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December 2017

Dinner for Six

Most evenings we eat dinner “out” in the dining room. We’ve shared tables with many of the hundred residents here, although occasionally we eat at a table for two or bring our meal upstairs to our apartment. Like everything else in this mega-changed life, it takes some getting used to.

The other night the head of the Hospitality Committee invited us to join her at a table for six. Everyone there except for Peter and me was at least ninety, and one woman was about to celebrate her hundredth birthday.

Only three of the six own a computer (and two of those were Peter and me). I think we were the only ones who had cell phones, which we found surprising, and our grandchildren would not have found believable.

Yet they all had interesting backgrounds. Two worked for the U.S government in Taiwan, Korea and other foreign countries. The almost- centenarian, who grew up in Wisconsin was a pianist whose son is a cellist living in Anchorage, Alaska. He will play for us when he visits her in January.

Everyone has a story.

It's a Small World

We had quite an international day last Wednesday.

In the morning, we met Peter’s new neurologist, a delightful young (to us) man who is half Cuban and half Jordanian. In the afternoon, we received two packages. One contained a jar of caramel sauce from France and a Murano glass heart from Italy, gifts from Seth’s recent vacation in Europe. The other package, from our former across-the-street-neighbors, contained a George Jensen wintertime window ornament from Copenhagen and some delicious chocolate candy from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Then at dinner, our companions talked about their son and daughter-in law who are living in Baghdad and about the other Berlin-born Peter living here who is currently visiting his child in Senegal. When we got back to our apartment we got a call from Peter’s niece who told us that her daughter had accepted a teaching job in Bhutan.

And have I ever mentioned that the Tunisian ambassador’s residence is across the street from us?

P.S. An apology to all Patriots fans for the senior moment when I referred to my team as the “Boston” Patriots. They have been the “New England Patriots” since 1971. What was I thinking!

Hanging Out with Family

Last Sunday, we showed up mid-afternoon at the kids’ house in Silver Spring bearing salty snacks. The agenda: The Boston Patriots vs. The Pittsburgh Steelers, accompanied by a huge pot of Jeremy’s signature chili.

Nine people (and two dogs) were watching, all but one rooting for the Pats. We were glad to be on the couch in a warm basement because it was pouring rain on the playing field in Pittsburgh.

I’m not a huge football fan, but there’s something about the Patriots and the way that Tom Brady, their amazing quarterback, can turn a game around in the last minute. The one Steelers fan among us was devastated while the rest of us were thrilled with the Patriots’ comeback.

Afternoons like that are why we’re here.

Your Questions, My Answers

70-Something readers are asking for details about our life in the nation’s capital.

They want to know:

  1. Do the buses and subways work for us?

Mostly they do. But there is some trial and error involved. Going home after a downtown lecture one afternoon, we waited for the bus on the wrong side of the street. When the bus arrived, the driver told us he wasn’t going our way. We crossed the street, and after a long wait, we made it home. We won’t make that mistake again.

  1. How far are we from the National Mall and all the wonderful museums?

That depends. By Metro—maybe thirty minutes. By car, it depends on traffic and how long it takes to find a place to park. The one time we drove, it didn’t take long. The jury is out on the best way for us to go.

  1. How do political discussions go?

It feels strange to be in a place where we will pay national taxes, but won’t be able to vote in national elections. But people do have strong opinions about national politics here. We talk with people whose opinions differ from ours, but not as often as we should.

  1. Do we get the local paper?

We intended to subscribe to The Washington Post, but somehow with all the settling in, we haven’t yet. However, wherever we go, we still get the print edition of The New York Times. And when I turn on my computer, it still opens to the front page of The Boston Globe.

Some things are easy to change. Others are not.

Missing Maureen

When we decided to relocate, the fact that we would be leaving our local dry cleaner didn’t make our what-we’ll-miss-list.

At Colonial Cleaners in Cambridge, we were always greeted by Maureen, an affable 50-something who frequently complimented me on my ability to carry my cleaning on my bicycle and who always said I didn’t seem old enough when I asked for the senior discount, at least until lately.

Here in DC, I delayed a trip to the cleaners for as long as I could. Finally, I asked around for a recommendation and our “sponsors” sent me to Zip’s Cleaners, a couple of miles away on busy Connecticut Avenue.

I walked into what looked like a huge manufacturing floor with six cashiers and countless filled cleaning bags swinging from moveable racks hanging from the ceiling. Of course, no one greeted me by name.

Just another adjustment, but one of many I hadn’t anticipated.

One Weekend/Two Concerts

We were excited about our visit to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts last Friday. The National Symphony Orchestra’s concert featured Yuja Wang, a brilliant young Chinese pianist, playing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 5. Noted for her prize-winning artistry, as well as her skimpy concert attire, the intermission talk was as much about Wang’s short skirt and four-inch heels as her music.

Then on Sunday, we went to another concert, this one in a church in Silver Spring, Maryland. That concert featured thirty-six piano soloists, each playing for about a minute. One was our grandson, Grady, playing “The Hubbub Rock”.

He’s probably not destined to be another Yuja Wang, but it was our Grady and we cheered.

Finding a Kelly

I gave some thought to flying Kelly (who has cut my hair for decades) to DC every six weeks to avoid trying to find a hairdresser here. But I decided that was impractical, as well as impossible.

So I decided to evaluate the haircuts of new female acquaintances here in DC and take a chance. At a wine and cheese reception in our retirement community, I noticed a well-dressed woman with a chic haircut and a commanding presence.

I introduced myself and asked her where she got her hair cut. She told me that some time ago while she was in a rehab facility recovering from an accident, a beautician named Vanna, who volunteered to give free haircuts there, cut her hair. It was a great match and she has been going to Vanna’s salon ever since.

I made an appointment with Vanna. She (a Greek immigrant who has been cutting hair for 40 years) is about as different from Kelly (an Irish-American with a fiery personality) as can be.

And my hair? Not quite Kelly, but not too bad. Definitely worth a second visit.

In the Beginning...

On a recent stroll around our new neighborhood, Peter asked me if there are any first lines of books I remember. It was easy to come up with several.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities was the first that came to mind. Then I thought of "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I didn’t know the author (Edward Bulwer-Lytton), of the much-mocked line “It was a dark and stormy night,” that began his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford. I had never heard of his book, but its first line has to be included in any such list.

At Dr. Seuss’ “I do not like green eggs and ham,” I decided it was time to stop. But back home, I thought of one more first line that I rather like.

“My family is the center of my universe, always was, always will be.”

For those of you who don’t recognize it, it is from the 2017-book 70-Something: Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years.

By me.