Thursday, September 29, 2022

Field Trip


Have you ever read Baltimore-native Anne Tyler’s An Accidental Tourist? Yesterday morning, as I ended up in an entirely new place, I mused that there are days that my blog might be subtitled: Field Trips of a Confirmed Homebody. Big adventures for me these days are often somewhat behind the curve for everyone else. 

Nonetheless, they are still big adventures for me.

I’ve been working on a longer blog post that requires more than the usual amount of thought. I decided that I needed a change of scene.

I headed over to Busboys and Poets, which is conveniently located adjacent to Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, my own personal center of the downtown universe. I’ve had a visit on my to-do list ever since I learned that friend Candace Dodson Reed has photographs on display there. 

Why not breakfast? I thought. I can get some work done and then take a look around the place afterwards.

I was greeted by Karen, who, once I had confessed I was a first-time visitor, became my instant ambassador for all things Busboys and Poets. As it was early and not crowded, Karen let me pick my own table, all while giving me a rundown of all the things I should see while I was there. 

Considering that I’ve eaten inside a restaurant only once since March of 2020, having my own personal ambassador was rather reassuring.

If you have been to Busboys and Poets and met Karen, you will know what I am talking about. She made me feel like a visiting dignitary but also like her new best friend. It’s a gift, and she has definitely got it. She explained that she has spent her career in the restaurant business and used to be at Clyde’s. I was interested to learn that the Columbia location of Busboys and Poets has brought in a new management team to (fine tune? transform? bring up to speed?) work with the staff and get things just right.

Karen’s eyes sparkled as she described her feeling that the restaurant was really coming into its own now. The future felt full of possibility.

Sitting in the airy and beautifully decorated space I had my own feelings about future and possibility. I was on an adventure and so far it was going really well.

One thing that Karen said has stayed with me. “You know the People Tree?” she asked. “Over in Columbia?” I nodded. “Well, an artist came in and painted the People Tree here. It’s up at the front. You’ve got to come take a look at it before you go.

Over in Columbia.

Over in Columbia? 

I’m still thinking about that. Meanwhile, back to breakfast.

My server was Zoe. She took my order for iced coffee and referred me to the QR code on the table so that I could explore the menu. There was just one problem. My phone wouldn’t open the darn thing. When she came back with my drink I explained my dilemma. She wasn’t surprised. Something about the building makes the wifi wonky, so she suggested I use the in-house password to access theirs.

In the meantime I just told her what I wanted, without benefit of menu, and she made it happen. Like magic.

I ended up with a bit more food than I had planned on, but it was all delicious. It was definitely more than a late breakfast. It made lunch completely unnecessary. 

I did manage to get some work done while I was there but the sensory experience of being in a new place which is so visually fascinating did make it hard to stay on task. (I started taking notes on the restaurant.) I noticed that a lot of the staff were wearing masks, which meant a lot to me. The customer service experience was well above average. It was clear that staff has been directed to attend to the smallest detail. Every interaction was relaxed and friendly. And that includes Zoe. She was excellent.

I am pleased to report that the older gentleman seated across the way - - the one wearing the jaunty beret - - was not actually smiling hopefully at me but at President Biden, who was giving a speech of some sort on the news program running on the large screen behind me. (Silently, thank goodness.) I don’t know what I was thinking. The man was clearly seated next to his wife. They were soon joined by another couple and were having a grand old time. I bet they’re regulars.

In honor of my photographer friend Candace, I took an artistic photograph of the ceiling. The ceilings there are amazing, by the way. My photo, on the other hand, is terrible. The brightness of the light interferes with the contrast between the chandelier and the dark, industrial textures of the ceiling.

Ah, well.

I did take a walk around the restaurant when I was done, following the amazing photographic mural up the stairs to the second floor. I looked at the array of art displayed throughout the restaurant. (There’s a video slideshow running on one of the big screens by the bar which tells about the artists.) I noodled through the book section. By the time I was ready to look at my friend’s photographs I noticed that there were people eating in the booth where they are located. 

I asked my new friend Karen whether it would be rude to take a look. Of course she walked me right over there and explained my presence to the two young women who were eating there. She even took one of the photos off the wall and placed it on the bar so I could get a closer look.

Image is People, photograph by Candace Dodson Reed, on display at Busboys and Poets

Ms. Dodson Reed has a number of photographs on display but this is my favorite: the People Tree. You know, over in Columbia.

As I headed back to my car I gave in to temptation and indulged in a bit of restful swinging.

Here ends this episode of “Village Green/Town² waxes eloquent on places you have probably already been before.” Or, Field Trips of a Confirmed Homebody. 

If you haven’t been to Busboys and Poets, I’d recommend it. They do have outdoor seating, which would have been my choice if it had been crowded inside. To learn more, try their website or take a look at this article in Howard Magazine to get you started.

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