Love, Absurdity, and Rock Bottom

Photo: Goats make everything better.

(Pictured is the small herd of assorted animals at the Inn At Little Washington.)

SWOONING

Preface: It’s hard to believe I didn’t own a TV, for almost ten years, not all that long ago.

Johnny Rose: Apparently there’s a lice outbreak in your class. 

Alexis Rose: Ewww. It’s probably Kelsey. She’s such a horse girl. 

Johnny Rose: Honestly, Alexis, if you don’t like the way somebody looks….

Alexis Rose: Dad, that is so mean! She doesn’t look like a horse. She just talks about them a lot…and smells a bit.

(Shitt’s Creek. Season 3, Episode 1)

It took a few episodes to get into Shitt’s Creek, but now I can’t turn it off. Daniel Levy shot to the top of my list of people I would love to meet one day. He is a co-creator, writer, director, and producer of the show and one of its main stars. How does anyone wear that many hats…so well?? He makes me laugh out loud every single episode and I am so grateful for that. He created one of the most epic scenes in television history when his character David Rose lip-synced Tina Turner’s “The Best” to his partner. It’s right up there with John Cusack holding the boombox over his head blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything or Hugh Grant dancing to The Pointer Sisters’ “Jump” in Love Actually. It left me swooning, my heart full, and so in love with love. 

Russ and I just started Designated Survivor on Netflix as well, which is good, but a little surreal. The dystopian DC landscape the producers imagined in 2016 feels as if it’s growing some roots here in 2021 (especially after this Wednesday in the District). I learned a new term on the show—“classic post-disaster acceleration,” when “traumatic events [tend to] make people reevaluate their lives—babies, marriage, divorce.” “It happened after 911,” says the Chief-of-Staff, Aaron Shores, citing proof of its validity. Scott Galloway has  called the coronavirus an accelerant from the very beginning. In his latest book, Post Corona, he says, “The pandemic’s primary effect has been to accelerate dynamics already present in society….Take any trend—social, business, or personal—and fast-forward ten years” (p. xvi-xvii). 

What has the coronavirus accelerated for you, or brought to the forefront of your mind?

FANTASYLAND

Russ and I had a dinner reservation at the Inn at Little Washington Wednesday night to celebrate his birthday the previous day. It took six months to secure a reservation. We like to visit annually, but didn’t make it last year. As we packed our bags that afternoon, hell erupted in the Capitol, and the city was enveloped in chaos and danger. Russ and I rushed to get in the car, only to hit the the tunnel where traffic sat jammed across four lanes like a pack of impatient hounds, nipping at each other’s heels before the hunt starts. Drivers were gunning their gas pedals, only to slam on the brakes, yelling unintelligibly at unidentified perpetrators of unknown accusations. I kept thinking to myself, “I will be so fucking pissed if this is where it all ends for us…in a dirty tunnel…surrounded by a bunch of crazies, armed with two tons of moving steel.”

Luckily, we continued crawling through the tunnel to the other side. The traffic lightened considerably and we made it to Washington, VA in good time. We booked a room there for the first time. The Mayor had instituted a 6 pm curfew and we decided driving back into the city late at night wasn’t the best idea. 

As we pulled into the Inn, two valets greeted us, and ushered us inside, sans bags. We were met by the warmth of the crackling fire, as they handed us a sparkling “Welcome” cocktail—champagne infused with a homemade basil/citrus syrup. The taste was refreshingly sweet, with the mild earthiness of basil. We were instantly transported into another dimension of peace and tranquility, far from the city we left behind.

The Inn is preceded only by its platinum reputation curated across the last four decades. The food is exquisite, delicious, and beautiful. Each dish is its own work of art, every detail perfect, from the combination of flavors to the aesthetics of presentation. But dining at the Inn isn’t just about the food. It’s the entire experience from start to finish. It’s the beautifully appointed rooms and the stellar service. It’s Cameron Smith, the Inn’s cheese specialist, known as the “Cheez-Whiz.” Cameron’s puns roll off his tongue as he pushes the mooing cheese-dispensing cow, Faira, through the dining room, both hilarious and absurd.

It’s the Inn’s sommelier with her intimate knowledge of each wine. It’s the round, scalloped, glass bottle with the corked stopper sitting on the side table in our room—a complimentary digestiv, accompanied with short-stem boutique glasses and a pair of sugar cookies shaped like a dog bone. It’s the French doors leading to our balcony, furnished like a comfortable porch in Nantucket, to the sound of falling water in the fountain across the street. I’ve only scratched the surface of the entire experience while simultaneously belittling it, my modest use of language failing to capture its essence with words. You have to experience the Inn for yourself to truly understand it. 

COMPLEXITY

We woke Thursday morning to a crisp, clear day in Washington (VA). After breakfast I sat on the balcony and read the complimentary newspaper. The flags on the railing rippled in the breeze, the only sound to be heard. I couldn’t help but consider how diametrically opposed the atmosphere was between the two Washingtons. The differences presented clearly showcased one of the biggest issues Americans face: growing income inequality, leading to a caste-system society. 

How did we get here?

I have a good idea, but that’s another conversation for another day. There is no need to add to the volatility that already prevails. Suffice it to say, January 6th was a horrible day for the United States. Have we finally hit rock bottom? I sure hope so. Rock bottom contains the silver lining of transforming into a platform to push off from, should we choose, and repair our failings as a society. 

When I haven’t been watching Netflix in my free time, I’ve been reading a lot. My writing hasn’t been going well. For the past several weeks, I’ve come away from my desk feeling like a beginner learning to sit the trot for the first time—battered and bruised, sore, scratching my head, wondering if the “fun” I signed-up for was, in fact, fraudulent advertising. The latest book I completed is Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. 

The author, neurologist Lisa Feldman Barrett says, “Behaviour of a complex system [our brain] is more than the sum of its parts…When existing brain parts become more flexible, the result is much more complexity than we get by accumulating new parts…[and] more complexity may make it more resilient to injury.”

Humans have complex brain systems. Are we employing any of the myriad of capabilities our brains provide us right now? Using brains as a metaphor for the macrocosm of life, isn’t society’s role to be greater than the sum of its parts? Isn’t this where we derive our strength? Through our flexibility and cooperation?

Isn’t this how we generate our resilience as a country?

I admit, I am one to easily succumb to the fallacy of oversimplification. I’m not alone in wanting the world to make sense, to understand it, and to solve its complex problems, using finely-tuned heuristics to spearhead my own personal mission in this world. But even a naive perspective can pay dividends, and gain traction, if it spurs deliberate action towards a greater good. I think it’s fair to say, it’s time for all of us to get started.

2 thoughts on “Love, Absurdity, and Rock Bottom

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