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Sunday, January 27, 2013


Inauguration Day got a spectacular start in Washington, DC  last Monday.  The city's skies  were filled with a sunrise that seemed like God's version of the American Flag.

   I smiled, I stared, and my mind sang, "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light".   Corny but true, it was hard not to feel patriotic.
    The hundreds of  people rushing past our Capitol Hill apartment paid no mind.  They moved quickly through the darkness and thirty-five degree weather to claim places to see the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
     Francesca and I had never been to one.   We were there because Travelocity had sent us a "price alert" two months ago that said, "Washington, DC $159 RT".   Her son, Ruy, offered us a place to stay.   We had to go, to take this victory lap with the diversified coalition who had helped re-elect Obama.
     We had it easy.  We met many who had spent twenty hours riding buses to get there. All we had to do was to bundle up and join the pilgrimage.
     Truth be told, it wasn't that easy.  Imagine getting on a plane with 800,000 other people.  That many bodies had to walk this way, that way, and ease their way through metal detecting security to see the Big Moment. 
  The guards did not check for shoe bombs but curiously, they did confiscate all apples and oranges.  They couldn't say why.    
 It was a heck of a hike, no place for the old or faint-of-heart. Our tickets allowed us to stand in a huge, fenced-in square, with 10,000 others, on the Capitol Mall.  There were plastic squares beneath us to protect the grass.
  If you had no ticket, you headed for a much bigger area, just behind us, that stretched a mile back.   To have more room we stayed in the back of our corral.  Some had enough room to sleep.  

Workers passed out thousands of little flags but they ran out by the time they got to us.  We waved arms instead.
     At 10 am the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir began revving up in the distance.  The  mega-speakers and huge TVs ("Jumbotrons") let us know what we were looking at.  At 11, members of Congress were introduced with the partisan crowd cheering or booing at the appropriate moments.
     You probably were as thrilled as we were when Mr. and Ms. Obama finally made their entrance.  100,000 Super Bowl fans make quite a roar.  Multiply that by eight.
      A few minutes before noon the Chief Justice finally got around to administering the oath.  We were relived that he did not screw up this time.
    We loved the President's inauguration address.  He dramatically invoked the beginning of a new era, one that included the diverse group that was surrounding us. Even the sleepers were standing now. We stood together in a sea of happiness. We cheered our president's promise to take us in a new, progressive direction.
     Yes, we also heard songs sung by James Taylor,  Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce, but Barack Obama was the star. We were proud of him, the things he said, and proud to be citizens of the country celebrating this new beginning.
   The choir closing with "Battle Hymn of the Republic" gave us goosebumps.  So did the falling temperatures.  As we disbursed hundreds of us headed to the closest warm place, the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art.
   As guards yelled, "No flags allowed!" and we streamed in, they quickly piled up by the door. 
Inside tired people were already asleep killing the three hours before the Inauguration Parade.
  You had to go through security for that too but this time they let us keep our apples.
     At 3:30 pm the first bands and military units marched by.  

Minutes later a roar of excitement began rolling up Pennsylvania Avenue.  As it approached us we craned our necks, trying to see past the thick crowd between us and the procession. 
  Moments later we could the parade's stars between a sea of secret service agents, cops and cameramen.  The President and his wife were walking briskly, waving, and smiling at the crowd. 

 What a thrill it was to see them pass by. 
 A few minutes later Joe and Jill Biden did the same. 

After these four had passed, half of the crowd went home. They had seen enough.  
  We were on the first row for the remainder of the procession.  
  We tried to keep the parade's spirit going when we returned to Coconut Grove the next morning.  Unfortunately, the only roar we heard was from our cat.  And it was more of a yawn.


See those guys in the tower in front of the President?
Just to the left (and above) are Francesca and I.  We are wearing grey and orange hats.
 At a half-mile away, we were still closer than most of the people attending. 


Saturday, January 26, 2013


    This week's presidential inauguration was filled with feel-good moments.  On Sunday morning I borrowed a bike and rode to all my favorite DC spots.  At every one strangers greeted each other with the joy of the occasion.

On the Capitol's west lawn thousands of chairs waited for Monday's inauguration guests.
I pedaled down the mall where Francesca, I, and 800,000 other friends would be standing to witness the beginning of the 44th president's new term.   

