Thursday, February 25, 2010

We meet again*

Well I woke up Sunday morning,
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.

- Sunday Morning Coming Down

You know what this here is, right?

This is the Black. This is the Black he wore it for the poor and beaten down. The one's living in the hopeless hungry side of town.

Tomorrow, Feb. 26, 2010, would have been Johnny Cash's 78th birthday. To celebrate, the sixth and last American Recordings album is going to be released. This, is what it looks like.

How 'bout that? A man who's been dead, but definitely not gone, for nigh on seven years is releasing a record tomorrow called "Ain't No Grave." (A collection titled "Unearthed" was also released two months after his death. Classic.) Can you think of anyone else who could do that? Warren Zevon, who died five days before Cash in 2003, maybe, and I actually think the Stones and The Who have been doing it for years. Let's see any of the pre-fab'd artists foisted on us by Simon and his ilk try that stunt. Well, they might try it, but they'll never get away with it.

If you've never listened to any of Cash's American Recordings, well, I don't know if I want to know you (but there's still time, trust me, they're all pretty amazing). If you have, well, you know what I'm talking about. I'm long past running out to buy an album at a midnight release, but there might be a trip to a store this weekend (yeah, I'm not going to download this one).

Anyway, the point of the big black square at the top is that to celebrate Cash's birthday and the release of Ain't No Grave, tomorrow is "Wear Black for Johnny Day." I'm really not making this up.
So, when you're picking out your outfit for tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 26, 2010, try to wear a little bit of the black.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cos there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.

* We'll Meet Again was the last song on American IV: The Man Comes Around, the last album released while Cash was alive.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Literary Funk

Nope, not what it sounds like. This is not about the rhyming of book titles with a heavy bass line in the background.

What it is about is the reading malaise I seem to have fallen into these past couple of months. You'd think with all the inside time we've had this February I'd have been reading my ass off. And, well, I have, but many of my choices are books I've read before. Yes, I do that. For me a good murder mystery or techno-thriller is as good the 10th time as it was the first. In fact, it may be a bit better because I don't have to work for the solution since I already know what's coming and I can just enjoy the words.

Example: I first read The Hunt for Red October in the '80s, not sure exactly when, but it was the decade of frosted hair, Dire Straits, shoulder pads in women's garments, The Dream Academy and parachute pants. Between then and now I've probably read HfRO 20 times and I can still pick that book up today and enjoy it just the same. Don't even get me started on Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth (one of my all-time Top 5's) or Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers (an all-time Top 10er).

A particular addiction of mine lately have been the Prey books of John Sandford. I recommend them to everyone, they're good reads and the characters are engaging.
So, Interwebby friends and neighbors, passers-by and strangers, what I'm looking for is some suggestions on books to read. I read just about anything worth reading (take a look at the list on the left): history, politics, mysteries, sci-fi, thrillers. I'm willing to branch out, give something new a chance. What I need is your help.
In the comments tell me what books I should be looking up with the Dewey Decimal System and why they're worth my time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A common virtue

"Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue." - Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, U.S. Navy, 16 March 1945

Sixty-five years ago today, one of the last major battles of the Second World War began when the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions began landing on the black volcanic sand of Iwo Jima. The landing, in contrast to the coming battle, was eerily unopposed.

But that didn't last long. After the shooting started, it took 34 days for Marines to clear the tiny island.

Just about everyone know the Joe Rosenthal photo of the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, that inspired the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. Since the actual photo of the flag raising belongs to The Associated Press, here's one of the memorial I shot last year during the Sunset Parade.

But did you know, this famous picture was of the second flag raising? Yep, the first flag to go up was too small, and the battalion commander who sent the flag up the hill wanted it for his battalion. So they did it again.

Here's the picture of the first flag raising shot by Marine Corps photographer Staff Sgt. Louis Lowery.

While the Rosenthal photo is inspiring, I've always liked this picture as well. It's a little more ... gritty. It shows Marines as they were then and are to this day. I should point out, in case you're interested, both flags now reside at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico and are displayed on a rotating basis.

When the Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal saw the flag as he landed on the black sand beach, he said to the Gen. Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith, "Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years."

We can only hope so.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TMI Thursday: Recess

It's TMI Thursday my friends. For more stories that will entertain and disgust you at the same time go to LiLu's joint for this week's full list. And now, on to the fun!

In the past week two, count ‘em, two of my colleagues have ended up on crutches after slipping on some of the lovely frozen precipitation covering our fair city and it’s environs. Turns out, according to my friend’s X-ray, a broken ankle isn’t really a broken ankle.

It’s actually a broken leg. At least hers is. She said she actually heard the bone “CRACK” when her fibula let go.


