Essential DC, People, The Features, Where We Live, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Ben

Full disclosure: I really wanted to title this article “Why I (Still) Love DC: Take Two (or Ten)” but Jenn wouldn’t let me. (Something about ruining the pattern or other such reasonable editorial argument.) If you’re a long-time follower of We Love DC, you’ll know I wrote a similarly titled piece back in 2013 after this site’s fifth anniversary.

And then suddenly, here we are not two years later and the party’s over.

Back in the fall, when it was discussed about putting the old gal to rest, I didn’t really want to let it go. I’d hoped that a fresh generation, newer (or older) blood would pick up our baton, and sally forth. But alas–and unlike our lovely Congressmen and Senators on the Hill–our grand lady would not blather on about nothing, limping towards digital obscurity.

And I’m okay with that.

This will be my 647th and final post here at We Love DC. (And, for giggles, that’s about half-a-million words.) I never thought I’d be saying good bye, both to our readers and to the site.

It’s a bittersweet milestone for me, particularly.

2015 marks ten years –half my married life!– since I moved to the Metro DC area. My wife and I escaped a wretched employment outlook in Pittsburgh when the International Spy Museum took a chance and hired me to help run their retail shop. Brenda Young, my manager at the time (and she’s still there, I believe), was a true District resident from Capitol Heights and during our downtime in the office, would tell me all about this city and its secrets. Actually, considering where I worked and who I rubbed shoulders with on a frequent basis, I learned about a lot of secrets in the District…

Anyway, it was during my time there that I stumbled over Tom and his merry band of Metrobloggers. I applied to write, figuring I could bring a ‘fresh-behind-the-ears’ view to the team (only having been here two years at that point). I showed my bona fides and I was in.

And plunged straight into the depths of rebellion. Continue reading

All Politics is Local, Business and Money, Education, History, People, Scribblings, Sports Fix, The Features

The Football Name Debate: Are We Missing the Point?

“The debate is over about the R-word; it’s now about whether if it’s proper to have a football team in this country carry on using a defined slur.” That was the closing statement by Jacqueline Pata, the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Her comment capped off a forum at the Center for American Progress, Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth. The Center released a new report that examined several bodies of research about the harmful impact of mascot representations on the self-esteem of AI/AN youth, how they create a hostile learning environment, and the decades-long movement to retire them. The report by Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips looks at recent key findings and incorporates statements from several Native youths, providing context that is relevant today regarding the use of these mascots and imagery.

Sitting on today’s panel was Pata; Travis Waldron, Sports Reporter,; Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Dr. Michael Friedman, Clinical Psychologist; and Erik Stegman, Associate Director, Center for American Progress. The forum started with very poignant remarks by fifteen-year-old Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, a student at Argonaut High School in California, and a Champion for Change at the Center for Native American Youth. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) also spoke briefly at the event.

Over the last year, the debate over the use of the slur by the Washington professional football team has largely centered on issues of economics and fan nostalgia. The larger issue at hand, however, is beyond the sports soundbites that dominate this discussion. Data and research now shows that the use of such racist and derogatory team names (and by association, ‘traditions’ and fan antics) have real and detrimental effects on Native youth today. With fifty percent of the Native population being of 25 years of age or younger, the danger of perpetuating this practice and continuing the cycle of defeatism, hostile learning environments, and poor self-esteem is all too real. Continue reading

Fashionable DC, Get Out & About, People, The Features

Fashionable DC: Garden Party at the President’s House!

America’s 28th president made at least one fortuitous decision for the Washington, D.C. social scene–he retired locally, to a stately 1915 Georgian Revival residence in posh Kalorama, now what we think of as Embassy Row. Though Woodrow Wilson himself only lived there for three years (1921-1924) before he passed away, his well-preserved home is nowadays a museum owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s also a go-to place for fun and sophisticated events.

Fresh off a successful Mother’s Day Centennial brunch, the Woodrow Wilson House hosted its 26th annual garden party on May 14, where springtime hats were in full bloom.  (See: photos on flickr) The event was part of an effort to build a community of people who are interested in the neglected era of Woodrow Wilson, said the museum’s Executive Director, Robert Enholm, sporting a seersucker jacket, bow tie and straw hat.


