Got Plans?: New Year's Eve plans, holiday decorations and Joe Strummer Night

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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, December 17, 2009; 1:00 PM

At 1 p.m. on Dec. 17, the Going Out Guide staff discussed discussed favorite New Year's Eve spots, where to find Christmas decorations and Joe Strummer Night.

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washingtonpost.com: Rhome here, reminding you catch the pre chat blog post with breaking news for everyone getting antsy about New Year's Eve. ESL's debuting Patty Boom Boom with recession prices and Eric Hilton. Also, a programming note. After today, for the next two weeks, our chat will continue, but it will be on Wednesdays at 1 instead of Thursday at 1. We'll chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23 and 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30.

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Washington, D.C.: Some friends and I are hoping to rent a posh suite somewhere on Thursday January 7th to watch Alabama v. Texas in style. We'd go to a bar but none of us are sane about this matchup and it's best if we freak out privately. None of us have great TVs AND sufficient couch space and once people started talking about bringing the good TV from one apartment over to the apartment with the good couch, sanity prevailed and I asked, "what would Gilbert Arenas do?" Since his cousin Javier is cornerback for Alabama the answer seemed clear. We just need a suite with an awesome TV that can seat 6 or so people, probably a few of whom would actually stay the night since ostensibly some of us will be working the next day, mostly in downtown DC. Suggestions?

P.S. ROLL TIDE!

Fritz: Sounds to me like you need to call the Hotel Rouge and ask about the Chill Rooms, which are large suites with multiple flatscreen TVs. They're designed for gamers -- guests get their choice of a Wii or a PS3 with the room -- but I bet you could just turn the TV on and get into the game.

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Chit Chat: Fritz/Julia: How'd you guys like Ceiba on Tuesday?

Cheers!

Fritz Hahn: Wait, what? I wasn't anywhere near Ceiba on Tuesday. (A couple of other Gurus can vouch for this.) And Julia's in Mexico.

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Germantown, Md.: Looking to for an inexpensive place for drinks before and possibly after eating at Surfside in Glover Park ths Sat night. I know there is a progressine happy hour at Gin and Tonic - what is the crowd like there? My wife and are are in our mid 30s and enjoy wine and hoppy american beer - should we opt for Breadsoda instead. We have never been to either place so would appreciate any recommendations.

thanks

Fritz: I'd skip Gin and Tonic, which is more of an early/mid-20s scene, and do either Bourbon (which has a great American wine and beer program), or Breadsoda. Never had the wine there, but I can vouch for the coolness of the draft beers at Breadsoda, which include Gaffel Kolsch and Scrimshaw Pilsner.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi GOGS,

I have tickets for The Screwtape Letters at Shakespeare Theatre Saturday. How is the play supposed to be? My friend and I (at his urging) tried to go like a year and a half ago but it was sold out, so we jumped on tickets quickly this year.

Also, can you recommend a good place to eat Saturday afternoon before the play for lunch that won't break the bank? I know there are a million options in Chinatown area, we like seafood, Italian, Chinese, burgers... basically anything. doesn't have to be fast food cheap or anything, 10-20 dollar range. I'm just out of ideas so I'm hoping that you can suggest something. Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: I wasn't in D.C. last time Screwtape Letters came to town, but the Post reviews were good, so I think you have a lot to look forward to. As for food, you could drop by Matchbox, Jaleo or Teaism for a reasonably-priced meal.

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Office-land, Va.: Gurus, I'm working on putting together a scavenger hunt type thing for Saturday, and thought it would be great to hit some sights to inspire holiday spirit around town. I already have the creche exhibit at the National Cathedral and the Botanic Gardens. What else should I include? Thanks for your help!

Stephanie Merry: Sounds like fun. You could add Union Station's display along with the Ice exhibit at the National Harbor to the list. There are also a pair of exhibits at the Smithsonian museums. Then, for something more offbeat, send people up to Adams Morgan for Festivus.

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Washington, D.C.: GOGs, Why is it so hard to find unique Christmas ornaments for gifts? I've tried Old Town, Cleve Park, to no avail. Is there a museum in particular that has some unique stuff? Any other independent stores? So far the best I found was in Pottery Barn...ugh!

Stephanie Merry: I think the Downtown Holiday Market will have what you're looking for. Other than that, I've seen really cute ornaments at Anthropologie of all places.

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Shaw, D.C.: Any good bets for DJ events on New Years Eve? Looking for something that won't break the bank.

