Saturday, June 15, 2024

Still Life with Robin: The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World -- and We Wuz Robbed!

 by Peggy Robin

In my daily wanderings through the sewer that  is The Site Formerly Known as Twitter,* I  still find little islands of beauty and tranquility

Today I discovered "The Thread of the Most Beautiful Libraries in the World":

There are 25 libraries listed, with the number one ranking going to Trinity College Library in Dublin.

So many gorgeous, stunning, jaw-droppingly beautiful Temples of The Book in this collection! But there's one thing wrong with it, one thing I must protest!
DC's own most beautiful library in this collection of the top 25 is ranked at #25....dead last! How can that be?

Our beloved and most splendiferous Library of Congress deserves to be in the Top Ten.

I won't name names of the ones I'd rank lower but will lay out five areas of disagreement with the "Most Beautiful" rankings compiled by the poster, CLT @CLT_Exam (whose pinned motto at the top of the profile page is: "Beauty will save the world."):
  1. All the libraries within monasteries should be moved into a separate sub-category of "Most Beautiful Libraries Within Monasteries." These are not free-standing libraries but a set-aside space within a building whose main purpose is not the collection of books. 
  2. Libraries that make the list due to a spectacular geographical site or the view from their windows are not beautiful as libraries per se, but should be considered as "rooms with a view" -- and should not make the list.
  3. Libraries that make the list mainly due to great frescoes, sculptures or other masterpieces by renowned artists exemplify a museum-ish form of beauty -- while the purpose of this list is to showcase beauty in the display of books and/or the glories of the main reading room. That is to say, it's not a ranking of art galleries.
  4. Some of the libraries on this list have a magnificent display of books, but because they're so dark, so dimly lit, it's difficult to appreciate what's there. There needs to be just the right balance of light and shadow to be deemed "Most Beautiful."
  5. There are at least two libraries on the list that would not be ruled out based on the other four criteria but, to be blunt, are just not that good-looking. I won't say which two I've found to be the lesser, judged by simple aesthetics; look over all the photos on the list and see for yourself whether you think our LoC tops at least two of these listed libraries on grounds of aesthetics alone.
After applying all five precepts, I reach the conclusion that our Library of Congress should be moved up fifteen notches, to the number ten position in the Most Beautiful Libraries in the World.
* The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, for which the acronym could be SiFoKAT (pronounced "suffocate".)
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Get Out! Learn about Juneteenth at the National Archives on Tuesday, June 18 -Thursday, June 20

by Peggy Robin

Featured Document Display: The Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth
Tuesday, June 18, 2024 - Thursday, June 20, 2024
East Rotunda Gallery

Emancipation Proclamation
Milestones in the long struggle for American freedom
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached the third year of the Civil War. Lincoln's proclamation, which declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free,” was “a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing rebellion.” The Proclamation also declared the acceptance of Black men into military service. By the war’s end, almost 200,000 Black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.     

Despite its expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited. The freedom it promised was dependent upon a Union victory in the war. It also only applied in 10 Confederate states, leaving more than half a million men, women, and children in bondage in parts of the Confederacy already under Northern control and in the loyal border states.
Nevertheless, the Emancipation Proclamation promised freedom and a new beginning for several million Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. It recognized the moral force behind the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the road to chattel slavery's final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of the nation.   
"Juneteenth" General Order No. 3
The freedom promised in the Emancipation Proclamation was finally delivered to 250,000 people who remained enslaved in Texas two and a half years after President Lincoln’s historic proclamation and two months after Union victory in the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order 3, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved persons in the state were now free. This day has come to be known as Juneteenth, a combination of June and 19th. It is also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, and it is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
National Archives Museum
701 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20408
Open daily, 10:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
The "Get Out! event of the week is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Thursdays

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Still Life with Robin: When One Is Much Better Than Two

by Peggy Robin

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Get Out! The Capital Pride Parade is on Saturday, June 8 - with new route for better crowd logistics

Capital Pride Parade

Saturday, June 8, 2024
3:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Shaw, Logan Circle, Downtown, and Penn Quarter Neighborhoods, Washington, DC

Parade Route

We have a new Parade route for 2024! Please note that the Parade route will NOT be going through the historic Dupont neighborhood, however, we’re excited that our annual Block Party will remain on 17th street, with our Family Area at Stead Park.

Staging: On 15th Street NW, between 11:00 am and 2:30 pm
Step off: 14th Street at T Street NW, at 3:00 pm
Finish: Pennsylvania Avenue at 9th Street NW

Know before you go:

Pride month events calendar:

Event tickets:

Capital Pride Alliance
2000 14th ST NW STE 105
Washington, DC 20009
+1 (202) 719-5304   

The "Get Out!" event of the week is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Thursdays.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Still Life with Robin: Navigating the Amazon

by Peggy Robin

I have a family member -- I will call her her Carla -- who recently had surgery in a sensitive area. 

