Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: If/Then

Idina Menzel and company in If/Then at the National Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Idina Menzel and company in If/Then at the National Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

IF seeing a world-premiere musical before it went to Broadway weren’t exciting enough, THEN learning that Tony-award winners Idina Menzel and LaChanze were in it, along with Anthony Rapp and James Snyder, I was elated beyond comprehension. IF the writer/composer team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey could write a great musical, like Next To Normal, THEN their new show was probably going to be awesome. IF, after seeing it, I told you it was perfect, THEN I’d be lying. But IF I told you that If/Then at the National Theatre has something compelling to it, THEN that would be the absolute truth.

Set around the premise that one tiny, seemingly insignificant decision can alter the course of one’s life, If/Then addresses the ultimate existential question. What if…? In this case, Elizabeth (Menzel) simultaneously experiences dueling, but separate, existences based on the events that follow when she is faced with choosing whether to get coffee with a neighbor or attend a protest rally with a friend. In one scenario, she joins her neighbor Kate (LaChanze) for coffee, and in the process meets her future husband, becomes an adjunct professor, has a family, and is eventually faced with terrible tragedy that forces her to question whether she made the right choice that day she went out for coffee. In the other scenario, she joins her friend Lucas (Rapp) at a protest rally where she runs into an old colleague who offers her a corporate job as a New York city planner, becomes a successful professional, choosing a career over marriage and falling into a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships, eventually facing a terrible tragedy that forces her to question whether she made the right choice that day she followed Lucas to the rally.

While this was an interesting concept, I found that I didn’t fully understand exactly what was happening, or who was who in which scenario, until about 30 minutes into the show. Once I figured out that a red background was referring to the events of the coffee scenario, a blue background meant the rally scenario, that Elizabeth was Liz in one scenario and Beth in another, that her friends remained constant in both, but her careers and personal relationships didn’t cross over into both worlds, it made more sense. Both lives that Elizabeth leads are fun to see juxtaposed side by side and director Michael Greif has seamlessly woven them together. Events in each of the separate scenarios show the audience how, together, Elizabeth is a whole person, but separately, she’s incomplete, longing for something more. Because both lives find her wanting, it’s difficult to know which scenario you hope is the ‘true’ one, and about halfway through Act II, I realized that somehow the two would have to converge in order to have a satisfactory ending.

However, that ending, while it found a way to tie the two worlds together into a fairly complete conclusion, also negated the whole point of the show in doing so. This entire premise, based on the fact that destiny is created by the individual choices humans make, is erased by the realization that regardless of which simple choice Elizabeth made five years prior, it really didn’t matter because, in the end, fate was going to step in and make the choice for her. And, if fate is going to decide the course of human life, why bother considering whether you made the right choice if there is, ultimately, no actual choice? Continue reading

Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life

Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life

Maurice Hines in Arena Stage’s Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life. Photo credit: Teresa Wood

When I was 7 years old, I saw an episode of Sesame Street, where two brothers used choreography in the foreground and background to demonstrate the difference between near and far. I was completely mesmerized. That’s when I fell in love with tap dancing and with the Hines brothers. To have the opportunity to see Maurice Hines himself in Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life at Arena Stage, therefore, was the fulfillment of a childhood dream and I had extremely high expectations. I mean, here was one-half of the partnership that so creatively taught me the difference between things that were close and further away, using nothing but his feet, rhythm and charisma. How could it be anything less than great? To be honest, though, it was not great. It was phenomenal.

Less a traditional theatrical format and more a tribute to some of the greatest talents in American music history, Tappin’ Thru Life reminded me of a multi-mode art installation, the likes of which are rarely seen on stage anywhere. Although I was born and raised in the era of disco and big hair bands, to see a performance that so richly entertained based purely on the bare talents of a nine-piece jazz orchestra playing standards, two sets of tap dancing brothers, and a 70-year old legendary performer without any pyrotechnics, technological enhancement, or schmaltzy glitz was a rare gift.

