Saturday in the Big City (22 cents)

It was a beautiful morning, with the temperatures destined to rise to the mid-70s, and already in the 60s.  I decided to go to the gym, in large part because I had been avoiding it for a few weeks and needed to get back on track.  I assumed it would be empty, that it couldn’t compete with the great outdoors.  But it was packed.  Must be the start of swim suit season.

We left at noon, for the 1 p.m. playoff came between the Caps and the Rangers, wearing our red.  The 18,000+ Verizon Center was full, red outnumbering blue by a ratio of approximately infinity to one.  Electricity and anticipation as Caleb Green sang the national anthem.  Varlamov in goal instead of Jose Theodore.  Victory in the air.

But it was not to be, as the Rangers beat the Caps for the second straight time.  The score was 1-0.  While neither goalie was challenged, it seemed clear that Varlamov, just turned 20, was up to the task.  I hope he plays Monday in New York.  Both teams played well defensively.   Although the Caps outshot the Rangers about 2-1, very few of the shots challenged Ranger goalie Lunquist.  Mike Green, star defensemen, looked like he was new to the game; our offensive power was not on display.  Behind 2-0 now.  It will be hard.

Meanwhile, at Nationals Stadium, things were no better.  It appeared that Washington was going to beat Florida, with a 6-3 lead in the 8th.  But it was Florida 9-6 when the game ended after the 11th.  The second extra inning, fall from ahead, loss by the Nats.  Record now: 1-8.

After the hockey game, and a short walk in warm sunlight, we went into the National Portrait Gallery, only a block from the rink.  We saw three current exhibits, two of which would be worth a return trip (next time, with my glasses, which somehow I had forgotten at home).  One is an interesting exhibit on Marcel Duchamp and portraiture.  Duchamp is the subject of the exhibits.  Photos of Duchamp, paintings of Duchamp.  Perhaps more of him than you need to see, but that is part of the strength of the exhibit–how often he was the subject of his, and of others’, art.  Along with a narrative that explains his centrality to twentieth century art, it is most definitely worth seeing.

The second exhibit, somewhat larger than the fairly sizeable Duchamp, is an exhibit on self-portraiture, called “Reflections and Refractions”, featuring graphic work, drawings, paintings, and the occasional sculpture or fabric art, by a variety of twentieth century artists, displaying self-portraits.  Most interesting are the multiple self-portraits painted or drawn by the same artist, over a period of 50+ years. Most of the artists are familiar, but some are not. This one is definitely worth more time than we had to spend yesterday.

The third exhibit, one which will probably be seen by more people as it is a first floor exhibit, I could have done without.  Three or four current portrait photographers.  Larger than life photographs (much larger than life) showing every blemish and crevice on the faces of such people as Barack Obama, John McCain, Jack Nicholson and Angelina Jolie, for example.  Do you know that if you blow up Angelina Jolie’s face so that it covers an entire wall, she is no longer attractive?  True.

Leaving the Portrait Gallery, we walked across the street to Zaytinya, the now well-known Turkish/Greek style restaurant located at 9th and I.  We drank a specialty drink which they, for some reason, call a Mykonos, after the Greek isle.  It has grape vodka, sour cherry juice, ouzo and who knows what else.  It is very refreshing, and just the thing to have with bronzini, a warm mix of various types of “green” beans, and delicious squash fritters.

Then, for our final activity of the day, back to the building adjoining the Verizon Center, where among other entertainment venues you find 14 Regal Cinemas.  The Washington International Film Festival has opened, and we have tickets for 6 (I think 6) films.  Last night was our first, an Egyptian film called “Hassan and Marcos”, starting Egyptian stars Omar Sharif and Adel Imam.  Opening last summer in Cairo, and showing at festivals around the world, the film has received well deserved positive reviews.  In Cairo however, these reviews were tempered by what appear to be typical Moslem calls for the film to be banned as blasphemous.  If only Moslems would stop taking  God so seriously.

Sharif is a Moslem, the brother of a fundamentalist leader, who wants nothing of politics or Islamic movements.  But he becomes the heir of his brother’s group after his brother his murdered, an offer he apparently cannot refuse.  Imam, is a Coptic Christian leader, a little too outspoken perhaps on the ways in which Christians and Moslems can work together, and he too becomes a target.  Both must go into hiding, and the Egyptian government gives each (along with their families) a fake identity.  Imam becomes a Moslem, and Sharif a Christian.

The movie is a French farce-like comedy for the most part, as the two families wind up living in adjoining apartments located by the government relocation agency, with neither family guessing the true identity (or religious beliefs) of the other.  And one has a teenage boy (handsome) and one a teenage girl (cute).  You get the idea – the movie is very funny, somewhat hammy, and very clever.

You also can guess that, in this situation, things cannot turn out for the best.  And they don’t.  But they don’t turn out for the absolute worst, either.  Oh, yes, Cairo doesn’t turn out very well, but you can’t tell about the two families.  The movie ends before the drama (that is, the drama of the comedic script) plays out completely.

One other thing:  this movie is apparently a remake of sorts of a movie made over fifty years ago in Egypt, that one called “Hassan and Morcos and Cohen”.  “Cohen” has now been dropped.  That is not surprising, since the Egyptian Jewish community is virtually all in Israel or elsewhere, but it would be interesting to compare the two films.  Whether the earlier one is available, and whether it has been subtitled in English, I don’t know.

Whether it will be possible to see this film soon, or not, I don’t know, but if it is, go see it.  In Egypt, the adverse reaction was swift in coming.  Apparently, there was (is?) a movement to boycott all films of Imam (perhaps the most famous of Egyptian actors) and, in a case of life imitating art, Imam and his family had to leave Cairo and move to a resort town on the Mediterranean, where to my knowledge, he remains.

We had not been to a film at the Regal Theatres before.  The particular theater showing Hassan and Morcos was quite large.  I am not sure what it holds, but I would guess at least 500 people.  But the lobby had billions of people coming and going to the 14 different theaters.  Billions.

And then, leaving the theater and going out onto 7th Street, at about 9:30 on a beautiful Saturday night, there were additional billions (make that quadrillions) of people moving in all directions, and congregating.  And, even more surprising, there were phalanxes of police officers.  On street corners (usually in groups of 6-8), patrol cars, bicycles (clearing traffic with electric kazoos), and so on.  Apparently, this is Saturday in the big city.  A visitor from outer space would be amazed.  As were we, even though we have been at the Verizon Center a number of times on Saturday nights, but you go right to the Metro after games, and don’t notice the crowds other than the hockey crowds.  And we have spent a fair amount of time on 7th Street, but probably not on a beautiful Saturday night.


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