Well, we all know what we’ll be doing in two weeks: sweating out election returns. And next week is Halloween. But what about this week — particularly if you’re not on the trail or otherwise — should you find yourself in Washington, D.C.?
Phillips Goes to The Wall
The Phillips Collection is getting a little help with its exterior decorating this week, inviting four Senegalese artists — Muhsana Ali, Fode Camara, Viye Diba and Piniang (Ibrahima Niang) — to paint a mural on the wall of the museum’s Hunter Courtyard that will be unveiled to the public Thursday at noon. “The Leading Edge Ideas: Inside the 21st Century Museum” is part of the Phillips’ partnership with the State Department’s Office of Art in Embassies and is designed to set the stage for this weekend’s International Forum Weekend. (Don’t act like you didn’t know it was International Forum Weekend.)
Lincoln Gets Pressed
Thinking about an Honest Abe costume for All Hallows’ Eve? Bone up, then, on a relatively unexplored chapter of the 16th president’s biography — his relationship with the press — Thursday at the National Archives. Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer will discuss his latest book, “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion,” with Frank Bond at the Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater at 7 p.m. Admission is free. In his review of the book for Roll Call, John Bicknell wrote, “With his usual sparkling prose and exhaustive research, one of America’s foremost scholars on the 16th president has given us a robust portrait of the nexus between American politics and the press. As much as it is a telling slice of Lincolniana — the kind of detail-rich tapestry we have come to expect from Holzer — it is also a lively history of mid-19th century journalism.”
The lively folks over at Congressional Cemetery get into the swing of Halloween things on Saturday with their annual Ghosts and Goblets party on the cemetery grounds. The event follows in the footsteps of the cemetery’s Dead Man’s Race 5K earlier this month and August’s Day of the Dog, which combined animal adoption with food trucks and local breweries at the historic resting place that also doubles as D.C.’s premier dog-walking park. The party starts in earnest at 8 p.m., though VIP access gets one in the gates at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $70, which includes drinks. To purchase tickets or learn more, go here.
Colicchio will discuss the Food Policy Action congressional scorecard on Thursday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Perhaps no other city in the United States provides the platform to address food issues better than Washington, D.C., a culinary hot-spot that also provides a public policy forum in the seat of government.
It’s a good time to eat out in the District. Just check out Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema’s fall dining guide, released over the weekend, for proof. As if to demonstrate how food in the District is both a sensual and political experience, one of Washington’s pre-emininet food activists is also among its most celebrated for his kitchens. Among Sietsema’s 37 selections, four are from José Andrés, whose ThinkFoodGroup has a growing policy footprint in advocating for the elimination of hunger and addressing its root causes.
On Thursday, noshing meets education with World Food Day, the anniversary of the Oct. 16, 1945, creation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Food Policy Action is using the day to release its National Food Policy Scorecard for the 113th Congress at one of D.C.’s foodie havens, Graffiato, Mike Isabella’s downtown Italian-American lair.
“You can take that off now,” the Architect of the Capitol worker yelled out, pointing to my Washington Nationals’ hat as I rode past the Russell Senate Office Building this morning.
Was it capital city commiseration of Tuesday night’s loss to the San Francisco Giants, ending the Nats’ playoff run? He kind of laughed. I pointed to the hat and replied, “Nah. The hat stays.”
This is what it is to be a baseball town. The euphoria of the inaugural season in 2005 wore off relatively quickly, giving way to the dry, monotonous pain of 100-loss seasons, the slow climb to respectability and finally to perennial success. The 2012 playoff run was a novelty, cruelly snatched away too quickly. This year was different. It’s the same kind of pain other teams and their cities experience when they don’t meet expectations. The Nationals are a good team, and we expect them to win now. But it’s also just a pleasure to have a team in D.C. The idea stuck. They’re here. They’re ours.
That doesn’t make it any easier to get the relentless stream of emails from StubHub reminding us that our plans for Thursday night’s theoretical Game 5 and the National League Championship Series have changed: “This event has been cancelled. This event has been cancelled. This event has been cancelled.”
The Nationals are now part of the fabric of the town. Wear Nats gear on a game day and strangers will kibbitz on the team’s chances, question Matt Williams’ decisions and ask if you were there for all 18 innings of Game 2. There’s a shorthand now. Game 2 is the longest playoff game in Major League Baseball history. Game 4 means Jayson Werth’s homer to beat the Cardinals in 2012. Game 5 means the gut-punch loss the next night. Tuesday night’s Game 4 doesn’t have a name yet, but it will. It will likely have something to do with wild pitches, walks and bunts. Eventually, we’ll settle on something.
For anyone bummed that the Russians are buying All-American beer Pabst Blue Ribbon, fret not. There’s plenty of home-grown beer and booze right here in the nation’s capital.
