Tag Archives: Washington

Global cooling

It’s July in Washington. The weather is forecast to be sunny and 90 degrees, with 40 percent humidity, for the next 10 days. Ah, sweater weather!

This time of year, I don’t go anywhere, except maybe the beach, without a sweater.

Now that we finally have central air in our home, I sometimes put my bathrobe on over my clothes.

Don’t get me wrong; I welcomed A/C with open, goosebumped arms. It’s great. I sleep like a baby.

But overall, I feel that air conditioning is overdone. Do humans really need to spend their days and nights in 65-degree temperatures? I don’t know about you, but too much A/C makes my nose run, gives me a headache and makes my muscles ache. Can we just tone it down a little and maybe save the planet in the meantime?

The last office in which I worked was like a walk-in refrigerator. While my burly Norwegian colleague controlled the thermostat on our hallway, our boss came in every morning and did a Mister Rogers ritual, exchanging suit jacket for cardigan sweater. Everywhere I go—the mall, the grocery store, the movie theater, church, any hospital, every office building, every airplane, airport and restaurant—the air is cranked so high (or is it low?) that I can barely function without cover. When I travel, I carry a big shawl that doubles as a blanket. I can’t recall a flight in the last few years on which I haven’t buried myself under it. I’d wear gloves and a nosebag if I thought to pack them.

Are there any environmental scientists or engineers out there who can tell me how much energy could be saved by bumping up thermostats up a few degrees? Wouldn’t businesses also save huge amounts of money? Could we put a dent in our nation’s economic and environmental troubles with a simple flip of a switch?

If you agree, let’s huddle together and make it happen.


Filed under Health, Rants and Raves, Travel

Homeless, not heartless

Last night, three of us went out with The Salvation Army to feed homeless people who congregate on grates and street corners in Washington, D.C.

This is something my husband, son and I have done off and on for years, as part of a church ministry. My son first went out when he was eight years old.

One of my fellow volunteers has written an account of the evening on his blog, so I won’t try and tell the story again; I’ll simply encourage you to read it.

Dennis is correct that, according to my husband and me, this was not a normal night on a Grate Patrol run. The two major differences were that there were fewer homeless people out (and he was right, the city had been swept in an advance of this weekend’s festivities) and that we were serving out of a small car rather than a large van. Perhaps a third difference was that, at times, we were serving in heavy rain and lightning.

Recently, I was reading the newsletter of the Georgetown Ministry Center, another organization that helps the District’s homeless. In the most recent issue, GMC’s executive director, who always provides an informed view into homelessness that few of us have, addressed the perception of homelessness. This struck me. Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve picked the piece up and read it, and re-read it, wondering how I might share it with people who have varying perceptions and views about homelessness.

I feel his perspective merits consideration:

I once heard a young woman walking down M Street say, “They have a lot of bums here.”

Bums? These bums are our failure. They are people with complicated mental illness who have no insight into their condition. They are brothers, sisters, uncles, nieces, and sons and daughters. They are people with broken brains who should no more be wandering the streets on their own than a six-year-old.

Our society needs to take responsibility for this problem for all that it is. This is the important point. Those bums are unable to take care of themselves! The laws that govern civil commitment need to be expanded to recognize that someone with an impaired reality is not making a sound judgment when choosing to live on the street and eat from a garbage can. Where it is evident that people are making really bad decisions because of a mental illness or other brain disorder, we need better legal mechanisms to step in and help redirect their lives. Those mechanisms must be sensitive and well thought out and have limits, but we need them if we are going to make an impact on homelessness in our country.

The people under bridges, through all that dirt and shaggy hair and ragged clothes, are human beings disconnected from family and home by mental illness.

-Gunther Stern

Dennis and Gunther are both correct. People arrive at homelessness via many paths. Here in the Washington area, as in other areas, a large number come from severe mental illness. There are many places in the United States where homelessness either doesn’t exist or is invisible, so the people who come from these places, when they visit Washington or other cities, react with shock, fear, denial, disgust or judgment.

Homelessness is not a problem that be solved by any one of us alone or by any single institution. At a minimum, though, we as human beings should be aware that there are other human beings who suffer from things we may never understand. But we’re all human beings.


Filed under Uncategorized

Y’all come

We all form impressions of the places we visit, based on how we’re treated by the locals. There are many stereotypes: New Yorkers are impatient and rude. Parisians are snooty. Washingtonians are self-important blow-hards. Based on my experience, with only the fewest exceptions, these stereotypes couldn’t be further from reality.

