TO SOME OF US, the weekend is not just an adventure.
It's a job.
Which makes this Friday's discovery all the more meaningful: We thought we had been everywhere in Washington that's charming, cheering, healthful, adventure-prone, upbeat, offbeat, oddly diverting, whatever -- until now, that is. Until, as you are about to see, we tried the ultimate outing:
We didn't go out.
Stayed home, is what we did. Not necessarily because the gas gauge was stuck at "empty," or the thermometer at "February." Not necessarily because Saturday night's dinner was postponed until midweek, or because the bus trip to Blue Knob went bust, or because the in-laws picked up the kids for the weekend on Friday afternoon and suddenly the house was so quiet that you could hear yourself think. (And the thought went something like: "Hey. Nice place I have here.")
It is a nice place. Look around: Is there a cover charge? Never. Is there plenty of free parking? Always. Over there, isn't that a roommate who looks sort of familiar? Or a couple of kids you almost recall having a few years back? Plus all those unread books you long ago borrowed -- and buried, as if bones; a VCR you never fully understood; record albums you never listen to because you only like one song on them.
You're getting the picture.
Rest assured -- it isn't easy staying put in a city of movers and shakers. In Washington, probably the highest compliment one person pays another is to count him or her among the "savvy." And what do the savvy do on weekends -- hang around the house? Hah. Serious savvyites maintain legal-size lists of weekend activities designed to get them one or more of the following: ahead; more funding; a leg up on competitors; a tax loss; a husband (wife, date); more funding; a gold star from the commissioner (voters, division chief, Congress, etc.); a seat on the Superior Court; more funding.
There's a stigma associated with staying home, though so many in Washington do just that. (Ask any nightclub owner.) Someone will ask, "What'd you do this weekend?" And you'll shuffle, do some mild handwringing, bump your toe to your heel a couple times, and say, "Oh, nothing. Stayed home." As if you ought to be ashamed.
Listen. It is okay for homebodies to come out of the closet. (Except, of course, those who planned to reorganize the closet this weekend.) And the following scattershot compendium of homefront pastimes is meant to get you in the mood, give you some ideas, lower that cabin fever -- and make possible the following answer to next Monday's what-did-you-do-this-weekend query:
"Well," you could say, in a steady voice. "I reevaluated Proust. Wrote three letters. Organized a Hitchcock video retrospective, reorganized my desk and did the laundry. And you?"
It will be their turn to squirm. Unless, of course, they got more funding. BEFORE GOING NOWHERE
here are certain things to be done before one does nothing this (or any) weekend. They include:
1. The laundry -- unless laundry relaxes you. Or unless you're able to do other stuff between loads. (If, like me, all you can manage to do between loads, for some inexplicable reason, is watch TV, then try doing laundry on Thursday night to the accompaniment of "The Bill Cosby Show," "Cheers" and "Hill Street Blues.")
2. Firewood. Make sure it's dry. Nothing like looking forward to a cozy Friday night in front of the fire -- and finding that the only things that'll burn are wads of newspaper, every eighth piece of kindling and nine hundred zillion matches. Plus your own personal fuse.
3. Interior decorating. A little late to be worrying about this on the Friday before, don't you think? (If you really hate it, spend the weekend redecorating your place in your head. Maybe even on paper.) FOODSTUFFS
If you're going to be in the house all day, you have two basic approaches toward food. One is to eat it all day. The other is to cook it all day. In the long run, the latter leaves fewer traces on the thighs and midsection.
This is why you will find on page 7 a recipe for cassoulet, courtesy of Shelley Davis of The Post's Food section. This particular dish should suit the stay-at-home for two reasons: First, it takes forever to make -- and doing other things while it bakes and simmers is entirely possible (and easier, by the way, if pursued well out of aroma range). Second, and most important, the end of this recipe definitely justifies the means.
As for eating all day, several foods fit the bill -- and should be part of any preemptive shopping trip made on Friday for a planned weekend at home. They include:
1. Oodles of Noodles. A dry-packaged soup mix which, when combined with boiling water, will feed a family of six for three weeks. (And dried leftovers can be made into a nifty garden trellis!)
