Independence Day in Washington is like Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa., a patriotic palooza. As if the stakes couldn’t be higher on the grandest stage at the capital of the free world, we could, possibly, be treated to yacht rock legend Michael McDonald singing “Sweet Freedom” with the Muppets as a follow-up act.
Of all the major holidays, D.C. really shines (or smokes, or swelters) on Independence Day, with the capital city coming alive with fireworks, concerts, Major League Baseball and even a fairground with midway rides.
Sure, the National Mall is the big gathering spot in D.C. for watching the fireworks come Friday evening, with the temporary concert venue on the West Front of the Capitol all set to blast tunes from everyone from McDonald to the Muppets to Frankie Valli for the Capitol Fourth celebration. What a fool believes! But the Mall and the Capitol grounds are not the only places to watch the pyrotechnics, not by a long shot.
Any higher ground vantage point, whether it’s Meridian Hill Park or the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Monument in Rosslyn, Va., or the roof of a pal’s apartment building will offer all the views with fewer sweaty souls jostling for precious few spots.
The fireworks and Capitol Fourth are a small component of the festivities, though.
The Washington Nationals, fresh from a Midwestern road swing in Milwaukee and Chicago, are back for a homestead against the Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. On Friday, the Nats will play the Cubs in an 11:05 a.m. game that will feature lots and lots of flags and many beer cans emblazoned with Old Glory. Fireworks are usually to be had. Such an early game lets everyone get out in plenty of time to find their ways to the Mall, Capitol or that pal’s apartment building.
And let’s not forget about the D.C. Capital Fair at beloved RFK Stadium, which started June 27 and extends through Sunday. We might not be a state or have a vote in Congress, but we’ve got a fair, complete with a ferris wheel, a petting zoo and wolf show (no word on whether Nats outfielder Jayson Werth will be attending) and illusionists, hypnotists and plenty of greasy food. This week through Thursday, the fair runs from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Starting Friday and going through Sunday, it runs from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Yacht rock, baseball, things blowing up in the night sky, fried food and carnies. What’s more American than that?
Alas, Kinky Friedman won’t be the next agriculture commissioner from the great state of Texas, having lost the Democratic primary runoff last month. But that just frees up the troubadour/mystery novelist/humorist/friend to unwanted dogs for Wednesday night’s Washington Jewish Music Festival gig at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, where the Kinkster will, between ditties, likely talk about marijuana.
Friedman said he made the agriculture commissioner race a “non-binding referendum on lifting the prohibition on pot and hemp,” a stance that dovetails with his Seeds of Change tour. Even though he lost his runoff to Democrat Jim Hogan, 54 percent to 46 percent, he doesn’t think the issue of marijuana and hemp legalization is going away.
“I think the children of the world look to Texas. Y’know, they don’t care if Nebraska legalizes or Massachusetts legalizes. But if Texas does, that would, I think, effectively end the war on drugs and we might stop making criminals out of people who aren’t really criminals. So it’s up to Texans to decide: Do they want to be seceders or do they want to be leaders?” Full story
There are worse ways to spend a Saturday than riding your bike and drinking beer. Thanks to the New Belgium Brewing Company, one may do both come this weekend, at the 2014 Tour de Fat at Yards Park on the Anacostia riverfront.
Starting with a 10 a.m. registration time on Saturday, cyclists/imbibers can hang out, listen to music, partake in a costume contest, engage in a slow ride race and drink any of the Colorado-based brewers’ many varieties of beer, such as the classic Fat Tire or seasonals and specials like 1554 Black Lager or Carnie Blood Orange Saison.
There’ll be plenty of tunes from the likes of The Reals and Reggie Watts, as well as entertainment from folks like The Handsome Little Devils.
As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “Goodbye, Blue Monday!” Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Wisdom cocktail bar on Capitol Hill has decided to start opening on Mondays.
The announcement of extended drinking hours show just what’s at stake. ”To celebrate (and because we are unstable) we will be doing CHRISTMAS IN MAY. We will be playing random XMAS movies for your enjoyment/annoyment. Order a cocktail and unwarp a surprise gift (one per visit),” the announcement from Wisdom says. In a nod to celebrating the day Mexican forces defeated the French in Mexico a long time ago, they promise that patrons will “enjoy Tequila in ways that you never imagined …”
For anyone who’s dropped by Erik Holzherr’s spirits-infused imaginarium at 1432 Pennsylvania Ave. SE or belongs to the Wisdom gin club, it’s no idle chatter.
