Thursday, November 22, 2018


Good morning, Washington. Happy Thanksgiving.

Please excuse my laziness today, but I thought I would re-run part of a piece I wrote a few years ago, thanking my dad for teaching me about this place we call the District of Columbia. 

My father George was born in 1916 at home on 11th Street NE to Greek immigrants. 
Maybe you can tell by the picture? 

George didn't speak English until he went to kindergarten, but he learned in a hurry. He went to school, worked and lived in the District most of his life, and his Washington had nothing to do with politics. He was always more at home in work clothes than a suit or a tie.

We may have buzzed by the monuments when friends or family came to visit, but I don't ever remember going to the Smithsonian or Capitol Hill except on a school field trip. 

Here's an excerpt from Thanks to My DC Dad:

Thank you for:

Taking me to the zoo.  A lot.  Sometimes just on the spur of the moment, sometimes for a birthday.  I suspect he liked it because it was uptown, free and outdoors.  I remember he would park our station wagon right near the elephant house and partly on the sidewalk. Crazy, right? He had a little home made sign that he would put on the dashboard which said  "Modern Linen -Making Delivery." That seemed to do the trick.

All those DC stories. George worked mostly in the restaurant world, and he had the low down on how the Italian statues got into AV's yard on New York Avenue. Another friend,  Ulysses Auger, got his start after World War Two when everyone was craving meat after years of rationing. "Blackie" was his nick name, and he sold steaks from the trunk of his car until he could open his own place called "The Minute Grille."  When he had made enough dough to buy the property at 21st and M, he changed the name to Blackie's House of Beef. Money was tight, and the kitchen was in terrible shape. One day my father and Uncle Mimi just happened by to see the new place. Blackie asked them whether he should spend money on improving the kitchen or buy a new sign. My father said go for the sign, and that's exactly what happened. It was a big sign!

Introducing me to DC food 

George always asked for a half smoke over a hotdog. He also liked the fried chicken wing sandwich at the Florida Avenue Grill which comes with another story.  Chewing right through the cartilage and spitting out the bones, he would talk about how Father Lalouissis from St Sophia's would come for Sunday dinners when he was a kid.  The chicken on the table only went so far with a family of five and an honored guest.  The priest would get the biggest piece, and my grandfather would get the next biggest and so it went.  My grandmother always insisted that "Georgie loved the wing." I guess it happened so many times that he believed it, too.

Teaching me how to drive with impunity. Technically I learned to drive on a VW bug with a driver's ed teacher, but my father taught me the finer points of operating a motor vehicle with his mind bending lane changes on the Beltway and sometimes stunning U turns on avenues around the city. Even though he constantly scared the crap out of my mother, he gave me a lot of confidence behind the wheel. And unlike my mother, he taught me how to pump my own gas.

Taking me to Sherrill's Bakery. When I first met the "girls," as George called them, Lola Rivas, the owner, started yelling at him in Greek as soon as we walked in. She seemed angry and scary to me.  Her daughters Kiki and Dottie were less frightening, but I didn't know what was going until the scene devolved into pinching cheeks and handing out cookies. They loved my father and were scolding him for not coming by more often.

The bakery was once a mainstay on Capitol Hill and served breakfast, lunch and dinner 364 days a year in a time capsule of a 1940s diner. It hadn't changed much since Lola and her husband Sam bought the place. A cigarette machine and a fortune telling scale flanked the front door, and I thought it was cool we didn't have to pay for the cookies. Former busboy and local film maker David Petersen almost won an Oscar and did win a well deserved Emmy for capturing those crazy hard working women and their customers in his documentary "Fine Food and Pastries." Hit the link to watch as there's nothing left of Sherrill's except memories now.  


If you don't feel like cooking today, JV's in Falls Church has you covered. They'll be serving up both turkey and one of DC's finest guitar heroes Dave Chappell for all your fine dining and rock n roll needs.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ready or Not

 What gives Mother Nature? Snow before the leaves have fallen?  Here in my rural corner of DC,  I still have a rose or two trying to bloom out there. Well, they were.

For all of you who gladly go with the snow globe theme, the ice rink at the Sculpture Garden opens for the season this weekend. On the other hand, winter weather phobes might want to hide out at Hill Country Barbecue where everyone can pretend they're in Texas. The Highballers and Whiskey Daredevils are on hand to support the fantasy this Saturday.

Finally congratulations are in order. Back in the day when we were all hoping to start a rock n roll band,  Chuck Levins Music Center was there with picks and amps and good advice.  Guitar geeks especially should be aware of Chuck's  60th Anniversary Party with Paul Reed Smith on hand.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Count 'em

Just how many musicians does DC actually have? The answer is too many to count, of course, but now there's a plan is in the works to do just that.  According to city officials and a story on WAMU today,  look for an online census coming in January 2019. Meanwhile, I've been counting local musicians since the early 1970s starting with Fat City, The Seldom Scene and The Blackbirds. But that was just the tip of the iceberg leading to the vibrant scene we have now.

This weekend is ridiculous with gigs- all starring veteran musicians- starting tonight with The Rhodes Tavern Troubadours' early throw down at the Takoma VFW. Free show starts at 7 ends at 10- just right for the working stiff's schedule and pocketbook.  Friday night The Rock-A-Sonics rip up JVs while The Hall Brothers are at the College Park American Legion-another free event and money back guaranteed good time.

Saturday night is when things get really crazy. Pick your poison, people:

Rock n roll?

The Nighthawks at JVs now with Dan Hovey tearing things up on guitar.

Big band ?

Find Eric Felten swinging the very romantic Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo.

Something not in a pigeon hole?

How about the Bold Deceivers at the Takoma VFW? They describe themselves as "Satan's cabana boys take up folk" with an event they're calling " First Annual Hell's Bottom Hootenanny. " Can't argue with that.

For you nostalgic types, take a trip to fantasy land. You can catch The Beatles, The Dead,  Dylan and The Band. All on one night for Pete's sake. ( i.e. The Apple Core at Jammin' JavaOn the Bus AND The Bob Band at Villain and Saint. And last but not least The Last Waltz tribute at The Hamilton, but beware this show usually sells out.)