the daily grind

Oranoco Bay Park, Alexandria, VA
Yesterday was a different sort of day, and a welcome break. Even if I didn’t find what I wanted.

After dropping Katie off at National Harbor for her conference, I took a leisurely drive down the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Alexandria to Mt. Vernon, and drove back to the hotel.

I walked three blocks to the waterfront where I sat on a bench in the shade and read the Washington Post. Did you know that more Americans believe in alien abductions (45%, 1997) and public caning for teen vandals (37%, 1994) than approve of Congress today(14%)? (According to the article by Rosalind S. Helderman and Peyton M. Craighill, there is no poll yet on abducting or caning members of Congress.)

Fortunately, or not, Congress is on their well-deserved, or not, summer recess and the President has gone to the beach. And this is my recess too, sort of. So I read, answered some email, talked to my son Pilgrim on the phone and watched the boats on the Potomac till noon, about three hours.

Then I walked through the Torpedo Factory, a converted plant than now houses 6 galleries and 82 artist studios. I wouldn’t say I saw the art. Any single studio would require a half hour or so of study and conversation with the artist to have any real sense of its depth or beauty.

I just walked through it, on my way to lunch. Which was ceviche at Agua Viva, a Miami fusion restaurant where I ignored the very tempting Cuban sandwich for chopped grouper, scallops and shrimp in a lime dressing with fresh cilantro, onions and tomato.

There are lots of places to eat in Old Town, or course. But fewer places to have coffee, which was my next objective. Unless you like Starbucks; there are several of them. I’m not so much of a coffee snob that I won’t drink coffee at Starbucks, especially on the road where there is something to be said for a safe, known quantity.

Old Christ Church, Alexandria
But when you are in a new place for a few days it’s nice to sample the local fare. So, after lunch, and after walking through a Gap Outlet store and visiting Old Christ Church where George Washington served on the vestry for 22 years, I set off to find the perfect local coffee experience.

To start with, there are plenty of bakeries: la Madeleine, Bittersweet Bakery, Buzz Bakery, Bread and Chocolate, Lavender Moon Cupcakery, and Le Pain Quotidien.

These dens of temptation (I’m diabetic) are more interested in pastry than in coffee, of course. But if I had to pick one it would be Le Pain, which describes itself as a “bakery and communal table.” There are individual tables but the focal point is a very large long table where people and sit and talk with neighbors and strangers.This would be a good idea if American’s actually talked to strangers in public places.

But since congress is on vacation (excuse me, recess) I think the debt-ceiling super-committee should put on Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses and hang out there until they cut the requisite trillion plus dollars out of the budget. (Senator Kerry’s haircut would probably give them away.)

The tourists who join them will have lots of good ideas, however, like shorter vacations for congressmen lucky enough to have a job.

But I was looking for a coffee house, and the Google map on my iPhone gave me three options:

• Fontaine Caffe & Crêperie, which is more interested in serving crêpes than coffee,
• Grape and Bean, which is more interested than serving wine than coffee, and
• Old Town Coffee and Tea, which sounds like it would be more interested in serving tourists than coffee.

It turned out not to be interested in serving coffee at all. It’s an odd little out of the way shop that sells coffee and tea in bulk, so I bought some organic Makaibari and Golden Monkey teas before I left.

Still no coffee. And I promised Amanda Campbell I would write about quaint little coffee shops in Alexandria.

So now I have. There aren’t any.

And I get to write the whole trip off. I came to Alexandria intending to write about it and now I can deduct the cost of travel, lodging and meals. It’s one of those corporate tax loopholes that caused the debt ceiling crisis in the first place. We even own a corporate jet(ta).

Of course we could write it off anyway, since it is a business trip for Katie. But in the spirit of the thing I stopped into the Firehook Bakery and Coffee House for an iced coffee to go before heading back to the hotel.

It’s all in a days work.

CODA: I finally had a decent cup of coffee that night at Tavernac Cretekou, but they are more interested in selling really great spanakotiropites and other things that include the letter K. You can see a video I took of an elderly customer dancing to live traditional music here.

3 thoughts on “the daily grind”

  1. “We even own a corporate jet(ta).” . . . ROFL!!! 😀

    It was delightful to take a break vicariously wandering through Alexandria with you while tethered to my computer for my own “daily grind” . . . writing curriculum for a tutoring company. And I was sipping my homemade “daily grind” . . . a tall iced mocha 🙂 I’ll make you one if you revisit the Boston area anytime soon.

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