Friends get friends out of the house: Gallery dash for Obama portrait sightings worth the brief jaunt

SOMEWHERE IN THE DMV—Why in theeee WORLD does it sometimes take friends and family coming to visit before I venture out and about the these D.C., Maryland and Virginia streets?

When friends say they are coming into town and that they’d like to visit some spots around the city, that’s when I usually remember “OMG, I have zero idea what to show them!”

And then the internal questions: Should I show them this place? Should I show them that spot? Should I take them here… Or what about there? Will they think this is fun… Or will they fall asleep standing up?

via GIPHY

That was a recent predicament before a pal of mine came to town for business. Now, lookie here: I have lived in this area for a decade. And when Friend conveyed a desire to see parts of the town, I drew a blank.

It’s that whole idea of living somewhere for so long, you eventually slack off on exploring new local terrain on your own…and when you do, it’s because family member or pal visits the area. Well, maybe this isn’t your issue, so I won’t put my -ish on you, lol.

Weather woes
After wheel-traipsing around the National Mall monuments in pouring nighttime rain, and with more showers in the forecast, looking into an indoor activity option seemed a better bet for our next brief jaunt. Driving around trying to see the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the MLK Memorial can be pretty awe inspiring past the Golden Time of Day, but isn’t the best during inclement weather. Washington Monument is best for a drive-by view… but one needs to walk up to the Lincoln and MLK memorials to get the full visual and inspirational experience. T’wasn’t happening that weekday night.

Didn’t want to chance that idea again—especially on a Friday with rain forecasted… so the National Portrait Gallery it was.

I’ve seen the Obamas’ portraits reproduced online, so it really didn’t occur to me to visit them in person. But I figured Friend would want to see them—and I was right!

So we had a National touristy mission: to see the images of POTUS 44 and Michelle Obama, get to the MLK memorial if it wasn’t raining too hard, and to the airport. But I’m not here to talk about all of that—just the Gallery.

The Portrait Gallery is located in the Penn Quarter of D.C., which overlaps with the historic Chinatown neighborhood. The Gallery is right across the street from a major Metro stop (Gallery Place/Chinatown) and across from the Capital One Arena and less than a mile from the National Mall. Its really easy to find… and a walk to the Mall might be nice for a spring day, sans rain.

Anyhoo, our mission at the Portrait Gallery was accomplished quick-fast, thanks to the greeters at the Gallery’s door—this older brotha and sista. He reminded me of a loving uncle who crafted creative cussing combinations—the same one who would offer me popsicles at each visit—even when I was thirty-damn years old. Brotha-Unc pointed us upstairs and to the right before we could even form our lips to ask. We all had a good laugh over that. Thanks, Brotha-Unc and Aunty-Ma’am.

Up the stairs and to the right—Brotha Unc’s directions were spot on… To the presidential portraits… and it wasn’t too hard to find a line of folks waiting to see 44’s up close—and to snap photos.

After taking in portraits of Bill Clinton, which is on loan to the museum (I really liked his), JFK, and quick-peeping those of Daddy and Dubya Bush, Jimmy Carter, and quick glances at folks like William Howard Taft and Ronald Reagan, it was on to Ms. Michelle. We left the presidential portraits through a pod of youth wearing MAGA hats, then through a diverse showing of humanity… up the stairs… to the right… and merging with a casually, but thickly scattered group—each person, dyad, triad or more waiting for turns to behold Michelle’s portrait.

The young-us sometimes say representation gives them life. Methinks I know what that means. I felt it when I saw the Obama’s portraits. It’s a buoyancy that allows the spirit to take flight and soar… or just stamps a cheesy grin or hallelujah shout into your soul.

Info:
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Admission: Free-99!
Open 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. every day…well most days of the year.
If you go on Christmas Day, you’ll be SOL.
(Forgive me for that, Baby and Grownup Jesus…Amen.)

