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I Also (Still) Do/Did Things

Now that I’ve gotten through what I intended on my DC guide, I can do some catching up. I’ll have other posts to write, too - one on the May prompts and one on my trip to Philadelphia last week. But I am traveling again this week (and next week) so it may take a little while.

Two Local Art Installations: A couple of weeks ago, I went with a friend to see two local art installations. Prismatic was at Ballston Quarter (a shopping mall in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington) and consisted of a number of colored prisms. We thought there was supposed to be a way of turning them and maybe there was supposed to be music, but we couldn’t get those aspects to work. It was pretty enough, but not very exciting. From there, we went to Georgetown, where we had dinner at Tony and Joe’s at Washington Harbor, followed by a steep uphill walk to see an installation called Glow. My back was aching and the walk was difficult, as a result. Anyway, there were 5 light sculptures to see. My favorite one was called Madness Method, where you had to stand in a marked circle to make a bunch of flickering lights converge. Overall, I was disappointed in both installations, but I’m glad I went to see them.

Cookout: My chavurah had a cookout on Memorial Day. I brought Asian cole slaw, which was successful. Overall, it was a nice afternoon, of good food and good conversation. There was also just the right amount of cicadas - enough to see a few, but not so many to drown everything out.

Other Recent Cooking: I finally made the Polish pickle soup recipe I had heard about a while back. The combination of potatoes, onions, sour cream, and pickles had sounded somewhat weird and, alas, it was, indeed, too weird for me. I won’t be making that again.

Viva Vienna: This is an annual festival in downtown Vienna on Memorial Day weekend. There were some crafts vendors and some politicians (e.g. my delegate to the state legislature), but mostly a lot of home improvement companies, which aren’t relevant to a condo dweller. I did buy a couple of cheap masks and a selection of nut snacks from Boso Kitchens. I’ve now sampled all of the latter and the definite winner was the honey chipotle peanuts.

BaltiCon: This science fiction convention was again on-line (and free), so I went to a few talks, mostly from their history and folklore track. There was a panel on Traditional Storytelling and Genre Fiction, which is pretty much right up my alley. Anne E.G. Nydam had an interesting presentation on bestiaries, including her own book. I was quite amused by one of her fantastic beasts - the umbrellaphant whose ears are like umbrellas and provide protection from the rain for other creatures. There was a panel on Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy, that was worth listening to, but didn’t really tell me about any books I hadn’t already heard of. One of the best presentations was a short film called “Space Torah,” about astronaut Jeff Hoffman who brought a small Torah scroll on the space shuttle and read from it while in orbit on Shabbat. (There was a Q&A with him a few days later, which I’d intended to go to, but I got sucked into something else.) Finally, there was a talk on The Heroine’s Journey, which was interesting, but was too short to really cover the material. I should also note that three of these presentations included Valerie Frankel and I need to seek out some of her work.

Annoyances: I have gotten repeated phone calls from a charity solicitor for some National Police Association, which i almost certainly a scam. They are all from the same guy, who calls himself Lee. I finally was annoyed enough, that I cussed him out. I then took a nap and had a dream in which he called me and shouted, “I can’t believe what you did.” Not only is this scammer invading my phone, but he is invading my dreams.

Speaking of Telephones: My land line rang at 8:30 in the morning last Saturday. I was irritated at a call that early - until I answered and it turned out to be the gentleman with whom I conducted the world’s longest running brief meaningless fling. He lives in London and thinks of me as getting up early, so it was okay for him to call at that hour. (Aside from which, I still pretty much melt at his voice.) Anyway, we had a nice conversation about the state of the world. He was a bit surprised at how much things have been opening up for me. Apparently, everything is still much more locked down in London.

Mammogram: I finally had my mammogram a week ago Thursday. (It had been delayed because you are supposed to wait at least 6 weeks after your second COVID vaccination, due to potential lymph node swelling). The interesting thing is that I got the results back in less than an hour! No signs of any issues.

An Evening With Rockwell: I went to an event at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on Thursday night with a couple of friends. The focus was on a drawing by Norman Rockwell, which was used to cast part of a monument in New Hampshire. There was time to look around at current exhibits in the memorial, followed by a brief talk and slide show. They also served drinks (including wine) and had snack boxes (either fruit and cheese or a Mediterranean selection). Overall, it was a nice evening out and it was nice to see the people I went with.

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DC Travel Guide - Part 4: Things to Do

Part 4: Things to Do

Around the National Mall:

The Mall is the heart of Washington, DC, and has been described as the Nation’s front yard. It is lined with museums and monuments, but also has plenty of open space for sports and kite flying (and, in normal times, festivals). It is bounded by the U.S. Capitol on the east, Lincoln Memorial (or Potomoac River, depending on who you ask) on the west, Constitution Avenue on the north and Independence Avenue on the south. Starting from Union Station, walk south on 1st Street to the back of the Capitol, then turn right along the southern side of the mall to follow this tour:

U.S. Botanic Garden - This is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States. While the Conservatory and gated outdoor gardens are closed, Bartholdi Park and the Terrace Gardens are open from dawn to dark. Admission free. Bartholdi Park is just across Independence Avenue from the Conservatory and has a stunning fountain, as well as a wide variety of plants.

National Museum of the American Indian - This is part of the Smithsonian. Open Wednesday through Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. It requires a timed entry pass. Entrance is at 3rd St and Maryland Ave SW.

National Air and Space Museum is currently closed (but see their Udvar-Hazy Center below).

Across Independence Avenue from the Air and Space Museum, at Sixth St SW, you can check out the new Eisenhower Memorial.

The Hirschhorn Museum (Smithsonian modern art museum, located at 7th and Independence Ave) is currently closed. However, their sculpture garden is open daily 10 am to 4:30 pm, with no tickets required.

Arts and Industries Building - Historic Smithsonian building has been closed to the public since 2004, but is scheduled to reopen in November 2021. There are a rose garden and a carousel on the mall side of the building, which should be open, though it is not clear whether or not the carousel is operating.

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art - currently closed

Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art - currently closed. The Moongate Garden in front of the building should be open.

The Smithsonian Institution Building (normally referred to as “The Castle”) is closed. The Haupt Garden is next to the Castle and is open daily from dawn to dusk, with no tickets required.

The Freer Gallery is currently closed.

Continuing down Jefferson Drive SW, you will pass the Smithsonian metro station. The Department of Agriculture will be on your left. There is a farmer’s market there (Independence Ave and 12th St) on Fridays from 9 am to 2 pm in normal times. Current status is uncertain.

Continuing west, you will pass the Washington Monument (currently closed) and then reach the World War II Memorial on the other side of 17th St. You may wish to turn south to the Tidal Basin and see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and/or the Jefferson Memorial. This is also where the famous cherry trees are, though they are not blooming in July. It’s also the spot that Fanne Foxe jumped into after an argument with her lover, Representative Wilbur Mills, in an incident that is on several lists of top 10 sex scandals in the U.S.

West of the World War II Memorial, there’s a reflecting pool leading to the Lincoln Memorial. You used to be able to go under the Lincoln Memorial to see stalactites growing from the memorial’s limestone, but that area has been closed off for a long time. You can still look for the quote on the steps that marks the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Continuing past the Lincoln Memorial to the Potomac River, you can see the Watergate Steps, leading down towards the river and providing a nice view across to Virginia.

You can also walk across the Memorial Bridge to Arlington National Cemetery (see below) from there. Turning north, you can see the Kennedy Center (an arts complex) and the Watergate Complex (famous for the top scandal of 1972.

Walking back from the Lincoln Memorial, there’s a statue of Albert Einstein at 2101 Constitution Ave, in front of the National Academy of Sciences. People like to sit in his lap.

Back on the mall, you can visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Continuing east, there’s Constitution Gardens, a carp pond with a small island containing a memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the German-American Friendship Garden leading back to the Washington Monument. Across Constitution Avenue is The Ellipse, the northern edge of which has the Zero Milestone, from which road distances from Washington, DC are measured. It also has a good view of the South Lawn of the White House.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture - back on the mall, at 15th St and Constitution Ave, this is a Smithsonian Museum. Tickets appear to be sold out, but check back for additional availability, including same day tickets.

National Museum of American History - This is across 14th Street from the African American History and Culture Museum and is also part of the Smithsonian. It includes the gowns of the First Ladies and Julia Child’s Kitchen among other exhibits. Tickets are sold out for WashingCon dates right now, but continue checking for additional availability, including same day tickets.

National Museum of Natural History - This Smithsonian Museum is between 12th St and 9th St NW. It is reopening on June 18th. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday 11 am to 4 pm, with free passes required. The most famous exhibit is probably the Hope Diamond.

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is between 9th St NW and 7th St NW. It is free and open from 11 am to 4 pm daily with no tickets required.

Crossing Constitution Ave, you can visit the National Archives. Currently, only the Rotunda is open for viewing of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights. From June 18th on, hours are Friday through Monday, 10 am to 2 pm. Timed reservations with a $1 service fee are required.

The National Gallery of Art, which is not a Smithsonian museum, is across 7th Street NW from the Sculpture Garden. The West Building is open from 11 am to 4 pm daily, and the East Building, which stretches to 4th Street NW, is reopening on June 18th. Free timed tickets are required and are released each Monday at 10 am for the following week.

You can then continue down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the northern edge of the reflecting pool, to get back to the Capitol.

For ticketing:

Smithsonian Museums -
Note that you need to click forward to July on the calendar for each museum to select July dates. Clicking on a July date from the June calendar will not work.

National Archives Museum -

National Gallery of Art -

Other Museums:

National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum - This is located at 8th and G Streets NW (Gallery Place / Chinatown metro station) and is open Wednesday through Sunday 11:30 am to 7 pm. The gallery of Presidential portraits is a highlight. Free timed tickets required (see Smithsonian link above) and there is some availability during con.

Renwick Gallery - This Smithsonian Museum, focused on craft, is located at Pennsylvania Ave and 17th St NW, essentially across from the White House. It is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 am to 4 pm, but appears to be sold out during WashingCon.

National Zoo - This is also run by the Smithsonian and is located at 3001Connecticut Avenue. You can take the metro Red Line to the Woodley Park station, but if you go one more stop to Cleveland Park, the zoo is downhill. The zoo is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm. Free timed tickets are required. If you want to see the pandas, including some chance of seeing the new baby panda, you need a separate panda pass, available only from kiosks inside the zoo.
Tickets are sold out for July 3rd, but available for other days of WashingCon

Artechouse DC - This is a somewhat futuristic exhibit space with immersive experiences including art and music. It’s located at 1238 Maryland Avenue SW (Smithsonian metro station). The current exhibit, called Renewal 2021, is inspired by cherry blossoms, and is open daily 10 am to 10 pm. Tickets cost $24.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum - Located just south of Independence Avenue, between 14th and Raoul Wallenberg Place (15th Street) next to Smithsonian metro station. The museum is open Thursday through Tuesday from 11 am to 4 pm. Tickets are sold out for the dates of WashingCon, but there should be same day tickets available each day at 11 am. See for more information.

