans to fight the crowds to try and see them.

On Friday, we received an invitation to a party that claimed to have a spectacular view of the fireworks. Under normal circumstances, we would have said yes in a heartbeat, but we would have been adding four strangers to the party list, which felt wrong on our part. I politely declined, explaining why.

In a I’m not taking No for an answer reply, our host told us to bring our guests along. I only had one No in me, so this time I said Yes! We negotiated on what we could bring and settled on Sushi.

What a great plan, until we found out that our go-to Sushi restaurant was closed all weekend. Our backup Sushi place (also exceptional) was going to be closed on Monday as well. In a twist of fate (actually two twists), the first place was clearly marked as being closed all weekend. The backup place hadn’t updated their sign, so when Lois went in, she thought they’d be open on Monday.

Hiroshi Sushi is across the street from our apartment. I filled in our order before Lois walked over. When she started to say what time she wanted the order ready by, she found out that they were closed on Monday. As she was turning to leave, the person she was talking to called her back.

He told her that he remembered us from years earlier when we used to come in all the time with Lois’ mother to their former Japanese Restaurant (a few doors down, now closed for probably eight years!). He was our waiter many of those times. He asked Lois if he could call the owner (and head chef), who was also involved in the other restaurant, to ask if he’d come in just to prepare this order.

20 minutes later he called us and said that the owner would happily do this for us. Wow, we were so grateful. The order was ready to be picked up at exactly 5pm (as promised) and was fantastic (as evidenced by the oohs and aahs of the partiers). I couldn’t resist trying something called “peanut and avocado roll”. Yummy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

We also brought a white pizza (for those who might not like Sushi). I had the first two slices (and didn’t notice if anyone else did). Man, that was really good too. Finally, we brought a gigantic fresh fruit salad that was seemingly bottomless, but it got completely devoured (or so I heard), so it apparently had a bottom after all. That too was a big hit.

Fruit

On to the actual party (I have a tough time not talking or thinking about food though). Winking smile

When we first arrived at our friend’s apartment we were blown away by the view. But, he lives in a one bedroom (very high up) and we wondered how everyone would get to enjoy the fireworks while being crowded like sardines in the living room. Ah, I’m so naïve at times. That was never the plan.

There was a friend of our friend, who lived 15 floors down (still quite high!). He has a much larger apartment, but more importantly, a massive deck, facing the Hudson River. The two of them decided to combine their parties. In an additional act of generosity, the second host (the friend of our friend), allowed an entire party of his next door neighbors to attend the viewing of the fireworks on his deck, when they were done with their meal (and drinking) on their adjacent (but not facing the river!) deck.

I don’t need to describe the view or the fireworks to you. All of the photos above were taken by Lois, on her compact camera. She took a ton of photos last night too, but I don’t need to share them.

Our friend (Bob) from VA is a semi-professional photographer (with professional equipment). He set up his Nikon on a tripod and captured stunning photos. His daughter (Laura) is following in his footsteps. A few of her shots are included with his. Here’s a representative sample (I’m not compressing these photos, for those of you who want the full effect).

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Followed by the calm after the storm:

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Our friend (let’s call him Host #1) made two pitchers of exotic drinks. The first was green, looked like slime, and was called Key Lime Martini. The second was blue (and frothy) and had Blue Curacao, some coconut stuff and other secret ingredients. I tried the Key Lime first. It was amazing, but one sip was nearly lethal. I am putting my name on a list for when it’s time for me to go, this is the way I’d like to end it all. While I know at least two people who loved it, but purposely didn’t finish theirs (for fear of expiring), I was brave and downed my entire glass.

I later moved on to the Blue mixture. It tasted even better. So much so that I had a second glass (don’t tell Lois!). It didn’t feel as lethal, but for all I know, that’s part of it’s secret. I heard many people raving about this concoction (actually both). Our Host #1 can definitely fall back on Mixologist if his primary profession hits a brick wall. Wow!

Host #2 is a fascinating person who couldn’t have been kinder or more generous (as noted above). In fact, we met many friends of Host #1, each one was a complete delight to converse with. Without a doubt, we’ll be following up with a number of them!

We had to walk a number of blocks before finding the first of the two cabs that got us home and a bit further for the second one.

An absolutely incredible ending to an incredible weekend. I’m no longer annoyed that the fireworks have moved to the west side. I’ll need to be nice to Host #1 for the entire year, just in case Macy’s decides to do it there again next year. It will be hard to keep up the façade, but I’ll do my best. Winking smile

Thank you for including all six of us. It’s a night we’ll never forget!

Happy Birthday Lois

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I’ve mentioned that Lois just had a birthday in May in three separate posts:

The Paper Raincoat and Ian Axel at Mercury Lounge

The Addams Family

Ian Axel and Joey Ryan at Rockwood Music Hall

In fact, many of our friends (and family) had May birthdays, at least one even more significant than Lois’ (see below). Because of the many celebrations, and that thing we don’t like to mention (or think about), work, I haven’t had the time to post about the actual celebration we held for Lois.

Now that May is officially behind us, I’ll do that here, and throw in two other May birthday celebrations for good measure. 🙂

In the last of the three posts linked above, I mentioned that we had a weekend-long celebration which included The Addams Family and a wonderful dinner at the Peking Duck House. More than just another incredible meal and fellowship at the Duck House, the gathering there was also meant to spring a wonderful surprise on Lois.

Time to rewind… Our friends in Richmond, VA and Birmingham, AL coordinated to come up to NYC and spend the weekend. That much Lois knew. What she didn’t know is that one of them, Sally Ann, in consultation with the others, came up with a great idea.

She designed a custom T-Shirt, using a photo of Lois from her teaching days, and invited all of us to submit sayings that we’ve learned from Lois throughout the years. From that list she chose 10 sayings to print on the back of the T-Shirt.