The Washington Monument was surrounded by and eight-foot fence due to last year's earthquake. 
  These geese flew right over it.

   There's a huge hole on the north side of the monument.  They are building the National Museum of African-American History there.  It will open in 2015.

The long weekend honored Dr. King and many
were visiting his memorial. 
It stands like a mountain  transformed.
 Just south of the MLK Memorial is FDR's House of Many Rooms.   The red granite memorial is a series of patios (they call them"rooms") connected by time and flowing water.  Each is dedicated to to a phase of President Roosevelt's 12 years in office.
   It was designed by Lawrence Halprin, a friend of Francesca's dad.  Both were landscape architects in Berkeley.

  Carved into the wall, behind a statue of the president who could not walk, were a few words from his wife,

"Illness gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons... Infinite patience and never-ending persistence"...Eleanor Roosevelt

From the Depression years...

His wife, Eleanor, accomplished many great things as well.  
Fifty years ago I was visiting my Uncle Nelson in Rhode Island.  He told me he would be giving the former first lady a tour of his marine lab and asked if I'd like to meet her. "Oh no", I said, "I'm much too shy for that!".
   He went next door to meet with Mrs. Roosevelt and I watched  from behind a tree.

I pedaled over to Pennsylvania Avenue.  Workers were uprooting stop lights for Monday's Inauguration parade.

As I rounded the Lincoln Memorial a thundering motorcade passed by.  I asked a police officer, "Who's that?" . 

 "White flag, four stars, that's the Vice President".

Heading a hundred yards further I visited an old friend at the Vietnam Memorial.  His name is carved along with 55,000 others in dark stone.
Bucky Gierman and I were fraternity brothers at the University of Florida.  When his grades fell in '68 he got drafted.  In April, 1969, he was killed in combat.  They said he had to carry a radio on his back  and the long antennae made him an easy target.

I rode back to the Capitol Hill apartment where Francesca's  son, Ruy, and his best friend, Meagan,  live.  

The four of us hiked to the Hirshhorn to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit.  Along the way we heard James Taylor practicing "America the Beautiful" near the Capitol steps. 

  We ran into Miami friends at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Blanca, Jonathan, and their daughter, Leah, were as excited as we were to be there.

  There is always something new to do in our nation's capitol.

  Despite being a crafty guy, I had never been to the Smithsonian's craft museum. The Renwick Gallery is a beautiful, old mansion cati-corner to the White House.  The main exhibit, "40 x 40", was forty pieces created by artists under forty.

This room was knit bombed big time.

Even the guy in bed got hit.

A 3-piece romper set
made from Kevlar

  "Game Fish", toys and game pieces glued to a large Florida fish

The evolution of military knitting needles
through the history of modern warfare


"Ghost Clock" carved from one piece on laminated mahogany (yes, even the sheet).  And finally,  The
Enlightenment Room...

There was a long line of people waiting to have life's truths revealed.


Each person exited with a slight smile  and seemed to be walking a little above the floor.

While I had my five minutes, I was not enlightened until the following day.

                                              (Inauguration, Part III,  The Final Chapter manana)


Friday, January 25, 2013


   Finally, the President gave us a speech that made good on his promise to move us forward.  To hear it live Francesca and I jumped on a jet and headed north last Saturday.   The three-day pep rally began with a plane filled with every sort of Obama fan.
   The West Grove family sitting next to us started with a group prayer for a safe flight. After "amen" I was introduced to Pinecrest's mayor and we chatted a bit.  Francesca and I spotted our mad-hatted congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, in first class and introduced ourselves.  She was wearing a dark red suit with smart looking Zorro hat.  
  Two hours after we landed we ran into her again at a Library of Congress party.  We were still looking just-got-off-the-flight frumpy but she was resplendent in her second outfit of the day, this brown number topped by this matching Bogart fedora.
  At these gatherings you find yourself talking to politicos quickly because, like rock stars, everybody wants their attention.  Our new, hatted friend, Frederica, was the exception.  The former elementary school principal took her time discussing gun control and public schools issues with us.
  On Monday we ran into her again while walking to the inauguration.  Frederica was stepping out of her M Street townhouse wearing a shocking red suit with matching cowboy hat.  Not even Lady Gaga was going to upstage her at the Big Show.
 But back to Saturday's party... the room was filled with our favorite South Florida politicians and their fans.   We had a nice chat with future President, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.  The congresswoman -chair of the Democratic National Committee- could not have been nicer. 
     Our new congressman, Joe Garcia, was so happy to finally be in Washington. "It just took me six years", he grinned.   His aide later gave us much needed tickets to the inauguration.
      Two new friends, the Mississippi sisters, Debra and Eva.
Next to Joe, 29-year-old, Patrick Murphy, was surrounded by well wishers.  The youngest member of Congress made mincemeat out of the ultra-right representative, Alan West, in last November's election. Thank God young Patrick was able to oust that Tea Party nut case.
   As the party was winding down we wandered over to the older part of the Library, the Thomas Jefferson Building. 