National Building Museum - 401 F Street NW, across the street from the Judiciary Square metro station on the Red Line. Open Friday through Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. Tickets are $10 (available on-line, but walk-up tickets are available at the Visitor Center), but you can visit the Great Hall, Gun Memorial Project, and Museum Shop for free. There’s also interactive lawn art outside. The Building Museum is a great favorite with children. It’s also known for their summer installations, which have included miniature golf courses, a maze, and a giant ball pit. This summer has a wooden maze filled with books. Their museum shop is also among the best in the city.

National Museum of Women in the Arts - Located at 1250 New York Avenue NW (Metro Center station, about a 15 minute walk from the Westin), This is the only art museum in the world dedicated exclusively to art by women. It’s open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from noon, $10 admission. There’s a particularly notable collection of artist’s books. The museum will be closing for two years for renovations in August, so catch it while you can.

Planet Word - Located at 925 13th St NW (entrance on K Street), about a 10 minute walk from the Westin. Open Thursday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, open Sundays after June 20th. Admission is free, but they suggest a $15 donation. This is a new interactive museum of language. Since there’s going to be a WashingCon event there on Saturday night, most con attendees will probably wait for that to visit.

International Spy Museum - 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW (L’Enfant Plaza metro, about 2 blocks south of the National Mall, west of 9th St). Open Monday through Thursday 9 am to 7 pm, Friday through Sunday to 8 pm. Tickets are $25 for adults, $17 for ages 7 through 12. Highly interactive and particularly popular with children.

Ford’s Theatre - Located on 10th Street NW, between E and F Streets (Metro Center metro station), this is, of course, the site where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am to noon, and 2 to 4 pm and theatre walkthroughs are also available, but other exhibits are closed. Tickets are $3.

Hillwood Estate - Located at 4155 Linen Avenue NW, about a mile walk from the Van Ness / UDC metro station on the Red Line. (There is bus service that gets closer, routes L1 and L2 on Connecticut Avenue.) Open Tuesday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $18. Tickets are no longer required in advance. This was Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate and has a large art collection, as well as extensive gardens.

Museum of the Bible - Located at 400 4th Street SW (L’Enfant Plaza metro). Open Thursday through Monday 10 am to 5 pm, Admission $20 in advance, $25 walk-up. Extensive exhibits of bibles and information on biblical archaeology.

Phillips Collection - 1600 21st St NW at Q St (Dupont Circle metro, about a 22 minute walk up Massachusetts Ave from the Westin). Open Tuesday through Sunday 11 am to 6 pm, tickets required in advance, Admission $16. This was the first modern art museum in the U.S., opened in 1921. The collection includes works by Renoir, Matisse, Van Gogh, Klee, Miro, etc. Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party is the most famous painting there

National Arboretum - 24th and R Street NE. Open daily 8 am to 5 pm. Take metro to Stadium Armory station and transfer to metros B2 to Bladensburg Rd, then walk 2 blocks to R St and turn right to the arboretum gates. It is, however, much easier by car. In addition to a number of gardens and tree collections, the original columns of the Capitol are here.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens - 1550 Anacostia Ave NE (about a 20 minute walk from Deanwood metro on the Orange Line, or U7 metrobus, but much easier by car). You can also get there by canoe or kayak from the Anacostia River! Known primarily for their collection of water lilies.

President Lincoln’s Cottage - 140 Rock Creek Church Rd NW (Green Line metro to Georgia Avenue, followed by H6 bus, but much easier by car). This is on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home and identification is required to enter. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm, tickets are $15 and should be purchased in advance.

Museum of American Jewish Military History - Located at 1811 R St NW (Dupont Circle metro station). Open Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm, admission free. Permanent collection is focused on Jews in the American military and includes a hall of American Jewish recipients of the Medal of Honor.

For Future Reference:

A number of interesting sites are currently closed, but are worth a visit if you come back to DC. Those include the Library of Congress, the Frederick Douglass Historic Site, National Postal Museum, the George Washington University / Textiles Museums, DAR Museum, the Kennedy Center, and several of the Smithsonian museums on the mall. You can also in normal times arrange a number of tours, including the White House, the Capitol, and the Pentagon, via your Congressional representative.

Outside DC (but transit accessible):

Arlington National Cemetery - Take the metro Blue line to Arlington Cemetery station. Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, they currently have a security checkpoint at the visitor center, so you need to show a photo ID. You can take a tram tour for $15 or just walk around the cemetery. The most visited sites are John F. Kennedy’s gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee memorial, has reopened recently with new exhibits emphasizing the story of enslaved people.

Mount Vernon - 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia. Metro Yellow Line to Huntington Station, followed by Fairfax Connector bus #101. An easier (but pricier) option is a sightseeing cruise, which departs from the Wharf in southwest DC at 9:30 am and returns from Mount Vernon at 3:15 pm for $50 round trip. This is George Washington’s estate. You can see George and Martha’s tombs, the house, and an interpretive center.

Old Town Alexandria - Take the metro Blue or Yellow Line to King Street. There are a number of historic houses and museums in the cobblestoned historic district centered around King Street and Washington Street. There are also lots of restaurants and shops, including one of the best yarn stores in the region (Fibre Space at 1319 Prince Street). It’s all very cute and worth a couple of hours of wandering around.

Udvar-Hazy Center - This is the larger branch of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and is located near Dulles Airport. It is easiest to get there by car ($15 for parking), but there is bus service (Fairfax Connector bus 983 from the Wiehle-Reston metro station on the Silver Line). It's open 10 am to 5:30 pm and free timed entry passes are required (see Smithsonian ticketing information above). Tickets are currently sold out for July 2-4, but available on July 1st.


Big Bus Tours offers hop-on hop-off bus tours that cover most of the essential sites, though don’t really go anywhere you couldn’t get to on your own. They also have packages including night tours and sightseeing cruises, as well as a free one hour bike rental.

Washington Walks offers a number of different two-hour walking tours for $25 a person. In person tours are just starting up, so check their website for details.

If you’d like interesting free walking tours, Cultural Tourism DC has put up historic plaques and information signs at a number of sites. You can get booklets at their office at 700 12th St NW or download PDFs from their website ( Topics include African American Heritage Trails, as well as Heritage Trails for several DC neighborhoods. A few have audio tours available.


George Washington Masonic Memorial - Located on a hill next to the King Street metro station in Alexandria, this is dedicated to George Washington’s life as a freemason. It’s open 9 am to 5 pm daily, with tickets ($18) required in advance. There are good views from the top.

The House of the Temple - Located at 1733 16th St NW (north of R St), this is another Masonic site. It’s a striking building from the outside. One can apparently take a tour, offered Monday through Thursday at 10 am, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, and 3:30 pm. Admission is free.

The Big Chair - 2101 Martin Luther King Ave SE (a 10 minute walk from the Anacostia metro station on the Green line, follow signs for Howard Rd.) This is exactly what it sounds like - a giant Duncan Phyfe Chair, erected as an advertisement for a furniture company. It’s not really worth a special trip for, unless you happen to be driving by that area.

The Exorcist Steps - Located at Prospect St and 26th St NW in Georgetown, leading down to M St. This set of stone steps was featured in the movie The Exorcist and is popular among runners looking for a steep workout. There is a plaque at the bottom.

Boundary Stones - There are a series of monuments that mark the original boundaries of the District of Columbia. They tend to be tricky to find, especially as many are on private property. But if you would like to hunt them down, there is a complete list of locations at

Day Trips:
There are any number of interesting historic towns within about two hours by car of Washington, DC. A few suggestions include Harper’s Ferry (West Virginia), Leesburg (Virginia), Manassas (Virginia), Fredericksburg (Virginia), Frederick (Maryland), Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), Elliott City (Maryland), Annapolis (Maryland), and Saint Mary’s City (Maryland).


There are several areas with concentrations of shops, including Capitol Hill (especially around Eastern Market), Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and the Wharf. If, for some reason, you are looking for a shopping mall, try Pentagon City (on the Blue line metro) or Tyson’s Corner (Silver line metro), both in Virginia.

The best independent bookstore in the area is Politics and Prose. Their main store is at 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, about a 20 minute walk from the Van Ness / UDC metro stop on the Red line (or accessible by the L2 bus service up Connecticut Ave). They also have branches at the Wharf and at Union Market. By the way, the Connecticut Avenue location is next to Comet Ping Pong, the pizza place at the heart of the QAnon Hillary Clinton child-sex ring conspiracy theory.

Kramer Books (1517 Connecticut Ave, at Q Street in Dupont Circle) is another good independent bookstore.

If you’re looking for used books, try Second Story Books at 2000 P Street (corner of 20th Street, Dupont Circle metro).

Labyrinth Games at 645 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Eastern Market metro station) has a good selection of board games, card games, roleplaying games, and puzzles, with friendly service.

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DC Travel Guide - Part 3: Restaurants

Here is a brief guide to some Washington D.C. restaurants. The focus is primarily on local flavor and things you might not be able to find somewhere else. For more ideas on where to eat, you can look at Tom Sietsema’s restaurant reviews in the Washington Post.

There are also some neighborhoods with a lot of restaurants, e.g. Penn Quarter (near the Gallery Place - Chinatown and Archives / Navy Memorial metro stations), U Street, H Street NE (a free streetcar ride from Union Station), the Wharf (shuttle bus from L'Enfant Plaza or walk from Waterfront metro), and Georgetown (reachable by Circulator bus). If you're in one of those areas, just wander around and see what looks (and smells!) good.

Celebrity Chefs:

There is no chef who is a bigger deal in D.C. than Jose Andres, both for his food and his philanthropy, which has included providing meals to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and restaurant workers displaced by the pandemic. His World Central Kitchen organization is a worthy charity. And his restaurants are justly popular. Since most of his focus is on small plates, it is best to go with a group so you can sample more dishes. These are all in the Penn Quarter area, near both the Gallery Place-Chinatown metro station on the Red and Yellow lines and Archives/Navy Memorial station on the Yellow line. Note that Minibar, which has two Michelin stars, is temporarily closed.

Zaytinya - 701 9th St NW (at G Street, across the street from the Smithsonian American Art Museum). Open Monday - Tuesday 4 pm to 9:30 pm, Wednesday - Thursday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, Friday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Saturday 11 am to 11 pm, Sunday 11am to 9:30 pm. Greek / Turkish small plates. About $30 a person without alcohol.

Jaleo - 480 7th St NW at E St NW. Open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 9 pm, to 10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. Spanish cuisine, including tapas and paella. About $30 a person for tapas (without alcohol), paella is $50 to $65. Good happy hour deals weekdays from 3 to 5:30 pm and all day Tuesday with $7 sangria, $8 wine, tapas from $5-7.

China Chicano - 418 7th St NW (between D and E St). Open Thursday and Sunday 4-9 pm, Friday and Saturday 4-10 pm. Peruvian, Japanese, and Asian food, along with several varieties of pisco and Japanese whiskeys. Don’t miss the “Aeropuerto,” a fried rice dish named that because everything lands in it. Figure on $35-50 a person.

Oyamel - 401 7th St NW (at D St). Open Wednesday and Thursday 4 - 10 pm, Friday 4-10:30 pm Saturday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Sunday 11:30 am to 10 pm. A wide range of Mexican food. They used to have grasshopper tacos on the menu but the pandemic seems to have stopped that for now. Figure about $30 a person without alcohol. Happy hour from 4 to 6 pm on Wednesday to Friday, with $5 beers, $6 wines by the glass, $7-8 margaritas, and snacks from $3-5 ($10 for ceviche).

Beefsteak - 800 22nd St NW (at I St, Foggy Bottom Metro). Open 11 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday. Several options for vegetable and grain bowls, though there are also options to add meat. The gazpacho is an excellent lunch on a hot day. About $10.

Michel Richard died in 2016, but his flagship restaurant, Central Michel Richard, lives on. It’s located at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am to 7:30 pm. American food, with a French bistro accent. Appetizers run about $15, entrees about $25-30. Throw in $12 and up for a glass of wine.

Spike Mendelssohn is a Top Chef alumnus and responsible for two casual places, a step above fast food.

Good Stuff Eatery - 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE (near C St, Capital South metro), also in Georgetown at 3291 M St NW (at 33rd St). Pennsylvania Ave is open 11 am to 9 pm, Georgetown is open 11:30 am to 10 pm. Burgers, salads, fries, shakes. Don’t miss the various dips available for the fries, e.g. mango, chipotle, or sriracha mayonnaise.

We the Pizza - 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE (near C St, Capital South metro station). Open 11 am to 9:30 pm. pizza by the slice, salads, homemade soda. Has a vegan Sicilian option.

Ashok Bajaj is best known for his Indian restaurant, Rasika, but is also the force behind the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, which includes several other interesting places to eat:

Rasika - 633 D Street NW (near 7th St) and 1190 New Hampshire Avenue ( near M St and 22nd, about an 18 minute walk from the Westin). D Street branch is open for Lunch Sunday through Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, Dinner, Sunday 5 pm to 9 pm, to 10 pm Monday through Thursday, to 10:30 pm Friday and Saturday. West End (New Hampshire Ave) is ope for lunch Monday through Friday 11:39 am to 3:45 pm, Sunday 11 am to 3:45 pm, Dinner Sunday and Monday 4 pm to 9:30 pm, Tuesday and Wednesday to 10 pm, Thursday through Saturday to 10:30 pm Upscale Indian food. Entrees run $17 to $30. Don’t miss the palak chaat ($12), made from spinach, yogurt, tamarind, and dates. If you’re feeling splurgy, there’s a 4 course tasting menu for $60 vegetarian, $69 non-vegetarian, with the option of adding a $40 wine pairing.

Bombay Club - 815 Connecticut Ave NW (between H and I St, near Farragut Square metro station, abut a 15 minute walk from the Westin. Open for lunch 11:30 am to 2:30 pm Monday through Friday, dinner 5 pm to 9:00 pm Monday through Thursday, until 9:30 pm Friday and Saturday. More typical Indian food in a somewhat formal clubby atmosphere. Entrees about $20 to $30.

Bindaas - 3309 Connecticut Ave NW (near Cleveland Park metro and the National Zoo) and at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW (Foggy Bottom metro). Connecticut Avenue branch is open Sunday 11 am to 9 pm, Monday through Thursday 5 pm to 10 pm, Friday 5 pm to 11 pm, Saturday 11 am to 11 pm. Foggy Bottom branch is open Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11:30 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday to 10 pm. Indian street food. The kathi rolls (about $12) are popular, curries and kebabs or uttapam will cost about $12.

Annabelle - 2132 Florida Ave NW (near R St between 21st and 22nd, Dupont Circle metro). Open Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday 5:30 pm to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday to 9:30 pm. Traditional American cuisine. A salad will run you $16, an entree is $35 to $40.

Modena - 1199 H St NW (at 12th St, Metro Center metro. about a 15 minute walk from the Westin) Open for lunch 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, Tuesday through Friday, Dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5 m to 9 pm, to 10 pm Friday and Saturday, Light Fare Monday through Friday 3 pm to 5 pm. Seasonal Italian food. Antipasti about $12-15, pasta about $20-25, entrees $25-35.

Sababa - 3311 Connecticut Ave NW (near Cleveland Park metro and the National Zoo). Open Monday and Tuesday 5 pm to 9 pm, Wednesday and Thursday to 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday to 10 pm. Israeli food. Small plates about $12-14, large plates $20-26.

Iconic Local Spots / Restaurants for Politico Spotting:

Le Diplomate - 1601 14th St NW (just north of Q St, about a 10 minute walk from the Westin). Lunch Monday through Friday, noon to 5 pm, Dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 pm to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday to midnight. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 9:30 am to 4 pm, midday menu Saturday and Sunday 4-5 pm. This is where Joe and Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff had lunch on Memorial Day. Upscale French cuisine. Appetizers or sandwiches run $14 to $23, entrees $21 to $35.

Las Gemelas - 1280 4th St NE (in Union Market, NoMa Gallaudet metro station). Open Monday through Friday 11 am to 10 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am. Taqueria. Joe Biden gave them a grant and got a large order of tacos and quesadillas here; you can get the same bundle of tacos he ordered. Tacos run from $3.50 to $5.50, quesadillas from $7 to 11, tlayudos are $15, and sides are $3.

Call Your Mother - 3428 O St NW (near 35th St, use Circulator bus to Georgetown). There are other locations at 3301 Georgia Ave NW, 701 8th St SE, and in Bethesda, Maryland. Also available at several farmers’ markets. Open daily 8 am to 2 pm. President Biden’s motorcade made a stop to pick up sesame bagels with cream cheese at the Georgetown branch on his way back from church on a Sunday morning in January. They have a number of breakfast sandwiches and a smaller variety of lunch sandwiches, about $12. A bagel itself costs $2.50.

Immigrant Food - 1701 Pennsylvania Ave NW (at 17th St, near Farragut West metro, or about an 18 minute walk from the Westin). Also, a branch at Union Market (NoMa Gallaudet metro station). Open Tuesday through Saturday 11 am to 2 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm. Fusion bowls, sandwiches, and snacks, including the Madam VP’s Heritage Bowl which combines Jamaican and Indian food with curried chicken stew, chickpeas, potatoes and plantains over turmeric rice and spinach. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff is reported to get this as takeout. Other dishes include various Asian, Latin American, and West African flavors. About $15.

Old Ebbitt Grill - 675 15th St NW (between F and G St, about a 15 minute walk from the Westin). Open Sunday through Friday 11 am to 11 pm, from 10 am on Saturday. Old Ebbitt Grill claims to be the oldest saloon in Washington, DC, though it has not always been at the same location. Several former presidents frequented its bar and William McKinley lived there for a while. It’s known for its oyster bar (about $20 for a half dozen). The rest of the menu is pretty much standard American fare. Most appetizers are in the $8 to $15 range, while entrees cost $16 to $27. Cocktails are about $15. The beer list is remarkably pedestrian.

Martin’s Tavern - 1264 Wisconsin Ave NW (at N Street). Open Monday through Friday 11 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 10 am, Sunday from 9 am. Best bet is to take the 33 bus from I St and 15th St (towards Friendship Heights). Opened in 1933, this was where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie. Pretty standard American cuisine. Appetizers about $10-15, entrees $20 to $40. Not a lot of vegetarian options other than salads.

Fiola Mare - 3050 K Street NW (at Washington Harbor, take Circulator bus to M Street and 31st). Open Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday 11:30 am to 9 pm , Friday and Saturday to 10 pm, Tuesday from 4 pm to 9 pm. Expensive Italian seafood. Antipasti $20-$25, Pasta $35 to $60, Entrees $30 to over $100. This is the place to go if you’ve just been appointed ambassador to Italy. But, since it is outdoors at the Harbor, you can people watch for free.

Tonic at Quigley - 2036 G St NW (near Foggy Bottom metro). Monday through Wednesday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Thursday and Friday to 11 pm., Saturday 11 am to 11 pm, Sunday 11 am to 10 pm. A former soda fountain, favored by Margaret Truman, this is also where John Lewis ate with Emmanuel Macron. The first floor is a hangout for students at George Washington University, while the upper levels are frequented by a wider range of quieter clientele. Sandwiches (with tater tots) about $15 to $20, main courses about $20, mac and cheese about $16.

Ben’s Chili Bowl - 1213 U St NW (Metro Green Line to U St). Open Sunday through Thursday 11 am to 9 pm, Friday to Saturday 11 am to 1 am. Also has other branches, including one inside Nationals Park and at National Airport (DCA). Everybody from Anthony Bourdain to Barack Obama, Serena Williams to Pope Francis has eaten at Ben’s. Basically they serve sausages (half-smokes) and chili (both meat and vegetarian) Under $10. Ben’s Next Door at 1211 U Street has more upscale food (e.g. seafood, pasta) for about twice the price and half the atmosphere.

Market Lunch - Inside Eastern Market, 225 7th St SE (metro Blue, Orange, or Silver Line to Eastern Market). Currently open Tuesday to Sunday 9 am to 2 pm for carryout, but included in hopes that it will fully reopen by con. The main appeal of Market Lunch (aside from good, cheap food) is that the communal table there is where all walks of life in Washington, from janitors to Congresscritters, meet. The don’t miss food items are the blue bucks (buckwheat pancakes with blueberries) and the crab cakes (sandwiches or platters).

Busboys & Poets - The closest branch to the Westin is 2021 14th St NW, near V St. (U St metro station or walk 22 minutes up 14th St. (There are several other branches, but this is also the original, as well as the closest.) Open Sunday through Thursday 9 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 9 am to 11 pm. This is an entertainment venue in normal times, as well as a small bookstore. Soups, sandwiches, pizzas, etc. with a lot of vegan options. Breakfast is about $15, lunch and dinner from $12 to $25.

Other Good Places to Try:

Teaism - The closest branch to the Westin is at 800 Connecticut Ave NW, (entrance on H St), about a 15 minute walk. There are other outlets in Dupont Circle (2009 R St NW) and in Penn Quarter (400 8th St NW). Open Monday through Friday 9 am to 4 pm. Aside from lots of different types of tea, they serve soups, sandwiches, bento boxes, and all day breakfasts. The okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage omelet) is particularly notable. Might be only carryout right now.

