Archive for March, 2019

Mamie “Peanut” Johnson Mural

Mamie Johnson got her nickname from a trash-talking third baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs named Hank Bayliss.  Although that was not his intention.  Standing at the plate opposite the 5-foot-3, 115-pound right-handed pitcher, Bayliss took a hard strike, after which he stepped out of the batter’s box and said, “Why, that little girl’s no bigger than a peanut. I ain’t afraid of her.”  But it would take more than trash talking when facing off against her.  She proceeded to strike him out.  After that, Johnson decided to turn the jab into her nickname.  And from then on the first female pitcher to play in the Negro Leagues was affectionately known as “Peanut.”

Peanut was born Mamie Lee Belton in Ridgeway, South Carolina on September 27, 1935, to Della Belton Havelow and Gentry Harrison.  In 1944 her family moved, eventually settling down here in D.C.  In 1952, when she was still just 17 years old, she and another young woman went to a tryout in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  This was the same league portrayed in the film “A League of Their Own.”  But despite Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB) five years earlier, the women’s league remained segregated, and she was turned away.  Years later she was quoted as saying, “They looked at us like we were crazy.  They wouldn’t even let us try out, and that’s the same discrimination that some of the other black ballplayers had before Mr. Robinson broke the barrier. I never really knew what prejudice was until then.”

She would later recall her rejection by the women’s league, however, was a blessing in disguise.  Because the later that year a scout saw Johnson dominate a lineup of men while playing for a team sponsored by St. Cyprian’s Catholic Church in D.C.  The scout invited her to try out for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues, the same team that launched the career of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.  She would go on to play three seasons with the Clowns, from 1953 through 1955.

At the plate the right-handed batter had a respectable batting average in the range of .262 to .284.  But with a career 33–8 win-loss record, she was not as good a batter as she was a pitcher.  A right-handed pitcher with a deceptively hard fastball, Peanut also threw a slider, circle changeup, screwball, knuckleball, and curveball, a pitch she received pointers on from Satchel Paige.  Of Paige, she said, “Tell you the truth, I didn’t know of his greatness that much. He was just another ballplayer to me at that particular time.  Later on, I found out exactly who he was.”

Peanut’s brief professional baseball career ended before her 20th birthday, but in that time she amassed a lifetime of interesting stories about a bygone era of playing baseball in a league born of segregation.  After retiring, she earned a nursing degree from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and established a 30-year career in the field, working at Sibley Memorial Hospital back here in D.C.  She later operated a Negro Leagues memorabilia shop in nearby Capitol Heights, Maryland.

Peanut eventually received recognition for her career in the Negro Leagues.  In 1999, she was a guest of The White House.  And in 2008, Peanut and other living players from the Negro Leagues ere were drafted by major league franchises prior to the 2008 MLB First year Draft.  Peanut was selected by the Washington Nationals.  Peanut also spoke at an event entitled Baseball Americana 2009, which was organized by The Library of Congress.  And in 2015, a Little League named for her was formed in D.C.

Among these and many other accolades is a mural featuring Peanut, along with Josh Gibson, another prominent Negro League player from D.C. who was also known as the “black Babe Ruth”, and played for the Homestead Grays, who played home games at D.C.’s Griffith Stadium.  The mural was created last year here in D.C.  It is located in the alley off of U Street (MAP) between Ben’s Chili Bowl and the Lincoln Theater in northwest D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, and was the destination of this lunchtime bike ride.  Today is opening day for MLB and the Washington Nationals.  And normally I would ride by Nationals Park on Opening Day.  But since I couldn’t go to the game this afternoon, I decided to go see this baseball-themed mural during today’s lunchtime bike ride.

The colorful mural was painted by D.C. artist Aniekan Udofia, and is directly across the alley from his mural featuring the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama, Prince and Muhammad Ali on the side of Ben’s Chili Bowl.  The mural was conceived and orchestrated by MLB to kick off the weeklong festivities leading up to last fall’s MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park.  At the unveiling ceremony, a speaker stated that one of the goals of the mural was to “inspire others to learn about Johnson, Gibson and the Negro Leagues.”  And today I did just that.

