Home from Washington and Baltimore. Random recollections. Extraordinary art in Washington, but … duh! We started at the Phillips Collection. Marjorie Acker Phillips and Duncan Phillips put together an extraordinary modern art collection. Aside from the regular collection, which include the magnificent Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, we saw Gauguin to Picasso: Masterworks from Switzerland, with amazing painting from the Rudolf Stachelin and Karl Im Obersteg, European collectors and Phillips peers.
We also saw a great—and very large—selection of Irving Penn photos at the American Art Museum, which shares a beautiful building with the National Portrait Gallery. The Portrait Gallery featured a photo essay on Dolores Huerta, César Chávez’ lesser known partner in the establishment of the United Farm Workers union. We walked the room backwards, so I got choked up from the git-go by the picture of President Barack Obama placing the Presidential Medal of Freedom around Ms. Huerta’s neck. (I also recalled my days on the picket line at Salamone’s in Beloit, WI in the mid-70s, trying to get Mr. Salamone to stop selling table grapes. No luck!)
In a very quick stop at the National Gallery of Art, we viewed Woman in Blue Reading a Letter by Johannes Vermeer. We really did see it, truly, but I think I’d have lied if we hadn’t, to avoid disappointing the many people who said, “You are seeing the Vermeer.”
Art raised the notion of an art history course. Imagine, enjoying art and, just maybe, knowing something about it.
Food was meh. An amazing Smoked Oyster Chowder at Unum (accompanied by three fried oysters, my new best thing), with everything else just OK. Zaytinya was average at best, with very good lentil patties and below par seasonal mushrooms. Slices at Wiseguy NY Pizza evoked New York, and suggested to me that there is money to be made serving cheap lunches near Capitol Hill. In Baltimore we had our last meal at Phillips at the Inner Harbor. Very fine clams, fried oysters, and a crab cake.
Cocktails at Teddy and the Bully Bar and dinner at Unum on our first night raised yet again the notion of having someone—think Marshall McLuhan in the movie line in Annie Hall—at the ready to shut people up. At the Bully Bar we sat next to three DC men, attorneys almost certainly, between late 30s and late 40s. Two were mostly listening, while the oldest fellow was pontificating about anything and everything. Far right, for sure, and he had a special problem with the minimum wage. Before we finished, his main audience left. The chap sat alone and, fortunately for us, we finished before he had another chance to spew forth to a new crop of poor souls.
Unum found us at a banquette for two, next to two couples sharing the same cushioned bench. Husband No. 1 was the main speaker. We learned all about his sobriety, his challenges at his law firm and the opportunity to return, how well he is doing, etc. Over. And. Over.
I don’t mean to be critical, truly, but the evening provided a fine lesson in the art of dining out. The inside voice matters greatly, and listening beats talking always. I get the noise in a bar—and, I suppose, the Bully Bar’s namesake might have choice words for me—but in a restaurant if your neighbors can hear your conversation enough to remember it, you’re probably too loud.
Baltimore was on the agenda to see John Cleese and Eric Idle Together Again at Last … For the Very First Time tour. ‘Twas a great show, and a fine opportunity to share a friend’s birthday. All in all, a fine long weekend. Rinse. Repeat. When?
P.S. One of the trip’s great highlights was two-plus hours in the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Without further ado, here are some memories: