I have always loved Easter. It is my favorite holiday even over Christmas. It is a more relaxing time of year and there is not the rushing around that the Christmas holidays bring. Both work and graduate classes were taking up so much of my time that it was nice to just relax on Easter and have dinner with my family. It didn’t really turn out that way but I got a lot accomplished and it ended up being a productive weekend.
Classes at NYU have been tough as there have been so many projects to do and the semester ends the second week of May. I have never seen time fly by like this. I would have thought the semester would have ended closer to Memorial Day Weekend but it ends much earlier and everyone is scrambling to get their work done. I was able to sneak down to Washington DC last Sunday to see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom and this time around I got to see them.
My blog on “Visiting the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC Day Two Hundred and Thirty-Two”:
The Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC the week before
They bloom so much earlier than the festival (almost two weeks) and last year the basin was loaded with people looking at bare trees. Everyone was taking pictures under the dozen or so trees that were the last species to bloom (the same ones in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and you could barely take a picture without a dozen people pushing you out of the way. At least this year the storms did not disrupt all the petals.
The Cherry Blossom at the basin and the crowds following them
Even though it was for one day, the trip to Washington DC is always a treat. I was looking forward though to seeing the other great Cherry Blossom displays in both Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens in Brooklyn, NY. Those always follow this display and are just as spectacular.
It was Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ that was in full peak bloom this week. I was able to get to the park later in the afternoon around 4:00pm when the crowds started to thin out. I did not realize that the Visitors Center and parking lot were closed for renovation. That really backed up traffic in the park and there were wall to wall people by that section of the park. I parked toward the entrance (always a good move) and was able to walk all sections of the park with no problems. What surprised me but didn’t shock me was the behavior of people towards the Cherry Trees.
Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ at Park Avenue & Lake Street
Just like in DC the week before, people were climbing all over the trees, tugging on the branches, pulling off the blossoms and sticking in their hair and pockets or just taking the branches home. Even with all the signs, people just don’t listen. I never really thought about it until I started taking classes at NYU and was learning about the concept of over-tourism. People really have no consideration for the world around them and abuse the very things that they are there to see. I was constantly walking into someone’s picture from every angle.
The brilliance of Mother Nature in full bloom
Still the park was beautiful and the trees and shrubs were at the peak of bloom and that made it special to me. I still remember coming here with my dad every year and then we would go to Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, NJ for a hot dog after our visit. I never remember it being as busy as it is today but this was before 2010 and the IPhone was not as prevalent as it is now. It is amazing how social media has really changed this park.
The crowds in the late afternoon in Branch Brook Park
I just walked along the paths by myself enjoying the Spring day and admiring the trees and flowers of the park. I had never seen it at its peak and it was truly brilliant. I had never see the blossoms so vibrant and the colors so strong. It was Mother Nature at its peak and it only lasts for about a week.
With all the rain we have had lately it knocks the petals off the trees quickly. Branch Brook Park is one of the most unrated parks in the New York area and Newark does get knocked a lot but still the city offers its treasures to us if we seek them out.
How beautiful the river was running through the park
I spent about two hours exploring all parts of the park, watching baseball games, watching parents jump around with their kids and watching couples just holding hands and admiring the trees. There were so many Sweet Sixteen and Wedding pictures being snapped that again you had to maneuver correctly.
It’s always best to park by the entrance so that you can get out of the park easier when it is busy
After about two hours of walking around the park and enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful views, I had to get something to eat. Not in the mood for a hot dog as tradition states I stopped at Pizzatown Pizzeria in Newark for a slice of pizza. I had been there a few times over the years finding the pizzeria in pre-COVID days when all the food trucks were mobbed and not much options on the Bellville side of the park.
Pizzatown is one of those old Newark, NJ businesses that existed when this side of the city all around Branch Brook Park was all Italian up until about the early 1980’s when the last of the elderly Italian families either moved out or had passed away. It is the only business left from that time. Still the pizza is fantastic and I look forward to coming here every year when I am looking at the blossoms. I had a slice of Sicilian pizza that was delicious and it was just nice to relax and eat. I had taken so many pictures of the restaurant before I walked in that the owner asked if I was a relator. In that neighborhood? I thought he was kidding. I guess not too many 6:3 white guys go walking around this place.
