Archive for November, 2016

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Zombie Donuts

For a while when I initially started this blog, I would visit a restaurant on my last ride of each month and write a post about it.  I haven’t done that as frequently during the past year.  But I didn’t want 2016 to end without at least one more ride during which I treat myself to something better than the cafeteria fare I often eat at my desk after I get back from a bike ride.  So on this bike ride I sought out Zombie Coffee and Donuts, one of the few local doughnut shops that I hadn’t been to previously.   Zombie has two locations, and I chose the one located at 3100 14th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.  I chose this location because the other is a little too far away for me to ride to on my break from work.  Their only other location is in Athens, Georgia.

Now, I’m not much of a coffee drinker.  I never have been.  I remember first trying it as a child and not liking it.  My parents said I would learn to like it, but I decided it wasn’t worth learning to like.  So on this bike ride I sought out Zombie not for the coffee but for their doughnuts.  And you might be able to tell from some of my previous blog posts, I like a good doughnut.

Zombie serves only fresh made-to-order cake doughnuts which can be topped with your of choice glazes and toppings.  The way that it normally works is that after entering the shop you’re handed an order form that asks you to specify which kind of glaze you’d like with which topping.   Some of their most popular combinations are listed at the top of the order form, and include Chocolate Icing and M&Ms, Vanilla Icing and crushed Oreos, Maple Icing and Bacon or Pecans, either Chocolate or Vanilla Icing and Caramel Drizzle, Lemon Glaze and Coconut, or Half Chocolate Icing and Half Vanilla Icing. Or you can check off your own individual choices such strawberry glaze with rainbow sprinkles, as I’m sure Homer Simpson would order if he were at Zombie.  Altogether there are 84 possible combinations of glazes and toppings.

I happened to walk in at one of the infrequent times when there was not a line, so I was able to just tell them what kind of doughnuts I wanted, and they made them as I stood there.  I chose one with just plain strawberry icing, and a chocolate iced doughnut with shredded coconut.  Now I’m not going to “sugarcoat” things here.  They were not the best doughnuts I’ve ever had.  But they were so fresh they were still warm, and they were darned good.  They’re so good, in fact, I can forgive them for spelling the word doughnut incorrectly.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]
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The Flags of History Display

Most people walking by don’t even to bother to look up and notice the display of historic flags along the front of the FBI Headquarters building.  But they should, because they tell quite a bit about the proud history of the United States.  Located along Pennsylvania Avenue, also known as “the Nation’s ceremonial route”, are ten historic flags, flanked on either end by today’s 50-star flag representing the 50 states of the Union.  And on today’s bike ride, I rode there to see the display that illustrates the development of the “Stars and Stripes”.  While I am not a vexillologist, I found all of the historic flags displayed outside the FBI building interesting and informative.

Beginning at the east end of the building near 9th Street and proceeding west toward 10th Street are these ten historic flags:

  • The Grand Union, or Continental Colors, serving from 1775-1777, was first raised on January 1, 1776, on Mount Pigsah, Massachusetts, about the time the Continental army came into formal existence. It combined the British Union Jack and 13 stripes, signifying Colonial unity.
  • The Flag of 1777, which had no official arrangement for the 13 stars. It was flown by John Paul Jones on the USS Ranger and was the first American flag to be recognized by a foreign power.
  • The Betsy Ross Flag, 13 stars, designed by George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Francis Hopkinson. Although rarely used, it was adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777 – the official date of the holiday which is today known as Flag Day.
  • The Bennington Flag, 13 six-pointed stars, allegedly flown August 16, 1777, over military stores at the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, when the Vermont militia beat back a superior British force.
  • The Star Spangled Banner, 15 stars and 15 stripes, immortalized by Francis Scott Key in our National Anthem during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Maryland, in September 13, 1814.
  • The Flag of 1818, 20 stars, commissioned by a Congressional Flag Act that returned the design to 13 stripes and stipulated that stars be added for each new state.
  • The Great Star Flag, 20 stars, designed by Captain Samuel Chester Reid, U.S. Navy, at the request of New York Congressman Peter Wendover and flown over the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 1818.  This flag has the stars arranged in the pattern of a star, symbolizing the motto “E Pluribus Unum”: Out of many, one.
  • The Lincoln Flag, 34 stars, raised by President Lincoln on February 22, 1861, over Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to send a message to Southern states, which were preparing to secede from the Union.
  • The Iwo Jima Flag, 48 stars, which was commissioned in 1912 but came to symbolize our nation on February 19, 1945, when U.S. Marines raised it on Mount Suribachi after fearful fighting in World War II’s Pacific campaign.
  • The 49-Star Flag, commissioned in 1959 when Alaska achieved full statehood. It flew for only one year, until July 4, 1960, after Hawaii achieved its Statehood and when today’s 50-star flag became official.