That, and seeing all the giant piles of snow everywhere, brought me back. Back to yesteryear. Back to recess at Briar Glen Elementary school one January 18, 19(year redacted to protect the old and decrepit).

It’d snowed a lot that winter. Yes, a whole bunch more than we’ve gotten here in the past couple of weeks. According to the National Weather Service, we got 89.7 inches of snow that winter (that’s just about 7.5 feet for those without a calculator), the most snow the city ever had before or since, although this year is shaping up as a doozie.

My school, and everywhere else for that matter, faced the same problem we here in the D.C. area face – what the Hell do you do with all that snow? The solution, then as now, plow it up into towering 7 or 8 or 10-foot tall piles. Well, they looked towering to me as I was then only 4 or so feet tall having only completed about two-thirds of my growth.

Probably not the smartest idea, ya know, putting great, big piles of snow around the playground. It took us about 17 seconds to figure out these were great things to play on and even, dare I say it, to jump from.

You just follow the kid in front of you up one side iceberg and then: Wheeee! You jump from the precipice into the soft, pillowy embrace of the snow below. I should point out, the teachers were watching us do this. I can’t even imagine kids being allowed to do this kind of thing today. The whole thing just screams out in capital letters LAWSUIT!!

Where was I, oh yes, at the precipice. For once, I decided to look before I leapt. The snow in the landing area was looking a little thin so I decided to aim a little to the left.

Joe Theismann taking the snap from center on Nov. 19, 1985, and having no idea it was his last as L.T. came rushing around the end, I still didn’t know I’d never play baseball again. Not that I was any good at it, but still, all my friends played baseball and only the strange weird kids played that sissified foreign soccer-type game. Ha, who ever thought of that whole “can’t use your hands” crap? Tweren’t no ‘Merican I can guaran-damn-tee you that my friend. (If you want, here’s some coverage of the sack, you get a really good view of Joe's leg at about the :52 second mark. Prepare to cringe.)

That fresh patch of snow I was heading for at what seemed like terminal velocity was crisp, clean and just waiting for someone to break its virginal surface. I breached that barrier and made a shocking, shocking I say, discovery.

Did you know when 3 feet of snow falls it effectively hides a fire hydrant that stands just 2-foot-6?

If I’d know how to swear at that tender age (a shocking oversight on the part of our educational system, my parents and big sisters I say), you can be sure I would have as I snapped not just the little fibula in my right leg, but its big brother the tibia as well. Same as Joe when he was crushed by a coked-out Lawrence Taylor (Go Tar Heels!).

All my 8-year-old lungs, larynx and mouth could come up with was a primal scream of pain that may or may not have shattered the double-paned windows nearby as I suffered pain similar to the ultimate suffering Wesley did in the Pit of Despair.

Long story short, I spent the next three glorious, snowy months of winter on crutches, inside, wearing plaster up to my hip - first six weeks - then up to my knee - next six weeks - before missing the start of Little League and being forced by my mother to play soccer (“Just to get you some exercise, hon.”).* Yeah, thanks Mom for making me play a girls’ game and for making my brothers play too. (Thankfully neither one of them was that good at baseball either.)

To this day I can still feel the spot on my leg where the bones knitted together.

* For those of you who are wondering, I played soccer all the way through high school and only switched rugby, a more dignified game, once I was in the Marines. All told I probably played about 18 or so seasons of soccer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Back at it...

I finally made it into the office today. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones who lives on a street that gets cleared really quick. In fact, as I was driving in this morning, the road crews were working on removing some of the giant piles of snow they'd created in their efforts to clear the roads.

Speaking of the road crews, cops, firefighters, National Guardsmen, EMS workers and everyone else who had to work during the past week to keep the rest of us safe, my hat is off to you. Thanks for everything you did and do to make the rest of our lives easier and safer.

That said, when I got into my office, I was one of two people there and the other guy left soon after I arrived. It was pretty weird to tell you the truth. Kind of like being in the beginning of my very own horror movie.

"Creak. Snap. Pop."

*Looks up* "Is anyone there???"

And that's pretty much where the movie ends since I made it home safe. Or did I...

Anyway, Tuesday I met the Disaffected Scanner Jockey downtown for some post-cabin feber* lunch. Along the way I took a picture or two. To make it even more fun I set the camera to Black & White. Not like you can tell the difference anyway with all the snow and the monochromatic nature of D.C.'s architecture.


I generally like my pictures to be all clean and neat without a lot of distractions. But the one above kinda speaks to me. There's so, so much going on in this shot.

And you thought you had a hard time getting around in the snow.

I saw the guy in the picture above twice, once just outside the Metro exit and then here about a block away. I don't know his story, but I'm guessing everything he owns is in that plastic bag he's sitting on.