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Food and Drink, Interviews, Music, People, We Love Arts, We Love Drinks, We Love Food, We Love Music

Spotlight: Carlie Steiner and Tea Time DC

Hey DC, it’s time for tea with one of my new favorite bartenders, Carlie Steiner. I first met Carlie a few weeks ago, and after a few coffees and a rather short meeting, we were already scooting all over town in her new Vespa, Sophia, shooting back and forth about classic cocktails, and quickly becoming fast friends.

If there’s one piece of advice I can give about the food and bev scene in DC, is don’t follow places, follow people. No matter where you go and what you like, I guarantee that if you develop a relationship with a bartender, server, manager, barista, whatever, you will love wherever it is they are working or whatever it is they are doing. Try to get less caught up in what new bars are opening and instead try to make connections with industry people that you like and respect, because if I follow them wherever they go, you’ll have the same great experience every time. And Carlie is one of those people to follow.

Fairly young to the DC bar scene, Carlie started in New York at culinary school, where she honed her skills as a chef, learning valuable techniques to put to use behind the bar and in the kitchen. It’s no wonder then that she was hired right out of school to work the bar at José Andrés’ Minibar, where she made such an impression that she was moved over to his new, experimental cocktail lab, Barmini. Continue reading

Get Out & About, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Speeding Through the Appalachians With Jennifer Pharr Davis

Every year, hundreds of hikers attempt to traverse the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. The typical journey takes at least four months. In 2011, long-distance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis accomplished it in a little over 46 days. She became the trail’s overall speed record holder and the first woman to do so.

Thursday evening, Davis visits the National Geographic Museum to share her story about this incredible achievement. National Geographic is giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky WeLoveDC reader for the event. (See the end of the article for instructions on how to enter.) Davis sat down with WeLoveDC to talk about her accomplishment and time on the trail.

What inspired you to attempt the fastest hike of the Trail?

I had hiked the trail twice before, once in 2005 as a traditional thru-hike taking 4 months, and again in 2008 where I tried to set a new women’s record. I did that, hiking the trail in 58 days and averaging 38 miles per day. But coming off Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia where I finished my hike, I knew instantly that I had a lot left in the tank and that I hadn’t pushed myself to the max. So I immediately starting contemplating the possibility of doing it faster and of possibly trying to break the overall record of 47 days.

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Education, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Meet Travelers Who Make a Difference

Every year, National Geographic celebrates individuals who travel the globe with passion and purpose. These travelers represent a style of travel, motivation, or method that informs and inspires us to either Should You Drive Or Should You Fly. Last year, more than 1,500 nominations were sent in to National Geographic Traveler for their annual Travelers of the Year award. The magazine staff selected those who turned trips into opportunities to assist with conservation efforts, connect with local cultures, volunteer, challenge themselves, deepen familial and community bonds, and engage the world in a meaningful way .

This Thursday, National Geographic will host a discussion with seven of their 2013 winners. And WeLoveDC wants to send one of our readers to this insightful program with a pair of tickets to the program and reception!

Panelists at the evening program will be Hilda and John Denham, who established the Pacuare Nature Reserve in Costa Rica to protect turtle nesting areas; Alison Wright, a photojournalist who launched the Faces of Hope Fund to provide medical assistance, education, and aid to children around the globe; Shannon O’Donnell, who began Grassroots Volunteering, a database of volunteering and sustainable tourism opportunities; Molly Burke and Muyambi Muyambi, founders of Bicycles Against Poverty in Uganda; and Tracey Friley, a youth travel advocate who began the Passport Party Project for helping underserved girls get their first passports.

These travelers went a step beyond a simple vacation and strive to make a difference through their journey, trough the Extraordinary Caravanning Destinations You Must Visit too. Often, it is an experience, sight, or object that inspires their change of direction. “I traveled several times to Costa Rica during the eighties to see the turtles and went to many beaches on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts,” said Hilda Denham. “I was fascinated by what I saw but was shocked by the poaching that was going on everywhere. Legislation came too late, and has always been ineffective.”