It’s even a kind of anniversary season for the growing list of D.C.-based craft alcohol outfits. Atlas Brew Works, which joined the D.C. beeraissance last year, celebrated its one-year anniversary last month with a shindig at its Ivy City brewery. And on Wednesday, local bistro Boundary Road will fete New Columbia Distillers to celebrate the second anniversary of Green Hat Gin, the first legal distiller in Washington since Prohibition.
Boundary Road Owner/Chef Brad Walker and his merry crew focus not just on seasonal and local foods and drinks, but also on local talent and businesses. In this case, the New Columbia folks will trundle over from their Ivy City digs (sensing a trend here), with some of their choicest hooch. That will include some of their seasonal gin batches, such as their memorable “Ginavit” 2013 winter offering, which incorporated spirits genever and aquavit. Full story
Things weren’t always so merry with Washington baseball. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
As the Washington Nationals open the National League Division Series on Friday, their second post-season appearance in three years, it’s easy to forget Washington baseball teams have frequently sucked.
Fred Frommer, author of “You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions,” never forgot. His book will make any Nat fan appreciate what they have now, and he’ll be discussing it at the National Archives on Friday at noon in the William G. McGowan Theater with his frequent discussion sidekick, former Senators announcer Phil Hochberg. It’s a nice way to prepare for the 3:07 p.m. game against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park.
Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney wrote about some of the Senators’ woeful ways in today’s Post. The upshot? To be a Senators fan back in the day, one had to have real guts. “In my childhood, the whole point of rooting for the Senators was to affirm one’s fortitude in the face of cellar-dwelling finishes. Show loyalty and optimism despite setbacks and disappointment. ‘We grew up not expecting much. That’s not a bad lesson for life,’ said Hank Thomas, 68, of Arlington, who cheered for the Senators as a child in the late 1950s,” McCartney writes.
And the first few seasons after the Montreal Expos moved here to become the Nationals were no picnic either. Remember when Nook Logan started in center field? It’s best not to.
If you can’t make it to the Archives, Fred and Phil will be live on YouTube.
Call it the little movie that could. “Fort Bliss,” a feature film about an Army medic/single mom returning stateside after a tour in Afghanistan and struggling with re-entry, is enjoying an extended theatrical release in Washington, continuing its rise from festival favorite and video on demand to big screens, thanks largely to grass-roots support.
The movie, directed by Claudia Myers and starring Michelle Monaghan, focuses on the challenges Monaghan’s character, Maggie Swan, has reconnecting with her young son and simply adjusting to not having bullets flying overhead. It’s a timely film, particularly as the country continues to grapple with questions about U.S. troops’ presence in Afghanistan and calls for more investment of blood and treasure in Iraq and possibly Syria get louder.
That doesn’t mean it was an easy sell. Josh Levin, general manager of the West End Cinema, said, “I originally turned it down. I turned it down cold,” when contacted by distributors about a run at his Foggy Bottom theater. He said it was an easy call “without any editorial comment about the films,” because he’s seen over and over again that when it comes to movies about Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s just no audience. “I just dismissed it out of hand.” Full story
It finally makes sense why Method Man’s character on “The Wire” was named Cheese.
Strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday, one may witness a chalkboard with a Wu-inspired message: “Cheese Rules Everything Around Me.”
The riff on the Wu-Tang’s iconic anthem “C.R.E.A.M.” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me for those slow on the uptake), works two ways, cream being so important to the dairy minded. A bit, ahem, cheesy? Sure. Why not?
For the record, Sona Creamery’s Wu-Tang name, as concocted by the Wu-Tang Name Generator, is Chocolatey Shatner.
The argument that Philip Kennicott lays out in the Washington Post is not merely an aesthetic one, though. Rather, he notes that in cutting off access to the Supreme Court, the West Terrace of the Capitol and the White House in recent years, all in the name of security, the very pillars of representative democracy are being compromised. “The loss of public space and the intrusion of the security apparatus into daily life are not merely inconveniences. Among the most cherished symbols of democracy is openness, including direct access to our leaders. … It is not reasonable to ask a free people to continually submit to police control; doing so becomes ingrained, and when we freely submit to unreasonable searches, we lose the all-important reflexive distrust of authority that helps keep us free,” the Pulitzer Prize winning writer asserts.
Kennicott’s plea that the nation’s leaders think before stringing up barbed wire and more bollards is one that goes against the one-way trend of increasing levels of lockdown in the seat of government. Monday’s White House press briefing suggests the executive mansion’s staff is leaving things to the Secret Service, who were responsible for the breach in the first place, to decide. Kennicott reaches back to ancient Greece for his closing argument: “‘We throw open our city to the world,’ Pericles said in his Funeral Oration. We, alas, have become the descendants not of that fine and fundamental sentiment of democracy, but of the brutal imperial arrogance that corrupted the Athenian state in later years.”
