Category Archives: Photos

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

This past Saturday we visited Kenilworth  Park & Aquatic Gardens in the Anacostia section of the District of Columbia. We arrived before noon and were shocked to find the place packed with people. There were some parking spots left, however, so it all worked out.

The Park is a National Park Service facility on the banks of the Anacostia River. It’s primary function is a large collection of ponds containing waterlilies and lotuses. We were fortunate to spot a young beaver — actually, my wife has a remarkable eye for spotting wildlife in obscure places but I took the photo looking into deep shadows that she assured me contained a critter. I did spot the two bumblebees … uh, making… bee whoopee in the flower shot below.

The other photos are a good sample of what can be seen at Kenilworth — of course, the real thing is always better. Visit the place — it’s a treat.

[To view as a slide show, click the first image]


Return to New York City—Jazz and More

That reads like the title of a novel, but it was just us finally getting back to the Great City for a visit, the first since moving to Washington on December 1, 2020. We stayed in the Loew’s Regency on Park Avenue, a nicely updated hotel with a surprisingly large room and, except for the bathroom, well designed.

We had planned this trip for some time and near the departure date learned that Birdland, one of New York’s legendary jazz clubs, would be re-opening for live performances just before our arrival. So, of course, we booked ourselves in there for Saturday night to see a group we had not known before – the Emmet Cohen Trio. The owner of the club opened the music part of the evening with a special welcome back to a packed and enthusiastic crowd, everyone excited to hear live jazz again. Then Cohen led the band in an opening medley of well-known jazz standards. Everyone was moved by the first piece—the classic Lullaby of Birdland made famous by George Shearing back in the day. An emotional and perfect way to start the evening.

Emmet Cohen proved an adept pianist in the jazz genre, moving easily among classical forms and more contemporary vibes. He and his musical mates, Russell Hall on bass (details about him here:  and Kyle Poole on drums (details about him here:  were perfectly matched and clearly had a great time entertaining the crowd.

The food at Birdland was decent and the service excellent, especially considering they had just reopened two nights before. Interesting to us that there were so many young people in the audience. Here are photos of the line waiting to get in for the second show:

When we emerged after the show, we saw this:

a moving reminder of the scene just out of our apartment window during our three-year sojourn in the big city.

Sadly, we have lost the Jazz Standard to the pandemic, but the Village Vanguard and Smoke will hopefully reopen soon, and jazz will once again resound through the streets of New York.

On Sunday we lunched with a New York friend at Tavern on the Green, another great nostalgic return. That night, we dined at The Leopard at Des Artistes on West 67th. Our guest was my wife’s ballet instructor, Finis Jhung, New York City’s renowned ballet master. He danced with Joffrey Ballet, had his own company at one point and has trained some of the world’s greatest ballet dancers and Broadway stars. A very interesting person with whom to chat.

On Monday my New Jersey-resident daughter and family, my two grandsons in tow, joined us for lunch at Rosa Mexicano near Lincoln Center, which is just up the avenue from our old apartment. After lunch, we walked to Josie Robertson Plaza, the center element of the Center with its Revson Fountain running again. The Plaza has been completely covered in AstroTurf, with seats and other features (food stall, reading area) and is perfect for lounging around on a lazy day, which is just what we encountered:

Finally, when in NYC, one should always look up. In addition to surprising art and architectural features, there is the sheer magnitude and daring of buildings like these:

If you don’t look up from time to time, you miss it.

A Tree(s) Grows in DC

When I first noticed this tree, near where I live, I failed to grasp its unusual nature. On first look, it’s another large member of the pine family (don’t hold me to that – maybe a fir?).

On closer examination, something extraordinary is revealed.

You see the stump that has apparently been cut off:

Then notice that the trunk turns to parallel the ground and then rises vertically again.

And on closer inspection, you see the second trunk rising out of the first one half the distance from the center trunk to the point where the horizontal trunk turns vertical again on the right. This gives the appearance of two separate trees when you first see the high tops as in the first photo above.

I have no idea what event(s) led to this tree taking this conformation but it seems remarkable, especially for such a large tree adjacent to a busy city intersection. In any case, I have never seen anything quite like it after many years of tree hugging, so I decided to share it.

Go Back Where You Came From!!

If you’ve been paying attention, you have seen many videos and news reports of people, on the street and in stores, yelling at, usually, Black people but also Asians, Latinos, Arabs or other “non-whites”  that they should “go back where you came from, you _______!” The blank often includes an obnoxious epithet of one kind or another that I choose not to repeat. You know what I’m talking about.