And as I was leaving, I saw one more flag, on a flag pole around the corner of the 9th Street side of the building.  It’s the current United States flag, which the FBI’s police force reverently raises each day at 5 am and then takes down again at dusk. 

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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The Rock Creek Church Yard

I used a little vacation time at work this morning and went on an longer than usual bike ride for today’s lunchbreak.  I rode to D.C.’s Rock Creek Church Yard, also known as Rock Creek Cemetery, located at 201 Allison Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Brightwood Park neighborhood.  I’ve been there once before during my lunchtime bike rides, but it is a quite large cemetery and I wanted to go back when I would be able to take more time to explore and not have to rush to get back to my office. 

The cemetery was first established in 1719, on the grounds of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish, making the pre-Revolutionary War cemetery, as well as the church, the oldest in the city.  But I will explore the church and more of the cemetery’s history on another ride and in another blog post.  On today’s ride I went to explore the 84-acre grounds in search of some the statuary and unusual gravestones for which the cemetery in renowned.

There are a number of notable interments in the cemetery, including a signer of the Constitution, Senators, Congressman, presidential cabinet secretaries, a Supreme Court Justice, ambassadors and diplomats, mayors, military officers, Medal of Honor recipients, prominent businessmen, college professors, and even a former KGB Agent and defector from the Soviet Union.  But the statuary is often marking the graves of lesser known individuals whose stories are either known only by their families, or lost to time.   

Each of the cemetery’s statues and grave makers are unique in design.  In the following photos I attempted to capture some of the unusual and interesting ones that are prevalent throughout the cemetery.  Depending on their age, many are worn and weathered.  But those aspects of the monuments only add to their aesthetics.  I took the photos in black and white because to a varying degree it helped bring out the lines and shadows of the statues and markers.  And it just seemed appropriate.  Be sure to click on the photos to view the full-size versions, and then zoom in to see some of the intricacies and details of each.

My visit to the Rock Creek Church Yard ended up being an interesting and thought-provoking time, and I got in a 25-mile bike ride too.  It was a great mini vacation during the middle of a workweek.  But there’s so much more there to see and experience, I’m sure I’ll be going back again soon.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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The Trapeze School of New York

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day in 1859 that a man named Jules Léotard made his first public appearance as the world’s first flying trapeze artist. He was just 21  years old at the time, but Léotard had been practicing since he was a little boy.

Léotard was born in Toulouse, France, the son of a gymnastics instructor. After he passed his law exams, he seemed destined to join the legal profession. But he had also been experimenting with trapeze bars, ropes and rings suspended over a swimming pool in his father’s gymnasium, and the years of practice paid off. He was the first to turn a somersault in mid-air, and the first to jump from one trapeze to the next.

If the last name sounds familiar, it’s because he was also the designer of the skin-tight one-piece garment which was eventually named after him. Léotard himself called the garment a “maillot”, which is a general French word for different types of tight-fitting shirts or sports shirts. Léotard’s maillot was an all-in-one knitted suit. It allowed freedom of movement, was relatively aerodynamic and there was no danger of a flapping garment becoming entangled with the ropes. Even more importantly, it showed off his physique to its best advantage, making him a huge hit with the ladies and inspiring George Leybourne to immortalize him on the popular song, “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.”

In his memoirs, Léotard vainly wrote: “Do you want to be adored by the ladies? A trapeze is not required, but instead of draping yourself in unflattering clothes, invented by ladies, and which give us the air of ridiculous mannikins, put on a more natural garb, which does not hide your best features.”