Hitman tour leaves behind musical slayage in D.C.’s Warner Theater

WASHINGTON—God created music, dammit. I’m convinced. And he, she…or he and she…or it or them-there… they put a bunch of it on display last night when David Foster’s Hitman Tour hit D.C.’s Warner Theater.

David Foster is not, as James Comey might say, “out breaking legs and– you know, shaking down shopkeepers.” Nothing like that. This Hitman slays our hearts by taking shaped notes and cranking out hit after hit over decades—so many that you might not know how much this man’s musical footprint has pitter-pattered over your life’s soundtrack.

And it was a great show—aptly titled “An Intimate Evening with David Foster.”

An intimate feel it had with the Warner Theater’s ornate architecture and cozy seating.

Foster accompanied all of us down memory lane with with a team of fantabulous singers. They were EXCELLENT. “I wish I could sing like that,” Foster joked during the set, “then I wouldn’t need them.” He did croon lines from some of his beloved hits as well. And he’s needed, because no one can write what he writes how he writes it.

LAWDY-BE it was a good show! I just hope the adorable 70-something year old blonde lady sitting next to me didn’t think I was too loud when I got all happy and started shouting “YAAAAASSSSS” like I was up in church or something. She didn’t complain.

She also didn’t look 70. But she did tell me she retired from the CIA. #random

Sooooo… I’m a little biased about which of Foster’s guests I enjoyed most. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed them ALL. Fernando Varela and Pia Toscano can sing like NOBODY’s business! Whew! But Shelea blew the roof off the motha-sucka!

“I don’t understand why someone like her doesn’t have a show in her own right. She’s good,” CIA seat-neighbor told me.

“Best of all,” I replied, “she’s a genuinely nice person.”

Of course, of all the people on that stage, she’s the only person I have any experience with…  I don’t count the 25 seconds I stood next to David Foster–long enough to take a photo after a session at the NAB Radio Show in San Francisco in…2000, I think. Still have that photo somewhere… ##random

Lookie-here
The Hitman tour isn’t over. There are still some dates coming up in Florida. If you’re nearby—or not—airplanes still work, lol!

And if you can’t make it, just Google samples of Varela, Toscano, and Shelea. If you ever see them live—methinks it’ll be worth it.

Shelea:

Fernando Varela:

Pia Toscano:

Netflix release explores a modern-day heretic’s journey to spiritual liberation in “Come Sunday”

NOT HEAVEN—OR HELL–So. What happens when the faith you’ve had for years slams into the realization that “it ain’t necessarily so?”

What happens when the faith you’ve cultivated or the spoon-feedings you’ve accepted since youth crashes head-on with a musing-turned hard-core question: “what if we’re getting it all kinds of wrong?”

And what happens if you share your changing views with folks who aren’t ready or willing to give another perspective mental due process?

Come Sunday, a recent Netflix release produced by This American Life  (yes, the WBEZ originated show and podcast) is about all of that. Bishop Carlton Pearson was an evangelical rock star…until he shared questions with his mega-church congregation about what he saw as a biblical contradiction…. Namely the subject of God’s love vs. what his church taught about the existence of an eternally burning hell… and the idea that all who don’t believe and accept Jesus as savior are doomed to roast in the afterlife. He couldn’t reconcile a loving God with teachings about an eternal rotisserie. Pearson says he heard God’s voice say Jesus is enough for all the world’s salvation, even those who don’t ever hear his name… which led him to figuratively say, dammit to hell. Pearson tossed the hellfire doctrine from his trove of beliefs and embraced a new theological worldview—the Gospel of Inclusion. This American Life told his story in a 2005 episode that was entirely dedicated to sharing his story.

And his chu’ch* folks weren’t having it. I don’t want to tell all the ups and downs of the story, but let’s just say he was an outcast’s outcast. Pearson is convincingly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and his minister of music at that time, Reggie, is played by Lakeith Stanfield (Selma).