We had never been inside the 1897 Italian Renaissance-style masterpiece.
  You first enter the Great Hall where the goddess Minerva stands watch. 
  On our way to the Main Reading Room we saw a 1480 Gutenberg Bible on display.  As you see here, the big room's domed ceiling soars 160 feet over the dozen readers below.  
The Main Reading Room
A guide told us the collection started off with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's 740 volume library, which now has its own room.  Presently, there are 15 million books, photographs, and other documents, enough to keep one busy for a very long time.

Note:  See it while you can.  Libraries are in great danger.  I just learned that here in Miami-Dade County, half of our public school libraries have been closed and turned into classrooms.  It will happen to my K-8 school next year. A sign of the times, I guess.
  As we were leaving the Library we visited its current Civil War exhibit.  It contained books, photos, maps, and one curious display.  On a small table were the contents of President Lincoln's pockets the night he died.
    After being shot in Ford's Theater, he was taken to a rooming house across the street.  A few hours later he was dead.  When his pockets were emptied the contents were given to his son, Tad. 
  Now, resting on a small brown table, was a five-inch pocket knife, two pairs of reading glasses, a lens cleaner, a pocket watch fob, and a tri-fold wallet containing a blue Confederate five-dollar bill.  Small things belonging to a great man.

("Inaugural Ball" will continue on Saturday)


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


   We didn't make it to Woodstock but we did attend the 57th Presidential Inauguration this week.  Yesterday morning we witnessed the swearing-in ceremony surrounded by almost a million other Obama fans.  
   Afterwards the royal couple strolled up Pennsylvania Avenue in the big parade.  Seeing them smile, walk, and wave -while a lone sailor saluted- was captured by Francesca and her camera. 


Standing in the crowd, we were as happy as the Obamas seemed to be. 
It was three days of thrills, seeing old friends and making new ones.   We hung out with congresswomen, drifted through museums, and stumbled upon James Taylor practicing for yesterday's performance.  
   It was terrific and I'll be writing about it this week. 
Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


We no longer have to fly to San Francisco to get great bread.   Zak Stern is now making it in Miami. Miraculously, we scored our first loaf today.
We started hearing about Zak the Baker and his artisanal creations months ago, how he'd show up sporadically at farmers markets, sell out in an hour, and disappear.
When a friend gave us a loaf of his sour dough bread last Thanksgiving we were smitten.  They were able to get one because they had a connection.  Their son shared a house (and an oven) with Mr. Stern.
  The elusive Zak now apparently has his own oven.  This month's Edible South Florida magazine told us he has set up a wholesale bakery  and is selling the crunchy bread in several locations.  One of them is the Grove's own Daily Bread just north of South Dixie.  Reading this we rushed over to buy this lovely hunk of deliciousness.

    Loaves (if you can find one) are six bucks and well worth it.  All are organic and shaped by hand.  For more information, check Zak's website,


The same magazine also has an article on my son's business, Ready-To- Grow Gardens.  Dylan is now designing and installing gardens for restaurants (as well as residences).  The one next to Mandolin Aegean Bistro, in Miami's Design District, allows the chefs to pick herbs and veggies to add to their dishes.

Coral Gables' The Dome had a garden installed which it shares with Coral Gables Senior High's culinary arts program.  The curving beds, which you see here, are next to a "food forest", a collection of exotic fruit trees.
   Dylan Terry's website is .


We're heading up to Washington, DC, today.  Francesca and I have been telling people we are going to celebrate the President's inauguration but the real reason?  A nine-year-old student of mine asked me to deliver this note to the Commander-in-Chief. 
  Romina had a birthday this week.  I thought it was the least I could do.