Where to start? Well, here – leaving my fair city Tuesday afternoon by the island airport, on a stunning day.
Landing in Dulles Airport, Washington, where my cousin Barbara was waiting. Barbara, who’s a year older than I, and her sister Francey, a year younger, are my only cousins, daughters of my mother’s oldest sister. We haven’t spent much time together, but Barb and I like each other a lot, so it has been a treat to get to know her better. Her hospitality – offering to put me up and chauffeur me around – made my speaking trip here possible.
She lives in Bethesda, a leafy suburb of pretty colonial houses amidst old trees, where the only drawback is that you have to drive everywhere; there are no amenities for miles, and the traffic in Washington, apparently, is worse than Los Angeles. From what I’ve seen of it, that’s true. The only other negative about my trip, so far, is that for some reason my brain decided to go on high alert and refuse to shut down, so my first two nights here were almost sleepless, a kind of torture. I haven’t used my sleeping pills for so long that I didn’t bring them with me. Mistake. But I got through.
On Wednesday I took the metro downtown and walked to the National Gallery of Art. Ran right into a protest outside the Trump Tower – NO MUSLIM BAN.
I joined them for a bit – hooray for democracy! – then went on to the museum, which is spectacular – in two parts, classic art and modern art. Bathed in the Italians, saw the Leonardo and all the Madonnas, right up to the Impressionists – Van Gogh’s thick cream roses. Glorious. Then down to the concourse for lunch and up to the other side, to bathe in the Rothko’s. Enjoyed the blue rooster on the roof.
A long walk to Arena Stage, the theatre run by my ex Edgar. I had no idea it was such an enormous, spectacular, modern place, with 3 theatres and many open spaces designed by Canadian Bing Thom. Part of the inside looks like the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, with totem pole-like panels. Below, the front.
Barbara and Dan met us there, the four of us had a superb dinner together nearby – Edgar has been Executive Director at Arena for 8 years and knows everyone, including all the staff at the restaurant – and then he gave us tickets to see a play, Native Gardens, by Karen Zacarias, a young woman who’s their resident playwright. Remember that name, because she’s going to go far – the play was hilarious and yet profound, an exploration of current American issues of entitlement, racism, classism, even ageism – not didactic but funny. Very hard to pull off.
Edgar met us afterward and gave us a proud tour of the vast backstage; here we are on the set of the show. It was a perfect visit with an old friend, who happens to be the father and grandfather of four human beings very dear to my heart.
One of the joys of my visit here is mornings – Dan puts on the coffee and we all sit, reading both the NYT and the Washington Post, two of the finest newspapers in the world, bemoaning the latest Trumpian horrors. Today, an unbelievable headline in the Post: “Study ties loose concealed-carry laws to higher gun death rates.” Amazing – they needed a study to show that if it’s easier to carry guns, more people die! Imagine that! Ils sont fous, ces Americains.
Off to the Jewish Community Centre of Fairfax, Virginia, for my talk on the Jewish Shakespeare. It was all set up – tables for lunch, which was provided free for me and Barbara and included a smoked meat sandwich and a knish, and I was happy to welcome three first cousins-once-removed, whom I hardly know though our grandparents were siblings. Then I spoke to an audience of about 50 about my great-grandfather and my book. In the middle, a fine actor, Sasha Olenick, read excerpts from Gordin’s plays. Sasha, it turns out, is best friends with one of my ex-husband’s ex-girlfriends. Small world etc. It went very well, it seems; the organizer was rapturous. Luckily, however, I’d only brought 3 books to sell, because I sold 2 – and gave one to Sasha. People may love a book talk but that does not necessarily lead to the sale of the book. Pictures in the next post.
Home in a traffic jam to rest before dinner in downtown Bethesda with my new relatives, this time not from the British side – my mother’s – but the Jewish side of my father – Robert and his new wife Becky, and his sisters Jill and Peggy, who all grew up in Virginia. I have relatives who speak in a Southern drawl, are almost as leftwing as I and very nice. New family. Makes me very happy.
That night … some actual sleep. I guess it was my talk keeping me awake. And yet I’ve done it many times before. Neurosis!
Today another perfect hot day; I’d considered going back downtown to more museums, but I often see museums and rarely see my cousin so decided to stick with her. Barb, Dan and I walked to the local Y, not far from their home, for a Y Fusion class Barb had heard good things about. It was tough and fun, a dance class with fab music, the 3 of us stumbling about at the back. Loved it. Back home in a day so hot, it was like July. Lucky lucky lucky.