Although less well-known, perhaps, than his younger brother Gregory (who died of liver cancer in 2003), Maurice Hines is still a performing force not to be trifled with. Continue reading

Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Flipping Out

It’s less than a week until Thanksgiving, people, which means it’s time to start gearing up for holiday parties. Are you guys flipping out? Because I am planning to flip out. Hosting a holiday party for friends and family with quality cocktails on the menu can be a tough feat to pull off. I certainly learned my lesson last year when I volunteered to make a proper boozy egg nog with whipped eggs whites and all. Let me tell you… never again. Even with my trusty all-in-one immersion blender/egg white frother/home defense weapon, it was impossible to keep a mixture of cream, eggs, sugar, and booze warm and frothy all night. If only I had known about flips back then. The flavor and texture is not exactly like egg nog, but it’s close enough that flips are a worthy shortcut. That said, not all flips are created equal.

A tale of two flips: there are two schools of thought concerning flips. One way is the old school mix of eggs, spirit, sweetener, and (very optional) citrus and soda. Which is more akin to egg nog, especially without the citrus and soda. Then there’s the stuff that sailors used to drink, a mix of spirits, sweetener and beer. That’s the old, old school method, so old that it ranks up there with grog, rock and rye (low and slow, baby!), and colonial-era punches in its historical street cred. And there’s the question of serving temperature, hot or cold? Egg flips are traditionally served cold but can be served warm–though I can’t say that I recommend it, unless you don’t mind the occasional scrambled egg in your cocktail–and beer flips are almost exclusively served warm.

Where can you get a good flip in this city? Continue reading

Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: The King and I

Paolo Montalban and Eileen Ward in Olney Theatre Center’s The King and I. Photo credit: Stan Barouh

To be considered a lover or scholar of musical theatre, there is an essential repertoire of work that a person must know. Alongside shows like Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, and Guys & Dolls, The King and I stands proudly as one of these classic standards. When it opened on Broadway in 1951, it broke thematic ground, with a plot based on actual historical events and character’s relationships focused on respect and understanding, rather than romantic love. Following the story of English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens’ experience teaching the children and wives of Siamese King Mongkut in 1863 Bangkok, The King and I is as much a tale of political diplomacy and an examination of the post-colonial cultural struggle as it is a heartfelt musical with beautiful songs.

In closing out their 75th season, Olney Theatre Center’s production of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic presents a fine balance between these light-hearted tunes and the more dramatic themes of imperialism and honor. Without getting overly sentimental or insufficiently serious, director Mark Waldrop has created the perfect blend of elements and reminded me why The King and I has been so beloved for more than 60 years. He has assembled a large cast (36 actors, although the children are double-cast, so there’s never more than 28 in a show) and an impressive 12-person design team, and yet not allowed the 2 hour 45 minute show fall prey to its own mammoth size, or even feel like it was nearly three hours. The show was clean, clear, and well-paced, with a very talented cast. Continue reading

Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Bistro Bohem

I have been hooked on Bistro Bohem since the I first went there for a job interview (for this job actually). I love everything about the place, It’s a bar and a restaurant and a cafe and a late night spot and a brunch spot and a pretty-much-whatever-time-of-day-spot all in one. They have good, cheap, hearty food, a great tea selection, everyone I’ve met on staff is really, really friendly, and some of the drinks I’ve never even heard of before. Bavorak, Beton (Czech for concrete)? Sure! But the drink that first caught my eye was the Becherovka Old Fashioned.

I have a bit of a love affair with amaro-based Old Fashioneds; Campari-gin, Fernet-bourbon, sometimes I just want to sip something strong and bitter. No surprise then that I immediately noticed Bistro Bohem’s Becherovka Old Fashioned. It’s a mix of Becherovka, Bols oude genever, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, all muddled with a lemon (bye bye, winter weather blues). Don’t worry If you’ve never tried Becherovka. It’s a rather uncommon ingredient in cocktails because not many people know what the heck it is. Actually, no one does – the recipe for this spirit is a closely guarded secret. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Love in Afghanistan

Love in Afghanistan

Khris Davis and Melis Aker in Love in Afghanistan at Arena Stage. Photo credit: Teresa Wood.

It could have been the perfect modern-day Cinderella story—rich and handsome boy meets oppressed but beautiful girl, the attraction is immediate, they fall in love, and despite the multiple barriers that ensue, he eventually rescues her from her oppressive situation, they get married and live happily ever after in his world of fame and fortune, never to look back on her former life of injustices. Real life and love, of course, are much more complicated, and thankfully, the lovers’ relationship in Arena Stage’s production of Love in Afghanistan reflects life and love’s complexities. It doesn’t fall prey to the fairy tale ending.

Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright’s modern tale of love in war-torn Afghanistan is the story of Duke (played by Khris Davis), a young, successful American hip-hop artist performing for the US troops at the military base in Kabul, whose language interpreter, Roya (Melis Aker), is a beautiful and smart Afghan woman who, when she’s not utilizing her skills as a polyglot for the US military, is secretly helping run an underground rescue organization for women. Intrigued and impressed by the other person, an immediate and intimate friendship between Duke and Roya develops. Although the transition from friendship to love is predictable, the relationship between the two characters is not. Theirs is a love complicated by the intricacies of two separate cultures that, in many ways, are not compatible with one another. He is from the ‘land of the free and home of the brave’ where playing the proverbial hero on the white horse rescuing the damsel in distress is considered noble and romantic, while she is from a land where, although fear permeates every facet of life and bomb explosions are regular occurrences, women do not want to be rescued by men but, rather, are rescuing themselves from the oppression of a male-dominated society. Continue reading

Adventures, Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Get Out & About, Life in the Capital, Technology, The District

DC Fall Foliage Gets Digitized & Meaningful

If you’re like me, you’re in love with infographics because they take spreadsheets, lists, tables and large amounts of data and make them meaningful, useful and sometimes – when done right – beautiful. Case and point are two interactive infographics created by Casey Trees that are a leaf peepers dream.

The first infographic, which for me is the more useful of the two, suggests DC routes leaf peepers should take for maximum fall color viewing. On hover over, users are given the route’s length, walk or drive recommendations, number of colored trees along the route, types of trees along the route and expected level of color users will see.Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 10.36.32 AM

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Entertainment, Life in the Capital, Music, Night Life, The Daily Feed

We Love Music: Empire Of The Sun @ 9:30 Club – 9/1/13

To begin, if you’re reading this article before 9pm on Monday, go immediately over to the 9:30 Club and somehow get yourself a ticket to tonight’s sold out Empire of the Sun show. Don’t worry if you have to pay above face value, it will be worth it, trust me.

I’d been listening to the Empire of the Sun 2008 freshman album Walking On A Dream for about a year, having been introduced to them via my Ladyhawke – another Aussie music up-and-comer, Pandora channel recommendation. The strongly drum and synthesizer driven tracks combine effortlessly with lead singer Luke Steele’s brilliant, bordering on nasally, vocals. As a child of the 80s, I’m a junkie for electronic music and their 10 track album has become a staple in my music arsenal. Fortunately, I only had to wait until June for their next album Ice On The Dune and then until yesterday to catch them live.

Going into the show, while I was familiar with the group, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a live show. Their album covers feature the duo in elaborate costumery and David Bowie-esque make up, surrounded by landscapes and creatures straight out of Dune or the Ursula K. Le Guin novel The Left Hand of Darkness; the covers could easily be Labirynth or Legend or The Dark Crystal movie poster rejects, and their music videos continue this motif, especially their latest track “Alive.” All of this plus pictures of their U.S. tour, which just kicked off, had me definitely expecting a fair amount of pagentry, but as soon as the lights went down, it was clear that Empire of the Sun was going to go far beyond. Continue reading

Entertainment, Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Rachael Yamagata

Photo Couresty of BBGun Press

Photo Couresty of BBGun Press

It’s been nearly a decade now since Rachael Yamagata first enchanted listeners with her heartfelt, passionate songs. With three full-length albums and several EP’s to show for her hard work, Yamagata’s loyal and dedicated fan base continues to grow as years go by.

Since her first EP’s release, Yamagata’s songs have matured along with her performance style. The maturation process of an artist with talent like Yamagata’s is a delight to watch as it occurs over time. Her voice is as strong as its ever been and her lyrics are just as poignant, if not more so, than anything from her earlier years as a songwriter.

Tell us a little bit about this particular tour. You’re currently supporting your EP Heavyweight which was released late last year. Do you go into each new tour with a theme in mind or a goal you plan to achieve with that particular set of performance dates?

I try to make every tour unique and give fans a reason to return each time. I want to stay inspired as well so it’s helpful to me to change the lineup and reinvent the experience. The last few tours have been combinations of fuller band line ups and this round is a duo set. It’s stripped down, but certainly not limited to an acoustic vibe of two people on guitars.  We really spent time on these arrangements to make them intimate and yet embellished.  When we can we add strings which is always a treat.

