Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Washington D.C.

Washington, DC, April 8 2009—

LINDSEY TOOK IT in mind to fly out here for a week of mostly sightseeing, and why not: It's cherry-blossom time. Springtime, except that it's colder than, well, your cliché's as good as mine.
The flight was bare-bones except for the first-rate in-flight entertainment, on Virgin America; made interesting only once, when about halfway across Kansas a somewhat blowzy-looking young woman asked the flight attendant how much longer to landing, and, when told it would be another two and a half hours, checked into one of the restrooms and lit up a cigarette.
Since we were sitting in the last row, we overheard a bit of the action, beginning with the attendant knocking on the door and telling the woman to put it out. Twice she asked where the cigarette was, and apparently got two different answers. She ordered the woman out, to no avail. Finally the attendant opened the door and ordered the woman back to her seat. Apparently the cigarette butt was found; we didn't have to make an unscheduled landing. Nor, far as I know, was the woman ever put in handcuffs, though they were mentioned.


At the bus stop, next morning, two women were conversing quietly. I asked, as much to make conversation as for the information, if the bus we were waiting for would indeed take us to the Metro station. The seated woman assured me it would. Vous êtes française, I asked. Non, mais je parle français, she answered, je suis égyptienne, tous les égyptiens parle très bien beaucoup des langages. Tous les égyptiens, de toutes classes, I asked, Ah oui mussieu, she said, Je vous assure.


The Metro runs fast, frequent, and deep. I walked up ninety-seven steps at the Bethesda Metro station, and eighty-eight steps back at our Wardman Woodley Park station, and in both cases I was walking up an escalator that was moving uphill itself, otherwise Sisyphus only knows how many steps I'd have climbed. That and the bracing cold and the long urban walks should keep me in shape.


Dinner last night, as noted yesterday at Eating Every Day, at Obelisk, a favorite restaurant of mine. I think it was fifteen or twenty years ago I first ate there, when in town on an NEA panel. I ate there twice that trip, and at least once each of the remaining two years of the panel. It's an Italian restaurant with, in those days, a three-course format with a choice from two alternative appetizers, main courses, and desserts. The price is now double — $70 — and an antipasto and a cheese course added; we were also presented with three alternatives for each course (except antipasto and cheese). An interesting wine list (all Italian) and good grappas and other liquore round out the offerings. You can converse in the comfortably furnished dining room, and the service is attentive and friendly without the least intrusion.

I used to say I had five favorite restaurants. Three of them are now history, but Obelisk and Chez Panisse remain.

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