2. Popcorn. Seriously now, a great all-day food -- filling but not particularly fattening unless you make it with gobs of butter. If it's oil you dread, I heard Dyan Cannon tell David Letterman not long ago that she makes popcorn, her favorite food, in a convection-type popper, then spray-mists it with water afterwards to get the salt (or, better yet, grated romano cheese) to stick. Too bad that cute David Letterman and his Household Tips of the Rich and Famous aren't on TV on weekends. BRIEF WARMUP
Okay. Stand with your mind open to shoulder width. Deep breath, exhale. Now, as I throw out these free-form ideas, stretch your imagination down to your particular circumstances -- or as far as you can, anyway, without injuring yourself.
1. Magazines! Here, there, everywhere. Two good things to do with them include: a) read all of them this weekend and be prepared for a big letdown, or; b) use them in place of all that damp firewood we talked about earlier.
2. Radio! Remember -- the one without pictures? Nor pride? But with a few saving graces like old-fashioned radio shows ("Prairie Home Companion, 6 p.m. Saturdays on WETA- FM/90.9) or replays of such actual old radio shows and stars as "Fibber McGee,"Arthur Godfrey, "Escape!" (WAMU- FM/88.5, 8 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays). Or highly listenable jazz chosen by somebody who knows it, and is able to talk about it (and other things) as if he were both human and a broadcast professional. (Specifically: Paul Anthony, on otherwise classical WGMS-FM/103.5 most Saturdays from 7 to 10 p.m.)
3. Houseplants! Re-pot something -- or everything in sight, if you're like most people who try to re-pot just one plant. If your thumb is noticeably greener than most, or your place noticeably more bare, see the indoor-gardening story on page 8.
4. Taxes! Yes, sorry. If the concept frightens you, and it ought to this year, you might build up to it slowly. Say, by working out a weekly household budget first, then moving on to a funding proposal for the Corcoran Gallery. Then to a fiscal justification of the MX, and so on. THINGS TO ALPHABETIZE
1. Your record albums -- if you have an hour.
2. Your bookshelf (by author) -- if you have several hours.
3. Your children -- if they don't mind. TAPE I: SOUND, NO PICTURES
A large percentage of the albums we own are filled with songs we don't particularly like. Often you'll buy an album for one or two cuts, and then you're stuck with the rest. Can something be done?
Yes. On a recent snowy Saturday, I took the afternoon to put a significant number of favorite songs on two 90-minute cassettes, deejay-style. The procedure involves extensive use of Pause, but the result Refreshes. On one tape, the songs lope, meander and wail; this is my mood-enhancement tape. The other relies heavily on bass, drums, major chords and horn sections; it is to be played during extended highway driving, downtown traffic jams or aerobic exercise. Or fits of house cleaning, one of which occurred while I made these tapes, incidentally. TAPE II: PICTURES, ALMOST NO EXPENSE
Perhaps you own a VCR. Or perhaps, like me, your younger brother has come for an extended visit and brought along his VCR and tape collection -- which relies heavily on esoteric horror ("Blood Feast," "Q, the Winged Serpent," "Rabid," etc.), comedy (emphasis on "Honeymooners" and "Three Stooges") and almost every episode of "Star Trek," the TV series.
Eventually, you tire of all that Space, despite it being The Final Frontier. If you're lucky, though, someone will tell you about the local public library's video collection.
Diversity and accessibility vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised by what's available at your library. Especially if you're into such recent sleeping beauties as, say, "Cannery Row," "AtlanticCity," "The Grey Fox" or "Say Amen Somebody," or such enduring classics as "South Pacific," "High Noon," "Psycho," "His Girl Friday," "Casablanca," "Duck Soup" or "Dial M for Murder."
The D.C. and Prince George's County public libraries charge $2 a day for video loaners; most public library systems in the area, however, lend tapes for free.
The District system (727-1111), based at the Martin Luther King Library (Room 226, 901 G St. NW), offers about 200 titles each in VHS and Beta formats. Prince George's (699- 3500) offers nearly 500 titles in both formats, plus some laser discs, and lets you make a reservation at any of the 23 branches -- where your request can be picked up the next day.
Montgomery County (279-1944) has about 400 VHS and 200 Beta titles available free to those with library cards. No reservations; what you see at the Rockville branch is what you can get. This is called a browsing collection.
The browsing collection at Fairfax County's four regional librarys is up to about 4,000 titles (321-9166). Tapes from Alexandria's 100-title collection are lent from its Special Services Division (5651 Rayburn Ave., 998-0650) for two days at a time (or three, if it's Friday).
Arlington takes day-before reservations for its 400-plus titles in both formats at the Quincy Street central library (527-4777), and is also the only area system that lends videotape on Saturdays and Sundays. Which sounds great until you realize this means your standard one-day rental picked up on Friday is due back Saturday -- not Monday, as it is most everywhere else. PICTURES I: NO TAPE
Perhaps you have no VCR, but you do have a remote control channel-changer -- a zapper. Using some of this Saturday's TV highlights, we will now participate in a brief zapping primer.
There are several approaches to zapping. One is to mute the sound during all commercials. This immunizes you to the otherwise hypnotizing picture-and-sound mix of most commercials. Others kill the sound during both commercials and regular programming, which allows you to clearly spot bad acting (see "Love Boat" without the audio sometime), and makes you realize how incredibly much time most TV directors spend on scenes of people getting into cars, driving cars and getting out of cars.
Keep in mind, however, the ultimate goal of zapping: To never pay attention to another commercial again -- unless you feel like it. Eventually, concerted viewer zapping will force those who make bad commercials to either start making good, watchable commercials, or to get into a business that better suits their sensibilities. Such as gun running.
Here's how it works. Take 10 a.m. this Saturday. Channel 45 in Baltimore usually starts some good and/or campola movie at 10 -- this week it's "I Was a Male War Bride" with Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan. Now, at the first commercial break (or first break in repartee), you zap to Channel 9 for Bugs Bunny (10-10:30) cartons -- which, with the exception of Beany and Cecil or Rocky and Bullwinkle (and the older Popeyes), are the only cartoons worth watching on TV (unless you're under 3, or among the humor-impaired).
Other Saturday-morning zapping alternatives include "Bionic Woman" (Channel 5 at 10) or "Star Trek" (Channel 5 at 11). And, if you really want to pursue TV studies, check out Channel 66 in Manassas, where the Saturday schedule, thanks to inspired rerun syndication by the Christian Broadcasting Network, includes "Flipper," "Bonanza," "Gentle Ben" (twice!), "Mister Ed" and "Green Acres." PICTURES II: STICKY TAPE
How many snapshots have you now scattered throughout your dresser drawers, desktop, fileboxes and kitchen cabinets? Aha. Well, if you're in the mood to be in a really good mood Sunday night, stop at a drugstore or variety store this afternoon and pick up two or three photo albums. Then spend Sunday doing three things:
1. Organizing the good stuff into albums. The best albums are those with see-through plastic pages that have pockets molded to fit the size (or sizes) of your snapshots, mostly because mistakes are easy to fix and the plastic can be scribbled on with colored felt-tip markers (for titles and captions and notes, made without ruining the prints).
2. Storing the negatives in some other safe place.
3. Purging the rest -- the most important step of all. Not necessarily by throwing them out, but by throwing all outdated, unfocused, embarrassing, hurtful and/or inoperative snapshots into a box or envelope to be stuck in the attic or basement or Mom's house. Or by sending duplicates to people who'd like them better than you -- which is a good excuse to write a letter. DID SOMEBODY SAY "WRITE A LETTER"?
Hey, not me. I was just saying the other day that a 60-minute phone call from Falls Church to Los Angeles on a Saturday afternoon costs $10.27 through Sprint, not including something Sprint calls "volume discounts."
Through ATT, the same call costs $10.90. If you make a lot of long-distance calls, ATT starts throwing in discounts for Disneyworld and air travel and stuff like that.
On the other hand, it now costs 22 cents to mail a 60-minute, four-page letter from Falls Church to Los Angeles -- not including the mental anguish involved in having to spell words like "necessary" and "siege."
Somebody should complain to the Postal Service about this. Maybe I'll call them this weekend.