Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Ed Cunningham

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Ed Cunningham grew up playing football at Mount Vernon High School in DC’s backyard. His ability to play the game and play it well enabled a successful career as a professional football player and on-air sports analyst. The athleticism he exhibited on the field led Cunningham to a Rose Bowl Championship — that he won — in college before he continued on to spend time in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks in the 90′s.

Most recently, Cunningham finds himself working as a college football analyst for ESPN. And this weekend, ESPN is bringing Cunningham back home to call the Clemson at Maryland football game which is scheduled to air at 3:30 p.m. ET this afternoon.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

Now that I have lived away for so long, I think it is the accents of the people. There is such a unique way of speaking here, and it always reminds me of being a kid in such a great place.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Geoff Grubbs

Photo Courtesy of Geoff Grubbs

Photo Courtesy of Geoff Grubbs

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

When he first moved to D.C. in 1972, Geoff Grubbs knew a different town than the one we know today. People were moving out of the city and into to the suburbs and the first section of the Metro was being built. It was — simply put — a different time for the city and for Grubbs himself.

Fast-forward to present day and Grubbs lives and works in D.C. as the owner of a small independent environmental consulting firm but now finds himself on a mission. That mission is to help fund the research that will bring about the next generation of drugs not yet invented to help treat his form of lymphoma. It’s this circumstance, he said, that reignited his love for the city in which he lives. Why? The unfortunate circumstances have provided a new perspective, reminding him why he loves living in here and how lucky he is to do so.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I came to DC from west Texas in 1972 for a job I really wanted at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Despite my enthusiasm, I was used to wide open spaces and it was hard to adjust to living in the humid and seemingly crowded East.

But I adjusted fast. It took just a motorcycle and some income to figure out that DC was a far more interesting and fun place than anywhere I had ever been.

More than four decades later, I can proudly say that I still love DC. I’ve made life-long friends and never intend to live anywhere else. DC public schools were great for my kids who are both now grown and thriving. I love the shore, I love hiking in the Shenandoah, I love the people, and most of the time I love the Nationals.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Jonny Grave

Photo by Rachel Levitin

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

It’s no easy feat pulling off a performance in honor of late Blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn but that’s exactly what Jonny Grave and his band The Tombstones did this past Saturday night at Iota Club in Arlington, VA. The performance was part of the 1983 Classic Albums Concert featuring three other DC area acts and Jonny’s job was to close out the night.

Despite being a bundle of nerves, Jonny executed the performance with precision and passion. He went into the project knowing what musical challenges lied ahead and came out victorious on the other side by the night’s end.

Jonny was first introduced to American folk music at an early age by his very musical family while growing up in the DC area. By fifteen, he started learning slide guitar techniques by listening to old Blues records. By seventeen he was performing them live. Since then, he’s become a staple of the DC Blues scene.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

Well, for starters, I’ve lived in the area my whole life. I was born in Silver Spring, very close to Sligo Creek. I spent a lot of time going downtown, seeing museums and galleries. When I was a teenager, I started venturing on my own into DC, away from the large attractions, and into the neighborhoods. Adams Morgan fascinated me. Eastern Market was like a dream. Michael Jantz got me to start playing at Wonderland, and the folks at Nanny O’Briens finally got me on their stage. When I was 21, I moved to 10th and S st., and that’s when I really fell in love with the city. I made friends with a lot of musicians, artists, bohemians, Hill staffers, and bartenders. I started playing more. The city kind of opened up for me. They say that home is where the heart is, and mine is right here.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Don Kim

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

If you need a reason to smile then Don Kim is a guy who can help get the job done. Whether he’s on stage cracking a joke, at home playing music with his friends, or out at a bar playing a game of darts with a beer in hand, Don’s the kind of guy you want to be around.

Most recently, the ukulele toting singer-songwriter released an animated music video for his song “Beaver + Duck = Love.” Go ahead and try to watch that video without cracking a smile. I triple dog dare ya.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

For a long time, I didn’t love DC (gasp!). I went to college at the University of Maryland (Go Terps!) thinking that I was hitting the road as soon as I was done. I tried to leave but I was immediately drawn back. Over time, I realized that all my complaints about this area were because I wasn’t looking for the right things. Sure it’s stuffy, there’s lots of politics, and jumbo slice tastes horrible (except when drunk), but it’s also full of highly under-appreciated art, culture, and music. It’s home to me because whatever I’m in the mood for, I can find it and I’ve been spending the last 5 years looking for all the gems that this area has to offer. It’s been an amazing adventure and I learn something new about this place everyday.

