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Friday, December 2, 2016

United States of What Now?

Neighbors rally with banner/photo by Bill Hanke

My friend Bill Hanke wrote me this week to commiserate over the furor going on about Comet Ping Pong. We are both astounded and disturbed by the "fake news" story concerning this local pizzeria which has become the target of outrageous rumor and cyber bullying. Even the New York Times and the BBC have picked up on the unsubstantiated stories of child trafficking in their basement.

protestor/ photo by Bill Hanke


Somehow I never noticed this going on in the last ten years that this very cool place has been open- serving up pizza and providing ping pong for us hyperactive types who can't just sit and wait for our food to be served. Comet is also a big supporter of the DC music and art scene, often leaning towards punk rock. I sometimes forget to check the calendar, but will make a bigger effort now.  Please join me in supporting this local business which does not even have a basement.

And while we are in Chevy Chase, kudos to the folks who are making a rainbow connection by creatively welcoming their new but temporary neighbor Mike Pence with gay pride flags. DC ROCKS salutes you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


My mother was a very patient woman - a trait that was probably key to my parents’ seventy-two year long marriage. She was a planner and a worrier which motherhood forces many of us females types to be, and Thanksgiving turned out to be one of her biggest trials.

Yes, there was an overabundant dinner featuring turkey and ham, plus a surfeit of sugar: Aunt Catherine’s cheesecake, Aunt Elaine’s rum cake, and Cousin Anne, who was from Louisiana, always brought pecan pie. It was a swell party - especially for the blissfully unaware kids running amok confined to the basement as much as possible with the eldest child “in charge.” But as our numbers grew so did the anxiety. 

It started in August when my mother pulled her notes from last year fretting over the seating chart while crunching algebraic numbers on just how many pounds of mashed potatoes were consumed versus how many men were attending. She and my sister set the tables the Sunday before and troubleshooted. (What about that pesky table in the family room? It'll block the football game. How many kids are old enough to sit in a real chair?)

On Thanksgiving morning, my father would attach a rake to my brother Peter and strap himself to a leaf blower, and both would spend the entire day chasing autumn detritus from the yard even though it was dark by 5:00 which was party time.

Much to my mother's dismay, Dad was often in the shower when the first guest arrived -usually his brother Nick. (We could count on his car gliding up the leaf bare driveway at 4:55.) Fortunately, Peter would already be manning the bar set up near the front door. Uncle Nick would demand his vodka and tonic, and the party would begin with my mother hiding in the kitchen.  

Not a fan of crowds, she was in no hurry to greet her guests which tipped fifty to one in favor of my dad's Greek side of the family.  But Mom was always ready. She started cooking in September and finished just before 6 p.m. which was dinner time.  What drove her crazy was my father still buzzing around the patio at sundown, or that little incident one year when there was no hot water at zero hour. (Dad kept everyone on a strict schedule to save on fuel costs, and he forgot to over ride the timer on the water heater.)

 We knew the party was over when my sister corralled her sons to break down the tables and take the folding chairs to the basement which now resembled an abandoned battle field of cake crumbs and scattered toys. This usually happened around 8:00, but it felt like midnight.

This year if things get too weird or volatile at dinner (or if Thanksgiving just isn't your bag) here's an out.  Dave Chappell, DC's own overlord of the Telecaster, will be holding forth with his band at JV's in Falls Church. Dave's talent is something we can all agree on, and there's plenty of common ground in beer. Show starts at 8:00 which may feel like midnight, but there'll be plenty of good sounds to wake you up.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Resistance is Not Futile

Thank you, Lynn Thorp for turning me on to the new guerrilla art group "DC Resistance." Here's a crew determined to make sure sane voices are heard in a world turned upside down if the alt right has its way.

If your head is craving distraction, this weekend's picks include the short lived reincarnation of  Goin Goin Gone at Hank Dietle's Saturday night. Dietle's is a tiny honky tonk where you can lose yourself in suds and song.  And for all of you dreading Monday, treat yourself to the Dan Hovey Band playing JV's on Sunday.  Dan's been playing guitar so long that he's gotten to be really, really good at it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Light Not Heat

Wilson High Protest/ photo by Mark Noone

I think it's safe to say DC was rocked by the election last week. When I walked out onto 18th Street at 12:30 a.m. last Wednesday after attending a party, I had never seen Adams Morgan so still. A few police. No people. Dead quiet. 

My daughter called me sobbing. She knows misogyny when she sees it- just like people of color know racism when they see it. Back in the 1940s, my blue eyed Greek American father could pass for white which meant he could sneak his family into resorts like Beverly Beach where no Mediterraneans were allowed. (Never mind anyone else of any sort of color.) And I am pretty sure my father would have voted for Trump. Without irony.

(One silver lining of these times might be the fodder for satire here. SNL  has come up with two brilliant skits: "Black Jeopardy" and  "Election Night.")

