Potpourri (22 cents)

This will be really quick. Once I get caught up, I can slow down.

Food: A very good meal last night at Cafe Deluxe in Bethesda – every time I have eaten there, I have been impressed. Last night, it was a delicious piece of salmon, cooked just right on a bed of orzo cooked with melted feta and chopped baby asparagus, surrounded by a coulis of red pepper. That, after being disappointed at Cesco in Bethesda, where I have had good food in the past (but I had not been there recently). I had grilled mahi mahi and a side spinach concoction, both fiddled with too much. I should also mention another good meal at Cafe of India on Wisconsin Ave NW – always the best. And tasty chicken fried rice at Sanpham (or is it Samphan?) on Capitol Hill.

Movie: First movie in quite some time last night – “Sarah’s Key”, based on a French novel and starring Kristin Scott Thomas – tells the story of the 1942 round up of the Jews of Paris through the eyes of a contemporary journalist who discovers that her husband’s family’s apartment in the Marais has quite a sordid history. Wasn’t quite sure how I would react, based on what little I knew of the story, but (in spite of a a little over-dramatization here and there), I thought it very well made.

Books: I did finish Washington Irving’s “Astoria”, a long book (written in the 1840s) that I highly recommend. Not one of Irving’s well known books, it tells the story of the founding of John Jacob Astor’s “Astoria”, at the mouth of Oregon’s Columbia River, meant to be the headquarters of an American western fur trading empire. Irving and Astor knew each other well, and Astor gave Irving all of the journals of the various participants in this courageous and ultimately tragic enterprise and asked if he would write the story. Some reached the west overland, basically following the trail of Lewis and Clark, less than a decade earlier, and including experienced explorers, trappers, craftsmen and others; they faced friendly and unfriendly encounters with native Americans and with weather and geography. Others went around South America via Hawaii by ship, facing their own problems. And then there was competition from British Canada and, yes, the War of 1812. A very interesting story, and a fascinating example of Washington Irving’s skill in putting a story together in such readable fashion.

Theater: The theater was dominated by the Capitol Fringe Festival – where we saw four plays. The best was a version of Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet’s profanity-strewn play about the employees of an unethical real estate firm (selling worthless land to people who can’t afford it), and their frustrations, rivalries, and stratagems. Terrifically funny, it was performed by a group of middle aged (OK, some perhaps beyond middle age)actors, many of whom had last been on the stage decades ago. Very well performed. Another older piece was by William Gilbert (i.e., Gilbert without Sullivan) and titled “Fogarty’s Fairy”, with a very clever script about a would-be groom, who happens upon a wish-granting fairy. He wishes that he had not made the mistakes he made losing his girl (I am portraying this in a very general fashion), and his fairy tells him that she can eliminate what he wants her to eliminate, but he may not be happy with the results. He tells her to go ahead, she reverses part of his life, and he becomes so confused that he doesn’t know exactly where in the path of life he is, or how to get where he wants to go. Very clever. We also saw a trio of very engaging San Francisco comics put on a show of acrobatics, among other things, the show being called “A Piece of Pi”, and a story telling piece performed by two local actresses, portraying twins whose background and upbringing were odd, to say the least (“Sisters of Ellery Hollow”). Less successful were the one act portrayal of Alice Roosevelt Longworth (“Alice”), a piece that looked as if the script had been written from the Wikipedia entry on T.R.’s daughter, and a version of Charles Mee’s “Trojan Women 2.0”, a poorly performed piece, but a piece whose script did not seem nearly as strong as his “Robert Rauschenberg’s America”, which we enjoyed so much.

We should also say that we attended a reading of Ari Roth’s very enjoyable “Born Guilty”, a very clever coming of age play, where the protagonist is affected, in ways sometimes unexpected, by his parents’ history as Holocaust survivors. We wish Ari well in finding a home for a full scale production soon.


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