 

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

The Golden Haiku Contest

There are certain things that indicate the arrival of spring.  The sighting of a robin is considered the first sign of spring by many in the U.S.  For others it is when we set the clocks forward for daylight savings time.  And some rely on a more official scientific indicator, namely the arrival of the vernal equinox.  But for me it is the return of roadside haiku signs displayed by the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (GTBID) as part of their annual Golden Haiku contest.

A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey an experience.  And this year marks the 6th annual Golden Haiku competition.  The GTBID received nearly 2,000 entries from 50 countries and 41 states, as well as local entries from many D.C. residents.  Judges then selected their top three haiku, including a D.C. winner, dozens of honorable mentions, along with many of their other favorites.  The haiku were then printed on colorful signs that are featured in tree and flower boxes throughout D.C.’s Golden Triangle, which stretches from the front yard of The White House to the Dupont Circle neighborhood.
During today’s lunchtime bike ride, I enjoyed many of the colorful signs despite the cool and overcast weather.  And I took photos of some of my favorites so that you could enjoy them too.  But there are more than 300 signs adorning the sidewalks throughout the Golden Triangle.  They are better enjoyed in person like I did today.  But you better hurry because they are only up through the end of the month.  However, if you don’t have time or are too far away, take heart.  You can also view all of them online.

 

 

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

Links from the past:
Golden Haiku (2016)
Golden Haiku is Back (2018)

Howard Theater Walk of Fame

On this lunchtime bike ride, I stopped riding and walked my bike one the sidewalk starting north on 7th Street beginning at S Street (MAP), and rounding the corner onto T Street before ending at The Howard Theatre in northwest D.C.’s U Street neighborhood.  I did this so that I could see the sidewalk medallions that comprise The Howard Theater Walk of Fame.

The concept for the new walk of fame was in development since 2008 by the Shaw and LeDroit Park communities in their passion to preserve and honor the rich history of the historic Howard Theatre, and was subsequently commissioned by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Cultural Tourism D.C., a nonprofit that promotes the arts across the city.

After a call for artists in 2016, D.C.-based design firm Hackreative along with sculptors Jay Coleman and Joanna Blake were selected to design the medallions. Their pieces draw design elements from the architecture of the Howard Theatre itself, including the braided arch and banner on the building’s sign, and the block frame around the marquee.

The walk of fame consists of fifteen medallions memorializing and recognizing different artists and musicians that have performed at the Howard Theater since it first opened in 1910, who were chosed by a panel of representatives from the commissioning groups, plus a few Shaw and LeDroit Park leaders.  The medallions honor Pearl Bailey, Chuck Brown, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Cab Calloway, The Clovers, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Hampton, Moms Mabley, Abbie Mitchell, Billy Taylor, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and a combination of Howard Theatre managers and owners.  Upright signs that detail the history of the theater and the artists represented bookend the project.

After today’s ride, I later went home and listened to performances by the artists recognized by the walk of fame.  That music was a perfect way to end the day, and a long workweek.

 

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

The Assassination Site of President Garfield

President James A. Garfield was the 20th president of the United States, serving from March 4, 1881, until his death by assassination six and a half months later while waiting to catch a train at the Baltimore and Potomac rail station.  The site where it happened s just a few hundred yards from the 20th President’s official Presidential Memorial in an area of the city that has gone through many changes since the train station’s building and tracks were demolished in 1908 during a redesign of the National Mall.  The National Gallery of Art’s West Building is now located there (MAP).  But one thing stayed the same at the site for the first 137 years after President Garfield’s assassination.  That was the absence of a plaque or historical marker to indicate what happened there on July 2, 1881.  But that recently changed.  So on this bike ride, I went there to see the new historical marker.

When President Garfield was elected in 1880, a man named Charles Julius Guiteau falsely believed he had played a major role in his victory.  He also thought he should be rewarded with a consulship for his efforts in electing the new President.  So he submitted applications to serve in Paris or Vienna, despite the fact he spoke no French or any other  foreign language.  But when the Garfield administration rejected his applications, he decided it was because he was part of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party, and President Garfield was affiliated with the opposing Half-Breed faction of the party.  Guiteau was so offended at being rejected for a consular position that he decided President Garfield had to die so that Vice President Chester A. Arthur, who was a fellow Stalwart, would succeed him.  He thought this would not only end the war within the Republican Party, but would lead to rewards for fellow Stalwarts, including himself.

