Sunday, February 24, 2008

A visit from the city

Blogging is such a great way to meet people. You get to know a person through their posts and comments and sometimes e-mails, and you learn things about them that they might not share if you were just to meet them on the street. We have met a number of friends through blogging who have become very good friends and whom we visit regularly or who visit us regularly. I can't begin to link and name them all here, for fear I'd leave someone out. Suffice it to say that we have met more than twenty people in our blogging circles, some as far away as Wyoming, and some as close as the city.

I have to give credit where credit is due: Jess is usually the one to orchestrate the meet-ups with other bloggers, he being the extrovert, me being the introvert. We'd have a lot fewer friends if it weren't for his work in developing friendships.

I am hoping that Patrick will be one of those people who becomes a close friend. We met him through the charming and deeply introspective Nicky, with whom we have struck up a long- distance friendship. Nicky hasn't visited us yet, but we're hoping that he will be able to visit someday. If you haven't read his blog, you really should. To endure the things he's been through and still be the wonderful, thoughtful soul that he is says a lot.

At any rate, Patrick came to visit us for the first time this past Monday afternoon, and it was a wonderful time. I won't go into too much detail about the visit, because I would rather you read his post describing it. It's so detailed that it's a nearly play-by-play run of the entire visit!

I will say that we had a wonderful time, and found Patrick to be the same delightful person that he is in his posts and comments: just a joy to visit with, and truly gracious.

One thing that I found particularly interesting about Patrick is that he comes from a Quaker background. It's uncommon to find Quakers; they tend to come from specific areas of the country. I know this because Wichita has a Quaker University, Friends University, and I received my associate's degree there (even though I am not Quaker) so I know about the Quaker faith (as well as the oatmeal). Patrick had actually visited Friends University years ago, so we had a fun point of common interest besides the more obvious commonalities.

At any rate, the company and conversation was wonderful, and we hope to repeat the experience again soon! And speaking of blogger visits, at some point, I have to get Anita and Sarah out here to spend a day in the kitchen!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Passing Strange - You must see it!

Run, do not walk, to see this show at the Belasco Theatre on 44th. This is one of the best musicals made in the last twenty years. It's funny; it's gritty; it's poignant. And the writer and lyricist of the show, Stew (yes, he goes simply by Stew), who narrates and sings the tale, along with his musical collaborator Heidi Rodewald, has created a show that is engaging, brilliantly composed, and beautifully sung by a very talented cast, including the charming and impetuous Daniel Breaker, the beautiful De'adre Aziza, the lovely Eisa Davis, the intense Colman Domingo, the delicious and steely Chad Goodridge (for whom this was his Broadway debut), and the sultry and sizzling Rebecca Naomi Jones. This cast is backed up by a terrific band including Christian Cassan, Christian Gibbs, Jon Spurney, and the aforementioned Ms. Rodewald, and features terrific lighting design by Kevin Adams. The casting, by Jordan Thaler and Heidi Griffiths, is spot-on.

If you were a fan of Rent, you will love this show. It's a rock musical, and it's an experience. You're put in the middle of the action and Stew, the narrator, really brings the show to the audience and gets you into it. You will be mesmerized. Listen, I am not a rabid musical-goer; most musicals I really cannot be bothered with. I have seen a number of them and have liked very few. I can count the ones I have really loved on one hand: Dreamgirls; Cabaret; Rent; BKLYN; and Wicked. Oh, and Les Miserables. I guess that's more than one hand.

Coincidentally, Diana Ross, her daughter and some friends happened to be at Tuesday night's performance, and Ms. Ross was obviously enjoying it. Patrick went with us, and it was he who happened to notice her sitting just two rows back of us and across the aisle.

We hung around after the show and met a number of the cast members, who were genuinely friendly, and who were very excited about Miss Ross's visit backstage. But we were truly amazed by Stew, who is one of the most genuine and down-to-earth people you could ever hope to meet on the Great White Way. Embrace him, New York, and see his and Heidi's show! You will not be disappointed.

The show is in previews right now, and it opens February 28. I suggest you buy your tickets now because, if there is any justice on Broadway, this is going to be a blockbuster.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Customer Disservice

So we have a filtered instant hot water dispenser that has been producing foul-tasting water lately. It's under warranty, so I called the manufacturer to request service. They gave me the name of a local business to call to get service and told me that I would need to give them a case number when I called them so that they could bill the manufacturer. I wrote the case number down, but wasn't able to contact the local business immediately, since they were closed weekends. In the meantime, I managed to lose track of the case number. So I called the manufacturer. Here's how the conversation went.

