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broodings from the burrow

May 31, 2005

what to read
posted by soe 4:09 pm

I admit to being in a bit of a reading funk. I want something new, something good. I want a series of somethings that will take me through the 46 days until the new Harry Potter book comes out. And then something else to read two days later after I’ve devoured it and am impatiently waiting around for someone else to finish so I can discuss the mindblowing (or not) things that will come to pass in the penultimate book in the series.

I will re-read the HP series before the new one comes out. J.K. Rowling has said there are clues in the earlier books — and I’m trying to figure out what they are. If you have already figured them out, please don’t tell me (unless we’re actually having a conversation about the books, in which case it’s okay). Book one is already done. Only one piece of information I think might be important. It might not be, though. It’s hard to say. Well, only for 46 more days…

But if you have any suggestions of good reads I’d love to hear about them. I’m up for pretty much anything that doesn’t fall into the horror or blood-bath (this lets out war literature) categories.

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May 30, 2005

lack of weather cooperation
posted by soe 8:40 pm

I really wish that the weather would be gray and gloomy in the morning when I’m lying around the house, unable to get my act together. But instead the weather is gorgeous in the morning and insists upon clouding over just as I’m ready to head out. It seems unfair, but only because I’m not a morning person. Hopefully the rest of the week’s afternoons will be lovely, since I’ll be looking for some quality post-work time outside.

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May 29, 2005

battleground national cemetery
posted by soe 9:34 pm

In honor of Memorial Day, I decided for my ride today to bike up to Battleground National Cemetery on Georgia Avenue, since it’s considered an endangered location in D.C. (see my Friday post for more info).

I took the Rock Creek trail up as far as Peirce Mill, where I got confused and took a left instead of a right. The right would have put me on Beach Drive, which meanders along the creek. The left put me on Ross Drive, which zig zags up the ridge along the creek. The important thing to note is that although I did have to stop at the first picnic area, I DID NOT WALK THE BIKE UP THE HILLS. Of course, after I got to the bottom and discovered I had taken the wrong road, I did walk up the next hill. But only until I realized that walking was even slower than riding as slow as I go up endless hills (3 mph vs. 5 mph).

graves at Battleground National Cemetery

Battleground National Cemetery is about the size of three housing plots. Maybe an acre of land. Only 40 graves of Union soldiers, arranged in a circle around a flagpole. Three monuments stand at the front of the plot, as does a little building, which I believe houses information on the Civil War battles in D.C. A plantation-like bandstand sits at the rear of the property. Old, full-leafed trees dot the property.

It has not been forgotten. One of the nation’s smallest national cemeteries, it had been decorated carefully for Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as it once was known). A flag adorned each grave. And a yellow-flowered wreath had been placed in front of the flagpole.

tattered flag at Battleground National Cemetery

It was beautiful. It was peaceful — as cemetaries inevitably are. But it was a little … decayed. The ceiling of the bandstand and the flagpole need to be repainted. The bronze plaques, located under trees, need to be cleaned. The flag needs to be replaced.

But I like how it sits on one of the city’s busiest streets relatively unaccosted. A large Safeway is only a block away. There is an apartment building across the street. Houses sit to either side of the field and along the backside. The nineteenth century is surrounded by twentieth-century buildings in a twenty-first century neighborhood. Somehow it works.

On the ride home, I took a right turn off 16th Street and ended up in a well-off gully where I rode past a castle (or at least a mansion designed to look like a castle, complete with turret and stained glass). The gully led me back to the Rock Creek path, where I pedaled through thickets (an under-used word) of sweet-smelling white flowering bushes. And then past a large wading bird. Turns out it was a Great Blue Heron, just hanging out in Rock Creek! I never would have seen it if I’d driven or taken the Metro up to the cemetery.

Memo to self: go looking for (or, at least, stumble across) nature more often.

Great Blue Heron

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lazy sunday
posted by soe 1:36 pm

My goals today were small — to visit the farmers’ market and buy strawberries and milk and to paint my toe nails.

I’m halfway there. Today’s yield includes:

  • Three pints of strawberries (They are sugar bombs. Apparently it will be a long strawberry season this year, because the cool spring meant more flowers. One pint is already gone, and I can’t guarantee that the second won’t be finished by the end of the day. And we had two chocolate-dipped strawberries from the blueberry scone family while we were at the market.)
  • A half gallon of milk (After a week’s worth of store-bought milk, I’m glad we’re back to Adam Cook’s delicious dairy products.)
  • Several crowns of broccoli (bought from Eli Cook, Adam’s brother)
  • A small eggplant
  • Two blueberry scones (already a fond memory)
  • A bouquet of spring-colored flowers (a snapdragon, four poppies, and two bachelor’s buttons)

And I bought a new nailpolish yesterday, so I should have freshly painted nails this evening. But I think I’ll wait until after I’ve taken my bike ride and had my post-ride shower before I do that. Might as well limit the amount of touch-up I need to do.

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May 28, 2005

a hearty thank you to phillip
posted by soe 11:52 pm

As mentioned in an earlier post, our friend Phillip had to go to Afghanistan for a month for work, which, ultimately, meant that he had spare tickets to see tonight’s recording of A Prairie Home Companion at Wolf Trap. Being a generous friend, he asked me and Rudi if we wanted to go. We said yes.

So this evening we set off with our friend Susan to see the show. We knew Odetta was going to perform, but we didn’t know any of the others. Garrison Keillor’s other guests included bluesgrass group Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Norwegian siblings and classical strings duet Mari and HÃ¥kon Samuelson, mandolin player Peter Ostroushko, and jazz chanteuse Prudence Johnson.

