Saturday, September 17, 2016

Washington, D.C.: Twins Jazz

Music flyer,  Gonder, Ethiopia. January 2011.

Jazz was a recurring theme during my Washington, D.C. trip.

Our evening at Twins Jazz. Had it all. Sumptuous jazz. Under-beat of conversations. Candlelight, colors of dark rubies, old ivory, onyx.

The Michael Thomas Quintet below:

Oh, how I've come to love the double bass.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Washington, D.C.: Uber Virgins

A vintage Lada in Batumi, Georgia. April 2012.

Neither Suzanne nor I had tried Uber before.

My visit to DC was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Here's why:
  1. Suzanne has a car, but finding a parking spot can be a hassle. Not to mention traffic snarl headaches that diminish the pleasure of the outing.
  2. Suzanne lives a few blocks from a metro station, but D.C. was conducting major work on its metro lines, resulting in challenging connections at times. 

Using Uber was great, in fact. I think we took advantage three times. Payment is automatic via the charge card info the Uber user enters when creating an account, so when we arrived at our destinations, we just said thank you and hopped out of the car. We always knew what the charge would be before confirming our "order."

Suzanne and I could chat while the Uber driver did his thing, not having to care about the traffic around us or where the hell to find an open parking space. We could both enjoy a couple of glasses of wine, knowing we'd have someone else driving us back our doorstep at the end of the evening.

With the exception of one rather taciturn driver, all of the drivers were personable. But even the quieter guy was fine - he got us where we wanted to go safely and expeditiously.

Suzanne told me she wouldn't feel comfortable using Uber alone. Although I haven't had occasion to use it since my trip to D.C., I'd feel fine using Uber by myself.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Washington, D.C.: DC Jazz Festival

Eddie Palmieri Jazz Band, DC Jazz Festival 2016, Washington, D.C. June 2016.

Suzanne, a superlative hostess, bought us tickets to the DC Jazz Festival before I arrived.

DC Jazz Festival, Washington, D.C. June 2016.

The DC Jazz Festival's main venue is at The Yards, which is along the Anacostia River.

 Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz below:

We set up camp at a good spot for people-watching, some shade, and proximity to the stage. We brought a blanket, some cold drinks and snacks. An excellent bit of real estate.

DC Jazz Festival, Washington, D.C. June 2016.

But after walking around the vast venue of the park, I saw many people, far away from the stage, lounging on the cool, green grass under tree canopies, using this time to talk, eat, drink with friends and family, with the music as a backdrop instead of the focus. There's a good argument for that approach.

DC Jazz Festival, Washington, D.C. June 2016.

Nevertheless, we stayed where we were, which was just across the people-watching sidewalk from the VIP seating section. Later in the day, when the VIP seating looked too empty, the gatekeepers tasked with protecting the elite from us proles allowed us in, you know, to make things look good for the band and for news cameras. So we ended up with front-row seats to the event. Yeah!

C├ęcile McLorin Salvant below:

Every set we heard was from musicians who were skilled, talented, entertaining.

DC Jazz Festival, Washington, D.C. June 2016.

I even got to hear a genre new to me, which D.C. claims as its own - go-go music.

Chuck Brown Band, DC Jazz Festival, Washington, D.C. June 2016.

The current-day iteration of an iconic go-go band, Chuck Brown, performed:

And, ooh, good food vendors.

And, you know, it's just fun to spend a day hanging with people who are having a mellow, feel-good time. All the while getting a brain massage from the jazz rhythms that smooth out the neurons and gray matter that get torqued from the accumulation of life's everyday stressors.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Washington, D.C.: National Botanical Garden

National Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C. June 2017.

National Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C. June 2017.

National Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C. June 2017.

National Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C. June 2017.

National Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C. June 2017.

National Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C. June 2017.

National Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C. June 2017.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Washington, D.C.: Cool as a Cucumber

Cucumbers in water urn. Washington, D.C. June 2016.

When I walked into an upscale store on a hot day in Bethesda, the Rubenesque glass urn filled with water and chunky slices of cucumber made me smile.

What simple beauty.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Washington, D.C.: Arrival

Metro escalator up into D.C. June 2016.

The pick-up

I arranged with Suzanne that upon arrival in D.C., I'd take the metro from the airport to the Metro Center stop, then she'd pick me up in front of the National Portrait Gallery after she got off work.