The idea wasn’t to present Lois with a T-Shirt, but rather to have her friends take photos of themselves in the shirt and have the results printed and put into an album for Lois. In addition, those that wanted could write a personal note to Lois for inclusion in the book as well.

I was blown away by the idea, knowing that it was the perfect gift for Lois. The southern crew ordered their own shirts and took their photos. I ordered a bunch of shirts and handed a few out locally, but mostly FedEx’ed T-Shirts all over the globe (yes, more money was spent shipping the shirts than ordering them!). 😉

The furthest photo came from a family in Tokyo that Lois befriended 16 years ago.

Sachi

The stealth involved for me to sneak out and create nearly 30 separate FedEx packages and ship them, over the course of three days went off nearly without a hitch. When I tried to make a physical handoff at a restaurant to our friends who live in Thailand, but were in town for one last night, she nearly caught me. I couldn’t explain my erratic behavior to her satisfaction and it was a point of irritation (and comedy) between us for a few weeks until I could finally explain what happened.

A similar thing happened when someone else emailed her with a subject line that I thought meant that the T-Shirt photo was attached (it wasn’t). I panicked and started yelling that she shouldn’t open the email. She looked at me like I had three heads. I couldn’t explain that either.

So, she knew something was up, but she had no clue, until the actual reveal, of exactly what was up, since it was such a creative surprise!

The reveal came in two stages. Everyone else went to the Duck House before we did. They claimed they wanted to walk, and Lois wanted to take a cab, so no misdirection was needed! When they got to the Duck House, they all had their T-Shirts on for Lois to see when we walked in. It was awesome.

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Here are two close-ups of the front and back:

Front Back

Stage one was complete, and of course, Lois thought that was the entire surprise. After the cake was served stage two was sprung on her, the book itself, with photos of people she never dreamed I would remember to contact! As predicted, Lois was crying non-stop as she flipped the pages. 🙂

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My thanks to everyone who participated, with extra special thanks going to Sally Ann and Laura, not only for conceiving and shepherding the process, for their tireless work in producing the actual book, with gorgeous arrangements and reformatting of the notes and letters. It was truly an amazing work of art!

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Two more May birthdays to recount (though there were more, that I apologize for not mentioning specifically). The very next weekend we were down in Richmond, VA for a 90th birthday party. It was awesome, and there is little that I can hope for in life more than to be just like Vivian when I’m 90! We love you Vivian, and it was an honor and a pleasure to celebrate with you!

Vivian

Finally, we ended May with a bang. Our wonderful Trevor turned 12 and the entire family came up for the Memorial Day weekend to celebrate. They went to the Statue of Liberty on Saturday (before they got to our apartment).

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After dinner at Jackson Hole (amazing burgers) we all went to the Top of the Rock. It was a gorgeous night and we all had a great time there. We let the boys stay up too late and watched National Treasure 2, and enjoyed every second of it (other than the boys squealing whenever someone kissed on screen). 😉

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Sunday was the big day. The boys, their dad, Lois and I went to see the Yankees play the Indians. We got there very early. While the boys were unable to get any autographs (apparently that doesn’t happen much any longer due to security concerns), they got something nearly as good. Derek Jeter hit a ball deep into the outfield during batting practice. The dad asked one of the Cleveland Indians players if he could retrieve it, and he was kind enough to do it. Cool!

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The Yankees were down 3-0. In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and two strikes, Derek Jeter hit a single which scored two runs. Following a double by Granderson, again with two strikes (obviously still two outs), Mark Teixeira hit a 3-run homer putting the Yankees up 5-3. They scored two more in the eighth, and then Mariano Rivera shut the Indians down in the ninth. It was awesome, and the crowd was in ecstasy (as were the boys!).

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The girls (other than Lois, who I still consider to be my girl) went to see Mary Poppins. They loved that too, so all seven of us had a delightful day.

We capped the night off with a wonderful Mexican meal at El Rio Grande followed by watching the original Karate Kid movie. The next day the family spent the day at Ground Zero and Battery Park, nearly walking all the way back to the apartment (until one of the kids cried uncle). After lunch on the deck, they hit the road back to VA, and even though it was Memorial Day, had no traffic and an excellent ride.

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An excellent end to a month-long celebration of wonderful people’s birthdays, Lois included. 🙂

Forty Years or One Day?

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This was a very big year for two of our dearest friends. In fact, the past 40 days alone have seen a number of milestones and celebrations.

The wife just had a big birthday (had a zero at the end), their first grandchild turned one, the husband had a birthday, and to cap it off, they just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary!

For her birthday, the husband and their kids pulled off a fantastic surprise party in Richmond. More than 100 people were there to share in the festivities, including Lois and me. You would think that this would be enough, and for most husbands, it would be.

But, this is no ordinary couple. Everyone who knows them, loves them, no exceptions. That’s true of them as individuals, and as a couple. That would be extraordinary (and it is), except that it’s topped by their love for each other. That’s why I titled this post Forty Years or One Day?

If you met them today, you might think that they met recently and fell madly in love and you are getting to witness that wonderful (typically all-too-short) period when a couple’s love is so obvious, and explodes all around, because it can’t be contained.

So, while they make sure to show their love each and every day, they also enjoy making a big deal out of milestones (not just big ones). 40 years of marriage certainly qualifies as a milestone, and as a big one at that.

The husband decided to to craft a surprise trip to NY for his bride. Our first hint (which I missed, completely, even after the fact) was a Direct Message (DM) via Twitter, from their son, asking me for the address of The Peking Duck House (our favorite restaurant in NYC).  I replied immediately, and didn’t think about it.

Minutes later, Lois got an email from the husband, asking the same thing, but also explaining why, and inviting us to join them for dinner (this past Sunday). We were scheduled to be at Zope this week, but we cut our trip short and returned to be a part of this incredible experience.

