Friday, May 28, 2010

Paul on riding through DC history

Paul on Riding Through History

"I was born in Camp Pendelton, California. I came to the D.C. area in 1968. My Dad was in the Marine Corps and just came back from Vietnam and was stationed to Marine headquarters. I was in the 5th grade, so I followed him. I went away to college and finally finished last year. I was on the 34 year plan and finally finished with a degree in biology at George Mason.

"Growing up in Virginia, my Mom would take us to lunch or dinner every Christmas in the District. I didn't get my real feeling of the District until I started working on the Hill during college. In my time here, I got to see Washington from a lot of different perspectives. I have done all kinds of work here. I have worked in the bowels of the beast on K Street and on the Hill. I have done stuff at the homeless shelters and seen that side of Washington. D.C. is a very diverse place. One of my favorite studies is by the Brookings Institute called Polyglot Washington, it says that 21% of the people who live in this city do not speak English as a first language at home.

"I started driving a pedi-cab in July of 2009. I really love D.C. and think that I am a permanent tourist here. There are so many worlds in this 60 square miles area.There is a lot to see and know in Washington and I am always learning. Many of us don't realize that we are walking, or riding, through history every day here. When I have passengers, I like to know where people work and what their interests are, so I can tailor the tour to what they like. The great percentage of people that I pick up and take on tours are nice, honest folks who share my love of Washington. Every once in a while, I get a few bad apples.

"I have been all around the world and Washington D.C. in the spring is probably the most beautiful place in the world. And I am not just talking about the cherry blossoms. Look at all of this beauty around us. This place is really amazing."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why are there no hi-rise buildings in DC? From our Uncle John, the Catholic priest who married us.

Do you know what it means?
One detail that is never mentioned is that in Washington , D.C. there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument ..

On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. , are displayed two words: Laus Deo.

These words have been there for many years; they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of our nation, overlooking the ~69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia , capitol of the United States of America.
So, what do those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean? Very simply, they say ' Praise be to God!'
Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848, when James Polk was President of the United States , it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public.

From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors may take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division into four major segments. From that vantage point, one can also easily see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l'Enfant ....a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north. The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.
Praise be to God! Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings.. As one climbs the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message.

On the 12th Landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore ;

on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians;

on the 24th a presentation

made by Sunday School children from New York and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7 , Luke 18:16 and Proverbs 22:6 .. Praise be to God!

When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848 deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society. Praise be to God! Such was the discipline, the moral direction, and the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of our unique democracy 'One Nation, Under God.'

I am awed by Washington 's prayer for America . Have you ever read it? Well, now is your unique opportunity, so read on!

' Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.'

Laus Deo!
When one stops to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation's capitol, he or she will easily find the signature of God, as it is unmistakably inscribed everywhere you look.. You may forget the width and height of 'Laus Deo ', its location, or the architects but no one who reads this will be able to forget its meaning, or these words: 'Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain' (Psalm 127: 1)

Judy, the Killington realtor, a Mom and her son and the Japanese American WWII Patriotism Memorial.

Christopher Isherwood said,"I am a camera."  As I drive the pedicab around DC many amazing and different people come into my visual field. At Jefferson I picked up a spry Judy Storch from my favorite East Coast ski spot, Killington, VT.  She sells real estate there, Killington Valley Real Estate and worked on the slopes for years. Took her the long way back to the Marriot on "effin 9th Street" past the monument to Japanese American Patriotism in WWII with the eagle ensnared in the barbed wire, like the miles of barbed wire we strung to pen in Japanese-Americans in concentration camps away from the coasts so they couldn't help in a possible invasion.

I took a young man there studying art in college and showed him and his mother the sculpture of eagle and the barbed wire and the oriental tubular gong that wasn't quite working. Mentioned as I dropped him off at Union Station that we still have a Puritan strain here as those Centurion didn't have shields in front of them when erected. He gave me a big hug when I told him to follow his bliss, make the best art he could,  and that the rest of his life belonged to him. His Mom gave me a big tip, and that felt good too after a slow day.

Next I have to post about Uncle John's email on why the Washington monument is the highest edifice in DC ....

Saturday, May 8, 2010

One Step Ahead of Hitler author Fred Gross (and his 3 granddaughters)

Much of what I do driving around the Mall is to give simple directions between the various Smithsonian Museums. So a nice looking family with a stroller asked me where Air & Space Museum was from Natural History. After I pointed across the Mall diagonally, the middle aged Mom and Dad put grandpa and three little girls in the pedicab and asked me to meet them there.
I give everyone a tour, even if it is 100 yards and try to engage them. Grandpa was a writer, Fred Gross, here from Kentucky to do a book signing at the Holocaust Museum 1-4pm. I think I'll go.
Or as Santayana wrote, "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."- Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur - "man's inhumanity to man", my Mom used to shake her head and say. Will it ever end!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Discovering the Shaw neighborhood via pedicab: 3 quotes about travel

Sometimes, no, often, we pass by and through places and never really see or know them. Yesterday, I had the privileged of taking three dynamic women on a larger group tour of the Shaw neighborhood. Arranged by Danny Cochrane of National Pedicabs and Alexander M Pedro, Executive Director of Shaw Main Streets, we started our three hour tour in front of the Carnegie Library between 7th and 9th Streets across from the Convention Center.

A convoy of pedicabs started out in front of the library, through an alley where the movie "Being There" was shot with Peter Sellers, and then to one of the oldest liquor stores in the area. There, the tour members (NOT pedicab drivers!) sampled mint juleps in honor of the Kentucky Derby. Next we went to Chatman's D'Vine bakery and cafe and sampled their cupcakes and sweet potato pie.

We stopped at Azi's for more delicious samples, and then an amazing bed & breakfast that was so chocked full of amazing artwork it reminded me of a mix between William Randolph Hurst's San Simeon castle (Rosebud?) in a brownstone rowhouse. We ended at a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant, Asefu's Yegna restaurant with excellent lentil and beef snacks.

So where did the name "Shaw" come from? Remember the movie "Glory" about an African American brigade during the Civil War? Matthew Broderick played the white commander, Shaw, of this brigade.

And 3 quotes animate my perception of travel: First, Mark Twain, "Nothing is more dangerous to prejudice than travel."
Second, Henry David Thoreau,"I have traveled extensively in Concord."
Third, T.S. Eliot from Four Quartets, "We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Quote from sociobiologist EO WIlson's new book Anthill

"He constructed a broader context in which he drew a picture of humanity, and of himself. The image was at first vague, but grew thereafter steadily in clarity. In time he understood that nature was not something outside the human world. The reverse is true. Nature is the real world, and humanity exists on islands within it."