Pizzatown Pizzeria & Restaurant at 883 Mt. Prospect Avenue in Newark, NJ
The inside of Pizzatown harks back to the 1960’s when this was an Italian neighborhood
The Sicilian pizza here is so good!
After lunch was over, I took on last look around the park and admired all the trees that were newer that were planted in the park towards the entrance. It is interesting how they just keep planting more trees around the park. I heard that this is the largest collection of Cherry Trees in the world.
The Cherry Trees right by my car on the edge of the park
It was a nice afternoon of walking around and enjoying nature. I had never seen the Cherry Trees this brilliant and so vibrant in colors before. This is what it means to see the trees at their peak!
In between classes before the Easter weekend started, I walked around the City after my classes were over on Friday and walked into Macy’s for the Annual Flower Show at the Herald Square store. I could not believe it has been thirty five years since my interview that started my job at Macy’s in 1988. I had gone in for my interview on a Saturday morning and was mesmerized by the store and Flower Show which lead to my second and third interviews and my seven year career with the company. It dawned on me how long ago that morning had been.
The entrance to Macy’s Flower Show in the Herald Square main store
The Flower Show on the first floor of the Macy’s store is always a treat. There were a lot of interesting displays this year but not so many flowers on the tops of the display cases. At least not the ones that I had seen in the past. It seemed more scaled down from the flowers on the upper displays and more the hanging displays that lined the main aisle.
The entrance to the Flower Show from the Broadway side of the store
Most the displays were hanging from the main aisle of the first floor so it was a much different display from those of the past but still it was very creative and people stopped every three feet to take more pictures. I was just as annoying but the store looked so nice.
The first floor by the escalators that did not exist when I worked there
The Floral Display by the Cosmetic Department
Not quite the hanging gardens of the past but still nice
The hanging floral arrangements by the escalators on the first floor
It was not the show that I remember as there were many more floral arrangements that were much more detailed and elaborate as there was more space on the old tops of the display cases. This was a more modern view of the Flower Show. I thought it was fun and they did a nice job. New Management and a new way of looking at the show.
Macy’s Display windows-My favorite
Macy’s Display windows
The display windows outside were a lot of fun and the display people did a great job on the them. It was really funny though. I was not in the City for class on Good Friday so I did not see the full extent of the show until Monday morning when the store reopened (the store is closed on Easter).
Macy’s Display windows
When I returned on Tuesday for my next class, the windows were already closed and we being dismantled and the whole show must have been taken down Monday night after the store closed. Everything was gone by Tuesday afternoon. Another Flower Show had passed.
Macy’s Display windows
Easter morning was really nice as I got to spend it with my cousins and my aunt at a wonderful restaurant in Red Bank, NJ. It was a bright and sunny Easter but a bit chilly. It was the first time in years that I had not been to church on Easter morning but I would go another day. We had an 11:00am reservation for brunch and I got picked up at 9:45am.
The weather was really windy when we got the Oyster Point Hotel where we were having brunch. I could not believe the winds off the water but by the time we were finished, it ended up being a nice warm afternoon. I guess it rough in the morning.
The bay right next to the hotel parking lot
The bay area of Red Bank is so beautiful and everything was just coming into bloom. We were able to walk around the docks for a bit before brunch. People were just getting their boats serviced and ready for the season. It was a spectacular morning looking over the water.
We were one of the first tables to arrive that morning so I got some great shots of the buffet and all the delicious and creative displays at all the stations of the restaurant. It was a very nice presentation and there was so much to choose from.
Oyster Point Hotel Pearl Room Banquet space where the brunch took place
The Dining Room
The food and the service were just amazing. I could not believe the view of the bay and the dazzling blue water in front of us. Thank God though our table was not by the window because the buffet line stretched in that direction when we were eating.
The Seafood on Ice Station
I could not believe the choices at brunch. There was a complete salad section to make your own salad, a seafood display on ice, an omelet and waffle bar with potatoes, bacon and sausage on the side if you wanted to start with breakfast. The baked good section for breakfast was extensive with fresh doughnuts, pastries, muffins, bagels and cookies. There were also slices of white and coffee cake if you wanted those as well.