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Entertainment, Music, People, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Natalie York

Natalie York wants to rock. That’s her goal. And in a climate chock full of male rockers, her goal isn’t unfathomable but rather something to respect, admire, and follow.

This past week, York released her second full-length album titled “Promises,” which is an album crafted with that exact goal in mind – rocking out.

When York released her first album in 2010, the collection of songs ended up being a production effort associated with her final senior project at the University of Miami. While proud of the efforts on that debut album, York is finally ready for chapter two of her young and promising music career.

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Entertainment, Fun & Games, Music, People, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: A Q&A with Benjamin Wallace of The 18th Street Singers

Photo Courtesy of The 18th Street Singers

Photo Courtesy of The 18th Street Singers

There’s this (nearly) perfect moment in vocal music when a chorus of individuals come together to not only sing four-part harmonies broken up into individuals parts but rather a moment when the group creates a pure tone of unadulterated sound on pitch. This is not only a goal for the 18th Street Singers, this is what they do.

Earlier this fall, I spent some time watching the 18th Street Singers in their natural habitat — their rehearsal space at First Trinity Lutheran Church — and I was quick to learn that this group is comprised of passionate voices from many different walks of life all coming together for a common purpose.

The 18th Street Singers’ Executive Director Benjamin Wallace took some time to speak with us one-on-one via e-mail to answer our questions regarding the group and their upcoming performances on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25.

Tell us a bit about how you originally got involved with the 18th Street Singers? How do you fit into the overall puzzle?

I have been involved with the 18th Street Singers since its founding in 2004, and let me tell you, my participation was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. I was living in a group house with a talented conductor (our musical director Benjamin Olinsky) when a tenacious young woman and college classmate of ours approached us saying she missed singing. While there were other choirs in D.C. none of them were exactly what we were looking for. We wanted a younger, hipper, more personable group, so we started brainstorming names and advertising on alumni list, in the paper, and on Craigslist.

It was a pretty humble beginning: I think our first season we had 14 people singing simple four-part harmony. We knew we would need a place to rehearse and perform, and having no money, we were shocked and delighted when the First Trinity Lutheran Church offered to host us. We have had an incredible partnership with the First Trinity ever since and are so thankful for their support for us and the arts. The group grew quickly up to our current size around 45 people, and as we had greater and greater success, we attracted ever more talented members. For me, much of the early days was spent working on fundraising and helping build the kind of social environment we were hoping for. After leaving D.C. for a few years, I was delighted to rejoin the group in 2012, and to start working with our board of directors to keep fulfilling the same aspirations we had in the early days: making music and friends with a fun, talented collection of young people from all walks of life.

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People, The District, The Features

My DC in 2013: Jenn

If 2012 was the year of upheaval, then 2013 was the year of recovery. I had a seemingly simple goal: to take time to pause, reflect, and allow my body to heal after a traumatic experience of complete heart block and two operations. I sold my house in Logan Circle, and moved temporarily to Petworth, hiding away in a Batgirl Cave on a street where sweet kids played on their bikes and friendly neighbors cooked out on the sidewalks. It felt like another city, one of families, far away from my usual frantic mid-city pace.

It felt like exile, too.

I’d lived in the same house for twelve years. It seems a luxury in urban living to have had the same address for that long. Then there I was, holding the splintered remains of my former life, feeling raw and broken and alone. Only I wasn’t. My city was still there for me. Eventually I would leave my little sanctuary and move back to Shaw, able to walk by my old house without flinching, happy it was loved by someone new. My mind can now be filled with snapshots of my DC in 2013: of a sunny patio, an audience’s gasp, passionate conversations, and much happiness over friends’ successes. Art, cocktails, and coffee. A lot of coffee. And late nights. Too much, probably, for someone struggling with major arrhythmia. For every moment I tried to rest and heal, I also pushed my body to deny it had failed.

Until finally, I forgave it. Continue reading

Adventures, Interviews, People, The Features

My DC in 2013: Ben

In a few short hours, 2013 will end and another year in this city begins.

