The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As you all know, I'm forever coming up with some harebrained scheme to get myself a few extra dollars. Mow lawns, take in washing, and what-have-you. This time, I think I might have something.

I'm going to open a school. No, not a real one; I already teach English for a living (more or less) and between the City and the Catholic Church I figure that actual education here is pretty well wrapped up.

I am going to open Theodosia Gibbs' School of How to Be Baltimorean.

(I am naming this for my great-grandmother, who was less than beautiful, but who lived in an imposing house on Mount Royal Avenue and who was nothing if she was not incessantly proper.)

We have way too many people moving in to this city who are not from here. I do sort of mind that they're not from here. If they're Richmonders or from some other and equally respectable part of Virginia or Maryland, that's one thing, but all too often we are plagued with newcomers who are from someplace that Theodosia herself would certainly have called "unmoglich," which technically means "impossible" but in her view meant "impossible for me to accept or even possibly acknowledge."

Our first course will be a lexicon of Baltimorean speech. It is quite common for newcomers to ape our pronunciation. Lesson #1: You probably can't say it the way we do, so quit trying. Lesson #2: If you still insist, we'll teach you. Repeat after me. I will send tapes home so that you can practice saying things like PO-lice, HanOVER street, Droodle Park, and Ass-Kwith street without sounding idiotic. You will also need to learn such expressions as "carfare," "make market," "the Viaduct" and "down the ocean."

The second, and of course more labor-intensive course of study will focus on Baltimoreanism In The Home. This will be a several-week course, as various topics are rather complex:
101: Housekeeping. Students will learn the vital importance of silver. While care of the silver will be studied, students will focus primarily on recognition of which patterns are known as "that's a good one" and which are known as "they just don't make silver the way they used to." China will also be addressed. One day will be set aside for laundry studies: how to launder by hand (students must provide own glass washboard for good linens) including use of bluing and Fels-Naptha. One day will also address housecleaning in full Prussian mode; however, as this is something that only occurs twice annually, it will not be included on the final examination.

102: Linens and How To Use Them. Second only to the sacred combination of Good Silver and Good China is the knowledge of Good Linens. Students will be instructed in the importance of damask and lace (a refresher lesson on hand-laundering these will be included). Addtionally, correct lengths of tablecloths for specific functions, napkin size and folding, and monogramming will be covered.

103: Cheapness At Home. How to be a good Thrifty Baltimorean. Budgets for the household--how to live on tuna when needed while still throwing lovely dinner parties.

104: Survival of Summer in Baltimore. Students will learn how to change drapes and rugs for the seasons, how to survive without air-conditioning, and the appropriate booze to serve at summer functions. Maps to Rehoboth and the mountain resorts will also be provided.

Intermediate Courses
201: The Guest List. Students will differentiate between First Society, Second Society, Third Society and People Whom You Have Met in a Bar and Banged, but Whom Are Not Acceptable At A Party. Use of the Blue Book will be covered.

202: Shopping and its finer points. This course is a "field trip" course; students will venture to the various City Markets, learning the best and worst points of each, and will learn how to discern between vendors and how to bargain for prices. Small shops will also be covered, as well as understanding of the now-lost department stores. It is to be understood that there are no longer any department stores of repute in this or any American city.

203: Outdoors in Baltimore. In this course, students will learn how to clean white marble steps, how to plant, spot and care for prize roses, and how to eliminate rats. An extension course will be offered to address garden parties and protocol thereof.

204: Gossip in Baltimore. How NOT to become a victim; how to be a graceful victim, and how to use gossip to your advantage. Correct use of the underhanded barb and the backhanded compliment will be stressed. Students will learn how to appear as a Lovely Person while surreptitiously destroying reputations.

205: Stationery Is Your Friend. Students will learn how to find Down's Stationers, socially acceptable methods of addressing correspondence, how to form invitations, and how to use calling cards.

Advanced Courses

301: The Season. Students will learn the major social events and how to either worm their way into them or avoid them. They will also learn to differentiate between pseudo-social charity events and actual parties of note. Social calendar management will be encouraged, as well as the ability to jockey for one's own "Day" during the Season. Brief coverage of "the Little Season" will be included with a study of horse racing.

302: The Blue Book and the Social Register. The difference between the two, how to be included or excluded, and how these differ from other cities' equivalents. This course will include in-depth examination of addresses and how to respond to them--what is and is not a good address, as well as delineations between such things as "what a lovely place to live," "such a nice neighborhood, my grandparents lived there," "this is still a good address even if there is a crack house on the block," "this was once a good address but is not now," "NO ONE lives there," "this is an impossible address even if the houses cost two million," and "is that in Baltimore?"

303: The Dinner Party. As this is the most important thing that a Baltimorean can possibly do, the Dinner Party course is the most intensive. Students will learn: Whom to invite and how to do so, correct menu planning, setting the table correctly, where to seat guests according to social importance, before- and after-dinner amusements, and how to keep costs down.

304: Drinking. Important bar etiquette for a variety of establishments, and instruction on important drinks at home. Further instruction will include How to Be a Polite/Annoying Drunk and How to Deal With Inebriates at Your Home.

We hope that you, as a prospective new Citizen of the Maryland Metropolis, will consider a course of study at Theodosia Gibbs' School of How to be Baltimorean. While we really don't want newcomers, we do want you to fit in, even if we do not make you feel welcome at all. Graduates of the School will receive one ticket to the Opera, last year's copy of the Blue Book, a monthly pass for city car lines, and a one-way train ticket to somewhere else.