Saturday, June 05, 2004

STATE FUNERAL: Reagan Dies, City Prepares to Remember Former President

Washington is preparing this evening for a state funeral for former President Ronald Reagan. The 40th president of the United States died a few minutes after 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon at his Bel Air, Calif., home after battling Alzheimer's disease for the past decade.

Though more information as to the details of the state funeral are supposed to be released Sunday, Reagan's body will lie in state in the Capitol's Rotunda after a procession east on Constitution Avenue from the foot of the Ellipse. The National Cathedral is supposed to be the scene of a large funeral service as well. All this is set for early this coming week.

One local landmark associated with Reagan is the corner of Florida Avenue and T Street in Northwest, where the president was shot in 1981 by a deranged assassin obsessed with Jodie Foster. The corner sits at the lower driveway for the Washington Hilton, where the president had been earlier. The other landmark from the assassination was torn down last year. The old George Washington University hospital at Washington Circle, where Reagan was taken and recovered, was demolished after GWU's new Reagan hospital opened across the street.

CITY COUNCIL: "The Bitch [Park Police] Set Me Up"

The Washington Post recounts WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi's live conversation with Marion Barry about the infamous former mayor's decision to drop out of the 2002 race for city council and his more recent indications about his intentions to mount a challenge against Sandy Allen for the Ward 8 city council seat.

In 2002, the U.S. Park Police found traces of marijuana and a few rocks of crack in his Jaguar which was parked at Buzzards Point in Southwest. In 1990, Barry was arrested at a downtown hotel and convicted of misdemeanor cocaine possession. It was from that incident where he uttered perhaps his most notable line: "... the bitch set me up."

The "bitch" Barry was referring to his former girlfriend Rasheeda Moore, who had lured him to the Vista Hotel, where the FBI caught him on tape taking two drags from a crack pipe. (Check out a full transcript of the incident, courtesy of A Dog's Life.)

Recalling the 2002 incident, Barry, 68, says the U.S. Park Police set him up. He says the Park Police had no reason to patrol Buzzards Point.

From the WAMU radio, via thePost: "The Park Service planted whatever they planted in my car," Barry continued on the radio program. "They were out in the District, never patrolled in the District before, but that is in the past."

The Park Police attempts to dispel Barry's claim in the Post. "The only thing that we have to say is that we stand behind our officers," said Lt. Michael Downs. "Twenty-two percent of the District is our primary jurisdiction, and in other parts of the District, we patrol concurrently with" the D.C. police. (The Park Police also has two marinas at Buzzards Point.)

A Much-Watched City Council Race Soon to Come? Usually, D.C. city council can be a bore to locals. A Barry race could attract some unexpected media attention to the race to represent Anacostia. Already this year, there was a bit of behind-the-scenes drama on the city council with Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham openly considering a challenge against Harold Brazil for his at-large council seat. Graham decided not to go ahead with a challenge after many District power brokers feared that racial fractures tied to such a race could divide the city (Graham (D) is white, Brazil is the only black council member who holds a coveted at-large seat.)

But Brazil is not out of the hot seat. In fact, the pressure could be turned up on him as his re-election race continues. Brazil stands accused of using city workers to assist him in his private law practice.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

CONSTITUENTS: 3 Groups Marching, Running All Over Town

The cicadas are pretty much done with and the veterans have come and gone. But a warning to everyone this weekend, more is on the way. This weekend, different groups representing unrelated causes will take to the streets of the capital. This could cause nerves to fray and confusion on the Metro, anywhere along lower Connecticut Avenue or down by the memorials.

The Washington Post gets straight to the point:
Antiwar demonstrators will take to the streets, breast cancer survivors and their supporters will run or walk on the Mall, and families and community leaders in Anacostia will march to call attention to young victims of violence in the District.

