Monday, November 25, 2019

Women On the Rise


Yes, risen all the way to the top in one of Washington DC's most treasured and historic institutions - the Smithsonian. All cheers, to find now most of the fabled  buildings now have women directors.
Air & Space, National Museum of American History, Museum of American Art  and the Renwick Gallery (teamed), the National Portrait Gallery, and National Gallery of Art (which is part federal and part private), the US Botanic Garden and director of the Smithsonian Gardens.
I may have missed one or two.
How did this happen and is now seemingly not come to public attention ?- at least not until a December convocation/daylong seminar on the subject of women's contributions  at many levels in many of the diverse parts of the storied buildings around or near the National Mall.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Here and There: Observations

I'm old enough to be proudly curmudgeonly when the occasion calls for it - taking refuge in my status as elderly to lean on younger Comcast customer relations personnel and not mind when they refer to their grandmothers as 'being capable of learning.' That  happens even when they don't know my age; they are judging on the phone by the way I ask question.
Such questions that, to them I gather, are ridiculous.
Such as why is there not a detailed outline of how your service works - in print - so that I don't have to bother you to find out on the phone.
Why am I expected to rely on my remote and the Guide to scroll for each day's events when I might otherwise be able to plan far in advance what I'd like to watch? Say even two weeks ahead, so I can get my calendar ready...
What are those letters doing on the remote?  ABCD. Why did nobody tell me when I bought your service? I know I am expected to learn by doing - teach myself - but I've found questions arise beyond what is offered in an explanation on the screen? C, I believe, is the sports info option - assuming the whole world, females included, dote on sports. And why isn't D working at all? (This was confirmed in our conversation.)
The two times I had this conversation with admittedly quite polite (if sometimes impatient) personnel, I was struck by their resistance to being stuck. One of them had to concede I had no choice in the matter of how to plan more than two weeks ahead - that I could not.
This assumption that people no longer read print instructions or use paper guides is old-fashioned, in my opinion.  It is comply common sense to rely on the simplest easiest form at hand - the more portable printed page.


Hard times are upon us, most  people agree. The world is crashing down, all standards becoming erased.
Well not all of them, it turns out. Not if you  consider the plasticized card issued by Washington DC's 'elite' private Cosmos Club to its members.
"Dress Code At the Club" it says under a little red imprint of the club's seal.
Over all, the club hopes its members will know such rules by heart, though it can be confusing since  the codes change according to season: Labor Day through Memorial Day and 'Summer Dress - Memorial Day through Labor Day."
Refreshing to see some hard and fast attention paid as well to  computer and phone usage "in the clubhouse." Five permitted areas are listed where digital communication  is allowed. Takes a bit of time to look them over so I suppose members have to carry the card around to be sure.
Guests apparently to not have to adhere to the rules. A Sunday brunch in the dining room was attended by a young man in wrinkled shirt and pants, minus a tie (as required "only in the Garden Dining Room at Sunday brunch, and at lunch and dinner."
"Ladies" take note.  Their attire requirements follow after those for the 'gentlemen,'  as it is written. "in an equivalent fashion."  But no leggings or tights (unless worn with shirts, dresses, or long jackets), please.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Washington A Woman's Town?


         A remarkable time in the capital city, a trend of amazing proportions that has yet to be given much attention. How it has come about that the heads of many major museums and government institutions in town now are women. Suddenly, it seems. Notably the Kennedy Center, the Hirshhorn, the National Gallery of Fine Art, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and its neighbor the American Art Museum, as well as the often overlooked US Botanic Garden (NOT the often mentioned Arboretum) are being so capably managed by career professionals  whose credits do not include (at least unproved as such) simply being a woman in a time of @metoo.
          Not to forget the private institutions such as the Phillips Collection, founded by a man and now run by Dorothy Kosinski.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Oh those terrible service calls - ie people, their annoyance - finally reversed

         I write to save the reputation of some 'folks' called upon to get us through life but who are often resoundly cursed. The  infamous forever on holds, survey questions, rude and brusque exchanges  for no discernible purpose other than to cause unnecessary friction in our lives.
         Because the opposite also can be true: really competent experts who do their job and are seemingly pleased to do so. Take Tyler, the Miele dishwasher repair man come to rescue me from my incompetence with the beautiful piece of German machinery I own. A staple that has been stable for a decade or more - probably more - then suddenly shifts moods. He is the son in a family designated by Miele to resolve all such company complaints in the greater Washington area. Or so I figure when I can find no other resource. He was seven years old when he set out to learn his trade, and has kept at it under the tutorship of his father. His mother generally answers the phone; his father takes messages and I think then consults with his son on scheduling. I hear Truths from Tyler that doubtless no other professional would offer: Miele really is  better than Bosch (and both are owned by the same company) but developers, etc. put Bosch appliances in new luxury buildings because they are less expensive Miele can stand up under the assault I have been handing it - my way of repair was to shove, push harder to get the thing to start. All in vain. It is an item meant to last. Just be sure to give it a cleansing periodically -  buying online the curious little canister needed to run with a single empty washington.
     How happy I am when my Miele is humming quietly, doing its job, a reassuring sign that my house is in order, at least for the moment.

