Wombat goes to Washington

Under the sassafras with Mary Costello

Under the sassafras with Mary Costello

Kay, Barbara, Jean in Poetry Room

Kay, Barbara, Jean in Poetry Room
Alison & bike on Metro

Alison & bike on Metro

In the poet's corner, attic of Library of Congress

In the poet's corner, attic of Library of Congress

No sooner had I stepped out of the tunnel at the Shady Grove metro station, than I was greeted by the warm autum breeze and a flower-seller  missing four teeth.

Is this the ‘kiss -and-run’area?” I asked sheepishy.


She could tell I wasn’t a flower buyer. I had a tiny backpack and that hobo hat on. Behind me I heard a voice speak.

Aren’t you Jacquie Phelan?”

Nearby stood a woman pushing her bike out of the trains station.

She (Alison Horton, a transplanted Californian) said she’d heard of me and WOMBATS, liked what I was doing etc.

“I’m in town to hear the muscle poet  (aka the Poet Laureate of The United States, PLOTUS) Kay Ryan read at the Library of Congress tomorrow night. YOU should come..it’s free and I promise you, Kay will rock your world…”

Damn if Alison didn’t take me up on it, coming to Coolidge Auditorium the next day without really knowing what she was getting into.

Amid a home team of Fairfaxians, Alison and I got great seats down low, and I caught up with Poe, Sam, Laura and David.

“Tthis is going rather well”  said Kay  as a tsunami of applause engulfed her.

She read, and even re-read  an hour’s worth of wisdom-nuggets…Deer Park, the Gordian knot one, some new ones….since her little pile of books had been left on the plane, she was going without notes. I pray some kind person will send the precious trove back to her.
One of Kay’s great causes is the role community colleges play in the “freeing” of people…how it’s not just big four year institutions that inspire our citizens but unsung and undervalued institutions in every community.  She likened them to the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that nourishes the soil that the legumes grown in…’the students return to their community…they stick around’.

Then a reception after that–quite lavish, the government-issue spread of white wine, sparking water, good cheese, crostini and vegetables.  . Poets, artists, very animated mix of people….Grace Cavalieri (one of the Poetry Project’s producers) enthused about my ‘rebellious’ hairdo. That makes three compliments in one day. As a dispenser of sartorial compliments myself, it is gratifying to think someone voted ‘yes’ for my Medusa ‘do.
Trooped over to Mr. Henry’s a celebrated hamburger joint, whose waiter, Marvin Ross was a major dear. Forty years in service to the thirsty, starved, and the impatient. A writer (Marianne something) wrote a hilarious account of trying to work there…

Toasts were raised, plates were licked clean, and everyone disappeared before the metro closed.

Woke up the next day at noon, in Bethesday Maryland. I owe my unseen hostess a big thanks.

I love this town where people love your hair, know your name, and  spontaneously come to a poetry reading .

Great City.

Wombat Mary Costello (71 summers and counting) took me up in the Gambrill forest to sample the incredible combo plate of Frederick trails.
We spent a couple hours, shared left d’oeuvre pizza in the middle of the trail, and got a shot or two while I adjusted to the new time zone. Wished Kay were able to just borrow a bike and be chauffeured as easily (I will find out if she would LIKE that), since one  of the major bonuses of living in this area is Proximity To Public Trails.

~ by jacquiephelan on October 23, 2009.

2 Responses to “Wombat goes to Washington”

  1. Oh the life Jacquie. Will I get the same when I hit the tarmac in California in April like a typical Canuck with a bike in a hockey bag?

    I’ll share my seagull poem for a meal.


  2. Hey I won’t be 71 till Nov. 3, but it’s pretty cool to be able to ride the rocks in Gambrill at any age and a special treat to ride them with the fabulous Ms. Phelan. Jacquie is a fantastic guest, rider, companion – she wants me to go on and on but you get the idea. i love her. Mary

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