The first known use of the name leotard for clothing came in 1886, many years after Léotard’s death at the age of 28. It is still worn today by acrobats, gymnasts, dancers, figure skaters, circus performers, athletes, actors, and exercise enthusiasts throughout the world.

In recognition of today’s anniversary, on today’s bike ride I wore only a leotard.  No, I’m lying.  Not even I would want to see that. Actually, on today’s ride I rode to the D.C. campus of the Trapeze School New York, located near Nationals Park at 1269 New Jersey Avenue  (MAP) in southeast D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood.  If you’re thinking of joining the circus, or just looking for a couple hours of unique fun, I recommend giving them a try.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Mama Ayesha and the Presidents

During this lunchtime bike ride as I was riding across the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge in northwest D.C.’s Adam’s Morgan neighborhood, I saw a mural on the side of a building on the eastern end of the bridge.  So I rode over to get a better look at the mural.  I discovered it was on the side of Mama Ayesha’s Restaurant, located at 1967 Calvert Street (MAP), and depicts the restaurant’s namesake standing in front of the White House.  She is flanked on either side by eleven different presidents standing in chronological order, starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower and ending with Barack Obama. The content of the public artwork is so unusual that I just had to find out more about it.

The mural was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and private donors.  It was created in 2009 by Karla Rodas, also known as Karlísima, who is a native of El Salvador but moved with her family as a child to nearby Alexandria.  After graduating from Annandale High School and Washington University, she returned to D.C. and has since become one of the capital city’s most well-known and respected muralists.

The initial concept for the mural was planned by Mama Ayesha’s family members, who have run the restaurant since its opening in 1960. However, the original plan did not have Mama Ayesha as the centerpiece of the work. Instead, the family wanted Helen Thomas, a renowned White House reporter and regular customer at the restaurant, to be at the center of the mural. She was envisioned to be seated at a desk with pen and paper in her hand. However, Thomas politely declined the family’s request, opining that Mama Ayesha should be portrayed instead.

The final design depicts Mama Ayesha in traditional Palestinian garb standing in front of the White House. With six presidents on her right and five on her left, she stands in the middle between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, with their arms interlocked. Interspersed throughout the mural are other symbols and additional scenes and landmarks from the national capital city. They include a bald eagle, the city’s famous cherry blossoms, as well as the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol Building.  And representations of the U.S. flag appear on the sides of the painting.

With President Obama’s successor to be determined in tomorrow’s election, I hope the mural will be updated.  There is sufficient space in front of the Reflecting Pool for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  I very much look forward to the election being over.  And I also look forward to being able to come back to see the updated mural at some point in the near future.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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The Doughnut Vote

There are a lot of great doughnut shops in the city.  And one of my favorite shops is Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, which I wrote about in this blog a couple of years ago.  I am writing about it again because they are temporarily offering a couple of new politically-themed flavors – “The Donald” and “The Hillary.”

The new doughnuts reflect the tastes of the candidates for which they are named.  The Donald is yeast doughnut filled with a delicious cherry compote and lightly coated with a vanilla-Cherry Coke glaze. The flavors were selected based on Mr. Trump’s reported love of both Diet Coke and cherry vanilla ice cream. The Hillary is a chocolate cake doughnut with a spicy-hot chocolate-Chipotle glaze. It was created based on Mrs. Clinton’s reported love for chocolate, and the fact that it has been reported that she eats a hot pepper every day. Both doughnuts are piped with vanilla icing lettering on top – an “R” for the Republican candidate, and a “D” for the Democratic candidate.

However, if you are disenchanted with the two-party system or just can’t bring yourself to vote for either of the candidates representing the major political parties this time around, there are a variety of independent candidates for who you can cast a vote.  They include Crème Brûlée, Vanilla Bean, Bourbon Pecan Pie, Sweet Potato, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Maple Bacon, and Cranberry Orange.

The Donald and The Hillary doughnuts are only available until the election next Tuesday.  On today’s bike ride I stopped by and cast a vote.  And with less than a week to go until the election, I recommend you hurry down to Astro and do the same.  Or you can cast more than one vote if you like.  Because when it comes to these doughnuts, my recommendation is to vote early and vote often.