Saturday, March 2, 2024

March Blows In


    And my camellia bush blooms,  slowly. Now about six out of a potential hundred or more. March days move forward  slowly, not wanting to raise hopes for the world.

    So to dispel the gloom (and gray rain), I tackle the mundane - which is to try making a friend of sorts whenever I'm  indulging in  commonplace and mostly frustrating household tasks. Like finding a solution to a window roller shade that will no longer roll. This involves a trip to Home Depot where my request for help with two domestic matters of little consequence produces just that: no immediate result. Just to make the tasks not seem quite so futile I challenge myself to engage on a human level (a little smile, a patient approach, a 'we are in this together' attitude). Instead of surly (I'm told 'we don't do that' at first try) when I'm breaking up a group of women employes talking together to get an answer, I strive in a small self-satisfying way to create fellowship. I come away with the name of a firm that will do it, providing I show interest in buying another shade. My second mission is to locate what may be called a food waste storage can, otherwise known as future compost. A genial man whom I meet walking the aisles volunteers to lead me to a shelf where a possible container might be found. Instead, we find a pail without a lid. He spends several minutes in the search. We conclude  he earnestly and sympathetically agrees: nothing like that at the Depot (which doubles as a waiting place for out of work hopeful handymen bunching in groups) is useless and together we come up with the local hardware store where personnel answering my question (about where and what is a likely source for this object) by phone include the store's owner.

This is a sermon on how somewhat trivial chores can matter. I had to be taught to think 'common sense' . The lesson came from a fellow in the hardware store (where a sign read 'no ski masks allowed') who logically enough suggested unrolling the shade to see what might be in a label on the bar holding the fabric. Yes, there it was, my last name and the date of my last encounter with the maker of the shade.

    While I'm thinking basics - chores, camellias and such - I keep regressing to the habit acquired most severely during the pandemic: following carefully every day's New York Times Cooking column. The recipes with their reassuring vibe - yes, you can do it if you can read - and the calmly satisfying photographs attached. How and why they mattered so much in getting through a day - some lodestar, escapist fantasy of being able to cook and eat well.

    That's one reason but probably not the only one. The organizing fetish is a cover, an excuse, to imagine actually accomplishing something in the face of doubt. The effort is its own reward.

PS The prospect of turning a mix of unlikely ingredients into something digestible, even worth digesting, is another reward. Even, somehow, when results fail. Take cauliflower, green olives, almonds and feta for example. Suspense reigns throughout the trial... which is graded on a 'nice try but' level. So on to the next experiment: chicken thighs, dates, sweet potato and plenty of spices.


    Another food story that also is news. Of a sort that at least patrons of Folger Shakespeare Library will welcome. After waiting through four years of renovations and suspense about a reopening date (now set for June 21 this year), hungry friends and supporters of the immensely impressive  and handsome edifice on Washington's Capitol Hill will surely welcome the invention there (really a reinvention) of a well-supplied cafe in the Great Hall. Anyone familiar with the museum-library-theater complex should take a look at the lively scene imagined in this photo. Better, too, take heart in the democratic way the cafe space was named. "Crumble and Quill' was crowdsourced publicly and voted on dramatically enough down to the last ballot. The name surely will stand out among more common cafe titles of the town. A great salute to the wordsmith indeed.

    Sherry surely. And crumpets?

PS Any  devoted Folger fan might have noticed that I transposed  the name of the new hangout: It should have been Quill & Crumb. So kudos to those who caught this. Or was it my subconscious wanting to trick a reader?

    Or this, from the department of Never Underestimate Variety in an Urban Setting.

    Twice this week (the last of March 2024 forever.....), we attended two events of an extremely different nature that were free and open to the public (with registration), thereby again proving how an informed life (free email distribution) helps make an interesting life.
    Journalist Bill Press has a gig of sorts that  finds him periodically interviewing people of interest at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill. One requirement seems to be the subject at hand must have wide appeal and often has a book just published that an author or speaker hopes to publicize. Yes, copies of books are on sale at the site. Thus did Alex Prud'homme come to write "Dinner with the President: Food, Politics, and  a History of Breaking Bread at The White House." Not irrelevant is the fact that his great aunt is/was the great cook and memoirist Julia Child (he helped her produce her 'My Life in France.') Undoubtedly, he knows a good table and a good story when he is at or around one.  True to form, he could and did entertain with anecdotes true and believed about dining habits of political and social notables. He told of quirky tastes and reasons for them, reputations of White House chefs, how and why dining traditions are  enshrined in those hallowed quarters. How 'gastro diplomacy' works. 
    A day or so later I attended a big band concert at - why not? - the Martin Luther King Library, by the 44-year-old  LGBTQH however you wish to combine the letters Jazz Band who call themselves "the Different Drummers." Certainly a different way of applying a familiar expression - to march to the tune of a different drummer. The timpani were all women but members were all ages and backgrounds, as was the talent: Japanese born horn player who could make his language a rhythmic force said aloud and another younger man (on another instrument) whistling in jazz style.Oh, to hear audience appreciation like that at every entertainment event in this city...


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