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Just Exploring Wintery Washington

 

When you’re walking outside with your coat open because 30 degrees feels like spring, you know it’s been too cold. 

Since coming back to D.C. from Houston holidays, we’ve mostly stayed indoors, on our couch, under two or three layers of clothes. Our apartment doesn’t heat well, but at least it offers shelter from the wind that turns 4 degrees into “feels like -11.” 

Last week, a broken water main at work extended my winter break by a few days. Back to the couch! But cabin fever is real (the term turns 100 this year), and after seeing photos of the frozen reflecting pool, I wanted to witness some of the winter-transformed city. What I learned from that endless 2015 Boston winter was getting outside helps winter blues, as long as you bundle correctly. 

Here are a few photos from the times we’ve dared venture out. 

Meridian Park fountain

Meridian Park fountain

 
 
Joan of Arc 

Joan of Arc 

 
"Stay off"

"Stay off"

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This Christmas display was on W between 15th and 14th Streets NW last week. I hope it morphs into a Valentine's Day decoration in the next few weeks. 

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Books I Read in 2017

Happy New Year! 

I got through 28 books this year. My Goodreads goal was 20, and I achieved that with the help of several graphic novels. I got into the public anthropology program mentioned in last year’s post and spent lots of time reading journal articles. There was another art book, whose essays took me months to get through. New this year was an audio book, Ann Helen Petersen’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud. Petersen is the one reading her book to you. We listened to chapters as we drove between D.C. and St. Louis for the eclipse, a trip inspired by Annie Dillard’s The Abundance, one of my 2016 books. 

Unread books piled up around the apartment and my cubicle throughout the year. Ones I have yet to tackle include Yaa Gyaasi’s Homegoing, Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter by Gwendolyn Knapp, and Rice and Beans: A Unique Dish in a Hundred Places, edited by Richard Wilk and Lívia Barbosa. I want to read the last one because it represents a large part of my weekly diet. Maybe this will be the year I get to Arthur Kleinman’s What Really Matters: Living a Moral Life Amidst Uncertainty and Danger

My only reading goal this year was to finish the third LBJ book, Master of the Senate. I’ve listed it here prematurely, because I still have about 20 pages to go. But there are four hours left to the year, and I believe in myself. 

What books did you love in 2017? What are you looking forward to next year? Any favorite graphic novels I should check out? 

Here’s my 2017 list, with stars for the books I recommend. 

1. Black & Blue: The Origin and Consequences of Medical Racism, John Hoberman

2. The Kindness of Children, Vivian Gussin Paley 

3. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi**

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4. Persepolis 2, Marjane Satrapi** - I've wanted to read these books for years. I walked by them repeatedly in the library and finally checked them out and tore through them. This panel made me laugh out loud. 

5.  My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante** - Two women I admire loved and recommended this series. After I finished My Brilliant Friend, I was ambivalent. “Well… if they both like them, there must be some reason,” I thought and picked up the next book. 

6. The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante** - I devoured the second book, while despising the two main characters and their awful decisions. I really needed to know what happened to them, though, but as the semester was beginning, I put the series aside to focus on reading about Marx.  

7. Karl Marx, Anthropologist, Thomas Patterson

8. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America, Michael Taussig

9. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery  - Reread and cried again. 

10. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connections, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

11. The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, Julia Wertz 

12. Difficult Women, Roxane Gay**

13. Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing, Didier Fassin** 

14. Eating the Ocean, Elspeth Probyn 

15. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante** - The semester ended, and I was back to the Neapolitan novels. 

16. The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante** - By the time I finished this book, I’d convinced at least two other people to start the series. Names and relationships were confusing, and, as mentioned, I really hated the two main characters at times, but overall, I’m glad I stuck with it.

17. Becoming Unbecoming, Una - I didn’t know what this book was going to be and picked it because I liked the cover image. It was a about a British woman growing up when the Yorkshire Ripper was in the news. It’s about surviving rape and abuse, slut-shaming, misogyny, and the struggle of becoming a woman in a society that hates women. It was heartbreaking, enraging, inspiring, and way more than I expected from a graphic a novel. 