When Jenn asked me to pen this story a few weeks ago, I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it. I considered a monthly perspective, then a “best of” format. Perhaps a look at a list of the site’s best offerings from our talented writing pool? Or maybe a review in photos (and steal Mosley’s thunder)?

In the end, I figured I’d do what I do best: sit down, put fingers to keyboard, and reflect. Because in the end, this was a year of reflection for me. I’m not even sure this collection of rambling will make sense to most, but it’s better than nothing, right?

Don’t get me wrong; this was a good year for me overall, if you look at the positives overwhelming the negatives. But looming large over me for a good part of the year has been that of a directional “where do I go now?” struggle that is beginning to resolve as 2014 dawns. Continue reading

People, The District, The Features

My DC in 2013: Rachel

Photo by Emma Beck

When my dad, dog, and grandmothers all passed away in 2009 the world I knew was shattered. We lost my dad and childhood dog Coco that January and my grandmothers that summer. Somehow, in between the chaos, I managed to graduate from American University with a B.A. in print journalism and a minor in music. But the completion of that journey wasn’t a source of pride at the time. The good news is – the haze of it all settled after few years and We Love DC, honestly and truly, helped bring me out of my existential funk.

Here we are now on the last day of 2013. To me, New Year’s Eve has been a bittersweet holiday ever since my dad received a life-saving heart transplant on this date 14 years ago. I was 12 and in the 7th grade at the time. It’s crazy to think about how much has changed since that day. My family got just shy of nine extra years with my dad because of that transplant, and we can’t help but think of that memory each and every New Year’s Eve.

Now you’re probably thinking, “What does all of this stuff have to do with Rachel’s DC in 2013?” Not to worry, I’m getting to that. Continue reading

People, The District, The Features

My DC in 2013: Esther

At the ripe old age of still under 40, I felt like I had a mid-life crisis of sorts in 2013.  This was the year my outside frustrations and internal conflicts collided and I found myself becoming a bit cynical, bitter, and angry at things I couldn’t control and at complete strangers who I assumed were total jerks because they refuse to use their turn signal when switching lanes. Mid-year, it began to dawn on me that I was becoming the very person I was used to showing the middle finger to, and that scared me. I didn’t like being “that” person and I began taking steps to change. As 2013 comes to an end, I am pleased to announce that my mid-life crisis has ebbed and I am on the road to an existential recovery.  And DC itself has been a great therapist in helping me sort out my personal predicaments and move forward towards a more positive me.

I spent the first three months of 2013 outside of DC. I had been cast in two shows at a theatre in a different city and was very excited to leave the winter weather, the hustle and bustle of the beltway, and enjoy some time in a place where the weather was warm and the pace of life a lot slower. And to be honest, I really did enjoy my time away. A break from the rat race of the District was a nice change of pace. The people I met were lovely, the food was amazing, and the lack of traffic was heavenly. But being away also helped me gain perspective on the city in which we live. Continue reading

People, The District, The Features

My DC in 2013: Paul

All of my fondest memories of 2013 have happened in a bar. Whether I was on the good side or the better side of the bar, I’ve loved every minute. I got offered three jobs (including this one!) just going out for a drink. And I took all of them, along with one more, because I want to see as much of this city as I can. Sometimes it can be exhausting and emotionally draining, and it beats the crap out of your body (what’s that, four AM yoga so my neck isn’t stiff as a board tomorrow?), but it’s the best job I’ve ever had

On bad days, tending  bar can feel a bit like lion taming–at least I wish I had a whip whenever someone orders half a dozen mojitos (back, you animals!). And I may have developed bartending-induced ADD. Continue reading

People, The District

My DC in 2013: In a Family Way

Guys, the truth is, I spent most of 2013 with my focus turned inward, ever since late January when the second line appeared on the stick. New bar opening? Whatever, I can’t drink. Food trucks? Sorry, gestational diabetes. Major database release at work? I’m going to be on leave for that entire quarter, suckers… Even the government shutdown barely registered since it started the day after we brought the Bridgelet home from the hospital. All of October is a blur of sleep deprivation and constant feelings of incompetence.