The Duck House was just one part of the surprise trip. I’ll cover the rest in a sec. But first, it occurred to us that while the husband was doing all of the surprising, we might help pull off a bit of a surprise for him as well. Lois reached out to both of his kids and invited them to come up and be at the Duck House to surprise both of them as well.

Both couples had commitments for that night, but the son was able to shift his. Unfortunately, the daughter’s commitment involved five other couples, and was impossible to move.

The adventure began this past Sunday (their actual anniversary day). When they awoke, he told her that she needed to pack a bag, but he wouldn’t tell her where they were going. When they got to the airport in Richmond, he still didn’t tell her, so it wasn’t until they were at the gate that she new it was NYC.

When they landed, they went straight to the hotel. From there, he took her shopping for a new engagement ring. After ring shopping, he took her to see Wicked on Broadway. After the show, he suggested they eat at their favorite NY restaurant, the Duck House. Obviously, she didn’t resist.

Now we need to catch up a bit with the parallel story. Roughly the same time that the happy couple was heading to the airport in Richmond, their son, daughter-in-law and grandchild were doing the same thing. Luckily (and semi-accidentally!), they were on a different airline, flying in to a different airport in NYC.

We picked up the kids at LaGuardia and headed to our apartment. We had a wonderful lunch with Laura and Chris as well (who had also been invited on that first day to join for dinner).

When the folks were at Wicked, the kids went to their hotel and arranged to have a hand-written, wonderful gift, from both of their children, placed into their room. They also arranged for Champagne and Strawberries to be delivered later that night to the room. Awesome!

While they were out, we got to play proxy grandparents. Lois fed the baby, and I put her down for a nap. Hadar, what did you put a one-year-old on/in to sleep safely? I’m glad you asked! A week earlier, Lois and I borrowed a crib from a friend of ours, and dropped it off at the apartment on our way to Zope. I set it up the night before our friends came to town, so we were all prepared, Mickey Mouse bedding included! 🙂

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

The Crib

The Crib

Shortly before 6pm, we all headed up to the Duck House. The happy couple arrived via bicycle rickshaw about 10 minutes later. What an incredible surprise. Of course, the mom started crying (but that wasn’t a surprise to us, which is why I said of course). 😉 The dad was surprised too, which was the whole point! Don’t believe me that the mom cried? Here you go:

Mama Crying

Mama Crying

One other person there was surprised. The baby was so happy to see grandma, as you can plainly see:

Surprised Both Ways

Surprised Both Ways

Earlier, Lois and daughter-in-law bought a fantastic cake and had the appropriate Happy Anniversary decorated on top. Yummy.

Aside from (understandably) missing their daughter, one other couple was missing from the festivities. Laura’s folks, who introduced us to this wonderful family, and introduced us to the Duck House as well! They were in South Africa finishing up a long and well earned vacation.

Does that distance stop our crowd? Nope! Even though it was 1:30am in South Africa, the husband (correctly) insisted that we get them to join the celebration in real-time. So, he pulled out his blackberry, and called South Africa. He put the blackberry on speaker phone, and we all had a long and wonderful conversation with our missing friends. Hopefully, they fell back asleep. 😉

We had our typically amazing meal. Here are all of us (minus Lois, the photographer) outside:

All of Us

All of Us

We all walked back to our apartment and relaxed and laughed and caught up on our deck. We encouraged the couple to leave a little earlier than they otherwise might have, because we all knew that there were more surprises awaiting them in the room. 🙂

The rest of us stayed up way too late, but had a great time, so the only complaint is how tired we still feel, days later…

The next morning we had a great breakfast on the deck with the kids.

Deck Breakfast

Deck Breakfast

Later that morning, they went to meet their folks to help finalize the ring selection. They then had lunch together and then headed over to FAO Schwartz for story time for the baby. From there, the folks headed to the airport, and back to Richmond.

The kids had a later flight, so they returned to the apartment. After relaxing a bit, we took over the proxy grandparent duties again, and guarded over the baby while she took a long nap (NYC is very tiring, at all ages!), and the parents got to explore the city a bit. At 6pm they got in a car and headed for the airport.

A whirlwind, but an absolutely wonderful one. We are blessed to be a part of their extended family and were thrilled to be able to arrange our schedule to fully participate.

The baby captured how we all felt about the occasion:

Smiling Baby

Smiling Baby

Want to know what we think of the bride? Lois and I wrote the lyrics to this song (music and vocals by Jack Kapanka) and her daughter and son-in-law put together this amazing slide show to go with the song:

Wonderful Weekend

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We’re in NYC for an unusually long stretch. We’re at the halfway point, and it will be hard to top last week, but we won’t stop trying. 🙂

We returned from VA on Tuesday to one night of solitude. Our extravaganza started on Wednesday. Since we had been away, I got back on the exercise track by taking a seven mile walk by myself.

At 4pm, friends of ours who were passing through arrived to spend the night. After catching up a bit on the deck (in perfect weather), we walked up to the Peking Duck House for a wonderful meal. We waddled back, taking a tour of Grand Central (including the amazing Food Market), and after schmoozing a bit more, collapsed.

The next morning, I took another long walk with our friends, this time roughly six miles. They (correctly) shamed me into getting a new pair of sneakers when they heard me tell Lois that I had not forgotten to stuff some tissues into my socks to stop my sneakers from cutting my heels. I am now the proud owner of a new pair of New Balance, purchased at Modell’s (Gotta Go to Mo’s!). 🙂

In the afternoon, we dropped our friends off uptown and headed straight to LaGuardia to pick up David. Since it had started raining reasonably hard, and his flight was delayed, we parked the car in the garage (highly unusual for us), and we relaxed at the food court, where we had excellent coffees from Coffee Beanery. I watched a bunch of The Onion video podcasts on my iPod (laughing my head off non-stop), while Lois browsed at Borders.

