Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 72: The River

 Photo of the Day: Great Falls

Happy Halloween! It wasn't a particularly spooky or festive day, but I still had lots of fun celebrating with close friends. We started our day in Arlington, where I am staying with my pal Aditi. We met up with Tedman, Tina, and Stephanie for lunch at an authentic and delicious Salvadoran hole-in-the-wall called El Charrito Caminante (get the pupusas if you go!), followed by gelato for dessert at Boccato, which offers a dizzying array of unique flavors. I had a heavenly concoction of a scoop of chocolate hazelnut gelato served in my all-time favorite Stumptown Coffee espresso.

From there it was on to the great outdoors. I finally got the nature fix I've been craving with a trip this afternoon to Great Falls National Park, just 15 miles outside of Washington, D.C. With the trees resplendent in golden hues, it was the perfect time to experience autumn at its finest. We walked along a pathway that took us by the Potomac River, a silver ribbon snaking through flaming fall foliage and the sheer rock faces of Mather Gorge. The Great Falls, a short stretch of cascades and rapids, were spectacularly beautiful and awe-inspiring. We took our time hiking the short trail, snapping tons of photos and enjoying the gorgeous, cool day. Hopefully this short taste of nature will tide me over for at least another couple of months.

Back in the city that evening, we conducted our night completely out of order, starting with sparkling sangria at Nando's Peri-Peri, followed by Mediterranean desserts and appetizers at Zaytinya, which also served up a delicious cocktail called Pom Fili made of white wine, vodka, Triple Sec, and pomegranate juice. Finally we ended with our main course at a bistro called Matchbox, where we had the super-spicy fire & smoke pizza, topped with fire roasted red peppers, spanish onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic puree, smoked gouda, and fresh basil. By the conclusion of the day, I was absolutely stuffed and more than satisfied with our simple and enjoyable Halloween night.

Plantains and sour cream at El Charrito Caminante.
Traditional Salvadoran hen sandwich. Definitely had to eat this bad boy with a fork.
Chilean peach and mango gelato from Boccato.
Enjoying gelato in Arlington, VA.
Tina is very aggressive with the gelato.
Who is the apple of Ted's eye?
Ted and Tina enjoying their gelato.
It's not that they don't like Aditi. The gap is where I was sitting before I got up to take this picture.
Chocolate hazelnut gelato in Stumptown Coffee espresso.
Aditi's Pantene Pro-V hair modeling shot. Yay for brushing hair!
Creepy little bronze boy statue dressed up for Halloween.
Gorgeous fall colors and sunlight at Great Falls National Park.
The majestic Great Falls in the Potomac River at Great Falls National Park.
A whole slew of cascades along the Potomac River.
This was exactly the outdoor nature fix I needed.
The crew.
More autumn hues along the Potomac River.
I love how the sunlight illuminates the leaves and makes them glow gold.
Lens flare!
Aditi was fascinated by the leaves bigger than her face. Do you see what I see?
Hitting the trails at Great Falls National Park.
An autumn forest trail.
Aditi adorns her hair with flowers and berries.
Such a cutie.
Photo shoot among the ruins!
Ted puts his best face forward.
Mr. GQ.
Couples shoot.
Ted and Tina.
They look so happy!
My turn as model.
My sad attempts at cool posing.
Aditi and Jenn remove themselves from the ridiculousness.
A tunnel of yellow leaves.
Tina takes great pleasure in running around the kicking the piles of leaves.
Such a serene and beautiful forest.
Climbing down the ruins.
This used to be the outlet for an old canal that once ran through here in colonial times.
Ted on the precipice.
Don't be's totally posed.
Walking through the woods on an autumn evening.
Awww, cute couple walking in the woods hand in hand.
Me and the Potomac River.
Daring explorers on the Potomac River.
Clambering over rocks to get to the river view.
Absolutely stunning views of the river, topped with fiery foliage and a pastel blue sky.
Bold autumn colors.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 71: The Rally

 Photo of the Day: He Has a Sign

This weekend I went to Washington, D.C. to visit friends and attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Some of you The Daily Show fans are already intimately familiar with this much-publicized event, and the rest are utterly confused. Jon Stewart explains it best on the Web site:
"Ours is a rally for the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) — not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence… we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point."
Despite my initial enthusiasm for the concept, it wound up being a disappointing experience. My first mistake was taking the Huffington Post Sanity Bus to Washington, D.C. Media mogul Ariana Huffington had publicly offered to transport people down to the rally from New York City at no cost, and I jumped at the free ride. Unfortunately, the price was getting up at 4 a.m., navigating a madhouse line with 10,000 other people, waiting outside in the bitter cold for hours, then spending another six hours on the bus. I fortunately slept through the entire trip, but I have to admit it was a pretty miserable morning.