Supra -1205 11th St NW, just north of M Street (about 3 blocks from the Westin). Open Sunday 10 am to 9 pm, Monday through Thursday 5 pm to 9 pm, Friday to 10 pm, Saturday 10 am to 10 pm. Georgian food, best experienced with a group. Small plates about $8-$12, larger plates $16 to $30. Don’t miss the khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) for $12 to $16. There’s a wide range of Georgian wines and soft drinks.

Swahili Village, The Consulate -1990 M Street (about 7 blocks west of the Westin). Open 11 am to midnight daily. Upscale Kenyan food. Starters about $7 to $10, entrees about $25 to $30.

Unconventional Diner - 1207 Ninth St NW, just north of M St, next to the Convention Center (about a 17 minute walk from the Westin). Open Monday through Friday 11 am to 9 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am. Upscale diner food, including meatloaf and fried chicken, along with Latin American and Lebanese dishes. About $20 to $30 for main courses.

Hill Country Barbecue - 410 7th St NW, between D and E St (Gallery Place - Chinatown or Archives / Navy Memorial metro). Open Sunday through Thursday noon to 8 pm, Friday and Saturday until 9 pm. Texas barbecue. About $15 to $30.

Nando’s Peri Peri - 1210 18th St NW, between M St and Jefferson Place, about a 10 minute walk from the Westin. Open daily 10:30 am to 9:30 pm. In South Africa, Nando’s is fast food. The DC metro area is one of two (along with Chicago) in the U.S. with Nando’s, and they’re a little fancier here. A half chicken and a side is about $15. Don’t forget to add sauce of your desired level of hotness.

Brew Pubs:

Astro Beer Hall - 1306 G St NW (between 13th and 14th, about a 16 minute walk from the Westin). Open Sunday 9 am to 2 am, Monday through Thursday 8 am to 2 am, Friday 8 am to 2 am, Saturday 9 am to 3 am. Fried chicken, donuts, and beer, including local drafts.
(You can also just get donuts and fried chicken to go next door.)

Capitol City Brewing - 1100 New York Ave NW. (Corner of 11th and H St, Metro Center metro station). Open Wed through Sunday 11 am to 9 pm. Amber Waves (amber ale) and Capitol Kolsch plus products of other breweries, plus pizzas, burgers and so on.

Right Proper Brewing Company - 624 T Street NW (near 7th St, Shaw-Howard U metro). Open Sunday through Thursday noon to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday to 11 pm. Their Raised by Wolves pale ale is available at many local bars. The brewpub also has the typical pub food, with sandwiches about $15.

Valor Brewpub - 723 8th St SE. (Eastern Market metro).

Red Bear Brewing Company - 200 M St NE. (NoMa-Gallaudet metro).

Bluejacket - 300 Tingey St SE. (Navy Yard metro, a good place to slake your thirst after a walk on the Anacostia River Trail).

Ice Cream and Sweets:

Thomas Sweet - 3214 P St NW (at Wisconsin Ave, take Metrobus 3 from I St and 15th St). Originated in New Jersey, but has been popular among Georgetown University students for many years.

Jeni’s Splendid Ic Cream - 1925 14th St NW (between T and U St). Ohio-based company, but there are always long lines here.

Ice Cream Jubilee - 1407 T St NW (west of 14th St). Also at 301 Water St SE (near Navy Yard metro). Local, handmade, with a few vegan options.

Dolcezza Gelato - 1704 Connecticut Ave NW (Dupont Circle). The most authentic gelato in DC, with interesting flavors.

Dolci Gelati - 1420 Eight St NW (between O and P St).

Pitango Gelato - 413 7th St NW (Gallery Place / Chinatown metro).

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DC Travel Guide - Part 2: Local Practicalities (focused on Thomas Circle) plus Walking Trails

This is focused on practical needs near the Westin Hotel (the con hotel for WashingCon), so essentially around Thomas Circle. There's also a section about walking trails, including how to get to them from the Westin.

Business / Copy Center: There is a FedEx Print and Ship Center (what us older folks think of as Kinko’s) at 14th and K St NW (address is 1400 K, but there appears to be an entrance from 14th as well). Hours are 9 am to 8 pm Monday through Friday, 10 am to 6 pm. Saturday.

Convenience Stores:

All of these are open 24 hours.

Wawa - 1 Thomas Circle NW. Right around the corner from the hotel.

7-11 - 1100 Vermont Ave NW. Just north of L St. About a block south of the hotel.

7-11 - 1400 Rhode Island Ave NW (corner of 14th St. ) About 2 blocks north of the hotel.

Coffee and Tea:

The nearest Starbucks is 1429 P St NW. Open 5:30 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday, from 6 am Saturday and Sunday.

Bluebottle Coffee is just down the street at 1471 P St.NW (just east of 15th St). Open 6 am to 6 pm.

Compass Coffee is located at 1401 I St NW, at the corner of 14th St. Open 5:30 am to 7 p.m.Dua

Dua Coffee at 923 15th St NW (between I and K Streets) specializes in Indonesian coffees. They also have all the usual drinks, as well as open-faced toasts and Indonesian snacks. Open 8 am to 2 pm.Monday through Friday, from 9 am Saturday. Note that this is on the east side of McPherson Square, so it is easiest to get there by walking south on Vermont Avenue, which will turn into 15th Street when you cross K Street.

Nearby Food and Drink Options:

The greatest density of nearby food options is along 14th St, going north from Thomas Circle. From the hotel, walk east along M Street, then a quarter of the way around Thomas Circle to 14th St (You’ll see a large church.) and continue north Here are some options going up to and along P St. For places in other directions, see the restaurant list (to come).

The Pig - 1320 14th St NW. Open 4 pm to 9 pm Sunday through Thursday, till 10 pm on Friday and Saturday. Barbecue . Also has chicken, brisket, and jackfruit barbecue for non-pork eaters. Entrees about $15-20.

Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen - 1322 14th St NW. Open 10 am to 10 pm daily. Fast food fried chicken.

Ammathar - 1326 14th St NW. Formerly named Thai Tanic. Open 11 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 10 pm Monday through Thursday, to 11 pm on Friday. Noon to 11 pm Saturday. Noon to 10 pm Sunday. Thai. Entrees about $15. Might offer delivery.

Shake Shack - 1400 14th St NW, just north of Rhode Island Ave. Open 11 am to 9:30 pm daily. Burgers and shakes. Delivery available.

South Block - 1418 14th St NW. Open 8 am to 7 pm. Juice bar, with lots of options for smoothies and bowls.

Pizza Policy / Bub’s Breakfast Burritos- 1335 14th St NW. Open 8 am to 9 pm. In addition to pizza, chicken wings, salads, and subs, they have breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches, and homemade pop tarts in the morning. Pretty much take-out only.

Yum’s Carryout - 1413 14th St NW. Open 11 am to 4 am Monday through Thursday, until 5 am Friday and Saturday. Noon to 1 am Sunday. Cheap, greasy Chinese food. About $10.

Logan Tavern - 1423 P St NW. Open 11:30 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday, 5 pm to 9 pm Sunday through Thursday, to 10 pm Friday and Saturday. Happy hour from 3 to 6 pm daily. Modern American cuisine. Entrees are about $25, sandwiches about $15. Happy hour has several options for under $10 and pints of beer (included several local beers, such as Right Proper Raised By Wolves) for $6 a pint.

Stoney’s - 1433 P St NW. Open 11 am to 2 am Sunday through Thursday, until 3 am Friday and Saturday. Pub grub, particularly known for their sliders (3 for $15) and grilled cheese ($10 and up). Happy hour specials Monday through Friday from 5 to 6. More or less the opposite of artisanal, but they have some good local beers. Also has trivia on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.

The Crown and Crow - 1317 14th St NW, Open 5 pm to 2 am Wednesday and Thursday, to 3 am Friday and Saturday. Bills itself as a 19th century old London pub. A small menu of cocktails and craft beers.

Grocery / Supermarket:

The closest supermarket to the Westin is Whole Foods Market, 1440 P St NW, just west of 14th St. It’s open daily from 7 am to 10 pm.

There is a Trader Joe’s another 5 blocks or so north, at 1914 14th St NW, north of T St. They’re open 8 am to 9 pm daily.

There is also a Safeway at 1700 Corcoran St NW. This is essentially on 17th Street, between Q and R St. Figure on about a 16 minute walk from the Westin. It’s open 6 am to 10 pm daily. This particular store is known locally as the Soviet Safeway (sometimes, you hear Socialist Safeway), largely for a surly attitude, but also for frequent lacks of whatever you might be looking for.

Drug Stores:

CVS - 1199 Vermont Ave NW, in the same building as the Residence Inn. Less than a block from the Westin. Open 24 hours a day.

Walgreens - 1324 14th St NW (between N St and Rhode Island Ave. Open 9 am to 6 pm weekdays only.

Places to Exercise:

There are lots of walking / running / biking trails throughout Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area. Here are a few of the most popular, but you can find out about more at All Trails.

The National Mall, Tidal Basin, and Hain’s Point: This is tourist central at some times of day, but is protected from traffic and relatively quiet early in the morning and in the evening. The easiest access from the hotel is to walk down 15th Street to the Washington Monument. If you turn right onto Independence Avenue, you will cross over a bridge over the Tidal Basin. Just after that, you can turn off to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Continuing down that path, you will pass the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Cross another bridge and turn right, then continue along the Potomac River. Following that path will take you down to Hain’s Point. This used to be more interesting before they moved the sculpture, The Awakening, to National Harbor, but it’s still a nice walk or run. Returning around the peninsula, you can also look at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, then return to the mall. There are any number of paths to explore and lots of monuments and memorials (and museums) to look at. If you get tired, you can get on a Circulator bus or the metro.

C & O Canal Towpath: The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was an economic failure, but the towpath is one of the most popular walking, running, and biking trails in the region. If you are really ambitious, it runs for over 180 miles to Cumberland, Maryland, where it connects to the Great Allegheny Trail towards Pittsburgh. During con, it’s more realistic to do an out-and-back excursion. The best way to do this from the Westin is to get a Circulator Bus from the 14th and K stop towards Georgetown. Get off at M Street and 33rd. The tow path starts a couple of blocks south. You want to be on the southern side of the canal. Walk or run west along the tow path as far as you want to, then turn around and come back. Note: it is a good idea to wear insect repellant in summer. Also, when you return, you might want to enjoy one of the restaurants or cafes in Georgetown, before taking the bus back to the hotel.

Capital Crescent Trail: Start out following the directions for the C & O Canal towpath. A little bit after you pass the Key Bridge, there’s a set of stairs that lead down to Water Street. The Capital Crescent Trail runs parallel to the canal towpath for a while, before splitting off to turn north to Bethesda, Maryland. If you don’t want to go quite that far, you can stop at Fletcher’s Boathouse, cross the canal and walk along Reservoir Road to get to Macarthur Blvd and U Street, where you can take the D6 Metrobus back to 15th and K, near the Westin.

