A Travellerspoint blog

A Poe Pourri!

Poetry, Presidents and Plays

sunny 40 °F

January 4th 2013-moving day! Having spent three weeks in the Marriott Hotel in Navy Yard (overlooking the Washington Capitols baseball park), we move into an apartment building, the Loree Grand, in the NoMa district of DC. The apartment is a very -well appointed new construction, very close to 1007F Street and so still in "my neighborhood". From the 10th floor, we look west, overlooking the railway tracks that carry passenger and freight traffic all hours day and night. From Washington DC travellers can travel north to New York and Montreal and south to Savannah and New Orleans - a continent lies on my doorstep!

So much has been happening in the month of January that I've only just realised that it's now February, hence this will be a "Poe Pourri" of all I can recall having done!

The Holocaust Museum lies adjacent to the National Mall in Washington DC. I was privileged to accompany a group of students on a field trip (Sat. 12th) to the museum especially as the tour of the exhibits were conducted by trained student guides from Annandale High School. These students participate in a program aimed at sharing with their peers the events which led up to the Holocaust and the experiences of those who endured it. In doing so, the message of "Never Again" is brought home to young people and provides hope that such intolerance and suffering will never be practised or condoned.

On January 19th, I was whisked away by Joyann, Jim and Fiona to celebrate Edgar Allen Poe's 204th Birthday Bash in Baltimore! (Baltimore has some VERY LARGE PEOPLE taking up a lot of space on the sidewalks!). After a pleasant stroll around the Inner Harbor area, we made our way to Westminster Hall to pay our respects at the grave of one of "America's master artists", Edgar Allan Poe, a son of Baltimore. Amid much wailing from period costume attired Poe afficianados, some of whom were moved to take a swig of brandy, (the bottle deposited in homage at the graveside), we made our way into the former church building. A carnival atmosphere greeted us on entry and mysteriously, as though I were a character stepping out from one of Poe's short stories, I found myself inspecting the merchandise of the local "Raven Brewery", ("The Raven" being one of Poe's best known works)! In addition to the silent auction Poe memorabilia stand and the obligatory literary selection stall, I was intrigued to view Poe artefacts from the collection of an enthusiast who claims to house the smallest Poe Museum in the world! It's amazing how people spend their time (and money) don't you think...?! The event was full of ceremony as we toasted the great man with a swig of apple juice then sat back to enjoy some very chilling yet entertaining dramatic performances. Sadly, I didn't win a raffle prize (although Fiona did-a voucher for a Baltimore Eatery with links to Poe). However. my misfortune did not weigh heavy on me as I struggle to think how I could possibly have got through customs with a wax image head of Poe stuffed into a box! These heads, of which there were many, being a donation to the evening's festivities from the production company of "The Following" a new TV series (Fox) starring Kevin Bacon as an evil-doer obsessed by Poe.

Monday 21st January - Inauguration Day! What an event! Almost by magic overnight, DC was tranformed into a high security, restricted zone area with security personnel and their canine chums in very high profile. There was no mistaking that this was a big event and a memorable one at that! Out on the streets by 8a.m. I met up with Melissa, a friend and colleague from school and Javier, a friend and running mate of Melissa's. The atmosphere was electric and it wasn't long before I had made my Inauguration purchase from a street vendor of a commorative baseball hat! That together with a colorful collection of Inauguaration badges (buttons) and I was set to soak up the atmosphere of a Presidential Inauguration! Ducking and diving along our route and via the Metro for part of the way, we emerged on the National Mall and took up position along with thousands of others in telescopic lens view of the Capitol! An area immediately to the front of us was sectioned off for Press and TV companies, mainly cable and so we tried to put on our best smiles at every photo opportunity just incase we were beamed into someone's living room or trailer!
Huge TV screens enabled us to watch proceedings as they unfolded and once I had managed to grapple with a small child for an "Old Glory" flag, I was screaming and hollering with the best of them!
Inauguration ceremony over we found ourselves approximately three hours later on Pennsylvania Avenue stretching our necks for a glimpse of the President himself as he and Michelle did their walkabout. ( I actually saw a bit of him!) Then the Parade really began-marching band, military, horses, marching band, military, horses, marching band, military, horses etc...you get the idea?! Great fun and uniquely American! After ten hours on the streets however, I decided to call it a day and retired to the apartment for a soak in a warm bath and a review of some very memorable photos!

Henry V at the Folger - Melissa, Bill. Pete and I took advantage of preview night rates to attend this performance (Tues. 22nd) and very good it was too. The Folger is a unique theatre in DC in that it is a replica of a Shakespearian theatre but without the stench and rotten tomatoes!

If all the excitement of the previous 4 days wasn't enough, I took myself off on the following evening to a performance of "Alice in Wonderland" at the Kennedy Center, performed by the National Ballet of Canada. This has to be one of the best if not thee best ballet I have ever seen: amazing sets, costumes and dazzling choreography and performances from the dancers themselves-a real treat!

Whew-no wonder I didn't have a chance to write about all these events before now-I've been out too much and oh yes, there's work too!

Hang on, the best is yet to come-a Burns Bash at Annandale! That will require a full installment of its own!

Until next time...

Posted by mhwedwards 17:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Pentagon Papers

Is that really a hot dog stand in the center of the Pentagon?!

sunny 45 °F

An invite to be given a personally conducted tour of the Pentagon is not to be passed up and so it was that John, Bob, Shelley and I found ourselves at the top of the Pentagon metro station escalator stairs on Friday 28th December. We were greeted by Tod, husband of Nancy, a colleague at Annandale High School. Tod had very kindly offered to take us round the key "points of interest" of the Pentagon building and we were in for a fascinating insight. Security as you can imagine, is very intense especially after 9/11 and this was brought home to us by Tod pointing out a bullet mark on a steel door at the entrance to the complex, made by a crazed gunman very recently.
The interior of the Pentagon is like a mini town, after all, 26.000 personnel are employed in the complex! The employees are fully provided for and you can secure all your personnel shopping needs without ever having to leave the building! The design of the building in a pentagon shape, makes for easy and speedy access to every other part of the complex. Walking past the Joint Chiefs of Staff offices, I had to pinch myself and believe that this was real and not the set of a "Bourne Identity" sequel! The inner courtyard is an amzing open space, where workers can relax outdoors in nice weather and enjoy a hot dog from the multi-million dollar "Hot Dog" restaurant! (Some foreign visitors are not so sure that that is its sole purpose!)
Following the tradgedy of 9/11 many community groups sought some way of expressing their heartfelt grief. The Pentagon received many hand sewn quilts from schools and groups all over the country, each expressing their own thoughts on the event. The exhibits in the "Hall of Quilts" are changed regularly allowing all handiwork to be exhibited and enjoyed by workers and visitors alike.
The victims of the attack on the Pentagon are remembered in a garden with fluidly designed benches designating each of the fallen.
The tour was truly a very memorable experience and one that we all acknowledged would be a highlight of our time in Washing ton DC.

I was told that a visit to "Ford's Theater" to see a"A Christmas Carol" is a Washington tradition not to be missed! Accordingly, the tickets were purchased and John, Cindy and I set out on 30th December to take our seats in the balcony of "Ford's theater", a stone's throw away from the box in which President Abraham Lincoln was shot by assassin John Wilkes Booth on April 14th 1865. Notwithstanding the significance of sitting so close to such an iconic historical site, the musical itself was wonderful and made me want to rush out at interval time and purchase a cone of the sweetest roast chestnuts! (Unfortunately, no street vendors were to be found!). By way of contrast, we decanted after the play to "Hard Rock Cafe" where I brought the house down with a rendition of Dire Straits "Walk of Life", (I think I've missed my true calling!).

December 31st/Hogmanay
"First Night" is the equivalent of Hogmanay over here and John and I joined our friends Joyann, Jim and daughter Fiona in Alexandria, Virginia for First Night, a family focused musical event, showcasing an eclectic mix of musical styles from around the area in various venues. Our musical itinerary took in blues, acapella and jazz. We rounded off the evening with a glass in hand at a lively inn and counted down with the other revellers until we welcomed in 2013!

Happy New Year!