It’s a convincing story, to me, because I can relate to the journey and realization that yes—you may still believe…but you know you can no longer abide by all of the ways in which you were taught to believe…when your views of right and wrong are being encased in a chrysalis, surrounding you with mid-life metamorphosis… but you aren’t quite ready to tell all…Definitely not to anyone who might dissuade your self-inquisition.

Pearson didn’t have that luxury. He, convinced it was God’s voice, was compelled to tell his congregation. After all, as a purveyor of “Good News,” how could he stay silent and smother what was so liberating to his spirit? He lost his church and more before it was all over. His journey is depicted as rough and tear-stained, but the consequence seems to be a peaceful conscience.


*bet you didn’t know chu’ch was a contraction for church. Not really–but it exists now. Say it.  Chu’ch.

Should I get down and derby?

(PLANET EARTH) — Sometimes work takes me to unexpected places. So a couple of months ago, in the cold-@$$ clutches of winter, I met a few ladies with no pants on.

My pants were on. I was working, yo. Yes, I understand that some professions don’t require pants—but this wasn’t that. Hark! Retrievest thy mind from the gutters.

So every year in the cold-stale crust of winter, folks get together to ride subways around their respective cities. With no pants on.

I’ve had the vicarious joy of covering this event at work for two years in a row.

Even though the three ladies were riding the Metro in their underwears (shout-out to little kids who say it plural because—two leg holes), it was for a kinkyless purpose.

The trio was from the Free State Roller Derby team, and they were pretty kind and friendly. We chatted, I got some sound for work, passed out a business card or two.

Months later, one of them dropped me an email inviting me to cover their season opener in Rockville, Md.–and a reminder to think about joining the league.

So I pitched the season opener story idea to the weekend managing editor–and it was a go!

Here’s what I learned in a nutshell—FSRD is almost nine years old, and they have a training program for newbies to get acclimated to derby-style skating. The new folks are called Fresh Meat, and before they can bout, they have to be able to skate a certain number of laps around the derby track—I think it’s 27 or so. Fresh Meat members are also taught other things, including how to fall–kind of like boxing, where you’re taught how to take a punch.  They assess their skills before letting them join a bout.

A couple of the ladies I spoke to said they were turned on to roller derby from the Drew Barrymore-directed movie Whip It. I’ve never seen it, but I must do so after the raves I heard today!

So question is… Should I try to join the league? It’s been several years, but I know I can hold my own on some skates…but derby style? I’d probably fracture my whole clumsy body. I’ve been described as lithe and graceful, but do not be deceived. Clumsy has always tread just beneath the surface.

On My Block: A peek into the neighborhood with humor and gravitas

(LA -LA STATE OF MIND)—Hometown is a big place for me. Heck, I’m from Los Angeles. Ain’t nothin’ small about it. I live in the DC area now, but whenever I get homesick and am stuck between plane tickets, count on me looking for movies with those damn trees in the air.

But the Netflix series called On My Block dropped into my lap instead. And I let it stay awhile. The opening track by Daye Jack had me at hello.

On My Block immediately gave me the Friday feels—with a lado de la vida en South Central Los Angeles. And the first two minutes hooked me.

However, and this doesn’t happen often, nine minutes in, my thoughts degraded quick-fast. “This show is corny AF. What’s up with this dialogue. Ain’t no way these characters come up out the hood,” I scrunched my face.

Continue reading On My Block: A peek into the neighborhood with humor and gravitas

Memorable afternoons sans pants

Every so often I really love how I spend an afternoon. Today, I got to observe and follow dozens of people who took part in DC’s 2018 version of The No Pants Subway Ride.

Every year for the past decade or so, DC Improv has hosted its own iteration of the No Pants Subway ride which started in New York in 2002 as a prank by a group of guys.

Now, it’s held in January in several cities around the globe—all on the same day.

