Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sweet & Loud

That which was not doused with champagne was drowned in chocolate. A friend of mine is leaving for a year in London (where she'll be ostensibly studying international accounting), and she and a third friend and I got together this afternoon at Co Co, a cocoa-centric restaurant near Chinatown in downtown DC. I had frozen chocolate for an aperitif, s'more French toast for an entrée, and chocolate powdered crème brûlée for dessert. And we shared a trio of tiny samples of bubbly, each twinned with appropriate chocolate, through the meal. It will be several days before I feel in the mood for an ice cream sandwich.

The weather here in DC has been decidedly unseasonable. It may be August, but it feels like fall, temperate and without excessive humidity. And the traffic, which usually ebbs at this time of year, has unfortunately continued to surge along at its usual level, with a startling number of major accidents and constipating roadwork slowing the general progress.

My boss, her husband, son, and dog  left for Maine on Friday morning. I was able to take Friday and Saturday off, which was needful considering that I'd been so tired on Thursday that I barely was able to function for a full six working hours. On Wednesday, an antique specialist and his wife and the owner of a local consignment shop--DC denizens for decades--had come over to offer their varied expertise and to share a bottle of Chardonnay. They didn't actually assemble at the house where we were working until 10 PM, and then we all sat around swapping stories of crazy customers until midnight. I learned that several internationally-known American politicians have some really weird relatives, as these friends of my boss shared their tales of houses full of heaps of phonebooks, dangling naked lightbulbs in dim corridors, mummified human heads, spectacular embezzlement and inebriated hair dyeing. Naturally, none of us got home until 1 AM.

Friday, I went out to lunch with a sometime coworker, an octogenarian from Iran who remembers "the good old days" before the 1979 revolution, when she had so many gold necklaces that she kept them on a rack in her closet. I wonder how many other people had such, and I'm inclined to think that because many didn't, they were predisposed to overthrowing the old regime. In the late 1950s or early 1960s, she and her father went to Western Europe on holiday and her father bought a Mercedes in Stuttgart. The two of them ended up road tripping through Tito's Yugoslavia and the breadth of Turkey back to Tehran, a ten-day journey that she remembers as safe and easy. She's a very postmodern Muslim, only nominally associated with that religion, essentially non-practicing, and totally confused and thunderstruck by the fervor of observance in her homeland and neighboring regions.

I had just enough time to brush my teeth once home from my nice lunch of sumac-sprinkled rice, lamb shish kebab and pumpkin soup before driving to Westminster, MD, in what proved to be beginning of the weekend rush hour (starting at 3:30 PM), to meet a man who'd had the dubious fortune of inheriting $100,000 worth of semi-precious gemstones. From films and books one might get the impression that such stones can be easily exchanged for currency; this is true when one is talking about diamonds of high quality and greater than average size, but when it comes to a pile of small peridots, a tray full of aquamarines, another of citrines, and packages of opals and zircons, the challenge becomes considerably greater. There simply isn't a market in normal life for this quantity of middling gems. Most jewelers either keep very few stones on hand, ordering only what their customers request from supply companies, or have trusted dealers with whom they have an ongoing relationship. They do not want to pay appraised values for common stones from strangers. And no one really needs the quantity of sparkly jewels that this poor man was given by his deceased neighbor (for the appraisal of which he had to pay a vast sum in order to satisfy the estate tax requirements).  A few years ago, I got some pieces from him--some to keep, some to consign--but it was not until earlier this year that I discovered that DC-area estate sale customers, particularly Asians, really liked buying loose stones. And since I'm here for another sale, I thought I would try contacting him to see if he had some left he wanted to unload. Tons, it turned out, but even with a discount I could oy relieve him of a handful. It was a long drive, but hopefully I will make my money back, plus some, in the next week. He told me he plans to donate the remainder to a local church. I asked him what he thought a church would do with them, and he said that maybe they'd have the patience he didn't to list them individually on eBay.

Saturday, I got a haircut, had lunch with Anita, picked up a bunch of good clothes for the estate sale, and met up with Leah and Aaron at Jones Point, underneath the roaring Wilson Bridge, for a slow walk and a long chat. We ran into a man I knew, which just goes to show the DC area has many characteristics of a small town.

One more week, and I'll be heading back south. I did get an acknowledgment from the education company in Japan to which I'd applied to teach, telling me that they'd received my submission. Being contacted with such a "yes, we see that you exist and are interested in working for us" email is so rare and precious a thing that it's pitiful the excitement it generated in my long-unemployed heart.

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