Monday, April 18, 2011


There are really no words for last Thursday night. Funny doesn't cover it. Neither does surreal. There's no room left for eloquence between trite and hyperbolic to say how amazingly amazing Tina Fey is. Normally, Thursday night is simple to describe: Me. To TV. Glued. Cheese. But for a couple of hours at the Sixth and I, I sat only a few feet away from Tina Fey as she discussed her show, life, and recent memoir, Bossypants. To describe that...well, requires the overuse of the word "awesome" and an abundance of preceding expletives.

After a conversation with NPR's Michel Martin, and a short Q&A, everybody lined up by numbered tickets to get their books signed. There was a dessert buffet in the synagogue's fellowship hall while everyone waited for their batch--200's, 300's, etc--to be called. After roughly 10 kosher brownies, I went back into the sanctuary, took a seat a few pews from the stage, and decided to read a chapter or two of Bossypants. I laughed out loud several times. Embarrassing. But every time I'd look up from my book, there sat Tina Fey. The real actual Tina Fey. Then I'd dive back into anecdotes about her childhood or her eyebrows or her love of the gays. I'd throw my head back to laugh or swoon, and there she was again! Oh my god! It's Tina Fey!

By the time my batch was finally called up--I was 359--she undoubtedly had writer's cramp, and she'd already made trips to the bathroom--she is pregnant, after all. And I still hadn't come up with anything clever to say. So instead, in my 2 seconds in front of Tina Fey--2 seconds out of my whole entire life when I should have been incomparably cool--I failed miserably. I said "Stutter stutter" and she said "Awkward laugh." and that was it. Now, if the exchange had actually occurred exactly like that, verbatim, it would have been classic! Sadly, it did not. And I felt like an ass. Why didn't I compliment her shoes?! They were great shoes! It'd be different, yet flattering! See, I know how to talk to a lady. Every lady loves to be complimented on her shoes. Oh, well. The good news is that the assy feeling fades after a few hours, and euphoria returns. That's a lesson to take with you if you're ever starstruck by a celebrity. Also, remember the thing about the shoes.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Her Face is a Map of the World: KT Tunstall at the Sixth and I

One of the first things KT Tunstall did when she took the stage Wednesday night at the Historic Sixth and I Synagogue was thank the audience for selling out in roughly 35 minutes. We all cheered to congratulate ourselves on such a tremendous feat and to show our enthusiasm for the performance we'd been waiting so long to see. So long. The doors opened at 7, and it was about 9:50 before KT finally went on. For the first 2 hours or so, we sat through mediocre man-band Miggs and angstful and unkempt Robert Francis. I think we gave them all a fair shot. But after the first song didn't see ladies' underwear flying towards the stage, the Miggs lead singer said, "After the show, we're just going to play in the RV because we like an audience that pays attention." We stopped paying attention. Robert Francis had a few teens of both sexes squealing from the first couple of rows, but the show turned very emo very fast. There were lots of songs about fire and darkness and burning and pain. Then I may or may not have broken his loop pedal with my sheer mental will.

The second thing KT did after she took the stage was start up her own loop tracks, full of human beat boxes and back-up doo-wops. You may have caught on that I'm not the world's foremost loop pedal enthusiast, but that didn't prevent KT from KILLING it. Every song was equal parts energy and talent, as she worked her way through a setlist that covered her greatest hits like "Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" all the way to her recent EP Scarlett Tulip, which is only available at shows and her merch site.

whiskey barrel guitar

Did I mention the talent? During the course of the night, KT played numerous guitars, including one above whose body is made entirely of whiskey barrels, the piano, drums, um, how do you say?...oral percussions, and the kazoo. And the whole show was laced with witty banter in her irresistibly Scottish accent.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Inner Sanctuary

Remember back about a month ago when I wrote about the Sixth and I Synagogue? This is underneath the dome in the sanctuary. I was at the synagogue for a couple of events this week; so I had the chance to take a lot of pictures of the inside. Photos will follow when I've had time to look through them all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Among the Books with Billy Collins

Many people don't even know that the US has a Poet Laureate, but we do. Every year, the Librarian of the Library of Congress chooses the United States Poet Laureate to promote the reading and writing of poetry. As national poet laureates go, we got started a little late. Our first laureate (the called Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress) was Joseph Auslander in 1937. Elizabeth Bishop was one. So was William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, and...Billy Collins. Collins was named the US Poet Laureate, 2001-2003. Just because he served multiple terms doesn't mean he was loved by all. There were actual protests against his appointment. But, he's loved my me.

Last night I attended a reading at Politics and Prose, which to call it a bookstore would be an understatement. Politics and Prose is a DC institution. Almost all of the major book events that take place in DC are either at, hosted by, or co-sponsored by Politics and Prose. There's a reading nearly every night by a notable author.

Even if you can't make it to Politics and Prose, you can enjoy Billy Collins from wherever you happen to be. The first video is of Collins's humorous poem, "The Revenant," written from the prospective of a dog's ghost. Right?

The second poem is a little more pensive, and it's one of my favorites.

"I Go Back to the House for a Book" (From Picnic, Lightning)

I turn around on the gravel
and go back to the house for a book,
something to read at the doctor's office,
and while I am inside, running the finger
of inquistion along a shelf,

another me that did not bother
to go back to the house for a book
heads out on his own,
rolls down the driveway,
and swings left toward town,

a ghost in his ghost car,
another knot in the string of time,
a good three minutes ahead of me—
a spacing that will now continue
for the rest of my life.

Sometimes I think I see him
a few people in front of me on a line
or getting up from a table
to leave the restaurant just before I do,
slipping into his coat on the way out the door.

But there is no catching him,
no way to slow him down
and put us back in sync,
unless one day he decides to go back
to the house for something,

but I cannot imagine
for the life of me what that might be.
He is out there always before me,
blazing my trail, invisible scout,
hound that pulls me along,

shade I am doomed to follow,
my perfect double,
only bumped an inch into the future,
and not nearly as well-versed as I
in the love poems of Ovid—

I who went back to the house
that fateful winter morning and got the book.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Among the Books: Capitol Hill Books

If Borges designed a bookstore, it would look like Capitol Hill Books. Rooms wind into rooms, turn into stairs, and find themselves in some little alcove somewhere, or even a bathroom. The books take up every available space of the three-story building, sagging upon makeshift shelves over doorways, or staggering down staircases.

The basement floor (not shown) is dark and cramped. A sign hangs from the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs, warning that low-hanging lights are "head bangable." Other sharpeed signs around the store mark off genres or alphabetized shelves. Some merely describe books. One note peaks out from inside James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, saying, "Lies, lies, and more lies. Read it anyway."

Other ephemera covers the ends of shelves, usually articles or photos related to that area of the store. In the travel section, a clipping of Freya Stark's obituary is taped to the wall. I'm pretty sure that my house is eventually going to look like a combination of the picture above and the one below.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monsters! Planes! Kites!


Today was the National Kite Festival, which always coincides with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. In full disclosure, I was detained from attending this year's kite day, so I'm posting shots from last year's.

The Red Baron was my favorite by far. I want this kite. When I was little, my school had a kite day every spring. One year I had this great shiny, black stingray kite. I was certain it would incite kite-envy amongst all the other seventh graders. Instead, they teased me relentlessly, saying that I had made my kite out of trash bags. Kids are such jerks. Now at...well, a lot older, I still want to have the coolest kite in the park. These kites would make everyone jealous.

I'm pretty sure this was also flown by an adult, holding possessively to the spool and saying, "Take that seventh graders!"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Open for Business!

I know you see the Capitol on here every day, but considering we were really close to shuttering the doors there for a little while, I thought a celebratory photo was in order. The other good news--I, too, am back in business. With my looming deadlines pushed back for a while, I can get back to focusing on what's really important, i.e. keeping District Daily Photo from becoming District Sporadic Photo.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Summer of Food Trucks: CapMac

Everyone has high expectations in the spring. The air is fresh and warm. Life is renewed and in bloom. Liberated from the oppression of grey winter, and faced with the prospect of a flabby bikini season, people everywhere renew their New Year's resolutions, and decide to get healthy and active. My goal: to eat from as many food trucks as possible this summer.

If you're unfamiliar with the food truck craze, it's exactly what it sounds like. They're roving restaurants that drive around the city, park by the curb, tweet their location, and people come out to buy whatever they're selling, whether it's cupcakes, salad, pie, or even lobster. There's also a website and app that plots local trucks on a Googlemap. The unappetizing pic you see above is the mac and goat cheese with broccoli pesto and spicy breadcrumbs ($8) from CapMac, which specializes in variations on mac and cheese. To my utter disappointment, it wasn't really that good. Maybe I had oversold it to myself. But, come on, mac and cheese made with goat cheese! Of course there are high expectations! But there was no creamy, tangy chevre to be found, only milky white sauce buried underneath green paste and breadcrumbs. And five minutes later, you'd swear you had a garlic lollipop.

So that brings me to my second goal: to make the mac and chevre that I had hoped for. If I succeed, I'll give you the recipe. Until then, bring on the trucks!

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Outside Office of the Day!

As I mentioned before, I often take my work out of the house, find a nice place to sit for a few hours, and let the city be my office. For a while now, I've annoyed my Facebook friends by, not only filling up their feeds with my photos, but with my frequent "Office of the Day" shots. For months, these pics have been from toasty cafes where I'm clutching steaming cups of coffee and trying to stay warm. But yesterday, ah yesterday, I had my first Outside Office of the Day since probably last June. And it was glorious.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Well, There's One Solution

As I'm pulling shots from my archives to fill the time during my semi-hiatus, I'm still going through the dozens of shots from my nearly 2 weeks in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. This one is taken from Connecticut Ave., which is a heavily trafficked thoroughfare in DC. Instead of spending the budget on crosswalks, Chevy Chase had the ingenious idea to just use flags instead. It seemed like the perfect solution. You don't have to pay for and maintain crosswalk lights. The bright orange flags decrease the risk of accidents involving pedestrians, because, apparently, speeding motorists are more likely to stop for orange flags than the giant white, "zebra crossing," as you Brits call them. However, there are still a few kinks. By around noon or so, all the flags from the far side of the street, near the residential area, end up stuck on the near-side, where the shops, restaurants, and bus terminal are located. And there they stay for most of the day.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Please Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Blog at All Times

We are experiencing a few difficulties. Because of upcoming work deadlines in April, my posts will be a bit sporadic for the next few weeks. Rest assured, I will be back in full force by May, because this blog is one of the funnest things I do with my time. I want to thank everybody who keeps coming back day after day, from Boston to Jakarta. I really appreciate your support and encouragement. It's always a thrill to see the hit counter shooting up every day, and to read all of your great comments. Until then, I ask for a little patience, and I hope to see you all back here really soon. Until then, don't let life drive you up a tree. And if it does, just make sure it's at least a cherry blossom tree.