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WHO THE HELL IS ANNA AKHMATOVA?

2 January 2005

Apparently Anna Akhmatova is considered Russia's greatest woman poet, who died in 1966, on the 5th anniversary of Stalin's death.

I would never have known that if we hadn't gone to a New Year's Eve party last night.

Each year we attend a party at the psychiatrist's house, but this year we were also invited to a party with people from the theatre group we've been involved with ever since we moved to Davis.  We decided to go with the theatre group.

It was a lot smaller than the psychiatrist's party, but more comfortable.  The psychiatrist's party is filled with the movers and shakers of Davis, all delightful people that I kinda sorta know, as well as people that I used to know when our kids were in school together, but haven't seen since last year's party.  There is always music and fun, but I always feel out of place, end up eating half the hors d'oeuvres (of which there are plenty) out of nerevousness and feel I'm an observer rather than a participant.  I never know what to do with my hands, so I fill them with food.

I enjoy these parties, don't get me wrong.  It's just that every time we go I remember that I'm not a party person and don't do the mingling and small talk all that well.

So I wasn't sure what to expect at this other party, but the group was much smaller, the atmosphere more relaxed, and everybody there was someone I knew well enough to call a friend, whether a good friend or a casual friend.  I was so comfortable, I realized at the end of the evening that I hadn't eaten everything in sight and actually didn't even finish all of my dinner.   THAT is a first for me at a party!

They play games at this party and I usually cringe when someone suggests a game, but these were fun.  First we played "Cranium," which is a combination of Trivial Pursuit, Charades, Pictionary, and kindergarten clay class.  It was a little complicated, since only a couple of the group knew it, but it was still fun--and I was comfortable enough to get up and make an idiot of myself doing charades (you try to pantomime "bridge"!)

One thing I had to do was spell "statistics" backwards.  Swell--this is just like one of the psychological tests that the psychiatrist gives (only with him it's spelling "world" backwards--I can do that just fine!).  Miraculously, I was able to do it.

After Cranium was finished, though, we moved on to the game they apparently play every year.  At the start of the evening, we were all given pads of paper and pencils and we had to write down the names of famous people, whether living or dead, whether real or fictitious, and, actually, whether famous or not--just names that the group would be likely to know.

There was a 30 second timer and we were divided into two teams.  When it was your turn, you kept taking slips of paper out of the bowl that was being passed around and you tried to get your teammates to identify as many of the names as possible from your verbal description (e.g., I got Jerry Lewis and the hint I gave the team was "Dean Martin and.....???"  I had more trouble with Harper Lee because I couldn't remember what she wrote--only that she was female and that I should know very well what she wrote--"To Kill a Mockingbird."  So my clue was "her first name is like "blank Valley PTA."  My team was sharp and they got it right away.)

One of the guys is quite religious, in a non-oppressive way, and apparently he is famous for filling the bowl with names of heretics and obscure saints that nobody in the group has ever heard of.

So one of the women in the group decided to get him back by adding Anna Akhmatova to the bowl.  And that's how it is that I learned that Anna Akhmatova is considered Russia's greatest female poet.

To give you an idea of the range of names, some included Ava Gardner, St. Ignatius, Marvin Hamlish, Jacques Tati, Bilbo Baggins, Misty of Chincoteague, Opie Taylor, Walter Cronkite and Roy Rogers.

It was a fast paced game and we played it until the last slip of paper had been drawn (probably Richard Widmark, which was a name NOBODY was able to give an accurate clue for!)

So the evening was great fun.   I feel sorry for not going to the psychiatrist's party, but I'm sure he and his wife didn't even notice that we weren't there--and this one was so much more fun.

The party we attended broke up after the last of the game had finished and our hostess had loaded us each up with little cartons of the delicious trifles she'd made for dessert.

At midnight we had taken a break and watched the festivities from Times Square and, I'll tell ya, I wouldn't be in that crowd for all the money in the world.  There was nothing about that celebration that made me wish to be back in New York to be a part of it all.

I was perfectly happy sitting around a nice quiet living room, having a bowl of seafood bisque and a delicious salad, sharing conversation with all the people I feel comfortable meeting in a group like that, and ending the evening with a nice mind-stretching game

I can hardly wait to do it again next year!


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