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Monday, August 20, 2018

Cars in D.C. #2--UPDATE

In our April 2 post this year, we featured a vintage car that we spotted in our building's garage, a Citroen CX Pallas.  

We recently met the car's owner, who lives in our building.  Because of the special license plate and stickers ("MC" means Monaco and "CD" means diplomat), we had speculated the owner was perhaps a diplomat from Monaco living in D.C. in our building.

We asked the owner and learned that he is a born-and-bred American who collects exotic cars.   He said he currently has a dozen cars stored in parking garages around the neighborhood.  So, we were wrong about the owner being a diplomat.

Here's where the story, if true, gets interesting.   We learned from our neighbor that the car was once owned by some people named Grimaldi, as in Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.

The Prince and Princess supposedly kept the car in Paris and used it when they visited their home there.  Eventually, the car was sold and our neighbor bought it to add to his collection.

Although the car is not flashy, it has history.

Who knew?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Only in D.C.

While enjoying a stroll along the riverfront in Georgetown, we were shocked to see pirate ship coursing its way upriver.  We were afraid at first but, after taking a closer look, the motley crew told us there was nothing to fear.  It was probably some members of congress enjoying a booze cruise. 

Only in D.C. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Everyday Life in D.C. #4 (Part 3 of 3)

More about the 12th Street Y.M.C.A.

Susan teaches adult literacy at the Washington Literacy Center, which is housed in the 12th Street Y.M.C.A.

The building, located in the historically African-American neighborhood of Shaw, was completed in 1912, after John D. Rockefeller, Sr. pledged matching funds for the building's construction.  The building was the new home to Shaw's Y.M.C.A., which was started in 1853 and was the first African-American Y.M.C.A. branch in the United States.  

Architect William Sidney Pittman, one of the first African-American architects and the son-in-law of Booker T. Washington, designed the building in the Renaissance Revival style.  

Facade of the 12th Street Y.M.C.A., with a Tuscan style portico
During the first half of the 1900's, the Shaw neighborhood around the 12th Street Y.M.C.A. was a thriving middle- and upper-class African-American community and cultural mecca.  The Y..M.C.A. likewise thrived during that time and was home to notable persons, such as famed poet Langston Hughes, who lived there while working around the corner as a busboy in the Wardman Park Hotel.  

When Shaw residents relocated to other city neighborhoods and to the suburbs following WWII, the Shaw neighborhood slowly declined and then was devastated during the April 1968 riots following the assassination of the the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many stores and homes were boarded up and abandoned after being burned and looted.  The Y.M.C.A. survived the fires and looting and reopened after the riots.  It continued to operate despite the unfortunate condition of the neighborhood, which became known as a drug haven around 14th and T Streets. 

The 12th Street Y..M. C.A. in the 1970's 
The Y.M.C.A. closed in 1982 and the building was shuttered.  Fortunately, the building was designated a national historic place in 1983 and a national historic landmark in 1994 and was restored.  In 2000, the building reopened as a community center, the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage.  Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall had previously met with his colleagues at the Y.M.C.A. while developing the legal strategy for overturning the precedent of "separate but equal" education.  

Today, the once devastated Shaw neighborhood has been gentrified.  The main thoroughfare is U Street and it is lined with bars, restaurants and new condominium buildings filled with Millennials.  Still, the neighborhood's history is evident and is celebrated.  For example, the 12th Street Y.M.C.A. is featured on the Greater U Street Heritage Trail.  You can read more below.

Thanks for visiting the 12th Street Y.M.C.A. with us.  

P.S.  A fun fact:  John Thompson, Jr., coach of the 1984 NCAA National Champion men's basketball team, once played youth basketball at the 12th Street Y.M.C.A.  Go Hoyas! 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Everyday Life in D.C. #4 (Part 2 of 3)

Picking up where we left off yesterday:  What is Susan doing at the YMCA? 

Susan is a volunteer adult literacy teacher at the Washington Literacy Center, which is located in the 12th Street YMCA.      

Susan comes from a family of teachers. Her grandfather was school superintendent in Stark County, Ohio, near Canton.  Susan's parents were teachers.  Her mother Phyllis was an elementary school teacher and also President of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board in North Carolina.  Her father Lee was a long-time professor at the UNC School of Dentistry.  Plus, Susan herself has taught legal writing and research, appellate advocacy and legal ethics to hundreds of law students throughout her long career.  So, it is only natural that Susan selected teaching as one of her volunteer activities.