Sometimes, the best pictures happen by accident. This is what happens when you're standing in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue trying to take a picture.

A crime scene perhaps? Could this be the aftermath of some kind of snowman/snow woman domestic dispute? Snowmacide is never a pretty thing.

What? Me ironic? Nooooooo...

This, and it's mate on the other side of the Federal Trade Commission building, are two of my favorite statues in D.C. My brother once explained the horse represents trade and the man is doing his best to restrain it.

The littlest snow man. The lady in the background was feeding the squirrels.

The waves, they're so gnarly man.

Everyone have fun at work tomorrow.

*Yes, I meant to spell it "feber." Hell, everyone else on the Web is allowed to make up words, so why not me?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow, snow and what, oh yeah, more freakin' snow

A day off here and there is nice, but this is getting ridiculous. And now there's another storm heading our way getting ready to deliver another foot or so of snow.

I actually found myself wondering whether or not I could make it into my office tomorrow, just for a change in scenery. It actually wouldn't be that difficult, if I hadn't switched jobs last week (contractor -> government, yep, I'm a fed now) and in the process lost my parking space. Seems my former company (about which I have nothing but good things to say, they were really good to me) leased a bunch of spots in our complex and then assigned them to employees.

The government, on the other hand, which is the largest tenant in the complex, doesn't bother (and it makes you pay for the spot to boot). This means I now take the bus to work. Not that that's a bad thing, but the bus isn't running to my office and I don't feel like paying to park so I won't be going to my office tomorrow.

Anyway, on Saturday I took a walk down my street to see what I could see. What I saw were a lot of idiots driving on the streets while the very hardworking crews were trying to clear snow while it was still snowing. My hat is off to the crews who've been working overtime to clear our roads. If you see they as you're out and about, give them a thank you, they deserve it.

That said, the snow's still pretty and here's what Columbia Pike looked like on Saturday afternoon. First up is the iconic Bob & Edith's. It was open and packed and doing land office business.

Snow, icicles and neon make for an interesting combination, don't you think?

This was around...oh, noonish. You can see the snow was still gracing us with its presence. A lot of its presence. Also, take a close look at the window in the middle with the "Diner Open 24 Hours" sign. See that?

Well, if you can't, here's a close-up. A wave and a thumbs-up. Guess I wasn't the only one taking their picture during lunch.

A little bit down the road I came across these guys. Don't get me wrong, I love riding my bike, but even I wouldn't have taken this chance.

Snow + light (heat) = icicles!

Another joint doing its best to save us from our own cooking was the South Arlington location of the Lost Dog Cafe. I didn't get it in the picture, but just to the left they'd cut a path through the snow bank to make sure folks who saw the signs could make it in the door. The turkey ruben was egg-cell-ent!

Speaking of the crews clearing the roads, this is Columbia Pike around 2 p.m. on Saturday. Not too shabby.

Of course, this is one of the side streets. It still looked pretty much like this on Monday. You know, minus the mom and kid.

Finally, proof the snow did, indeed, stop. This is about 6:30 or so Saturday evening. That was the first clear sky I'd seen in about three days.

Hopefully one of these days the snow will finally stop. I really do want to get back to work. But until then I'll be ready with the camera.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I predict...

No, no, not a snow total, but accumulation nonetheless.

Mark my words, starting between the second and third week of November our area will experience a little baby boom.

Seriously, there's only so much TV you can watch and naps you can take. I've seen it after long troop deployments, hurricanes, blackouts and all the rest. People are trapped inside and nature will take it's course.

In short, there's a lot of sex going on this weekend. More than usual.

We'll check back on this in November and see if the area's birth stats show a little spike.

That said, I'm heading out in the weather. I'd thought about trying to get downtown, but the weather sucks a bit too much for that. So I'm going to take a walk around the 'hood and see what I can see.

Pictures at 11 (so to speak).

Friday, February 5, 2010

And it begins...

Well, it's snowing in Falls Church. Right on the 10 a.m. estimate I've been hearing for three days. That's some good predicting (TWSS).

I'm all set. Kinda like the guy in Highlander (the one who thought he could take out The Kurgan with a machine gun), I'm ready for the end of the world. As long as it happens this weekend, if not I'll have to go out for more supplies. I was out at the Teeter last night, and I saw a news story that said the Whole Paycheck on P had to close its doors and let people in like it was Studio 54, and judging by those crowds, well, golly, you'd think Bobby Lee was on his way north to Washington again.

Now all I have to wait for is the word the office is closing and we can leave. Then I can go wait for my bus. Sigh.

In the snow.

At least I have my camera.