Wait a minute. It’s not over. In fact, we’re just getting started. It’s the celebration that just keeps going. Happy New Year! And you know what that means? Champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Yes, but let’s keep it real. It’s also time for those resolutions. First things first: Did you keep the ones from last year? Proudly, I can say I kept one, and that one was to drink more water. I even bought a bottle of water from CVS. I admit it was the least expensive bottle that they had, because I still can’t get use to buying water. Nonetheless, it was tasty and enjoyable, and I think I will do it again.

Next question: How was Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Did you know for each event there are songs, pajamas, candles, decorations and, most important, beliefs—many different roads leading to one final destination: peace, love and happiness. A couple of holiday sayings have been floating around this year, such as “Polite and kind make it all right,” and “Caring, kindness and a little bit of magic are all you need to make your dreams come true.” I have found that the old adage, “When you get ready to blow your top, stop and count to 10,” really works. Although I hate to ruin my “patient as Job” image, yes, it is true. I sometimes go “off,” when things don’t go my way (Yikes! Could that possibly mean I am a control freak?). I have learned that counting to 10 (although I actually count from 10 down to one) works! Hence, my New Year’s resolution is to keep it up.

Getting back to Christmas, I hosted a small dinner party this year. This year was quite different from the previous years, when it was open house at my house, and we often had as many as 25 people, coming and going (fun but a lot of work). Guest this year included Deloris and Cyril Poindexter, my uncle Bill Palmer, and Samuel Hargress Jr., owner of Paris Blues (best jazz in town, seven nights a week, never a cover). The seven of us were all able to sit around the dining room table, which seats eight. I was able to put all of the food on the table, which was the regular Christmas fare: turkey, roast beef, candied yams, collard greens, baked macaroni, cranberry sauce and dinner rolls. I used my good China, crystal glasses (but only for water) and good silver ware. Although I have hosted many dinners this one was actually my first formal dinner. It was a nice Christmas present from me to me—a lot of work, yes, worth it, definitely.

With a week off from school and looking for something to do, classmates gathered at the skating rink in Bryant Park. Admission is free, and skate rental $20 and a lot of fun. There is also a day trip to the Liberty Science Center, located across the river in Jersey City. Most recently, LSC opened the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. The Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium is being called the “never-before-seen immersive visualization of Orion Nebula,” and “The greatest experience yet—the largest and most technologically advanced planetarium in the entire Western Hemisphere.” The only three that are bigger are in Beijing, China, and Nagoya and Niihama, Japan.

Jennifer Chalsty, a New Jersey philanthropist and LSC Board Member, donated $5 million to create the planetarium. The gift provided for the conversion of the IMAX Dome Theater from film to digital, the addition of software and hardware necessary for the theater to also function as a planetarium, the replacement of the screen and the refurbishing of the entire theater. According to Paul Hoffman, LSC’s president and CEO, “When it comes to planetariums, size really does matter. Thanks to its tremendous screen and scope of its programming and technological innovations, LSC’s planetarium will provide an unsurpassed learning opportunity for school groups, families and adults.”

Hoffman continued, “The Orion Nebula is one of the crown jewels of the night sky.”

Noting that the Space Telescope Science Institute has developed the high-definition, 3-D model of the Orion Nebula based on the Hubble Space Science Telescope’s findings, he explained, “Inside this vast world of gas and dust, so distant that even its light takes 1,400 years to reach our eyes, we see star and planet formation in more beauty and detail than in any other place in the cosmos. Our full-dome, immersive recreation of the Orion Nebula will allow our planetarium visitors to experience what it’s like to travel into the heart of this nebula in a level of detail never before seen.”

The opening of the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium comes on the heels of the Science Center’s announcement of its 25th anniversary $25 million campaign. The Center will host an official kickoff Jan. 25, 2018, honoring lead supporters of the campaign, five of New Jersey’s most distinguished philanthropists: Betty Wold Johnson, Josh Weston, Joseph D. and Millie E. Williams and Jennifer Chalsty. This particular show will officially release at the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., in January. LSC offers an out-of-this-world planetarium experience with an immersive 8K film, wraparound dome screen of outer space and the final frontier.

A little closer to home, back on Earth, is the play “Once Upon An Island.” According to theater critique extraordinaire, Patrick Bradford, the play by Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music), is beyond stunning. The original 1990 Broadway production of “Island” featured Lillias White and LaChanze. The revival casts continues to enthuse audiences with the same pure joy. “Island” tells the story of Ti Moune (Hailey Kilgore), orphaned in a violent island storm, and then adopted by an older couple (Kenita R. Miller and Phillip Boykin), not her kin, but of her community. Their community is poor and composed of dark skinned people who inhabit one side of the Island. Ti Moune will grow up (literally before our eyes), into a beautiful and passionate young woman. She falls deeply in love with Daniel while nursing him back to health after a violent car accident. But Daniel (Isaac Powell) is a member of the lighter skinned, wealthy, French island descendants. And so we are given a “Romeo and Juliet” story, with themes of colonialism, class and color. The musical is told as a story within a story, creating a fairy tale “once upon a time” template that is echoed with the repeated lyric, “We tell the story.” The company performs Ti Moune’s story of loss, redemption and eventually immortality (all animated by various modes of love) to both the child who plays the younger Ti Moune and the audience. The story becomes myth when, near the end, the young actress having heard the story, begins to tell it once again. Driving the action are four gods representing fate—Love (Tony winner Lea Salonga in ever glorious voice), Water (the dynamic and always commanding Quentin Earl Darrington), Mother Earth (the thrilling-voiced Alex Newell) and Death (a seductive Merle Dandridge). Dramatizing the theatrics are director Michael Arden, set designer Dane Laffrey, costume designer Clint Ramos, lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer and choreographer Camille A. Brown.  Bradford writes about theater as a contributing editor for Black Masks magazine. So if he says go see it, then you must.

Until next week … kisses.