Our nation’s capital is host to millions of tourists. The crowds can be overwhelming, for them and for us. Our grid can be confusing and our subway system can be intimidating to the unfamiliar. I try to be a gracious host by making visitors feel welcome and helping them find their way around along the streets or on the Metro. I know I’m not alone.

As we approach a big holiday weekend, I would like to share a letter to the editor that appeared in The Washington Post yesterday and remind all of us who live in tourist destinations how much visitors appreciate a little hospitality.

Mickey and Nancy Choppa of Queensbury, N.Y.,  wrote:

“We just spent a week in Washington, and its residents have renewed our faith in people. Our first trip on the Metro brought confusion, but a man approached us to ask where we wanted to go. We told him, and he directed us to the proper train. This happened frequently during the week — without our asking for help, it was offered often. Whenever we seemed at a loss, someone would ask if he or she could help.

“The icing on the cake came the day after we got home: We received a letter with a Washington return address. As we don’t know anyone there, we were curious.

“In the envelope was our luggage tag and a note saying that the writer found it on the street and thought we would like it back.

“Who does this? I called the woman, thanked her and said that she was an example of the fine residents of her fair city. Thank you, residents of Washington, for making our trip wonderful.”

This letter didn’t surprise me one bit. We really are nice people. Come see us!

Note: Last summer, Washington Post columnist John Kelly published some tips for Washington tourists to follow in order to get along better with the locals. It wasn’t penned in very welcoming tone, but if you follow even one or two, we’ll be extra extra nice.

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Filed under News, Politics, Travel

Bottomless skit

As a native of Washington, D.C., I have always thought the nation’s capital could take some lessons from New York City. Fashion. Taxicab regulation. Pizza. Liverwurst on rye.

Unfortunately, it seems that, several years ago, Washington took a tradition from the Big Apple and planted it right here inside the Beltway. C’mon. I’d rather have the liverwurst.

Sunday afternoon, between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m., Washingtonians observed their fourth annual No Pants Metro Ride by boarding the subway and peeling off their pants. Organizers rallied riders via Facebook and other social media, instructing them to act as if nothing were wrong as they rode past all the popular tourist stops. Amusing, I suppose, as temperatures stayed mostly in the 20s. The stunt paid off for riders who took advantage of a local eatery’s offer of half-priced hamburgers for half-dressed patrons.

Those who know me know that I can’t even bear to sit next to someone wearing shorts on an airplane. The thought of spending Sunday afternoon in a crowded subway car awash in goosebumpy, pale, shivering, shrinking flesh made me glad to have been, well, anywhere else.

Now, D.C., can’t we find a more mature way to be like New York?


Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Rants and Raves, Sports and Recreation, Technology and Social Media, Travel

Tale of two cities

This is a tale of two movies.

Last weekend, like many Washingtonians, I rushed to see Fair Game, the tale of an investigation into the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which, through a series of political and media responses, led to the outing of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. International intrigue. Political power plays. Criminal charges against a White House official. It’s a true story set in the nation’s capital and cities around the world.

Washingtonians like movies set in our back yard. We are eager to see if the movie-makers got it right—the geography, the photography, the historiography.

 I wonder whether, in other cities, Fair Game is getting as much love at the box office as, oh, I don’t know, anything else.

Saturday night, I arrived at the theater 35 minutes before show time to find the movie already sold out. I envied my fellow wonks who would be nestled comfortably in their stadium seats, taking in the talent of Sean Penn in the role of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, Plame’s husband, who played a pivotal role in this historic real-life drama. I immediately got tickets for Sunday.

In the meantime, though, I was already in a movie mood. So I drove to my local shopping mall and saw Morning Glory, about a fictitious national morning news show. I’ve always thought it would be fun to work in broadcast news so, for me, this movie was a fantasy. Obviously, it takes place in New York, a city I love but know only as an outsider. A fantasy story taking place in a fantasy city.

For this reason, I didn’t concern myself with believability or accuracy or geography for that matter. I didn’t wonder if a taxi transporting a character six blocks can drive from Point A to Point B without crossing three boroughs, or whether or not a station can deviate from its scheduled programming to air a live feed from an hour away on three seconds’ notice. It’s fantasy; I don’t care.

So Morning Glory was amusing and entertaining—because all I had to do was sit back, get an artificial glimpse into the TV news business and munch popcorn. And try not to wonder whether the message was a lampoon or defense of what network morning programs have become.

Sunday it was back to Washington and back to reality with Fair Game. I found the movie to be very well done, the acting superb. There was one little geographic inaccuracy.

Joe Wilson hopped in a cab and asked to be taken to The Palisades. Before long, an overly chatty cab driver got on Wilson’s nerves and Wilson asked the driver to pull over. “I’ll walk,” he said. As he got out of the cab, we see that he is at the U.S. Capitol–seven miles from The Palisades.