Rain At La Guardia

Rain At La Guardia

David was only an hour delayed, and even though it was still raining, we made great time back to the city. We ran across the street and had a terrific Mexican meal at El Rio Grande. Afterward, Laura and Chris came up to catch up with David.

On Friday, David had lunch out with his college roommate, and Laura (who took a half day off) planned to take another long walk with me. Just as we were about to leave, David texted me that he could be back in 10 minutes if we could wait. We did, happily, and the three of us did the full 8+ mile walk, on yet another glorious day.

Friends of David and Laura (and us as well, though we’re their parents’ ages) were flying up from Richmond, scheduled to arrive at 3:30pm. When a flight attendant was unable to make it on time, they were delayed awaiting a replacement who was flying in from Cincinnati! We had tickets to the Blue Note Jazz Club that evening, and they ended up having to meet us there straight from the airport (putting their luggage in the coat room).

It all worked out fine, and they got there in plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely meal with us. Chris joined us a bit later, due to work, work, work…

Group At BB King

Group At BB King

We saw Charlie Haden (a great bassist). He was playing six consecutive nights at the Blue Note in an Invitation Series with a different guest performer each night. On Friday night, Kenny Barron was the guest, an amazing piano player. The two of them played together, and each took a number of long solos for 70 minutes. It was a slightly short show for the Blue Note.

The air-conditioning seemed to be off only during the show (it came on seconds after the show ended) and they were working so hard on the stage, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the heat caused them to cut it short just a bit. A lovely evening of good food, great company and excellent music.

When we returned to the apartment, the old folks hit the sack, and the youth stayed up (who knows how long?). Before I said goodnight, Chris asked if I wanted to walk in the morning. That would have made four days in a row for me (something I hadn’t attempted as yet), and being the macho machine that I am, I said yes.

I was a bit late (sorry Chris), and met him downstairs at 8:19am. We did the full 8+ miles, at a faster pace than most of my group walks (in fact, we shaved 24 minutes off of the average group walk time, and only six minutes longer than my best time ever). Chris kept me on a crisp and steady pace. Thanks!

While I was off walking with Chris, our guests enjoyed breakfast on the deck.

Breakfast

Breakfast

After a shower, the boys (David, Chris, Clint and I) headed to the new Yankee Stadium to catch the game against the Oakland A’s. This was collectively our first time at the new stadium. In my opinion, it’s awesome. Nice job Yanks!

The Boys

The Boys

Too many food choices to articulate, so I’ll just say what we selected. Chris had the Pizza from Famiglia, which was not exceptional, but not bad either. The rest of us had Philly Cheesesteaks from Carl’s. Pretty good, but I’m not sure I would call it Best in Manhattan (as the web site claims). Not that I know of a better cheesesteak in Manhattan, just that it was good, not amazing. 🙂

Three of us had a $10 beer (which included a plastic commemorative cup, valued at $1).

We fried in the sun for an hour (and I have the sunburn to prove it, especially on my knees). Once the sun passed, the breeze made the rest of the day delightful. Unfortunately, I continue to be a curse on local sports teams. The Yankees had an eight-game winning streak snapped on Saturday. They made it exciting, almost pulling it out in the ninth inning.

Last year (at the old stadium), they lost when I showed up. The year before, the Mets lost when I attended a game. My new retirement plan will be to charge both the Yankees and the Mets to keep me away from the stadiums. I should be able to make a good living, since they play 162 home games between them. 😉

Laura and Sally Ann had a mini-spa afternoon followed by Vietnamese food, while Lois slaved away at her computer.

The Girls

The Girls

When we got back to the apartment, another round of showers was in order due to the aforementioned frying in the sun. Then we walked up to the Duck House, where David’s college roommate and his fiancée joined us for dinner (nine of us in total). We had an absolutely spectacular meal. With that many people, we get to order that many more dishes, and therefore more tastes, than with the four of us who attended on Wednesday night.

Duck House Dishes

Duck House Dishes

Group At Duck House

Group At Duck House

Again, the old folks headed home, and early to bed. The youth headed to see Harry Potter 6, and told us the next morning that they thoroughly enjoyed it!

On Sunday morning, the youth all attended Church Services at Redeemer. Lois and I headed to BB King and waited on line for them to join us. The same nine people who ate the night before at the Duck House now gathered to see the world famous Harlem Gospel Choir over a wonderful brunch at BB King. It was our second time, but the other seven were experiencing it for the first time.

It’s hard to describe the show, unless you’ve been to a revival service, in which case it wouldn’t be hard to describe it all! 😉 Awesome music (both the singing and the band), with wonderful spirituality, including forcing participation by the entire crowd.

Crowd Participation

Crowd Participation

Only the infirm didn’t stand (at least at some point during the show) and clap and dance along. As much as we enjoyed our first time, this one was substantially better, so we’re doubly glad we suggested this activity for the group.

At each show, a group of people is invited on the stage (I won’t tell you why, so you can be surprised if you ever see it), and one of the people in our group ended up on the stage. See if you can spot her (hint, hint). 🙂

One Of Us On Stage

One Of Us On Stage

After the show, Lois bought one of their CDs, and got it signed by all seven of the singers, plus the founder of the Harlem Gospel Choir. We also made a separate donation to their ministry.

We walked back to the apartment and relaxed while watching the Yankees win on TV. I’m awaiting my royalty check for not attending the game yesterday. At the same time, I finally caught up on the weekend’s email and Twitter stream, having not logged on at all on Saturday (a very rare occurrence for me!).

The youth headed across the street for a superb Sushi meal at Hane Sushi. Just as they finished up, the heavens opened up, and we all waited out the thunderstorm. The second it let up, all of us (except for Lois) walked nine blocks to Berry Wild (only Laura and Chris had been there before). Everyone loved theirs, including me. I had Banana and Coffee yogurt, with shredded coconut on top. Yummy!