18. The Black Penguin, Andrew Evans**

19. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rose and Reign of Unruly Women, Ann Helen Petersen**

20. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, Tracy Kidder - I reread this for class, then told my professor I was thinking of leaving the program to become a nurse. I did not carry through. 

21. The Land of Open Graves, Jason De León

22. Anthropology: A Student’s Guide to Theory and Method, Stanley R. Barrett

23. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter** - this was one I stayed in bed to finish on a Sunday morning.

24. Niki de Saint Phaille and the Tarot Garden - Jill Johnston, Marella Caracciolo Chia, Giulio Pietromarchi - This was the art book whose text took me months to read. Niki de Saint Phaille was married to Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, and she created this wonderful sculpture garden in Italy that we will get to one day.  

25. Lumberjanes vol 3: A Terrible Plan Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen

26. Lumberjanes vol 4: Out of Time Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen

27. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, Dorothy Roberts

28. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Robert Caro** 

 

 

 

Why We Love State Fairs

After my state fair post a few weeks ago, someone mentioned that they had never been to a state fair. When I love something a lot, sometimes it’s difficult to explain in detail why I enjoy it so much, beyond, “IT’S AWESOME, GO!” So I asked some friends and family why they like their state fairs. Here they are: 

Laura Ellis says the Kentucky State Fair is her happy place: 

Just waiting for some pigtails. 

Just waiting for some pigtails. 

"When I was growing up, the Kentucky State Fair was always the last hurrah of summer, right before school started back up, and my parents took us every year. My mom says one year when I was around 4, we were looking at the goats, and she glanced away, and when she looked back, a goat was eating one of my pigtails — so I have to think the fair is at least partially responsible for my lifelong love of interacting with all manner of animals. Besides childhood memories, I think I love the fair because I relate to it so much; the fair is this weird, boisterous, musical, kitschy, kind of redneck, eclectic, country-ish entity that just happens to be in the middle of a city... like me!” 

This year, Laura takes home the Most Hardcore Fair Fan for living at the fair during its 11-day run as part of "a special embedded journalism project". 

Trevor Zickgraf, on the California State Fair: 
“...my favorite part of the California State Fair is the plethora of craft beers. California has become increasingly crafty when it comes to suds so being able to sample all that the Golden State has to offer is great. The food choices are also good but honestly, why go to a fair and try anything other than fried food. The best thing I've tried is the fried grilled cheese sandwich. Strangest fried item: Fried Kool-Aid. Finally, our fair does a great job with music. You won't find any A-Listers but acts like Belinda Carlisle and Blues Traveler were there this year. There's also this Queen cover band whose lead singer is a dead ringer for Hot Space era Freddy Mercury.”

Several years ago, I saw Boyz II Men at the Kentucky State Fair. There were only three Men (or Boyz?), and traffic to the fair meant we arrived in time for the last two songs. Still worth it. Then we wandered into the ticketed Def Leppard show, so I consider that a successful evening of fair-going. 

Riding the Texas Star in 2002. 

Riding the Texas Star in 2002. 

Michael Golden (full disclosure, he’s my brother) on the Texas State Fair: 
"Lots of state fairs have Ferris wheels, but I doubt many have ones like the Texas Star. Despite the cliche, it's not the biggest in the world, or even in the States, but it still gives a great view of the festivities. There's nothing like rising high above the noise and chaos to find a bit of peace and perspective. It's always worth the wait, and if the line is too long, it's just an excuse to grab a turkey leg (2nd favorite thing!) and join the queue.”

Emily Beliles (more full disclosure, she’s my cousin) on the Virginia State Fair: 
"My favorite part of the Virginia State Fair is definitely the pig races. Watching little, happily squealing piglets fly around a track is pure joy. The bigger the pigs, the slower the races, and inevitably there's one or two hogs that get sidetracked by something interesting they find to sniff along the way. Sitting on hay bales and listening to the announcer's intense introductions and moment-by-moment Nascar-like descriptions of each race is half the fun. It's definitely the one show I never miss!” 