Thanks

Fritz: As I mentioned on our blog a little while ago, the big news DJ-wise in D.C. is Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation is DJing at the just-announced joint party between Marvin and the yet-to-open Patty Boom Boom. (That's Hilton's Jamaican-themed spot around the corner from Marvin at 1359 U St.) It's only $20 to get in to both bars.

Will Eastman of Bliss is spinning at Little Miss Whiskey's for $15. ($75 if you want an all-night open bar.)

The DJs from Saint-Ex's Brazilian Night and the Black Cat's indie-centric Kicks and Razzmatazz dance parties are all taking control at Velvet Lounge.

I like the sound of the Brightest Young Things party at the Capitol Skyline Hotel -- Fatback doing funk and soul, Chris Burns doing disco, the Mixtape and Pink Sock DJs, Rave DJs, plus roller skating, and all for $45 with an open bar.

Rock and Roll Hotel is promising if you like the usual nights at the Hotel, DC9, etc, with Beautiful Swimmers, Garutachi, Dmerit, Jackie O, Nacey and Starks from Nouveau Riche, etc.

Meistro is doing his thing (hip-hop, deep funk and party music) at Wonderland.

And Brazilian Brooklyn Beat is at ESL.

Still waiting to hear about a bunch of other DJs.

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20008: Hi Gurus, Wondering if you have any early takes on The Passanger. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet. Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: I wrote about it back when it opened, and we've talked about it a couple of times in the chat. It's basically a laidback neighborhood bar with great bartenders who craft cocktails to taste (tell them "I like gin" or similar) and gourmet snacks like artisan beef jerky or kimchi hot dogs.

They're doing the area's only Joe Strummer Night (that I know of at this point) on Tuesday, in memory of the Clash singer on the seventh anniversary of his death. I am so cised for this.

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Magic show: I saw The Fantasticks this past Sunday and it made me long for the days of the Brookeville Farm of Magic where you could sit at the bar and have your bartender do great tricks or you could go to a decent dinner show. Are there any local magic shows now? Not the kind that come to your house for a party...

Stephanie Merry: I'm resisting the urge to throw out Arrested Development jokes about "illusionists." Parlor Magic at the Westin downtown is a fun show; here's the site with all the info.

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Washington, DC: Love you guys -- always very dependable for new recommendations. I'm really hoping for your help, though, on something that I've been struggling with. I really want to join a Washington DC Basketball league. Don't care if it's co-ed or all mens, just want it to be in the District. Any ideas??! Please?

Rhome Anderson: You can run some good organized ball at the DCJCC.

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Downtown: Hi there GOG's.. Here is my very important question, well important for the folks living in the city and not leaving this holiday. What bars will be open Christmas Eve and Christmas day? Thank you!

Fritz Hahn: I am working on just such a list right now. (Should be up soon, similar to my "Which bars will be open on Thanksgiving?" list.) Most bars I've talked to will be closed, from Eighteenth Street Lounge down to Wonderland, but there a couple of things I'm really looking forward to:

The James Brown tribute night at the Black Cat.
The no-cover/no-list Fly El-Al (har) party at Fly
An ugly holiday sweater party with raffles for as-seen-on-TV gifts at Union Jack's in Bethesda, with Flounder from DC101.
The Misfit Toys gift exchange with music by (who else?) punk legends the Misfits playing all night at the Red and the Black.

Like I said, big list coming.

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Herndon, Va.: Where can I find pool tables that just take quarters to play. I'm sick of paying per hour, per person everywhere.

Fritz: If I remember correctly, Jimmy's Old Town Tavern in scenic Historic Downtown Herndon has a coin-op table. That's the closest one I know of by you. Chatters?

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Dupont/Logan: Hey gurus! My in-laws are joining us for brunch near our apartment on Sunday and I'm trying to find a place that has:

a) Yummy food b) At least one option that is low-cholesterol, low-fat

I know Masa 14 just started offering brunch. Is that a good call?

Stephanie Merry: I've only been to Masa for dinner, but I can vouch at least for the yummy-ness of that meal. My go-to for brunch in the neighborhood is Saint-Ex, though I don't recall particularly good-for-you options. Up near Dupont, I think Darlington House does a good job with brunch and (if memory serves) they have oatmeal on the menu.

