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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Yep. That went well.

The Browncoat Ball went off swimmingly.

Friday night was fabulous. I arrived a bit harried, but made it for the end of the happy hour at the hotel. I smacked Ray in the head first thing for forgetting to put out the gift bags to give everyone when they checked in. But then I was handed a nice drink and spent some time catching up with the Chicago Browncoats who made this all possible by hosting the first ball in Chicago. They're really great folks. So then I ran back to the room, dressed, tied down my hair, and walked up to the Empress of China. Walking 8 blocks in San Francisco with a black velvet floor length skirt, a blue china silk corset, black top, and red and black handbag was fun. By the time I arrived at the Empress, I felt like I could own any room just as well as Inara. I got off the elevator and was greeted by Tommy, the host for the evening. He said, "I'm here to make your evening go well." I fell in love with him at that moment. And it was true. He made the evening go beautifully. He got us all to sit for dinner, served dinner, including 118 uniformly hot, crisp egg rolls, fifteen tables of sizzling rice soup which garnered applause with every sizzle, and several main courses including a truly divine snow peas chicken. Meanwhile, the set list was running on the CD player upstairs. I heard the quote that preceded Congress and started to rise from the table. Everyone else heard the first chord of Congress and there was a clatter of silverware and all hte dancers came running. We danced and then returned to dinner. After dinner Ariyana La Fey treated us to a gorgeous fan dance. Even the waiters couldn't take their eyes (or their camera phones) off of her. There were several resounding "I'll be in my bunk" quotes heard round the room. Then I led a chaotic, but extremely well received Haymaker's Jig to River's Jig from the Firefly soundtrack which Fred had extended to 8 minutes for me. It was amazing. I think there were 38 couples on the floor to dance. That's huge. It was over half of the attendees dancing at once. Later we did a grand march and I was amazed at how long the line got. I just wished we hadn't missed the Spanish Circle Waltz earlier in the set list. It was just as we were sitting down to dinner though.

After dinner some of us headed to Li Po, and one person even remembered what Mal's favorite drink is: Ng Ka Py. She ordered it from the Chinese bartender who promptly poured her a very large shot from an earthenware jug. I tasted hers, and it was sort of like a sweet cognac. Very nice, though I'd be hard pressed to have more than a sip. After a while of hanging out and winding down, Karen, Crystal, and Paul walked me back to the hotel. I crashed in the hospitality suite, amazed that it wasn't full of folks watching the show on DVD like at the first ball.

Saturday morning I rose before the alarm, got dressed and headed downstairs to the bus. The bus driver was a sweet guy and he did just as we asked - two trips to get everyone to the boat. And the Blue & Gold Fleet was also great. The weather couldn't have been better. The boat took us out to the Golden Gate and we sailed under it and back to the Bay Bridge and past Alcatraz and Angel Island. It was a gorgeous day, and a joy to see the city in all its glory.

So then I had lunch with Shauna and Sherman and Karen and Paul at Swiss Louie's on Pier 39. We broke up after that and went our separate ways and I foolishly decided the fastest route back to the hotel would just be to go straight up Mason. Did I mention up? Yeah, up and over Russian Hill. I made it back to the hotel and said, "It's 3:20! Oh my god!" and I ran through the shower and changed into a fresh outfit and put my hair up before running downstairs to assist Joan with the dance lesson.

And then I freaked out. We had asked for the largest dance floor possible. The dance floor at Dave's house was larger. And this floor had a stage at both ends of it. The one stage had a podium sitting on a huge stage. The other end was the band's stage, but it had no power outlets and it was huge. I talked to Mary Ann, the coodinator for the night there and she said, "Oh, well, you have the buffet and there's no other place to put everything you requested." I countered that we didn't need two stages and that we had very specifically requested the largest dance floor possible. She said this is the largest dance floor they usually do. I said that this was not a wedding, it was a ball, and 150 people were expecting to dance. She kept trying to argue with me, telling me she'd have to charge extra labor for removing the stage. I told her I couldn't authorize the charges, but that it had to move before seven. Then I stood back and started analyzing the moving, wondering aloud if anyone had an electric drill. She started talking about liability, and I said that it had to be moved by seven one way or another. It was moved in less than an hour. All was better. But then she started talking about centerpieces for the tables, offering me rental candlabras for $10 a table. I said flatly, "Well at $54 a meal, I kind of figured that would be included." She sputtered a bit. Really, they're clearly set up to deal with weddings and little else.