The Mount Vernon Trail: This is in Virginia, but is easy to get to. It runs from Rosslyn to George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon, along the Potomac. There is access from several metro stations - Rosslyn (Blue and Orange Lines), Arlington Cemetery (Blue Line), Crystal City (Blue and Yellow Lines), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Blue and Yellow Lines), Braddock Road (Blue and Yellow Lines), and King Street (Blue and Yellow Lines). There are several bikeshare stations near the trail as well.

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DC Travel Guide - Part 1: Mostly About Getting Here and Getting Around

These notes were something I had been planning on doing for a while because I do get out of town visitors. The upcoming National Puzzlers' League Convention provided a good excuse. Hence, the info specific on getting to the con hotel, but most of this should be of more general interest.

Washington, D.C. is, in general, a walkable city, with a significant caveat regarding weather. In July, it is likely to be very hot and humid (90+ degrees Fahrenheit and 90% humidity). Thunderstorms are frequent in summer and it is a good idea to carry an umbrella or rain poncho. In 2021, there will also be a chance of cicadas, though they are supposed to be gone by mid to late June. They are harmless, but some people find their singing, which can reach over 80 decibels, to be annoying.

City Layout:
The basic layout of the city is in four quadrants, separated by two imaginary lines, running east-west and north-south through the U.S. Capitol building. Most visitors will spend almost all of their time in northwest (NW), but there are some places of interest in each quadrant. At any rate, it is always important to know what quadrant something is in to avoid going far out of your way. Numbered streets run north-south with numbers starting from the Capitol, while letter streets run east-west. with A Street being closest to the Capitol. After running out of letters, the east-west streets use two syllable words (e.g. Euclid, Fairmont, etc.) and then three syllable names (Albemarle, Brandywine, ….) Streets named after each U.S. state overlay this grid and run diagonally. There are also circles, to complicate things. And there are numerous exceptions, but these basics should keep you from getting too lost.

Specifically for WashingCon, the con hotel is the Westin Washington DC City Center, which is at 1400 M Street NW. I will leave out the NW part in these directions. As the address implies, the hotel is on M Street between 14th St and 15th St. To complicate things, 14th St meets Vermont Ave at Thomas Circle, just east of the hotel and Massachusetts Ave crosses through Thomas Circle just north of M St. In practical terms, this means that you may have to walk around part of Thomas Circle to get to various destinations.

Public Transportation:

The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates MetroRail and MetroBus. There are a number of other transit systems in the region, but the only one of those of much interest to most visitors is the DC Circulator, which operates several useful bus routes, including service to/from Union Station and a route that circles the National Mall and Tidal Basin.

You need a SmarTrip card to ride MetroRail. You can order a card from the WMATA website and get it in about 5 days, but it is probably just as easy to buy one when you arrive. They’re sold at the fare machines at every MetroRail station, which is convenient to do when you arrive. They are also sold at Giant Food stores and Walmart. SmarTrip cards cost $2 plus however much money you want to put onto them, There is also an option to download an app that lets you use Apple Wallet on an iPhone or Apple Watch.

You can pay bus fares (MetroBus, Circulator, and various other regional systems) in cash or using a SmarTrip card. Paying with the SmarTrip card gets you free transfers for 2 hours and provides discounts on transferring between bus and rail.

Bus fares are $1 on Circulator buses and $2 on regular Mettrobus routes. There are express routes that cost $4.25 and an airport express route (about which more below) that costs $7.50. MetroRail fares vary by distance and time of day. You can look up specific fares on the WMATA website. They are also posted at every station. Peak fares (5 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday) range from $2.25 to $6.00, while off-peak fares (all other hours) range from $2.00 to $3.85.

MetroRail currently opens at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. on Saturday, and 8 a.m. on Sunday and closes at 11 p.m. every day. MetroBus hours vary by route. Most Circulator routes run from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. There is also a National Mall route which runs from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays ad 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.

You can buy 1-day, 3-day, or 7-day passes, that you can put on your SmarTrip card and may save you money if you plan on lots of travel. For example, a 3-day unlimited pass (which includes both peak and off-peak travel) costs $28.

Details for Getting to the Westin:

There are three airports that serve the Washington DC region. The closest to the city itself is Ronald Reagan National Airport (usually called just National by people who’ve lived here for a long time) or DCA. This is the best option for many people. There is a MetroRail station right at the airport. Just take the Blue Line train to McPherson Square. The fare is $2.40 off-peak and $2.75 peak.

Longer distance flights are more likely to arrive at Dulles International Airport or IAD. MetroRail might reach IAD by 2022, which is of no use right now. So you need to take a bus to get from the airport to a metro station. The easier option is to take the Silver Line Express ($5 one way, purchased at their booth at the airport) which will drop you at Wiehle - Reston East, from which you can take the Silver Line train to McPherson Square. Off-peak fare is $3.85 and peak fare is $6.00. You can save a little money by taking the Fairfax Connector route 981 or 983 between IAD and Wiehe-Reston East, which is only $2, but is much slower. There is also the option of taking MetroBus 5A to Rosslyn and taking MetroRail from there to McPherson Square, but the 5A costs $7.50 and you still have to pay a $2.25 peak or $2 off-peak rail fare, so it is unlikely to be worth it.

When you arrive at McPherson Square, exit the station via the Vermont Avenue / White House exit. At the top of the escalator make a U-turn and cross I Street. You should see McPherson Square in front of you. Walk along the west side of the square up 15th Street and continue three blocks to M Street. Then turn right and you will be at the hotel.

The third airport is Baltimore Washington International or BWI. You need to take a shuttle bus from the terminal to the BWI rail station and then a train to Union Station in Washington. Amtrak saver fares are $5 but could be sold out, requiring fares as high as $35, though $11 would be more likely. MARC commuter trains ($7) are an option on weekdays, but are slower as they will make several stops. It is also possible to get off the train at New Carrollton (Maryland) and get the MetroRail Orange Line there, but this will be both slower and more expensive overall.

People coming from Philadelphia or New York or even Boston may wish to arrive via Amtrak, which will get them to Union Station.

To get to the hotel from Union Station, take the Union Station to Georgetown Circulator bus. The bus stop is normally on the bus level of the parking garage (accessible from the mezzanine level of the station but, due to construction, has been temporarily relocated to picking up on H Street NE, outside the parking garage. Get off the bus at K St NW / 14th St. Walk back on K St NW to 14th St, then north on 14th St to M Street and turn left. (Just before that turn, you will find yourself on Vermont Ave. Don’t panic - that’s where you want to be.)

A taxi from Union Station to the Westin would cost roughly $15. Figure on $20 from DCA, at least $80 from IAD, and $125 from BWI. Uber and Lyft are also available.

Other Transit Options:

Washington DC has an extensive bikeshare system. Capital Bikeshare costs $2 (payable by credit card or their app) for a half hour rental. A 24 hour pass costs $8 and allows unlimited 30-minute rides. See their website for more details and suggested routes to ride.

There are a number of other companies (e.g. Uber, Lime, and Bird) offering app-based bikes and scooters. However, many of those are problematic because they allow riders to just leave the bike or scooter in th middle of a sidewalk when they’re done with it. Capital Bikeshare kiosks ae less hostile to pedestrians.

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What I've Been Up To Lately

Celebrity Death Watch: Jonathan Bush was a banker and the brother of George H.W. Bush. Paul Van Doren co-founded Vans. Leigh Perkins expanded Orris into a major mail order retailer, mostly of fishing and outdoors gear. Spencer Silver co-invented Post-it Notes. Pete duPont served two terms as governor of Delaware. Art Gensler founded the world’s largest architectural firm, whose work included the terminals at San Francisco International Airport. Lester Wolff was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Long Island. Norman Lloyd was an actor and notable for continuing to work until he was 100 years old. (He was 106 when he died.) Jim Klobuchar was a journalist and father of Amy. Richard Rubinstein was a rabbi who defended the Moonies on the grounds of anti-Communism. Patsy Bruce wrote country songs, such as “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Terence Riley was the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. Douglass Mossman was an actor, best known for appearing in Hawaii Five-O. Charles Grodin was a prolific actor, comedian, and talk show host. Paul Mooney was a comedian. and wrote for a number of other black comedians. Alex Dobkin was a folk singer. Roman Kent was the president of the International Auschwitz Committee. Dewayne Blackwell wrote “Friends in Low Places,” among other songs. Samuel E. Wright voiced Sebastian in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Anna Halprin was a post-modern choreographer. Jerome Hellman was a film producer who won an Oscar for Midnight Cowboy. Mary Beth Edelson was one of the first generation of feminist artists and is best known for “Some Living American Women Artists / Last Supper.”

Eric Carle wrote and illustrated The Very Hungry Caterpillar and several other children’s books. He is also notable for founding a museum of picture book art. Another author/illustrator of children’s books, Lois Ehlers, best known for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom died a couple of days later.

John Warner spent 30 years as a Republican senator from Virginia and had earlier been the Secretary of the Navy. He was also Elizabeth Taylor’s sixth husband. Despite having been a Republican, in more recent years, he endorsed a number of Democrats, both for the Senate and the Presidency.

B. J. Thomas was a pop singer. Some of the songs he was well-known for include “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.”

Gavin McLeod played Murray on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and was the captain on The Love Boat.

I don’t normally mention animal deaths, but Bo, the Obama family dog, was prominent enough that I think he deserves a note. I don’t think many Americans had heard of a Portuguese water dog, a supposedly hypo-allergenic breed, before the Obamas got him for their daughters.

Errata: I made a minor addition to the Island Hopping entry. I had completely neglected Jones Beach. And Fire Island, which I might have gone to.

Cool Baseball Trivia: On Friday May 21st, Seattle back-up catcher Jose Godoy made his major league debut, becoming the 20,000th player in major league baseball history. (The Mariners got slaughtered by the Padres, however, losing 16-1.)

Blight Flight: I watched this short play by Iyona Blake on-line a couple of weeks ago. I know her work primarily as a singer and actor, who has made numerous appearances at Signature Theatre and Creative Cauldron. The play involves a white woman trying to befriend the black woman being forced out of the house next door by rising prices in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The black woman makes her question her assumptions, but the two connect at the end via a song. It was a challenging story and I’d like to see it developed into a full-length production mostly because I was left with a lot of questions about both women.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I drove into the German embassy - literally, into the building. I pulled up next to a guard who told me to get out of the car and then took my temperature with a forehead thermometer. Another guard came over, walked around me, shook his head, but did not tell me what to do or where to go. At that point, three women came in, one of whom resembles someone I slightly know. They were given some papers by another guard and went into a door. I waited a while, all of the guards wandered away, and I decided I should go through that same door. The three women were gone. Just outside the door, I saw a small table with stacks of vaccination certificates. I walked over to a window where a guy told me I didn’t have to do anything but take a seat at a table and wait. He also invited me to an upcoming Valentine’s Day party at the embassy. While I was waiting, someone said they had gotten the number 30, which seemed to be a bad thing. The three women came back in, carrying clipboards with yellow papers. I don’t remember anything happening after that point.

