1. The Cat. On Wednesday, we noticed that Windie was walking very strangely, his back legs dragging along, and that he had become very lethargic. Thursday evening was spent at the vet, and Windie checked in for an overnight stay, having his matted hair shaved down, and being diagnosed with an overactive thyroid. The prescription: medicine by bill or liquid injection twice a day. He doesn’t seem to understand the routine (or rather I should say he doesn’t seem to appreciate the routine). But it gives us bookend for our days, something to do morning and night.
2. The restaurants. After shying away from restaurant eating for a while, I had dinner out three times last week. First, at Cafe Deluxe in Bethesda, which was very very good, and quite crowded to my surprise. The four of us had scallops, ahi tuna, roasted chicken, and a vegetarian plate of sides. Second, at Saigon Bistro on P Street, a new inexpensive restaurant which has received good reviews. I found it disappointing. Or perhaps fried rice was not the thing to order in what is primarily a pho house. Saturday, Grenville Moore’s on H Street, which was, as always, excellent. Mussels, fries and Belgian beer.
3. The theater. “Marisol” by Jose Rivera, at the Forum Theatre. A play of the Apocalypse. God is old and senile, and can’t keep anything in control, and apparently has lost interest. The angels plan a revolt. The times will be chaotic. Cities will fall. Economies will tumble. Illness and poverty will be rampant. Poor Marisol, fighting her way up from the Bronx with a professional job, finds herself abandoned by her guardian angel (who is off to fight) and left on her own amidst the chaos. The play was apparently written with the new millenium in mind, in 1999 or so, but is just as appropriate (or more so) today, when things really do seem to be barely holding on. It is a weird play (obviously), and to me not particularly satisfying. I kept reflecting on Thornton Wilder’s apocalyptic “The Skin of Our Teeth”, which I think handles the end of civilization much more deftly. That said, Vernonica del Cerro and Patrick Bussink gave first class performances, which is not to be taken for granted in a play where the Marisol character faces so many different challenges, and Bussink plays so many different characters. Glad I went? Sure. See it again? Nah.
4. The Lectures. A good deal of the weekend was taken up with three lectures by Professor/Rabbi Max Ticktin as scholar in residence at Adas Israel. The first lecture, on Hebrew poetry, concentrated on Yehuda Amachai more than anyone else. Ticktin, who is always so engaging, talked about the fragmentation of Israeli society, and how it seems to be held together by language more than anything else, and how poetry is the expression of that language. He said that, in the 1950s, when Israel was more homogeneous and settled, its poetry seemed to reflect society. Today, there are so many societies that such can no longer be the case. The Saturday lecture was on Hebrew literature, which I thought was the least successful of the three. Hebrew prose did not really exist, he said, prior to the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, and he divided the literature of the country into two phases, first through 1977, and secondly, until the present. He talked about the centrality of the Bible to much Hebrew literature, even when the writer is secular, and not religious. Sunday morning, the topic was Yiddish literature, and Ticktin gave an interesting picture of Warsaw between the two world wars, when the city had over 300,000 Jews of every stripe, and Yiddish prose, poetry and cinema were so abundant. He concentrated on the poetry of Isaac Manger, who wrote in Warsaw in the 1920s and 1930s, before leaving Poland, dispirited by the turn of events, to settle in London, New York and Israel before dying at a relatively young age.
5. The books. A confusing book week. I am trying to read the next volume of the diaries of Viktor Klemperer, surviving in Dresden in 1942-1945, but am having trouble because the print is so small. Really small. Like every page should be two pages. Which means that the 600 pages should be 1200. I will tough it out, but it will take time. So, in the meantime, I have diverted myself to a number of other things, like the first chapters of the memoirs of diplomat George Ball (which is very well written), a story by friend Michael Greenberg published in a book entitled “Tel Aviv Stories”, Andre Maurois’ biography of Benjamin Disraeli, and a number of magazines. I tried to read Defiance, by Nechama Tec, the book about the Bielski resistance that was the basis of the movie, but for some reason, could not continue; the book (at least at first) was a bit too stiff.
6. The cousins. We had pizza (Pete’s Pizza in Columbia Heights; I had hoped for better) and more Belgian beer with my newly found second cousin, and discussed family trees and the St. Louis that was. Nice time.
The upcoming week has restaurants, theater, movies, book sales, lectures, different cousins and more. Bet you can’t wait.