Friday, April 25, 2008

The Kentucky Derby: "The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports"

Unless you have ever lived in Kentucky, you probably don't understand the excitement over the Kentucky Derby held each year on the first Saturday of May in Louisville, Kentucky (Louisville is pronounced by the local natives as "Luhvuhl" since it was named after King Luh XVI of France).

My last stop before moving to DC was Kentucky and it is a state blessed with gorgeous scenery, very nice people, many of my kinder relatives, majestic horses and some great bourbon. However, for most of the year there really is not that much to do there. Sorry. I said it. So beat me with a sterling silver Mint Julep cup and call me Secretariat.

During the weeks leading up to Derby though the state is gripped with excitement as Kentucky men dress up as dapper Col. Sanders' escorting their saucy Kentucky Fried belles from one over-the-top event to another in a marathon of liver punishing excesses reaching Mardi Gras-like proportions. Whether a woman is a corporate executive or a stock clerk at the Rural King, for the two weeks leading up to the Derby she is a fiery Scarlett O' Hara sucking down bourbon as though only that and the cloud of smoke from her Newport Lite cigarettes are the two things that will keep the damn Yankees at bay.

The day of the Run for the Roses most Kentuckians attend a Derby party with family and friends to watch the race since tickets to Churchill Downs are expensive and extremely difficult to obtain. They imbibe on Derby party food consisting of delicious yet artery clogging classics such as beaten biscuits with country ham, Benedictine dip, cheese grits, Derby Pie, and of course, Mint Juleps. There are probably also some deviled eggs, beer cheese, Henry Bain Sauce over cream cheese with crackers and maybe even burgoo.

Occasionally there is a veggie tray offered that usually makes it through the party untouched. Resourceful hostesses know to rearrange the veggies prettily before they completely wilt and decoupage the platter in order to use it for generations to come. Only layers of dust or the uninvited vegetarian, probably from Ohio will ever give the secret away.

The race itself is known as "The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports" and is preceded by the crowd singing "My Old Kentucky Home." Most Kentuckians don't know every word to the song but all join in the haunting chorus:

"Weep no more, my lady Oh, weep no more, today
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home far away."

There are few dry eyes in the house after the song ends and there is always a short moment of silence before the cheering breaks out again. Even cynical, jaded know-it-all East Coast DC types pause for a minute to think of family and friends, the living and the dead, new and old traditions, choices made and how joyous life is when instead of looking at our differences, we celebrate how similar we all really are.

After that there is a horse race.

"The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday Proclamation

Blogging about the opening of chain retail store is so last month. Unless I do it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DC Residents! Plant a Tree for Arbor Day and Earn $50!

Friday April 25 is Arbor Day in DC. Did you know the DC State Tree is the Scarlet Oak (Quercus Coccinea)? Why was I thinking it was the Japanese Cherry tree? Why isn't there an annual Quercus Coccinea Festival here? [insert obvious joke here]

The District of Columbia has had a long and well earned reputation for its beautiful canopy of trees. The 1791 L'Enfant Plan specified grand tree-lined avenues. In the 1870’s the planting of 60,000 street trees was a large part of a massive public works program that earned the District the nickname of “City of Trees.”

One hundred years later the canopy of trees of Washington was suffering and concerned citizens began to take action to re-green the city and in 2001, and the very generous non-profit
Casey Trees was established.

Casey Trees and District Department of the Environment (DDOE) have teamed up to offer a rebate of up to $50 to individuals who plant a tree on private property in DC in the spring of 2008.

To be eligible for the rebate you must:

1. Purchase a large canopy tree (such as an oak or elm).
2. Plant it at a residence in DC.
3. Pledge to water and care for it for a minimum of two years.
4. Mail your signed rebate request by May 31, 2008.
5. Receive a $50 rebate check (or the full cost of the tree up to $50)

For more information and the Rebate Request form
click here. Planting a tree on Arbor Day would be a nice touch but you have until May 31, 2008 to return the Rebate Request form. So get out there and plant those Quercus Coccineas!

God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, "Ah!"- Joseph Campbell

"But I am Drunk"

Text messages via Verizon Wireless

Herb: I think I lost my keys and I am locked out.
JessiCub: At Halo
Herb: I am locked out!!!
JessiCub: On a date. Come get my key.
Herb: Then you won't have a key. I can drive you back.
JessiCub: But I am drunk. And I am off tomorrow.
Herb: I am locked out and I need to go to the bathroom!!!!
JessiCub. Okay but you are totally c**k blocking me!