Keillor was in fine form. Odetta was good, but drop-dead excellent like the last time we saw her at the New Haven Folk Festival. I really liked mandolin player Lawson and his band — I meant to look for a cd at the souvenir stand on our way out, but I forgot. The Samuelson siblings were good on violin and cello (I’m not educated enough to say they were excellent, but people in the audience seemed awed by them).

The main skit mocked George Bush, the sound effect guy did a terradactyl sound so well early on Keillor incorporated it into the rest of the program, and the Lake Woebegon story featured baseball — who can argue with that?

Keillor had us join him in singing the National Anthem, “Summertime” by Gershwin (it would have been useful if he’d prompted us on the lyrics, but the audience seemed to do decently well regardless; I only knew “Summertime, and the living is easy”), and “Shall the Circle Be Unbroken.”

We finished the night with Thai food at a restaurant in Bailey’s Crossroads. The plantain tempura was the highlight of the meal for me — firm plantains with just a hint of coconut. Yum!

It was a lovely evening all around. And I really appreciate Phillip asking us to partake of his tickets. Phillip, we had a fantastic time. Have a safe flight home.

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May 27, 2005

endangered places
posted by soe 1:57 pm

The D.C. Preservation League has released this year’s list of the most endangered places in the District:

  • Anacostia Historic District (550 buildings, bounded by Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue on the west, Good Hope Road on the north, Fendall Street and the rear of Frederick Douglass Home on the east, and Bangor Street and Morris Road on the south)
  • “Despite the presence of the National Park Service’s Frederick Douglass Home and the nearby Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum, the deteriorating buildings and blighted landscape stand as unfortunate witness to decades of disinvestment. There are a number of vacant lots and many buildings are in serious need of rehabilitation due to owners’ neglect and lack of financial resources. Furthermore, new development proposed for city-owned lots and the nearby waterfront is inconsistent with the historic nature of the area.”

  • South Capitol Street Corridor (Bounded by G St. to the north, the Anacostia River to the south, 2nd St., SE, and 2nd St., SW)
  • “Current Southeast redevelopment plans have few provisions for protecting the fragile historic buildings of this area and many have already been demolished. Only part of the area is slated for preservation.”

  • Battleground National Cemetery (6625 Georgia Ave., NW)
  • “Poor maintenance and lack of funding have led to severe deterioration of [one of the nation’s smallest national cemeteries]. The former superintendent’s lodge, based on General Montgomery Meigs’s prototype, was restored in the mid-1990s but is now closed. There is no onsite professional staff to monitor the condition of the cemetery and the only routine maintenance done is lawn mowing. The threats to the historic integrity of Battleground National Cemetery are increasing every year without adequate maintenance or restoration of the historic structures.”

  • Franklin School (13th and K streets, NW)
  • “Although the exterior of the building appears in good condition, the building is currently unoccupied and windows have been broken and boarded up. The building is unheated, which has contributed to the deterioration of the interior finishes including plaster and wood trim [the interior of the building is a designated landmark]. The lack of use and maintenance threatens the condition of currently well-preserved paintings on the third floor.”

  • Tregaron Estate (The Causeway) (3100 Macomb St., NW)
  • “The landscape has been allowed to deteriorate and [Ellen Biddle] Shipman’s design is barely recognizable. Development has threatened the green space of the estate a number of times. Most recently, the owners [Tregaron Development Corporation] have sought permits to begin construction of 16 new houses and to carve a new road through the sloping, grassy meadow, drastically altering the appearance of the site.”

  • Western Union Telegraph Company Building (4623 41st St., NW)
  • “In November 2003, the National Register of Historic Places formally determined the Western Union Telegraph Company Building eligible for listing but the tower [‘the nation’s only architect-designed building built solely as an antenna structure’] is still not locally listed and, therefore, is not protected by local preservation laws.”

The Common Denominator also lists Mount Vernon Triangle, Holt House, McMillan Reservoir Sand Filtration Site, and “what the league calls Washington’s ‘symbolic core,’ which includes the National Mall” as being endangered, although I find no mention of that on DCPL’s website.

And on the Watch List (sites not in imminent danger but that bear more scrutiny):

  • Benjamin Banneker Park, Banneker Circle (Southwest end of L’Enfant Promenade)
  • “A number of development proposals currently threaten the park, [the first public space in the city dedicated to an African American]. These have included its use as the location for the Smithsonian’s African American Museum, an underground parking garage, a Major League Baseball stadium, or a presidential memorial.

  • Harewood Estate (Harewood Rd., NE, north of Michigan Ave.)
  • DCPL does not state why this location is endangered other than to say that although the buildings remain in good condition, the property has recently been sold to Catholic University, which has not yet stated its plans for the property.

  • MLK, Jr., Memorial Library (901 G St., NW)
  • “Because of three decades of lack of preventive maintenance and system upgrades, and despite a concept plan for an extensive renovation that would cost half as much as a new building, the District government’s plans for the library are uncertain. Currently there is no immediate threat to the building. If the building were sold with no landmark protection a private owner would be able to tear the building down or modify it with no input from the community.”

  • The “New Southwest” (Along the waterfront)
  • “Residential developments are currently threatened by demolition and infill development, and residents are concerned about protecting the quality of life of Southwest Waterfront and Capitol Park by maintaining the character of living in an urban park-like setting.”

  • Uline Arena (Between 2nd and 3rd and L and M streets, NE)
  • From the 2003 list: “Currently, the building [home of the Beatles’ first American concert] is used as a trash transfer station. In 2002 a DC statute established a 500-foot buffer zone between a transfer station and the nearest residential property – more than twice the distance between the Uline site and the nearest residential property, according to public records.” From 2004: “DCPL nominated Uline Arena to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in June 2003. The application is pending hearing by the Historic Preservaton Review Board.”

The Common Denominator also has St. Elizabeth’s Hospital on the watch list, although, again, I don’t find that on the DCPL website.

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