The Breakfast Pastry display
There was a pasta station with ravioli and penne with chicken and broccoli, a carving station with turkey, beef and salmon, a complete lunch bakery section and fruit display. The Candy station was really unique with a display of chocolate lobsters and peeps in a tree.
The display of candy was very clever
The Candy display was really unique and very creative
The Pastry Chef really has a a sense of humor
The best was that they had a complete crab cake station with all sorts of sides such as mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. They were all served in champagne glasses. The portions were small but you could go back as many times as you wanted.
The Lunch Bakery table
The Fruit Dessert display
There were also chafing dishes of wild rice, mixed vegetables, chicken piccata, roasted potatoes and a beef dish. The quality of the food in the chafing dishes matched all the stations and nothing was soggy or tepid. Everything was perfectly cooked and spiced. There was so much to choose from that I must have made twenty trips to the buffet line to the amusement of my family.
Being in the culinary arts and working in a soup kitchen for almost twenty years, I know not to waste food, Watching people pile their plates high is so silly when you can go back as many times as you want. I walk around a buffet, survey what is offered and then go back for many small tastes of everything. I think it is a sin to waste food and throw it out when there is no reason for it.
A little taste of the pasta section, the carving section, the chafing dishes and those marvelous crab cakes. The food was excellent!
After brunch was over, were were there for almost three hours eating and talking and watching the people on the bay in their boats, we made an early afternoon of it. I had wanted to go to the cemeteries and had some yard work to do (I can’t believe I had that much to do as I was in the yard for two hours) and then had some writing to finish. My life never sits still. We took some pictures around the hotel and walked around the dock for a bit. We said our goodbyes to my cousin and his wife and then toured the town of Red Bank, NJ. What a pretty downtown. It really has some nice stores and restaurants.
My cousins, my aunt and I at Easter 2023
I always enjoy spending time with my family. I hope every had a wonderful Easter and Passover!
Well after seven years of trying to get to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival I finally got down to the city to get to the tidal basin to see the display. It looks like it will be eight years as almost all the cherry blossoms disappeared almost two weeks earlier. All the leaves were long gone and as I overheard another tourist say to a friend that she was disappointed that she had not known and most of the trees were bare.
The Tidal Basin in April 2023
The festival was in its second week and most of the trees had gone green. I found out later from the Internet that they peaked on March 21st and right after that we had all that rain. It probably knocked the petals off after that.
The festival ran through April 16th, 2022 (the peak of the blooms was March 21st)
It was bummer in that I finally had a free weekend open to visit Washington DC and I had been looking forward to seeing Mother Nature’s show. I even took an early Amtrak train down to DC so that I could spend time in the Basin area when I arrived. The sun does not go down until 7:30pm now (which is a pleasure).
The trip down by train was nice as I love taking my time and just watching everything fly by. The train was packed. I kept forgetting that it was the start of the Easter weekend and people were starting their holiday travel plus for some schools it was Spring Break and college students were coming on the train loaded with luggage. The train was almost completely sold out.
Union Station was a shocker. I had not been in DC since the summer of 2019 when I went down for my Georgetown interview. The station was buzzing with commuters milling around the station and workers coming in during their lunch and dinner hours to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in the terminals. Union Station had a nice selection of restaurants and boutiques to visit, and it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.
The inside of the entrance of Union Station in Washington DC on a Sunday
The place looked like a ghost town when I arrived. The terminal was busy but not like it used to be and so many businesses closed. The lower-level restaurant food court was practically empty. That was really spooky. There was two people downstairs in the about four restaurants open and one was a homeless guy. I could not believe what COVID did to the station.
Still, it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk up First Street to my hotel. I was staying at the Marriott Courtyard DC in the NoMA section of DC (North of Massachusetts Avenue-Frah Frah) and it was only about a twenty minute walk for me. I could not believe how quiet DC was at the time. It was late afternoon and the only people that I saw on the streets were the security guards guarding the buildings. It looked like everyone had left DC for the holidays.