For the past three years, we lived in, and loved, New York City and in the course of that time observed literally hundreds of ethnically diverse people everywhere. It is reported that over 200 languages are spoken by people in New York City and on any given walk, if you paid attention, you usually heard quite a few.

That mixing does not imply harmony, of course. One rainy night, a torrential downpour actually, we emerged unprepared from a Broadway show but miraculously caught a taxi near the theater. Traffic was a snarled mess even by New York City standards, with vehicles and soaked pedestrians fighting for space. Our taxi and another vehicle, likely an Uber-type, came close to each other. No contact was made, but the drivers glared at each other. Our driver lowered his window and began muttering epithets at the other, who appeared to return the insults. The words weren’t about driving but about ethnicity. It wasn’t clear who was what, but it was clear enough that they hated each other on sight.

A while back, after we moved to Washington DC, it occurred to me to conduct a little thought experiment about this “go back where you came from” business. Because I have other things to do, I was forced to use a shortcut for my research: Wikipedia, the modern source of all knowledge not found in Google. I found three articles particularly relevant to my quest: American Ancestry (, Native American Ancestry (, and Americans ( Woe to the serious researcher.

My concept is straightforward: if everyone “went back where they came from,” where would they go and what would be the consequences, especially for those people most prone to yell this message at others presumed to come from somewhere that is not here.

The astounding complexity of this task became immediately apparent in thinking about my own “origins” (not genetic origins in the sense of or, although that path would have similarly complex implications). My maternal grandparents emigrated to the United States from Russia. My father’s lineage, I was told, was Dutch but there is no objective evidence remaining to support that belief. So, set me aside for a moment and let’s look at some data.

Wikipedia reports that 6.6 % of the US population (21,227,906) self-identifies as “American.” They reside mainly in southern and midwestern states, speak only English and claim to be mostly Christian (Protestants). They appear to be White.

Much of this is attributed to the length of time their ancestors have been in the United States, as these people tend to have English, Scotch-Irish or other British ancestries.

Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Census, “the vast majority of Americans and expatriates do not equate their nationality with ancestry, race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and allegiance.” I am reminded of the fictional Popeye the Sailor Man’s famous line, “”I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” Apparently, many so-called “Americans” have taken Popeye to heart. They have managed to forget their real origins, somehow coming to believe that they are the true original “Americans” with some unique entitlement to the space between the oceans.

On the other hand, given the re-emergence of racism, white supremacy and related bigotries in American behavior, there is now reason to question whether the Census is asking the right questions. Donald Trump didn’t create racism; he simply re-legitimized its expression, with horrific results.

If you don’t get that, let me return briefly to my personal history. I recently came upon some photos I had scanned from my high school yearbook – Central High in Memphis, Tennessee, circa 1960. At the time Central was very well-regarded among public high schools, at least in the south. Here are two  photos from that yearbook:

Add to this that my junior high school history teacher made explicitly clear to our class that, in addressing the U.S. Civil War, there was to be no discussion of slavery. The War Between the States, we were assured, was not about slavery at all but about “states’ rights.” The reality that those “rights” involved legitimizing the ownership of one group of people by their white “masters” was, well, not to be mentioned.

I am not informed about the content of pre-college curricula around the country. I cannot, therefore, say with confidence that the distortion of history, the removal of civics courses and related “education” moves have produced the generations of ignorance that led 74 million Americans to vote for the likes of Donald Trump in 2020.

But, returning to my main theme, I can say with some confidence that the “go back where you came from” insult is based on a fundamental failure to grasp reality. For example, the self-identification of “American” in the Census is a gross example of what may be one of the first instances of cultural appropriation in “American” history.

The earliest use of “American” to “identify an ancestral or cultural identity dates to the late 1500s, with the term signifying “the indigenous peoples discovered in the Western Hemisphere by Europeans.”  The term was later extended to the white colonists from Europe. Skipping over the sordid history of early-comers’ resistance to newcomers from Ireland, Germany and other European countries, including many Catholics, the modern-day U.S. Census Bureau now defines “ancestry” as a reference to a person’s ethnic origin or descent, ‘roots,’ or heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.” That wide-open approach clears the path to ignoring reality by millions of people. They don’t have to think hard about it – “I’m American….You, on the other hand …..”