If people, staffers, tourists, citizens alike, can’t literally see the beauty and good things around them in Washington, at the Supreme Court, at the Capitol, at the White House, should anyone be surprised there is distrust and disdain for the place?
“My brother Chris says I make two kinds of films: depressing and really depressing. So, that may be my range,” Rory Kennedy says, laughing a little bit. “I don’t really see it that way. … A lot of my films, and I would throw this one there, are about people overcoming great odds.”
That sentiment comes through in the documentary filmmaker’s canon. The youngest child of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., has trained the camera on subjects that certainly have depressing elements, but ultimately show underdogs hanging on. Her body of work includes movies about poverty in Appalachia (“American Hollow”), torture in a military prison (“Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”), breaking workplace barriers (“Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House”) and her own mother’s path after RFK’s assassination (“Ethel”).
Rory Kennedy’s latest movie, “Last Days in Vietnam,” fits nicely into the darkness/overcoming dichotomy. Chronicling the days in April 1975 as the North Vietnamese finally pushed the U.S. presence from Saigon, it doesn’t sound like brother Chris is too far off. But the movie combines archival footage with contemporary interviews of U.S. and South Vietnamese personnel, composing a story of courage and grace under fire.
“To me, one of the lessons of this film is, once you get to the point where it’s the last days, there are very few good options,” she says. And yet, the ingenious ways in which U.S. personnel went against the odds, and sometimes direct orders, to ensure safe passage for U.S. and South Vietnamese citizens alike, shows the few good options available were put to maximum use.
“I was shocked with how much I didn’t know,” Kennedy says. “The good news and bad news is that I’m not alone.”
Among the things one might learn is that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, then a Navy officer, led a mission to move South Vietnamese naval ships out of the Saigon River and ended up facilitating the evacuation of thousands of refugees. (The details of the mission reek of a covert operation that combines elements of “Apocalypse Now” and “Exodus.”) Or that U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin frustrated the hell out of his charges by delaying evacuation planning but then quickly mobilized to turn the devolving embassy grounds into an impromptu pick-up spot that rescued thousands more. Or that Congress failed to grasp the enormity of the human rights situation and failed to help out because it was paralyzed by gridlock.
Wait. Never mind that last one.
“I love storytelling,” Kennedy says, explaining why she picked documentaries to be medium to her muse. In “Last Days in Vietnam,” Kennedy takes a set of information and facts, does some digging and weaves a story that sheds light amid the darkness. It’s like cinematic proof of Bob Dylan’s theorem in “Meet in the Morning.”
“They say the darkest hour/is right before the dawn.”
If there is an epicenter of the Washington Tourist-Industrial Complex, it may very well be the Hard Rock Cafe in Penn Quarter.
At the peak of tourism season, during the warm spring and summer months, the self-styled “Embassy of Rock and Roll” caters to an audience that is 90 percent visitor and 10 percent local, according to the establishment’s management team. In business at 999 E St. NW since 1990, the embassy is strategically located next to Ford’s Theater, the (for now) FBI headquarters, the Washington Welcome Center and, of course, a Cosi.
“People come to Hard Rock for an experience,” said A.J. Laban III, general manager of the D.C. outpost of the 43-year-old international hospitality provider. Laban was speaking at a recent dinner touting the Hard Rock Cafe’s new menu. “This is the biggest overhaul of the menu since we opened in London in 1971,” he said, citing the deleting of some 17 items, including such customer favorites as the Rock Your World chicken pineapple quesadilla and the Haystack Chicken Salad, all for the good of the enterprise. Full story
In the middle of a political season, with members of Congress hunkering down amid the midterm election season, it’s refreshing to pick up a book — a policy book even! — that makes the case that it’s possible to work across party lines for the common good.
Aneesh Chopra, former chief technology officer for the United States and Virginia’s former secretary of technology, writes in his book “Innovative State” that the way to go beyond the management cliches of “working smarter” and “doing more with less” is to both keep in mind that innovation has defined basic human progress and good people usually come around to good ideas, whether it’s a non-spoils civil service or digital communication.
Another valuable lesson Chopra, a proud Democrat, offers is that it’s not necessary to trade in your party identification to work effectively across party lines. Ego is another thing, presenting perhaps the biggest challenge, but not an impossible one. As an example, he ends the book with anecdote about his talking to the Congressional Future Caucus at its inaugural event about one year ago. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., the co-chairs, prevail upon him to tell them more about “pragmatism and collaboration,” a sign that not everyone in Congress is interested in using their time in Washington to scorch the other side.