And today was cold AF. See, a good portion of the East Coast is trying to wriggle it self free from a cold snap that has gripped it by the throat for the past week or so.

I can’t say I know what it’s like to ride public transportation in my panties. And I can’t say that I will ever find out what that is like. Knowing how I am wired, that probably t’ain’t neva gon’ happen.

But what I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed watching a diverse group of human beings… Of different races, ethnicities, I’m guessing they all held different beliefs, jobs and the like… But as one person I spoke to today told me… They’re all just “weird” enough to do something like this and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

It was cool to recognize a few faces from last year. Like the blogger from Baltimore, the guy who dressed up as a character from The Walking Dead, and the older gentleman who is a self-described nudist.

And there are the folks I met this year—the roller derby ladies, the man toting a briefcase who was mostly dressed for work except pants, and the woman who participated to celebrate her 45th birthday.

Good times!

Nah, I may never drop my pants to ride Metro in my drawers, but I definitely appreciate folks who have the courage to do so.

Giants will fall, that’s the way of the world

It’s not going to stop.  It’s the order of things, the circle of this hard life, the order of the world.  Somewhere on earth, seems it’s always a time for the giants to keep falling.  Our elders pass away, take leave of earth—sometimes way too soon—and many are left behind to mourn and remember.

Jerry Lewis (1926–2017) was part of my childhood movie reel.

With all the foolishness that’s going on these chaotic days, it’s good to keep humor in the scabbard of sharpened coping mechanisms to help maneuver through the world with sanity intact.

As a child, Jerry Lewis movies gave me plenty of laughs and taught me that the underdog nerd-guy/person really can win.   And that was music to my soul.  Music I still need to hear every now and again.

I got a kick out of the slapstick comedy, but my favorite scene of all his movies is from “The Patsy.

Can’t say why this portion of the movie tickles my funny bone, and has done so since I was 10 years old or so.  Maybe it’s because the trio wasn’t what I expected.  Don’t know what I expected to see as a 10-year-old, but that sure wasn’t it.

Lewis’ annual telethon to benefit muscular dystrophy is another thing I’ll remember.  I hated telethons as a child, and did all I could to avoid them.  But even so, what stuck with me is that this star-figure, who could be doing anything with his time, chose to raise funds for research to benefit others. Because I hardly ever watched, I never picked up on reasons others weren’t fans of the annual event.

But what cemented Lewis as a funny, but curmudgeonly figure in my mind is this Hollywood Reporter interview.  First of all, I don’t know why someone granted this interview.  He wasn’t having it.  And let the whole world know.  And it made me laugh.  But made me feel for the reporter.

Tidying up ‘sholl hasn’t changed my life yet, but it’s getting there.

Paper wrangling will change your life. I must be honest, I haven’t seen any extreme life-changing effects yet… only in my mind. I’m feeling that tidying magic. It’s even affected how I organize my purchase products while standing in the Target checkout line.

I usually just plunked my stuff on the conveyer belt. But I find myself organizing the simplest things to appear neat and tidy. For example, my few items just had to be organized in a perfect rectangle. Maybe that’s a symptom of an underlying disorder. Maybe not, because that sure hasn’t totally invaded my paper organization just yet.

Keep swimming like Dory… just don’t forget your goal. Click To Tweet
If you haven’t hired an organization expert and are thumbing your way through this book day by day as your real life revolves around you (laundry, grocery/brocery shopping, dishes, cooking, Game of Thrones, Insecure, kicking yourself for just this year realizing how bomb The Wire and Treme really were) here are some tips to keep moving forward. They’re not necessarily gospel, just based on my victories and foibles.