        Another 'service provider' of unusual talent very worthy of mention. I'd give him a prize if I could find the right trophy. That is the man distinguished for his  loving, longtime care and concern for hair. You won't find him in any advertisement, though he once ran a downtown DC salon called simply 2000 because he opened it that year. Previously he had been boosted up the competitive ladder of styling professionals by his association with the late Londoner Vidal Sassoon. He was to be made a 'hairdresser to the stars' in Hollywood, invited to live the wild life in the town of angels, but something (much of which was his wife) pulled him back. He didn't need the call of fame and fast living he decided - abandoning tinseltown in favor of the Virginia suburbs and then eventually a roost of his own on the first floor level of the Westchester  housing complex on Cathedral Avenue in DC. There he caters for men and women, often many of advancing age, giving them loving attention and a bevy of charm.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Who is Emilie?

My welcome to Emilie's the night before dining there:

Cancellation Policy
If you need to cancel your reservation, please do so before 7:00 PM on Tue, Oct 15 or your card may be charged a no show fee of $100.00.
        The newly anticipated restaurant in my Capitol Hill neighborhood is named Emilie's for no reason that I can see. Nothing on the menu, or rather what passes for a menu, which is a handful of  prettily printed pages listing an array of dishes. The pickled things on one. Side dishes on another, then 'family' items or maybe all that is just how I remember the jumble of instructions and staffers coming by. Emilie is every one of these smiling folk, apparently, the first  choice being the usual  question of plain or sparkling and soon wine selections by the glass. We're offered a sample of two temptations, no problem to reject one in favor of another. The wine steward is an especially vivacious woman - talkative and smiling. She drops by, answers a few question and soon flits away. This is a large ground floor operation spreading over, it seems, half the block of Pennsylvania and 11th with a round inviting colorful bar in the corner entrance room.  The place is full, buzzing at 7 p.m.on a week night. We were no doubt lucky to find a spot open at the last minute the day before -- but, as is the custom I find, reservations could be made only online and only for one month ahead. 
       I'd come in person the day before "as a neighbor," hoping to score, thinking 'local' was the winning word.  It took some time before I was told I had some luck for the next night though I couldn't book on the spot. A multitude of digital communications followed. I had to leave a credit card number to vouch my interest, with the warning each member of my party would be charged $25  - on my card -if we didn't show up. We were in danger of losing $100 on a night of wretched traffic, with three of us coming from far away. Confirmation had to be definite by 7 p.m. the evening before.. Reminders began: to confirm please reply confirm. To cancel use cancel. The next day I was told that my party was due in 30 minutes. It seemed  no excuse was acceptable: the computer was holding us hostage.
branzino collage
      Such is the new norm in these high-end establishments where the bread (shockingly) can cost $9 for a single piece a person and have nobody complain. Where so-called main courses can resemble fine art rather than memorable - if 'interesting'  visually - food. Where, in small print, is the notice that 4 percent is added to the bill for the sake of staff's  health needs. Entertainment at least is free: the chefs working hard behind a counter that takes up half the room. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

City Life (cont'd)

    Hard to predict what brings about spontaneous conversations between strangers on a city street. Most likely, I'd wager, they occur after inadvertent physical contact, say between bicycle (or scooter) and pedestrian. Such are the joys of a busy pathway, scene of a recent close encounter when the two headed in the same direction, scurrying along unawares. The young woman perched on an extra wide handle two-wheeler whizzed past within inches. "Whoa,"  was all I could think to say. Which brought her to a stop and a look of annoyance on her face . "Would you consider maybe putting a bell on your bike, or some device to help warn people?" That wasn't what she expected  - someone slowing her right to  ride. "You could hurt someone and then have a nasty lawsuit on your hands." I hurried to say I wasn't criticizing her choice of the sidewalk - it's free for everyone after all.
"That's what the children I care for have on their bike," she said, thoughtfully, agreeing - a compromise on her part, I could tell. My suggestion at least made her pause and consider the idea and left me pleased (deceived?) thinking that at least civility had won the day. I walked on imagining she might actually purchase a whistle, horn or bell. She rode away, happily free.

 Sometimes it only takes a quick look at a bulletin board to be content that citizens are indeed monitoring public spaces. Above in small type, carefully printed out warning to random folks coming to a car wash to observe some underserved common courtesies. Protect the public realm, the note implores. Let others enjoy the intimate silence of their own smartphone conversations without having to listen to strangers blabbing aloud rudely in the waiting room. Off to the side was another printout, of names of those who fled the scene without paying a dime - the damned forever unwelcome. And the humorous notice posted above the entry way, before customers give up their keys, about what could be  carelessly lost and forgotten in their vehicles so that they dare not charge the employee with pilfering....


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Hirshhorn Plaza Pleasures in Autumn

Without a doubt, 'Open Dimension' best describes the spirit - and latest exhibit - of the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum.

Unusual among the many attractions on the Mall, this rotund building, which opens out into a sculpture garden,  is offering free public programs and sketching sessions on two more early October evenings in and around the 4.3 acre open air plaza. Drinks and tasty bites are also available. Such enticements are in line with the installation of ten stone and steel sculptures by Korean-born artist Lee Ufan.  Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu is shown above talking  with Lee Ufan  in front of his Box Garden, a labyrinthine fountain piece directly under the sky.
The tension between seemingly unrelated materials is deliberate, as was the choice of each individual stone - heavy granite shapes weighing hundreds of pounds. Each boulder was chosen to be part of what he terms a dialogue that is up to the viewer to construct for him or herself.  The simplicity of the designs, which fall under a single title "Relatum," is disarming and is intended to provoke. What could be more  different than the contrast between natural stone and manmade industrial steel, up against the slippery elusive flow of water? A media release states that the show, to continue into September 2020, is the artist's largest 'site-specific outdoor sculpture project in the U.S., the first exhibit of his work in Washington, and the first time in the museum's 45--year history that an artist has been invited to take over the entire plaza space.