Susan selected teaching literacy to adults because she loves reading and writing, and she likes seeing a student's eyes light up when he/she catches on.  So many options are closed off to people who can't read or write in this society.  Teaching literacy skills is a way to help people improve their lives and achieve their personal goals.

The Washington Literacy Center welcomed Susan with open arms.  The Center's funding is at risk and there were no Summer classes when Susan arrived, despite a long waiting list of eager adult students.  So, Susan quickly trained herself in teaching literacy to adults who read English at the 3rd-5th grade levels and started teaching.  The classes meet twice weekly for 2.5 hours per day. 

Susan with one of her books

A classroom at the Washington Literacy Center
The experience has been rewarding.  The students are eager and they like homework.   Susan has noticed improvement during the weeks she has been teaching, and will continue teaching for the remainder of our time here in D.C.

Next Up:  More about the Y.M.C.A.

P.S.  So, now you know what Susan doing at the Y.M.C.A.--teaching, not trying out for the Village People.

If, however, Susan were in the Village People, which Village Person would she be?

The Village People
If you don't know the music of the Village People, you can click here to listen to their most famous song, Y.M.C.A., performed by a flash mob of wild Italians in Milan.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Everyday Life in D.C. #4 (Part 1 of 3)

We are often asked: "What do you do with all your time?"

Our initial reaction is "what time?", since our daily life is busy.  Even though we are retired and every day is Saturday, our everyday life in D.C. is filled with all sorts of activities.

When we first arrived in D.C. in December last year, our typical activities revolved around being tourists--exploring all the museums and monuments that D.C. has to offer.  Our initial experience in NYC and Florence was similarly touristy.  

As Year 3 in D.C. has progressed, our daily lives have gradually shifted from us being tourists to us living locally.  For example, we visit museums less often and spend more time doing volunteer activities and socializing with long-time and new friends.  Years 1 and 2 shifted in a similar way.  

You might have noticed the gradual change in our blog posts.  Instead of frequent posts about visiting the National Gallery of Art, lately you might have noticed more posts about dining out and other activities with friends and more posts about local entertainment and sports.

About two months ago, Susan started a new volunteer activity.  Here's a hint:  The activity occurs at the historic Y.M.C.A.  

Next Up:  What is Susan doing at the Y.M.C.A.?  (Hint:  She is NOT trying out for a part in the Village People.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Music in D.C.: Millennium Stage-Opera and Gaiteros

The Millennium Stage showcases a wide variety of musical artists--from classical opera to Colombian folk music.  We recently attended performances featuring both genres.  Check it out.

Classical Opera:  Each Summer, American University and the Kennedy Center's Washington National Opera co-host a training program for talented young opera singers from around the world.  Greg called it Opera Summer Camp.  The singers are high school aged and must audition for admission to the program.  

We event hearing the students sing.  The students in the program performed solos, duets and ensembles. Their performances were strong.  You can hear for yourself by clicking here.  Below are photos of some of the opera singers.

Colombian Folk Music:  On another night, we attended a performance featuring a troupe of performers from Colombia, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto.  The troupe appeared in folkloric costume and played traditional percussion and wind instruments.  A gaitero is a piper, a musician playing a long wooden flute.

A lead vocalist sang stories in Spanish while the musicians played lively music.  Halfway through the performance an accordionist joined the group, which added melody and personality to the music.  

The troupe included two costumed dancers who whirled up and down the aisles.  Plus, the audience included many attendees from Colombia who joined the dancing.  A good time was had.  

Dancing in the aisles
To sample the performance, click here.

Thanks for joining us at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Public Art #3

Around the corner from our building, we spotted the sculpture pictured below. 

The artwork is located at the entrance to "Heart House", the headquarters of the American College of Cardiology.

The sculpture is a fine work--an allegory depicting how physicians (cardiologists in particular) help many people live long, healthy lives.  

What is interesting is the name of the 1979 work, Man Helping Man.  We suppose use of the word "man" is benignly intended to refer to everyone, men and women alike.  If the work were created and named today, we would hope that the name would be more inclusive.  Perhaps something like Doctors Saving Lives.  Or possibly, in honor of Shark Week, Get Out of the Water, a Shark is Coming!.

P.S.  By the way, in case you were wondering, 80% of cardiologists in the U.S. are men.  What's up with that?  Perhaps the name of the sculpture is sadly appropriate after all.  We can do better.