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Washington, D.C.: Dearest GOGs,

Two mid-30s gals having a hard time making a decision about NYE. One lives in Pentagon City, the other Dupont Circle. We like live music (no country or hip hop), and bars ranging from Big Hunt to Bossa. We are thinking about the Brightest Young Things party, but wonder if it is going to skew younger being that they sell under 21 tickets. And one of us is not so into roller skating, especially when drinking! (It's me--I'm clumsy.)

Fritz Hahn: This is a good question -- and one we were just talking about in the office the other day, actually. There aren't many NYE parties that are opening themselves to the 18-to-21 demographic at all. The Black Cat, sure. And Sharon Jones at the 9:30 club. But Love, Ibiza, even the Rock and Roll Hotel, etc., will all be 21-and-over.

I think that BYT has a loyal cadre of 21-35 followers, based on the pool parties this summer, but a good number of under-21s, too.

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Best of the Decade: Pleeeeaaaaassssseeeee don't do it on this chat. Boring. Trite. Enough already.

David Malitz: We hadn't even thought of it, but now that you mention it ... No, I don't think that's something we have planned. Who can remember back 10 years anyway???

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Washington, D.C.: I have a friend visiting from London and I want to take her out to do something fun in DC tomorrow night! When we used to live in London we went to lots of pubs for long chats and delicious beer. Shes from California and I know she misses it! I was thinking of Sticky Rice or Granville Moore and then drinks at the Red and the Black or H Street Country Club but am wondering if you have some better H Street Options? I live near Columbia Heights, would Red Rock and then drinks at Social be better given how cold it will be? Are there any interesting shows that you know about going on?? THanks!!

Fritz: The pubbiest place in Columbia Heights, to me, is Room 11. Very cozy, very chill. My neighborhood crawl, especially if she missed California, would be Taqueria Distrito Federal (the best tacos in D.C., and probably the best Mexican overall), then a couple drinks at Social, and finish up the night at Room 11.

If you want to do H, yeah, Sticky Rice-Granville or Sticky Rice-Pug (or probably Pug-Sticky Rice once you put your name on the list), followed by drinks and dancing at Little Miss Whiskey's, which has the best non-Belgian beer list on H Street.

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Dupont Circle: Last night a friend and I walked past Sushi Taro and were intrigued. It looks like the only choice is one of the 11 course tasting menus. Do they also have individual rolls or entrees? Any thoughts?

Fritz Hahn: Sadly, that's it -- just tasting menus now. But Tom Sietsema really likes it. (I used to love Sushi Taro, but can't bring myself to go back.)

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Silver Spring, Md.: Has anyone been to -- or heard anything about -- The Surf Club since it announced that it was targeting a Latin audience?

Fritz: I haven't, actually. Haven't spoken to anyone when I've called, either. Seems like the place has fallen completely off the map. But you can't blame them for catering to the folks who live in the neighborhood, especially if they want to stay in business.

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New to Arlington: Hey there - could use some help. Just moved to Arlington last month after an eternity in the sticks of Reston. Now I need to know the good restaurants in my area. Taking best friends out to dinner this weekend. We like good food and upscale atmospheres - i.e. Blue Duck, Et Voila, Fahrenheit, Farrah Olivia. We've tried Willow - so-so. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: I vote for Ray's the Steaks, which is ridiculously good, but you could also try Eventide or Tallula.

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Brentwood, D.C.: Just an FYI about the Holiday Market: they had great stuff, but it all depends on when you go. We were there on Saturday, 12/5, and there was NOTHING holiday on sale. No ornaments, no wreaths, nada. We walked through twice to be sure we didn't miss anything... I have been there when such things were out, you just have to get lucky.

Stephanie Merry: Thanks for the intel, Brentwood.

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The Passenger: Joe Strummer Night?

Rhome Anderson: Yup. Fritz didn't stutter. It will rawk.

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Washington, DC: Hi GOGS,

I really dislike New Years for the same reason Fritz does. Is there any bar at all in DC that won't be absolutely insane? I just want to get together with 3-5 friends, have a few beers, talk, listen to music and not get thrown up on by a 19 year old college student while paying a ridiculous cover charge with a 20 minute wait at the bar for a beer. Is this at all possible or am I just dreaming? Or should we just stay home and have a small party? If it is possible, the red line is preferred since we live in Takoma. Thanks.

