Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Skyline Drive in Autumn

My friend's mother, Joyce, has been coming to America for years but had never seen the fall colors on the Skyline Drive, so undaunted by threatening weather, we headed down on Saturday morning. Showers fell on us as we drove, but we remained optimistic as we speculated that there would be less cars due to the poor weather but also, the colors of the leaves would be more vibrant. There were no queues as we entered the park and we were in wonder as we realized that we seemed to have our own crazy weather system up here.

As we entered we drove into what we thought was fog, until a little logic taught us that we were in clouds. It was a strange experience but beautiful. We slowly moved forward until we burst out into bright sunshine and azure skies with the clouds tumbling past us in the breeze.

The Blue Ridge Mountains never looked so wonderful and we were both in awe that we were fortunate to witness this. One minute, we had bright sunshine, another, it was raining, and at other times, we were blanketed by clouds. As we drove down the road stopping at every vista, we were never sure what weather would greet us around the next corner.

I took this photo of an Amish family visiting and hoped they wouldn't be too mad at me as I know they are reluctant photo subjects.
We stopped for lunch at Skyland and ran to the restaurant to escape the rain and the now strong winds, but strangely enough, it wasn't cold. I was actually too warm in my long sleeved hoodie.

We ordered lunch with a hot ginger brandy cider each which was delicious. Joyce afterwards grabbed some souveniers from the shop and then we headed back to the car.

We turned around about 4pm and travelled back the way we came marveling how different the scenery was from a different perspective. We saw deer as we approached the park exit as it was now approaching dusk and the wildlife were starting to venture out for food.

We had been very lucky with the weather all afternoon but now the skies were starting to darken and look stormy so after a brief gas stop in Sperryville, we headed for home.

We made one stop in Warrenton as I'd spotted this cool retro ice cream bar and wanted some photos. Again luck was on our side as it had a sign up declaring '2 days left', meaning that Sunday would be its last open day until next summer.
We had hardly any traffic on the way home, and by 8:30pm, I was snuggled up at home with the Kota Kat and a glass of red, for precisely half an hour as I had to edit these photos!

A Rainy Weekend

Last weekend comprised of rain all day Saturday continuing into part of Sunday. I spent a large part of Saturday reading or watching old movies and our plans to revisit a power station in PA on Sunday were abandoned because nobody relished the thought of driving for over 3 hours each way in the rain.
Instead, we went to an abandoned mental hospital in Maryland which we had heard had tight security. Sure enough, when we arrived a patrol car was perched on top of the hill scrutinizing every vehicle that passed.

Established in 1888, it was initially known as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded and only closed in June of this year. It would only admit white children of ages 7 - 17 years who were then taught farming or domestic skills. As with many of these institutes, it eventually became overcrowded and stories of neglect and abuse ensued.
We drove around the complex noting that all buildings were tightly secured but there was still an sad and lonely atmosphere to the place and the older buildings were beautiful constructions.

There was still some snow on the grounds from the night before and a chill wind nudged us as we walked over the grass. We managed to grab a few shots and were considering entering a building which had an open door when the security van hurtled around the corner heading towards us. I was a little concerned as a friend of mine had previously received a citation just from walking these grounds. We approached the van and I smiled broadly as he lowered his window and I spotted his box of mostly eaten doughnuts on the passenger seat. He started off by berating us but I continued smiling and asked what would become of the site. He then turned into chat mode and informed us that although the newer buildings would be razed to the ground, the older structures would be preserved and that some of the area may become parkland. He then warned us to stay on the paved roads and let us be.

We proceeded to trundle around the grounds taking photos but not leaving the car. After about 15 minutes, our security car appeared again looking sterner and told us we should be on the 'main' roads, not the 'paved' roads. He then escorted us back to the main road so we decided to call it a day and not provoke him further.As we left, we looked back to see him resume his perch on top of the hill.
As the day was still young, we decided to play safe and head to Baltimore and revisit the old clothing factory again.

These colorful row houses really stood out in an area that has been neglected and now has many boarded up or collapsed houses.

We took some shots inside the factory and was pleased to see that still it hasn't been destroyed by graffiti artists or vandals. A few more scattered coats were the only signs of activity on the two floors.

We headed up to the roof looking over the decay of the neighboring area, then headed for our customary beers and food in a warm cheerful pub.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Steady Rain on Broadway

Sunday couldn't come round soon enough. I had been waiting for weeks to see a play on Broadway starring Daniel Craig. There are only two men in this world whom I've adored for more than 20 years. Gerard Depardieu is one of them and Daniel Craig is the other. The first thing I saw him in was during the mid 80's, a TV movie called Moll Flanders in which he played her one true love. He was spanking gawgeous and I said at the time he would go far. Imagine my joy when he became James Bond and then the opportunity to see him in the flesh was almost too much. I was almost bouncing as I boarded the bus with a couple of friends to head up to NYC.

We only had a very short walk once we alighted the bus, through the fashion district and Times Square, then we were there. The funky little cars above were being driven by Elvis lookalikes. I must also apologize for the quality of these images. I didn't take my camera, in fear of it being confiscated, so these photos are from my iPhone or stolen from the web.

The theater! The queues went so far down the street that staff from neighboring theaters had to come to keep the lines in order.

