Archive for the ‘Essential DC’ Category

Cultural Traditions


photo:whitehouse.gov

Everybody knows that Thanksgiving “weekend” is probably among the best five days in the Washington, DC calendar. People come home for the holiday from wherever they have dispersed to and everybody heads out to clubs and bars – sometimes even those that might be off-puttingly packed with khakied-and-ballcapped transients during the rest of the year.

As for what to do during the day time to amuse yourself and family as people get progressively snippier with each other around the house, how about something that is pleasant and edifying (probably more than can be said of most of the movies you were thinking about)?

My top suggestion is that you remember that all Smithsonian museums are open every day except Christmas. That means they are all open on Thursday for your pre-meal perusal. Try visiting one you have put off before, or go back to a favorite knowing you will have the peace and quiet to really pay attention to the pieces you love. Check out the new Kogod Courtyard at the Reynolds Center. Go to the zoo!

DC’s Movie Theaters

All cities have their different flavors of movie theaters. The nice ones, the not so nice ones, the old ones, the new ones, the one that shows “artsy fartsy” movies, the one that shows blockbusters, the one with the giant screen, the one with the dollhouse sized screens. Here’s my breakdown of the theaters in DC:
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Got Water?

The Washington Post is reporting today that it’s probably not a good idea to start a fire in D.C. any time soon, whether it’s on purpose or accidental. If, for example, you leave a candle burning in your living room and your damn cat knocks it over, the fire department will have to try four hydrants before it finds one that works. In the meantime, Furball might really, really regret what she did and wonder why she’s so stupid…and then start to wonder what that smell is.

That’s right, D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin is estimating that at least 25% of the city’s fire hydrants are worthless. Please note two key words in the previous sentence: at and least! What does that mean? Are 50% of our hydrants out of order? 75%? All of them?! Don’t get me wrong, I love living in DC, but I have to question once again, “Where are my tax dollars going?”

To quote Rubin, “It’s like a sucker punch when firefighters are fighting a fire and go to a hydrant that doesn’t work.”

To quote me, “It’s like a roundhouse kick to the groin from Chuck Norris when your house burns to the ground because the powers that be have no idea how to run their city!”

I’m going to go home and throw all of my candles away, and if I had a cat, I’d throw it away too.

Fire hydrant photo by Bill Adler

Biggest Waste of Mall Space?

Do you recognize this dilapidated structure, badly in need of a paint job? Have you ever passed it on your way to a museum and wondered, “Hmmm. What a bizarre looking thingamajig. I wonder what they use that for?” Have you ever seen anyone on or around it? All of these questions cloud my brain whenever I walk by this prehistoric gazebo.

Well, according to Flickrite rockcreek:

“I used to walk by this every day when I worked at the Holocaust Museum, and finally called the library at the American History Museum one day to see if they had any info on it: it’s a bandstand, and it used to sit on the grounds of a now-demolished insane asylum in Illinois. When the asylum was closed in the 60s, it was donated to the Smithsonian. Apparently it was used for concerts in the 70s and 80s, but that was given up because the noise from the 14th St. traffic drowned out the musicians.”

What a waste of space! Here are my suggestions on what to do with this (roughly) 1/2 acre of land:

  • Build another Smithsonian Museum: The Museum of George Bush’s Great Ideas. He’s had a few great ideas in his time, like to marry Laura and have some hot party animal daughters, to mispronounce his words and be the laughing stock of the world, etc. Hopefully his next great idea will be to leave the White House quietly and never be heard from again.
  • Slap an ice skating rink in there. We’ve only got two other rinks within walking distance of this space, so what will another one hurt?
  • Turn it into one giant garbage can, an art installation if you will. It will give tourists a place to spit their gum and to throw their cigarette butts into.
  • Dig a hole a mile deep and build a giant parking garage. Charge $10 a car and watch the tourists gobble it up.
  • Turn it into a skate part so all of those punks over at Freedom Plaza have another place to tear up.
  • Build another Washington Monument there so that DC has its very own Twin Towers. Then put a catwalk between the two, charge $20 to walk across it, and watch the tourists gobble it up.
  • Build the Iraq War Memorial, aka The World War III Memorial.
  • Build a penalty box for any senator, congressman, or executive branch moron who breaks a law. Lock them up in a plexiglass box so that all of the tourists can pay $10 to take pictures of them with their camera phones.

Any other ideas? Let’s hear ’em.

The future of Eastern Market

In a flurry of Twitter messages this morning, my friends and I all wondered what the eventual fate of Eastern Market would be. Mayor Fenty is promising to rebuild, but will the character be preserved? Will Starbucks be permitted to open a store there in exchange for a rebuilding grant?

The Washington Post reported this morning:

In continuous operation since 1873, Eastern Market was designed by noted architect Adolph Cluss and is a recognized National Historic Landmark. The market sits just off Pennsylvania Avenue SE, on the neighborhood’s eastern edge.

Wondering exactly what National Historic Landmark designation means for a property that needs to be rebuilt, I checked out the National Park Service’s National Historic Landmark Program page, only to discover… Eastern Market is not, in fact, designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Wondering how I caught, in 5 minutes of Googling and using NPS’ own database, what the WaPo fact checkers had not (hey guys, did you take the morning off?), I noticed that the National Register of Historic Places is a separate list, also maintained by the National Park Service. Eastern Market does indeed appear on this list.

