Friday, February 4, 2011

ABAB (Always Bring a Book)

I can't remember which book I read where the narrator's father told her, ABAB. "Always bring a book," he said, "and you'll never lack for a friend."  Yet I remember the line, which rang true for me. In the prehistoric, pre-Facebook age, it was my habit to have something to read no matter where I went.  On the school bus and later on the street car. Now it's for the airport and when I eat out alone on business trips, though I cop to updating my status from my phone. 

In DC this past week, I marched ten blocks from the Firm's office to a well-reviewed spot called, on its website, a modern, gastronomic pub.  The photos showed a cozy place where patrons could rent a personal Scotch cabinet.  They had bangers and mash and Shepherd's pie, and it was around thirty degrees with flurries, a departure from the shirt-sleeves weather I'd left in Fort Worth, so I decided I would go with my university years' formula of a long walk followed by comfort food and a stout beverage. 

The place, called Againn, was more modern than pub, and the bar was sparsely populated with the earnest, self-important types that in my brief experience fill the ranks of organizations in the nation's capital.  There wasn't a cute outfit or a decent haircut in the place, but they all seemed quite impressed with themselves. My white faux-fur vest was, judging by the nasty glares I got, not quite faux enough.  The bartender was capable but aloof, so conversation was going to be out of the question.   Luckily I'd brought with me Charles Portis' novel True Grit.  My son and I had seen the movie the weekend before, and I fell under the spell of the language in the new version, which I understood to be true to the novel. 

I looked over the barkeep, who was closing in on thirty but sporting bloodshot eyes and bedhead--not attractive or age appropriate, but I guess having his job in a city of overachievers could drive a guy to a routine of self-inflicted pain--who had finally asked me after five minutes if I wanted a glass of wine.

I turned my attention back to the text. are a pearl of a great price to me, but there are times when you are an almighty trial to those who love you.  This is such a lovely way to tell someone they are a pain in the ass. Even better: From time to time he went there to pay attention to a lewd woman. 

One of the benefits of being a middle-aged woman sitting at a bar, particularly when one is armed with a book and a pair of reading glasses, is that no one suspects me of being a lewd woman. In fact, no one pays me much attention at all, unless it's his job. So as I ate the admittedly fine Shepherd's pie (lamb and a lot of garlic made the dish) and enjoyed delicious prose, I put my invisibility to good use to eavesdrop on the young women clad in unimaginative Ann Taylor sale rack ensembles. One was waiting for her new boyfriend. She was talking about how she didn't know how into her he was, and then she and her friend commenced to harping about some girl at the office.  I have twenty years on them, and I thought, I have been to this movie before.. Then I settled up and walked back in the snow, fortified by the good meal and the prospect of a very, very nice hotel room. Another perk of middle age. 


  1. I love pub food. Have you tried Delaney's on 7th? I had pretty good shepherd's pie (not as good as yours) but there were other dishes I wanted to try. I laugh at your description of the looks given your white vest--I remember going to NYC years ago in clothes that would have been chic in Fort Worth but were plainly all wrong.
    My longstanding ABAB rule is one reason I got a Kindle--they're cheap, and you should try it.

  2. real books have a cover that other people can read. ebook readers only have their brand name on the outside. but i guess you should never judge a book by it's cover in the first place

  3. I Googled and found this page because like you, that part of the book stuck with me and continues to be a mantra for my family. What book was it?? I think she was in Africa, maybe in Peace Corps?

  4. I Googled and found this page because like you, that part of the book stuck with me and continues to be a mantra for my family. What book was it?? I think she was in Africa, maybe in Peace Corps?