Chinatown

Much of Washington D.C. was quiet this weekend. One Smithsonian employee said that the tourists have been sparse this year because of the pandemic and that most have gone home in recent weeks because of school starting.

Traffic headed into the city was light while there appeared to be a mass exodus going in the other direction. It was like everyone else left so we could have a private tour of the city nearly all weekend.

Chinatown seems like a place that should be bustling on a normal Friday night but even this area was relatively quiet in some ways. While there was a line outside a new sushi place, Nichola’s favorite family owned restaurant was empty when we went in.

The food and service were excellent so it was worrisome to see how little business they had aside from some takeout orders. I hope that this isn’t the trend for them these days especially since Nichola remembers a time when you could hardly get a table.

Washington’s Chinatown was historically much larger and more densely populated but today amounts to just a few hundred residents. The surrounding area is gentrified with a number of restaurants, high end stores and museums. It has the feel of a neighborhood that is struggling to hold its place in an ever changing world.

Yet, it is powerfully colorful and vibrant in its own way. I admire the shapes and colors found here as well as all the signs and the Chinese Gate built across the street. Incidentally, it’s called the Friendship Gateway, a collaboration between D.C. government and their sister city Beijing. We were there for just one evening and consequently missed all the little shops. We agreed that we’ll have to visit again and spend some time perusing their wares.

The neighborhood has a metro station, making it affordable and easy to access from nearly anywhere in the city. It’s well worth a stop if you’re in town.

Escape!

These last few days have been pure bliss and even reminiscent of the good old days before the pandemic. That’s because I ran away from home, escaped reality and went adventuring.

My travels took me to Jamestown, New York which is Lucille Ball’s hometown. There’s a whole Lucy trail including a museum as well as other fun things to do in the area. I also took in some sights along Lake Erie on the way back.

There are lots of stories to tell but, for now, I just want to say that it is possible to travel and to be safe. It’s possible to support museums and small businesses without taking a lot of risks. It’s possible to have fun and see new things and feel like your old self.

Even. In. A. Pandemic.

You may need to adjust your expectations and strategize how to do some things but it can be done.

I am fully vaccinated and chose to do things that don’t involve a lot of people. The most important museum that I wanted to visit had potential to be busy so I went to when they first opened to avoid any crowd. Honestly, though, I never encountered a crowd at any destination.

Stay tuned. I’ll give you a tour of all the things I did.

The Roaring Twenties

Courtesy Huffington Post

The Roaring Twenties are starting to make sense to me.

After an intense period of war and pandemic, this was an era of economic prosperity that gave us technological advancements in radio, telephone, cars and many electrical appliances for the home.

Modernity was a major theme of these years. Women had finally taken the right to vote and were beginning to claim their place in higher education and the workplace.

It was a period of excess, progress and of modern convenience.

This period also gave us the rise of the Jazz Age, dance clubs and flappers with their bobbed hair, shorter hemlines, silk stockings, fabulous accessories, and high heels.

After years of war, sickness and economic troubles, people just wanted to dress up and go have some fun.

Yesterday, I had nowhere to be and nothing to do when I got there but badly needed out of the house so I ran some errands. It is an exaggeration to say that my usual errand running attire these days is a step above homeless chic. However, it IS fair to say I have spent most of the last year in yoga pants and running shoes.

Yesterday I put on my favorite jeans, a cute jacket, my favorite hat, a necklace AND a shoe with a slight heel. My faux leather lime green purse looked cute with my blue sweater. I know this because I received several compliments and the pharmacist at CVS even asked why I was “all gussied up.”

Friends, it felt good to dress nicely. Note, I wasn’t dressed up. Just dressed better than my new normal. And evidently better than the normal at the pharmacy.

The experience made me want to put on a dress, get my hair done (perhaps a 1920s bob?) and go DO something! Maybe take myself out to dinner or a movie or stroll through a museum!

I am curious to see how this will all end up. Will the new normal be even more casual than before the pandemic? People were already wearing pajamas to the grocery store so it’s hard to believe we could get much more casual.

Or will we swing the other direction and embrace putting our best foot forward? Given how hard it is to buy a nice dress or work appropriate blouse, I suspect casual will win the war. But I’m going to do my best to push back.

And no, don’t look for me dancing on tables in a speakeasy! Just don’t be surprised to see me quietly browsing a bookstore in a dress and fabulous accessories.