What’s the difference? I’m so glad you asked:
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Smacks Forehead in Disbelief

Over the years, I’ve often found myself enlightening various tourists and relatives about D.C.’s voting rights issue and the varied arguments over the “last colony” status of the District. It never surprises me that most people from outside the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area have no idea about D.C. residents’ disenfranchisement, and that they usually assume we carry on like lucky residents of Puerto Rico or Guam, not having to pay federal income taxes as a result of our “special status.” When I inform them otherwise, they’re usually surprised and think it unfair. So imagine my surprise reading this gem today on the Washington Post’s discussion about yesterday’s House bill result:

College Park, Md.: The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. So says the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

If D.C. gets full voting rights like the other states, then won’t they have to start paying federal income taxes?

Mary Beth Sheridan: D.C. residents already pay full federal income taxes.

This isn’t a tourist or an out-of-towner. This is a Maryland resident in a close-in college town on the Red Line. Shocking? Ignorant? Just amazingly uninformed? An area newbie? I have no idea, but I practically spat out my afternoon mocha upon reading it.

UPDATE: The irony of my saying College Park is on the Red Line. Oh, the horrible irony. Green Line, Green. My own line too. It’s humble pie tonight!

Snack Time

DC Snacks

Think fast DC. It’s 2:00 in the morning on a Saturday night. You just polished off 10 beers with your friends at Lucky Bar. While your goal was to meet some hottie, well, it just didn’t happen, even with those extremely thick beer goggles you have on. Your friends are in the same boat that you are so you say, “Adios amigos,” and go your separate ways. You stumble home, plop down on your couch, but there’s only one problem. You somehow forgot to eat dinner and you’re starving! What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!

Well if you’re like me, you have no food in your house. Your fridge contains butter, expired salad dressing, and some ketchup. You could go to 7 Eleven and get one of their day old hotdogs that have been rolling around on the torture rack all day long. But an even better alternative is to get on your computer and go to DC Snacks.com.

From ice cream to frozen pizza, condoms to cigarettes, DC Snacks has a little bit for everyone. They accept orders from 8pm to 2am (Sun-Wed) and 8pm to 4am (Th-Sat), and judging from their customer testimonials they do a good job.

I don’t know about you, but I miss the days of Kozmo.com. You could order almost anything from their site (magazines, movies, food, beverages, etc) and have it delivered to your door for free. Why leave the house? Sadly they were a victim of the dotcom implosion.

I just found out about DC Snacks a few days ago so I haven’t tried them out yet, but hey, Saturday is only a couple of days away and Lucky Bar is calling my name.

Lauriol Plaza: Mexican Paradise

It’s official, DC. Spring is here. Warm weather has arrived. The ice storms are gone, our spirits have been lifted, and our minds are thinking of lifting spirits (aka “drinking heavily”). There are two windows of time in this city when the weather is perfect, neither bitter cold or disgustingly hot and humid. It’s a time when you can leave your windows open at night, go outdoors without dreading it, and join your friends for dinner and drinks at one of our many patio bars (Local 16, 18th Street Lounge, Wonderland, etc). It’s also time for the beautiful people of the city to start packing themselves into Lauriol Plaza as if Corona and swirly margaritas were life necessities.

Most people either love or hate LP. I’m quite fond of it myself, partly because I think their food and margs rock, and partly because it takes me 5 minutes to walk there from my house. The biggest complaint I hear is, “Oh but the wait! You have to wait for hours to get a table!” Nonsense, poopy pants! If you’re a party of 8, sure. But if you’re 2-4 people, the most you’ll have to wait is 45 minutes, usually only 10-15. They key is getting there before 7:30, but if that’s too early for you, just hang out on the patio with your friends and a pitcher of margaritas and enjoy this weather while it lasts.

As far as the food goes, I highly recommend sticking with the basics. The fajitas, tacos, burritos, chimichangas, and enchiladas are all tasty treats. You may be tempted to get something fancy like lamb fajitas or crab enchiladas, but it’s your gamble, not mine.

So what say you, DC residents? Can you name a better Mexican food restaurant in town?

Photo by our very own Tom Bridge.

Pop Quiz: Who Bought a New Flag?

Well look who just bought themselves a brand new flag! Isn’t that a beauty! And it’s larger-than-life self is waving over 15th Street NW at the end of Meridian Park.

Now the question I have to ask you is: just which country’s flag is this?

Have you been to the National Aquarium?

National Aquarium

I didn’t think so. A better question may be, “Did you even know we had a National Aquarium?”

I’ve lived here for a couple of years now and have always noticed the tiny sign across the street from the Ronald Reagan building which alludes to an aquarium. Before you even set foot in the door, you’re setup for disappointment. I mean most aquariums are huge and have some sort of giant shark coming out of the side of the building. Our national treasure is tucked away in the basement of some old office building.

OK, fine. I don’t want to be a total downer and talk bad about our city. I think it’s great that they have a place where little kids can go look at “pretty fishies” and bang on the glass tanks. A place where we can see a 5 foot alligator staring at you through thick Plexiglas walls. A place where algae grows thick in nearly every tank. And of course, a place with a tacky gift shop where you can buy a stuffed shark, a plastic frog, or a bag full of shark’s teeth. Who couldn’t use a bag full of teeth?

For a $5 admission fee, it’s worth going to check it out on your own sometime. If you leave feeling disappointed, just grab a $5 hot dog from one of the street vendors and thanks God that it’s not you in one of those tanks.

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