It was the best of food, it was the worst of food, it was the age of pepperoni rolls, it was the age of cherry cobbler, it was the epoch of apigigi, it was the epoch of chimichangas, it was the season of bacon, it was the season of Italian beef, it was the spring of pear tarts, it was the winter of shrimp and grits. Basically, it’s time for Taste of America.
On Wednesday, Roll Call hosts its Taste of America Kickoff Party at Capitol Lounge, 229 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Every year, in conjunction with the Congressional Baseball Game, states and their D.C. ambassadors duke it out for bragging rights on just whose favorite comfort food reigns supreme.
On Wednesday, we’ll hang out at the Lounge from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., play some trivia, drink some beer and officially open the ballots for the fourth annual noshing competition. The event is free, and with it being so close to the Capitol, how could you not come? You can catch up on special orders on Benghazi later on. That’s what transcripts are for.
Last year, West Virginia’s pepperoni roll beat out an Elite Eight consisting of: Iowa bacon, Arizona chimichangas, Illinois Italian beef, Maryland crab cakes, South Carolina shrimp and grits, Oregon pear tarts and Georgia peach cobbler.
Previous winners Utah cherry cobbler, from 2012, and Northern Mariana Islands apigigi, from 2011, had lost in the earlier rounds of the March-Madness-like bracket. Online voting is similar to Major League Baseball’s method for picking all stars. Each week will bring another round of winners, and losers, and the Elite Eight will be served up at the Congressional Baseball Game on June 25 at Nationals Park, where the winner will be announced as well.
So stay hungry, oh partisans of Boston Cream Pie, oh apologists for crab cakes, half-smokes and bratwurst. Be ready to vote early and often. You never know when another apigigi will become the next Cinderella foodstuff.
It is the year of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner AL 1, or one year After Leibovich. While he wasn’t the first, Mark Leibovich’s “This Town” skewered the event and its accompanying cocktail parties, brunches and satellite offerings so hard that it’s worth wondering whether life at Nerd Prom will be different.
Will anyone enthusiastically tweet that they can’t believe they just saw Psy? Will the BuzzFeed Bowties and Burgers alterna-dinner at Jack Rose Saloon suffer a sophomore slump? Will Tammy Haddad change the mimosa schedule? Will news organizations now ignore people who had cameos in “House of Cards”? Will any celebrity selfies not be sponsored by Samsung?
We’ll see. While Leibovich’s chronicle certainly cut deep, it’s unlikely it will change much behavior. The spectacle of the WHCD has always been ripe for snark, self-consciousness and self-righteousness. Even the term Nerd Prom is a form of faux self-deprecation, an attempt to show that one understands just how declassé the whole affair is, even while jetting from soiree to soiree, from the French Embassy to David Bradley’s house.
So go forth and enjoy the pre-pre-parties, pre-parties, dinner, alternative parties, post-parties, post-dinner hangover cure brunches and the rest. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time, even as some of the events will seem like a 1970s disaster movie: Lots of talented people who used to be in the spotlight working it hard, waiting for the ship to be hit by a tidal wave.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to opt out of some of the week’s festivities, keep in mind a couple of things happening on Capitol Hill. This is the last week for the venerable Pour House, one of Pennsylvania Avenue’s last legit dive bars, which is pouring its last brew on April 30. There’s even a countdown clock on the Pour House website to show you just many hours and seconds you have for one last round of skeeball. The place that used to be Poli-Tiki will transition yet again, this time to a more upscale venue dreamed up by the folks behind nearby wine bar Sonoma.
On the night of the WHCD itself, local band Typefighter will be playing at the Rock and Roll Hotel at 1353 H St. NE for its “The End of Everything” album release party. Helping the crowd warm up will be another local outfit, Shark Week, which features Roll Call’s own Daniel Newhauser, a House leadership reporter by day, rock and roll drummer by night, with a little DC Ducks fanboy worked in on the side.
Doors open at 7 p.m., with the show starting at 8 p.m. It’s 12 bucks in advance and at the door. No rubber chicken dinner will be served.
And the day after features the Race for Hope Washington, D.C., 5K, which raises money for brain tumor research. For more information, go to braintumorcommunity.org.
For those of who like their brews in dark corridors, this has not been a kind year. The Lil’ Pub closed up shop in January, giving way to more toilet paper storage for neighboring CVS. The closing of a Pour House, which itself displaced dive Poli-Tiki, is just another blow for lovers of quaint. Boo!
