Archive for the ‘essay’ Category

Bagel Day

September 11, 2009

Tuesday was Bagel Day at the software development center. I favored Bagels & Baguettes near Stanton Park. There was a line when I got there, around 8:30 AM. The shop is near Senate office buildings and the Heritage Foundation, and the TV is tuned to CNN to keep news-obsessed customers occupied.

By the time I got my two dozen hot bagels, the damnedest thing was on the television. An airplane had crashed right into the middle of a World Trade Center tower in New York, and the building was on fire. It was September 11, 2001.

 I went to the office break room and put out the bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon. I guess I was making coffee when the second plane hit the other tower. I figured people still had to eat.

The developers were plugged into the web, and learned as much – or as little — as anyone that morning. We knew a third plane hit the Pentagon and heard the false report that a fourth had hit the White House. There was a rumor that a plane had hit the Capitol, but we were two blocks away and would have heard that.

I scanned the radio, but the news stations were clueless. I heard some good eyewitness reporting from New York over Pacifica, which I hadn’t expected. I put it on the telephone intercom and went through the office, turning intercoms on for some, off for people who had already heard enough.

I called the boss, got the word to send folks home, and surfed up reports on school systems and Metro. The Red Line at Union Station was shut down until early afternoon. Phones at schools were busy; cell phone systems overloaded. I negotiated some car-pool rides for those suburban commuters game enough to try the roads, shut the center down, and walked home.

It was a quiet walk. There wasn’t a plane in the sky. All civilian aircraft were grounded. I kept the radio off and waited for the Wednesday paper.

 

Versions of this item were posted on September 11, 2008 and September 10, 2007.

Speak, Memory

January 5, 2009

Speak, Memory

Mike Licht confesses transistor transgressions of a misspent youth.

The pocket transistor radio is thought to have been crucial to mid 20th century American pop music, but it was really more important to the idea of music, to talk and thought about pop music and US culture. Truth be told, after riding AM radio waves and squeezing through skimpy circuits and tiny speakers, music didn’t really sound like much.

Yet ubiquitous trannies, reeking slightly of nine-volt battery acid, piped out sibilant suggestions of the melodies and rhythms that gut-punched their way out of Seeburg, Rock-Ola, and Wurlitzer jukeboxes or rattled car dashboards. Do we fault a charcoal drawing for not being a photograph? Hardly. Which engages the imagination more? No contest.

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Dog Watching

November 24, 2008

Dog Watching

Everyone needs a hobby. Mike Licht explains one of his.

What’s more fun than watching dogs romp in the park? Not much. Racing, chasing, jumping, wrestling. Tug-’o-War with a hunk of tree branch. The quick little bow that says “Let’s play.” Granted, the tail-sniffing is inelegant, but it obviates the need for small talk. Without the chatter of “How-ya-been-Where-ya-at-What’d-ya-eat,” dogs can get down to play right now.

Dogs were strictly forbidden in our family’s Manhattan apartment building, and I didn’t own pooches when I lived in Buffalo or Austin. My DC place is small, so I don’t personally own a pup now, but I still have about 40 dogs. I live near Lincoln Park.

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A Vote for Change at Precinct 86

November 5, 2008

A Vote for Change at Precinct 86

Yesterday, Tuesday, November 4, 2008, NotionsCapital’s Mike Licht leafleted for the Ward 6 Democrats outside the polling place for the District of Columbia’s Election Precinct 86, Eliot Junior High School (1830 Constitution Ave NE):

People began lining up in the Eliot JHS schoolyard, near C Street NE, outside the polling place door, at 5 AM. The line soon stretched back under the basketball hoop, back to the baseball field’s third base. By the time the polls opened at 7AM, the line circled backwards around the baseline to home plate, near Constitution Avenue, NE.

 In the past half century of elections, there has never been a line outside the door of Precinct 86, according to long-time residents. In 25 years of voting there, I certainly never saw one. The significance of that long line of determined citizens was not lost on new arrivals; they were awe-struck. This was capital “H” History, and they were part of it.