Escalator memories

Emerging from the belly of the metro, into the light of the capital, it made me smile. There was the appreciation that I'd arrived, of course.

In 2007, a metro stop, don't remember which one, had a "singing escalator." Something to do with the mechanics of this escalator's movement up or down + the acoustics in its surrounding tube created an enthralling musicality that might come from a flute or maybe a high-note string instrument.

In the early 1990s, when my daughter was about 13, I brought her to D.C. with me for a business trip. It was she who had to figure out how to get our metro tickets. Decades later, the metro now has cards, and I needed the assistance - again - of someone to get the process sorted.

Daughter in D.C. The Sulky Years. Circa 1992.

And I never think about D.C. without remembering the priceless photo of said daughter as she shot heat-seeking-missile eyes at her mother during a turbulent moment. Ah, the adolescent years.

The Chinese encounter

I had time to kill before Suzanne picked me up, and I was thirsty. I went into a McDonald's, which was hopping. I ordered my drink and found a table, where I intended to nurse the drink and establish my "customers only" qualification to use the restroom.

A small, spare woman sat next to me and I smiled at her. This opened a door, apparently, through which she bounded into my "house," as if we were best childhood friends who hadn't seen each other in years. However, she was originally from China and spoke very little English, and I, of course spoke only one word of Mandarin "ni hao" - hello.

But suddenly we were both looking at our smart phone translators to have a conversation. She took a selfie of us. At first, it was fun! Then she wanted to tap our phones together to exchange contact information. Yikes! Wait! What? Am I a mullet in D.C. and about to be sucked into some scam designed to relieve me of my money? Even if not, this relationship was getting a little too intense for me, so it was time for me to go.

I still have my version of our selfie, though.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Visit to Washington, D.C.: Preview

On the White House Lawn for Queen Elizabeth's visit. 2007.

The spring/summer of 2016 has been the season for hip-hoppity travel before going to my next year-long sojourn in a new home.

Dentist's office. Washington, D.C. 2007

At this point in my 2016 story, then, I've left Colorado, spent a bit of time in Missouri, and am now off to Washington, D.C.

In Antigua, I stayed at an airbnb. In Colorado, I nested with my sister, Murphy. In both these places, I had my own bedroom and own bath. Shared a kitchen and common living area.

While in DC, a very expensive place to live, I was right cozy with my friend, "Suzanne," who lived in a studio-plus apartment. I say "plus" because it has a generous balcony and a large closet/storage area. Before I forget, she may also have one of the best showers I've ever enjoyed. Not because of its design or size, but because of the perfection of its water pressure and the massage-like, needle-y rays of water from the shower head.

Off of U Street. Washington, D.C. 2007

Staying a week with Suzanne in D.C. (more technically, Bethesda, Maryland) and then two weeks with friend, "Rachel," in Toronto's city center, was an illuminating experience in living with another person in compact quarters, as a guest and not a resident.

For one, it speaks volumes that my hostesses welcomed me into their petite homes for a week and two weeks, respectively. This was generosity extraordinaire on their parts. Sharing a bathroom, kitchen, air and floor space for a sustained period when normally they've got such precious real estate all to themselves - I don't take this for granted.

For me, it was an excellent practice in the art of being a good guest (hopefully), by respecting the hostesses' preferences for where to place things, cleaning up, etc. There are also the questions of lights-out times and getting-up times.

Murky Coffee. Washington, D.C. 2007

And keys. In apartment buildings, the sharing of one's keys with a guest demonstrates a great deal of trust in the recipient's reliability. Replacement keys can be mighty expensive. And even if they're replaced, it is disconcerting to think of a little piece of your household floating about lost in the unknown.

... But getting back to D.C. in particular. I've been to the city a number of times in the past, thus have visited the usual tourist spots. My agenda for this trip was simply to flow with Suzanne's river, without any destination expectations.

The week I visited coincided with the DC Jazz Festival - cool! Suzanne and I checked that out. More on this later.

We visited the United States Botanical Garden. More later.

Fessenden blooms. Washington, D.C. 2007

Suzanne and I tried out Uber for the first time, and then a second and third time. More on this later.

And since it seemed the summer was shaping up to be a jazz-themed season, we also checked out an Ethiopian-American jazz club. More later.

The photos in this article are from prior trips to D.C.

Metro art. Washington, D.C. 2007