Posts Tagged ‘D.C.’

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.

 

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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.

   

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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.

 

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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)

The Spectra Sundial

During this afternoon’s bike ride I came across a large sundial located near the eastern end of Georgetown Waterfront Park (MAP).  But later when I was trying to find out more about it, I learned that there is more to it that I initially thought.  The sundial is actually part of a unique tandem sundial, in which a second vertical sundial of the same declination is located on the outside wall, just below the window where the Spectra sundial is located.

 

This Spectra sundial is part of a unique situation where a tandem sundial of the same declinationis locatedThe time is indicated both indoors and out.

at a window of a nearby building. Together they are referred to as a Spectra sundial.

The Spectra sundial is a custom sundial and functional handcrafted art piece that is designed to be placed indoors on a table by a sunny window or directly on a window sill and enjoyed year round. Unique among sundials, the Spectra sundial earns its name by producing vivid prism beams throughout the day, flooding the room with intense rainbow color as it uses the sun to chart the rhythm of the seasons and accurately tell the time of day.

    
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The Orchid Room at the United States Botanic Garden

During today’s lunchtime bike ride, I started off the month by once again stopping by the United States Botanic Garden, located near the U.S. Capitol Building at 1st Street & Maryland Avenue (MAP) in Downtown D.C.  In operation since 1850 and in its current location since 1933, the United States Botanic Gardens houses numerous themed rooms, and is home to almost 10,000 living specimens, some of them over 165 years old.  During this visit I stopped by to spend some time appreciating the flowering plants in The Orchid Room, which are presented annually in collaboration with the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection.

With blooms that are often colorful and fragrant, orchids are easily distinguished from other plants based on some very evident, shared derived characteristics, know as apomorphies.  Among these are:  bilateral symmetry of the flower, also referred to as zygomorphism; many resupinate flowers; a nearly always highly modified petal  orlabellum; fused stamens and carpels, and; extremely small seeds.

Orchids showcase a wide spectrum of color, shape, size, habitat, and scent, and with approximately 30,000 species are one of the two largest and diverse families of flowering plants.  The other are daisies.  And over the past 80 million years, orchids have successfully colonized every continent except Antarctica, and almost every conceivable habitat, from remote Mediterranean mountaintops to living rooms around the world.

And one of the secrets to their success is unusual and highly specialized pollination methods.  Many orchids provide food for insects and birds and even more have symbiotic relationships with micro-organisms that assist with nutrient cycling in the ecosystem.  Butterflies and moths are enticed to pollinate orchids that resemble flowers they normally feed on or orchids that provide a landing area and sufficient nectar rewards. Moth-pollinated orchids tend to have strong nighttime fragrances to attract their pollinators from great distances.  And in higher-elevation cloud forests where there are fewer pollinators, some orchids have evolved to have brightly colored tubular flowers with large nectar rewards to entice hummingbirds.

But the most unusual method is employed by the Ophrys apifera, also known as the “bee” orchid.  The bee orchid, or the “prostitute” orchid as it is less politely called by some botanists, has what is probably the most unusual pollination method.  It can best be described as sex, or pseudo-sex.  Small but flamboyant, the bee orchid is one of nature’s great mimics. Perched within the large pink sepals are petals shaped and colored like a visiting bee. The pink sepals look like wings and there are furry, brown lips that have yellow markings just like a bee.  But the deception goes further than visual appearance alone.  The flower takes on the tactile experience, and even emits the scent, of a female bee.  But the orchid offers the bee no nectar reward or pollen meal.  Instead, it attracts amorous male bee pollinators with the promise of bee sex to ensure its pollination.

So the next time you are walking through The Orchid Room, or admiring the beauty of some orchids, keep in mind that there is often more to them than meets the eye.

 

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28 Blocks

During today’s bike ride on the Metropolitan Branch Trail I encountered a large mural on the facade of the Penn Center building at 1709 3rd Street (MAP), in northeast D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood. In addition to its massive size, what initially caught my attention was the realism and unusual yet simple gray tones that give the mural the appearance of an old black-and-white photograph.