  1. Make a daily, doable list of what you will accomplish each day. Make each task bite-sized. That way, it won’t be overwhelming for you. If you want to focus on one thing focus on one. I’d recommend no more than three things.
  2. Focus on the list each day. The book recommends doing the discarding “in one go,” but that isn’t always practical for folks whose lives involve many moving parts. If “in one go” doesn’t work for you, break up the KonMari list into mini sections, and tackle those bite-sized items “in one go.” Gobble them like mini-bite muffins.
  3. Try not to get discouraged. I’m still working on getting my pile of papers shredded. My shredder is wack. I’m working with what I have. Here’s what keeps me going, though. It’s not if the pile is done, but when. There are no ifs ands or buts about this. It’s getting done. If I tackle this thing in bite-sized pieces, while keeping control of my incoming papers, I’ll get there.
  4. Schedule periodic days where you dive into the pile to significantly reduce it and propel you toward the goal. Pick a series of weekends to tackle the mountain if the “one bite a day” method won’t work for you. Just keep moving forward. Get. It. Done.

 

One man-play about late Supreme Court Justice is Thorough(ly)good

A one person play. Haven’t been to very many of these, and was a tad skeptical after accepting an opening night invitation to a production about the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

How in the world would a one-man play keep my attention for 90 minutes? I doubted it was possible. But I was open to the idea, else I wouldn’t have left home for Olney Theatre Center as the rain fell that evening.

Curiosity is what drove me through that rainfall.  I wanted to see if I’d learn a little something-something new about the first black United States Supreme Court Justice. I had never seen a play about Thurgood Marshall. Never read a book about him either. Never have really done much study about him aside from Brown v. Board of education section in history books, and an occasional browsing of the Internet. Outside of that, my knowledge about this legal icon of the civil rights movement was paltry.

Didn’t know his first name was Thoroughgood before he shortened it to Thurgood.

Didn’t know he was married two times. Didn’t know his first wife died of cancer at age 44. Didn’t know they dealt with a few miscarriages.

I did know he went to Howard University because the University of Maryland law school didn’t admit tax-paying black folks because of their blackness. In place, ostensibly, was a separate but (not) equal facility for training black lawyers. Some tried to pass it off as good enough.

But it wasn’t. And Thurgood Marshall became a force of intention to change that by using the law as a weapon to achieve actual equal justice under the law instead of some oppressive, inequitable, pseudo-facsimile. After all, those words “Equal Justice Under Law” were (and still are) engraved into the front of the Supreme Court building.

The theater was cozy and intimate, and the actor who portrayed Marshall, Brian Anthony Wilson, managed to pull in this one-man-play doubter and convince her that even her (my) attention could be held for 90 minutes with one man talking the whole time.

And Justice Marshall’s theatrical mouthpiece reeled me in from start to finish. First he’s as an older gentleman, slightly lumbering and leaning on a cane, then memories spring forth along with a more animated, agile gait in tandem with lively words, Wilson-as-Marshall leads a trip back in time to his younger years.

Childhood in Baltimore.
College days.
Rejection by the University of Maryland School of Law.
Howard University Law days.
The footwork required to build what would become Brown v. Board of Education case.
Marriage and sacrifices.
His first wife’s death.
His second marriage and children.
Supreme Court appointment.

That’s a sketch of what the play covers in 90 minutes. However, there are so many events, solemn and defining moments, and slathers of good humor in between those lines. And a reminder, in my mind, that while the law can intentionally be used as a weapon to bring about justice for all, it can also be wielded, depending on the benched interpreter, as a weapon to roll back the march toward justice for all.

I hate to end on that depressing note, so I’ll end with a surprise:

As I left a post-play reception, I opened the doors on my way out of the main theater building.  Two people were also opening the doors in the opposite direction.
Well, whaddya know? One of them was “Thurgood!” Or Brian Anthony Wilson. And he consented to a selfie! 🙂

Lookie who I ran into on my way out of the building? Theatrical Thurgood!

Check it out Thurgood at Only Theatre Center!
By: George Stevens, Jr.
Directed by:  Walter Dallas
July 19-August 20
Tickets: $55-$70. (Prices depend on selected day/time.)

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