International ANSWER will march on the Kalorama Road residence of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after a noon rally at the White House. The Race for the Cure will bring out 50,000 runners to city streets to raise breast cancer awareness. And in Anacostia, the community will turn out for a gathering to raise awareness for youth violence.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

COMMUTING: Yes, Breaking an Escalator Is That Easy

We've heard that because they are most complicated people-moving equipment around, the can be complicated to fix. While the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority can boast being the only subway system in the nation that has 572 escalators, its stair-climbing and descending machines break down a lot. Budget watchers blame the unions, who blame a lack of funding. Management points its finger at upkeep costs increase all as capital expenses skyrocket. Commuters are eternally agitated and bloggers will complain.

But how easy is it break one escaltor and anger an entire neighborhood? Do they just break down? Or are they forced out of service by the commuters themselves? It just so happened that a friend of mine broke one last week on the way to work. And all it takes is a nickel.

After being without regular escalator service for many, many weeks, both escalators were working Friday morning at the U Street-Cardoza-African American Civil War Mem'l metrorail stop on the Green Line. An older woman on the escaltor -- a few steps down from my friend -- was rifling though her purse to fine subway fare.

A nickel fell to the ground and landed in an escalator step groove. As she was bending down to pick it up, the coin was somehow was pulled under the metal device, grinding the escalator to a loud, ugly, lurching halt.

Seriously, how can this happen? Things like this should not be happening. A nickel? The Oculus does not encourage commuters to empty out their pockets while riding on any Metro escalator. So remember, stand on the right, and don't fish for loose change on moving surfaces.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

OUT AND ABOUT: Pigs Feet, Toblerone and Bern

Did you ever wonder how many calories an ounce of Toblerone chocolate has in comparison to a ounce of Emmentaler cheese? Were you ever curious about the origins of the Berner platter? Were the French involved?

Those were all questions I was considering on Saturday evening in a 10-question true and false quiz handed out before the third course at a Swiss heritage dinner. While the event was not officially hosted by the Swiss Embassy (it was hosted by the Swiss-American society in Washington), multiple embassy officials were there, including the soon-to-be ambassador to Vietnam.

Dinner for 52 was held at a residence near the Carderock Naval Surface Warfare Center off MacArthur Boulevard out on the way to Great Falls. The dinner's theme was a "Celebration of Bern," Switzerland's capital, which included a whole host of Bern-themed entertainment options, including a magic show, comedy routine and quiz. (Besides the children of the Swiss military attache, I was the youngest person there. The Swiss are an aged, stoic (some might say icy), federalist society. But I have found them to be quite interesting, though somewhat stodgy. Others I have found to be proper, though grounded eccentrics. I was acting as driver and escort for my 85-year-old great aunt who married into a part-Swiss family. But there was someone was older, as in 98 years-old.)

During the quiz, I somehow guessed my way to second place, winning a large bar of Toblerone chocolate ("Oh, oh, oh! You love the Toblerone. How nice!" the mistress of ceremonies said to me when picking up my prize.) But apparently, I missed out on the top prize, which was a complimentary in-home catered dinner by the famed chef at the French ambassador's residence, who was our chef that evening. The chef, aided by his equivalent from the German Embassy, created an authentic Berner platter.

"People in Bern, certainly like the pigs," said one Swiss-American woman, commenting on the platter of varied pork slicings. Sausages, bacons, and other hunks of pork are integral parts of such a platter. It was all there, on top of a bed of green beans and sauerkraut.

The night's hostess greeting me at the buffet-line: "You like the pig's foot, ya?"

[hesitation from me] ... "Oh, ... yes, of course."

[winking at me] ... "Oh yes, you will enjoy it." She spoons it on, nodding her head with matronly glee.

If you haven't had pig's foot, start with the muscles that form the toes. The meat there is a little tougher and edible. The further you move up the fleshy stump, the more gelatinous it is. (You may remember a scene in "The Great Outdoors" when John Candy finishes the steak eating challenge and is at the end forced to eat the carved off grizzle ... yeah, it's sort of like that.) I didn't eat much, asking the wine server to refill my glass to make it go down a little easier.