By the time the bus arrived in D.C., the rally was already halfway over. Next came the trial of taking the Metro rail to the National Mall and following the swarms of people who were all descending on the same location. News estimates place attendance at about a quarter million. I never got close enough to even see the stage, and though I could vaguely identify the voices of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert over the masses, I was too far to distinguish any intelligible words. I consigned myself to enjoying the hilarious and creative signs folks had made for the rally. For being an event to "restore sanity," there were a fair number of crazies out there, and the demographic unsurprisingly but disappointingly leaned heavily toward the left though I had been hoping for more bipartisan representation.

Then came the ordeal of exiting. Due to the high volume of people, getting any cell service on the National Mall was an impossibility, and public transportation was packed. I would up walking about 25 blocks to my friend's house, and all this while still carrying my overnight bags with me. To make up for my challenging morning, my friend, Stephanie (see Day 49: The Childhood Friend) took me upon arrival to Capital City Diner, an authentic greasy spoon eatery housed in a sleek, vintage steel shell circa the 1940s, where a giant waffle, super-salty hash browns, sausage, and bad coffee were the perfect pick-me-up.

Later that evening, we met up with my friends Tina and Tedman, who are visiting Washington, D.C. from Houston. We started with decadent desserts at Dangerously Delicious Pies, then headed downtown for some Halloween festivities. Sadly enough, I did not dress up this year. I had prepared an awesome Charlie Brown costume but then learned that October in the northeast is substantially chillier than in Texas, so the Peanuts uniform of a T-shirt and shorts was not a feasible option for me. We had originally planned to party at Tryst in the Addams Morgan area, but traffic was so bad due to the many events going on in town this weekend that we settled for U Street after a 90-minute bus ride. We stopped by Alero for quick drinks and got to duck into famous jazz club Bohemian Caverns for only a few minutes before heading home again. Even though the night was short, it was still a fun night out with good friends, and it is always a treat to see the clever costumes.

The ridiculously long line to board the free Huffington Post Sanity Bus to Washington, D.C.
Ariana Huffington herself stops by to greet people in line!
I thought this photo was especially appropriate as there was a decidedly liberal slant to the attendees, and despite being a rally to "restore sanity," some people were definitely out in left field.
The signs were so witty! Because I could not see or hear the rally, they were definitely the best part.
More signs to "restore sanity."
This is about the closest I ever got to the main stage. And this was with maxed-out zoom on my camera.
I'm not quite certain if this gentleman was dressed up for the rally or for Halloween. Maybe both?
Not a bad strategy... he actually got quite a few offers in the few minutes I was in earshot.
Clever historical reference.
Making mild-mannered statements while chilling in lawn chairs.
Getting their kids in on the act with ironic signs.
People were climbing in the trees to get a better view.
And on traffic light posts. I have no idea how they got up there.
Porta Potty roofs were also fair (if risky) game among the prime seating options.
Mmmm, bacon.
The crowds on the steps of the Supreme Court building.
Texas represent!
An homage to the renowned Double Rainbow YouTube video.
And a reference to the follow up, the infamous Bed Intruder Song YouTube video.
Standing in line at Dangerously Delicious Pies.
Going all out with a sampler of cherry, chocolate chess, white creme brulee, and pumpkin pies at Dangerously Delicious Pies.
The fruit pies are by far the best.
Stephanie is embarrassed by the paparazzi spree that ensues between Tina and I.
Finally made it to Alero, a bar on U Street, with only an hour left in the night.
He's just a bill.
A jazz singer at Bohemian Caverns on U Street.