Thursday, September 27, 2007

Go Tigers

Wilson's back to school night got off to a rough start yesterday. The doors stood open, and the auditorium was very warm- not having the benefit of air conditioning. The first speaker urged every one to move up as there was no PA system. The principal seemed to be running a few minutes late. Lights kept blinking, and if you looked up, you noticed the large areas of plaster rotting up there in the ceiling. But then, with no press, photography or fanfare, up popped our new mayor, Adrian Fenty.

Fenty's voice was clear and strong while he gave the mandatory short spiel on making school improvements. It was such a morale booster that it really didn't matter what he said. The most important thing to me was that he was there-and that it was not the first time he had been here in this auditorium. It is somewhat comforting that he is from this town-generally only people who are from here can understand here, and even we find it A Challenge.

The rest of the night went well. The teachers, for once, were not complaining about a lack of books or other glaring oversights. There was even a glimmer of optimism. The stadium and field have been renovated, and the pool is finally under reconstruction.

Wilson was a brand new school back in the 1930s, when my dad's brother, Nick Cokinos went. You can literally feel its age going up the stairs which are concave now like the steps of a Roman coliseum. It's still a beautiful building despite its years and deterioration- but it desperately needs improvement- as do the vast majority of our city schools. There is a tiny light now- maybe- just there at the end of this long dark tunnel, but it sure is amazing how fast that new baseball stadium is getting built.

It's enough to keep you guessing.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rodman's Rocks

With all the construction going on up there in Friendship Height's, it's comforting to me to see Rodman's still going strong at 5100 Wisconsin Avenue. It started in 1955 as a drugstore; today it's a landmark, an institution, I'd even call it a phenomenon. As Arlo Guthrie said in Alice's Restaurant- "You can get anything you want" but there is a minor drawback or two.

The first problem with going to Rodman's is getting out of there. You might go in for one quick thing like LU's Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits which Safeway doesn't carry anymore, but there, just as soon as you walk in, are fireworks at the door- 30 percent off- right next to the BBQ sets and the Toblerone bars. This is the back entrance which is a narrow, one small cart aisle created by stacks and stacks and stacks of food and drink: tomato sauce, olives, chutney, baby clams, BBQ sauce, wine, vinegar, sardines, curry paste, Parmesan cheese and stuffed peppers-(wait is that a topping or a side dish?) jams, marinated artichokes, and olive oil. OK, now I'm actually IN the store and officially past "the entrance".

The second problem is which aisle to run to first?
Wine? Snacks?
Look- there's those Italian cookies, the ones in the big red tins, Lazzaroni's that used to have the wrappers you could  light on fire and make a wish on as they rose to the ceiling. And those weird chocolate cigar type cookies someone bought for us in Greece once, not to mention digestive biscuits, whatever they are, and those cinnamon things I just remembered I came in here for.

Oh, and they have Lady Grey Tea. Safeway doesn't seem to stock that anymore either. Fritos, Doritos and crystallized ginger. I don't what to do with it, but I'm intrigued. Squirt bottles of Kalamata olive puree under a sign that says "dessert toppings".  And something that looks like shrunken heads over there in the produce aisle turns out to be celery root. Celery root? O look- they've got a great deal on lemons. Does anyone need a scratch off ticket? A baguette would be good for later. And do I have enough tuna fish?

Over in the beverage aisles, I am befriended by DC native, "Hoppy Dave" who educated me as best he could on the amazing variety of beers he stocks-a happily bewildering experience that almost involved me getting a second cart. (Warning-one cart is bad enough in there- something akin to navigating a Hummer through the back streets of Georgetown.) By the time he was finished with me, my cart was full of stuff I'd never heard of, but couldn't wait to try-including Bell's Batch 8,000, a commemorative ale which only gets made every 8,000 years. ( I might be wrong there, but my head only holds so much info.) He also filled me in on my high school teacher, Bob Tupper who went on to produce Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale, an excellent adult beverage courtesy of Old Dominion Brewery which, Dave tells me, has been bought now by Budweiser. What? That's why there was no Tupper's in sight as the Tuppers don't do "bud."

Now I've solved the problem of leaving Rodman's. My cart is full, and so is my head. But I didn't even make it downstairs to the other floor where the household products are, the coffee makers, the watch repair, play-doh, hair brushes and oh, yeah, it is Rodman's Drug after all. Don't forget the pharmacy and the time.

Thanks, Dave.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

OLD School

Track Team '31. '32, '33; Football '32
IS: Very amusing and talkative
Famous FOR: His stunning "car"
and for his skill at taking cars apart
and putting them together again.

My son Kit just started Duke Ellington School for the Arts- which used to be Western- the high school his grandparents attended. He's a bit disappointed that their athletic program is somewhat limited, but with his school day ending at 5 pm, he won't have time for sports anyway.

People think that high school sports are competitive now, but back in the day, they were just plain tough. My father doesn't like to brag, but he was the fastest kid he knew and could beat anyone his age. When he got to Western, he joined the track team, in hopes of crushing the competition. He couldn't understand why the other guys were beating him. Then he found out- there were no age limits for teams back then. He was 15 and his competitors could be 19 - even 21. The same was true on the football team. He remembers "Turk" Sheahan whose father had a restaurant in Georgetown. Turk was on the football team in 1933, and he was 23 years old when he graduated with Dad. He also remembers Bill Payne, the baseball player who was half bald before he graduated.

Maybe it's a good thing my son's not doing sports.