The Washington Press Club Foundation’s annual Congressional Dinner, now in its 70th year, unofficially kicks off the capital’s season of formal and semi-formal schmooze-fests on Feb. 5 at the Grand Ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental. As any student of D.C. parties knows: This is the fun one.
The foundation, a nonprofit borne of the old Women’s National Press Club, raises awareness of the need for diversity in newsrooms and sponsors internships and educational projects for aspiring journalists. It also recognizes the accomplishments of sometimes underrepresented segments of the media, such as regional reporters in Washington through the David Lynch Memorial Reporting Award.
Plus, it’s a blast. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., will bravely take the mic to hoist a few zingers around the crowd of assembled pols, scribes and power brokers. They even got an early start by cutting a video debating who’s funnier.
Reception is 6:30 p.m., dinner and the program start at 8 p.m.
Wisdom Gin Club
Erik Holzherr, owner of Wisdom Cocktail Parlour, Church and State and Atlas Arcade is a man of many liquors, but there’s a spirit that is closest to his heart and he’s starting up the Wisdom Gin Club to show his love for the clear stuff.
On Feb. 6, he’ll let the world in on why he believes it is first among equals.
Twenty bucks will get you in for a guided tour of nine gins, including Leopold’s Gin, Half Moon Orchard Gin and local boys Green Hat Gin. Holzherr, Dan Searing and other specialists and ambassadors will be your guides. The club’s kickoff gets started at 7:30 p.m. at Wisdom, 1432 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. RSVP at Wisdom’s blog.
Jesse Ferguson Happy Hour
Friends, frenemies and colleagues welcome Jesse Ferguson, deputy executive director and communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, back to D.C. on Feb. 7 at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove for an extended happy hour.
“Let’s celebrate Jesse for showing cancer who’s boss the best way we know how: with a happy hour,” USA Today scribe (and Roll Call alumna) Susan Davis, head of the “Jesse Ferguson Return Happy Hour Organizing Committee” implored greater Capitol Hill recently via email.
Ferguson has been shuttling back and forth from his family’s home in Richmond, Va., and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center since discovering cancer in his cheek and neck. He announced earlier this month on his personal blog that his doctors feel they have nipped the frightful situation in the bud.
The libations in the upstairs bar at 329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. get under way around 5 p.m.
Ah, scotch. If “Anchorman” and its coming-soon sequel “Anchorman 2″ have done anything, it’s bring the wonders of what Ron Burgundy referred to as scotchy scotch scotch to light.
Whiskey-centric establishment Jack Rose Dining Saloon will be hosting its own Scotchy Scotch Scotch party Monday night “in honor of ‘Anchorman 2′s looming Christmas Day release, according to the bar. “If ‘Anchorman”s Ron Burgundy lived in Washington, DC, Jack Rose Dining Saloon would be his favorite watering hole.”
I smell sequel! Along with peat moss and heatherbrae, and other scotchy scotch scotch things.
Folks are encouraged to come in costume — considering the ’70s and ’80s are so big now, you’ve probably already got something fitting in your vintage-stocked closet. Members of the Channel 4 news team get $2 off cocktails. No cover. Includes a screening of “Anchorman” in the glass-enclosed upstairs bar. From 8 to 11 p.m. at 2007 18th St. NW.
Never mind those predictions of that Mid-Atlantic weather phenomenon, wintry mix. Brave the outside for a couple of cool holiday traditions on both sides of the Potomac: Old Town Alexandria’s Scottish Christmas Walk Parade and the Southwest Waterfront’s Parade of Lights in the District.
On Saturday, rain or shine, a whole mess of Scottish clans in tartans, with bagpipes, will turn Old Town into one big holiday hootenanny. Starting at 11 a.m. at Wilkes and St. Asaph streets and proceeding through the King Street district, it’s a unique celebration of the season. The bars and taverns in the area are more than willing to provide season and culturally appropriate libations.
Later on Saturday night and across the river, the Washington Waterfront Association and the Old Dominion Boat Club will put on the Parade of Lights along the Southwest Waterfront at Water and Seventh streets SW. Things kick off at 6 p.m. with music, a bonfire, some Santa Claus sightings and other holiday this and that. Around 7 p.m., decorated boats from the Alexandria Vote group will start to arrive at the waterfront, and folks can vote for their favorites. Promoters say it’ll all happen rain or snow. Free.