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to Make the Perfect Mint Julep!

It is that time of year--the
Kentucky Derby! It has been a few years since I have hosted a Derby party in DC but since I will be in the Kentuckiana area the first weekend of May, I will no doubt have at least one Mint Julep.

Locally U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced the drink to Washington, D.C. at the Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel during his residence in the city.

One of the most famous recipes for the perfect Mint Julep comes from Henry Watterson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Louisville Courier-Journal, whose recipe for the Julep still speaks to the old-fashioned Kentuckian desire for unblemished bourbon, says:

“Pluck the mint gently from its bed, just as the dew of the evening is about to form on it. Select the choicer sprigs only, but do not rinse them. Prepare the simple syrup and measure out a half-tumbler of whiskey."

"Pour the whiskey into a well-frosted silver cup, throw the other ingredients away, and drink the whiskey.”

Warning: Mint Juleps may cause Derby Fashion Faux Pas. Here's one from 1991. I still have the shorts.

DC Wins Taxi Meter Dispute!

WASHINGTON - A judge cleared the way for meters in all taxi cabs in D.C., but the ruling issued Monday will be appealed.

William Wright Jr., one of the members of the Taxi Cab Drivers Coalition that sued the city, tells WTOP the judge's ruling "surprised" him.

The cab drivers have 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal with the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Last October, Fenty announced the switch from the zone system to meters in order to reduce confusion and increase transparency in the fare system.

Fenty is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday morning to announce final details of the meter system.

The move to meters has prompted taxi strikes in the city, and could prompt more.

Most taxi drivers are balking at paying the estimated $350 for a meter.

City officials had said drivers who have not installed the meters will face a $1,000 fine every time they're caught picking up rides without them.

Under the meter system, cabs will charge a $3 flag drop rate and 25 cents for every one-sixth of a mile after the first sixth of a mile traveled. There also will be a 25-cent charge for every minute spent stopped or traveling less than 10 miles per hour. The snow emergency rate will be the regular fare plus 25 percent.

The maximum fare for all trips within the city will be $19.

The Washington Post's Taxi Fare Calculator can be found here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Popemobile License Plate Number: SCV1

S.C.V. appears on the number plate of vehicles registered within Vatican City. S.C.V. is short for, Stato Citta' del Vaticano (Vatican City State). Evidently the locals of Rome have a different interpretation, ‘Se Christe vidice’, which interpreted means “If Christ could see”! The Pope's number plate reads SCV1.

There are over 20 popemobiles around the world and six residing at the Vatican. The first armoured popemobile was a Land Rover specially modified in 1982. Popemobiles have since been made by Fiat, Renault, Peugeot, Toyota and Mercedes Benz. The popemobile weighs about 4 tons.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Who Are You Wearing Pope Daddy?"

To a dance techno remix of
"Oh Lord Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz?", Pope-Daddy kicked off Papal Fashion Week 2008 as he stormed down Avenue P.A. with a fierce all white collection that stunned the normally staid crowd of Washington Fashionistas.

Only He could look fashion in its eye and dare to say "It's my birthday and if I want to wear white before Memorial Day I can!" From the ironically simple white zucchetto on his head to his over the top white bugle beaded "Hollywood Glamour Meets Fisher of Men" cassock, P-Daddy was his Popalicious best as he worked the Pope pole and the crowd in his dyed-to-match all white Popemobile.

The singing, chanting and sign waving fans were left begging for more as Pope Ferosha Coutura exited stage west in a cloud of hair spray pausing only to give a big snap and snarl "Auf Weidersehen."

Nina was not bored.

Photo: from The Washington Post Reader Submissions (valee5)

Caption This Picture: Pope Benedict on Pennsylvania Avenue

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dear Pope Benedict XVI: A Few Humble Suggestions for Your Trip

Dear Pope Benedict XVI:

Welcome to Washington, DC! I hope you have a wonderful visit!

In looking at your schedule though, I find it a little...predictable? I see you will be at the White House, you have a meeting with Bishops, there is that much anticipated Mass at Nationals Park and another meeting with Catholic Educators. It all sounds very official and business-like although I am sure it will be extremely memorable and meaningful for those who come into contact with you. But what are you going to do for fun? Are you going to have a few minutes to let your zucchetto down? Don't you want to see some of the real Washington?

April 15, Tuesday

Your official schedule indicates only one event: arrival at Andrews Air Force Base with a greeting by President and Mrs. Bush.