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Entertainment, Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Jody Avirgan

Photo Courtesy of Jody Avirgan and Ask Roulette

Photo Courtesy of Jody Avirgan and Ask Roulette

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Jody Avirgan likes questions more than answers. As a result of that, he is now the host of a unique conversation series called Ask Roulette. The live show encourages strangers to ask each others questions on stage. And, for the first time, the New York based show is coming to DC. The show is scheduled for Friday, August 9 at Politics and Prose with special guests Clinton Yates on The Washington Post, Dave Weigel  of Slate, and Linda Holmes of NPR’s Monkey See.

According to Avirgan, “Ask Roulette is a little hard to envision but the crux of it is that audience members show up with a question they want to ask a stranger. All the questions get put in a box then randomly selected. When you come on stage, you answer a question from a stranger, then turn around and ask a stranger your question. There are also special guests at each event. Questions are long, short, serious, silly, whatever. Any question goes. And of course you can just watch.”

When Avirgan’s not spending time on Ask Roulette, he works as a producer for NPR’s New York station WNYC radio. But not so long ago, Avirgan grew up in DC.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you? 

Well, my parents are there, still living in the same house, so there are inherent memories of home tied up with any time I come back. But I really do like the fact that, to most Americans, DC is an abstraction — a company town filled with hired political guns. The disconnect between that vision and the DC I know – one full of real people and everyday pleasures, makes it that much more special. It’s like we’re all in on a secret together.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Jason Mendelson

Photo Courtesy of Jason Mendelson

Photo Courtesy of Jason Mendelson

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Jason Mendelson is an explorer. Mendelson first made his way from Tampa, Florida to DC with his wife nearly three years ago. Since then, Mendelson’s embarked upon a unique and time-consuming project — writing a song for each and every Metro station in the WMATA system. Along side his band, The Open Doors, Mendelson has released four volumes worth of what he calls “Metro Songs.”

When he’s not working on Metro Songs, Mendelson is an avid supporter and member of the DC-area music community. Whether he’s playing bass in a band one night, singing lead for The Open Doors on another, organizing (and executing) a “Classic Albums” concert, recording in his home studio, or out on the town catching a show, Mendelson’s devotion to making and listening to music is a physical display of genuine passion.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

The things that brought my wife and I here are not necessarily the same things that make it home for us now. After living our whole lives through 2010 in and around Tampa, Florida, we wanted a change and narrowed the selections down to D.C. for its superior job market and Alexandria specifically for safety and accessibility. The things that make it home to us now are all the wonderful friends and connections we’ve made, and all the great things to do in the area. We frequently visit museums and parks and attend arts events here that eclipse their sunshine state counterparts.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Chris Cicatelli

Photo Courtesy of Chris Cicatelli

Photo Courtesy of Chris Cicatelli (pictured, center)

Whether he’s surrounded by a cloud of diamond dirt on the sandlot, getting creative inside the television studio, or recording the latest in a string of podcast episodes at his home studio, Chris Cicatelli is known throughout the DC area — especially among a couple different softball leagues. His charismatic personality coupled with his love for being around people are attributes that people flock to, particularly when he’s acting as his infamous alter ego: Coco Caray, sports announcer.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I moved to DC in 1983, my dad got a job with CNN as a political and we made the move to DC/MD. After being here for so long, I have to say, what makes DC home to me is the spring and summer seasons. The cherry blossoms, the monuments in the spring. It is truly a beautiful city in the warm weather months.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Night Life, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Don Michael Mendoza

Photo Courtesy of Don Michael Mendoza

Photo Courtesy of Don Michael Mendoza

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Don Michael Mendoza is charismatic. By day Mendoza works with VIDA Fitness flexing the communications skills he obtained at DC’s American University. By night he’s an actor who performs all over the greater-DC area while working with a wide array of theater companies including brief stints in New York for various creative projects.

He’s also been able to channel that charisma into creating something he believes DC had been lacking – a musical theater cabaret and spoken word series. Mendoza co-founded and now co-hosts the award-winning weekly series La-Ti-Do at Black Fox Lounge in Dupont Circle with friend Regie Cabico. The pair established the idea in the fall of 2011 before launching the series in its official capacity in January 2012. Ever since then, the show’s audience continues to grow and the night-of talent is of the highest caliber available.

Mendoza takes immense pride in being able to provide this type of creative outlet for both audience members and performers alike. So if you find yourself at a La-Ti-Do performance, just know that what you’re seeing is most certainly a labor of love.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

DC was where I was born and lived before my family moved to Pittsburgh when I was 4. However, we always made trips here often because we have a lot of family friends here, so it’s really an extension of my hometown. I officially made my return here in 2006 when I attended American University where I was able to get my own feet planted here and staying here after graduation was the natural choice for me.

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Interviews, Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Ben Tufts

Ben Tufts & Friends/Craig Tufts Scholarship Fundraiser Photo/Jason Hornick

Photo Courtesy of Ben Tufts // Photo by Jason Hornick

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Whether he’s on the road or back home in the District, Ben Tufts is a perpetual student and dedicated teacher. If you ask just about anyone within the DC music scene if they know or have heard of Ben, it’s more than likely that they’ll say, “Yes.” He’s played over 300 shows in the past two years, with over thirty bands and artists, covering most of the continental U.S. and has become a cornerstone of the current DC scene.

His devotion to his craft is immeasurable. As a percussionist, Ben has spent countless hours over the course of his lifetime playing all styles of music from classical to hard rock and now teaches a  wide array of students throughout the greater DC area. But despite his busy schedule, Ben still finds the time to host an annual fundraiser at Jammin’ Java honoring the memory of his late father Craig Tufts, who served as Chief Naturalist for the National Wildlife Federation for 33 years, with the “Ben Tufts and Friends Concert” benefiting the Craig Tufts Memorial Fund. This year’s fundraiser is scheduled for August 17.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I was born in Falls Church, and lived in Reston for a few years before my family moved to the Claude Moore Farm in Sterling, VA. Until I was eight, I had a 300+ acre backyard with a bunch of lakes, ponds, and old growth Virginia forest in it. My closest neighbor was several miles away, so books and records became my best friends. We moved to the suburbs later, and as soon as my parents would let me, I was going to shows in DC. I still remember the smell in the front hall of the old 9:30 Club on F street, the scary bouncers at the Bayou, etc.

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People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Zia Hassan

IMG_1194

Photo Courtesy of Zia Hassan

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Zia Hassan is a storyteller. He likes to ask questions and seek honest answers from (and about) a vast array of subjects. This passion of his is the catalyst for multiple creative projects including a podcast series, original music, (viral) videos, photography, insightful blog posts, and more.

He’s a guy who keeps a pen and paper on him at all times just to make sure a new idea doesn’t get away. It’s his observation skills coupled with a genuine sense of childlike wonder that brings Zia’s creative endeavors to life.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

The duration of my stay, which is almost 25 out of 28 years (in the DMV area). Every city is a collection of people, experiences, imagery, and history. The place that I call home is a place where those stories are the deepest and the amount of time I’ve lived here has allowed for a lot of depth. Home is the place that you can leave for an indefinite amount of time, and when you come back, you pick up where you left off.  Some of the people in my life are “home” for me, in that sense.

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People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Paul Vodra

Photo Courtesy of Paul Vodra

Photo Courtesy of Paul Vodra

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Paul Vodra’s mission is to help causal fans find the fantastic music being made in DC by DC musicians. Before starting his podcast Hometown Sounds, Vodra gigged as a DJ spinning monthly at the Argonaut on H Street NE. Instead of focusing his sets around one genre, he thought it’d be interesting to focus on one location — DC — and play music of all genres. He’d even broadcast his sets for his faraway friends via the Argonaut’s open wi-fi router.

Vodra’s time as a DJ at Argonaut came to an end when they experienced a kitchen fire in 2010 but he liked broadcasting enough to stick with it, figured out how licensing works, and launched his 24/7 music stream.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I was born and raised in this area, so I feel that I understand it pretty well. There’s lots of pretension and showmanship here, but there’s an inexhaustible supply of creative, talented and downright awesome people too. There’s just so much variety here, in art, music, food, and especially people.

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Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Chris Naoum

Photo Courtesy of Chris Naoum

Photo Courtesy of Chris Naoum

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

If you frequent any of DC’s vast array of performing arts venues then you’ve likely seen Chris Naoum’s face around town before. Since co-founding Listen Local First DC in 2011, Naoum’s spent his time fully immersed in DC’s music scene. With a law background, Naoum specializes in copyright, media and telecom law, and policy. He’s also a staunch advocate for independent musicians, artists, and businesses.