I have talked to Trump supporters. As much as I find it hard to comprehend, there are women who voted for Trump. Sisters and mothers, people I love and respect, voted for Trump.  Why? I asked them. Here are some of the answers I got: Because that "basket of deplorables" statement really hurt. Because though global warming might be happening, we can't do anything about it so why not bring back steel? Yesterday I heard that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the Republicans would have accepted the news quietly without the protest. Though my jaw may have been dropping,  I did not try to refute these statements.  I looked at these conversations as windows into worlds I don't understand.

The news of journalist Gwen Ifel's death was another blow this week, but her life has inspired me. Her mission was to “tell the stories that shed light and spur action.” One small comfort I was able to give my daughter was to look at Trump's election as a wake up call to activists everywhere. Yesterday Montgomery County kids walked out of school. Today Wilson High School staged a protest downtown. Too young to vote, they wanted their truly diverse voices to be heard- to show their unity. They were impressive in number, armed with light not heat. The students marched from the Trump Hotel down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill. Donald Trump may have started this conversation. I hope America is listening. 

photo by Keagan Hall

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Signal Through the Flames

Last summer while wandering around San Francisco, I picked up this poem/postcard at City Lights- the iconic book store of the Beat generation. Co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and activist, once described himself as more of a Bohemian than Beat kind of guy, but his writing is not confined to the past. His poem "Pity the Nation" is so relevant to this election season that the words fairly leap off the page. 

The store seemed a lot cleaner than I remembered, but it's still holed up in North Beach and still a refuge for pensive souls during turbulent times both past and present. 

With the presidential election of 2016 bearing down on us this Tuesday, sound bites tend to drown out more articulate voices. Another of Ferlinghetti's poem might make a better meal for thought, and a reminder of how much we need our poets and musicians (thank you, Bob Dylan) as much as or more than politicians to speak out:

Poetry As Insurgent Art (I am signaling you though the flames.)
I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Civilization self-destructs.
Nemesis is knocking at the door.
What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?
The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.
If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.
You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

Thursday, October 27, 2016


A lot of disturbing things have been happening this year. Number one might be the election, but I don't want to talk about that. Number two might be that other clown craze which started in August and continued with such a fervor that even our local high schools were receiving threats last month. As Halloween approaches, will another outbreak occur? Check out this excellent article in the New York Times What Do the Scary Clowns Want?   by Bess Lovejoy. She includes this salient point:

Benjamin Radford, author of the recent book “Bad Clowns,” points out, “It’s misleading to ask when clowns turned bad, for they were never really good.” 

This pretty much affirms my lifelong aversion to grease paint. 

The article also touches on why urban legends persist.  I know one whopper started at Wilson High School thanks to my late great friend Mark Petsche. That was the year Mark showed up at my house dressed for Halloween as "Bunny Man" in a white sweatshirt and tall ears. I didn't quite get it until he showed me the axe.  That's when I convinced him we should go over to the park where my first born and her teen age friends were hanging out- too cool for trick or treat. Back then an abandoned house conveniently provided the perfect place for lurking, and sure enough we spotted them there.  What happened next is a bit Blair Witch blurry, but I do remember screams drowned out any attempt at explanation as the kids tore off in all directions.

Marshall Keith, a founding member of DC's legendary Slickee Boys, is more mysterious than spooky and definitely more musical than your average axe wielding rodent.

This Saturday night Marshall will be performing at Ivy City Smokehouse- a relatively new concert space and tavern. Jumpin' Jupiter and The Stents will round out this party and costume contest with a $100 gift certificate going to the winner. No clowning around!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

At the Bus Stop with Ian Hunter

I know I'm going for mossback status here, but I remember when the Metro was so new and exotic we would buy a fare card just to ride around.  "People Going Nowhere" as Crippled Pilgrims used to say. Once the Metro was in full swing, however, it became almost unthinkable to take the bus. The red line spawned the blue which begat the yellow and so forth. The Metro was a great way to get around until it wasn't.

Now I've come full circle back to the bus. I've learned to to chase the elusive D5, rely on the M4 and embrace the D6 -that rambling wreck of a route which traverses the city from Sibley Hospital to Stadium Armory. Just a buck seventy five will get you a little over an hour's worth of travel. The bus offers a solace that might be lost on those trying to dash downtown in their own private bubbles. The bus driver may well be the first and only person to wish me a good morning. I like to get a window seat as we tour my neighborhood.  There's that woman with trapezoid hair that I haven't seen in a while. She wears neon blinding running shoes and jogs along at a speed just past walking looking like she may pitch over momentarily. As we go along admitting fellow travelers the volume rises and falls affording great eavesdropping opportunities or time to catch up on my reading. It's a DC amusement park ride as we barrel down New Hampshire Avenue trying to make up lost time before hitting the grid lock of K Street which doesn't loosen up until near 13th Street.  The route bobs and weaves across the city. There is even a stop at dc space. Too bad it's a Starbucks now.

Whatever way you get around I recommend getting down to the Hamilton this Monday night. DC's own Dot Dash will be opening for the man, no, as Craig Ferguson once put it so well- " the rock god" that is Ian Hunter who incidentally inspired the name of this blog. Learn how here.