It was dry and hot, tow days with skies the color of blue jays and temperatures in the 80s. People were saying the weekend after Labor Day felt like the last gasp of summer, and some escaped the sultry reminder with one final trek to the shore, or found solace in a backyard pool or the cool of a movie house, or peace beneath a patch of shade.
The oracles who are paid to divine the near future from the winds started at charts of squiggles inside the National Weather Service's honeycomb of concrete and glass and promised it would be so - the "perfect" weekend for leaving the city or staying put, for puttering about the house or apartment or taking in the sights, for hiking in Rock Creek Park or exploring the pleasures of the great indoors with a game of chess. As usual, the fortune-tellers hedged their promise with whispers about a "slim" chance of rain, but the little that fell Friday night hardly counted. Altogether, a "typical" weekend.
For 31-year-old Caroline Kendricks, actually a pseudonym for a Bethesda furniture store clerk who is so "bored stiff" with her job that she's trying to extricate herself from the monotony of circumstance by studying for an MBA, the weekend was especially nice. Single and "in love" with a prep-school professor who owns a sailboat and shares her lust for "raising a little hell," she ate calamary and shrimp in garlic sauce at El Caribe Saturday night, drinking a bottle of white wine and holding hands under the table. Afterward, they went dancing at Junkanoo, and on Sunday quietly gloated watching Jimmy Connors shot down in flames by Argentina's Guillermo Vilas.
She put on a pot of drip coffee, chopped up a bowl of peppers and onions, warmed muffins in the stove for an omelet brunch.
Such a tempo woudl probably put 73-year-old David Candler in bed for a week. Long retired from the Bureau of Engraving, he finds weekends nothing special. One day is just like the next," he says.
Two years ago his wife died, and now he passes the weekends in much the same way he spends his weekdays - at home alone in his Southeast apartment. He prefers simple pleasures; short walks, jazz music on the radio, television.
Once having played in a Masonic drum corps, he would like to go out and take in a concert, but getting around is not as easy as it once was. "Now that I'm not driving, it's hard to get out," he says. He doesn't sound happy or sad, just resigned to the way things are.
Oh when theres something I like, I might go and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to Kennedy Center. My favorites? Fats Dommo Louis Armstrong . . . You could say I like them all except the staff they're playing now. It [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the ears. Too much noise. Back when I played you couldn't play music if you couldn't read it.
But the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] did not bother the young music lovers in jeans and T-shirts who floated over to Lisner Auditorium to check the modulation of Sea Level, the incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band after Gregg Allman went the way of Cher . . . Or the crowd of 33,000 people who didn't mind the dull roar as they watched grown men play at kids' games and saw the Redskins cough and sputter by the New York Jets in the preseason finale. Those who slog along at jobs during the week - and those who don't work - used the time to recharge in their favority ways.
But three out of 10 people with some leisure time on their hands felt the need to do more than merely watch those who are paid to work up a sweat. At one time or another in and about Washington's eight-county area, 100,000 people whacked at a tennis ball, 50,000 splashed, waded or dog-paddled in water that weekend.
Projecting from a telephone survey of more than a thousand people in the metropolitan area, we can say that more than half of you went to a religious service, shopped for groceries, performed a bit of fix-it around the house of apartment, or read a book. Half a million chomped down at their favorite Neon Takeout, and one out of three fast-food gourmets dined beneath the Golden Arches. Just as many, however, allowed a waiter or waitress to serve at least one sit-down meal. Not everyone was in a hurry.
But almost everyone watched television. It was the great unifier for eight out of 10, the one sedentary pleasure that bound the rich and the poor, the black and the white, into a curious, cross-cultural brotherhood.
Yet, we don't know how many of you watched Baretta smash a smuggling ring, or why many of you foresook the televised spiritual balm of Billy Graham for the earthy fantasies of The Bionic Woman. The printouts don't hint at that - or the stuff of which weekend dreams are made: new loves kindled or old loves lost, how it feels to discover a new hobby that breathes a spark into rut of habit, or the simple joy of watching the kid pedal on two wheels for the first time.
We learned, for example, that one out of four of you are finding weekend fulfillment at some hobby. The gardeners among you belong to a larger network of 36 million American families who dig, plant, pot, repot and harvest for fun. You good buddies with a handles share the CB affliction with 20 million; the stamp collectors gaze through a magnifying glass along with 16 million fellow philatelists. The diverse community of American hobbyists also includes 10 million bridge players, 10 million amateur Alex Haleys shaking their family trees, 3 million photographers and 1 million coin collectors.
Nor does this happiness-seeking come cheap. According to a U.S. News & World Report survey Americans will fork over $160 billion this year for leisure and recreation, and the figure is expected to zoom to $300 billion by 1985.
Such polls can spend your money years before you've earned it, forecast election and GNPs and count the joggers. But we still don't know, say, how far you ran, or how fast, or whether you were so overcome by guilt from the mountain of chips and dip you washed down with the six-pack of beer that you vowed to square things with the God of Fat by a quick bounce around the block . . . so you lit out the door and, after a few steps, proceded to collapse out of breath on the neighbor's lawn . . . Nor do we know if you ran before the self-indulgence, perhaps doing your penance in advance. We'll have to wait a while, until we get to know each other a little better, before we can report things like that.