Voters of all ages and origins chatted amiably on the line; a few sat in folding chairs or drank coffee. The feeling of anticipation transcended the sense of ceremony that surrounds the act of voting, central sacrament of American democracy.

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Bagel Day

September 11, 2008

Tuesday was Bagel Day at the software development center. I favored Bagels & Baguettes near Stanton Park. There was a line when I got there, around 8:30 AM, but the shop is near Senate office buildings and the Heritage Foundation, and the TV is tuned to CNN to keep news-obsessed customers occupied.

By the time I got my two dozen hot bagels, the damnedest thing was on the television. An airplane crashed right into the middle of a World Trade Center tower in New York, and the building was on fire. It was September 11, 2001.

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The Grog is Gone

September 10, 2008

The Grog is Gone

It’s closed. The Grog and Tankard tavern at 2408 Wisconsin Ave, NW in Washington’s Glover Park. Where can white college boys go now to posture with guitars? American civilization is doomed. Doomed!

You can read Moira E. McLaughlin’s print paean to rock mediocrity in the Wasington Post, but read it on line; the reader comments, along with Dave McKenna’s rock reminiscence on the CP City Desk blog, hint at the true essence of Grog. Add the smell of spilled beer, cigarettes, carpet mildew, melting lighting gels and amp transformer windings. Feel the bass pulse; hear chainsaw guitar, stuttering snare, incomprehensible lyrics. See the GU and GWU women drinking beer, trying to look tough. I sing the coed electric!

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Man Threatens to Impale Himself on Calder Sculpture

July 23, 2008

Man Threatens to Impale Himself on Calder Sculpture

Mr. Yuan Fang, 66, of Flushing, NY threatened to jump seven stories into the Philip A. Hart Senate Office Building atrium on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Monday night. The cause of Mr. Yuan’s distress is not known, nor the reason for his presence in the Senate building.

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Faux-Redneck Festivities on TV

July 8, 2008

Faux-Redneck Festivities on TV

The Woodsboro Tavern in (where else?) Woodsboro, Maryland recently hosted the wedding of a couple from a farm off MD State Route 194, reports Pamela Rigaux in the Frederick News-Post. The wedding was recorded by a video crew and will be featured on Country Music Television’s My Big Redneck Wedding, hosted by Tom Arnold.

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CIA Secret Weapon Revealed

June 22, 2008

CIA Secret Weapon Revealed

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency from 1991 to 1993,  told some of his old CIA yarns at a confab for current CIA chief General Michael V. Hayden, who is staying with the Agency but retiring from the Air Force (note to job seekers: lots of top vacancies at the Air Force).

LA Times reporter Greg Miller says Secretary Gates reminisced about a CIA plan to float balloons over Libya and drop leaflets urging the overthrow of the government. Mr. Gates told the underspooks to re-write the pamphlets and specify just which government. If the wind shifted and the pamphlets fell on neighboring Egypt, he said, “General Mubarak would have been none too pleased.”

Oops! Secret weapon revealed! Balloons dispersing propaganda and disinformation. Stealth drones wafting silently through the sky. A great concept. It was even great the first time it was done, 200 years ago.

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Poison Tomatoes

June 10, 2008

Poison Tomatoes

Those folk beliefs about tomatoes being poisonous are not vindicated by the current outbreak of Salmonella in the U.S. tomato supply. The origin of these beliefs is quite different.

Tomatoes were native to the New World, possibly originating in the coastal highlands of what is now Peru before their cultivation in Central America and Mexico. The conquistadors brought them to the Caribbean, Europe, and Philippines, where they entered the local cuisines.

Botanists insist the tomato is a fruit, but the U.S. Supreme Court (“NIX vs. HEDDEN,” 1893) has ruled that is it a vegetable. I await the high court’s repeal of the law of gravity before taking another airplane ride.

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