Mfr: Thank you for calling InSinkerator, this is Billy, may I help you?

Me: I hope so. I had called last week to request service for a hot water dispenser that is producing bad-tasting water, but somewhere along the line, I have misplaced the case number. I just need to get my case number again so that I can call the local repair facility for service.

Mfr: Okay, I just need your case number so I can pull that information for you.

Me: I believe I just explained that I don't have my case number. That's why I'm calling you.

Mfr: Oh, well, that's a problem. I need a case number.

Me: You should have my name, address, and other information on file since I provided all that information along with the serial number when I called last week.

Mfr: Oh. Give me the serial number, maybe I can look it up that way.

Me: (not having serial number at the ready) You can't look me up by name?

Mfr: So, what is your ZIP Code?

Me: (now puzzled) mean the serial number?

Mfr: No, your ZIP Code.

Me: Okay, the ZIP is 11554. I was just confused because you asked for the serial number first, but then changed to ZIP Code.

Mfr: Right, so your ZIP Code is....?

Me: As I said, it's 11554.

Mfr: Okay. And your name?

Me: (I give my name.)

Mfr: Okay, I have it. The name of the business you need to contact is Marty's Wholesale Appliance, and the number is 516-555-1111. Will that be all?

Me: No. I asked for the case number. I have the name and the number of the business. I need the case number so that I can schedule an appointment.

Mfr: Okay, the case number is 4040000. Did you need the number of the local business to call for service?

Me: (I hang up the phone.)

Customer service just isn't what it used to be. It's not even close. This maroon didn't even bother to apologize when he didn't give the right information. Sad.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Riverside Choral Society Rachs

Last night, we went to see our blogosphere friend Matt perform in the Riverside Choral Society's presentation of Mariah Motets and Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, Opus 37, directed by Patrick Gardner. The performance was staged at the beautiful Holy Trinity R.C. Church, a testament to classic Catholic excess - it just makes one wonder if all the money spent on the building had been used for the proper...oh, never mind, back to the subject at hand. We were crammed into relatively tight and highly uncomfortable pews and were sitting in front of a row of old people. Old people who were having what Jess appropriately labeled a "phlegm convention". It was pretty disgusting. The only thing more disgusting was that every time they shifted around (which was fairly regularly), you'd get that delightful whiff of "old people smell".

Let me first say that I love Rachmaninoff. He was an incredible composer/pianist but many pianists consider him a sadistic bastard because his compositions are difficult to play unless you have phalanges that are freakishly long, like Rachmaninoff's were. (He had a hand span of more than a foot - now those are some big freaking hands.) I had a friend long ago in Wichita named Jerry who was a wonderful pianist and he was a big Rachmaninoff fan, in spite of the fact that his fingers weren't long enough to easily play the chords required...but I always thought he played the pieces beautifully.

So, when I heard that the Riverside Choral Society was going to be performing a selection of Rachmaninoff vespers and matins, I wanted to go. I was not familiar with this aspect of Rachmaninoff's work, and also, I wanted to hear the Choral Society perform since Matt is in it and is the Tenor section leader.

The first part of the performance wasn't Rachmaninoff, but was instead a selection of Eastern European hymns by Stravinsky, Biebl and Pärt, among others. To my surprise, the best piece of the entire evening was Biebl's Ave Maria, which was probably the finest performance of that piece that I have heard. I haven't heard many performances of this particular piece. There are many, many different hymns named Ave Maria (meaning Hail, Mary), and the one most people think of when they hear that name is Franz Schubert's version. But Biebl's version is much more intricate and delicate, and part of the reason this particular performance sounded so beautiful was separation of a semi-chorus (of which Matt was a part) from the main chorus, with the semi-chorus performing from the arched loft, making it positively angelic. This piece sent chills through me. Stunning.

My second favorite piece of the evening was the VOSKRES IZ GROBA from Rachmaninoff. It was lovely.

Overall, a beautiful performance, which Jess and I then capped with a visit to VYNL with Patrick, where we had some good food and even better drinks. I had a Pearis Hilton, which was Ketel One, pear liqeur and pineapple was a lot tastier than its namesake. Patrick and Jess each had the Purple Rain, which was Grey Goose, Chambord, raspberry puree and pineapple juice. It was also fabulous and unusual, like the composer of the song for which it's named. I also had a VYNL, which was Absolut, lemonade and watermelon juice, but it was only so-so. But I'll be making me some Purple Rains and Pearises at home!

A nice evening, but a late one: we got to Penn Station around 12:30 a.m. and our train didn't leave until 1:07. We finally made it home about 2:00 a.m., but didn't get to bed until almost 3:00. But it was a fun evening.