I am sure you will probably be a little jet lagged and I have a suggestion for what you can do. When Washingtonians have been out all night and are about to go home to sleep, we head to historic U Street to stop by Ben's Chili Bowl for its famous local delicacy--the chili half-smoke. While standing in line you will meet some of the diverse locals who eat there and hear some great R&B music.

There is a famous sign at Ben's that proclaims that Bill Cosby is the only person who eats for free. Do you think after your visit a second name will be added to that sign?

Wash down that half-smoke with a milk shake and I guarantee you will sleep like a baby!

April 16 Wednesday

Today is your birthday!! Happy Birthday Holy Father!

The day starts with your official visit to the White House. After the visit you are taking the Popemobile for a leisurely spin up Pennsylvania Avenue to Rock Creek Parkway to the nunciature.

Here's my suggestion to spice this up some and make it a little more fun: why don't you take Popemobile 1 and challenge a local like Condolezza Rice to take Popemobile 2 and race up Pennsylvania Avenue? I mean today is your birthday!!! You just know she is the type of gal who would like to kick off her Manolo Blahniks, put the pedal to the metal and pop a few Popemobile wheelies on Washington Circle in a Papal birthday drag race. The loser has to buy dinner at Brightwood's Colorado Kitchen. Order the meat loaf and save room for pineapple upside down cake-- you won't regret it win or lose!

April 17, Thursday

I realize this is your really busy day with the Mass at Nationals Park so let's keep today's side trip simple. After spending hours with thousands of people why don't you relax by spending some time with the animals? Stop by the beautiful National Zoo in Woodley Park and commune with nature. Here's an even better idea--have your picture taken at the zoo with a the woods. Trust me this picture will be posted on every blog around the world for years to come. A great souvenir of your trip to DC!

April 18, Friday

Sadly today you depart DC for New York so may I make one wee suggestion? On your way to the airport could you stop by the District Building for a few minutes and say thank you to your local host Mayor Fenty? After all it is us Washingtonians who are the ones who are dealing with traffic issues for four days and paying for part of the extra police presence for your security. We aren't complaining, we would just like you to spend some time with our Mayor. We like him a lot and think you will too.

It is said that your predecessor Pope John Paul II helped bring down communism in Europe. Are you aware that the local residents of the Capital of the Free World do not have voting representation in Congress? Have you heard the phrase "Taxation without Representation?" Mayor Fenty will explain this to you and maybe you could help us. The best thank you present you could possibly give to the District of Columbia is to help us get voting rights in Congress. If so, there is no need to send us a thank you note and a bottle of chianti when you get back home.

Pope Benedict XVI, thanks again for visiting our city. I hope you enjoyed your visit as much as we did! Have a safe trip back to Vatican City and please come back soon!


Herb of DC

P.S. While you are here can you also catch and teach a Papal lesson to those people who are littering our streets?

Obituary for a Fascinating Lady in a Quieter Era

I read this very charming obituary in the Washington Post today for Mary Crowe Burns, the former White House chief switchboard operator who answered the phones for seven presidents. In these days of instant and constant communication we forget that it was not always this easy. It is fascinating to consider the history this woman experienced close up and the intelligence and ingenuity she used to keep seven presidents happy and connected! RIP Mrs. Burns!

"From the Truman through the Carter administrations, Mrs. Burns fielded the wacky, workaday and world-changing calls that came to the White House. She was an expert at tracking down anyone a president sought, no matter the hour or location. She connected Caroline Kennedy to Santa Claus, reached Margaret Truman in the mid-Atlantic and braved the ire of Lyndon B. Johnson when one of his calls was cut off three times.

Two of her finest moments came relatively early. Harry Truman, alone in the residence while his wife, Bess, and daughter, Margaret, were away, called the operator and ordered, "Get me Maggie." The daughter was two days out to sea, bound for Europe. But within 10 minutes, Mrs. Burns patched together ship-to-shore radio and telephone call. After the conversation ended, Truman called the switchboard. "No one has ever had such service," he told her.

Another such moment was when a 4- or 5-year-old Caroline Kennedy called and asked for Santa Claus. Mrs. Burns turned to a man in the nearby telegraph office who took the phone and, with a booming ho-ho-ho, stood in for Saint Nick. A few minutes later, a startled president called back to ask, "Mary, how did you do that?"