Fried everything, turkey legs (my favorite fair food), livestock, animal shows — these are some of the things that make me want to go to the fair every year. Plus, tickets are cheap, so you can spend all your money on Grater Taters, food on sticks, and beer. I particularly love the craft contests, both for the range of skill and strangeness on display. Someone made an intricate, flowery quilt; someone else made a horse out of seashells. Winners, all. 

So go forth and find a state fair to attend. If you’re in D.C., there are still at least five coming up in the next few weeks that are kind of close. 

Sea horse. 

Sea horse. 

Favorite D.C. Places: Cherubs and Goose

Here are some cherubs strangling a goose. 

What did that goose ever do to those cherubs? 

What did that goose ever do to those cherubs? 

This fountain is in one of the two main floor atriums in the National Gallery's West Building. The weirdness of the statue makes this atrium superior to its east wing counterpart, which is identical but for the blander fountain. I saw both statues last weekend, and I can’t remember what the other one is. It’s definitely not angels roughhousing with a goose. 

When taking visitors to the National Gallery, we always go to the rotunda, whose Italian marble pillars, dark floors, and Pantheon-inspired dome always get a "Wow." But the garden courts are cozier, and the skylights, greenery, and Goose and Cherubs put this particular indoor courtyard among my many favorite spots near the Mall. It’s a perfect place to hide from the weather, if you can soldier through the summer humidity or the dreary winter to get to the museum. The chairs around the atrium mean you can sit, people watch, eavesdrop, or read a book for as long as the museum is open. It’s full of light, it's free, the landscaping around the fountain changes every few months, and you’re surrounded by art.

And at least last weekend, it was relatively empty. The tourists were all lined up down the street at the Natural History and American History Museums. 

The State Fairs are Coming!

State fair season is upon us. And there are a bunch of state fairs kind of close to D.C..

The size of states in the Northeast still thrills me. Drive four hours in the right direction and you’ll probably pass through as many states. Drive four hours north from Houston and you’ll be in Dallas. When I realized how close all these states are, I put together a spreadsheet of state fairs within a five-hour drive of D.C.  If I’m going to get to all 50 states’ fairs, it will require planning. As a side note, I haven’t figured out what to do with the states that don't have an official state fair, like Pennsylvania. 

Judges at Maryland State Fair failed to award Cthulhu hat a ribbon

Judges at Maryland State Fair failed to award Cthulhu hat a ribbon

Anyway, in 2016, I checked Maryland and D.C’s fairs off my list on the same weekend. I'm updating my spreadsheet to make my attack plan. Here's a run down, in chronological order: 

Delaware State Fair: July 20-29, from 8 am - 11 pm, except on opening day, when gates open at noon. The Delaware State Fairgrounds are at 18500 S Dupont Hwy, Harrington, DE 19952, approximately 2 hrs from D.C. Tickets are $9 at the gate for adults and $4 for children. This list of 98 things to do at the 98th Delaware State Fair really sells their fair. Free samples of Cheerwine? Yes please, I just heard about this soda (not wine) and have never seen or had it. Walk among butterflies and learn to repair a butterfly wing? Hold a baby chick? Sheep and Wool Ambassador Contest? I want to do all these things. I’m sure some of the other state fairs offer similar activities, but kudos to Delaware for the list.

New Jersey State Fair: Aug. 4 - 13 at 37 Plains Road, Augusta, NJ 07822, about 4.5 hrs away. They're open from 10 am - 10 pm, except on the last day, August 13, when the gates close at 5. Tickets purchased before August 4 are $9 for adults and $5 for children. 

State Fair of West Virginia: Aug. 10-19 at 947 Maplewood Ave, Lewisburg, WV 24901. This fair is four hours and 40 minutes from D.C. Gates open at 2 p.m. on August 10th; otherwise, they're open from 9 am - 11 pm. Adults pay $11, or $9 in advance; children 12 and under get in for free. 