After she was home from the hospital, I called her (she lives several hours away) and asked how she was doing, and if she needed anything. I was thinking of sending her a meal-in-a-box or something like that to make her recovery at home a little easier. She said she was feeling OK and had already received food and flowers from neighbors and relatives, and I took that as a sign to say she didn't want any more of the same. 

The one thing she mentioned is that it was somewhat uncomfortable to sit in a chair. 

"Do you have a post-surgery donut?" I asked.  

She did not, and did not sound familiar with the concept, so I explained it's a cushion designed to take your weight off the surgically treated area when you sit. When she said that sounded useful, I told her I was getting her one and would have it sent to her by Amazon ASAP. 

 Immediately after we hung up, I went to my computer and had no trouble finding a 5-stars-rated post-surgery donut for about 20 bucks. I'm an Amazon Prime member so there was no charge for regular shipping. For $2.50 extra, I could have it to her same day. That sounded great, so I click-click-clicked, and it was on its way to her. She was supposed to have it by 10pm that evening. 

Well, 10pm rolled around and there was a message from Amazon apologizing for the delay. My $2.50 same-day shipping fee would be refunded to my account, and the donut was supposed to arrive sometime the following day.  

Sure enough, Amazon sent me a photo of the package on a doorstep the next afternoon. I'm not that familiar with her house but I just assumed it was on the right doorstep. I did not call her right away to ask whether she received it, but later that afternoon it occurred to me that I ought to check with her. I called, and she said, she was still in bed, and wasn't going up and down the stairs, but her husband (who was out doing some errands for her) would check the front porch when he got home. 

So he did....but found no package. He checked all the possible places it could have been left but didn't find it.  

Now what? Would Amazon replace the donut, even though I wasn't sure what had happened to it? I went to my computer, opened the order, and started looking at my options. 

There were several choices and a list of reasons for sending the donut back, for a refund or a replacement. I did not see any way to report that the gift was never received. So clearly, I would not be filling out a return form -- as there was no item to return. 

Next option: open a chat with Amazon. This was frustrating, as the term "chat" makes it sound as if there will be back-and-forth, each party listening to what the other said. But that was not it at all. The chat-bot asked the questions but never gave me a chance to type in a free-form answer. It would only accept answers to the specific questions it asked. But none of those questions gave me a chance to say that the item was never received. 

On to the next thing: I saw an option to talk on the phone about what the problem was. Now we're getting somewhere! I typed in my phone number to receive a call from Amazon, and lo and behold, within two minutes, my phone rang. But it wasn't a person. It was an automated voice, reciting the same canned questions that had made my time spent with the online chat-bot so frustrating. 

But it occurred to me that I could get out of this automated maze by asking for a live Amazon agent. But what was the magic word? I tried "Representative." The automated voice kept talking. "Agent!" I said. The voice repeated its previous, irrelevant options. "Customer Service!" I ventured. Automated voice goes on, oblivious. I started getting desperate: "Customer service agent! A person! I want to talk to a human being! Help!" 

I still don't know which of these words triggered the response, but the automated voice responded, telling me to stay on the line for a customer service representative. At last! Someone I could talk to! 

A minute or two of dead silence followed -- no sappy hold music -- but I stayed on the line. Then there came a human voice, male, greeting me, asking me to confirm that I was calling about the order for the donut cushion. The voice quality of the call was not great, and the man spoke with a very pronounced Indian accent, so I'm pretty sure he was in Mumbai or in one of the other Indian cities that have massive numbers of customer service employees working round the clock -- but still, it was great to connect with a live person, wherever he was in the world. 

I explained the problem, and it soon became evident that he was having difficulty understanding me, just as I was having difficulty understanding him. But we both were determined to get this right. He listened patiently, asked me to repeat several things, asked me some questions that showed he was interested in helping to solve the problem. His computer showed the item was delivered to the correct address. So he needed to understand why the recipient did not get it. I explained that she was upstairs, in bed, following her surgery. She had to wait until her husband was home to pick up the item and bring it to her. I think that scenario clicked with him, and he said, "So you need a replacement!" 

"Yes! Exactly! Thank you!"

"I will order it for you." A minute or two later, he had the replacement item on its way to Carla's house. Success!

Now you may be wondering, what had happened to the original package? The most likely answer is that the package was stolen off their front porch between the time it arrived and the time Carla's husband came home. But we had no way to be sure. If it was theft, I would have accepted a ruling from the agent that while it's a shame for both the recipient and the gift-giver, Amazon is not responsible for the replacement. I just needed to know what my options were. If the Amazon website had told me straight out, that was the policy, I would have quit right there, and paid for the reorder myself. 