The Marriott Courtyard DC/Capital Building at 1325 Second Street NE
I was able to check into my room early, unpacked and off I went down New York Avenue to downtown. My first stop was Chinatown because I was starved, and I needed the late lunch. Downtown DC is one of the places in the core of the city that really has kept its architecture intact and has lots of character. On D, F and G Streets lots of older buildings from the post-Civil War era to the end of the Victorian Age and the facades now been incorporated into new buildings.
F Street from the White House to the arena used to be the old shopping district up until the 1990’s and you can still see the ghosts of Garfinckel’s, Woodward & Linthrop and Hecht’s Department stores in the architecture of these former grand department stores.
Garfinckel’s Department Store was the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles”
Sadly, though when the arena was built, it pretty much knocked down the core of Chinatown and what is left now is about five restaurants, a small grocery store, tea shop and a gift shop that I am not sure whether it is open or not. There are still a few hangers on that give it some character but it’s not like the Chinatown’s in New York or Philadelphia.
The Entrance to what is left of Chinatown in Washington DC on G Street
One of the two blocks left of Chinatown in Washington DC on 6th Street
There is one restaurant I still love going to when I am in DC, and I always visit it for sentimental reasons and that’s Chinatown Express Restaurant at 746 Sixth Street NW (see my review on TripAdvisor). I discovered the place several years ago when I was on a location search for my novel “Love Triangles” (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Two: Reading the Prologue of the Novel “Love Triangles”):
The entrance to the former Julius Garfinckel & Company: The inspiration for the novel “Love Triangles”. The entrance is on F Street in Downtown DC. The future cover for “Love Triangles”.
What attracted me to Chinatown Express then as now was the cooks are always making homemade dumplings and noodles in the window of the restaurant. One of the owner’s was making pulled noodles on my first trip there and then after that I was always looking for the chef making the pulled noodles.
The roast meats, noodle and dumpling making in the front window of Chinatown Express
The last time I saw him was when I went down for my Georgetown interview. On this trip, I saw who I assumed was his kid’s wrapping dumplings in the window and I had to have some of those.
Not really looking at the menu, I ordered Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings and Fresh Pulled Noodle Soup with Roast Pork, all of which is made inhouse. What a lunch! The dumplings were crisp and tender on the outside and a well-spiced pork mixture on the inside. This was made even better by the soy sauce mixture that I dipped them in.
Lunch at Chinatown Express in 2022 and 2023 (even in 2007)
The Pulled Noodle Soup had a nice rich chicken broth as a base with large slices of roast pork, fresh Bok choy and long strands of freshly made noodles in the soup.
The homemade dumplings made to order
The soup was a meal onto itself. I slurped the soup with the noodles being sucked up at the same time.
The Cantonese Wonton Soup with Lo Mein Noodles and Roast Pork
The roast pork had a nice, sweet glaze on top and they gave me a lot of it. The soup warmed me up and filled me up after a long journey.
After lunch was over, I had a lot more energy and ready to tour DC. I headed down to the Washington Mall to see the Tidal Basin. What a disappointment! The blossoms were over. There were still some trees around the basin that we a certain species of cherry tree that bloom late (these are the ones we are waiting for to bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and these were the ones on the fringes of the basin that everyone was taking pictures of with their families. I guess it is another year before I see them again ( the pictures are from 2023).
The Tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossoms in 2023 after the rain storm the night before
Not all the species lost their petals in the storm in 2023 so the visuals were marvelous!
Talk about over-tourism in 2023 to see the Cherry Blossoms
All the trees around the basin had flowered and dropped their petals. There were a few bunches of late bloomers here and there in groups that my fellow tourists huddled around to take pictures. It was pretty sad because the DC Cherry Blossom Festival was in its second week and the blossoms had bloomed already. Mother Nature had the last laugh!
Still the trees were bursting with green leaves and the start of summer looked like it was upon us. It seems that everything was growing two weeks in advance even up by me and it looked like late Spring all over the Washington Mall. The paths were full of people looking at the trees making the same comments that I did about the leaves. I have to say that the tourists have come back. I heard many languages being spoken as I walked to the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the basin and people were taking pictures of everything. It was nice to see DC busy and full of people all over the Mall.
The Jefferson Memorial in the distance during the Cherry Blossoms in 2023
The Jefferson Memorial was being repaired but still impressive and makes a statement when you walk around the structure. You can see all the quotes that spoken carved in the walls and reading them I was wondering how far we have come as a society with everything going on today. I had to dodge construction and people taking pictures in every direction.