Calf at Maryland State fair

Calf at Maryland State fair

Maryland State Fair: Aug. 24 - Sep. 4 at 2200 York Road, Lutherville-Timonium, MD 21093. This is about an hour and 15 minutes from the city. They have yet to post their hours and ticket prices, but last year, my ticket cost $8. 

DC State Fair:  September 24th from 11 am - 8 pm at Waterfront Station, 375 and 425 M St. SW. It's free. 

State Fair of Virginia: Sept 29 - Oct. 8. Hours are 10-10 Friday and Saturday, 10 - 9, Sunday - Thurs. It's at 13111 Dawn Blvd, Doswell, VA, 23047, an hour and 45 minutes from D.C. Tickets for adults are $15, or $12 in advance. Kids are $11, or $8 in advance. They advertise "sliding ducks," so Virginia tops my list this year. 

Have you been to any of these state fairs? If you're from one of those state fair-free states, is there another fair or event you recommend? What are you most looking forward to at your state's fair? I'm looking forward to all your state fair pictures, especially any of duckling slides, impressive quilts, elaborate cakes (especially if they're moldy), and weird art submissions.  

Happy state fair season! 

Some thoughts on making a mini-documentary

I just finished a six-week video production class and made a mini-documentary. Here it is!

My undergraduate degree is in photography, and thanks to Louisville, Not Kentucky, I also knew how to edit audio going into this project. In college, many of my friends (and my husband) studied film and video. I never got to video. I was probably afraid of it, and rightly so -- it’s all the worries of photography, combined with all the audio worries, plus the usual worry of hauling expensive, school-owned equipment on the metro and making sure it all works and is picking up the right things… it was an anxious six weeks. Of course, combining audio and photography also lets you do wonderful things you can’t do with stills and sound alone. And I’ve always enjoyed fiddling with something for hours until it’s perfect and I’m hungry and exhausted, so I loved having the opportunity to do that kind of creative work again. 

These oysters not shucked by Gardner Douglas. 

These oysters not shucked by Gardner Douglas. 

Some random lessons I learned (or remembered, because there are certainly transferable photo and audio lessons) during this process:

Like bourbon at a Kentucky wedding, you can never have enough b-roll.

Introduce yourself to people, even if you think they know who you are. 

Put your phone and metro card in different pockets. Otherwise, you might pull out your metro card with your phone, and it might fall into an open construction site behind a chain-link fence. 

You can eat farmed oysters outside of “R” months. 

Do not eat a warm oyster, especially when a nationally-ranked oyster shucker tells you he’s not going to eat it because it’s been sitting in the sun for an hour while you conduct an interview. There's a reason for serving oysters on ice. They're disgusting warm and raw. 

Tip your oyster shucker! 

The U.S. Oyster Festival takes place annually in Leonardtown, Maryland on the third weekend in October. Let's go. 

Books I Read in 2016

Happy 2017! 

2016 was generally a rough year, and the 27 books I read this year are unimpressive compared to last year’s 48. I only reached 27 thanks to four comic books. Then again, I took two graduate classes and had a job the whole year, versus 2015’s five months of fellowship and four months of employment. So in between pleasure reading, there were hours of chapters on archival document management and capitalism. I’ve applied to a graduate program, and if that goes well, there will be many more hours of reading capitalism in 2017.

Looking back at last year’s post, I did accomplish my goals of reading The Education of Henry Adams and SulaThere was a stark lack of LBJ in 2016, so my only reading goal for next year is to finish book three in the Years of Lyndon Johnson series, Master of the Senate. I’ve also got both Persepolis books on my night stand and an ever-growing list of books to read on Goodreads.

What were some of your favorite books this year? What’s on your list for 2017? 