I forgot to mention that Hugh Jackman was also in the play, but he's not on my HOT list.
In fact, the play consisted of just these two men, and two chairs on the stage. They portrayed two police officers who had grown up together and were best friends. Discussing an evening where an incident caused a domino effect of events that threw their lives into disorder and terror changing both of their destinies. It was awesome, outstanding, and they thoroughly deserved the standing ovation with whoops and cheers, many from me with some kisses thrown in.

Immediately afterwards I bought my t-shirt and keychain, then we went outside to join the throng who were hoping for a glimpse of them and possibly an autograph as they came out to their cars.

We had to keep quiet since a play was in progress across the street, so when Steven Spielberg came out with his children, there weren't very many cheers. Daniel Craig is going to be in his next movie, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. The place erupted when Hugh and Daniel came out and I just about managed to catch both of them as they climbed into their cars. As Daniel's car came past me on the kerb, I yelled, 'Hey, Daniel!', waving. He met my eyes and smiled back, I nearly fell over. He had been less than 3 feet away from me!
We went to a restaurant to have dinner before we boarded the bus back to DC. That day, we had spent nearly 9 hours on a bus in order to watch this play. It had been worth every minute.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Red Dress Run DC 2009

On Saturday, Barb, Emily and I met up to see some friends off when they started the Red Dress Run, and then to go up to the Mall and check out the solar homes built there and possibly attend the Green Festival. Things turned out very differently...

We started off walking down to the Titanic Memorial on the river front as this statue was the influence for Kate Winslet's pose in the Titanic movie. Easy to see why.
We then walked around the fish market before meeting up on Tim's boat to drink beers until Tony who was running in the race was ready.

We had a lovely lazy time sitting, drinking and chatting while watching the ducks and seagulls. Finally Tony and his crew were ready so we started towards the pub where the race was starting from.

Everyone looked lovely in their outfits and we took plenty of photos. We turned around the corner and were immediately surrounded by hundreds of people in red dresses. Emily had left to volunteer by this time so Barb, Tim and I were the only people in regular garb, but nobody seemed to mind. I mingled with the crowd, my shutter snapping furiously. The noise was deafening and every face was smiling or laughing. Some new 'hashers' were being christened with their new names and I noticed many people had necklaces on bearing their hasher names. I have to admit that I'm very proud this excellent tradition was originally started by Brits and the Red Dress Run which is now a popular hashing event was started by a woman in San Diego.

Everybody was amazingly friendly and more than happy to have their photos taken. The mood was very infectious and I made a mental note that I would have to consider taking part next year. I climbed onto a bollard to get a better view of the crowd and then as I turned, was amazed to see Tim had acquired a dress himself and was going to run the course.
 He struck a pose with Uncle John, and so it seemed Barb and I would have to follow to document this event, and the Green Festival was immediately postponed for the day.
The hares had left earlier so the course was now set. Everybody started running or walking and the surrounding streets became a sea of bobbing red dresses.

Barb and I hurried to catch up and caught sight of some red dresses by the Nationals Stadium, along with Tony and his friends.After a few side streets, we arrived at our destination, The Crucible, which is an adult club!

The place was jumping and for all hashers, there was copious amounts of free beer. Most of the sex toys and paraphernalia had been hidden away, but there were still plenty of odd seats and photos on the wall. It was quite an eye opener.

The party spilled outside onto the sidewalk with everyone greeting and introducing each other. It was a fabulous atmosphere. After a couple of hours, most of the hashers made their way back to the waterfront where food awaited at the bar. Barb and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and not once did anyone make a comment about our lack of correct apparel. Maybe the big cameras helped, but we spoke to a lot of people who I'd love to see again next year. It will be on the cards, watch this space!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Glen Echo, MD

On Sunday, I headed over to Glen Echo Park which used to be an amusement park in the early 1900's and before that a National Chautauqua Assembly, which taught the sciences, arts, languages, and literature from 1891. Today the park is used for arts and culture but retains many of the old buildings.
There used to be a pool, a roller coaster, amusement rides and a ballroom. The only transport used was a trolley which brought people to the park from Georgetown since there were no cars back then.

The Cuddle Up was a 'teacup' ride and the building behind used to house a shooting gallery and other attractions. The Dodgems has survived but is now used as a dance floor while the Spanish Ballroom has been fully restored. This was built in 1933 with Bill Haley & the Comets, Lawrence Welk, Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw being some of the big names playing there.

It was brought back to restoration and maintained mainly by Stan Fowler who after spending many years at the park was moved to another despite complaints from the ballroom's users and the public. I read about him in the Washington Post and wanted to see the floor he spent so much of his time on.
Near the ballroom is another wonderful attraction, the Dentzel Carousel, which was installed in 1921, but nearly moved to California until the local community raised funds to buy and donate it to the National Park Service.

It took 20 years for the Carousel to be fully restored and was finished in 2003. Unfortunately, the building closed for the winter only a few days before I got there so I was only able to peer through the window.

There are also artist studios here with a glass works and a pottery. One artist who caught my eye was J. Jordan Bruns who drew the graphite drawings above. I thought they were better than Escher.

In 1972 six yurts were added to the park which are cupcake buildings used by the artists. Some have grass growing on their roof and strange little doorways but they make cute little studios.
This is inside the pottery yurt, where I chatted with the potter about his little residence. Apparently, the lack of air conditioning causes some issues in the summer.

This is a beautiful park and one I'd love to visit again in the evening when the neon lights are lit. There will be another entry in the future!