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.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Tree Talk at the US Botanic Garden

 Here is a very happy man, an arborist exclaiming with his arms telling us urbanites in the U.S.Capitol's Botanic Garden why trees may be more adaptable in the world than people. Why  trees often have amore choices in how to live than most human beings. Not surprisingly, he is author of several books on the subject of trees ("Sprout Lands" is the latest), promoting the  idea of how man and these big plants can best get along.
Quoting from the preview outlining his tour, cleverly titled "Tree Jazz" (for good reason), his message gives one hope.

Human beings have 78 organs; trees have only 3—root, stem and leaf—but trees live longer and are far more resilient than are human beings. Much like a jazz player, a tree lives by first stating its ancestral pattern, and then by repeating that pattern in every way possible for the rest of its long life. The branches that form on the tree as it grows are literally reiterations of the original form, and in fact, most of them begin life with their own root systems, which are linked to that of their parent tree. In the meantime, whenever damage, insects, diseases, bad weather, pruners or other misfortunes strike the tree, it responds with new repetitions of itself, creative reiterations, like a jazz player’s improvisations on a theme. In this way, out of only three organs and 24 patterns, trees are able to grow an infinity of unique forms. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Big Town or Little City (contd)

  I took a photo of this defrocked mail truck when I saw a stranger doing the same thing.  Observing offhand as I was, thinking the vehicle a remarkable sight on an unremarkable street on Billings, Mt., north (i.e. less impressive, older) side. What's striking is the rainbow decor, of course, a statement of defiance perhaps.  It wasn't a coincidence that the empty truck was parked next to the grassy arena where a community celebration of gay pride and people was taking place. And what a scene there: all ages and costumes. Clever how the repurposed truck's rainbow colors parallel the staid red and white stripe of the estimable U.S. Postal Service. What would happen, I'm wondering, if any of the mail delivery men or women wore those same  multicolored ribbons on the job? How fully regulated are they? Imagine a rainbow printed bikini on really hot day  with the mail carrier's bag slung over his/her shoulder...
 Recent graffiti targeting gays on downtown streets brought out more people than usual to this Sunday afternoon parade and festival happening in the state's largest city (or its biggest small town).   Think what you might: times are a'changin in ways great and small, even in Trump country.