When we got back, our Richmond friends headed out to JFK. Their flight ended up being delayed by the continuing storms, but they did arrive in Richmond safe and sound, shortly at 2am! 🙁

The rest of us watched a DVD of the 1989 movie The Dream Team. Wes sent it to us as a gift a few weeks back, so we were looking forward to watching it. It starts off a bit slowly (or perhaps awkwardly is more apt), but, it builds, cleverly, and while it’s kooky or corny, I have to admit that I laughed out loud quite a bit. Definitely an enjoyable evening.

David had a 6am flight back, so alarms were set for 4:25am, and Lois and I didn’t get much sleep. David has already landed safely, so the weekend extravaganza is now officially over, but we’re both wiped like the party is still going on. 😉

While we don’t have company staying with us any longer, we do have plans for the next six consecutive nights (alone for the first four, then with other people on Friday and Saturday), before we finally get to completely collapse!

Weekend Birthday Bash

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Our friends from Richmond came up to spend a very special birthday weekend with us in NYC. They were supposed arrive at our apartment by 10am on Friday. That didn’t happen. There were significant snow flurries in NYC (nothing stuck), and the navigation system on the airplane was unable to make an instrument landing at LaGuardia, so while they were descending in NY, they we rerouted to Philadelphia.

I was tracking the flight in real-time and saw that it landed safely. I just didn’t realize it wasn’t anywhere near us… They ended up catching a 12:05pm flight from Philadelphia to LaGuardia, which got in at around 1pm, but that was enough for us to have rejigger Friday’s plans.

We had a blowout lunch scheduled for Rock-N-Sake. I have only eaten there once before, and loved it. I was really looking forward to introducing them to it. We ended up having to cancel that reservation (because they close at 2:30pm and reopen at 5:30pm). Instead, we went up to see Laura at her office and grabbed a light (and very fresh) lunch at Chop’t (a place I was interested in trying after hearing Laura speak highly of it).

(It’s been a long while since I’ve mentioned that clicking on any photo in any of my posts will display a larger image in a separate window/tab, so I’ll mention it again, now.) 🙂

Chop't

Chop't

We walked back to the apartment after lunch and relaxed for a bit. Not too long thereafter, we headed up toward Lincoln Center for dinner. We had tickets to South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Theater for an 8pm show and we wanted to eat in the neighborhood. I searched the web and read a ton of reviews, and settled on an Indian restaurant called Sapphire.

We met Laura there. Unfortunately, Chris got hung up at work, and ended up joining us just as we ordered dessert. The food at Sapphire was simply extraordinary. The four of us who ate the Tandoori lamb all claimed that it was the best lamb we ever had. All of the other dishes were superb as well. As much as we were all looking forward to Rock-N-Sake for lunch, if we had eaten there, we would have opted for a very light dinner, and would not have discovered this jewel!

Saffron Shrimp

Saffron Shrimp

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

From there we walked over to see South Pacific. Laura thought of this as a special birthday gift for her dad, given his love for this show. She made a perfect choice, because love it he did! The two leads are exceptional. Interestingly, neither of the leads that we saw are the Tony winning actors. Kelli O’Hara left the show on March 7th and Paulo Szot took two month-long leaves, the second of which occurred during our show. Laura Osnes played Nellie Forbush, and David Pittsinger played Emile de Becque.

South Pacific

South Pacific

I suspect that Bob loved this show more than Wicked. As much as I enjoyed South Pacific, for me personally, there’s little comparison to Wicked. Since this was Bob’s birthday bash and not mine, South Pacific was the perfect choice! 🙂

When we got back, Lois and I conked out while the rest of them stayed up way too late watching the NCAA tournament.

Saturday morning we had breakfast outside on our deck. It was chilly, but the sun helped make it not-too-unpleasant. This was our first meal outside in 2009, so it was very special in that respect as well. As much as I love restaurant dining, there are few more special places to have a meal than our deck at the apartment, so I’m glad that the season is finally underway. 😉

Deck Breakfast

Deck Breakfast

After letting the food settle, Sally, Bob, Chris and I went for a long walk. Lois took care of things around the apartment, and Laura baked her magical Apple Pie for a birthday dessert. After walking roughly 2.5 miles, the three of them broke off and headed back to the apartment, making for a five mile walk in total. I continued on my normal walk, roughly 8.25 miles in total.

Mid-afternoon, we decided to foist our presents on Bob. He opened a bunch, one-by-one, but he had no idea what was in store for him as his special gift. After he thought it was all over, we broke out a package of gifts, specially created by his family and friends. In fact, it’s so cool that I will be devoting an entire post to it later on (could be as much as a week from now), but I’ll describe it briefly here as well.

We took a song by Colin Hay called What Would Bob Do, and seven of us wrote our own verses about our Bob. We then had it recorded by Jack Kapanka over a simple background acoustic guitar. We sent 100’s of photos to Jack, who put together a wonderful video synchronized to the words and music. He then produced a DVD of the movie/music. The song is 10 minutes long (we wrote lots of verses), and the result was phenomenal.

The six of us watched the DVD at least five times between Saturday and Sunday, and got a huge kick of out of it each and every time. In addition to the video, Lois created a book with the lyrics and photos, and some song-sheets with the lyrics as well. The full package was a wonderfully creative custom gift for a very special person, celebrating his life (to date) and his amazing accomplishments.

Watching the DVD

Watching the DVD

Like I said, more on this specific topic in about a week. 🙂

Right after viewing the DVD a number of times, we walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House. We had a fabulous meal (as always), and waddled back to the apartment.