Among Census responders self-identifying their ancestry as something other than just “American,” the numbers are:

44.2 million — German

22.8 million English

4.5 million Norwegian

4.5 million Dutch

.6 million Finnish

33 million Irish (many more likely if survey had been done on St Patrick’s Day)

10.4 million French

15.6 million Italian

12.2 million Mexican

5.2 million Native American

10 million Spanish

46.7 million African American

5.8 million Puerto Rican

That collection totals 215.5 million people, roughly two-thirds of the US population. Add to that the 6.6 percent who are just “American” (21,227,906) and you get 236 million people. The rest (roughly 100 million) identify with some other origin, but don’t claim to be “American.”

Wikipedia quotes Professors Anthony Daniel Perez and Charles Hirschman in a 2009 publication for the proposition that

ethnicity is receding from the consciousness of many white Americans. Because national origins do not count for very much in contemporary America, many whites are content with a simplified Americanized racial identity. The loss of specific ancestral attachments among many white Americans also results from high patterns of intermarriage and ethnic blending among whites of different European stocks.

I wonder about that in light of developments since at least 2016 when Trump became president. It appears that the issues surrounding “otherness” have re-emerged with a vengeance since Trump became a political factor. That’s one reason for the imbalance of police force used against Black and Brown people here, as well as the “go back where you came from” carping that has emerged in video after video of (almost always) white people yelling at a person of color.

While non-Native Americans have occupied this land for a few hundred years, the fact remains that every one of the “white” people here came from, directly or through an ancestor, from somewhere else. It’s convenient, of course, to overlook that reality if you are one of those people who, with a sense of entitlement, has come to resent the presence of people who don’t look like you, talk like you or think like you.

The 2010 Census aligned U.S. responders this way:

Self-identified race Percent of population
White 72.4%
Black or African American 12.6%
Asian 4.8%
American Indians and Alaska Natives 0.9%
Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders 0.2%
Two or more races 2.9%
Some other race 6.2%
Total 100.0%

Reading the descriptions of racial and ancestral categories used by the Census and other surveys will simply make you more confused. By way of example only,

People of European descent, or White Americans (also referred to as Caucasian Americans), constitute the majority of the 308 million people living in the United States, with 72.4% of the population in the 2010 United States Census. They are considered people who trace their ancestry to the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Of those reporting to be White American, 7,487,133 reported to be Multiracial; with largest combination being white and black. Additionally, there are 29,184,290 White Hispanics or Latinos. Non-Hispanic Whites are the majority in 45 states. There are five minority-majority states: California, Texas, New MexicoNevada, and Hawaii. In addition, the District of Columbia and the five inhabited U.S. territories have a non-white majority The state with the highest percentage of non-Hispanic White Americans is Maine.

Everyone clear on all that? No? Me neither.

I will spare you further agonizing over the details. The main point is, and I believe it’s conclusive, that if we all went back where we came from, there would be damn few people left in the space we now call the United States.

So what, you may say. That’s not going to happen. True enough. But it should give us pause in how we view “America” and who we really are. It is no exaggeration to say, “we are all immigrants.” Maybe not first removed, but the vast vast majority of people who think of themselves as “American” are, by history, transplanted foreigners who occupied land that actually “belonged” to no  one (Native American populations often did not consider the idea of “property” to apply to the land – this was one of the ruses used to excuse white invaders’ taking their land: if they don’t “own” it, it’s there for anyone who wants to stake a claim to it. When the Native Americans resisted, they were killed or imprisoned, one way or another, in the service of “manifest destiny.”)

Still, the “so what” response must be reckoned with. Millions of people have simply lost, by one means other another, their connection to their historical roots, choosing to believe they are the original people who are entitled to everything they want by virtue of some supposed universal superiority. That fantasy is part of the root of the delusional thinking that divides the country politically and otherwise. A very long time will pass before it is resolved but it would help a lot if the educational system stopped reinforcing the illusion. The first step to resolving a problem is recognizing you have one.

Flight of the Valkyries

Having looked at the photo above, were you reminded of Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries?

Now maybe? That’s what comes to mind for me, but you may be more familiar with the song popularized by the late John Denver, The Eagle And The Hawk. It begins with “I am the eagle, I live in high country in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky,” and ends with “And reach for the heavens and hope for the future and all that we can be, and not what we are.” It’s a short song but, for me, quite moving, a naturalist’s prayer perhaps.