Fritz Hahn: My considered prediction: New Year's Eve will be worse than usual this year because it's on a Thursday, which means a three-day weekend (and recovery period) for most people. My big list of free/cheap options is running in the Weekend Section tomorrow (and is coming onto the site today), but all you have to do, really, is go to a neighborhood bar that's going to be open as usual: Bourbon, Breadsoda, Looking Glass Lounge, Tune Inn, 51st State, Solly's, Social, Nellie's, the Saloon, etc, the Pug, etc.

Just beware because even some places that are low-key and inexpensive, like Wonderland, are going to be nuts.

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Washington, D.C.: If I had friends visiting from England that enjoy beer (all my friends there certainly fit that description) - I would take them to Churchkey immediately upon arrival. Local American cask ales served at their proper temperature!?! It would blow their minds. Get there early - get a table or stools while you can and enjoy many beers.

Fritz: You know what's funny? I've had more Scottish beers on cask lately -- at both Birrerias, ChurchKey and the Reef -- than American beers. It's been heavenly.

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Lookin For Xmas: Hey Gurus

I wanted to know if you know which neighborhoods in the D.C. area are good for looking at Christmas decorations and lights? The more extravagant, the better. I've already seen The National Tree etc and want a change of pace. I have a car so any neighborhood you can think of works for me :)

Fritz Hahn: I think we'll just throw this out there. For me, the best place to go is Baltimore for the Miracle on 34th Street. (See www.christmasstreet.com for a preview.) So over the top and awesomely Baltimore.

Chatters?

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Petworth: Eastern Market has much holiday stuff - I'd go on Sunday for the ornament shopping.

Stephanie Merry: That's a great idea for the ornament-seeker.

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Cleveland Park: My 23 y/o cousin is coming into town for the Bears/Ravens game this weekend (Go Bears!) but I'm looking for somewhere we can both have a good time on Saturday night. Where do the kids go these days that would also satisfy my lounge/laid back tendencies? We both agree on good/old-school hip-hop as common ground.

Rhome Anderson: Most of the "kids" who party to hip-hop do so at the big dance clubs. You can check for DJ Roddy Rod spinning hip-hop at Bourbon on Saturdays. Show him some love so he can beat back the onslaught of top 40 requests and get in his classic b-boy lane. You can also see what's good with Lounge of Three

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Dupont safety?: Hey Gurus, sort of a random question. I just moved to Dupont and in the couple of months I've been there I've heard of more random muggings, attempted car break ins, etc (most happening late on weekends)... None of it sounds particularly violent but have been really surprised. Is that something you've noticed? I was excited I could walk everywhere after going out but now am not so sure...

Rhome Anderson: Any Dupont residents can speak to more specific neighborhood trends but in general, this sort of thing ebbs and flows. If you're in a populous, vibrant city, you can't eliminate danger. The best you can do is be smart, deliberate and aware, which goes a long way to maintaining your safety.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus,

I wanted to get my dad tickets on a scenic train ride that is a reasonable distance from D.C. for Christmas. The Western Maryland one looks nice, but its almost three hours away.

Anything closer to loudoun county, that you can recommend?

Fritz: Depending on where you are, the Walkersville Southern Railroad, which is about an hour from D.C., might be closer. The 100-year-old line goes through Maryland farm country, and you get to ride in 1920s passenger cars. They're currently offering "Santa Trains" during the holiday season -- see www.wsrr.org for more info.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Help! I know I am late -sorry.

I am looking for a place to have a wedding rehearsal dinner in D.C. next year. The family wants to invite everyone from out of town, so it will be more like 80 people!

Any ideas on places in DC to do this? Hopefully somewhat near a Metro station and preferably not a chain.

Thanks!!!

Stephanie Merry: That's quite a group! You might get some ideas from a blog post Julia wrote last year. And to add one more suggestion to the list, I went to a rehearsal dinner at Finemondo a while back, and I thought they did a great job.

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Columbia, MD: Will the Joe Strummer night play anything by the 101'ers? Is there anything recorded from the 101'ers?

Fritz Hahn: Well, they only released one single while still an active band. I picked up 101'ers bootlegs (okay quality) when living in London way back when, and there's a comp called Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited that came out on Astralwerks a few years ago.

Anyway, anything Strummer-related is far game. No Big Audio Dynamite allowed.

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Low-Key NYE: I went to RFD one year, and if I remember correctly, it was pretty low key. We got a table, started to get a little more crowded the closer we got to midnight, but not overly crowded and good place to just hang out.

Fritz Hahn: Good to know. Thanks.

