Sunday, April 14, 2024

Spring Fling


    Spring takes some getting used to, especially when preceded by days of rain. Then suddenly we get wind and gradually the sun leading to one or two full days of Vitamin D. Along with it comes the kwanzan trees, a more hardy longlasting version of the fabled Washington brand. Now mid-month one very special specimen stands guard over three and a half backyards on Capitol Hill,  a treat to behold and worthy of the name 'Gloria.'  She is a flirtatious plant, flinging her limbs about in spectacular fashion, seemingly free as the birds that nestle within.

    And of other positive scenes: a memorial service inside the National Portrait Gallery on a Saturday morning before the museum opened. The man honored had once been the Gallery's head, bringing it into the 20th century so that, in words of the current director, Kim Sajet, "he redefined the world of national portraiture and allowed us to include living beings. Daughter Gillian Pachter spoke fondly of her father as "good at telling lives,"  an indelible portrait himself of a person fiercely committed to humanity. "He made portraiture not about yesterday but about today and tomorrow" said Lonnie Bunch, founder of the Museum of African American History and Culture currently head of the entire Smithsonian itself. Above all, this self-described flaneur ws "living just in the moment wherever I am." He made sure that life included abundant travel, adventures galore, and, above all, no regrets. Son Adam aptly remembered a father who never forgot to give his children 'mad money' for their travels, so they could enjoy pleasures sought and enjoyed without guilt. So dedicated to the humane, the feast of friendship, the man for some reason never learned to drive. Which, in a sense, is the very definition of a flaneur, a wanderer who takes chances and makes every moment his own.


    PS Nothing in  what follows is especially about spring doings except how an increased number of visitors to the capital city during school break time can impinge in coincidentally ways about how we locals go about our everyday life. For this Eastern Market home owner, such activities recently included a trying task  - cleaning a Baratza model coffee grinder. It is no mean feat to tackle this device, first to take it apart and clean the inner pieces, then figure out how to put it back together again. Two other people tried their hand at the task and none  succeeded in making it work again. So I lugged it several blocks away to the Peregrine Espresso store to get sympathy and possibly some help. But not even the  barista on duty knew what to do. I was told to return in two days' time after  the morning rush hour  when the owner could try since it's likely she had the same product at home. That I did, waiting while she did her best = unsuccessfully. The first time the first day another customer suggested I call the manufacturer who could supply me with a tool to take out the part that was now stuck. Or likely I could send the thing back and have it made whole again by 'customer service.' But on my second day at the coffee shop another stranger walked in and saw what was happening and got to work. In a very few minutes my machine was working again. How could this friendly stranger  just have happened by. He was visiting DC from another Washington - the state - and even better he boasted, he was from the Yakima Valley, one of the country's most fertile agricultural areas. He told how: millions of years ago rich soil from  Montana was deposited there ...and so on.The encounter was a serendipitous exchange, so different from  the fractious momentous doings taking place inside the nation's Capitol building only a mile or so away. 

Long live serendipity and the importance of making each moment count. Now a segue to the name of this blog: Urbanities. Being urbane takes many forms,  one of which surely is being able to recognize and appreciate when the moment matters. The word urbane too often infers 'citified', 'polish' or 'suavity' - on the negative side. But a person can be urbane in a rural world as well. A question of attitude...


    The news drives odd even irrelevant subjects to ponder IF and when a person can't relate in any personal way. Call it trivialization, if you may. It is also defensive action in the face of impotence. I cannot relate to the hysteria on campuses across the country where pro-Palestinian voices seem to refuse to consider Hamas' proclamations of the need to obliterate Israel. At the same time those same students might as well be supporting Putin and his stated aims of obliterating an independent Ukraine.

    So I take refuse in worrying about Secretary of STate Antony Blinken and how he must be coping. How he bears up under jet lag, even how does he manage to refrain from smiling. Serious is His Business for sure. Stalwart.  This is, admittedly, a useless waste of my emotion. But it's not exactly looking on the bright side either.