Another positive sign Chopra sees is that, despite some negative perceptions of government, the best and the brightest continue to want to work in public service. “Where it matters, on the recruiting front, I will say, it’s never been a better time to recruit people to try to solve the big problems. It’s an incredible group of people,” Chopra told CQ Roll Call, saying the quality of resumes you see for people lining up to work on Capitol Hill and the adminstration is an extremely hopeful sign and one of the first steps to having government “deliver world class service” to the people it represents.
Meanwhile, Gabbard and Schock are fast friends to this day. Another example to add to the list is a story from CQ Roll Call’s own Emma Dumain and Lauren Gardner, whose story in Thursday’s Roll Call details how Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and David McKinley, R-W.Va., are working together on climate change, an issue that has cut along partisan lines for years. Along the Southern border, Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, and Steve Pearce, R-N.M., are working together, much to the chagrin of their leaders.
In the partisan garden, a few pragmatic weeds seem to be stubbornly clinging on.
Roll Call Book Club returns on Sept. 16 at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital with Aneesh Chopra to discuss his book. The free event starts at 6 p.m. at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and includes a free book, beverages and snacks. To register, go to our spot on Eventbrite.
After months of being relegated to pop-ups and soft openings, District Doughnuts is poised for its grand opening on Barracks Row on Friday, bringing to Capitol Hill a heaping dose of yeasty treats.
The last couple of weeks the pastry slingers have practiced with soft-launches on Fridays at their 749 8th St. SE locale. This Friday, starting at 8 a.m., its their tasty brown butter confection will have its official permanent home.
The grand opening weekend festivities will continue Saturday and Sunday, with the doors opening at 9 a.m. on those days. They say they’ll stay open until the sell out. Given the hype, and DD’s popularity at such events as the DC Donut Crawl, there might not be too long a window to claim your confection.
The documentary “Woodhouse Divided” illustrates the political divide between the real life political version of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: the Woodhouse brothers, Brad and Dallas.
Brad, the former communications director for the Democratic National Committee and current honcho of Americans United For Change, and Dallas, former director of the North Carolina chapter of Americans For Prosperity and currently heading up Carolina Rising, are deeply steeped in politics, both nationally and in the Tar Heel State. If you work in Washington and have email, odds are good you’ve heard from one or both of them about how — take your pick — President Barack Obama/the Koch Brothers are destroying America.
They’re also tight and have a great deal of affection for one another, even if their arguments, which have played out mano a mano in the public sphere on cable television and the like for years, get heated. They always seem to be able to bury the hatchet immediately after trying to sink it in each other’s head over, say, health care. A much-told throwaway line for moderators of their shenanigans is typically, “Thanksgiving must be interesting,” or some variation thereof.
Well, starting in the run-up to the health care debate in 2009 to the fallout of the 2012 election, Miller traces their professional and familial dust-ups, including Thanksgiving dinner, which their fellow family members regard with seasoned eye-rolling.
“I try to get them not to talk about politics, but it doesn’t work,” their mother Joyce, a former staffer for North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford says in the film. “Sometimes, I would just prefer they not talk about their mother,” she also says, referring to an on-air argument that plays out before millions.
At a screening of the movie on Sept. 4 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, the brothers kept up the schtick, like two pro wrestlers taunting one another across the mat. “I’m going to cut the microphone … and give it to my brother,” Brad said before the movie, introducing them as “I’m the Democrat. He’s the wing-nut.”
“It’s nice to be here in Washington. I have never said that before, because I hate it here,” Dallas, said to the largely Brad-friendly audience. The wisecracks, particularly from Dallas, continued throughout the screening. For veteran Washington hands, it was like a return trip to the old Union Station theaters, but instead of the audience yelling at the screen, the film’s principals were yelling at each other in the dark. The two boisterous bros always make sure the people watching know it’s in good fun, even if what they do seems to cross the line, whether it be a joke about one’s weight or slapping the other’s hand away.
At the end of the film, before the credits had finished rolling, the projection abruptly ended and the screen went black. “The End!” yelled a young girl, presumably a younger Woodhouse. The audience laughed, the tension, both real and forced, was relieved, as the blue Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot and the red Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot punched each other to a draw.
As Atlas Brew Works celebrates its first year anniversary of pouring for D.C., it’s worth sipping a few of their noteworthy brews. Foremost among them is the Rowdy, a rye beer that tips the alcohol by volume scale at 6.2 percent. The rye mixes in with the normal assortment of hops and friends much the same way rye whiskey puts a different taste on a cocktail. Rye’s peppery character makes it stand out. It’s a little bitter. A little sour. A nice quaff on a hot day.
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick