Jul 202018
 

This afternoon, I had a consultation with Dr. Runkkari Paskanaama, Special Attaché for Political Affairs at the Embassy of Finland here in Washington. He brought a bottle of Lakka, the Finnish Lapponia Cloudberry liqueur, which isn’t easy to find in DC. “From the embassy’s own stock,” he confided as he placed it on the coffee table by the couch. For a moment, he turned to gaze past the couch, out the picture window behind it, which overlooks the White House. A visible shudder ran through him, after which he shook his head and took a seat in the chair immediately in front of my desk. “Mr. Collins,” he began, leaning close toward me, “Ambassador Kauppi asks that I convey our […]

Apr 302018
 

My very last consultation last Friday was “Ahmed.” That’s what he calls himself, and since he invariably pays cash, I couldn’t care less what his real name is. Historically, he’s been a very, very good customer – no matter how much I charge, he always pays up. And every time he calls to book an appointment, I always quote him a higher hourly rate than before. This time, actually, he was paying five times my usual rate, which, when they read this, will probably make quite a few of my regular clients gasp in disbelief, since they consistently gripe about how astronomical my ordinary bills are. Not that it keeps them from coming back – they know you get what […]

Mar 302018
 

As regular readers of this Web log are well aware, my dear sister Rose occasionally makes it known that she would like me to take her out to lunch. The purpose of these repasts is ostensibly to catch up with one another on family affairs – but the fact that it allows her to get away from said family, located as it is in the wilds of Fairfax county, for an interlude of blessed, classy and sophisticated experience downtown certainly figures into the bargain. She always suggests – which in the case of my big sister means, demands – reservations at the best Washington restaurants and today was no exception, as we dined at Fiola in Penn Quarter. After cocktails […]

Feb 262018
 

Here in the Mid Atlantic, the heart of a good winter fire is oak. It should constitute at least sixty percent of the fuel and be well seasoned wood, stacked at least two years in a woodpile, neither too tightly or too loose, having air passages “big enough for a mouse to run through, but a cat can’t follow.” Ideally, the remaining forty percent ought to consist of equally well dry seasoned cuts of hickory, maple, poplar, walnut, cherry, birch, beech, sycamore and elm. In order to properly appreciate having such transcendental object in one’s fireplace, of course, it helps considerably if Nature delivers some suitably abominable conditions outside in order to provide an appropriate context. No problem there on […]

Jul 232017
 

As the venerable aphorism so pithily puts it, the difference between Hell and Washington DC in the summer is that Hell has dry heat. With the thermometer flirting with one hundred degrees Fahrenheit and the air so sodden with water vapor that stepping outside of an air conditioned building feels like crawling into a Siksika sweat lodge erected in the middle of a Turkish steam bath, it’s sufficiently discouraging to keep even the most workaholic political hacks, ramrod-backed Pentagon chicken colonels and policy-obsessed think tank wonks from booking consultations with me on a weekend. So, thanks to that, I had the day off on the twenty-second of July and dare say I had enough common sense to stay inside my […]