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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Would Frost Do?

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, " Robert Frost once said, and I wonder which one he would choose for Thursday evening if he were still here. He left the planet a little too early in January of 1963 to be a Rolling Stones' fan (although he talks about them a lot in his poem "Mending Wall.")
Those of you who do like to rock might want to think about heading down a road called Wilson Boulevard in Arlington for Keith Richard's birthday party/tribute at IOTA.

The other road, Georgia Avenue, leads us to Silver Spring where DC Brau and the Quarry House are throwing a Calypso party with The Harry Bells. Bring a toy if you are feeling Santa-like. Might be something cool and warm to do, and a good place "to stop without a farmhouse near" on a wintry night so close to the "darkest evening of the year."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rooting Up A Christmas Throwback

Right about now a lot of us are cringing as carols assault our ears wherever we go. Bearing that in mind, December's Song of the Month is one you don't often hear this time of year even though it is seasonal.

But first a little back ground.

photo by Alan Kresse
If you went to the University of Maryland in the last century, you might remember the Varsity Grill in College Park. I imagine at one time or another this little bar on Route 1 served clean shaven football players accompanied by their lanky blonde dates wearing letter jackets. However, by the time I arrived on the scene in the late 1970s, those days were long gone. The Grill was more of a blue collar establishment frequented by biker gangs, and dotted with scruffy college students. The bulk of the Terrapin freshmen could be found across the street dousing themselves with beer at the 'Vous.

photo by Alan Kresse

Never one to fit in anywhere, I felt more at home with the bikers.

Varsity Grill circa 1979/photo by Alan Kresse 
One night, way back when, friends hanging at the Grill were all geared up to see a band playing down the block. Everybody said we had to go check it out. I think we all stumbled through a rear door in the Grill and down an alley to get the Back Room, but those memories are hazy, and I may well be wrong. What I do remember is the place was seething with bodies by the time we walked in. The rickety balcony (which was out of puking range) felt only marginally safer than being in that crazy crowd below which was writhing in front of an even wilder scene on stage. It was the first time I had ever heard of "Root Boy Slim and The Sex Change Band."

That may have been the night the act was banned in College Park, but only temporarily. The band played on - well into the 1980s.  Foster MacKenzie III (aka Root Boy Slim) was a brilliant and witty man given to boisterous excess in all he did. He lived large, and he died too young, but he left DC a legacy of crazy stories and songs. As the old TV commercials used to say- who could forget classics like "Mood Ring?" ? Or "Boogie 'Til You Puke?" And of course (finally getting to the point) "Christmas at K- Mart."

This dark little number confronts our commercial society head on and thus qualifies for DC ROCKS' song of the month. When the rat race of shopping reaches a frenzied pitch,  I say retreat.  Scrounge up something strong to sip on, put your feet up and revive your spirit with a little satire and a nod to Slim who will always be missed in 7-Elevens and old haunts throughout D.C.

P. S. DC ROCKS thanks Alan Kresse for many of the photos in this piece. It sure comes in handy having a college house mate who was sober enough to take great pictures once upon a time. He still is a stellar photographer.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where Are They Now? Part 2 Outside the Comfort Zone

I guess it's an official series if there are two parts of "Where Are They Now?"  Here's my second story about what's up with high school graduates from the Class of 2011. 

Way before Paris Achenbach started Wilson High school, she knew she loved the great outdoors. She felt like she belonged in the woods as much or more than at her home in Washington, DC. As a high school student, she became deeply concerned about the environment. She also loved playing piano. Progressive and musical Oberlin seemed like a good fit for her when it came time for college, but surprisingly, she never did take a single environmental studies course. Instead she found herself majoring in geology which provided a deeper (hah!)  understanding of our planet. She imagined herself becoming "a bad ass scientist," exploring caves in Greenland and pulling up ice cores to measure climate change.

However, a semester abroad in New Zealand would change her mind and her life. She discovered that however wondrous studying a glacier was in the field, she didn't really like the dryer aftermath of analyzing data. Instead the beautiful countryside further inspired her love of writing and photography so much so that she found herself writing every day.

Back in Ohio, Paris created a blog about college life at Oberlin and went on to graduate with a major in geology and a minor in English. After graduation, Paris returned to DC and spent the next year and a half figuring out what in the world she was going to do next.

This journey included: working on a coffee plantation in Jamaica, teaching kayaking in the San Juan Islands,

and walking the Camino in Spain with her two younger sisters- a journey you can read about here. 

