Thursday, June 18, 2009

Washington, D.C. 1.1.92: New Year Frolic and Groaning Tables

More chronicle: yesterday, Steve and I went back to the National Archives. I discovered two ancestors on the mortality censuses—Samuel Kerr Green and James Birdwell. Steve found more on his Kuld family.

Then we returned to the hotel, got the car, and drove up to Adams Morgan at 18th and Columbia. We had lunch at a Salvadoran restaurant, El Tazumal—rather heavy, but interesting, food. I had a “tipico” plate—a pupusa, a tortilla, a pastelito (a surprise: I had thought it would be sweet, but it was a fried meat pastry, a sort of cigar-shaped empanada), fried yucca (potato-like, but less interesting and with a very slight bitter undertone), frijoles, a salad, and fried plantains—not the patacones of our Colombian friends nor the tostones of the Puerto Ricans, but fried whole and not crisp. Heavy, starchy, fatty—good in the mouth, troubling to my poor stomach.

Then we walked around in that interesting area of the city—a used bookstore run by a macho replica of the previous bookstore owner I mention supra; an antiques shop with a young Jewish owner who tried to badger and insult us into buying; and a wonderful new bookstore, Bick’s, with an extensive poetry section, a gay-lesbian section adjacent one on spirituality, next to theology and philosophy, and near a post-structuralism section. Spent over $100 on books about Bakhtin and by G. Bachelard.

Afterwards, we returned and I so tired I slept awhile, then to dinner at a Touch of Lemon Grass on 18th—bun bo (chicken marinated and grilled, over rice noodles, with cilantro and nuoc mam), and a fried noodle dish with broccoli, bean sprouts, onion, carrots, and shrimp, chicken, and beef. Glorious.

Then to an evening of frolicking at Tracks, a huge gay disco in the southeast sector but near the capitol. As always, I was excessively nervous. My nervousness produces paranoia, so I was afraid even to get out of the car when we arrived, magnifying the threat of the neighborhood (which is marginal) and the age difference between us and the young glitterati arriving at the disco.

Consequently, up to midnight, we stood in the wings watching others dance, and I waiting and not having courage to enter the dance floor. At midnight, everyone had glasses of free, abominable champagne, and toasted. Steve went to get another glass and I held onto mine, and a kind man about my age walked by and clinked glasses with me, looking me in the eye. A turning point: I threw caution to the winds and began the new year dancing.

There’s a primeval thing that makes us greet the new year with merriment—that barely sensed relief that we have, despite all, lived on; the hope that springs eternal; the elation that sun does not die at the solstice. The Latinos around us ululated in Arabic fashion and kissed one another passionately as the clock struck the new year—and then danced with abandon.

I felt all these primeval impulses, even knotted in my Anglo knots, and determined that this year will be one of hope for me. At the same time, I felt a deep sadness welling up, that Simpson did not live to see this new year in. In the midst of life, we are in death: life is nothing but dying, rising, dying, rising. Even as we live, we die, and yet each death brings new life in some way. (Do I really want to say—and do I really believe—this?)

Anyway, wonderful to dance and cavort and see the beautiful beings all around. And to celebrate being gay in a healthy, open, unapologetic way. And wonderful to see the way straight couples, single people accompanied by no one, transvestites—anyone, everyone—danced together amidst gay ones without interference or rejection of anyone.

Then, today, we breakfasted with Stanislaw C.’s Ethiopian friend Abate M., a charming man of 60 who took us to an Ethiopian dinner at Sheba Café—injeera, curried chicken, fried fish, curried peas, collards, cabbage, salad, and bulghur. We ate with our fingers and talked and talked, drank Ethiopian mead, and then Abate M. drove us around the city.

It was charming to see the Lincoln Memorial and the Einstein statue and the National Cathedral at night, in the starkness of winter. Other hearty souls were about, and one heard snatches of conversation much more interesting than one hears in the day, among tourists.

The Vietnam memorial was an experience—my first time to see it. Of course, reading had prepared me, so the actual experience was something of a let-down. Even so—so many lives, and think what remains. And not a single statement of repentance, or a vow not to let this happen again . . . .

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