I walked back to the patches of flowering cherry trees and the groups of people huddled around them desperate to show in picture the beauty of the trees. I have to admit that these patches of trees around the Washington Monument were very impressive.
The Washington Monument at 15th Street NW when I visited in 2007
I stopped for a while, bought a Coke from a vendor selling beverages all over the Mall and sat on the lawn and just relaxed and watched the sun set. Groups of families were sitting on the lawn, chatting, laughing and taking pictures. It was nice to see people again visiting the country and enjoying the city.
As I left the Mall lawn, I walked back into the downtown area. I stopped by the Portrait Gallery, but they were closed for the evening. Outside the Portrait Gallery, they were having one of the Cherry Blossom Street events with food vendors, musicians, people playing video games on the big screen and then they showed a Japanese cartoon film. There was a food vendor named Miguel’s Miniatures, who made homemade empanadas, churros, mini doughnuts and homemade lemonade. The prices were really reasonable.
I ordered the mini doughnuts that were ten for $5.00. These were freshly fried in front of me and then they had a series of glazes in squeeze bottles and sprinkles and candies to top them. It was a really nice concept and the doughnuts hit the spot after a long walk and a good lunch. It was nice to munch away while listening to the music.
As it got dark, I walked back to the hotel to settle in for the night. I have to say that Washington DC is a great walking city. Unlike Manhattan, the streets were really clean and well-groomed, and I did not see the amount of homeless that I would see in New York City. As I walked back up through downtown and up New York Avenue, I just noticed how organized the city seemed. There were a few tent encampments but again they were under overpasses and kept out of view from the rest of the neighborhood.
I walked through most of the Northeast section of the city, just north of New York Avenue and admired all the old town houses. They all look like they had been sandblasted back to like and the fronts of the homes were covered in flowering plants and there were lots of rainbow flags almost showing me the gentrification of the neighborhood.
When I got to around where the hotel was located, I got a little lost and did not realize that there were two First Streets off New York Avenue. I knew that I had not reached the McDonalds that I had passed or some of the street art that I use as a marker to remember where I walked. So, I walked around the block and down another street. That is when the fun began.
I walked down the first First Street and knew I did not recognize anything, so I just walked through this construction site of two new buildings going up and walking through the alley way between both sites and passed a dark church on the side of these construction sites. I thought that might be a good sign. I got to the other side of the street only to walk up a street between the two First Street and more construction only to have a group of 30 bikers without helmets coming at me in each direction.
I was more perplexed on why they were not wearing helmets and doing dangerous wheelies than coming at me in every direction. Even some of the bikers had strange looks on their faces as they surrounded me and went around me. It just said to me “What was I doing there?” and “Who was I?” and they continued to ride down the street and never looked back.
They never came back around to see what I was doing. I ended up in front of a public housing complex where the residents gave me a strange look walking by. Some were trying to hide that they were smoking substances that are no longer illegal.
I just looked back once and then kept walking and found my way back onto New York Avenue, crossed the bridge on the highway and then recognized a piece of art on the street that gave me back my directional sense. I knew my bearings as I crossed over New York Avenue and walked down North Street NE back towards the hotel. It was like another world from the one I just walked through. There I found Menomale Pizza Napoletana NoMA at 35N Street NE.
It was surreal. I felt like I went from one world to another in just a few feet. The restaurant was just going through it first seating and people were leaving. I looked at the menu and decided that I was hungry. That and I did not want to know if I would have enough energy once I got to the hotel to come back, so I entered and got a table. What a wonderful decision.
The menu had a nice selection of appetizers, pizzas, entrees and desserts and I settled on a simple Pizza Margareta ($14.95) with a Coke. I wanted to keep it simple because it was getting late, and I did not want to have to digest a heavy dinner so late at night.
Menomale NoMA at 35 North Street NE
The pizza was excellent with a topping with a fresh tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella and basil with a little olive oil on top. The pizza was also the right size for one person about the size of a large dinner plate. Being a thin crusted pizza and the dough was light and chewy, it was not difficult to devour the whole pizza. I thought the service was very professional, friendly and personal. Several waiters stopped by my table to see how I was doing. Between the food, atmosphere and service, it was the perfect meal. It ended a very strange walk back to the hotel.