The mural is entitled “28 Blocks,” and is the creation of American artist Garin Baker. Baker resides in New York City and is a traditionally trained realist painter, but his professional career spans across artistic disciplines. Baker spent four months hand-painting the 60’ by 160’ mural on 156 sections of parachute cloth in his studio. He then brought the work to D.C., and used a special polymer glue to attach the mural to the facade of the building, followed by a final coating and varnish that add UV and graffiti protection, thus requiring only minimal maintenance for many years.

The mural gets its name from the 28 blocks of marble used between 1914 and 1922 to erect the Lincoln Memorial’s iconic 120-ton marble statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln. But the mural isn’t intended to honor Lincoln. In fact, even the image of the Lincoln statue within the mural is only a peripheral image to provide context to the focus of the work. The mural depicts and is intended as a tribute to the men who are responsible for cutting out, hauling, carving and erecting the iconic Lincoln Memorial statue, which was designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French and planned by architect Henry Bacon. Most of those men were first or second generation black men who were born free, or Italian immigrants.

A quote from Frederick Douglass is also prominently featured on the mural. It reads: “Without culture there can be no growth; Without exertion, no acquisition; Without friction, no polish; Without labor, no knowledge; Without action, no progress. And without conflict, no victory.”

According to Baker, the color scheme of black, white and gray is intentional and carries symbolism. “People see things in black and white, but it’s really not the full story,” he said. “Only through all the shades of gray do we see the full truth.”

The mural is conveniently positioned adjacent to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which gives cyclists, joggers and walkers a front row seat to view it. But not only that, the trail runs parallel to the train tracks that not only carries commuters and other riders on the Red Line between the Rhode Island Avenue and NoMa-Gallaudet University and New York Avenue stations, but also ferries people from New York to Union Station, allowing them to see the mural out their windows just before reaching the station. Officials with the city’s Department of General Services say 50,000 or more people a day can see the mural. I’m glad I was one of them today.

 

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A Ghost Bike in DuPont Circle

On this bike ride, in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, as I was riding near the intersection of M Street and New Hampshire Avenue (MAP), I saw a sight that no one, especially a cyclist, ever wants to see – a ghost bike. 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.

This particular ghost bike was put there in memory of Jeffrey Hammond Long, a 36 year-old D.C. resident who was struck and killed at about 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 7th, just ten days ago. Jeffery was riding in a designated bike lane when a large truck, which was travelling in the same direction as Jeffrey, turned into the bike lane as it attempted to make a right turn onto New Hampshire Avenue. The truck crashed into Long, causing him to fall beneath the truck. Medics took Jeffrey to a hospital, but he was pronounced dead the next day.

Many cyclists, and even pedestrians, who are familiar with the intersection say it’s known to be unsafe. And I agree. I have been through the area and that particular intersection numerous times. And although I have never been involved in an accident, I have seen vehicles parked in the bike lane, or even traveling in the wrong direction on M Street. So later, after my ride, I looked into it and discovered that at least seven other crashes have occurred at the intersection involving cyclists in the past three and a half years. And a collision two years ago resulted in the death of a pedestrian crossing the street.

And a few days ago the District Department of Transportation agreed that the intersection is unnecessarily dangerous, and removed four parking spaces on M Street near the intersection to allow for better visibility for drivers making a right turn across the road’s bike lane. DDOT also announced that the sidewalk will be widened in the near future. It’s sad that DDOT did not make the changes prior to the devastating accident that took Jeffrey’s life. It was an accident that was preventable. But hopefully they will learn from this and proactively work to make other known dangerous areas safer before another cyclist dies.

The D.C. Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it is working with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District and other city agencies to expand the sidewalk along M Street. The agency said plans are to realign the M Street bike lane adjacent to Duke Ellington Park, but more details will be provided by the business group later this month.

UPDATE (07/19/2018):  In response to the death of Jeffrey and other recent preventable deaths in D.C., the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) hosted the “Rally For Streets That Don’t Kill People” in front of the John A. Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue today. I attended the rally, along with between 150 and 200 cyclists and concerned citizens.