As difficult as it is to imagine in today’s political world, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was seen as a fluke due to the Civil War, and Garfield, like most people, saw no reason why the president should be guarded.  In fact, the President’s plans and schedule were often printed in the newspapers.  Knowing his schedule and where he would be, Guiteau followed Garfield several times.  But each time his plans to kill the President were frustrated, or he lost his nerve.  Then in the summer of 1881, when the President had been in office for only four months, Garfield decided to take a train trip to New England to escape the swampy summer heat of D.C.  Right after he arrived at the Baltimore and Potomac rail station, Guiteau emerged from where he had been hiding by the ladies’ waiting room and walked up to Garfield and shot him twice, once in the back and once in the arm, with an ivory-handled pistol, a gun he thought would look good in a museum.  Guiteau was quickly apprehended, and as he was led away, he stated, “I did it. I will go to jail for it. I am a Stalwart and Arthur will be President.”

The wounded President was taken upstairs to a private office in the train station, where several doctors examined him.  There they probed the wound with unwashed fingers, another thing that is difficult to imagine today.  At Garfield’s request, he was then taken back to The White House.  The physician who took charge at the train station and then at the White House was Willard Bliss, an old friend of the President’s.  About a dozen physicians, led by Dr. Bliss, were soon probing the wound, again with unsterilized fingers and instruments.

Although in considerable pain despite being given morphine, the President did not lose his sense of humor.  He asked Dr. Bliss to tell him his chances, which Bliss put at one in a hundred. The President then replied, “Well, Doctor, we’ll take that chance.”  In addition to his treatment, Garfield was also being given oatmeal porridge and milk from a cow on the White House lawn for nourishment.  However, he hated oatmeal porridge.  So when he was told that Indian chief Sitting Bull, a prisoner of the U.S. Army, was starving, Garfield initially said, “Let him starve,” but then quickly changed his mind and said, “Oh, no, send him my oatmeal.”

During the President’s treatment, Alexander Graham Bell attempted to locate the bullet with a primitive metal detector.  (The use of X-rays, which likely would have helped the President’s physicians save his life, would not be invented for another fourteen years.)  However, he was unsuccessful.  But they were able to help keep Garfield relatively comfortable in the stifling heat that he had been trying to escape with one of the first successful air conditioning units, which reduced the temperature in the sickroom by 20 degrees.

During the weeks of intensive care after being shot, Garfield would alternately seem to get better and then take turns for the worse.  He developed an abscess around the wound, which doctors probed but most likely only made worse.  He also developed infections that cause him to have a fever of 104 degrees, and he lost a considerable amount of weight.  Eventually, Dr. Bliss agreed to move him to Elberon, part of Long Branch, New Jersey, where his wife had been recovering from an illness at the time her husband was shot.

There, Garfield could see the ocean as officials and reporters maintained what became a death watch. Garfield eventually succumbed to a combination of his injury and his treatment.  On September 18, Garfield asked Almon Ferdinand Rockwell, a friend and business associate who was at his bedside, if he would have a place in history. Rockwell assured Garfield he would, but told him that he still had much work to do.  The President responded, “No, my work is done.”  He died later that night.

According to many medical experts and historians, Garfield most likely would have survived his wounds had Dr. Bliss and the other doctors attending to him had the benefit of modern medical research, knowledge, techniques, and equipment.  In fact, much like President Ronald Reagan after the assassination attempt at The Washington Hilton here in D.C., Garfield would probably also have survived being shot.  Instead, the treatment he received at least contributed, and most likely caused his death.  It is thought that starvation also played a role in President Garfield’s death.

Four presidents have been assassinated while in office.  And two of them occurred here in D.C.  President Lincoln was killed at Ford’s Theater in 1865, and just 16 years later President Garfield was shot by Guiteau less than a thousand yards away from where President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Boothe.  There were already official markers for President Lincoln at The Petersen House in D.C. where he died, President William McKinley in Buffalo, New York, and President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.  Now all four sites have been properly recognized.  I’ve now been to the two sites here in D.C.  The other two, however, are a little too far away for a lunchtime bike ride.