It wasn’t fun to relive such an unfortunate event in U.S. history and I left feeling uncomfortable. But at least it was about something real. Two thumbs up.

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics

Weekend in Washington

And so goes another weekend. Another Halloween. Another Marine Corps Marathon. Another Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Another October, gone.

My ears are still ringing from the flip-flip-flip of calendar pages turning in animation, the door bell ringing, endless political ads and the oohs and ows following my husband’s excellent Marathon performance. Thank goodness I Restored my Sanity.

As far as the Rally, which by the way was an absolute blast, you’ve no doubt read the news, watched the television coverage and seen the 100 Best Signs, so there’s not much I can add. Except my favorite sign: “Take it off CAPS LOCK.”

I trust the weekend provided the District of Columbia’s economy with a big burst of stimulus, thanks to the Rally on Saturday, Marathon on Sunday and traditionally huge crowds in Georgetown Sunday night.

I outgrew Halloween in Georgetown many years ago. Instead, I spent the evening on our front porch, in a rocker, wrapped in a blanket, Elvis the cat in my lap. The trick-or-treaters thought he was part of my costume. Crazy Cat Lady.

Nearly 500 revelers came to our door dressed in about 40 different costumes. In addition to the usual witches, cats, fairy princesses and superheroes, there were emergent, yet unfamiliar themes that proved I am not seeing enough movies or playing enough video games. Don’t tell my nephews I asked this, but what in heaven’s galaxy is a clone trooper?

If I could give out prizes, I’d reward all the kids wearing homemade costumes—including a pair of 1920s flappers, a set of black and white Siamese twins and a foursome of six-year-old Mafia men.

But my favorite comes from the only-in-Washington category. He was a little guy dressed in a suit and tie, pressed white shirt, good dress shoes and a leather briefcase.

He was a lobbyist.


Filed under Holidays, Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics

Not the end of the world

You may have noticed that Word Nymph didn’t post yesterday.

Following 100 consecutive daily posts (except Sundays), the streak was broken yesterday by a series of outages here in the Washington, D.C., area.  The irony is that yesterday I had planned to send out a hello-world-I’m-here notice about the 100th post.  The one person who asked me yesterday, “hey, where’s my blog?” pointed out that one never says a word when one is on any kind of a streak.  Like a pitcher headed toward a perfect game, I learned that I was about to speak too soon about Word Nymph‘s streak.

I don’t know if our power and cable outages made national news–because I have no TV service.  Internet comes and goes, and it was reported this morning that it could be some time before power is restored to the region.  The Washington area takes enough heat about its drivers.  You can only imagine what happens at a dark intersection.  Most of us are aware that, by law, intersections without working traffic lights are to be treated as four-way stops but, in typical Washington fashion, there is wide interpretation.

Please accept my apologies for yesterday’s lapse.  Most readers are now thinking, there was a lapse?

I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but it’s just too good not to share. 

I’ll first say that my neighborhood didn’t lose power; we seldom do.  We’re a little unexplained oasis.  But we lost cable Sunday afternoon.  Around the region, trees snapped like matchsticks all over our county, taking power lines and, tragically, the life of a young boy who could not get out of the way in time.

Yesterday morning, determined to not break the Word Nymph streak, I set out to find Internet.  I first drove to the home of my aunt and uncle, to use their Internet and also pick up a bee removal suit my husband wanted to borrow.  I arrived at their house to find a note taped to their door: No power, no phone service, no cell service, back later.  I decided to try and find them to make sure they were all right.  Given the downed trees and power lines and dark intersections, driving was a challenge.  I drove to five places I thought they might be riding out the crisis–my aunt’s nail salon, her health club, Macy’s, the movie theater and Starbucks.  I planned Starbucks for last so I could settle in and use the wireless.  Everything was closed–including Starbucks. 

I went home, resigned to the unavailability of Internet and worried about my aunt and uncle, and went out back to clean up the storm debris.  As I was filling a large bag with broken limbs, I looked up to see another large bag being hurled toward me from over the six-foot fence.  I approached it cautiously, as I had been feeling all day that this might just be the end of the world.  I peeked inside and saw something wrapped in netting.  It was a bee removal suit.

I opened the gate to find my aunt and uncle.  I told them I had been worried sick and had looked everywhere I could think they might be.  I scolded them, “Where have you been?!” 

“Holy Cross Hospital,” my aunt said.  I hadn’t thought to try the hospital. 

“Are you all right?  What were you doing at the hospital?”

“Getting coffee.”


Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas