Before I get to the description of how things went at our huge and festive Holiday Gala, I want to tell you about some celebrating we did much earlier in the season. In fact, it was the first week of November. Oceana, George, Rocco, Lynne and I went to see the gingerbread house in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. I must confess that when I first heard about this outing, I was more jazzed about hanging out with the aforementioned crew than I was to see some oversized gingerbread dollhouse. I was sure it would be artistic and expertly crafted and all, but I was somehow underwhelmed at the prospect.
When we walked in the door of the hotel, the first thing we saw was a beautifully decorated tree so big we could barely see the limits of it. After taking pictures in front of it, we walked around to the other side, and my jaw dropped. In front of us was a full-size, two-story house, complete with windows and stairs and large archway leading to the hotel's lovely lobby on the other side. There were tables inside the house with paper and crayons, and children were happily coloring. The entire structure was made of gingerbread. The experience was touching and magical.
We took pictures here, too, and read all the statistics about how many thousands of individual pieces of gingerbread went into its construction. We then walked through the arch into the Fairmont's large, elegant lobby, beautifully draped with garlands and lights. A talented pianist, who looked a bit like Clarence, the angel in It's a Wonderful Life, played Christmas songs while the five of us lounged on a couple of couches, drinking cocktails, eating hors d'oeuvres and chatting. At one point, a woman came in with her four-year-old daughter, who was dressed in a black and white holiday dress of velvet and chiffon. The child was immediately enchanted by the piano music, and spent a good 15 minutes freestyle dancing around the piano in a style reminiscent of Isadora Duncan. Her mother, apparently as delighted as we were, never took her camera off her. “Is that stills or video?” I asked her. “I wish it was video!” she replied, mock-forlornly. The piano player was tickled by the young dancer as well.
At a house meeting several weeks later, Karen, who is a professional folk singer, said she'd like to schedule a time for us all to sing Christmas carols together. Sierra, who works at the Lake Merritt Boating Center, responded by saying that every year the Center had a tradition of taking people out on a boat at night and singing carols on the lake. This sounded like a great idea to us! Karen called up and reserved the entire boat just for us Morehousers and a few friends and family. On the scheduled night, we all showed up at the dock just before 9pm. Sierra was dressed in a complete Santa outfit. She wouldn't wear the beard, however. “I tried it and it itched too much. So I'm Mrs. Santa,” she said. After plying us with hot cider and cookies, she had us all get on board the boat, which was decorated with Christmas lights. She handed out songbooks, cast off the lines, and started driving us around the lake, itself softly illuminated by the famous “pearl necklace,” the string of lights that borders its entire 3-mile perimeter. Out on the water, in the relative dark and quiet, we sang our carols together.
As you may recall from earlier posts, I'm a bird-watcher. I noticed that there were flocks of water birds that could faintly be seen in the dark swimming away from the boat. Sierra took the opportunity to steer us over to the corner of the lake that had been cordoned of for the protection of the birds. She gave me a little halogen flashlight and, as we floated passed, I shone it on the sleeping pelicans (both white and brown), egrets, and herons that I had until then seen on the lake only during the day. This was a fun bonus. Then, after a last round of carolling, we headed back to the dock, thoroughly happy from such a convivial event.
You know, I still haven't gotten to the description of our big Gala. Oh well, it'll have to wait until next time!
The only difference between a coward and a hero is which way they run when they're afraid.
-- Vic Baranco