Three years ago, Mayor Bowser committed to eliminating traffic fatalities in D.C. by 2024. But since then the numbers have only gone up. Since then, more than a hundred people have died on the city’s streets. The rally was intended to demand swift action to stop the deaths on our roads, and to communicate that every single one of those deaths could have been prevented and the city just isn’t doing enough.

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Edward R. Murrow Park

The late Edward R. Murrow was the first journalist to have Federal parkland named after him, when a tiny triangle of land on Pennsylvania Avenue just west of The White House was dedicated to him almost 40 years ago. And during today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the park to see it.

Located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown district, it is just opposite the former U.S. Information Agency (USIA), which Murrow headed from 1961 to 1963. The USIA’s successor, the International Communication Agency, is now headquartered in the same building at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Edward R. Murrow was born Egbert Roscoe Murrow at Polecat Creek, North Carolina in April of 1908. He was the youngest of three brothers born to Quaker parents. When Murrow was six years old, his family moved across the country to Skagit County in western Washington, just 30 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border. He attended high school in nearby Edison, excelled on the debate team, and was president of the student body in his senior year. After graduation from high school, Murrow enrolled at Washington State College, where he was also active in college politics. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1930, he moved back east to New York.

It was in New York that Murrow joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) as director of talks and education in 1935, and remained with the network for his entire career. He first gained prominence as a broadcast journalist and war correspondent during World War II with a series of live radio broadcasts from Europe for the news division of the CBS. During the war he recruited and worked closely with a team of war correspondents who came to be known as the Murrow Boys.

A pioneer of radio and television news broadcasting, Murrow produced a series of reports on his television program See It Now which helped lead to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Fellow journalists Eric Sevareid, Ed Bliss, Bill Downs, Dan Rather, and Alexander Kendrick consider Murrow one of journalism’s greatest figures, noting his honesty and integrity in delivering the news.

Regardless of your political persuasion, most people can agree that we could use a lot more honesty and integrity in our current news reporting. I guess you could say that society needs another Edward R. Murrow. Unfortunately, there was only one.

         

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Two of the most well known murals in the city are located on either side of the iconic restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl, located in northwest D.C.’s Shaw/Uptown neighborhood, next to The Lincoln Theatre, in an historic building at 1213 U Street (MAP).  The one on the east side of the building, entitled “Alchemy of Ben Ali,” depicts the restaurant founders, Ben and Virginia Ali.  But it is the other one that became controversial, leading to its removal.

In 2012, the Ali family commissioned its first mural with backing from the city’s graffiti prevention initiative, MuralsDC.  A few years later, however, public pressure to redo it started to grow as sexual assault allegations began to accumulate against one of the prominently featured people depicted in the mural – comedian Bill Cosby, who was accused and has subsequently been convicted of sexual assault.  Last year, the mural was first whitewashed, and eventually replaced.

The old mural featured local disc jockey Donnie Simpson, D.C.’s Chuck Brown – the Godfather of Go-Go, President Barack Obama, and Cosby.  Three of those men returned on the replacement mural.  Cosby, who had been a longtime friend of Ben’s, did not.

The newer mural, entitled “The Torch,” painted by D.C. muralist Aniekan Udofia, who also painted the original mural, celebrates D.C. history and black culture.  The mural depicts abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman holding a lantern that spreads light onto the other figures in the mural.  In addition to the three holdovers from the previous mural, those figures, who were chosen through a public voting process on the restaurant’s web site, are:  boxer and activist Muhammad Ali; former D.C. mayor-for-life Marion Barry; comedian and D.C. native Dave Chappelle; singer Roberta Flack;  comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory; actress and singer Taraji P. Henson; D.C.’s non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton; the late singer Prince; longtime local newscaster Jim Vance; D.C. rapper Wale; local radio disc jockey Russ Parr, and; former First Lady Michelle Obama, who now accompanies her husband.

But Virginia Ali, Ben’s widow, says the decision to repaint was based on the state of the mural alone, which she contended had become so soiled, damaged and weather-beaten.  Which means, years from now the mural may need to again be replaced.  So despite not making the cut for the current mural, I still have a chance.  I’ll just have to be patient and wait.

benaliwaymural01

Original Mural

The Whitewash

The Torch

         

         

         

         

         
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