With a final goal of the
The Ram nation was on a mission.
My guess is that the eager young man at the Dash counter was fairly new because when I ordered a green salad with a scoop of chicken salad on top, he looked at me like I was brilliant. "I never thought of that!" he said in an admiring tone.
Here's the thing, though. It says right on the big menu "add a scoop of chicken salad," so the brilliance wasn't even my own and I told him so. "Yea, but I never thought of it."
I sat facing away from the two TV screens, enjoying an excellent salad (fried croutons, yum) when all of a sudden, my nose hair began to burn. It smelled like ammonia. Sure enough, I turned around to see a staffer diligently spraying the booths and wiping them down.
Good employee, bad timing.
Don't get me wrong, I really hate to be that person, but if there's one thing that's an appetite-killer, it's the smell of cleaning fluids mid-meal. When I politely mentioned it to her, she was perfectly gracious and stopped at once, clearly unaware of how bad a combination chemicals and food are.
It's strange, I once mentioned the same thing to a server, about how offensive I found it when someone sprayed the table next to me while I was eating, wondering why they couldn't spray the rag somewhere else and just wipe the table. She said it had never occurred to her.
I like to think I'm offering a public service message.
After dinner, I walked over to the theater which was mobbed with arrivals like me. Inside, an usher asked if I had a ticket, which I didn't (it was free, but I hadn't made a reservation, having decided only an hour earlier to go).
Pulling one out of his back pocket, he kindly said, "I have one for you." See, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
Another usher instructed us to head all the way upstairs to the balcony because all the lower levels were full. Walking up four flights of steps behind a raucous group of high school students, I listened as they huffed and puffed, complained and bitched about the exercise.
Three of them peeled off at the first tier level, saying they were going to the bathroom to rest up for the remainder of the climb. This is the youth of America?
Once in the balcony, I scored a seat in the front row center on the aisle with a bird's eye view of the stage and the Richmond Pops. Behind me, a woman raved about the additional leg room in the seats since the renovation.
The first thing I realized about the Richmond Pops Band is that everybody blows, as in all the instruments are blown with the exception of the harp (which had a red Santa hat on top of it), the upright bass and the drums and percussion.
Host Tim Timberlake welcomed the crowd, mentioning the recent renovation. "We hope you take full note of your tax dollars at work...and our corporate sponsors." That would be Dominion and signs saying "Dominion Stage" flanked it.
After a medley of holiday music by the band, an Air Force master sergeant - also known as a singing sergeant - came out to impress us with his big, deep voice doing songs such as the one he picked, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and other poppy Christmas standards.
Full disclosure: I happen to like the "Christmas Waltz."
But whenever I hear the music to "O Christmas Tree," all I hear is "O, Maryland, My Maryland," a function of where I grew up.
Tim came back out to read us a hysterical "politically correct" holiday greeting which talked around every possible holiday greeting without ever really saying anything. It got a lot of laughs.
I was in no way prepared for the next act, the Royalettes Baton Corps who came out to a chorus of "awws" from the audience, but apparently they're a regular part of this performance every year. Who knew kids still wanted to twirl batons in the digital age?
Then out came the Richmond Choral Society, an all-volunteer singing group that's been around since 1946, doing "I Wish You Christmas," a song I'd never heard of.
Although I had heard of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians (although I don't know why), I'd never heard their arrangement of the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" as performed tonight. Sounded to me like Fred took some liberties with the poem, adding in words and even tacking on a verse about the night after Christmas. Blasphemy!
The singing sergeant came back out for a singalong, then Santa showed up with the twirlers and it was intermission. Tim's instructions were, "Go admire the renovated bathrooms!"
I opted out, staying in my seat and listening to the people around me chatter. Most were employees of Dominion who were expected to attend and cut out before the lights went down again.
It was during "Sleigh Ride" that I got a lesson in musical instruments when a guy played the whip, which looked like two pieces of wood which he would clap together. Now I know.
The people who cut out during intermission were saved from hearing the cheesy Whitney Houston song, "One Moment in Time," which sounded overwrought and out of place in a Christmas with the Pops program. I say that, but it got a huge ovation, so once again, I was in the minority.
After the conductor told us a joke about a goat and a railroad tie, the evening wound down, moving from secular ("Sing Noel" with congas and chorus) to all the traditional Christmas carols.
You know, like when good king Wenceslas came upon a midnight joy to the world where they were decking the halls while hearing angels on high at the first noel of a silent night when all ye faithful came.
Heathen that I am, the songs still sound beautiful when heard through live voices and instruments.
Maybe it isn't only the sleigh bells.