Here are the 27 books I read in 2016, with stars for the ones I really loved and recommend: 

  1. White Teeth, Zadie Smith**
  2. The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams - this one is interesting for the history. I started reading it in 2015 for Jamaica Kincaid's Autobiography and Memoir class. She pointed out that Adams writes his life story without once mentioning his wife, Marian "Clover" Hooper Adams, who committed suicide by drinking photo chemicals. He makes one allusion to her death when he mentions going to the Washington cemetery "known as Rock Creek, to see the bronze figure which St. Gaudens had made for him in his absence." One reference in 505 pages. 
  3. The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
  4. Kehinde Wiley: New Republic, various authors
  5. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell ** - I recommend this so much I wrote a blog post about it. It pairs especially well with lots of Hamilton soundtrack. 
  6. On My Own, Diane Rehm** - definitely recommended for Diane Rehm fans. Maybe not recommended if you’ve lost someone recently and might cry on the bus on your way to work as you read it. Or perhaps it’s just what you  need? 
  7. Growing Up Brown: Memoirs of a Filipino American, Peter Jamero
  8. Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage, Michael R. Veach
  9. Sula, Toni Morrison**
  10. H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald** - there were times I had to stop reading this because it was so heartbreakingly sad.
  11. Au revoir, les enfants, Louis Malle - read to get ready for France! 
  12. My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, Ruth Reichl 
  13. Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay**
  14. The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee
  15. The Abundance, Annie Dillard** - this, like H is for Hawk, made me think, “I will never write this well.” Beautiful. 
  16. Driving Hungry, Layne Mosler
  17. East Along the Equator, Helen Winternitz
  18. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
  19. Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan
  20. Black Panther, Ta-Nehesi Coates
  21. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie** - I loved this book. It might be my favorite of the ones I read last year. 
  22. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, Andrea Wulf**  
  23. The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72, Molly Peacock**
  24. Lumberjanes vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy, Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen
  25. Lumberjanes vol 2: Friendship to the Max, Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen
  26. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, ed Meghan Daum
  27. French Milk, Lucy Knisley

A Weekend of State Fairs

Over the weekend, I went to the Maryland and D.C. state fairs, and I realize I've been spoiled by Kentucky and Texas. 

Maryland’s state fair takes place in Timonium, about an hour and half from D.C. It covers the essentials. You can eat corn dogs, something called a pork sundae, deep fried cream cheese, cinnamon rolls, Oreos, or my favorite fair food, the giant turkey leg. Their Home Arts building includes quilt, crochet, photography, cross-stitch, and various baked goods contests. There’s a Horse Center, which my allergies and I avoided, a Cow Palace, and other livestock barns full of goats, alpacas, sheep, pigs, and newly hatched chicks. We visited the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ exhibit, where we pet a rat snake and learned you can eat the invasive snakehead fish at a Baltimore restaurant called Alewife. In the Agricultural Center, I sampled alfalfa honey and admired prize-winning but normal-sized pumpkins and eggplants.

The fair program advertised a Negro League Baseball exhibit in the Exhibition Hall. In the back of the room, next to a balloon display and the entrance to a bulk candy shop, we found a gentleman with a what seemed to be a personal collection of Negro League Baseball articles, plaques, and posters. The rest of the hall was retail and political booths. Thankfully this section was small compared to Kentucky’s — no t-shirts of mascots brutalizing each other. But there was also no Raptor Rehab booth, and not an oversized pumpkin or watermelon in sight. This was the most ornate cake we saw: 

Pig in a blanket cake

Pig in a blanket cake

Maryland’s fair has most of the things I love. D.C’s state fair is a one-day affair in a parking lot. We’re not a state, so it’s unfair to ask too much of our fair (do you like how much I’m using the word “fair”?). In the line of food trucks, one offered deep-fried desserts. They had various contests, and we endured the heat long enough to see the winners of the longest, heaviest, and funkiest vegetables. At 27 pounds, the D.C. pumpkin beat out all the ones we saw at the Maryland State Fair.

They also had a new-to-me fair feature: a towering marijuana plant, discounts on medical cards, and a booth on growing your own plants at home. 

But I miss the 1000-pound pumpkins, the weird and fabulous poultry, the duck-herding border collies, and of course, the duckling slide. Virginia's state fair starts in late September, and I see they have poultry, giant pumpkins and watermelons, AND "always-popular sliding ducks." That sounds promising.