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Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin

Published 2:17 pm, Friday, December 13, 2013
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'Tis the season to shop till you drop and be jolly about all the fabulous deals retailers have made available in an effort to combat a gloomy economic environment: Black Friday; Cyber Monday; Liquidation Meltdown Tuesday; "We've got to be insane to sell our stuff for these ridiculously low prices!" Wednesday; and 100 percent off everything Thursday.

On Thanksgiving Day, 45 million people went shopping, and on Black Friday, 92 million people went shopping.

Wal-Mart claimed 22 million shoppers in a four-hour period on Thanksgiving Day. I believe they would significantly increase their numbers by opening at 6 a.m. next Thanksgiving -- instead of 6 p.m. as they did this year -- and serving up a kick-off-the-holiday-shopping-season breakfast of turkey sausage and stuffing, sweet potato fries and apple or pumpkin pancakes.

I also believe that opening early in the morning and having your shoppers dine together family style would significantly decrease rowdy customer behavior.

'Tis also the season of hits and misses lists and best of and worst of lists, so I'm going to take this opportunity to list some of the recent hits in my world; in other words, here's what I think is out bloody standing.

On a recent Monday afternoon I had the opportunity to do improv with cops and middle school kids as part of the "Cops and Kids Adventure" program at The Darien Depot.

Sgt. Ali Hirsch and officers Beth D'Iorio, Mike Cummings, Dan Ehret, Dan Scoumbros, James Palmeri, Joe Licari, Mike Dos Santos, Jimmy Martin, Court Isaac and Bryan Wallman are involved in the program, along with about 20 middle school students.

As part of the program, the officers and youth collaborate on several adventure trip activities, one community outreach project, and coordinate an awards dinner at the end of the program. The adventure trips focus on team building, leadership skills and instill confidence, trust and reliance among their peers.

These team-building activities are intended to create working bonds between the offices and youths. The intent of this program is to create an environment for police officers to see kids as kids and kids get a chance to see police officers as everyday people with families, interests and hobbies.

I have been putting on improvisational comedy shows and workshops at The Depot -- by far the coolest youth center in the known universe -- for years but I don't recall ever having as much fun as I had that Monday.

Hirsch and Ehret were spot on as teenagers who were stopped on the street for looking a wee bit suspicious by a couple of officers played by middle school students.

We also played improvisational theater games where the officers and students worked together. Officer Cummings was sensational as a father who had to keep changing his emotions as he was having a difficult conversation with his middle school son.

The annual lunch with my college buddies, Lewis and Jay, at The Friars Club in New York City is always out bloody standing When we get together we joyously revive and relive those fabulous college days for the umpteenth time. When we're riffing on the past, all it takes is a key word or phrase and we're all there.

The old pictures that never fail to bring a smile to our faces and the stories and assorted memorabilia help fill some of the memory gaps. It's always been a guys' only event; our wives learned long ago that there's no fun in hearing us laugh hysterically and recount the same old stories ad infinitum.

A Saturday lunch at Rancho Alegre Mexican Restaurant in Georgetown where the chile rellenos are truly out bloody standing. My wife and I fell in love with Mexican food while living in Los Angeles. There were so many great restaurants serving authentic Mexican food. Our favorites were La Cabana in Venice Beach, Gardens of Taxco in West Hollywood -- your menu is presented verbally, combining details about the entrees with colorful signature sayings -- and El Cholo in Harvard Heights.

Rancho Alegre is the only restaurant my wife and I go where we always order the same thing; they know what we want when we say the usual and they know we want it piping hot. It's great Mexican comfort food; a fiesta of flavors. The chips and salsa are righteously delicious as well. The wait staff is friendly and never rushes us; on our recent visit, they told us they missed us when we walked in.

What I love about this time of year are the laughs, shared stories and great meals with the special people in my life. 'Tis the season.

Barry Halpin can be reached at barryhalpin@aol.com.