   

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

Battle Hymn of the Republic Ride

The “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, frequently known outside of the United States as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,”
is a lyric by the American writer Julia Ward Howe using the music from a song entitled “John Brown’s Body.”  Howe’s more famous lyrics were written in November of 1861, and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862.  And to end the week, on today’s lunchtime bike ride I went by The Willard Hotel (MAP), which is the site where she composed the song.

Julia Ward Howe was married to Samuel Gridley Howe, a nineteenth century American physician, abolitionist, and a famed scholar and advocate for education of the blind.  The couple were active leaders in anti-slavery politics and strong supporters of the Union.  Samuel Howe was a member of the Secret Six, the group who funded John Brown, who advocated for armed insurrection as the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States.  John Brown later lead a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (today West Virginia) in an attempt to arm slaves and start a slave liberation movement.  However, the raid failed, he was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as the murder of five men including three black men, and inciting a slave insurrection.  He was found guilty on all counts and hanged, becoming the first person convicted of treason in the history of the country.  However, this did not deter the Howes’ abolishionist beliefs.

Howe first heard the song “John Brown’s Body” during a public review of Union troops outside D.C., on Upton Hill, Virginia. The Reverend James Freeman Clarke, who was accompanying Howe at the review, suggested to Howe that she write new words for the fighting men’s song.  It was at his suggestion that on the night of November 18, 1861, Howe wrote the verses to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Of the writing of the lyrics, Howe remembered, “I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, “I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.” So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.”

When she was done, these were the lyrics she wrote:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

[The chorus, which is repeated after each verse:]
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my condemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, ”
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!
While God is marching on.

A sixth verse also written by Howe, which is less commonly sung, was not initially published at that time. The lyrics are:

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

The song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of the age, as depicted in the 63rd chapter of the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament and the 19th chapter of the book of Revelation in the New Testament, with the American Civil War. And I had heard this extremely popular and well-known patriotic song many times during my life.  I’ve even heard it sung as a hymn in church.  But it wasn’t until today’s lunchtime bike ride that I learned about it, and where it was written.

The Thomas Hollowell Ghost Bike

Sadly, during my recent hiatis from my daily lunchtime bike rides, another ghost bike was erected here in D.C.  A ghost bike is a bicycle that is painted white and left as a memorial at a site where a cyclist was fatally injured by a collision with a motor vehicle.  It serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of cyclists.

This most-recent ghost bike was placed at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 12th Street (MAP), in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, to remember a Virginia cyclist named Thomas Hollowell, who was hit and killed at that intersection on September 24, 2018.  He was struck by a speeding car that drove through a red light.  The driver then fled the scene, leaving the 64-year old cyclist dying in the street just steps from his job at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where he was commuting at the time he was killed.  It is also just a block away from my office.  Almost three weeks later police arrested 20-year-old Phillip Peoples of Suitland, Maryland, and charged him with second degree murder in the death of Hollowell.  A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Peoples jailed without bond pending trial, where he remains today.

So now that I’m back out riding again for my lunchtime bike rides, I rode to the intersection where Hollowell was killed to see the ghost bike and pay my respects.

Hollowell is the latest of several cyclists or scooter riders to die on D.C. streets in the last year.  The most recent accident prior to Hollowell’s involved 20-year-old Maryland resident named Carlos Alejandro Sanchez-Martin, who was hit and killed by a car in September while riding a scooter through Dupont Circle.  Before that, Jeffrey Hammond Long, was also struck and killed in DuPont Circle while riding his bike.

Ironically, Carol Regier, his wife, shared with those present at the memorial ride during which the ghost bike was placed at the intersection, that “He was very, very interested in coming up with new ideas about how to make cycling more safe.  How to make it so cars could see the bicycles on the road better and how to get the cars to be a little more conscious of the fact that there are other people on the road.”  It is my sincere hope that this happens before there is a need for another ghost bike here in D.C., or anywhere else.

 

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

Iran Freedom March

While I was sitting in my office working this morning I received a message from our security personnel advising all employees to use caution if exiting the building around 1:00pm because many of the streets in the Downtown area would be shut down by the police for a large group of people.  However, the message simply urged caution.  It contained no specific information or explanation of what was going to be happening.  So naturally I was curious enough to schedule today’s lunchtime bike ride for the same time so I could go out and see first hand what was going on.