As part of his Listen Local First duties, Naoum helps coordinate, execute, and host events in conjunction with DC businesses and artists. The events range from educational sessions to live shows including the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival which is happening this weekend.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

The people and the feeling of community. DC is a relatively small city. Everybody knows everyone and most people are very friendly. People are also doing really neat things. Whether it’s the start-up tech scene or the people working for non-profits that are trying to better the world, I’m always amazed to find out what people do for a living. Those that do not work in those sectors and work for the government or big firms are still really engaged with their local community and cultural development.

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Entertainment, Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Ted Garber

Photo for Patch--Ted Garber

Photo Courtesy of Ted Garber

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Ted Garber is a DC native. These days, he’s an award-winning “BluesAmericanaRock” singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentatlist. Ted’s also a perpetual student who frequently travels the globe in an attempt to absorb as much about the world’s cultures as he can. His curiosity is contagious.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?  

That’s an easy one.  I was born in DC at Washington, DC hospital.  My late father made his living all his too-short life playing music in and around DC. I grew up in and around DC. My mother worked at the Justice Department. In spite of a few fascinating years in New Orleans, West Virginia, and L.A., DC will always be the place where both my family and I are from. I mean, my Dad sang on the now-defunct official Redskins Singers choir. It was commensurate to blasphemy to take the ‘Skins name in vain or to disparage them in any way, especially during a losing game. That particular violation usually resulted in a grounding or a night spent taking dinner alone in my room. To be fair though, I am an Orioles fan. The Nats did not exist when I was growing up here, so we drove to Memorial Stadium and later Camden Yards for games. (That’s probably going to bring me grief for admitting, I know).

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Foggy Bottom, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

He Loves DC: Antonio Burrell

Antonio from Commonwealth

It’s been a wild ride for Antonio Burrell, the Chef de Cuisine at CommonWealth Gastropub. Since the opening in August of 2008, the British food joint CommonWealth has fast been popular with foodies and Columbia Heights regulars. I was able to catch up with Burrell, talk through his opinions on the DC food scene, find out what he does in the city on his days off, and discuss what his ideal food day in the city would be composed of.

Katie: How long have you lived in DC?

Antonio: I moved to DC in October of 2000. I actually took two months off and took a nice vacation, stayed in North Carolina played a lot of golf and fished a lot with my Dad. For the first year and a half I lived in Alexandria, but have lived in DC since then.

Name the best part of DC, in your opinion?

I like a great many things about DC, chief among them are the people I have met and its central location to Manhattan and my extended family, who live in North Carolina. However, the best part of DC is all the great cultural things you can do. The Smithsonian Institute Museums are a great way to spend a day, topped off by a nice stroll down the Mall, taking many stops along the way, especially to dip your feet in the fountain at the Korean Memorial.

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Fun & Games, People

He Loves DC: Crickett The Clown

Photo courtesy of
‘Just hanging out’
courtesy of ‘afagen’

As many of us are aware after the parade yesterday, the circus is in town! I had a chance to catch up with one of the clowns in the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Crickett. Crickett hails from the DC area, and I was able to  talk to him all about what it’s like to be a clown, what he misses about DC, and even about that mysterious bearded lady…

Katie: Tell us how you and DC intersect, how long you lived here, what your early memories are?

Crickett: I moved to the DC metro area when I was in 10th grade from New York and simply fell in love with it since I got here. Over more than a decade, I have lived here off and on while working and studying. Many of my early memories consist of taking the metro into the city and riding the trains with friends and just hanging out and seeing all the free sites.

Any favorite places you miss?

Of course! After I have lived/ played/ entertained (I hesitate, for obvious reasons, to call what I do work) in large arenas, such as Verizon, I enjoy being entertained as opposed to doing it myself. The Palace of Wonders is my favorite place to go in DC. It’s a tiny little club that hosts regular nightly entertainment, both amateur and professional in vaudeville, burlesque, comedy, variety and such. One of my favorite groups, the Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show performs there regularly. It’s a great place to meet up and coming performers, relax, or see weird sideshow ephemera such as Fiji mermaids, swords, and other oddities. Other than that, I love the Smithsonian and the masses of other free museums DC has to offer, especially the Air and Space Museum or the Zoo

Name the best part of DC, in your opinion?

The cherry blossom trees when they’re out. On a sunny spring day, there is no better place to be or better company to have than the cherry blossoms.

How did you wind up a clown?

While I was attending University in Newport News, VA, I happened upon a now-defunct traveling sideshow. It was then I realized I could act outrageous, tour, color my hair, wear makeup, and have fun touring without being a rock star (or a drag queen for that matter). This appealed to me because I can’t keep a beat to save my life!

More on Crickett’s career as a clown, and where you’ll be able to find him while he’s in town after the jump. Continue reading