But once I had persisted long enough to get through to a live person, and had the chance to talk about the surgery, and why the recipient could not go to the door to retrieve the package, I felt I had invested enough effort in my interaction with Amazon that when the customer service agent said Amazon would pay for a new donut, that felt fair to me. 

The donut arrived the next day, and it was much appreciated. 

So what have I learned from this?  Here are 3 practical takeaways...followed by one odd bit of wishful thinking: 

1. Fill out the "special instructions" naming a place on the porch (e.g, behind the big flower pot) for the package to be made invisible from the street.

2. To get to a real person, look for the phone call option and run through the various words -- representative, customer service, agent, in different combinations -- until one of them works.

3. Be nice to the agent and the agent will be nice to you. (That's a good rule for all kinds of transactions.)

As for the wishful bit..... If the package was indeed stolen, I hope the thief won't just throw it away but would give it to someone in need of this kind of relief. At least that way, a small amount of good could come out of the crime.


Still Life with Robin is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Get Out! It's Cleveland Park Day on Sunday, June 2 from Noon to 5 PM

 by Peggy Robin

The highlighted event for the week is....what else could it be? Cleveland Park Day!

Sunday, June 2nd | 12pm-5pm
Connecticut Avenue from Macomb St to Porter St NW

Celebrate the vibrancy of the Cleveland Park neighborhood at Cleveland Park Day! With an outdoor vendor market, live music, happy hour and business specials, and a Kids Zone, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Zone 1: Sam’s Park and Shop:
Live Music and Performance Stage

DJ Marc Robles – 12pm-1pm
Flamenco4Kids – 1pm-1:30pm
Foundation Fitness Line Dance – 1:30pm-2pm
Pet Fashion Show Sponsored by City Paws – 2pm-3pm
Grover Cleveland Lookalike Contest and Curry Cook Off Awards – 3pm-3:30pm
DJ Marc Robles – 3:30pm – 4pm
School of Rock House Band – 4pm-5pm
Balloon Sculpting
Free Snow Cones
Skee Ball
Face Painter 
Spin Art
Curry Cook Off featuring Paragon Thai Restaurant, Spices Asian Restaurant, Dakshin Indique, Dolan, Thai Love DC and Siam House
Foundation Fitness Pop-up
City Paws Pop Up
Beer Garden by Nanny O’Brians
Dunk Tank featuring ANC3C and Cleveland Park Smart Growth
Strolling Performances by Michael Rosman

Zone 2: Cleveland Park Promenade:

Outdoor Vendor Market Featuring:

a&b jewelry
Aesthetic Appeal Jewelry
Alicia Fashion Box Jewelry
Amaya Accessories
Amethyst Alchemist Art
Anny Art Designs
DC Paper Arts
Earth Born Beauty
Fahrenheit99 & Co.
Femme Fatale DC
Finds by Foster
Fishman’s Natural
Four Elements Pottery
Glover Apothecary & Candle Company LLC
Jarabe Gourmet Pops
Lala Cloud Crochet
Pinwheel Clay
Small Town Stitching
Smell of Love Candles
Sunny Type Co
The Leafy Branch
The Rounds
Viera Naturals & Wellness
Welle Made
Live Music by Smith Jackson at Nanny O’Brians
Outdoor Dining on the Promenade
All Fired Up Pop Up
Zone 3: West Side of Connecticut Avenue NW  
Tabling by Local and DC-based Community Organizations
Cleveland & Woodley Park Village
Cleveland Park Smart Growth
Cleveland Park Historic Society
CPCA- Cleveland Park Community Association
CPMS- Cleveland Park Main Street
Fresh Baguette
Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C
NW Community Food Pantry
SOME Center for Employment Training
Tregaron Conservancy
Woodley House
Library Kids Zone featuring Slimebar, Enjoyee Life Ice, and free popcorn!
Want to be part of the action? Not too late to volunteer! 
Interested in volunteering? Click here to sign up.
The "Get Out!" event of the week is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Thursdays.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Still Life with Robin: Stumpy, The Final Farewell

by Peggy Robin

Stumpy, the Little Cherry Tree That Could, is no more. 

I've written about Stumpy seven times in this space but for the Final Farewell, I can't do better than the lovely tribute/obituary that aired on NBC News4WashingtonNBC News4Washington yesterday (May 24, 2024):

View the full video here:

....and for a deeper appreciation of Stumpy's life and times, be sure to click on the 3 previous News4 videos embedded in the well as the still photos, tweets and the Tiktok .

Why Stumpy, the ‘Little Cherry Tree That Could,' can't be transplanted — and how he'll live on anyway

Goodbye, Stumpy: DC's favorite little cherry tree to be removed from Tidal Basin

Meet Stumpy, the Little Cherry Tree That Could

Here's the text-only version:

After years of blooming despite all odds, the little cherry tree that could ... can't anymore.