The American eagle (technically, the Bald Eagle) is the quintessential iconic symbol of the United States, serving as our national bird and often presented as a representation of American power and strength, especially military power. However, Americans historically have been among the world’s great consumers, rapaciously taking everything that was available and often leaving nothing to continue delivering the seemingly endless cornucopia of plenty to which most Americans have become accustomed.

So it is that the history of the national bird is fraught with slaughter, although other factors contributed to the decline in North America from 300,000 to 500,000 estimated population in the early 18th century to only 412 nesting pairs in the 1950s. According to Wikipedia, factors in the decimation included habitat destruction, shooting (legal and otherwise), power-line electrocution, collisions in flight, oil/lead/mercury/pesticide pollution, and by human and predator intrusion at nests. Perhaps fittingly, a Yahoo or Google search for “American eagle” takes you to shopping websites.

The good news is that once DDT was banned and bald eagles were legally protected, the  population of these spectacular creatures recovered. Today they may be found throughout the United States and Canada. Alaska, in particular, has a robust population of bald eagles and tourists there are always excited to see them. So it was when we took my two grandsons on an Alaska Inside Passage cruise in 2017. One of the highlights of that extraordinary experience was a tour on a fishing boat that stopped at an island owned, we were told, by Native Americans and whose eagle population was thriving. The mates on the boat had some fish to share with the eagles who were most responsive to the bounty thrown into the water. Here is a small sample of what we saw.


Saved the best for last:



Visit to Brookside Gardens

This Sunday we drove to Brookside Gardens for a bit of outside time. The 50-acre Gardens sit within the larger 556-acre Wheaton Regional Park in, where else, Wheaton, MD, which is, what else, a census-designated place in Montgomery County, MD. I suppose when Wheatonites (??) are asked where they live, they reply with “I live in a census-designated place called Wheaton which is ….” as the person asking drifts away.

It’s amazing what you can be forced to learn on a Sunday drive. A census-designated place is a statistical geographic entity representing closely settled, unincorporated communities that are locally recognized and identified by name but not legally separate. They are, in other words, statistical counterparts of incorporated places. Oh, never mind.

The Gardens are huge, with meandering, paved paths and are divided into the Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden. There are two conservatories open year-round. Admission to the Gardens is free but the conservatories that house tropical and flowering plants require free timed tickets. Check the website cited above for more information.

Sunday was a classic spring day in the Washington area, with comfortable temperatures- humidity and little wind. As natives will tell you, that’s not going to last. Plus, we are told that any day now the cicadas are going to emerge. Anyway, it was a very pleasant experience, not too crowded so distancing was easy. Highly recommended.

The featured image at the top of this post was an unexpected surprise. The heron (more shots below) scooped up a huge goldfish as we were watching. With some effort, he was able to swallow it whole. Fortunate to catch the action.

Below you will find more photos,  a sample of what we saw.

We also saw some interesting animals:

Views from the Roof & Other Places

When we lived in New York City on the 50th floor of a mid-town tower with large windows on two sides, we enjoyed spectacular views, day and night. The photo above is the traffic headed south on 9th Avenue in the Before Times.

Here are a few examples of what could be seen from our windows on any given day/evening:

Washington, of course, is a “flat city” in the sense that is subject to a legislative decree that limits the height of buildings to 10 stories. Our apartment building, however, enjoys a developed rooftop extending all around the building that occupies most of a city block. Here are some of the views we enjoy from “up there:”

It’s not New York but nothing really is. We nonetheless enjoy our views, enhanced by a balcony that overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue just west of Washington Circle. All-in-all, pretty fine.

Escape to U.S. National Arboretum

Desperate for a safe escape from the quasi/semi-lockdown conditions that have rendered the West End of Washington a ghost town, we recently drove to the U.S. National Arboretum situated at 3501 New York Avenue NE. Amazingly, admission is free. The place is huge (446-acres) and at this time of year much of the foliage is gone. Nevertheless, there is still much to see, especially here.

Uncharacteristically, we did not do any research before setting out and, until we chanced on that area, did not know what we might find. The official website reports that the Conifer Collection,

showcases conifers that hail from a range of climates, including the Arctic and subtropical regions. Japanese maples, ornamental grasses and daffodils combine with the conifers to create an alluring array of colors.

