Friday, November 03, 2006

City Living

Last night I walked around town waiting for Cha to finish her meeting. I walked up and down huge chunks of Calvert and St. Paul and Charles Streets, looking at houses for sale. I strolled the Walters Art Museum (the Courbet landscape show is pretty ok--not really situated in any particular enthusiasm of mine--and suffers from some terrible moody New Age music piped in). I could see the influence Courbet would have on later painters, in particular Cezanne. One darkened room was dramatic with snowy landscapes, each blazed with its own intense white-hot spotlight.

I visited the Contemporary Museum and saw its interesting show of saucy photos taken by fem photographers. I went to A People United and browsed fair-trade goods and Indian antiques.

Much on my mind: the possibility of living within city limits. Not since graduate school have I done so, when I lived in a section of Philadelphia affectionately referred to by Temple University faculty as 'Beirut.' Lafayette sat majestically astride his bronze steed just south of Washington's first phallic monument. I wish all Americans had read and understood its inscription before the Freedom Fries movement.

A tiny peace protest formed at the base of the park. I knew a few of the sign-waving Green Party peacenicks from my more active rabble-rousing days. They got lots of honks from passing cars. I sat on a bench. Immediately some chatty black teen employed at Sascha's sat down and filled me in on his life story. Then he rushed back to work and was replaced by an impossibly old woman in a ratty purple bathrobe and pink flip-flops. She looked at the peace protest with eyes sagged under the weight of basset hound skin hanging low off her forehead. "Lawdy, lawdy," she said, pointing at the puppet of Death waving a peace sign at the rally a half-block away, a tissue crumpled in her pointing hand. "Do you see that mumble-mumble?" she asked me.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," I said, bending near. "What did you say?"

"Lawdy. Do you see that tall ghost wrapped in black? Surely a sign o' bad tidings." She sighed and wiped the tissue along the bottom edge of one seeping eye. "The world is mystery." She looked so much like my great-grandmother I wanted to kiss her on the cheek.

Across the street from us were the offices of the Maryland Theosophical Society. A gaggle of crew-cut fat twenty-somethings made fun of the peacenicks from a safe distance. The moon waxed toward gibbous. The Catholic Church busily demolished an 18th-century building a block away. A Korean girl no more than five feet tall hauled a much taller double bass case down the block from the Peabody Academy. There was a small man on the steps of the Unitarian Liberal Church selling stolen merchandise. I could hear more cell phone conversations than I could follow. A gallery storefront featured French posters from the previous-to-last century and a large pink canvas with a chicken daubed dead-center.

"It sure is mystery," I agreed.

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