It turned out to be the Iran Freedom March, an annual protest in which Iranian-Americans march down Pennsylvania Avenue, from 10th Street to Freedom Plaza, where members and supporters of the Organization of Iranian American Communities gather for speeches and to draw attention to their call for a regime change in Tehran and ask the U.S.  They then finish by marching the last couple of blocks to The White House, where they call on the U.S.  government to label Iran’s military and intelligence agency as terror organizations.  The group seeks an uprising in Iran and regime change to establish a democratic, secular and non-nuclear nation.

Among other speakers, Maryan Rajavi, president-elect of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, addressed the marchers.  In prepared remarks, she noted that the rally was held on International Women’s Day and congratulated women fighting for equality under a “misogynist regime.” She stated, “On this day, Iran and Iranians take pride in the women of Iran who have risen up and waged one of the greatest resistances of the modern era.  They have given tens of thousands of martyrs, prisoners and torture victims, and for four decades have been active on all the fields of battle.”  Rajavi then called on the U.S. State Department to designate Iran’s military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Ministry of Intelligence as foreign terrorist organizations, asserting “Doing so would be a positive message to the Iranian people, and a decisive message against the clerical regime.”

It wasn’t the way I planned to spend my lunchtime today.  But those plans can wait until next week.  I’m glad I was able to observe the march, and learn more about their cause.

 

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

Cherry Blossom Buds

Every year, the National Park Service, whose horticulturists care for D.C.’s famous and historic cherry trees, issues a prediction for when 70 percent of the blooms on the trees will be open.  This is known as “peak bloom.” And depending on weather conditions, peak bloom can last anywhere from four to ten days.  But it should also be noted, however, that different individual trees will still be blooming before and after the actual peak.

Yesterday the Park Service tweeted out its peak bloom prediction for 2019. This year, if all goes as planned, more than 70 percent of the blossoms on the trees around the tidal basin will flower between April 3 and April 6.  It should be noted that the prediction is subject to change as we get closer to the predicted dates.  Fluctuations in temperature and weather conditions between now and then can affect the accuracy of the prediction.  Warmer weather will lead to a faster peak bloom, and colder weather could delay it.  So the prediction is subject to being updated.  And it often is.
Last year the trees’ blossoms reached peak bloom on April 5.  And in 2017 it was on March 25.  The average peak bloom date is April 4.  So if this year’s current prediction holds steady, the peak should occur very close to the average date.  It would also fall near the middle of this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, which is scheduled to run from March 20th to April 14th.

On this lunchtime bike ride, I rode by the Tidal Basin (MAP), and stopped at The Indictor Tree to witness in person the beginning of the blooming process.  And I was not disappointed.  There are already green buds on the trees, which is the first stage in the blooming process.  And while they are not blooms, they are beautiful in their own way.  Many say that the beauty and brevity of the blossoms symbolizes the life, which is beautiful but brief.  In keeping with this symbolism, I think the impending blooms signaled by the green buds make the buds symbolic of the hope and promise of life.

Note:  Here are some links to past years’ posts about D.C.’s cherry blossoms:
•  Photo Gallery of this Year’s Cherry Blossoms (2018)
•  Cherry Blossom Stages of Development (2018)
•  The Indicator Tree (2018)
•  This Year’s Cherry Blossoms Watch (2017)
•  The Amur Cork Tree (2017)
•  The Japanese Pagoda at the Tidal Basin (2017)
•  Sunrise with the Cherry Blossoms (2016)
•  The Peaking of the Cherry Blossoms (2016)
•  The Annual Cherry Blossoms (2015)
•  The Cherry Blossoms Around The Tidal Basin (2014)
•  The Cherry Trees Collection at the National Arboretum (2014)

Getting “Ashes to Go” During Today’s Ride

For today’s bike ride I went out early instead of waiting for lunchtime.  It was unseasonable cold today.  And it was even colder because I went out early in the morning instead of waiting until mid-day.  But I intentionally went for an early ride so I could participate in “Ashes To Go.”