Still, in the middle of doctor’s appointments and ultrasounds and baby showers and midnight feedings and planning for daycare and college funds, I managed to pick my head up once in a while, and when I did, I found my love for DC being renewed all the time.

Some highlights, big and small…  Continue reading

Life in the Capital, People

Why I Love DC: Paul

Oh DC, how I’ve loved keeping you my little secret. But unfortunately, it couldn’t last. The odd weekend rendezvous was fun, but it’s time to get serious. It’s no secret anymore, I do love you. For a long time DC was my secret little weekend getaway. Hop on a train, bus, plane, anything to get me away from sleepy Rhode Island for a few days. Of course, there was a girl too. That didn’t last but I fell in love with DC, at least. Or more specifically, the drinks.

I’ve always been fascinated with spirits and cocktails. The culture, the camaraderie, the artistry, I’m completely intoxicated with it. Cocktails are the language that I speak and I learned to speak it in DC. We have an incredibly talented food scene in Providence and I’ll fiercely defend my home turf to the end, but I’ve got to hand it to DC, it’s my favorite place to get a drink in this country. No surprise really, The Gibson was the first cocktail bar I had ever been to. I would’ve sold my soul after a few bitter slings under that sultry low light. No surprise then that after that night my top priority was to move to DC and tend bar.

The rest is a short story. Tidy up a few tiny details: finish college, say goodbye to all my friends, family, and beloved co workers, jaunt around Europe a bit, try to make a name for myself on the competition circuit, and then it was straight to DC. And oh my, that’s when things got interesting Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The Features

Celebrating an Irish Christmas with Moya Brennan

The first time I heard Moya (also known as Máire) Brennan sing, it was on a friend’s Clannad album during an intense study period at college. The music, with its ethereal tones and haunting vocals, imparted a sense of peace and calm, allowing our study group to finally settle down and prepare for finals.

My music taste has evolved over the years, but my love for Celtic and Irish music hasn’t waned. In fact, it’s grown. And central to that has been Moya’s incredible music.

I had a chance to talk with her last year before and after her St. Patrick’s Day concert. It’s a great look into her approach and style, and even though her concert tomorrow is a Christmas one, still very relevant.

YouTube Preview Image

Brennan visits Washington tomorrow as part of a short U.S. tour with her Christmas show “An Irish Christmas.” The two performances, 3 and 7 p.m., will be at the Grosvenor Auditorium at the National Geographic Museum, located at 17 and M Streets, NW. The tour is part promotion of a re-release of her popular Christmas concert album. Both shows are sold out.

The “First Lady of Celtic Music” began her professional music career with Clannad back in the 1980s. The band, featuring many of her family members, started out of her father’s pub, Leo’s Tavern. Clannad is considered the flagship group that started the Celtic music movement. “We didn’t intentionally want to go out and become famous and make a lot of money and everything because we very much, when the band was formed, sang traditional Gaelic songs,” Moya said in an interview with CBN last year. “And even in Ireland people thought we were mad.”

Moya launched her solo career in the 1990s and to date has released seven albums. Her music career spans more than 20 albums, film scores, and collaborations with other well-known artists like Robert Plant, Shane MacGowan, and Bono. Continue reading

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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Entertainment, Music, People, The Daily Feed, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Pink Jams Under:40 Music Marathon at the Hard Rock Cafe DC 9/27-9/29

Photo Courtesy of Pink Jams

When Pink Jams! Founder and President Christa Floresca lost a 35-year-old friend to breast cancer in 2007, she learned the hard way that the disease does not discriminate based on gender, race, or age.  That realization is what inspired Floresca to find a creative way to raise money and awareness of breast cancer’s effects on people under age 40.

“Jen was the first person I had ever met that was around my age that had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Floresca said, “I always thought that was something that you worried about as you got older.”

Founded in 2009, just two years after Jen’s passing, Pink Jams is currently doing all it can as an organization to raise funds and engage in community discussion about breast cancer affecting people under age 40. “It’s not really about the money,” Floresca said. “It’s about the awareness. It’s about reaching thousands and thousands of people,” and that’s what the 2nd Annual Under:40 Music Marathon at the Hard Rock Café this coming weekend will help to do.

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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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