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

We Love Music: A Capitol Fourth 2013

Capitol Fourth Stage

For the past 33 years, PBS has hosted an annual concert special –  “A Capitol Fourth” – on Independence Day shot live from the west lawn of the Capitol building. The line-up of artists selected for the special spans genres and generations culminating in a show for all-ages and this year’s line-up is no exception.

This year’s show features timeless American stars like Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond, two American Idol winners including Scotty McCreery and the newly crowned Candice Glover, as well as Broadway’s Megan Hilty (of Smash), Darren Criss (Glee), and that’s just to name a few. With one of America’s favorite television hosts Tom Bergeron acting as emcee for the evening, PBS is on its way toward producing yet another memorable Fourth of July concert special on the National Mall.

On the third of July, the artists gather for one final run through before the official open dress rehearsal later that night. The day’s events also serve as an opportunity for those involved with the show to reflect on what being in DC for Independence Day means to them and what an honor it truly is to be involved with “A Capitol Fourth.”

To a seasoned performance veteran like Barry Manilow – who first played the show in 2009 – being in DC for Independence Day makes him believe in America. When asked about why DC is so special on the Fourth of July, he responded by asking a question in retort, “Do you guys live here?”

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People, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Rosemary Feit Covey’s Red Handed

Sometimes we experience works of art that embody both beauty and horror. The old word for this, now sadly devalued, was “awesome.” I hope artist Rosemary Feit Covey will forgive me for using that word to describe her current complete gallery installation, Red Handed. It is simply awesome.

Recently I visited Morton Fine Art to watch as Covey installed the work under the gentle eye of curator Amy Morton, spreading vinyl pieces across the floor. Even in that unfinished state before opening, it had undeniable power. Swirling vortexes of bald, nude figures, mouths open and arms red to the fingertips, soon covered the floor. I stepped gingerly over their faces, having no other option but to participate in their torture. It’s impossible to look away from the unsettling mass of bodies under your feet. It feels disrespectful. Jarring.

Guilty. Continue reading

Get Out & About, The District, The Features

The Insider’s Guide: Golfing in Golf Breaks Turkey

With summer heat comes the heart of golf season. The AT&T National is this weekend in Bethesda, and August’s PGA Championships round out this year’s crop of majors. You can learn more about best iron set for beginner and where to play and find equipment while you are on the city just by visiting www.pineclubgolf.com.

I prefer other sports (and can’t sit through a minute of golf on TV), but on a hot summer day, far away from a river, ocean, or pool, the mood to compete at something that doesn’t involve running occasionally does strike. It did this past Sunday, when I visited the driving range at DC’s East Potomac Golf Course with my new uneekor eye xo.

DC has three public golf courses, unbeknownst to many, and there’s a good chance that you’ve passed at least one of them without realizing it. The East Potomac Golf Course sits on Thomas Jefferson’s marble doorstep within spitting distance of the Mall. The Rock Creek Golf Course is at 16th Street and Military, in the bloated belly-section of DC’s largest parks system. And the TimberStone Golf Course has called Benning Road home, just past where H Street ends, since 1939. see TimberStone Golf Course website to learn more about the course.

All three locations have 18-hole courses, a pro-shop, carts and clubs for rent, and extremely reasonable greens fees. Visit guys weekend golf courses and have fun winning with your friends. The East Potomac and Langston courses also sport driving ranges and full-service restaurants. My favorite thing about any of them, however, is the White Course at East Potomac. It’s an easy and fun 9-hole course with no holes longer than a par-4, making it perfect for a quick jaunt with friends, an outing with the family, or a practice session for beginners like myself. Check out Golf Holidays Direct for the Latest golf deal offers.

It may not be a world-class stretch of links, but for $13/person on weekdays and $16/person on weekends, it’s an absolute steal. Weekday greens fees at Congressional – where the AT&T National is hosted – sit somewhere around $165.

Note: The official DC website for these courses is awful (www.golfdc.com), but it does let you reserve tee times online, and provides some additional information for those brave enough to explore.

Get Out & About

Florida Avenue (9th to 15th Streets) in Photographs

Washington DC is a great city. It’s a place where dense, immutable history is intersected with a whirling landscape of constant urban change. Restaurants open and close, green spaces appear and recede, events are inaugurated and ended, and this constant movement is threaded around a city bursting with social, architectural, and historical significance. It’s overwhelming at times, but it’s also what makes DC great. The old and the new collide. Cracks are opened. And within these cracks, residents can lose themselves in an endless space of exploration.