An outreach of The Church of The Epiphany, the same church that conducts the Street Church services I occasionally attend, Ashes to Go occurs annually on Ash Wednesday, which is a Christian holy day of prayer, fasting, and repentance.  It falls on the first day of Lent, a period of 46 days of penitence directly preceeding Easter.  This is done in a symbolic imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert, less the six Sundays during this period that are not considered part of the Lenten fast.  Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christians, including Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and some Baptists.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the imposition of repentance ashes, often prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations, in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of participants, or sprinkled on the crown of the recipient’s head.  As the ashes are imposed, the pastor states, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or the dictum  “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” (“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”)

Since 2007 some members of major Christian Churches, including Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics and Methodists, have participated in the Ashes to Go program, in which clergy go outside of their churches to public places, such as downtowns, sidewalks and train stations, even to people waiting in their cars for a stoplight to change, to distribute ashes to passersby.  An Anglican priest named Emily Mellott of Calvary Church in Lombard, Illinois, took up the idea and turned it into a movement, stating that the practice was also an act of evangelism.

As part of this movement, the Church of the Epiphany’s pastoral staff sets up in an area just outside the 13th Street exit of the Metro Center subway station (MAP), as well as on the steps of the church, to provide the ceremonial imposition of ashes to arriving commuters, believers whose schedules make it difficult to attend a scheduled service at the church, and anyone else who so desires to receive ashes as an external sign of repentance.  Again this year, this included me.  And although I can’t be certain, I think I was one of the few, if not the only participant riding a bike.

 

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

A Delayed Return, But I’m Back

Since last summer I have not posted on this blog as frequently as I usually do.  And there’s a reason for that.  Sadly, that reason was not retirement.  Although I am eligible to retire and could afford to, I have a couple of daughters who cannot afford for me to.  So my current plan is to work for a few more years while I pay for their college tuition.  And then when I actually retire I’ll buy myself another retirement gift like I did when I became eligible to retire last fall.

The reason I have not been riding and posting in this blog is because early last summer I started experiencing intermittent stomach pains, and sometimes nauseau and various other symptoms.  This would occur at different times, but especially when riding a bike.  Neither I nor my medical team were initially able to determine the cause.  Because the symptoms would come and go it was like taking a car to a mechanic because it was making a strange noice, but my the time the mechanic takes it out for a test drive the noise had stopped.  By the time I could go to see one of my doctors the symptoms would subside.  And you can’t fix something when you don’t know what to fix.

We were eventually able to determine that it was a tear in my abdominal wall at one of the seven incision locations made during my previous cancer surgery.  Thankfully, the cancer was not back.    But the tear had become so large that additional surgery became necessary.  So I had surgery again this past fall to repair the problem.  And I am please to be able to say that the surgery was successful.

However, by the time I had recuperated from the surgery and was ready to get back in the saddle, the government incurred a partial shutdown due to a lapse in appropriations.  And I got furloughed, which means I was sent home from work without pay, for what turned out to be the longest shutdown in American history.  As you may know from reading this blog, I have been working for the Federal government for over thirty years.  So this was not my first furlough.  In fact, I have been furloughed more than a half a dozen times.  But this one was the longest, lasting from before last Christmas until January 25th of this year, around five weeks.  It turned out alright in the end, and I received back pay for the work missed during the furlough.  But the furlough time kept me away from my lunchtime bike rides for even more time.

And then when the furlough finally ended, to coin a phrase, “when it rained it poured.”  Since returning to work after the government shutdown, we have been experiencing numerous closings, delays, and early dismissals from work due to severe inclement weather here in the D.C. area.  This further delayed returning to my routine lunchtime bike rides.

It’s been around six months since I was in the habit of riding every day, so I will have to transition back into riding and posting about it on this blog as frequently as I used to.  I got out of shape and gained some weight during “the incident.”  But I have two goals to getting back to the way things used to be.  The first is to get fit again.  And the second is to stop referring to allowing myself to gain weight and get out of shape as “the incident.”

I have adjusted and tuned up my bikes.  So they’re ready.  And I’m now ready too.  Every journey has to start somewhere.  Or in this case, restart.  So it’s time to start riding again.  So please keep an eye out for me on the streets of D.C.  And keep reading this blog.