Duck House

Duck House

We all gathered in Laura and Chris’ apartment to watch the Duke game, and couldn’t wait for half time to dig in to the Apple Pie. Again, Lois and I called it an early night, and the rest of them continued on with more NCAA action.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

On Sunday morning, the four of them had breakfast out, and then walked up to attend church services. We then all met up outside of Joe’s Pub at 12:45pm. We had tickets for a 2pm show for Eden Espinosa. This was her solo debut in NYC. Of the many Elphaba’s we’ve seen in Wicked, Eden was by far our favorite, so we were really looking forward to see her at our favorite club.

We had a nice lunch before the show, and she came on, with a five-piece band at about 2:05pm. She has a fantastic voice, with a surprising range (she hits incredibly high notes, with amazing power, and sustains them, even though you think, or at least I think, she’ll miss them). It was a real treat to see her, though I have some small nits to pick with the show.

Eden Espinosa

Eden Espinosa

The volume on the band was too high. They are superb musicians, and there was no distortion, but the place is too small to play that many pieces at that volume. While you could make out Eden’s voice even at the maximum volume of the group, that’s sheerly a testimony to how hard she was belting it out (and sweating as a result, even though it was on the cool side in the club).

Thankfully, she also did quite a number of songs with only the electric piano or acoustic guitar for accompaniment, so it wasn’t all top-of-the-lungs all the time. That brings me to my second nit. Song selection. While she’s great at the full range of songs she sang, I so much more enjoyed the ones with solo accompaniment (not just because of the volume). I don’t think she needs to prove her rock capabilities, at least not in a place as small as Joe’s.

She had a surprise guest, Katie Thompson. She came out and did a solo number, accompanying herself on the electric piano, called What Turns You On (available on the MySpace page linked above). She has one of the better voices we’ve heard, and she plays the piano marvelously as well. It was a real treat. After that, she played another of her songs, and Eden sang along with her, a bit of harmony (beautiful), but mostly alternating verses.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson

They played a third song together (with the rest of the band accompanying them as well), and then Katie left the stage.

Eden closed the show with an encore, singing Defying Gravity. We would have been disappointed to miss this one, so we were grateful that she came back out and gave us a taste of Wicked. 🙂

Even with the nits, I was very glad to see her (and discover Katie), and I suspect that I was more critical of the show than the rest of our guests, which is also a good thing!

Lois Eden Laura

Lois Eden Laura

Bob Eden Espinosa

Bob Eden Espinosa

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Three of us headed back to the apartment to relax, and three more headed to B&H for some browsing (in anticipation of future camera shopping). We all met up at the apartment for a little more snacking on Apple Pie and Cupcakes (and two people even had some shrimp), watched the DVD again, and then we headed out.

We dropped Bob and Sally back at LaGuardia, then headed up to the house. Other than being colder than predicted, and the nuisance of being routed to Philadelphia at the beginning of the trip, it was a picture-perfect weekend, and we hope Bob enjoyed his birthday blowout a fraction as much as we did!

Happy Birthday Bob!

Avenue Q

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The young folks spent the day running around NYC, riding the Staten Island Ferry, and spending time in Central Park. The old folks spent the day tethered to their laptops.

We met up at the apartment and walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House in mid-town. We had a fantastic meal there (no surprise), including having the one person in our group who was previously not a fan of seafood taking seconds.

We got there extremely early (Lois is always the overly cautious one), and that worked out. It was an unusually leisurely meal for the Duck House (which typically serves more quickly) and it all worked out perfectly. You can see how satisfied we all looked at the end of the meal:

Duck House Meal Before Avenue Q

They called for rain starting early evening, but it held off. That worked out too, since we got to walk from the Duck House to the theater, with no precipitation.

We had tickets to see Avenue Q at the Golden Theater on 45th Street. We got there at about 7:52 and were comfortably seated long before the curtain went up (or rather the lights went down, since there was no curtain) at 8:05 like most Broadway shows.

Setting the record straight, I exaggerated by saying comfortably seated. There’s nothing wrong with the Golden Theater, but we’re pretty spoiled by the Gershwin Theater (where we’ve seen Wicked seven times!), which is so much more comfortable, so much more spacious (leg room), and so many more seats…

Our goddaughter saw Avenue Q a number of years ago. She enjoyed it, but warned us that it was off color. That’s code for Lois should stay away! Both my godson and I were more than a little worried about her reaction, even though neither of knew exactly how off color the show would be.

The very first number is cute, but also sets some expectations in that regard. The words it sucks to be me are repeated too many times to count. It didn’t offend me, but I was already a tad worried about Lois. Completely due to chance, Lois and I ended up at opposite ends of our seven seat block, so we caught each other’s eye a few times, but didn’t talk about the show until it was over.

Without giving away anything material (trust me), Avenue Q is essentially an adult version of Sesame Street. In other words, it is done in the style of Sesame Street, and is meant to educate, while being playful (only this time, in an adult sense). The education is meant to teach some life lessons, but they use other techniques that are more traditional Sesame Street (as in teaching the meaning of some words).

As with Sesame Street, some of the characters are puppets, and some are honest-to-goodness humans. Different than Sesame Street, the puppets are controlled by humans who are on the stage acting alongside the puppet they are controlling, and singing and speaking without trying to pretend to be ventriloquists. It works perfectly well, so even if my description sounds cheesy, fear not!

Every single actor on the stage was excellent. There wasn’t a weak voice or performance among the group. The two leads, Howie Michael Smith and Sarah Stiles are fantastic. Great voices, great acting and great range (they each control multiple characters). That said, to repeat, the entire cast is superb, and you should check each of them out on the cast page.

Here are the two leads, then a photo of some other cast members:

Avenue Q Lead ActorsPhoto of some cast members of Avenue Q

The humor in the show is largely tongue-in-cheek, and goes over well with the audience. Lots of bursts of uncontrollable laughter from people all around us. But, an over-the-top focus on sex and sexual themes. Not innuendo, but rather explicit stuff. Keep in mind that they can do things with puppets on the stage that actors couldn’t get away with. Nuff said.