The one thing I have to credit Marriott with is that their beds are super comfortable. I hit the pillow and slept soundly that evening. When I awoke the next day and opened the blinds and let the sunny morning inside the room. I felt so relaxed and not a bit tired from all the walking that I did the day before.
I had a quick breakfast at the McDonald’s around the corner from the hotel and had my usual Sausage with Egg McMuffin combination breakfast. It always hits the spot, but I will be pretty honest. Maybe it was all the walking or just I was hungry, but I needed more even after I left the restaurant.
I love breakfast at McDonalds
As I made my way down to the Mall to visit museums, I needed something else to eat. So I stopped at this small Farmers Market on I Street NW right near Milian Park and saw a woman selling empanadas and stopped for one. She said she made them from her mother’s recipes and her breakfast empanada contained Mexican bacon, chorizo, eggs and Cheddar cheese. For $4.00, I thought it was a fair price. The same thing in the Farmers Market in Union Square, they would have charged six or seven dollars for the same thing. It was the perfect breakfast accompaniment.
What I liked about DC was things like this. There were small Farmer’s Markets on the side streets, vendors with all sorts of foods all over the Mall and in front of the Portrait Gallery was the Downtown Cherry Blossom Festival with the movies and food. People have been complaining how bad DC has gotten and maybe it was me but in the two days I spent there, I only saw very positive things to participate in.
I finally got to the Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street to see Yayoi Kusama exhibition that I had seen discussed on ‘CBS This Morning’ a couple of weeks earlier.
The Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (Hirshhorn Museum)
This was one of the reasons I had come to DC on top of seeing cherry blossoms that were not there. To my surprise, the museum had been open since 10:00am (I thought it did not open until 11:30am) and then the guy at the door says I needed timed tickets that were distributed starting at 9:00am that morning. He would not budge!
Ms. Kusama is a Japanese born artist who was trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts and is known for Avant-guard works and her later use of polka dots as her trademark.
Video on Ms. Kusama’s work
I went back upstairs to talk to the ladies at the desk and God must have been listening to me because in front of me were two people who did not want to go see the exhibition and I was able to grab one of their tickets. Talk about luck! I hate to say it but the guy at the desk downstairs looked disappointed that he had to let me in.
I swear that the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was well worth the trip down to DC. What an interesting way not only to display art but to be part of the art exhibition as well. The exhibition started with a few larger pieces of her work with lots of polka dots and pumpkins until you got to move to the private rooms where you got to part of the exhibition. This is where it got interesting.
The curator told me that this pumpkin belonged to the museum
I got to walk into her Mirrored Room with here soft sculptures and was left inside by myself for thirty seconds when the door closed. It was amazing and mind-blowing that you could see the repetitiveness of yourself in the artform and got to experience what she had seen as well. All those little red and white soft sculptures all over the floor made you feel like you were in a surreal ‘Wonderland’.
The Mirrored Room at the Hirshhorn Museum was like being in a surreal ‘Wonderland’
After leaving the mirrored room, I passed a through a small walkway and then when entering the next room of polka dot lanterns, it felt like you were walking through some crazy dream. It was so odd and exciting at the same time. It was so thrilling to be part of the artwork. It was like being in a usual funhouse.
The Polka Dot Lantern Room at the Hirshhorn Museum is a colorful ‘funhouse’
The exhibition is so engaging I wanted to walk through it again but the lines to get in when I left were so long that I knew I would not get tickets again. It is an exhibition that was worth the wait and the trip down to DC and I highly recommend it.
After I left the exhibition, I visited the Laurie Anderson exhibition and was again memorized by the lines of flags going up and down like a surrealist dream. Her videos of people sharpening knives was pretty weird as well.
Ms. Anderson’s work was just as wild, and she also makes it fun to walk through an exhibition. You become part of the art and that is just as interesting. Ms. Anderson is an American born artist who graduated with a BA from Barnard College and MFA from Columbia University. She is known for her Avant-guard works that spread across many mediums (Wiki).
