Saturday, December 06, 2014

Packing List & Parties (Or) 40 Days of Thanksgiving: Days 26-28

Almost every time I go on a trip, I forget something. I will have gone back indoors half a dozen times, grabbing items that I remembered just as I was shoving the key into my car ignition, but still I will completely overlook something obvious--or several. This time, I forgot business cards, price tags and my razor.  Previously, I've forgotten my medicine, or toothpaste, or makeup, or socks. I am religious about packing underwear, because once when I was little, my mother forgot to bring any for me, and I had to borrow Grandmommy's.  Never again.

I am glad that for the most part (medication excepted), if I forget something, it has been fairly easy to find a store that sells the product at my destination. But this can be a pain--it takes time and money better spent elsewhere, and on returning home, I have unnecessary duplicates.

Sometimes, finding replacement items can lead to interesting adventures, like when I ran out of certain toiletries at the end of my summer stay in Poland, before a week in Vienna, and the only Kmart I knew of where such things could be had was in Bratislava, Slovakia. So I took a train to Bratislava, did some sightseeing, almost got squished by a tram (a matter of inches between me and the precariously-parked car against which I was leaning), and got the things I needed at the Kmart before heading back to Austria.

I need a master packing list, kind of like the laminated preflight checklist cards that small-engine pilots carry (mine, with my old flight book, is still in the armrest between the front seats in my car--maybe, just maybe, I'll get to use it again someday...). It should have domestic, international and business variations. There's probably an iPhone app, but I think an analog, hardcopy version would be prudent to have as well.

The Russians know how to throw good parties. I spent yesterday evening at one of the reception halls in the embassy compound along with perhaps 500-700 others at their 2014 holiday party. Grandfather Frost and one attendant snow maiden were there for photos, and upstairs the catered savories (hot and cold) preceded the musical centerpiece, Tchaikovsky played by pianist Yuri Shadrin to accompany various Pushkin, Tolstoy and others' lyrics sung by Askar Abrazakov.  The concert was followed by dessert (apple blini with honey, sugar cookies iced to resemble matroshki). All points were thoroughly enjoyable--it was an exquisite example of soft power diplomacy. For one thing, there were no long speeches--the two before the performance were three minutes or less--and the closing remarks comprised maybe two sentences.  The atmosphere was festive, and the musicians superb (I'd heard recordings by Shadrin on classical radio, and liked hearing him in person). And, I met a nice Chinese Malaysian guy in the security line who was good company all evening.

I've been wined and dined (appetizered?) three nights straight. Thursday, I took a selection of Anita's and my pieces down to a posh ninth-floor law office overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue for a benefit to raise awareness of child sex trafficking. Unfortunately, not only was it tending to drizzle outdoors, that was the same evening as the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting, and so traffic downtown was horrible. Only about a third of those who'd RSVP'd actually showed up, and sales were correspondingly slow. But the catering staff treated us vendors like guests, regularly approaching to proffer trays of tiny spinach quiches, bacon-wrapped dates, and the like, so it was hardly an unpleasant experience. And I met a nice Russian painter from St. Petersburg, with whom I enjoyed talking.

Tonight, I had dinner with Susan, Steven and Theo. After the marble halls of the law office and the crystal chandeliers in the Russian embassy, as much fun as visiting them was, it was a relief to be able to (literally) take off my shoes and enjoy the company of old friends.  Theo's vocabulary is extensive, and he showed off his ability to sing several nursery songs and the first verse of the hymn "Silent Night." He'll turn two in three weeks. He and I played with blocks and cars, then I was permitted to share in the bedtime ritual of singing, prayer and hugs. Such a sweet little guy!

Thus far, I've been able to spend time also with Rachel (tea Thursday), Leah and her family (baby clothes and Christmas tree shopping yesterday), Hannah (baby shower this morning for her soon-to-appear little girl--I went a trifle berserk buying tiny pink outfits and accessories) and my dear former estate sale boss (tea this afternoon). Tomorrow is a show to benefit a battered women's organization in Alexandria. The nice Chinese guy I met last night (he gave me his card--as aforementioned, I'd none with which to reciprocate) emailed me to ask me to the 7:30 PM mass at his Catholic church, but given that I'm attending the 8:30 AM service at my old Presbyterian church and then serving Mammon throughout the afternoon, I declined on grounds of sure exhaustion.

Cold rain has been slapping against the window of my room for hours.  I am grateful for warm, weather-proof vehicles and buildings, for unanticipated opportunities to meet friendly, multitalented people, and for the cheerful company of small children who guide you through their games.

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