So then Joan taught a fabulous waltz lesson for a half hour, and spent the other half hour teaching the Sir Warrick Harrow. This was a variation on the Duke of Kent's waltz with hand placement and walking figures like in Shindig. It was gorgeous. We ran through it several times and everyone seemed to really like it. But suddenly it was 5:30 and I needed to be neat and pretty and ready to greet guests in a half hour.

Anyway, I ran upstairs, threw on a corset and the ball gown my grandmother made for me some dozen years ago (which fits again! Hooray!) and headed back down to staff the welcome table. I handed folks a drink coupon and had them select a fortune cookie, then pointed them at the giant bowl of strawberries and some kind of hot cheese (baked brie). Then dinner was ready. We escorted the guests into one room for those who wished to be announced, and let the others in to sit down. Jeff announced the guests and Ray and I hung back, entering the ballroom last to a welcome round of applause. I invited everyone to enjoy the evening and then made a beeline for the buffet. If I didn't eat quick, I wouldn't get to eat at all. And dinner was good. Chicken in a prosciutto mushroom sauce, grilled vegetable lasagna, asparagus with shaved parmasan, saffron rice pilaf, garlic mashed potatoes, cous cous with bay shrimp, sonoma greens with balsalmic vinaigrette, and an amazing display of fruit and pastries and cakes. The little tiramisu were my favorite, followed closely by the tiny chocolate eclairs. Yum. Bangers and Mash played throughout dinner, probably wondering when the dancing would start. They were absolutely amazing as usual. One of the Chicago Browncoats said, "Oh my god. You hired a quartet." I said, "Well of course. We couldn't do this without Bangers and Mash." With much assistance from my fellow Fezziwiggers, we led the guests through many group dances: Sir Roger, La Bastrangue, Spanish Circle Waltz, Sir Warrick Harrow (twice), and so on. They really seemed to love those. I even got Johnny to dance a Congress of Vienna with me. After it was all over, I ran upstairs and changed again back to jeans to go out to Swig for afters. I led a small parade the three blocks and we crammed our way to the back to our own private (but stuffy) room. I ordered a Diet Coke and lounged out, finally having no responsibility other than just chatting with friends and guests.

Around 1 I walked back to the hotel with Karen, Crystal, and Paul and I stopped by the hospitality suite to find them watching the game video on tv. There I was, waltzing gracefully by with Johnny. After that ended, we put on Shindig, and I have to say that in motion, it wasn't all that different. And pretty much everybody seemed to be having fun.

The next day, I did the impossible. I led two tours through Chinatown during the Autumn Moon Festival. There were a couple of moments where the direction we were going to go had to be changed because there was a stage or a parade right where we were supposed to go. But overall, I think it went pretty well. I had my new little portable microphone which totally rocked. We had lunch at Sam Wo's and then headed to the Eastern Bakery for fresh steamed pork bao after the second tour. Then I headed back to the hotel where it turned out Johnny had left flowers as a thank you. Bless that man, he was so much help this weekend.

Well heck, him, and Adam and Karla, and Corinne, and Emily and David and Josh and Alex and Paul and Karen and Crystal and Shauna and Sherman and geez, Dave before with all the quotes and James with the music swap and well, lordy there's too many to name. I kept asking Emily to call dances and she kept doing it. It was amazing. I even had to run around during the La Bastrangue and it just happened because she's fabulous. Anyway, it was a great weekend. It's the biggest event I've ever organized and I think it went pretty well. There's a few things I'd do different if I had it to do again, but they're minor. And what's even better is that next year I get to sit at a table with the Chicago Browncoats while someone else from another town in another state runs around and does what I did this weekend. I'm looking forward to that. Oh yeah.


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