So long, Thanksgiving. Hello, holiday party season! This week the Senate may be away, but the festivities are in play, starting with the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree at 5 p.m. Tuesday on the West Front and the Capitol Hill Chanukah Celebration at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Capitol’s Mansfield Room.
And even if you’re not into indulging your inner Scrooge, there’s still plenty to do around Capitol Hill this week, including taking a look at some of the capital city’s dark secrets through the eyes of its most storied detective, and a concert at the Library of Congress by country royalty Rosanne Cash, daughter of the Man in Black.
Bill Press sits down on Tuesday at Hill Center with Terry Lenzner, arguably the District’s most seasoned private investigator. Lenzner has a memoir out, “The Investigator: Fifty Years of Uncovering the Truth,” which the two will discuss. Lenzner’s seen it all in a long career, including the murders of civil rights workers in the South, Watergate, the Unabomber and any number of high and low crimes. Lenzner will sign copies afterward. At the Hill Center’s Abraham Lincoln Hall at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 7-9 p.m. Free, but register at Hill Center’s website.
LOC to Cash In
Roseanne Cash will be at the Library of Congress for a three-day residency that starts Thursday and goes through Sunday, a project that will reveal to the public her new album, “The River and the Thread,” and include a “round robin” with other singer-songwriters and talk with a fellow Southerner, Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. The eldest child of the late Johnny Cash has a more-than-three-decades-long career and is a country legend in her own right. The fact that she’s kicking off her tour in D.C. at the library speaks to her enduring cultural imprint. On Thursday, Cash will premiere her new album in a concert at the Thomas Jefferson Building’s Coolidge Auditorium at 101 Independence Ave. SE. The tunes start at 8 p.m. The concert is free, sort of: You have to get tickets through Ticketmaster, which will charge a processing fee. The LOC says advance tickets are sold out, but there should be a decent number of “rush” tickets at the door. Friday’s round robin with Cash, John Leventhal, Cory Chisel, Rodney Crowell and Amy Helm is at the Coolidge at 8 p.m. Her Saturday conversation with Trethewey at the Jefferson Building’s Whittall Pavilion is free.
Eat, Drink, Vote, Read
The Roll Call Book Club wraps up its 2013 series with Marion Nestle, who’ll drop by CQ Roll Call HQ at 77 K St. NE on Thursday night to discuss her new book, “Eat Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics.” Co-hosted by our pals at Hooks Books, drop by at 6 p.m. for a little wine, some cheese and a discussion on what’s on everyone’s mind: What’s to eat?
Come fall, cult bourbon enthusiasts across America give thanks to the handful of establishments fortuitous enough to slide a few bottles of Pappy Van Winkle onto their shelves by proceeding to gleefully drink those places dry.
(Courtesy Redman Communications)
Having scored his annual allotment of old Rip Van Winkle Distillery’s prized product line, Bob Materazzi, owner of Shelly’s Back Room (1331 F St. NW), is not only looking forward to the bourbon purge, he finally gets what all the fuss is about. Full story
“Appearing Nightly BLAZE STAR ‘The Queen of Burlesque’” reads the ad on page 2 of the Nov. 20, 1963, Roll Call.
From the Nov. 20, 1963 Roll Call. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
It’s a reminder that not all of the advertising that has appeared in Capitol Hill newspapers such as our own came from the Nerve Gas Association of America or some such trade group looking to further a legislative agenda or burnish its credentials. The small partial ad was a fixture in our pages, appearing week after week to tout Star’s performance at The Playgirl Lounge at the corner of 13th and F streets NW. There’s a Starbucks there now.
Of note: This is not the famous exotic dancer who had a long-time affair with Louisiana Gov. Earl Long in the 1950s, which was itself the subject of the 1989 Paul Newman-Lolita Davidovich movie “Blaze” by Ron Shelton. That would be Blaze Starr, with two “r”s.
Good news, Southernphiles: The date for the 2014 Taste of the South has been set, and it comes with a bigger venue.
The next good-time go-round will be March 29, and it will be moving from the classy but slightly snug DAR Constitution Hall to the more spacious Washington Hilton, home to, among others, the White House Correspondents Dinner.
(Courtesy Taste of the South)
It seems like a long time ago the event was held at the D.C. Armory. But the 2010 event, which took place during a sweltering June weekend there, featured a decided lack of air conditioning. Although everyone knows it gets hot in the South, this was a bit of verisimilitude even die-hard Southerners did not need. DAR Hall was the next stop, and now the charity and nosh-festival looks like it’s got itself a new home.
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