Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Washington Social Diary

Georgetown Library has been renovated after a fire.
Of Films and Final Sales: New Year's in Washington
by Stephanie Green

Washington is a city of bibliophiles.

At any given moment, a Washingtonian is probably involved in one if not all of the following activities: reading a book, writing a book, writing a book's blurb, attending a friend or colleague's book party, or rushing to the local book store to see what his former friend, colleague, or lover has to say about him or her in their new memoir.

Posters quietly announce the closing of this once Georgetown hot spot.
Needless to say, book stores in the nation's capital engender a special reverence.

The Barnes and Noble in Georgetown, a three-story brick building in the heart of Washington's most illustrious neighborhood, closed on December 31, much to the consternation of many.

I was no exception.

There were no signs announcing the closing. Just standard "clearance" posters in the windows, which I mistook for usual holiday season marketing.

It did not occur to me that the "final clearance" sale really was final until I stopped in over the long weekend and saw the store clearing out.

The barren shelves and half empty tables were disheartening to see, especially since this place is usually a hub of activity with big book signings by major political figures.

The sales associate, ever the trained diplomat, explained that the store's lease had not been renewed.

I noticed Georgetowners and their out of towner guests cashed in on the going out of business bargains.
Barnes and Noble sits on prime real estate in the heart of Georgetown.
The store made one last push to clear all titles.
The tables and shelves in the front of the store were nearly empty.
Customers checking out for good.
I ended up snagging two CDs from the palatial store's second floor music department for the bargain price of 13 dollars.

Although I'm saddened to see this store where I've been shopping for years go (rumor has it an H& M will replace it), I think this presents an excellent and long overdue opportunity for Georgetown's small privately owned book shops to thrive, not to mention our Georgetown Library, which has experienced a renaissance after being renovated after a ravaging fire a few years ago.
Barnes and Noble after closing on December 31.
Prominent examples are The Lantern book shop on P Street where one can purchase out of print copies of everything from glossy art books to obscure novels.

The Lantern is one of those off the beaten path gems, unknown to tourists, always quiet, and I assume its owners, who give proceeds to young women attending Bryn Mawr College on scholarship, would like to keep it that way.

I'm sure they won't mind, however, if a few residual Barnes and Noble shoppers stop by.
The Lantern book shop in Georgetown is a tucked away book mine.
Better known but just as quaint is Bridge Street Books on Pennsylvania, just a stone's throw away from the venerable Four Seasons Hotel.

I stopped by to get their take on the Barnes and Noble closing, and was told that the opening of the Barnes and Noble hurt their business, so its closing can only help.

The Barnes and Noble die-hards can rest easy knowing that their other downtown location isn't going anywhere.
Bridge Street Books on Pensylvania, just a few blocks away from the old Barnes and Noble will likely benefit from the closing.
Washington's bibliophiles range in age and background, but all are united in their love of the written word. As Thomas Jefferson said, "I cannot live without books!"
If Washingtonians weren't book shopping, or attending cozy fireside fetes over the weekend, they were (where else?) at the movies.

Like our New York counterparts, we are savvy enough to know that the best films are always released at the end of the year, just in time for film award nominations.

I spent two days in a row at downtown's E Street Cinema, a small, privately owned theatre, known for its selection of foreign and avant guard movies.
Downtown's E Street Cinema welcomed holiday film lovers.
Washingtonians line up at the movies.
"The Artist" was a favorite for lovers of the silent film era. A man peruses the poster for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
On Saturday, I saw "A Dangerous Method", the biopic directed by David Cronenberg about a triangular relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and their patient Sabina Spielrein.

On Sunday, I was back for the silent film "The Artist", voted the best movie of 2011 by the District of Columbia Film Critics Association.

I whole-heartedly agree with their assessment, but my friends at the theatre tell me that the spy flick "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" with Gary Oldman was by far the biggest ticket seller.
Lining up for the requisite popcorn.
Photographs by Stephanie Green.