"Of course, my favorite person to call was Santa Claus," Caroline Kennedy recalled in her book, "A Family Christmas" (2007). "The fact that he had the same soft Southern accent common to many White House employees of the day escaped me completely.""

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Greatest Blog Post I Didn't Write About the Prostitute and DC's Own [Insert Name of Famous Pop Singer Here]

It was going to be a great post! I could already feel the linky-love I would get from DCBLOGs and DCist due to its surprising local connection and maybe a shout out from Wonkette since it involved prostitutes. Wonkette LIVES for stories about whores!

It all started with a Google search
on April 11, 2008 at 5:22:59 pm of "[Insert Name of Famous Pop Singer] and Prostitute" that delivered someone from West Lebanon, New Hampshire to a pun filled and mostly unrelated story on my blog. He stayed for 16 seconds and viewed two pages. Yes for the uninitiated you should know we know how you get to our blogs and what you do on them although we don't necessarily know who you are.

I decided to do a little online research--had [Insert Name of Famous Pop Singer] become a certified whoremonger? Or better yet, is [Insert Name of Famous Pop Singer] now a prostitute? Was he forced to enter the oldest profession due to newer professions that allow all those illegal downloads of his music?

What I found on Wikipedia and online wasn't really enough to get The Smoking Gun or into a panting Britney overdrive. In fact there was nothing really there at all. I was mildly surprised to discover that [Insert Name of Famous Pop Star] had been born in Washington, DC and was still a local resident. Although his last instantly recognizable monster hit from the early 80s still packs the dance floor at wedding receptions he has been in and out of the music business over the years and through most of this time, he kept his job with a local government agency although now it appears he may be a contractor.

So He's not a whoremonger. Or a gigolo. He's a retired civil servant with a famous past.


I did put two and two together and discover a perhaps coincidental connection with a current local story involving prostitution based upon the purported location of his place of work. Score! I could still write a snarky post about how he could teach [Local Madam] how ["To Do What Is Mentioned in His Greatest Hit"].

But is it fair for a Google search result to hang out there for the rest of Neternity for "[Insert Name of Famous Singer] and the Prostitute"? He has NOTHING to do with prostitution and seems to have led a very law abiding life.

A minute on a blog and a life on the Net. I'm not going to do it. At least not to him.

Blogging has consequences!

I am not a journalist. I am not going to track him down and ask if the Wikipedia information on his current line of work is true and by the way, has he bumped into
[Local Madam] in the hallway and did he teach her ["To Do What Is Mentioned in His Greatest Hit"]?

But it would have been a great blog post.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Dirty Jobs" Returns!

Photo: Discovery Channel

Discovery's Mike Rowe who has done every "Dirty Job" except porn returns with all new episodes starting Monday, April 14 at 9:00 PM.

Mike has performed over 170 + always entertaining and sometimes stomach churning jobs on the series by exploring careers that make the other half of us appreciate our soft and relatively smell-free desk jobs.

From birthing cows and inseminating turkeys to cleaning caves, Discovery promises that the new episodes of "Dirty Jobs" will be as dirty as ever!

Ever wonder what Mike's favorite comfort food is? Check out his Q& A

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I Heart Pope Benedict XVI!!!!

You may be trapped in massive traffic gridlock during the papal visit to DC April 15-18 but you will be looking fine in your Benedictwear merchandise brought to you by Catholic to the Max.

If you don't have tickets to the April 17 Mass at Nationals Stadium, there will be at least two opportunities to see the Pope Benedict XVI in his awesome Popemobile on April 16 and 17. The exact routes are not yet public but you can show your support with Benedict bumper stickers.

It's recommended that all use Metro and the special commemorative Mass Pass to get to Nationals Stadium. It is not known if the Pope will join the throngs on the Green Line but as a reminder: Stand Right, Walk Left on the escalators!

Update 6:00 PM

NBC4 has posted the Popemobile route!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Smoke from 40 Years Ago

As I read the articles about the 40th anniversary of the 1968 riots in Washington DC following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, most of the themes center around ruin, rebirth and recovery --but where are the stories from the residents?

My house is located one block from 14th and U St. The riots began April 4 1968 at the People's Drug Store at 14th and U around 9:30 PM. Before it ended three days later 12 people had been killed, more than 1000 had been injured and over 6,100 arrested. By the time the last blaze had been extinguished over 1,200 buildings had been burned, including over 900 stores, devastating for years vast stretches of 14th St, 7th St and H St NE.