That kind of stuff doesn’t bug me, in any way, even when it’s completely gratuitous. I love comedy/humor in most forms. I believe I’ve said in the past that I like it even when it isn’t funny, as long as I can project where they were heading, if the unrealized destination would have been funny.

In this case, it also didn’t bug me at all. But, it was more than just over-the-top. It was actually vulgar at times, and I imagine that it offended a number of people (including Lois) though many (not including Lois) wouldn’t be comfortable admitting their discomfort. Even the vulgarity was good for cheap laughs, and the audience as a whole most definitely laughed heartily even at those jokes!

I tried not to look around too much, but I heard some people say something about kids being in the audience. I hope there weren’t too many (or rather any!). If parents brought young children to this show, thinking it’s only a puppet show with singing, they were sadly mistaken, and abrogated their parental responsibility to investigate the show in advance of bringing their kids. Of course, if they did, and still brought their kids, their judgment needs to be checked in other matters as well (in my opinion).

From very early on, it was entirely obvious that this was not going to be a PC (Politically Correct) show. For that, I applaud them completely. In my opinion, the PC in this country is out of control. Not wanting to offend entire groups of people is laudable. But, the same people that feel it’s verboten to say something against this particular group, have no shame in knocking something else (oh, let’s say Republicans or Christians).

Avenue Q takes no prisoners, and shouldn’t!

That said, they also take the obligatory shot at President Bush (only one, which was in itself impressive restraint!). The crowd whooped it up like they had just heard the funniest joke in their life! It’s fine, and wasn’t over-the-top in any sense.

That said, I found it incredibly ironic. Basically, the complaint is that life under W’s rule is horrible, and we simply can’t wait to get out from under it. I realize that at a minimum, at least half of the country feels this way, perhaps even more. So, it’s a legitimate point of view, right or wrong. But, in this case, it’s written by people who have a very successful Broadway hit on their hands (a Tony winner!), it’s being delivered by actors who are starring in a Broadway hit, and being received by people who can afford to take their dates/families/friends to a Broadway show, all in the midst of these horrible economic times.

Yes, the lives of all of those that shared this very clever joke all seem terribly in shambles at this time, entirely due to W’s iron-fisted madness!

Unfortunately, I really worry about the half of the country that thinks their lives will be immeasurably better when either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama become President. The magical thinking that goes on, that a President exerts such power to change things (in either direction) simply discounts what our government and economy have become and how they work. Oh well…

In and around all of the jokes, there are actually some very deep insights about life, and the plight we all experience as we grow up and make our own way. I’m impressed with the way the writers deliver those lessons (to those who are paying attention) in a subtle and lighthearted manner.

Bottom line: A very clever show, wittily written, with good songs, great singing, excellent harmonies, lots of funny dialog, top-notch acting and great puppeteering. If you don’t mind vulgarity (at times), and lots of focus on sex (even when it’s not vulgar), and you aren’t offended by non-PC jokes, you will really enjoy this show. I did, even though I can totally understand why some others might not.

When we got out it was raining. It was coming down reasonably steadily, but it wasn’t too cold, and it wasn’t windy (so the rain was coming straight down rather than blowing in your face), so we walked home (cutting through Grand Central as we did the night before). Given all of the weather predictions, so far, it’s held up remarkably well.

Another excellent day! 🙂

Enjoying Repetition

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We have company staying with us this weekend. Yesterday morning, while they were eating a late breakfast in the apartment, I wandered out on my own to TKTS. I listened to another The Business podcast (from KCRW) on the way, and to part of the new Celine Dion CD (Taking Chances) on the way back.

There were quite a number of shows available at TKTS. When I called, the guests were interested in seeing Curtains The Musical. Lois and I had already seen it (and enjoyed it, as discussed in this post), so I only got three tickets. Row J (not necessarily exactly the 10th row), center orchestra, for 1/2 price. Not too shabby.

They enjoyed the show (as did we). We later met up at the Peking Duck House. We had dinner there nine days earlier as well, but you can never have too much of their food. Two of our guests don’t eat duck (neither does Lois), so this was one of the rare trips where we didn’t order duck. That permitted a wider sampling of their main dishes, and all were delectable, as always.

We did something we almost never do, we drove to the duck house. Normally, we walk. Rarely, we take the bus or a taxi. We drove last night because we intended to go to Filli Ponte after dinner, to hang out in the bar. It’s a long trek to get there, and five of us would have required two cabs.

In this post, I discussed what a wonderful time we had the last (and first) time we went to Filli Ponte. That was a relatively quiet Wednesday night. Last night was a holiday Saturday night, and the bar was much more active, and the restaurant was doing a great business as well. We were still able to snag seats right next to the piano on ultra-comfortable couches, as most of the bar crowd sat around the bar itself, waiting to be seated for dinner.

Jonathan Pytell was exceptional on the piano. He played a mixture of holiday classics, more traditional bar classics, and some of his own compositions, which were very impressive! The chocolate martinis were as perfect as always (thanks Natalia!) 🙂 and I think I converted a few new fans to this wonderful drink.

A good time was had by all, as can be seen in the following photo (click for a larger version):

Jonathan Pytell and our Gang

Harry Connick Jr.

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After going on and on about all of the live music we’ve taken in lately, friends of ours surprised us with tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. this past Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall.

Neither Lois and I were particularly familiar with him. We both knew he had an exceptional voice, and we’ve seen him act as well (mostly in Will and Grace on TV). I thought of him as a “crooner”, a modern-day Frank Sinatra.

We were definitely looking forward to the experience, but neither of us was excited from a musical perspective. We were extremely excited about spending the time with our friends, and weren’t disappointed in that regard.

The evening started at the Peking Duck House. ‘Nuff said about that. 🙂

The concert was wonderful. Radio City Music Hall is a fantastic place. We were in nose-bleed territory, but still enjoyed everything. There was an 11-piece “big band” playing with him, and they were amazing. For roughly half the show, two other Jazz stars played with them, Leroy Jones and Lucien Barbarin.

Now for the star. Harry Connick Jr. was great. His voice was as good as expected, but neither of us realized he was such a talented pianist. Moreover, his charm is infectious, and when he talked to the crowd, he was mesmerizing. There were lots of other wonderful touches on the night (including a proposal from one of his trombone players to his girlfriend, now fiancee) 😉 and his daughters dancing on the stage with him during the finale.

Anyway, we’re now officially fans of his, and can’t thank our friends enough!

Delectable Duck!

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My most loyal readers should already be salivating, as they have all personally had the experience I’m about to describe. 🙂

Those who know me know that perhaps my favorite restaurant (though there are many that I love) is the Peking Duck House in mid-town in NYC. I had dinner there last night. This isn’t unusual, as Lois and I have calculated that (including delivery) we have enjoyed somewhere between 500-1000 meals in/from that restaurant over the past 25 years!

I’m writing about it now because last night was the first time I was there since I started blogging, and the meals there are at least worth mentioning once. 😉

There are many restaurants in NYC that serve Peking Duck. There are relatively few that serve it outside of the major metropolitan cities. This is largely due to the fact that it’s a time-consuming process to prepare the duck (typically 24 hours!), and it’s expensive. So, restaurants don’t want to prepare a number of ducks, only to have them go unordered.

When your main calling is delivering delectable ducks to the majority of your customers, you don’t worry about this, and prepare an insane number of ducks every single day. Their home page currently highlights a picture of what the duck looks like sliced up, but I don’t know if they rotate the home page photos regularly…

Last night, Lois and I had the pleasure of going with a couple who had not dined there before. That said, both are Peking Duck lovers, who considered the duck at Shun Lee Palace to be “the best”. I’ve eaten there many times in my life, including having the duck there. I hadn’t been there in over 10 years, but went there for lunch a month ago with another VC who chose the place. It’s a fantastic restaurant, and I have nothing but praise to heap on them, but unfortunately (for them), their duck, as outstanding as it is, doesn’t measure up to the Duck House.

So, I will admit to being a little nervous as to how our friends would rate their new duck experience with “the best”. All I can say is that they are either very classy and very good actors, or I should believe them when they say that the duck they had last night was officially the best duck they had ever had (Shun Lee Palace included). Whew 🙂

Basically, this post is done, since it’s ostensibly about the duck. For those who clicked on this only for the duck, stop reading!

OK, if you’re still here, then you either know that the rest of the menu is fantastic as well, or you just couldn’t resist finding out what else I had to say about this restaurant…

Over the years, with as many meals as we’ve enjoyed there, we have developed a set of favorite dishes that never fails to satisfy. Amazingly enough, nothing that has ever been on that list has ever fallen off due to a decline in the consistency or taste satisfaction. Dishes sometimes don’t make the cut because there are too many great choices, and new favorites end up bumping down an old standby which simply won’t fit in your stomach during that particular meal.

Last night is a good example. Typically, a duck produces 10 pancakes. When there are only a few people sharing the duck, the waiters at the Duck House will stuff each pancake a little more, knowing that two people won’t necessarily want five pancakes each. Lois never eats the duck (don’t ask) 😉 so there were only three duck eaters last night.

That could have been three pancakes each, easily. For most people, that’s an entire meal. For sure if you add any soup/appetizers and rice, etc. But, somehow, we always manage to order more than we should there. Last night was different, as we wanted our friends to at least taste a few of our favorites. They were certainly game. 😉

So, we ordered our current top three non-duck favorites:

  1. Orange Chicken (undoubtedly the greatest version of this dish ever created, anywhere on earth, I’ll bet on it!). This has been my personal top choice for 25 years, and I’ve never waivered.
  2. Grand Marnier Prawns (a relatively new favorite at this restaurant, as it was introduced less than 2 years ago there. We were enjoying it 20 years ago at a long-gone place called Fu’s.) This dish is also mind-bogglingly delicious.
  3. Paradise Beef. This is their take on filet mignon. Lois and I are always amused when people realize they can get top quality steak, in a Chinese restaurant. This dish has been consistently outstanding for 25 years as well.

There wasn’t room (in any of us) to even consider other dishes, like the amazing Prawns in Chili Sauce, etc. In fact, as I mentioned above, I really thought we’d each just sample the above dishes. Not only did we devour all of the dishes (there was one measly strip of Paradise Beef left that I think everyone was eyeing but somehow thought that it would look like we weren’t gluttons if we left something on at least one plate). 😉

Of course, then there was dessert (Lois and I are such regulars over the years the we always get dessert on the house, whether we want it or not!). Green Tea ice cream, Red Bean ice cream and lychee nuts (and of course, chocolate and vanilla ice cream as well). I’m very proud to say we only finished 1/2 of the dessert… 😉

All in all, a fantastic evening of great food, even better company and yet another fond memory of a meal at the Duck House. I’m sure we added two more regulars to their roster…

P.S. Now for another irony that the universe loves to throw at me. I had considered blogging about this even before we went last night. When we got home, I was sure that I would do it when I finally had a second to breathe today (which turned out to be mid-afternoon). But, in the morning, a good friend, fellow VC, many-time co-investor with me, LP in my fund, etc., etc., etc., wrote out of the blue to say that he and the family would be in town in two weeks, and could Lois and I join them for a meal at the Duck House. Guess who first introduced him to it? 😉

Unfortunately, we’ll be down at Zope on the day they come to town, but they have already confirmed that they’re going without us, so apparently we are not the primary attraction in this city… 😉