I get asked all the time: “So what does a partly retired lawyer do on the days when he doesn’t come into the office?” In response, I decided to chronicle one day when I had nothing particularly scheduled. The day turned out to be yesterday, Friday, February 27, 2009. I can’t say that it is either typical or atypical, but this is what happened:
7:45 I got up slowly, checked the news on TV and the weather (seeing it was already 50 degrees out), put on very casual clothes (old Eddie Bauer faded jeans and a gray sweatshirt with an understated logo of a trade association on whose board I serve), went downstairs, took in the two newspapers that are delivered to the house (“Washington Post” and “New York Times”), checked my email accounts and Facebook, and decided that not much seemed to have happened in my world while I slept.
8:30 As I often do when the weather is warm, I left the house to take a fairly brisk walk about a mile up Connecticut Avenue, stopping at Pumpernickel’s Bagelry, where I purchased a week or two’s worth of bagels for the house, eating one (poppyseed) and drinking a cup of coffee at one of the tables outside on the street. Even though the weather was warm, my only companions where a bunch of starlings which hoped that I would excrete some bagel crums on the sidewalk (which I probably did inadvertently). While eating, I read through this week’s edition of “Washington City Paper”, which in fact had very little of interest (I pick it up to look at its fairly complete weekly event calendar), except for an article on drummers and a disease, or condition, called rhabdomyolysis, which often affects them (and in fact can become a matter of pride or passage) after a particularly hard workout, and which is evidenced by muscle breakdown, which can in part be observed by dark colored urine, and can become quite dangerous if it happens repeatedly and is not treated. One more time, something that I have never heard about or imagined. But I assume the article was accurate.
9:30. I started the walk back home, looking for something of interest on the way. Very few people on the street, a few people walking, pushing groceries, jogging, but no one I knew. A police car was giving a ticket to a small truck belonging to a chimney cleaning company; the two men inside it clearly did not appear to be having a good day. On the west side of Connecticut Avenue, just south of Ingemar Street, I saw two beautiful clumps of bright purple crocuses, with yellow highlights, proudly showing off like they were the first of the season in town, which they might have been since it is still February. I have been seeing some green shoots around here and there, but this is the first color of the spring that I have observed. Before I turned on to my street, I did stop at the bank, for my usual withdrawal of $200 with the hope that it will last me longer than I knew it would. I also stopped at the mailbox to get Thursday’s mail, which did not seem to eventful, and which I brought up and put on the kitchen table.
10:00. I did look at our synagogue’s monthly newsletter, which seemed much more packed with interesting items than normal. I took out my calendar and noted the dates for the Garden of the Righteous Ceremony, honoring non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, and for the next scholar in residence, Professor Max Ticktin of George Washington University. I also saw that the synagogue is starting a new group for members 65 and older. They can’t mean me, can they?
10:20. OK, I am not working today. I am home and not at the office, but sometimes attention must be paid. I have a client who manages an apartment complex in Baltimore where there was a fire last week (tenant smoking in bed, apparently), which has displaced 17 families. The property is subsidized by HUD, and we have been working (successfully) to get HUD to move its subsidy to other units (which my client must locate) so that these families have a place to live while the building is being repaired. I spent an hour or so working with the client, and having email correspondence with HUD, to help facilitate all of this. Hopefully, at least 12 of the families will be able to move (they are now in hotels) this weekend.
11:30. I left the house, this time by car. I stopped at Sheffield Liquor store, and bought two bottles of Spanish wine, and (for the freezer) a bottle of Gray Goose. I saw that Politics & Prose, our first class neighborhood book store, had two boxes of “free books” in front of the store so I went to look. Most were softcover “Advanced Readers Copies” of new books, but there were a few hard backs as well. One was a novel by Whitney Otto called A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity. It was in perfect condition, a first edition, signed by Otto. I figured that, for free, the price was right. Not sure how it got into the giveaway boxes.