This Way Lies Madness: I finally achieved Queen Bee in the New York Times Spelling Bee (a daily word puzzle). Not just once, but every day for a week or so and several times since. I have decided, however, that pursuing that every day is just too obsessive, especially on days when there are 60+ words to find. I did admittedly do it today, but there were only 39 words.

Retirement Gift: I got the retirement gift catalog from Circle-A and chose an iPad. The other possibility was an Apple watch, but I have really small wrists and thought I would find it awkward. It came on Friday but I haven’t set it up yet. I think the current offerings (which also include things like cookware and jewelry),are better than what people years ago complained about. Twenty some odd years ago,, they gave out mostly clocks, with only an engraved bowl as a non-time oriented option.

Art Fair: I went to the Old Town Art Fair in Alexandria a couple of weeks ago. I attempted to find someone to come along to be a shopping discourager, but none of my friends were interested and available. As a result, I bought a few things - a robot sculpture from Cheri Kudzu’s Bitti Bots, a brooch made from watch parts, and a book called Goodbye, Penguins, which has a rather Gorey-esque sensibility. I like some works of urban surrealism by a guy named Ralph Rankin, but he was horribly rude to me when I asked for his card, so I will never buy anything from him.

Renwick Gallery: I went to the Renwick Gallery a week and a half ago with one of the women from my crafts group. Mostly, we went to look at the Renwick Invitational, which had installations from four artists. Rowland Ricketts had a large piece made of squares of indigo-dyed fabric. He apparently grows the indigo himself. That installation also had music in the background. Lauren Fensterstock’s piece was titled “The totality of time lusters the dusk.” It was a complex mosaic piece made of glass, crystals, beads, paper, hematite, etc. and, while I thought it was interesting, it was too hard to see the whole thing at some time. Debora Moore had several pieces that involved glass flower petals blown directly onto wood and concrete bases. Finally, Timothy Horn had large pieces based on historic jewelry, as well as an interesting carriage made out of rock sugar. After looking at that exhibit, we went upstairs to look at the permanent exhibit. Janet Echelon’s 1.8 is one of the highlights, with a fiber netting that changes colors in response to lighting. My favorite, however, was Skeins by Mariska Karasz. Overall, it was a nice couple of hours.

Immigrant Food: After the museum, I had lunch at Immigrant Food, which is more or less around the corner. I had their equivalent of a banh mi, which was quite tasty. (The person I went with wanted to rush home, as she is caring for her husband who is in treatment for cancer.)

Good News: I got my blood tested a few days ago. And all of the numbers on the iron panel were within normal range. So I just need to continue taking oral supplements.

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storyteller doll

Island Hopping

A few people commented on the last entry that I’ve been to a lot of islands. I didn’t even come close to listing them all. So here is an attempt. A few things will be in italics because I think I have been to them, but I don’t really remember having done so. Also, I don’t count places where I have only changed planes but not left the airport.

Starting from New York:

Island Park, New York - This is where I grew up. The island it is located on is officially Barnum Island or Hog Island depending on what map you look at. There is a smaller island called Harbor Isle that is attached by two bridges. Much of the Jewish population of Island Park lives on Harbor Isle, which led some people to call it “Hebrew Isle.”

Long Island, New York - Properly pronounced LawnGuyland, of course, this was, effectively, the mainland to me as a child. Since Island Park doesn’t have a high school, we were bused about 8 miles north to West Hempstead, which is on the mainland.

Long Beach, New York - This includes Atlantic Beach, Long Beach itself, Lido Beach, and Point Lookout. We went to the boardwalk there fairly often and, in high school, I often rode my bike from Island Park, over the bridge to Long Beach, up to Atlantic Beach, and back home through the 5 Towns, East Rockway, and Oceanside, then over the causeway to Island Park.

Jones Beach Island - This is where Jones Beach is. We went there a few times with my aunt and uncle, though there were other beaches we went to more often.

Fire Island - We probably went to Robert Moses State Park at some point, but I’m not sure.

Manhattan, New York City - To quote the lyric from West Side Story, “I like the island, Manhattan.:” My parents took us into the city to go to the theatre and to go to museums and so on. One thing I particularly love is that I can always discover something there I didn’t know existed.

Staten Island, New York City - My father’s half-sister lives there. Despite which, I can only remember having been there once, to go to a picnic with friends from summer camp.

Ellis Island, New York City - This was, of course, a major port of entry for immigration to the U.S. and is now an excellent museum. I’ve only been there once, but I use their on-line resources quite a lot.

Roosevelt Island, New York City - This is reachable by a tramway from Manhattan. I keep thinking I must have been there at some time, but I have no memory of it.

City Island, The Bronx, New York - This is another place I think I must have been to, since my mother had a close friend who lived there. But it’s possible they moved there after I had grown up and moved away.

Shelter Island, New York - This is another place I think we probably went to at some point while I was growing up, but I think I would remember it if we did since you have to take this amazingly short ferry ride to get there. (It’s in the middle of Great Peconic Bay, which separates the north and south forks of Long Island.)

Despite my family’s joke about island hopping (Long, Coney, Traffic), Coney Island is not actually an island. And, while I have been on many a traffic island, they don’t count, since they aren’t surrounded by water.

The rest of the continental United States:

Mount Desert Island, Maine - Acadia National Park is a beautiful place. And Bar Harbor is a cute town.

Cape Ann, Massachusetts - I am fairly certain that I have been to Gloucester and/or Rockport, but my memory is fuzzy. So fuzzy, in fact, that I am not 100% sure that they are on an island. (It certainly looks that way on a map.) Because someone will ask, I am also reasonably sure that I have not been to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Or to Block Island, Rhode Island. Though I should have been.

Atlantic City, New Jersey - Technically the island it’s on is Absecon Island. I went there with my mother several times, because she was the classic little old lady who loved slot machines. I enjoy gambling in small doses and walking on the boardwalk in much larger doses.

Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, D.C.: Ithink I must have walked around Theodore Roosevelt Island at some point when I worked in Rosslyn, but I have no specific memory of having done so.

Merritt Island, Florida - This is where Cape Canaveral Air Force Base (well, Space Force Base now, I guess) is.

Cocoa Beach, Florida - I don’t actually know the name of the island that all the Cape Canaveral infrastructure is on, including the towns of Cocoa Beach and Melbourne Beach and so on. But I’ve been there a bunch of times.

Miami Beach, Florida - It’s worth walking around South Beach and checking out the architecture.

Key West, Florida - Touristy, yes, but still a nice place to spend a few days.

Avery Island, Louisiana - This is where tabasco is made. There are a lot of flamingos.

Mackinac Island, Michigan - The couple of blocks by the ferry landing are a horrible tourist melange of fudge shops and t-shirt stands and such. If you walk about 2 blocks away from the ferry landing, there are lovely trails and you can walk for miles through a beautiful and peaceful landscape.

Alameda, California - One of the quieter and less upscale suburbs of San Francisco. It’s a good place to take a walk if you have some time to kill before a flight out of Oakland Airport.

Alcatraz Island, California - When I was at Berkeley, a friend came to visit and this was one of the obligatory tourist activities. We were really lucky because of guide had been a warden there when it was a prison and had great stories about that.

Mercer Island, Washington - This is another place I might have been to, but can’t swear to it one way or the other. I think it is less likely that I’ve been to Vachon Island or Bainbridge Island.


Kodiak, Alaska - I went to Kodiak on a work trip, which included getting an excellent tour of the Alaska Spaceport. The main thing I remember was that it rains all the time there, leading to the popular t-shirt that says “Kodiak Rain Festival: January 1 through December 31st.”


Hawaii - My first trip to Hawaii was to the Big Island. I drove all over, including to South Point, which is the southernmost point in the United States. I also saw a lot of petroglyphs. And lava.

Oahu - I’ve made a couple of trips to Honolulu, which is touristy, but still interesting. The best thing I did there was a submarine ride.

Maui - This was primarily to go to Haleakala National Park. I was also hoping to see some nene, but did not succeed at that.


Montreal, Quebec - Montreal is on an island, though I don’t think I realized that when we went there for Expo ’67, which was my very first trip outside the United States.

Newfoundland - Saint John’s is an interesting city, with lots of attractive scenery nearby and good music to listen to. Supposedly, they have more bars than any other city in the world.

Sea Island, Vancouver, British Columbia - The Vancouver airport is on an island outside the city.

Richmond, British Columbia - I stayed in Richmond when I went to the Vancouver Olympics in 200.

Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia - This is a short walk over a footbridge from central Vancouver and has a famous public market, as well as lots of restaurants.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia - I took the seaplane from Vancouver to Victoria, which is on Vancouver Island, which was a huge thrill for me. I took the ferry back, which was pleasant but ess exciting.

The rest of the Americas:

I’ve been to Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, and Nicaragua, but not been to any islands in those countries. I really would have liked to go to Ometepe, Nicaragua, but couldn’t make it work with my schedule.

I also didn’t go to any islands in Uruguay, Paraguay, or Peru.

Governor Island, Brazil - This is where the airport for Rio de Janeiro is

Tierra del Fuego, Argentina - I went to Ushuaia to go on a cruise to the Antarctic. We also did some walks there and took El Tren del Fin del Mundo (the train at the end of the world).

Chiloe, Chile - I spent a few days on this large island south of Puerto Montt. I went penguin watching and saw lots of interesting wooden churches. There was also really good food there.

Easter Island, Chile - Technically Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is in the South Pacific, but it belongs politically to Chile, so is South American in that sense. It’s a long flight from Santiago, but well worth visiting for the archaeological sites and the unique culture.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador - Also, technically, in the South Pacific, but Ecuador is proud of the Galapagos as their territorial possession. I believe the islands we went to were Baltra (where the airport is), Santa Cruz, Espanola, Floreanna, Isabela, Fernandina, Genovese, Bartolome, and Santiago. Floreanna is where the famous post office barrel is. You leave your postcards there and take ones to deliver (ideally in person) to people who live near you

Speaking of Antarctica:

The cruise I took, way back in 997, had one continent landing (at Neko Harbor on the Antarctic Peninsula). But our other landings were on various islands.

Couverville Island - our first landing and memorable for humpback whales breaching very close to our zodiac on the way from the ship.

Wiencke Island and Goudier Island - this was for a landing at the British station at Port Lockroy, where we were able to mail postcards.

Peterman Island - This was our southernmost landing at 65 degrees 10 minutes south latitude.

Deception Island - This is the caldera of a volcano and you can bathe in the geothermal water if you want to. (I just stuck my hand in.) There are also the remains of a whaling station.