This small sample of photos implies but does not catalog the extraordinary array of scenes. You will see examples of:

Color & Light



Old Growth

New Growth [signs of spring already]


Great Falls Park

A few weeks back we decided to escape the city for a brief outdoor experience at Great Falls Park on the Virginia side, where the Potomac River plunges through Mather Gorge. We’d last visited the park in the Before Times with my grandsons more than three years ago. It’s always awe inspiring. In peak season it was so crowded that cars lined up on the road leading into the park with very long waits to get in if you had the patience.

This day was cool and cloudy, but a surprisingly large number of visitors were there when we arrived. Nevertheless, staying distanced was quite easy and we enjoyed a leisurely walk along the trail north beside the raging river. The following photos reveal what we saw there. Sightings of eagles and ospreys have grown more common and the power of the water is remarkable.We don’t know what the water temperature was but surely it was near freezing. Not cold enough to deter the kayakers though.

If you decide to visit, be careful and stay well back from the water’s edge. Every year people underestimate the power of moving water and pay dearly for the mistake. View it all from above and appreciate the majesty of such remarkable site so close to the Capitol.

America Under Siege

Take a long look at the image above. This is the Capitol of the United States four days after the siege of Trump supporters on January 6. The entire area around the Capitol, like that surrounding the White House and the Executive Office Building, is cordoned off by 7-foot high fencing. No one is permitted to enter Lafayette Park across from the White House, The closest you can get now is on foot and you are still at an extreme distance. The White House is all but invisible. The images below were taken with a long lens and do not accurately reflect how far away we were kept by the police stationed around the perimeter.

By now everyone is aware that the sitting president of the United States, having overwhelmingly lost the 2020 election, has, along with his Republican co-conspirators in Congress and at the White House, undertaken a campaign of false claims that the election was “stolen” by a country-wide cabal of liberal Democrats aided by certain Republicans in battleground states. Unwilling to accept the overwhelming evidence, including the judgment of some of his closest enablers like the just-former Attorney General William Barr, Trump decided to force the issue by disrupting the final Congressional process of counting, verifying and accepting the states’ certification of their Electoral College votes. He summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6, the day Congress would meet, gave an incendiary speech and directed the throng of screaming Trumpists to go to the Capitol where the Congress was meeting “to steal the election” from him. He said he would be with them, but that, of course, was just another Trump lie. The rest is history, labeled by many as one of the darkest days the country has ever seen.

Trump’s “army” assaulted the Capitol, inadequately defended by the Capitol Police, many of whom appeared on video to welcome the intruders. The attack was responsible for the death of one police officer, led to the death of one mob member on the verge of forcing her way into the room immediately outside the House chamber, and came close to reaching the members of Congress deliberating there. Three mob members died of medical problems in the heat of the attack.

So it has come to pass that the nation’s Capitol resembles a country being attacked by foreign armies. Members of the National Guard are stationed at various locations around the Capitol to guard the congressional office buildings. Trump has encouraged the mob to return and disrupt the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The various chat boards favored by right-wing conspiracy nuts are alive with phantasmagorical claims and assertions of intention to effectively take over the government on Trump’s behalf.

This may seem comical and absurd to some, but I assure you it is deadly serious. The mob that assaulted the Capitol were laughing and high-fiving each other after what they regarded as an easy and overwhelming victory. Man of them are now being arrested around the country and face serious federal criminal charges. Like some gang members, the prospect of “doing time” in support of Trump is seen as a badge of honor in their delusional imaginations.

Trump’s claims are preposterous — unsupported by evidence, rejected by multiple courts — yet, right after the Capitol invasion Republican Party officials had a party at Amelia Island to celebrate Trump and their accomplishments. There is no reason to think Trump is ready to face reality. He believes he is immune from accountability, as he has been throughout his life. Trump has turned the national capital into a dark place, fencing off the People’s House and now the citadel of freedom that the Capitol Building signifies to the world. The time to put a stop to Donald Trump’s presidency is at hand, It would be a grave mistake to underestimate his willingness to destroy the country to avoid the reckoning he rightly fears.

These images illustrate the extent and appearance of the fencing that seals off the White House, Supreme Court, Executive Office Building and Capitol.

Black Lives Matter Plaza is one of the closest approaches that can now be made to the White House. It is the site of a peace vigil and other elements.

The National Guard on the job and it is likely that many more are stationed close by but out of sight; I am not prepared to believe that the federal government will let itself be surprised and understaffed a second time:

Finally, do not despair. The republic will survive this challenge as it has others led by more serious foes than Donald Trump. These still fly outside the fencing:

Long may it wave.