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

One of my favorite Christmas carols originates from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. English nerds like myself know the poem “Christmas Bells” but everyone else will know the song as “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”

Longfellow penned this poem in the depths of another American crisis, during some of the darkest days of the Civil War.

It was a dark time for him personally as well – his wife of 18 years had succumbed to burns sustained in an accident. His son had also joined the Union Army without his consent and was subsequently injured.

I tell you this depressing story to tell you something else. History has proven time and again that this too shall pass. While we may struggle and hurt and suffer right now, brighter days lie ahead.

Read the poem below and listen to the carol if you have a favorite recording. Oddly enough, I’m partial to the Harry Belafonte rendition because he sings it with such reverence that it’s almost like a prayer set to music.

Wherever you are in this world and whatever your holiday looks like, Scout and I wish you a safe, happy and very MERRY Christmas!

Christmas Bells
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Last November

Last November took me to Pittsburgh where a good friend gave me the holiday tour of her city.

Pittsburgh is an amazing place to celebrate the Christmas season thanks to free and inexpensive events, a beautifully decorated downtown, and tons of shopping opportunities at every turn.

Things are so different this year that I keep thinking back to that weekend – leisurely tours of museums, a crowded train car, fireworks amidst strangers, and a cramped Prantl’s Bakery where people pack in for the finest treats around. We ate in diners with people seated a foot or two away and never gave a second thought to touching doors and keypads or to how many people we would encounter while walking down the street.

My memories are a stark contrast to how we are (or how we should be) living as we try to slow the growth of this pandemic.

I hope to go back someday and experience it all again. For now, I am staying close to home and seeking ways to still enjoy life without too much interaction or risk. I hope you are doing the same and that you might enjoy the armchair travels you’ll find in these pictures.

I delighted in a display of life sized depictions of Father Christmas from around the world. Isn’t he stunning?

Notice the tree reflected in the walls of this mirrored building? There was ice skating in this plaza as well.

It seems like this man had a German accent. He was delightful to listen to as he demonstrated his wares for a seemingly endless crowd.

This tree is composed of lights on the corner of the building. A real show stopper and we were there to see the first lighting!

The Phipps does amazing things with flowers, plants, lights and good old fashioned dirt. Do yourself a favor and read this post about the Phipps at Christmas. There are more pictures.

Here’s hoping that we all can return to normal next Christmas.

For now, I think the meaning of Christmas 2020 is to do everything we can to keep each other safe and well so that we all can be here to celebrate the brighter days ahead.

Be safe, my friends.

Not A Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

For many Americans, Thanksgiving will not be like a Norman Rockwell painting this year.

There will be a lot of empty seats at tables across the country. Some of those seats will always be empty as the pandemic has tragically robbed us of over 250,000 lives so far.

Some will be filled again in a year or two. This pandemic won’t last forever if we can just stay healthy and live to see it through.

There was another pandemic a hundred years ago that had people wearing masks, cancelling events and avoiding others. Those folks probably thought it would last forever but it didn’t.

As we are all complaining about the inconvenience and the lost traditions and the missed opportunities to see family, it’s perhaps helpful to remember three things:

1. There are ways to connect via phone and internet that people didn’t have a century ago.

2. There are people who are alone on every holiday and who know the loneliness of isolation around the holidays all too well.

3. This too shall pass. When it does, perhaps those who are experiencing loneliness this year will think to include others who are always alone when it’s safe to do so.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the way we celebrate Thanksgiving as it’s mostly about gorging on food, watching football and taking naps. At least that’s how it seems and I don’t especially enjoy any of those things. If I had my way, I’d pack a sandwich and spend the day in nature where I feel most alive.

Of course, after we eat, on the very day we gather to express our thanks many run out to see how much cheap stuff they can buy.

A lot of retailers will be closed this Thanksgiving, opting to open early Friday morning for their Black Friday sales. Although I heard on the radio that Rural King is open early on Thanksgiving with ten percent off animal food and other random stuff.

But I digress.

My day will include lunch with my parents and an aunt. I’m back in the work-from-home club and trying hard to avoid crowded places and to limit my exposure to other people. They’re retired and home and doing the same. Maybe we’ll watch a movie or play a board game and just be thankful that we’re together, well fed and alive.

So maybe it’s not a Norman Rockwell holiday but we have to live in the world we wake up in. Let’s try to make it as safe as possible so we’re all around for happier days when we can all set aside our masks and sit down together without worry.