Besides travel, Paris tried to get serious by pursuing career building internships. She worked at the Wilson Center and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Both positions paid well, and looked good on a resume, but living safely in Washington, writing about disasters elsewhere left Paris feeling disconnected. She describes herself as a 23 year old sponge, longing to soak in different experiences,  ready to launch from her comfort zone- again.  Other friends had volunteered for Americorps' St Bernard Project restoring houses post- Katrina, and that sounded like the ticket for her.

Now Paris is off to New Orleans to live in a city she has never visited, to work with her hands without any construction experience,  and to meet people who are actively trying to make a difference.  (Being able to soak in all the music and culture New Orleans  has to offer is also a definite plus.)  In the spirit of true romance, she did not fly, but took a somewhat grueling 24 hour train ride to her new life, taking in the American South from a ground level window and coping with bathrooms she'd rather not see again. Some might question her mode of transportation, but Paris Achenbach will be the first one to tell you, she has the rest of her life to be comfortable. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tactical Holiday Hints

Holidays can be the best of times and the worst to borrow from Chaz. Dickens. I heard a great tip on the radio this morning which was to employ the same tactics used by hostage negotiators when confronted with tension at the table. Also a friend of mine told me about "fall back" behavior the other day, and it's helpful to be on the lookout fo this pattern of behavior. As he explained it, this psychological phenomenon occurs when usually rational people are under stress. Please allow me to illustrate with a little story. ( fictional, of course) (well, based loosely on random factual type stuff as as all fiction is).

Let's just say you are trying to get a hot turkey dinner, and all the trimmings together for 15 people who are about to walk in the door. You've been baking, cooking, stirring and spilling stuff for hours, but the fruits of your endeavors are coming together and about to land on the table with operatic precision.

Then your eye spots something amiss.

You ask your child to remove their shoes (and balled up socks if it's a boy) from the dining room. (One sock being on the table if  you have more than one boy.)

"In a minute." comes the reply.

Just then the dog throws up and the smoke detector goes off with unrelated fury.

"Get your socks and get a bucket, too. " You say dashing towards the oven.

"Why me?" says the kid.

Suddenly you are out on the back deck, alone, nursing that bottle of wine you were going to serve with dinner and relishing the solitude. This might be considered "fall back behavior."

If you are looking for an outlet from this kind of holiday fervor- or simply a reward for a job well done, you know me, I 'm going to suggest music. Yes, "music which hath charms to soothe a savage breast." ( yes, breast according to William Congreve.)

Music at home can be great in a pinch. I just found out Jimi Hendrix would have been 72 today thanks to WPFW, and  cranking the radio up in the car after dropping off my kids at their dad's felt wonderful. (definitely "fall back" behavior)

But let's get to the one of kind thing known as a live show. On Thanksgiving itself, you can head over to JVs for Dave Chappell, Andy Poxon and crew. Friday night, Valentine Slim will be holding forth at Takoma VFW; the Nighthawks and Skip Castro are at the State Theater.

Last but certainly not least on Saturday-look for the King Soul extravaganza with the Hardway Connection at Bethesda Blues and Jazz.

 If you can fall back with friends to catch you,  you've got something to be thankful for indeed.
Hang in there everybody.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Once Upon A Time

O all you people who love to harken back. Back when the crux of Wisconsin and Western Avenues was known as the District Line and was where, if you were lucky,  your mother might have taken you to get a party dress or a winter coat. Who would have believed that Woodward and Lothrop, one of the bastions of the Washington Shopping Plate, and seemingly as permanent as the Capital itself would go the way of the dinosaur?


ALL of those local department local stores are gone. Dang.

A few years ago massive renovations of the District Line into something akin to Rodeo Drive left me out in the cold. I never go there anymore except when driving through on my way to Magruder's. One exception? I will go to the basement of Clyde's in Chevy Chase. (the "new" one which is almost 20 years old) This Saturday vintage rock will be brought to you by many a Whitman grad in The Vi-Kings, a band who shares my fondness for things gone by.
No cover!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Herndon Meets Squeeze Box

Hey you, Herndonites. Little Red and the Renegades will be rolling your way via the Ice House Cafe and Oyster Bar this Friday night. This might be a haul for denizens of DC, but you all in the Northern climes of the Old Dominion ought to be able to find your way there. Support your scene, Virginia!
A full bar and free music rocks.