ART BUCHWALD'S out," said the woman. "The Swan of Foxhall? What was he in for?" I inquired.
"Nor jail, stupid," she said with a toss of her mane. "Haven't you seen the new W?"
One needs to be cagey. There are so many clever new obscenities used by the young. One does not wish to be thought not know how to cuss.
"This new W." I said, not too tentatively, as if I knew what W was.
"Here," she said, thrusting a publication called W into my hands. "It'll tell you who's in, who's out. Buchwald is out. His wife, Ann, is in."
"Is Jackie Kennedy in?" I asked. I know she used to be.
"Yes. They couldn't find any way to take her out."
One is above this sort of drivel, of course, and I waited until I was quite alone before reading the lists with some care.
Tina Chow is in. Never mind who she is, she's in. Frye boots for men are out. If you're not sure, you'd better take them off on general principle. For men, red undershorts, Donegal tweed caps and snow-shoes (I swear I am going by the W list) are in.
Of course, the new costume takes getting used to.But the great thing is that no reason need be cited for who's in and who's out. They just are.
Regrettably, the W list is mainly for New York.
I shall now tend to Washington myself:
IN - (Restaurants) Lugubrioso's, 59603 Bladensburg Rd., sensational sole with black olives and Pernod; Crusty's Place, Hyattsville, chitterlings with black walnuts in a Mornay sauce - you won't forget this.
IN - (Shops) Ratty's of Cheverly. For those hard-to-find ocelot paws and down-to-earth gum boots. The Waist Not, K Street Wharfs, fabulous wide belts and watch out for the customers: Buhndach's, just off Ward Circle, and just everything, but you'll fall for the tarantulas on wee gold chains (no, they don't bite and they're smart, smart, smart on short black blousers).
OUT - (People) Ann Buckwald (oh so beastly to writers - she's a literary agent - who fall behind schduled turning out books): Daphne Overspill doesn't she rather overdo): Dunsatble Fretley (even if he is the only authority in town on Glack): Jack Smith ( well, what can you say but just yuk).
OUT - Places and Things South Capitol Street Bridge always use Chain Bridge, even if you have to backtrack: Great Falls all those awful tadpoles: the Capitol all those awful people): the Beltray all that awful asphalt).
IN - (Things to Do) Hire a barge with genuine slaves at the oars: Take your own coffee in a Thermos to all Washington receptions to save the cheapskates money: chair a committee on behalf of mountain lions once more on Capitol Hill.
OUT - AND I MEAN UTTERLY - Brie Cheese: Camembert cheese carrots: cocoanuts in any form, however disguised: luncheons except after weddings: bathroom carpets: dog sprays except for ticks; invitations before 8; parties lasting past 11; sleeping bags (better the hard floor); pushups; ears.
IN - (Animals) Hounds, cockroaches (terribly ancient, these), tigers.
OUT - (Animals) Tapirs, Gnus, wombats, cats, swordfish. Republicans, sheep, cockatiels, bream.
That's my list - as for W's, well, too bad about Buchwald. Thank God. I found not before dropping him a note found out before dropping him a note saying I regard him as the greatest writer since Proust. And I still think a pair of snowhsoes might save him. Half a pair.
It is all so depressing - the ins and outs of things - I hardly feel up to telling you about the glory pea.
The glory pea, needless to say, is a desert flower of western Australia and it is excessively hard to flower it where there are no kangaroos. There is no reason it should be difficult. It just is. So when it flowered this month (from seed planted right here in Washington) it was of course a great thing.
"No," said a woman associated with the triumph, "I don't say it's the greatest thing in history. Fire, the invention of the wheel - there must be several others things more important than the glory pea. But it is a very big thing, yes."
"And as I understand it, your boss has been trying to flower this thing for years?" I said.
"At least 10 years," she said. "Every year it was the same. Boil the seeds. Otherwise they don't sprout.
"Some years I think he boiled them more, some years less. It didn't seem to make much difference."
How well we know.
"He'd plant one in a pot," she went on, "in the Washington apartment and there were pots all over. Then he'd lug them up to Connecticut to develop in his greenhouse there. Not that they ever developed to speak of. Just keeled over.
"But this year - we don't know what happened - there were flowers."
Arriving at the Connecticut greenhouse at 10:45 a.m. on a sunny day, with the trimphant raiser at my side, I thought of the botanic gardens here, where they don't grow it. I thought of other great gardens where they don't grow it. I thought of Kew, in London, where they grew it once but not now.
"My God, Caryl, you did it," I said.
"Yes. Yes," he said. He was still inside his skin. "Let's take pictures."
There, in front of us, big as life, was Clianthus formosus, like a vitamin-fed wisteria of vermilion wax with a black blotch on each floret.
This man, I should say, developed some fancy kind of camera with which pictures were taken of the Yalta meetings - a very complicated camera. I think, but he had an Instamatic. He did not know how to get it open to put the film in. He had made two long-distance calls to Washington, but finally got the thing open by following directions.
"What's this hole in the shutter" he asked, as we prepared to shoot the glory pea.
"Who knows," I said.
We now believe it had something to do with it.
In amy case, we have no pictures to show for our labors. Of course, neither my friend nor I is a photographer and there were two or three things at the time that we wondered about.
"Who ever thought we'd live to see a bloom," said the proud man. "I don't think we did anything different this year." (Thus missing the chance to invent some fabulous rigamarole, which is what most people do if they succeed once in 10 years at something).
"It just happened."
Truth and modesty are even rarer than success, and I say, give that man a Donegal tweed cap and a pair of snowshoes.