Saturday, July 25, 2009


After the first day of conference, all talked out from networking and steering lunch and break conversations to topics of interest to me and to the company that sent me, I took a long solitary walk from Dupont Circle to Georgetown, down P Street, and then up 31 and 32 Streets to Dumbarton Oaks. It was closed by then, though I would have loved to have seen the poplars in that garden, but I walked along the outside of the walls, to Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the retail heart of Georgetown.

On Wisconsin I selected my dinner, stopping in the Cafe Bonaparte for this delicious cheese sampler and pate plate. I added a glass of Reisling, and I spent an hour juxtaposing and combining the five cheeses, strawberries, sweet toasted walnuts, and the pate, and tasting or inhaling the aroma of the wine. It’s the intersection and the transitions between all the flavors that is the magic of French food. The slow kaleidoscope of subtle changes in the mouth and nose, and the arrival of the next morsel while the after affects of the previous are still apparent around the edges and back of the tongue. The wait staff smiled at me a lot (I was doing a lot of smiling with my eyes closed), and left me to enjoy myself.

For dessert I went back out on the street and ate the golden light on the long downhill run of storefronts and shops. I was greeted by Reginald Johnson, who did not ask me for money, but instead asked if I would buy him a sandwich. His good humor and straight open gaze into my eyes, made it easy to immediately agree. He's a professional. We walked together to the mall, a block away, and down the escalator to the food court, where the sub shop staff greeted him warmly and said, “Steak Sandwich?” He was a regular, often with a patron along to buy his dinner. He told me he had been on the street for fifteen years. He seemed happy, clean, healthy, and at peace with everyone. Quite different from so many of the other panhandlers I saw frequently throughout the city. I put a number of ones into a number of paper cups.

At the bottom of Wisconsin is a waterfront. This area was a frightening mess, as I recall from trips to DC in the 70s and 80s, but now it is in revival, and very expensive condos and restaurants are being built. The place in this photo was alive with music and the sounds of hundreds of conversations, all soothed and bubbled by the fountains in the middle, and bathed in the last hour of the late summer sun.

Just down the waterfront was yesteryear’s popular waterfront happening spot, now run down, in disrepair, looking dated and ugly, and put up just the day before for auction, with a starting price as low as one million dollars, because it’s estimated that one hundred million will be needed to renovate. Watergate. Half the shops were empty, the others were pretty sad looking and low budget enterprises. Most of the apartments and rooms looked vacant, as well. It had a lost and forgotten feeling, but I could see that forty or fifty years ago this was a big deal; this was a desirable address. So how will that glitzy location in the previous paragraph look in fifty years?


June Saville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
June Saville said...

Hi Steve
What a shame we build with cement et al with its dangers of concrete cancer. The Great Wall of China is rammed earth ...
June in Oz

Lisa said...

I am not surprised to know that you put money into paper cups and buy sandwiches for strangers.

You know, the picture of the cleaned up waterfront area in Georgetown made me laugh because I swear I stood just on that spot in April 2008. Off to the left, the restaurant on the water has some very good seafood.

It's not often that I recognize a place with such clarity, but that picture did it. What crazy times in my life those were.

linda said...

what ugliness does concrete bring...I agree with June above me here...and this is especially ugly so I don't really wonder what will happen to the other in the years to come...things come and they go, no?

that you gave of what you had to those less fortunate is the highlight of this post, imho...and that lovely meal w/o dessert...I was after chocolate about that time but alas...