Now fully back into the swing of things here at home. Travel to the east was refreshing and a reminder of how much I love the city of Washington, DC. The city & surrounds were my home for nearly 10 years back in the mid-70's... a place I remember as exciting & filled with fun. During my tenure in DC we bore witness to the resignation of Nixon, the end of the Vietnam War, the death of disco & the rise of punk.
DC back in those days played host to an amazing group of music venues, most of them now long gone... On any given night, a young man with a thirst for adventure could wander in off the streets to catch fret wizard Danny Gatton burning down the house to a standing room only crowd, while other stellar guitarists like Roy Buchanan & Jeff Beck lurked with envy in the back shadows. Emmy Lou Harris crooned behind the mic at Childe Harold over in DuPont Circle while skinheads thrashed to The Stanglers at The Bayou over on K Street in G-Town, a street now synonymous with corporate greed and Capitol lobbyists.
Over in the 'burbs, The Muffins were collaborating with British experimental composer Fred Frith, fresh out of Henry Cow and crossing the Atlantic to check out the truly weird shit that was going down musically in our nation's Capitol. Progressive band Happy The Man had just inked a two-record deal with Clive Davis & Arista Records, while rehearsing with Peter Gabriel, immediately post-departure from Genesis. Punk/New Wave impresarios, Urban Verbs, (front man, Roddy Franz, had a brother who drummed for New York based Talking Heads) were rehearsing in a loft downtown on F Street in the old Atlantis Building, original site of what was to become the world famous 9:30 Club. The "Verbs" were also on the brink of signing their landmark two-record deal with Warner Bros. Records.
The scene in those days was as active as it was diverse, a launching pad for many acts that would go on to gain national acclaim. With the end of a war and the ouster of a corrupt president, the youth, music & arts activities were in overdrive and there was a sense of collective possibility all held together by a couple of radio stations (WGTB & WHFS) and one alternative newspaper (The Unicorn Times).
Things have changed since then, mostly for the better from what I could tell from my brief visits to the city last month. While most of the aforementioned music venues are now long gone but not forgotten, there is an obvious effort being made to gentrify areas of the city once considered too dangerous to venture at night (though I always did and never experienced any problems). Within walking distance of the the Washington Monument are a host of fabulous eateries and watering holes now. We sampled a couple and came away really wowed by one called Jaleo, operated by a chef of some reknown, we later learned. Jose Andres' Jaleo, on 7th Street, is a smart Spanish Tapas place, clean & modern on the inside, a limited number of outdoor tables along the sidewalk for dining al frecco and perhaps the most extensive menu I have ever encountered. The staff were extremely knowledgeable, helpful & professional while the food was out of this world! Highly recommended!
My timing for patriotic color could not have been better for the jaunts into the city. Memorial Day Weekend preparations were underway and the Mall monuments were swathed in red, white & blue bunting as far as the eye could see. A second evening down in the city found us dining, at the invitation of a friend, in a quaint neighborhood restaurant called Saint-Ex located in a re-gentrified section of 14th Street.
Then, it was across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and into the heart of the tidewater region of Maryland's Eastern Shore, my childhood home, for the primary mission of the 6ooo mile journey. My father was celebrating his 80th circle 'round the sun. Siblings & old family friends were arriving from all over for the surprise party that had been planned for months in advance. The surprise was a success and I had the opportunity to re-connect, if only briefly, with some people that I hadn't seen in 40 years or more.
A couple of trips to the Atlantic beach resort town of Ocean City, Maryland were also on the itinerary... to feast of fresh crab & crabcakes, morning bike rides on the boardwalk where I first met my better-half well over 30 years ago and fill-up on boardwalk caramel popcorn & the best french fries to ever be cut from a potato.
But now I'm back in the islands, vacation has come to an end... Happy Birthday, Dad! It was a great two-week hang!
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New studio construction continued unabated during my absence. I returned to find that exterior windows, doors, siding and battens had been installed... the roof went on a couple of days after my return. Electrical has now been roughed-in along with the big storage closet. Yesterday we had electrical & final framing inspections all approved, though we still wait for a permit for the new screen porch that will front the new construction. I'm told by the bureaucracy that we should have that permit in hand any day now. Today they are removing what was once an exterior window and breaking thru a wall that will be the connecting walk-thru from a new library into the new studio space. Life will be noisy & dusty for a few more weeks as drywall is scheduled to begin early next week. By the beginning of August, however, I should be able to start clearing out the current studio and moving into the new.