Posted by mhwedwards 15:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York New York

Relocation Relocation

overcast 41 °F

The month of December brought a number of events, taking me on a rollercoaster of emotions with which to end the year! At the beginning of December, John and I headed off for the bright lights of New York, travelling in style on "Megabus"! A 5.30a.m. departure soon paled into distant memory as we made our way northwards taking up front position "driver" seats on the top deck, a treat I had last enjoyed as a ten year old!
After being released in central Manhattan, we made our way through the crowds only to stumble upon the iconic "Macy's"! Feeling pangs of hunger however, we diverted and found ourselves in an authentic family- run, Italian- owned diner where John did justice to a stack of blueberry pancakes with syrup, and I tucked into a delicious Mediterranean omlette with ...fries! Delicious! And all washed down with several refills of great coffee, of course.
Needless to say we "did" Macy's, a wonderful experience if only to experience the thrum of the crowds and to ride on the original 1929 escalators. The beautifully dressed windows with animated figures made us stop and longingly stare, reliving happy memories of bygone Christmas outings.
Then off we stomped to the Empire State Building, the symbol of New York which had impacted most strongly on me from childhood. Here we were, hurtling up through 82 floors to the observation balcony. With unbelievable beauty, the evening light engulfed us as the 360 degree vista transformed into a sea of mesmerizing lights, outlining the soaring lego-styled buildings.
After supper at a local tavern, we hit 5th Avenue, window shopping with a vengeance! The gargantuan tree and stunning Christmas lights of the Rockefeller Center took our breath away! Skaters were also out in force, rhythmically circumnavigating the sunken ice-rink below the Christmas Tree.
Times Square was our next destination. We marvelled at the volume of pedestrian traffic and smiled as Yellow Cab taxi drivers honked their horns at recalcitrant jay-walkers and other road users! The return route to our hotel took in Broadway and we again paid homage to Macy's as we sauntered back. And that was Day 0ne-whew!

Day Two (Saturday 8th December)
We started day two by walking around the corner from our hotel to the iconic "Flat Iron" building. This edifice is truly a unique New York landmark and a popular photo stop for visitors, (we were no exceptions to the practice!). An adjacent square afforded me the opportunity to check out New York squirrels and if I thought DC squirrels were cheeky, they have nothing on these New Yorkers which actually pose for photos!!
The next stop on our itinerary was "Grand Central Station", famed for its pivitol role as a setting in one of my all time favourite films, "Madagascar"! Sadly, the Chrysler Building, an extraordinarily beautiful example of Art Deco architecture, was closed on Saturday, but we peered longingly through the glass doors and vowed that it would be on our itinerary when we next returned.
As we made our way en route to Broadway for a matinee performance of "Nice Work If You Can Get It", starring the wonderful Matthew Broderick, we slipped into "Tiffany's", looked at the price tags and quickly slipped out!
"Nice Work If you Can Get It"- a fantastic show, 100% entertainment from beginning to end-great music, stunning choreography and plenty of humour-what more can you ask for?
...And then it was time to leave. With heavier steps, we made our way down to the Hudson River and joined the sprawl of tired, yet serenely satisfied passengers to await the arrival of our transport back to DC. We'll be back!

Only two days later we experienced a shocking and stressful event as news broke of a house fire at our residence in DC. Damage was mainly confined to one room, (laundry room-the source of the electrical fire) but the consequences of smoke and water damage resulted in our evacuation of the property and relocation to another neighbourhood. We were fortunate to be accommodated in a comfortable hotel for three weeks which took in Christmas and New Year. Not to be down-hearted, we set up a six inch Christmas tree in the hotel room and strung up our treasured selective assortment of Christmas cards sent from well-wishers.!

Amazingly. our friends, Bob and Shelley, stoically set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia accompanied by Glenn, (who was deposited in Boston) and drove down to DC to spend Christmas with us! As a diversionary tactic from our situation, it worked a treat and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing yet more of DC: sight-seeing bus tour, Air and Space Museum, National Art Gallery, and a personal tour of the Pentagon! The latter event was provided by the husband of a colleague at Annandale High School who works at the Pentagon. We felt very privileged to be given this insider's tour but I can't divulge any secrets...!
Our Christmas meal took place at "Carmine's", a long-established traditional Italian restaurant. The food was delicious: gigantic prawns for starters, chicken Italian style for main course and a Tiramisu to die for, all washed down with copious glasses of red wine! Four hours later, we rolled out, well and truly satisfied. A quick walk across Pennsylvania Avenue and we were standing in front of the National Christmas Tree with the Whitehouse behind us-a perfect end to a perfect day!
To be continued...

Next blog instalment coming to a home near you very soon!

Posted by mhwedwards 16:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Christmas is Coming!

60 Degrees (F) in December ? There's something not quite right here!

sunny 52 °F

The remnants of squirrel-gnawed pumpkin can still be seen guarding sentinel on the steps of many Capitol Hill residences. Their days are numbered however as Santa, snowmen and candy cane decorations vie for territory on the front yards and stairs of the local neighbourhood. I've yet to spy a squirrel with a Santa hat but it's early days! Our own front porch is bedecked with colourful lights and an illuminated star. Indoors, we've put up indoor lights and decorated our tree from "Home Depot" with candy canes and colourful baubles. Yet, it still feels strange walking outdoors without a jacket and seeing other residents in shorts! We've experienced the odd chilly day and this week I actually had to scrape the car front window but it still feels unseasonably warm for this time of year.

John has now been over in the US for almost 5 weeks! We shot up to Philadelphia the weekend after he arrived to compete in the Philadelphia Marathon, (John, not me!). 3hrs 59 mins, 48 secs-not bad for a 60 year old! In between running, we took in some sights: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the Philadelphia Art Museum, made iconic by "Rocky" ascending the steps in the eponymous film. Needless to say I felt obligated to follow in his footsteps (at a slightly slower pace!). You haven't experienced "Philly" until you've eaten a Philly Cheese-steak-mmmmm...

We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration at the home of my colleague, Anne and her extended household. John was fascinated by the alternative cooking method for the turkeys - straight into the deep fat fryer set up out on the porch! Fortunately, the house didn't burn down and we enjoyed a delicious dinner followed by a highly competitive game of Trivial Pursuit with the Washington Redskins vs the Dallas Cowboys football match going on in the background, (Redskins won -yeah!).

We're off to New York to see the lights this weekend and the show "Nice work if You Can Get It" (G&I Gershwin)-can hardly wait!

Time to open another window on the Advent Calendar...

Happy Advent Season

Marguerite and John

Posted by mhwedwards 18:27 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Freedom!

"Braveheart" has a lot to answer for!

sunny 66 °F

As promised in a previous entry, my Hallowe'en "costume" is on view in the photo gallery. I am now confident that US students have been given some further insights into Scottish traditions and customs. Thank you Mel Gibson!

John arrived in DC on Saturday 3rd November and so this occasioned a premature "Spring Clean" of my living quarters! Needless to say, John has now been shown where the cleaning products are as well as the vacuum and iron to ensure that he doesn't suffer from withdrawal symptoms from domestic duties away from home!

Within the space of a week we have had the pleasure of seeing/hearing Lang Lang play Mozart and Chopin at the Kennedy Center, experience the NT production of "War Horse" again at the Kennedy Center and view a hilarious music hall style production of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" performed by the Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society. John has also taken advantage of the beginner's "special" at the Hot Yoga class by attending 4 sessions for the price of one in the space of a week, ( the Aberdonian psyche is hard to leave behind!).
It would seem that John has settled in well to DC living and is actually looking forward to visiting some museums!

Thankfully the hullaballoo over the Presidential election has now abated and television advertising can resume to the more comfortable
product zone of Pop Tarts and Weight Loss Programs! I am still awaiting an invite from Barack and Michelle to the lighting up of the White House Christmas Tree but understandably, they've been rather busy over the past while! I have however purchased the official White House Christmas Tree ornament which features President Taft and his family smothered by presents in the the first White House motor car. All I need now is a 6ft Christmas tree (devoid of squirrels!) to hang it from.

Today, (Monday 12th November), I started my first Scottish Country Dancing class for staff at Annandale HS- I now realise how skilled Ceilidh dancing is! I'm confident however that with plenty of practice and revision of the terms "right" amd "left" we might make some improvements!

Next week is "Thanksgiving" and if you are a turkey, now is the time to take a bargain break to the Galapogas Islands! We have 2 days off school although the holiday extends over 4-5 days as most people need that time to drive/fly to where they're going in the US!

It's hard to think that we are well into autumn as temperatures in DC are still in the mid-high sixties (F). I do however have an industrial ice-scraper in the car just in case!

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Marguerite

Posted by mhwedwards 17:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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