Livingston Island - This was our final landing. It was the first land discovered south of 60 degrees south latitude.

Atlantic and Caribbean:

Bermuda - I stayed in Hamilton which is on Main Island. I also went to Somerset Island, St. David’s Island (where the airport is), and St. George’s Island (to see St. George and St. Catherine’s Point (which has a nice beach.)

New Providence Island, Bahamas - This is where Nassau is. I also did an excursion to Paradise Island, which is a pretty horrible resort.

Martinique - Martinique is a French territorial possession. The food was disappointing. The highlights were meandering around Fort au France (the capital) and going to see the estate where Empress Josephine grew up.

Hispaniola - I have been to both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They’re quite different from each other, but both are worth going to.

Borinquen Island, Puerto Rico - This is the main island of Puerto Rico. I went to the El Yunque Rain Forest, Arecibo Observatory, some caves, and meandered around the old city of San Juan.

U.S. Virgin Islands - I have been to Saint Thomas and did a day trip to Saint John.

Saint Helena - This is the British territory that Napoleon was exiled to. Taking the mail ship there from South Africa (and, eventually, on to Wales) was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Ascension Island - This was a day stop on the R.M.S. Saint Helena. The landscape is incredible, with its mix of volcanic rubble and antenna dishes.

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain - This was a refueling stop for the R.M.S. Saint Helena. We were moored on the untouristy part of the island, among the Russian fishing trawlers, but it was an easy walk into town to look around.


Many of the European countries I’ve been to don’t have islands of any significance. In other cases, there are islands I didn’t visit. For example, in Greece, I spent my time in Athens and Thessaloniki and didn’t go to the Greek islands. Also, I think that there must be islands that are part of cities like Amsterdam and Bruges, but I am not really sure. Note also that I put the Canary Islands, which are part of Spain, under the Atlantic category.

Great Britain - London was one of the places I had always wanted to go to and was the final destination on my first trip to Europe. I’ve been back there several times, especially since the gentleman with whom I conducted to world’s longest running fling lives there.

Iceland - This was another place I had always wanted to go to. I particularly liked Akureyri for its botanical garden.

Zealand, Denmark - This is the island that Copenhagen is on.

Faroe Islands - This is a Danish dependency. I spent most of my time on Streymoy, where the capital (Torshavn) is. I am fairly sure I also went to Eysturoy

Suomenlinna, Helsinki, Finland - The Sea Fortress is worth a day trip from Helsinki. It’s actually spread among six linked islands but I am rather vague about the names of those.

Murano, Venice, Italy - This island is famous for glass.

Burano, Venice, Italy - I like lace (and make lace), so Burano was a must-see.

Malta - There are great archaeological sites. And there is amazing art in Valletta, especially the Caravaggios in Saint John’s Co-Cathedral and the Gobelin tapestries at the Grandmaster’s Palace.

Gozo, Malta - This is the island that has Ggantija, the copper age temple that is believed to be the oldest manmade structure on the planet.

Tromso, Norway - I went there on a cruise up the coast of Norway. I visited the cathedral and the Polar Museum.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden - This is the island that the old city of Stockholm is on. It’s quite charming.

Kungsholmen Island, Stockholm, Sweden - This is where Stockholm City Hall is, where the Nobel Prize banquet is held.

Djurgarden, Stockholm, Sweden - We went to the Vasa Museum, which is located on this island.

Africa and Indian Ocean:

Zanzibar, Tanzania - Zanzibar is simply one of the most magical places I’ve been to. I loved wandering the streets of the Stone Town.

Robben Island, South Africa - This is where Nelson Mandela was held in prison. It’s pretty much an obligatory excursion from Cape Town.

Madagascar: - Lemurs are very cute. Despite which, Madagascar was one of the most frustrating place I went to, largely because, despite English being an official language, nobody actually speaks it.

Mauritius - I went to Mauritius largely because I had frequent flyer miles that would have expired otherwise. There are nice botanical gardens. And you can see a stuffed dodo in the museum in Port Louis.

Ganvie, Benin: I’m not sure whether this counts as an island. It’s a village built on stilts in th middle of Lake Nokoue. Does there have to be things built on actual ground for something to count as an island?


Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China: This is the heart of the city, though there is also plenty to see and do on the mainland of Kowloon. I particularly liked going up to the top of Victoria Peak, which was pleasantly cool.

Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong, China: This is the island where Hong Kong International Airport is located.

Macau, China: This is italicized because I am not sure whether I went to Taipa or Coloane islands or just stayed on the peninsula.

Singapore: I think of Singapore as Asia for beginners. It’s comfortable and the hawker centers are a great food experience. But there isn’t enough culture shock there for my tastes.

Sentosa, Singapore: This is a resort island that is part of Singapore. There are various tourist attractions there, including an excellent aquarium and an amazingly bland casino.

Tri Nguyen Island, Vietnam: This is a small island near Nha Trang. Its biggest tourist attraction is an aquarium, but the real highlight was transferring to the island from our boat tour of the South China Sea via a basket boat.

Honshu, Japan: Honshu is one of the major islands of Japan and is where Tokyo, Osaka, and several other cities are located.

Kankujima, Japan: This is the artificial island on which Kansai International Airport (the airport for Osaka) is located.


I wrote about Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands, and Hawaii already.

Australia: I’ve been to Australia several times. It is, in my opinion, the foreign country that is most similar to the United States. Well, except for the funny accent, but the same can be said for everywhere in the U.S. south of Richmond.

Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea is the independent country that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. It’s a fascinating place, with diverse cultures and amazing art. The western part of the island is Papua Province, Indonesia, which I have not been to. I have also been to New Britain, New Ireland, and Rabaul Islands, which are part of Papua New Guinea, as part of an eclipse cruise I went on in 2016.

Fiji Islands: I volunteered on an archaeological dig at Bourewa Beach on the island of Viti Levu in 2008, with a couple of days in Nadi beforehand. I also went to the resort island of Denarau for a couple of nights layover during an eclipse trip in 2009.

French Polynesia: I spent a couple of nights on Tahiti on either end of an eclipse cries in 2019. I spent a few days before that on Bora Bora. And the cruise included a day on Moorea.

Kiribati: I went to Tarawa for an eclipse trip in 2009. We saw the actual eclipse from Ouba Islet, which was a 2 hour boat ride from Tarawa. By the way, Tarawa was the site of the bloodiest Marine battle of World War II.

Micronesia: I visited Pohnpei, Chuuk (aka Truk), and Yap during my 2016 eclipse cruise. Yap was the most interesting as it is known for its giant stone money.

Palau: That 2016 eclipse cruise finished in Palau. I visited two islands there - Koror and Babhldaob. The former has the airport (and the hotel I stayed at) and the latter has some interesting stone monoliths.

Solomon Islands: I spent about 5 days on Guadalcanal after the eclipse trip in 2009. I went back to the Solomon Islands on my 2016 eclipse trip, which started from Guadalcanal. I know we went to at least one other small island, but I don’t remember its name offhand.

Efate Island, Vanuatu: This is where Port Vila, the capital is. I took a few tours around the island, as well.

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storyteller doll

April Prompts

Continuing my backlog of things to write about, here are my replies to the April prompts:

1. Do you have any channels you regularly watch on YouTube? I am a big fan of The Try Channel, in which Irish people sample various foods and drink - sometimes restaurant foods of various cuisine, sometimes fast food or junk food from other countries. Comedy gold.

2. Do you listen to any podcasts? The only podcast I listen to is You’re Invited, which has to do with the Washington Post Style Invitational.

3. Favorite fast food chain? Their U.S. outlets are more fast casual, but in South Africa Nando’s Peri Peri is more fast food.

4. What are your goals for the next year? Getting my life completely organized, which has several subcategories.

5. What was your first pet? My brother and I had turtles when we were little. We got a mouse from our next door neighbors when their mother freaked out over it. Later on (after Rosie, the mouse, had died) Mom adopted a feral cat which was named Sunshine.

6. Have you ever been lost in your own neighborhood? Sadly frequently, because I have a horrible sense of direction.

7. Do you like any board games or card games? I play Code Names with some friends almost every night. Some other games I like are Plague and Pestilence, Wise or Otherwise, and Illuminati, but there are plenty of others.

8. What is the last thing you watched on TV? A baseball game.

9. How often do you get hiccups? Rarely.

10. What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen? There’s a small islet in the Republic of Kiribati called Ouba. It’s about a 2 hour boat ride from Tarawa and is just a spectacular tropical paradise. (I was there to see the 2009 total solar eclipse).

11. Are you more sensitive to heat or the cold? I hate being cold.

12. What’s the most historic thing that has happened in your lifetime? Probably the moon landing.

13. What brand are you most loyal to? This will probably sound ridiculous, but I think Puffs tissues are superior to other brands. They’re both soft and strong, so they don’t chafe my nose.

14. What’s the most awkward thing that happens to you on a regular basis? Deborah Tannen has written about speech patterns, in which different cultures have different ideas about how much of a pause you need between two participants in a conversation. Coming from a culture in which uses a cooperative interruption model, I am often perceived as interrupting people.

15. What do you think could be done to improve the media? Making it clear what their biases are. I can adjust for perspective if I know what it is, but not if a source is pretending to be objective.

16. What kind of traveling do you not enjoy as much? Bus travel tends to be uncomfortable.

17. What’s a common experience for many people that you’ve never experienced? Raising a child.

18. What did you Google last? A map of the Broad Street SEPTA subway line in Philadelphia.

19. What’s the dumbest thing someone has argued with you about? How big trolls are.

20. What’s the most frustrating product you own? My vacuum cleaner. It’s bagless, so it is a pain to empty.

21. What's the best concert you've ever been to? Great Big Sea at Wolf Trap.

22. Do you need money to be happy? I need enough money to meet my basic needs, but I live pretty modestly.

23. What is something you do well? Tell stories. Crochet. Take notes.

24. How do you find new music? Mostly from friends. Back in ancient history, there were record stores with listening stations and well-curated selections on them. There are a few radio programs (available on-line) that are also helpful.

25. What physical traits have you inherited from your father? My curly hair.

26. What physical traits have you inherited from your mother? My coloring.

27. Where were you raised for most of your life? Island Park, New York (a small island off the south shore of Long Island).

28. Would you consider yourself to be in shape? Round is a shape, right? In other words, no.

29. Have you ever been in a car accident? Yes, but only minor fender benders fortunately.

30. Have you ever been on an island? Our family joke was about an island hopping trip to Long, Coney, and Traffic. Aside from having grown up on an island off an island in the suburbs of an island, I’ve been to places ranging from large ones like New Guinea (plus New Ireland, New Britain, and Rabaul), Madagascar, Honshu (Japan), Great Britain, Newfoundland, and Iceland to small ones like Ouba Islet (mentioned above), Saint Helena (south Atlantic), the various islands of the Galapagos, and Zanzibar, and dozens in between.