I’ve lived in the DC area for almost my entire life, and I’m perpetually finding new places to explore. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ll pick something – a neighborhood, a restaurant, a landmark, it doesn’t matter how large or small – and set out on an expedition. I don’t always stumble into the unforgettable, as I did along Florida Avenue, but more often than not, I see something new. These little exploratory experiences refresh me, and remind me that when you live in a city as diverse and expansive as DC, you can always find something you haven’t seen before.

The bell shaped stretch of Florida Avenue, between 9th and 15th streets NW, was recently the subject of my exploration. It’s a beautiful and meaningful strip of road, wedged between U Street and Columbia Heights, with a story to tell about the history of the city, the diversity of its population, and the speed of its change. My westward route started at the 9:30 Club, took me past The Blind Dog Cafe and the Florida Avenue Grill, stopped off at Pica Taco, and ended at Meridian Hill Park. I took a camera with me. Click below to see what I saw.

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Get Out & About, History

The Insider’s Guide: Gatsby’s Grave

IMG_8637 (photo by the author)

F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried in Rockville, MD. You heard that right. Francis Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise and one of the seminal American writers of the 20th century, is not buried in Paris, or New York, or Los Angeles, or even Princeton, but rests next to his wife, Zelda, and his daughter, Scottie, in a small, forgotten graveyard nestled between a thoroughfare and a train track in Rockville, MD.

The story of how he wound up there goes like this. Fitzgerald’s family had a long-standing history in the area. His father, Edward, grew up in Montgomery County, and F. Scott would often visit his Aunt, who lived near Rockville, as a child. He was named after Maryland’s own Francis Scott Key, composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a direct relative of his somewhere along the cousin spectrum. His father was buried in the family plot at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, and by all accounts, that’s where F. Scott always planned to be buried. Yet, his connection to the city, and the state of Maryland, was significantly more ancestral than biographical. The only place Fitzgerald actually lived in Maryland was Towson, 50 miles from Rockville, where he rented a house to be by his wife’s side as she underwent psychiatric treatment, presumably for schizophrenia, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the early 30’s. Continue reading

Get Out & About, The Great Outdoors, Travel

The Insider’s Guide: Bear. Church. Rock?

When I’m hit with an urge to get outdoors, you might find me cruising down Route 29 towards Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah is the most extensive wilderness space easily accessible to DC, and encircles almost 200,000 untouched acres of Northern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

The places that I visit most often in the park are Old Rag Mountain, a challenging day hike with rock scrambling sections and breathtaking summit views, and Skyline Drive, a 105-mile undulating, ridge-hugging highway that’s best to drive in the spring or fall when tree colors are changing. I’m sure I’ll be returning to both spots soon, but on an early spring day I convinced a couple of friends to try a destination we’d never been to before.

We got a late start on the day (as we usually do), and overshot our intended noon departure time by almost an hour, sailing down Constitution Ave heading west out of the city. As anyone familiar with I-66 might expect though, we quickly found ourselves in traffic. How that road has backups on it seven days a week I’ll never understand, but it did eventually ease up and we decided that with the sun staying out well past 7:00, we’d still have time to complete the four hour hike as planned.
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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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Cherry Blossom Festival, Essential DC

The Insider’s Guide: Cherry Blossom Bliss


All photos by the author

There are a handful of great places to seek out Washington’s cherry blossoms but my favorite by far is Kenwood. The neighborhood, just around the corner from downtown Bethesda, is the insider’s paradise for a stroll through the flowers. I’d reckon that a visit on a spring day like the one I took this week could fill any hardened urbanite with suburban dreams.

Every year, a few days after their more famous siblings at the Tidal Basin start to show off, Kenwood’s cherry blossoms explode into life. With only three hundred some odd homes the densely packed twelve hundred Yoshino cherry trees blanket the neighborhood in stunning fashion. Weekend days during peak bloom can generate a crowd, but it’s nothing compared to the tidal basin’s overwhelming swell, and this is one of the best reasons to go to Kenwood. I think the place is also aesthetically more spectacular. The cherry trees in Kenwood are inescapable and encompassing, lining nearly every street and dotting nearly every front yard. They blanket the place in color, and in the neighborhood’s most magical spots the branches on each side of the road meet above your head forming tunnels of pink and white.
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Entertainment, Special Events, The Features

A 2013 Helen Hayes Awards (Drama Prom) Diary


Yesterday I spent the night with Helen and she did not disappoint. For many in the DC theater scene, the past week was spent searching for dresses (especially those with pockets), getting manis & pedis, and making sure that hair was nothing less than perfect. It was all for the 29th Annual Helen Hayes Awards, Washington’s biggest night in theater where the arts community honors the past year of shows.

