Community Palette

Staying Safe, Healthy and Sane and Seeing Beauty in the World

April 9, 2020

As a senior living alone in DC this crisis brings with it some interesting thoughts and feelings. One is how important it is to remain connected to friends, and second to have a schedule to keep my sanity and remain positive. I have found taking walks around DC, keeping safe social distance from others, is wonderful. I take pictures of the incredible array of spring flowers to remind me there is still beauty in the world and life goes on despite this pandemic.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Friends know in normal times I am up each day at 6:30 am and start my day at Java House for coffee. Our coffee group has been meeting for over twenty years, rain or shine for whoever is in town, except Thanksgiving and Christmas when Java is closed. There are about twenty-five of us each occasionally bringing friends. Inside in winter the rest of the year on the patio. Bebee, the mainstay of the Java staff, knows what each of us drinks and eats and as soon as she sees us we are served. For me it has become family.

While not a very diverse group, all are liberal Democrats, we do argue politics and everything else. Some are sports fanatics others into the theater. Over the twenty years the group has aged but we try to invite newbies and there are a fair number of youngsters (I consider youngsters anyone from twenty-one to forty-five) to join us. Some in the group work for the State Department, some like me had government and non-profit experience, two former members of Congress, a Dean at American University, some techies and of course some lawyers one a former Solicitor General and another a Cabinet Secretary.  As you can imagine it is a group with a lot of opinions and no one is hesitant to voice theirs. A few years ago someone wrote on YELP “I love Java House in the mornings except for Peter Rosenstein and his bloviating pensioners”. We took offense only at the term pensioners as many in the group were still working full time. We accepted bloviating which at times is appropriate. 

So when Covid-19 arrived in DC and Java House was limited to take-out coffee and bagels, it was tough.  Then one of our group set up a Zoom Kaffeklatch each morning which has been a godsend for me during this stressful time. I can walk to Java at 7:30am, get my coffee to go, and then get on zoom for an hour and chat with everyone. We have had guests join us from as far away as Mexico and Paris. Occasionally inviting an expert on some topic to join us.  It has been the social outlet I need. Some have used zoom for virtual cocktail hours and dinners. Friends did a virtual Passover Seder. I had a zoom appointment with my dermatologist. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

For me having a schedule has been important. It has included exercise hours, and regular mealtimes now that meals have become solo events usually in front of the TV. I have tried to keep to a healthy diet but cheated recently with ice cream.  I am always impressed how the cookie section of my local Safeway is always restocked but have stayed away from it thus far. By-the-way can’t say thank-you enough to the great people working at Safeway and all the grocery stored in DC for their work during these difficult times. They are truly on the front lines along with our first responders; healthcare workers, police, EMS, and fire. My friends share pictures on FB of all the things they have baked but since the only kitchen appliance I am familiar with is a microwave I unfortunately have no pictures to share. 

The rest of my day is occupied with reading everything from The Georgetown Dish, New York Times, Washington Post and junk novels. Thanks to Kindle there are an endless supply of those. I spend too much time on FB and have called friends around the world some of whom I haven’t talked with in years. Remember we are all in this together. 

I continue to write my regular columns for the Washington Blade but now do them for free. It’s part of my donation to the Blade which is one of those small but crucial news sources. The Blade serves the LGBTQ+ community across the nation and I believe its survival is crucial.  As a founding board member of the Blade Foundation I urge anyone who can to make a small donation.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

It is my hope you are all finding a way to stay safe and healthy in both mind and body. Those of you with families, lovers or friends quarantined with you surely have all kinds of other things to do. My good friends are making sure their triplets are keeping up with their school work. 

Wherever you are it is important to check in with your neighbors by phone, email and any other way you can. We will get through this crisis if we stick together (just with that six foot separation and a mask) and just maybe it will bring a lasting understanding of the importance of community. Only together will we survive and thrive and I know we will.  

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Will Sanders Do the Right Thing in 2020?

March 31, 2020

In 2016, when it was clear Hillary Clinton had the required number of delegates to win the nomination and Sen. Bernie Sanders had lost he refused to accept the result and pushed on to the convention continuing to incite his supporters against Clinton. Let’s hope he will not do the same in 2020 to Joe Biden.


There were times before when a losing candidate’s supporters threatened not to work for the nominee but in 2016 it was the candidate himself who made things worse. In 2020, let’s hope Sanders will talk to his supporters and convince them how important it will be to unite behind the nominee of the party in the general election.


In 2008, I was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton and was an elected delegate for her to the convention in Denver. It had been a hard fought campaign and contrary to the 2016 primary campaign, which Hillary won by four million votes, the vote count was about equal between she and Barack Obama. Nevertheless he won the delegates needed for the nomination. Hillary called a meeting of her delegates at the convention and told us what she would do and asked that we enthusiastically support her when she stood on the floor to ask the convention to make the Obama nomination unanimous.


