Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We the shivering people

January 21st marked 2 important occasions,  Barack Obama's second Inauguration and Martin Luther King Day. How very appropriate. As we live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC it seems a shame to miss the festivities, but when it comes to mustering up the energy to face the crowds and cold it helps if you're enthusiastic about the result of the election. So we went, of course!

Apart from the very lucky or socially well connected who sit in ticketed areas, it's a question of standing for hours on end in the company of around a million other people in near freezing conditions, watching the proceedings on one of the many giant tv screens. There's always a moment when it crosses my mind it might be a lot more comfortable to be watching at home with a glass of wine. The atmosphere is fantastic though, it's like a big multicultural citywide party. Even if,  as we experienced this time,  the audio and visuals waver and fluctuate in the high wind like an old am radio connection. It could have caused an angry crowd response under the circumstances but everyone behaved impeccably, straining to see, straining to hear and cheering wildly at the sight of Obama, Biden, Clinton, Beyonce, James Taylor.... anyone, really.  After all, we knew it would be on CNN ad nauseam when we got back to our hotel rooms so we could find out later what they actually said. For now it was just enough to stand shoulder to shivering shoulder, being there.

A glimpse of the White House from where we were standing

After the ceremony there's quite a long break while the President and co have a beautiful lunch before the other main event, the parade. The masses who have staked out their places on the parade route since the early morning presumably eat a sandwich as they stoically wait it out. I just don't know how they endure it, I know I couldn't. No photo of them as the whole area is barricaded off. There are only a few streets open to pedestrians and a larger area is closed to traffic. It makes you think how nice it would be if the whole downtown was pedestrianized.

Buses barricading the roads. How very practical!

We walked back into the city along with a few thousand others, heading for our hotel.

Got enough buttons?

This guy was bouncing along on springy stilts. 

Our cups runneth over. There was quite an orderly air about everything, even the insufficient trash cans

Now this is how I like to watch a parade......

....... while David gets back down to business as usual. 

The turn-down service treat at the hotel, instead of the usual chocolate

Back outside.....  Pennsylvania Ave still a car free zone 

Did I mention it was cold?! 

I haven't commented on the content of Barack Obama's speech, Michelle baring arms, or any of the serious content. Plenty of others will. This was just our rather low key but thoroughly enjoyable experience of an unforgettable day.

Monday, January 7, 2013

An exciting sighting.... Robert E Simon

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the opening of Reston's Used Book Store, an early investor in this "planned community". As we are about to see the demise of our lovely big Barnes and Noble after already losing Borders, Books A Million and Brentanos, it will once again become Reston's only bookstore. (What's left to say about our collective angst in the face of this terminal bookshop disease? I've joined the petition, much good may it do.)

Anyway, at the pleasant little in-store celebration complete with dulcimer player, tasteful looking snacks and discount on all purchases, who should show up but Robert E Simon, the Res in Reston. Local hero, the father of our fair town. I was ready and waiting, camera in hand, hoping he would come. The last time I spotted him he was walking with assistance and deep in conversation, so bounding over to shake his hand seemed inappropriate.

Looking good for 98 years old! I read somewhere he attributes longevity to a gin martini every day. I only wish wine would have such a good effect on me.

Born in 1914, Robert E Simon used proceeds from his family's sale of Carnegie Hall in NY to purchase land 18 miles from Washington DC in Northern Virginia. He had a somewhat utopian ideal for the community that would eventually emerge. Such vision and commitment! But also it had to be a financially viable venture. He intended it to be a place that would be diverse in terms of race and income level, somewhere everyone could live, work and play without commuting. Plenty of open space had to be conserved. Artists would come. These were radical ideas for suburban New Town planning in 1961. No strictly middle class enclave of cookie cutter houses, Reston.

It's worked out pretty well, considering the choppy waters that have flowed under the bridge since then.  More on that maybe another time. Back to Mr Simon. Here he sits cast in bronze and wearing his trademark hat outside the bookstore at Lake Anne, the area deemed "historic Reston" to our amusement as Europeans, and where his plans first began to take shape. He lives here now in the end years of his life in the high rise apartment building on the right, overlooking the lake and with a birds-eye-view of his legacy..... the eclectic mix of concerts, organic markets, ukulele festivals and the like that we enjoy throughout the year thanks to him.

Robert E Simon at Lake Anne in the '60s.