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Pool for Quarters: Its a hike but the downstairs at the Pour House has a pool w/ quarters. But only one table. Isn't Stetson's pool table the same? Only issue is that most of the time there are a few tables at places for quarters so you aren't guarenteed. A bowling alley may be a good bet out closer to Herndon.

Fritz Hahn: Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. I mean, in D.C., you have tables for quarters at a number of places -- Lil' Pub is probably my favorite -- but in Herndon, all I can think of is by-the-hour pool halls like Breakers Sky Lounge or Carpool.

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Low-Key NYE: I went to RFD one year, and if I remember correctly, it was pretty low key. We got a table, started to get a little more crowded the closer we got to midnight, but not overly crowded and good place to just hang out.

Stephanie Merry: Along those same lines, I spent one NYE playing darts at Buffalo Billiards, and it ended up being totally low-key but totally fun.

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Messiah at the Kennedy Center: Hi GOG's,

For the Messiah sing a long on the 23rd, what time do we need to get in line to get tickets. I see that they start giving them away at 6. How long do the tickets last? Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: The earlier you can get there the better. The line will start forming in the morning, but the key is that it's one ticket per person, so you have to WANT to be there, you know? If your crew is in line by 2 or 3, you should be fine. Bring a book.

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Christmas lights: Don't forget the house on Portal Street off 16th and Brookside Gardens (you pay and walk but it is an awesome sight) in Wheaton/Silver Spring.

Fritz Hahn: Good one.

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Lights: If you want to drive to Alexandria, Cameron Station is incredible. Everyone has lights and there are tons and tons of streets.

Stephanie Merry: Another bright idea... (Sorry, I couldn't help myself)

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DC to NY Buses: GOG...I remember a few months ago there was a guide of sorts published in the Post detailing out the different bus lines that travel between DC and NY. I've since lost this section of the paper and I was wondering if it was posted anywhere online? I haven't been able to find it on the Post's website.

Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: I think you're looking for this story from the Travel section.

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Fritz: BYT girl again.

We are in our mid-30s and looking for ALTERNATE to the BYT party (as I'm thinking the crowd is a little too young). Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: Ahhhhhh. I see. Sorry. For a similar vibe and crowd (though not a big and/or crazy), I might try either the Velvet Lounge or Little Miss Whiskey's.

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Late night jazz: Hello lovelies! Husband and I are attending a holiday party in Penn Quarter on Saturday night. We'd like to grab a drink and possibly some jazz, piano, etc entertainment afterwards, maybe midnight-ish. We'll be all dressed up, so posh would be good (the attire, not the club.) Would prefer to stay in DC. Can you please help?

Fritz Hahn: HR-57 or Twins Jazz would get my vote. If you get out earlier, I'd highly recommend the piano jazz in the lounge at 701 -- but that's over by 11.

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Bethesda MD: What taxi services, and when will it begin/end, will offer free rides to prevent, or at minimalize the drinking and driving this holiday season? Do you know of any participating establishments that might offer free beverages, such as coffee,tea, or soda to those designated drivers? I've taken my share of being the over intoxicated friend in the back seat, and occasionaly the designated driver. It is sad when I have mentioned this to the waitstaff or managers of some bars,resturants,clubs, etc and the same typical response is "thanks for getting our paying customers home safely, here-a glass of water, on the house." Was even once charged $8.00 for a glass of soda at a Gentlemen's club, where the booze and soda goes for $6.00, again the manager just says thanks for being the Designated driver, come back when you're not!

Fritz Hahn: Soberride. Soberride. Soberride.

It's not perfect -- cabs can take a loooong time to come -- but free taxi rides home every night through Jan. 1? With up to $50 in fares covered by the sponsoring organizations? You cannot beat that.

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Ornaments: Tons at 10K Villages in Old Town. Also, I have seen them in a lot of OT stores that sell miscellaneous stuff (i.e., not clothing stores). There are a lot, but you need to move off King. La Cuisines on Cameron has cute kitchen themed ones, and there is a great gift store on S Washington I forget the name of that has a bunch.

Fritz Hahn: Sounds like we need to go Christmas shopping in Old Town. Thanks.

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washingtonpost.com: We should now all be well taken care of on the New Year's tip, especially once the Weekend section drops tomorrow. I wouldn't mind getting some more neighborhood holiday decoration reports though. So if you want to chat some more before 2010, make sure you join us on Wednesdays for the next two weeks at the same 1pm time. Happy Chrismakwanukkah to everyone not getting their Grinch on.

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