Just prior to the convention when it was clear Obama would have the needed delegates for the nomination I wrote a column for the Washington Blade pledging my support for him and urged everyone to do the same. I was pilloried by a large group of Hillary supporters who called themselves PUMAs, which stood for ‘Party Unity my Ass.’ The difference between 2008 and 2016 was Hillary not only spoke to unity, she and Bill campaigned enthusiastically with and for Obama across the nation. In 2016, Sanders did the opposite. He kept Hillary waiting for 30 days leading into the convention refusing to endorse her and actually kept inciting his supporters against her. Then after the convention, when Sanders did travel the country to ostensibly support Hillary, you only had to listen to realize all his speeches were about him. We later learned he was already taking notes for his book, which would make him one of the millionaires he had spent his campaign railing against.


Now with the Democratic primary in 2020 all but over, Sanders has a chance to make up for that. As I write this column, it is already clear Biden will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. If the results of the Tuesday primaries match the polling in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona (Ohio postponed due to coronavirus) and prove anywhere near to being correct they will have been the nail in the coffin of Sanders’s campaign. So Sanders will have the opportunity to make a quick endorsement and pledge to truly campaign for the nominee and move to unify the party.

His role must focus on urging his supporters, particularly those who stayed home or voted for a third party in 2016 in a protest against Clinton to understand if they do that again they are helping to reelect Trump. After four years of Trump they now know how dangerous that will be to any of their dreams and aspirations and to democracy as we know it.

Sanders can remind them if Democrats don’t take back the presidency and the Senate, Trump will continue to nominate, and the Senate will confirm, lifetime ultra-conservative judges who will rule against all they believe in for generations. In 2020, Sanders has to control his ego and accept he will never be president of the United States. If he is able to do that he will have that major role in electing a Democratic president and defeating Trump. While he and Biden may differ on many things I do believe Sanders will fight for our country and fight to protect the Constitution. Defeating Trump may just depend on his doing that.

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'Timon of Athens' is a Stunning Production

February 26, 2020

Simon Godwin makes his directorial debut at the Shakespeare Theatre with a stunning production of Timon of Athens. Godwin shows himself to be a creative and exciting director with this production. It is visually stunning and keeps you enthralled from beginning to end.

Now there is another reason you are enthralled from beginning to end and that is the incredible Kathryn Hunter in the role of Timon. Kathryn is not new to cross-gender casting as she was the first woman to play King Lear which she did in 1997. Godwin has described her as a ‘force of nature’ and after seeing her in this role you know why. She commands the stage. The only thing I can find small fault with is often when she is not toward the front of the stage you miss some of her words. She is speaking Shakespearian English so fast and there is a kind of rasp to her voice so some of the words are missed which is a shame because when she is stage center you realize you don’t want to miss a moment of her performance. Her physical performance is as captivating as her spoken word. 

Yonatan Gebeyehu (Photo by: Gary Goodstein) Yonatan Gebeyehu

Timon of Athens is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays and I would suggest you may want to familiarize yourself with it before going. It could heighten your appreciation of the production. Historians have suggested it was co- written with Thomas Middleton. The main plot of Timon is he is a generous benefactor to many who call themselves his friends. Upon losing his money and approaching them for help he is turned away and they are all unmasked as ingrate sycophants who willingly and happily supped at his table and boasted of being his friend when he was rich.

The subplot is made clear in this production when Timon loses his money and ends up supporting a civil insurrection. It is easy to see today’s world in this production. How money plays such an important role in trying to maintain the status quo for the rich and those born to the manor. How corrupt to their core many can be with an utter lack of scruples in their effort to maintain their lifestyles and power. The play forces you to think about the incredible economic inequality in the world today and the dramatic differences of those in the 1% from the rest of the world and the struggle that causes.

Godwin has taken the liberty of not only casting a woman as Timon but also to cast women in the roles of many of the other characters who were written as men. But through all the struggle of this play and the interactions between wealth and poverty the play ends on a high note which leaves you feeling there is some hope left for the world. As Godwin has said “He hopes in this production to activate a wilder satirical energy in the playing of it. There is a great deal of savage humor in the first half of the play which then helps make the tragic turns the play takes in the second act feel shocking yet also appropriate.” You will feel he has succeeded in this effort superbly. 

Kathryn Hunter (Photo by: Henry Grossman) Kathryn Hunter

In addition to Kathryn the rest of the cast is all wonderful. Some standouts are Yonatan Gebeyehu as the Poet, Arnie Burton as Apemantus, Zachary Fine as the Painter, and Kristen Misthopoulos as the Greek Singer. But they are all able to command the stage in turn and you will surprised at the staging as they are not always speaking from the stage. 

But what adds immeasurably to making this production so riveting are the sets, costumes, lighting and music. Costumes and Sets are by the incredibly talented Soutra Gilmour. The Lighting Designer is Donald Holder, music composer is Michael Bruce and sound design is by Christopher Shutt. 

This is a production you should see for many reasons. As I have said it is stunning but it is also a fine celebration of the talent of Simon Godwin the new Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Timon of Athens will be at the Michael R. Klein Theatre, formerly the Lansburgh, through March 22nd. 

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