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storyteller doll


I did ProLon Sunday through Thursday of the first week of May. First, this is the article which got me interested in the so-called Fast Mimicking Diet. As an aging person suffering from various aspects of middle age, it sounded worth trying. I bought a “meal kit” last September and did the 5day program shortly after I retired in October. I thought it helped with a few things and, in December, bought a three-kit package (which provided a discount and also included three boxes of their “fast bars,” about which more later). This time was the last of those three boxes.

What you get is a large box which contains 5 smaller boxes - one for each day - plus a water bottle. I wish there was a way to not keep getting water bottles when you repeat the program, but that would complicate their packaging. You’re not allowed to switch foods between days, but you can eat a given day’s foods in any order you prefer, despite there being suggested meals. The only additional things you are allowed are one cup of coffee or tea per day, additional herbal teas, and some herbs and spices to adjust the flavor of the soups, which are the mainstay of the program.

Day 1 is a transition day and is pretty easy. For breakfast, you get what they call an “L-bar.” This is the same thing that they sell in packages as “fast bars,” and is nut-based. The dominant flavor is coconut, but it also has almonds and macadamias and pecans. It’s quite tasty and surprisingly filling. You also have herbal tea (spearmint or lemon and spearmint) and algal oil supplement, which is a vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids. The first day, I found it helpful to have a cup of coffee, rather than going cold turkey on caffeine. Basically, this is what you get for breakfast every day, except for the algal oil. You get two packets of that on Day 1 and one on Day 5 and none on the other three days.

Lunch always consists of a vitamin supplement they call NR-1 (2 packets on day 1, 1 packet on the other days), a packet of powdered soup, which you reconstitute with water and can either microwave or cook on the stovetop. (I prefer the latter.) You also get either a packet of olives (either salted or with garlic) or kale crackers. On Day 1, you get both olives and kale crackers. The kale crackers are absolutely delicious, which I admit is something I never thought I would say. The Day 1 soup is tomato, which is just okay. I find that adding some basil and oregano improves it a lot.

There’s an afternoon snack - herbal tea and, on Day 1, another L-bar. Dinner is a packet of powdered minestrone, which is stovetop only, not microwaveable, and a half-size chocolate flavored L-bar. The minestrone is rather bland, but adding a little cayenne helps a lot. I also find it better to cook it a bit longer than the packet says, so it’s a bit thicker.

Overall, Day 1 is a reasonable amount of food, though less than what I would normally eat in one day, I didn’t feel particularly hungry when I went to bed, I didn’t sleep especially well, but that is mostly because I drank a lot of water throughout the day so needed to get up in the night more often than I normally would.

But then comes Day 2, when the calories drop from roughly 1100 to about 800. The big menu addition for Days 2 through 4 is something called L-drink, which is flavored vegetable glycerol, that you dilute in that water bottle. The amount you use is based on your weight. It comes in two flavors - citrus and berry, both of which are improved by steeping a bag of hibiscus tea in the diluted liquid. (There are two bags of hibiscus tea, in addition to the spearmint teas,) The lunchtime soup is mushroom, which is my favorite of the ProLon soups. You get a packet of olives to have with the soup for lunch and another packet of olives to have as a snack. No kale crackers, alas. Dinner consists of minestrone and quinoa soup, which desperately needs the enhancement of some cayenne and cooking it down to thicken a bit. You also get one of those half-size chocolate flavored L-bars to have for a sort of dessert. Presumably because I decided to forgo caffeine, I had a slight headache much of the day.

Day 3 was the hardest. We’re back to tomato soup for lunch. While there are kale crackers to have with it, I found it better to save them for the afternoon snack, which would otherwise just be tea. And there is nothing except the minestrone for dinner.

Day 4 was essentially the same as Day 2, with vegetable soup instead of mushroom soup for lunch. And Day 5 was the same as Day 3, except for adding a packet of algol oil. By those days, I felt remarkably little hunger.

While they don’t include Day 6 food, you’re supposed to stick to light and small meals for the first 12 hours of the transition day. They suggest juices and soups, but I admit I really had no desire to see more soup for a while. I had a fast bar for breakfast and made a blueberry and mango smoothie for lunch. For dinner, I had salad and some pasta.

But what about results? I did feel a bit more energetic at the end of the program, which was the case each time I did it. Over the course of four cycles (i.e. since October), I’ve lost about 15 pounds and my blood pressure has improved a bit. And my blood sugar has been more stable. I’m due for more blood tests (related to my iron deficiency anemia) this month, so will see if there is anything else.

I do think ProLon is a good kickstart to eating better. But it is pricy (about $200 but you can find sales and get boxes of fast bars included). I am also concerned about the amount of packaging they use.

I should also note that they have a new second option for soup flavors and I bought a box of that version, which I will do some time in the next couple of months.

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storyteller doll

Catch Up

Celebrity Death Watch: Isamu Akasaki was a physicist who worked on LEDs. Tony Pola was the drummer for Beasts of Bourbon. Arthur Kopit was a playwright who wrote the book for the musical Nine and is best known for the play Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad. B.B. Dickerson played bass for Eric Burden and War. Simon Bainbridge was a composer who set poems by Primo Levi to music. Paul Ritter was an actor, best known for the tv series Friday Night Dinner. Joey Hummel ghost-wrote over 70 Wonder Woman comic books in the 1940’s. Hans Kueng was a theologian. Albee Hastings was a Congressman from Florida. Howard Weizmann was a lawyer with a lot of famous Hollywood clients. John Naisbitt was a futurologist, whose book Megatrends was on the New York Times bestseller list for two years. DMX was a rapper and earned me 19 ghoul pool points. Ramsey Clark was Attorney General of the U.S. under LBJ. Rusty Young was one of the lead members of Poco. Bernie Madoff made off with a lot of other people’s money. Felix Silla was best known for playing Cousin Itt on The Addams Family. Helen McCrory was a British actress. Barry Mason wrote the song “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” among other things. Charles Geschke co-founded Adobe. Black Rob and Shock G were rappers. Jim Steinman wrote, among other songs, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Tempest Storm was a burlesque star. Idriss Deby was the president of Chad, whose assassination should have gotten more news coverage. Joe Long played bass for The Four Seasons. Dan Kaminsky was a computer security researcher. Billie Hayes played Mammy Yokum in the Broadway musical, Lil’ Abner, but is better known for playing Witchiepoo on H. R. Pufnstuf. Eli Broad made a lot of money as a real estate developer and became a philanthropist, expanding the arts in Los Angeles and funding the Broad Institute for medical research at MIT. Bobby Unser won the Indy 500 three times. Yitzhak Arad directed Yad Vashem (a Holocaust memorial / museum in Jerusalem) for 20 or so years. Lloyd Pe=rice was an R&B singer. Lucinda Franks was the first woman to win a Pulitzer for national reporting. Geoff Crowther wrote for Lonely Planet.

Frank Jacobs was one of that usual gang of idiots, i.e. a writer for Mad. In particular, he wrote a lot of song and poetry parodies.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was Queen Elizabeth II’s consort. He earned me 20 ghoul pool points.

Walter Mondale was Vice President under Jimmy Carter and lost the 1984 Presidential race.

Michael Collins flew the Apollo 11 command module, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Olympia Dukakis was an actress, best known for Moonstruck, as well as playing Anna Madrigal in Tales of the City.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Marvin Moskowitz died of COVID-19 in January. He and I had dated briefly in the 1980’s in Los Angeles and reconnected on Facebook. I lost saw him a couple of years ago, when we went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology together during my layover in L.A. on the way to Tahiti. He almost certainly contracted the virus from unmasked people on public transit. I am furious.

Both Merrilee Palansch and her husband, Bob, died abut a week apart in January. She was a talented storyteller and he was a great supporter of her storytelling, as well as a musician in his own right. They also collaborated over 60 or so years of marriage in performances, activism, and raising their family.

I knew Michael Loo from flyer talk. We had dinner together during some of his trips to Washington, D.C. and mine to New York. He was kind and generous and a fine violist. I particularly admired his efforts to continue traveling over the years, despite health challenges.

I hope to experience less loss during the rest of the year.

Non-human Death Watch: Amphora in Vienna closed in mid-January. This was a huge family restaurant, open 24 hours a day, and was the place everyone here went to, often after something like a concert at Jammin’ Java. Their Herndon diner is still open, but is considerably less convenient for me.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was at an airport and panicking because I couldn’t find my mask. Then I discovered I had a white paper mask in my pocketbook, but I couldn’t figure out how to put it on.

Mental Health: A few weeks ago, I went to a William Barton Rogers Society talk that had to do with student mental health services at MIT. While the talk was generally encouraging, one of the speakers kept talking about “the stigma of mental health.” Er, I know that she meant the stigma of mental health treatment, but I still found that annoying.

Leading Jewish Minds at MIT: This is a series that has gone virtual, which lets me attend. Over the past months, I’ve been to a couple of talks. One was by Jay Kayser about Modernism. His chief argument was that there isn’t a common language for understanding modern arts and everything depends on Easter eggs. My opinion is that’s a lazy position. It may take more effort but it is still possible to understand, say, that the key word in the title of Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” is “descending” and that makes the painting about motion.

This week, there was a talk by David Autor about “The Faltering Escalator of Urban Opportunity.” This really came out of a study on the future of work. His key point was that the jobs that exist now often did not exist in the past and that this has led to increased inequality.

Ahhhscars: My friend, Paul, and I have gone a few times to the California State Society Ahhhscars party, which is a nice excuse to get dressed up, dance, have fancy food and cocktails, and have photos taken with Oscars-themed props. This year it was virtual and started with a trivia contest. Fortunately, most of the questions were not about movies, though there was a picture round which had to do with vampire movies. It turns out that Paul was really good at identifying those. I have seen a lot of vampire movies but have a terrible visual memory, so was pretty useless. (I was better at the other sorts of questions). Anyway, we were on the winning team. (And the other team was the one that had a congressman on it.) As for the other activities, both of us failed to correctly predict the Best Picture winner. I did enjoy some of the snacks they sent (cheese popcorn, sparkling wine, Oscar-shaped cookies) and gave away others. An in-person party would, of course, have been more fun, but this was still fun.

New Garbage Disposal: I don’t think I mentioned that I finally got my garbage disposal replaced. I have learned that if you google what something should cost, you can expect to pay 2-3 times that amount. I am okay with that as I am not interested in doing much beyond changing lightbulbs myself. At any rate, the new one is remarkably quiet. Next big household project is probably getting the ceiling lamp in my bedroom replaced, largely as part of my quest to get rid of things that have unique lightbulbs.

Earworm: For some reason, Jonathan Richman's "Here Come the Martian Martians" popped into my head the other day. And I can't get rid of it. At least it's a song I like.

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