Stumpy is dead.

We knew this day was coming: that Stumpy's time with us was coming to a close. 

The National Park Service gave us plenty of warning during peak bloomwhen they told us rehabilitation of the Tidal Basin seawall would require the removal of more than 100 trees, Stumpy included, sometime this spring.

We even knew it made scientific sense. Stumpy's home in the gentle but relentless flooding between the Ohio Drive Bridge and the Jefferson Memorial wasn't a good place for any tree.

 "If you look to the left around the bend of the Tidal Basin that goes towards the Jefferson Memorial, there are no trees left there," Mike Litterst, National Park Service spokesperson, told us in March. "Because all of those trees that suffered the same inundation of water died, and were removed several years ago."

Still, Stumpy survived. Until Friday morning, when he became just a stump.

D.C. residents visiting the Tidal Basin mid-morning on Friday were met with an empty space where Stumpy once stood.

That Stumpy survived for so long under hostile conditions is a testament to just how miraculous he was. And we knew he was miraculous going back to 2020, when a Reddit user posted Stumpy's portrait to r/WashingtonDC and said the tree was as dead as his love life.

"Mostly dead, it's slightly alive," responded one commenter, seemingly referencing the famous scene with Miracle Max from the 1987 film "The Princess Bride."

It's a fitting message, and one that summarizes Stumpy well: It's not over until it's over.

That post was made on Feb. 26, 2020 — little more than two weeks before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and institutions around the world closed indefinitely.

At a time when we all needed a little hope, it's no surprise that users latched onto Stumpy, posting updates as his few threadbare branches bloomed that spring. If Stumpy could make it through a brutal March 2020, maybe we could, too.

Then he did it again in 2021. And again. And again. And again, despite being essentially just a bark framework, barely transmitting nutrients to the few branches that bloom every spring, "and not much else," according to Litterst.

"There is no interior trunk," Litterst told us in March. "People ask us, 'You know how old that tree is?'   

There literally aren't any rings for us left to count on the interior of the tree."   A tree, blooming as it should, standing tall and beautiful — that's lovely, but unremarkable.

But a friendly little shard of bark, struggling to live in conditions outside its control, and doing it anyway? That's relatable.

With each successive bloom, Stumpy's fame grew.

By this March, when the NPS announced he would have to go, he was loved enough to inspire marathon mascot costumes, calendars, T-shirts, cards, whiskey tributes and visits from diplomats.

The Japanese embassy posted a photoJapanese embassy posted a photo of their visit during peak bloom: three diplomats, all bowing to show respect to a half-dead tree holding court on the Tidal Basin, with the Washington Monument in the distance.

It's because Stumpy was so ragged that we loved him so much.

A tall tree, blooming as it should, standing beautiful and high above it all — well, that's lovely, but unremarkable. But a friendly little shard of bark, struggling to live in conditions outside its control and hostile to its existence, and doing it anyway? That's relatable.

We are all Stumpy: proof that life can not only continue, but thrive, in a way, when and where it doesn't feel like it should.

But then came the news: The Tidal Basin seawall has to be repaired. That can't happen while the cherry trees in the area remain. And if it's not repaired, the slow sinking of the seawall will kill the trees anyway, and prevent the NPS from planting any more.  

But Stumpy could leave behind a legacy of new trees.      

Before Stumpy was removed, horticulturists from the U.S. National Arboretum were tapped by the NPS to collect clippings from the tree.

The tree experts at the Arboretum's headquarters in D.C. and their satellite location in McMinnville, Tennessee will prep those clippings for propagation.

With the care of determined scientists and the luck of Mother Nature, those clippings will continue growing into baby trees, which — two or three years from now — will be planted back along the Tidal Basin.

"The process takes a long time," Piper Zettel, one of those arboretum horticulturists, told us. 

"Trees grow very slow. So we need to be patient."

And, a couple more years after that, maybe with the same stubborn spirit that kept Stumpy himself alive, those Stumpy clones will also bloom with beautiful cherry blossoms we can all enjoy.

Stumpy as Stumpy 2.0 won't look the way we knew him in 2024. Those trees will be healthy and will live in along a Tidal Basin free of flooding. The original Stumpy will become mulch, which will decompose and nourish the roots of those children in their new home. (It's possible "The Circle of Life" will play softly in the background during the process ... at least in our minds.)

We were lucky enough to know and love Stumpy the first time around, however brief that was. We all witnessed the unique confluence of circumstances that created his rise to fame and necessitated his end. In the end, even if we can't recognize him, even if he's in a different form entirely, Stumpy will be still there.

What do you do when a symbol of hope and resilience has to go?

The answer, it seems, is more hope, and more resilience. You mourn. You remember, and share stories. You laugh. And then you rebuild.

Still Life with Robin is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.