12:00 I drove to Bethesda, to the Bradley Barbershop, which has become my regular place, for no particular reason, except that it is low-key (not a salon), $14 a haircut, and they have (I think) 9 barbers, which means that there is usually not a wait, except on weekends when parents bring their kids. I had a new barber this time (I don’t care who cuts my hair; it isn’t much of a challenge), a fairly young man, who looked like he had not had a hair cut in 5 years. He turned out to be very talkative. He was born in Vietnam (so are the people that own Sheffield Liquor), but that no one ever guessed. “Can you believe it,” he said, “most people think I am from the Philippines.” I really didn’t think one way or another. He has been in the Washington area since he was 3 years old, and has beet cutting hair (men and women’s in various places) for 12 years. He has traveled back to Vietnam several times, but thinks that the country is just too money conscious (I guess that’s Communism for you) to live there. “But if I were rich…….” He asked me my name (no one at Bradley Barbershop ever did that before) and told me (I think) that his name was Handsome. Or maybe it was Han Sum. Or maybe I heard it wrong. At any rate, he did a good job. I did ask him who cut his hair – he told me that he cuts his own hair, and that he was a big believer that everyone should decide for himself how he wanted his own hair to look. I couldn’t argue with him there.
12:45. I wasn’t sure what there was at home to eat, so I went into the Thai Corner restaurant on Bethesda Avenue. I had seen it before, but never gone in. It is in a newish office building, several steps below ground level, is relatively small and informal (a place you don’t feel uncomfortable if you are by yourself), and I decided it would give me a chance to see what the Whitney Otto book was like. I read the first 40 pages or so, while having tofu and vegetables in a mild peanut sauce, which was quite good, for $7.50. I didn’t want anything too fancy.
1:30. I arrived back at home, made a cup of coffee and sat down with the two newspapers. There is always interesting things in the newspaper (I don’t understand why more people don’t read them), but I concentrated most on trying to understand what the Obama budget will entail, thinking as always about how the world will get out of the mess it is in, and marveling (and fuming) at the audacity of the Senate in suggesting that DC can get a vote in the House of Representatives only if we repeal our ban on semi-automatic weapons. I’d rather skip the vote, thank you.
2:30 A few minor (and I mean minor) household chores, like taking out the trash, straightening a few things and so forth.
3:00 I went to the gym, with my Whitney Otto book in tow, reading it on my 40 minutes on the cross trainer, then fiddling with a few of the resistance machines before coming home. Kept my eye on CNN while I was there, as well, watching the Dow lose another 100 points or so.
4:00 On the way back from the gym, I stopped at Zips, my laundry/cleaners, to drop off 9 shirts, a pair of slacks and a sweater. They will be ready tonight at 5. I will forget to go get them for several days, until I wonder why I don’t have any shirts in the closet.
4:15. Back home. Took a shower. Watched a little of CNN’s news. Found that they had nothing new to say, and turned off the TV.
4:45. Went back down to the computer, and put my week of expenses in Quicken, filing my receipts in my 2009 shoe box.
5:00. Looked through two weekly newspapers that arrived today, “The Northwest Current” and “Washington Jewish Week”.
5:30. Finally, I sat down with the book I started to read last week, Victor Klemperer’s 1933-1945 diaries, published under the title I Will Bear Witness. A (more or less) Jewish professor of philology in Dresden who, somehow, with his non-Jewish wife, managed to live both through the Holocaust and the Dresden firebombing attacks. Very, very interesting journal he wrote. (I will write more about that later, I am sure)
7:00 Set the table, and opened the wine (one of the bottles I bought earlier today) for our Friday night dinner (just the two of us).
7:30. Had a very nice dinner, appetizer (chopped black olives and fennell seeds on tangerine slices), soup (turnip with greens), roast chicken, bulgar pilaf, green beans and sweet potato pie. We are part of an organic farmer’s co-op, and this year there has been an absolute surplus of both sweet potatoes and turnips. Blame it on global warming, perhaps. The dinner was excellent, but my part of it (the wine) was a bust. I would suggest that you avoid a tempranillo-cabernet combination bottled in 2006 under the name: The Spanish Quarter.
8:30. I washed (most) of the dishes.
9:00 Back to Professor Klemperer’s book.
11:00 Upstairs, to prepare myself for the next day (which is, of course, the current one).
So, curiosity seekers, that is it. Not very exciting, I understand, but actually a very pleasant time.