So what happened at our house? You had to be one of the first to smell the smoke and hear the sirens and the sounds of glass breaking. What did you do? Did you feel safe? At one point there were 200 fires burning simultaneously in the city. Did you stay in our house or evacuate?

What was your opinion on what was happening in our city? Were you outraged? Anguished? Saddened? Supportive?

As I sit on the steps of the porch I look down at the outside faucet. Were you prepared to use this and your hose if the flames spread down the block from 14th St? The Fire and Police Department were overwhelmed and would not have been able to help you. Closing windows and drawing curtains won't keep out smoke. Were your eyes burning? Did you have children in the house? Were they coughing? Crying? What did you tell them? What did you hear on radio and television? What rumors were you hearing?

Eventually President Johnson dispatched some 13,600 federal troops to quell the violence. What was it like seeing armed armed troops on the streets--reassuring or frightening? The occupation of Washington was the largest of any American city since the Civil War. Again did you stay? Or did you leave?

What is your story?

A few years ago I was ripping up some carpet in a closet that was once part of the attic. I recall the slight but distinct smell of smoke and at the time just assumed that smokers had once lived in the house.

Now I wonder...

Photo: The United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division

Update: 4/07/08 7:30 am

See this morning's article in the Washington Post "Memories of Mayhem and Mercy"

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Lucy and Lizzie Take Their Annual Walk

Cloistered canine companions big boned Lucy and crazy Lizzie are off on their annual walk!

Already Lucy is starting to lag behind. Lizzie looks completely off her meds.

The Garden District is always full of good smells.

Lucy likes Lightnin' Hopkins but loves Barbecue on Bun.

Home again and back to leading the life of veal cutlets! Possum the cat keeps watch as usual.

Target Is a Hot Transportation Mess!

So do you think traffic is bad now in Columbia Heights? Do you feel like we now have our own little slice of Tysons Corner in CoHe with cars aimlessly circling as they attempt their urban assault on Target?

A Herb of DC Special Report!

Maybe I have found one of the reasons. I decided to follow the directions to the new DC USA Target from the Target website.

First I obediently head north on 16th St NW and turn right on Irving St. (little known fact: Irving Street is named after famed author Clifford Irving).

From Irving St I submissively followed the sign directing me to PARK and turn left on Hiatt Pl NW. Orginally Hiatt Place was the home of Hiatt Industries back in the golden age of Columbia Heights when it was was the center of the Handcuff Manufacturing Industry.

Proceeding ahead on Hiatt with the other lemmings I spot the sign directing me to turn right to PARK...

...which leads to a ramp that is still closed. Did the PARK signs really mean "You better circle back around and use the Park Rd entrance, sucker?" I fell for this cruel trick at the opening of Target on March 8 ALMOST A MONTH AGO. Okay, I am very gullible. Ask me to pull your finger. I will. Every time.

Couldn't someone at DC USA buy some poster board at Target or Staples and put up a sign directing traffic to the OPEN entrance on Park Rd? Would it be too much to ask that Bed, Bath, and Beyond kick in a sign to help guide visitors?

Following these directions results in the following meandering trip through the 20010:

1. North on 16th St
2. Right on Irving
3. Left on Hiatt
4. Left on Park (the road)
5. Left on 16th
6. Left on Irving
7. Left on 14th
8. Left on Park (the road)
9. Left into the DC USA garage to PARK

All these lefties reminds me of this story.

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore were in an airplane that crashed. They're up in heaven, and God's sitting on the great white throne. God addresses Al first.

"Al, what do you believe in?"

Al replies, "Well, I believe that the combustion engine is evil and that we need to save the world from CFCs and that if any more freon is used, the whole earth will become a greenhouse and we'll all die."

God thinks for a second and says "Okay, I can live with that. Come and sit at my left."

God then addresses Bill. "Bill, what do you believe in?"

Bill replies, "Well, I believe in power to the people. I think people should be able to make their own choices about things and that no one should ever be able to tell someone else what to do. I also believe in feeling people's pain."

God thinks for a second and says "Okay, that sounds good. Come and sit at my right."

God then address Hillary. "Hillary, what do you believe in?"

"I believe you're in my chair."

Well I didn't quite complete the CoHe DC USA hokey-pokey. Crankily forging up 14th St I spot a fierce parking place right out front. Sweet! Life is good again! But really, DC USA. Let's end the Columbia Heights Merry-Go-Round parade. Don't make me carry my package of 12 paper towels on Metro!