If you want a list of the winners you can find those here. Instead I offer you a tradition three years running: my complete breakdown of my day (and night) with Helen.

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Monumental: White House Rose Garden

This is just about the most perfect time of year in the District, when the spring weather has sprung, the sugar magnolias and cherries are mid bloom, and the tulips and daffodils are brightening the landscape. Well, at least that’s what it looks like in proper gardens, my own space is still suffering from a surfeit of prunella and the hydrangea have yet to bloom. While my own space is in trouble, the gardens at The White House, though, are in perfect shape. This weekend, they open for their annual public tour of the Rose Garden, South Lawn and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. Tickets, free of charge, are available on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday & Sunday from 8am onward at 15th & E Streets at the Ellipse.

The Rose Garden with beautiful memorial benches (along the West Colonnade) celebrates its 100th year this year, as the original was planted in 1913 by Ellen Loise Axson Wilson after the Roosevelt remodel of the White House at the turn of the century. The original Rose Garden featured a lily pond at its center, unlike the current design, which is more in following with formal French and Italian garden styles conserved using an electric pole chainsaw, with defined lawn areas and defined beds for flowers. The 1960s revival of the White House Gardens under the direction of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and horticulturalist Rachel Lambert Mellon led to the gardens that are present today, dedicated by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in 1964.

Though the roses will likely not be blooming for a few more weeks, the large flowering saucer magnolia and Magnolia × soulangeana trees along the Colonnades should be at maximum potency this weekend, which should make for some pretty incredible photos. Be on the look for daffodil, jonquil, grape hyacinth, tulips and squill, amongst other spring blooming flower bulbs, as well as the perennials hollyhock, lavender and delphinium.

Cameras are welcome this weekend, but food and drink, as well as any large bags or suitcases are not. Obviously weapons and explosives are prohibited, as is smoking.

Sports Fix

Nationals squish fish, sweep first series

The Nationals continued their systematic dismantling of the Miami Marlins with a 6-1 thumping on Thursday afternoon in front of 25,000 freezing Nats fans playing hooky from work and school.  Jordan Zimmermann took the mound hoping to extend the Nationals’ shutout streak past 18 innings – and he would, but just another inning.

Zimmermann did, at times, display the new change up he’s been working in the pre-season, and for effect. Justin Ruggiano, though, took a four-seam fastball into the right-field stands on the first pitch of the second inning. The wily righty battled the Marlins lineup for six innings, scattering eight hits, and benefitting significantly from expert defense in the field to keep things from getting out of control.

The Nationals’ offensive machine began to move in earnest against Wade LeBlanc, with Denard Span (1-3, BB, 2R), Jayson Werth (2-4, HR, 2R), Bryce Harper (2-4, R, RBI), and Ryan Zimmerman (3-3, BB 2B, 2RBI) all putting up stellar days. Manager Davey Johnson was quick to credit their approach in the post game press conference, saying, “no matter what we read, we don’t get too far in front.”

The Nationals’ pitching was stellar in the series, surrendering just one run across three games. Asked about the sharpness of the staff, Johnson smiled, “I love my staff, my starters and bullpen both. Every day is going to be a test, but I like how they approach the job.”  One approach we hadn’t yet seen this season until today was Henry Rodriguez, who claimed the final spot on the 25-man roster just two days before the end of spring training. He dealt the Marlins in order in the 7th, including a filthy slider to Giancarlo Stanton to end his brief trip to the mound.

After today’s game, the team heads next to Cincinnati to face a real major league baseball team, as the Reds are thought to be one of the few teams with as good a chance at post-season play as the Nationals.  The Reds are coming off a 2-1 opening series against the Angels that was tightly contested, with the first game going 13 innings. This will be the first real test of the Nationals’ lineup against a real opponent. The series starts Friday night with Dan Haren making his inaugural start for Washington against Homer Bailey, and continues with two afternoon tilts Saturday and Sunday. Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasburg go head to head in the latter matchup in what will be an intense pitchers’ duel.

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