The Laurie Anderson exhibition “The Weather” was another unusual journey
After spending most of my morning participating in the art of the Hirshhorn Museum, I wanted to walk through the sculpture garden. It was nice to walk amongst the flowers and all the pieces of art.
I knew I would be heading back to Manhattan after I finished at the museums and I stopped for lunch in the Washington Mall, which was line with food trucks. I stopped by a very busy one I had seen the other day called “Ribeye Philadelphia Steak” for a Cheesesteak. I had not had one since I went down to Philly for the Penn/Cornell game.
For $13.00, I got a large Cheesesteak with Wiz and a Coke and ate it on the lawn of the Mall. God, was I in the mood for that Cheesesteak. I felt like I was back at the Reading Terminal Market again. The roll was really fresh and chewy and the steaks were perfectly cooked. They must have made a mistake in the order because I got Provolone inside the roll and Cheese Wiz on top. I didn’t care. The combination was delicious and I just relaxed on the lawn on a sunny afternoon and enjoyed my lunch. Don’t miss this food truck when looking for a meal in the Washington Mall.
I walked past the White House and talk about security. The whole place was cordoned off and security is extremely tight. I had never seen all of this before. For the last twelve years there has been so much craziness with protests and people trying to get into the White House I do not blame them for the security. I have to say one thing, I saw the real FBI guys protecting the perimeter of the area and now understand why people think I look like I am in law enforcement. These guys looked like a younger version of me.
Me in front of the White House in better days in 2007
I walked back to the Downtown area and went to visit The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street for the “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” exhibition.
The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street in Downtown Washington DC
I still remember the Watergate scandal from when I was a kid. The only importance that it had to the nine-year-old me was that all the cartoons and kids programming was cancelled for the hearings. Learning more about the incident in college and from books was how hard this hit the American public and their trust of the government.
National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” (Time Magazine Cover)
The exhibition had all sorts of illustrations of the scandal and the people who were participants of it. It was funny to see the names and faces of the people who were involved in this event and know now that most of them are no longer alive to defend themselves. Even though the scandal was seen in the form of illustration, it did make a point into the ramifications of what happens when you get caught.
It was a low point for our country, between that and the ongoing war in Vietnam and inflation, you have an idea of why the country was so cynical. I am convinced this is why the Disco era happened. When it was all over, people needed to blow off steam and have a good time. Plus, the Baby Boomers were coming of age and needed time for themselves before starting a family.
It was funny to see how the artists depicted these important people or people who thought that they were important. It is amazing how fast the mighty can fall fast. It was not until the Reagan Administration that there was some pride back in the country and in some ways that was all a facade as well. It takes an exhibition like this to point that out.
After I toured the exhibition, I toured the Hall of Presidents and saw all the portraits. I saw the portrait of the recent president and listened to the comments that patrons made. They were not all bad and some were quite complimentary.
President Trump’s recent portrait was added to the collection
When you are touring this room, you have to remember that everyone is human, and all of these men have made mistakes in the past. Since many people do not know American history or the backgrounds of most of the people in that room, it is hard to comment on.
President Van Buren from New York
Before I headed back to the hotel to head home, I stopped in the Downtown Cherry Blossom event they had in front of the National Portrait Gallery and listened to the music again. The kids were playing a video game on the large screen and parents were swinging in the swings by the tables.
I stopped by Miguel’s Mini’s again and had one of his stuffed Churros with Bavarian cream. If you wanted to ever sink your teeth into something delicious, it was a freshly fried Churro filled with fresh vanilla cream. It was decadent and the perfect snack before my long trip home.
I picked my luggage up and walked back down to the train station and just made the 5:00pm train back to New York City. Talk about luck with the last-minute travel plans.
Even though I got to see just a limited version of the Cherry Blossoms in DC it gives me something to shoot for next year. It was a nice two days in the nation’s capital and told me one thing, not everything in Washington DC is all that bad.
You just have to look for the positives and you will find them!
My trip to Washington DC in 2023:
I arranged my trip to Washington DC in 2023 so that I could finally see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom. I was lucky in that the trees were still in bloom but the problem was that a massive rain storm the day before again knocked a lot of the blossoms off some of the trees before I got there. Still there were about four different species planted and the white cherry blossoms must have bloomed later as they were still up all around the basin so I finally after thirty years of wanting to see them, I got to see the Washington DC tidal basin in bloom.
The Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms in 2023
I almost thought I was never going to get down there with the amount of homework and classwork and papers that I had to do for both school and work. Even though the load is a bit easier this semester than Fall semester, it has been a lot on me with finishing Midterms (A-, C- and A- on my paper). I have had a lot of long days and I wanted to get my mind off everything.
I took the early morning train to Washington DC on a very sunny morning after a really bad rain storm the night before. I afraid that the petals would be knocked off the trees and I would see bare trees again. I took that risk, had a game plan to see the things I wanted to see again.
Once I left Union Station, I walked down to the Tidal Basin getting lost only twice. I walked out a different door then the last time and walked in the wrong direction going south instead of east. Two turns later I never realized how much of Washington DC has been gentrified.
Union Station in 2023 was busy but not crazy that afternoon
Even the areas around Union Station have really gotten nice and very expensive looking. I took a peek at some of the restaurants that opened just south of the station and could not believe the prices of things.
I made my way down D Street passing all the closed government buildings on a Sunday afternoon and then took a turn around New Jersey Avenue and walked the length of F Street watching people as they went to the stadium for an ice hockey game. There were loads of crowds for that.
As I walked down F Street, I remembered working on my book “Love Triangles” and walking this street thirty years ago when the old department stores were still open. I remember the days when Garfinckel’s and Woodies (Woodward & Lothrop) were still open. I do not remember going into the old Hecht’s store when it was open but I did go to the new one in the mall around the corner in 2002 when I visited my cousin when he and his new wife were living in the capital. That is now a Macy’s.
The old shopping district has gone from being ‘down and out’ to a vibrant shopping, entertainment and restaurant district with many of its historic buildings either renovated or part of a new structure. It is funny to see the exteriors of so many buildings built into a larger more modern structure.
The new and modern F Street shopping district
One by one I passed the old department stores that used to dot the shopping district and remembered how important this shopping district once was to the capital. These stores played such an important role in retailing up until the early 1990’s when they all closed down. The Campeau bankruptcy of Federated and Allied Stores in 1991 doomed all of these retailers. Today many of these same stores have been renamed under the Macy’s banner. So much for traditions.
The original Hecht’s Department Store is located closest to the arena and was the first store to close back in the late 1980’s to move to their new location in the mall on G Street. That left their original flagship empty for years. It is now serving as an office building.
Hecht & Company Department Store on F Street and 7th Street
The next grand department store to close in the early 1990’s was Woodward & Lothrop, “Woodies” as it was called by shoppers. The store was beautiful inside from what I remember on my last trip inside it in the early 90’s before it closed but empty of shoppers and the merchandise just could not compete with Macy’s or Bloomingdales when they entered the Washington DC market in the late 1980’s. The company had merged with Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia and that was another grand department store on its way down in the early 90’s as well. It was a sad ending to such a great store.
Woodward & Lothrop Department Store on F Street and 11th Street
The original Woodward & Lothrop store on G Street which was extended to F Street later in its history.
The historical sign on the store
The details of the original store from the 1880’s
The ultimate luxury was Garfinckel’s Department Store which catered to the elite of Washington DC society and was one of the best known department stores in the nation. This store catered to all the First Ladies and was a favorite of Jacqueline Kennedy and Bess Truman.
I remember shopping at the store for gifts for my parents and sitting down at the desks while my brother and I waited for them to be wrapped. I still remember a woman would not sell a silver salad server to my brother and I because we did not have the extra dollar to pay the tax so we had to buy her something else. We bought my father a bottle of Grey Flannel cologne and I swear my father had that bottle until the late 90’s. The funny things you remember as a kid. I also remember eating in the Greenbriar Room for lunch and having a burger.
Later on in the late 1980’s I used the store for the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles” where the protagonist, Alan Ballantine Garfinckel finds love in a New York Department store over the Christmas holidays.
The former Garfinckel’s Department Store on F Street and 14th Street
After a walk down the old shopping district and past all the old buildings of the original downtown, it was time to head to the tidal basin. The lines were wrapping around where the White House was and I was not sure if people were touring it but they had tickets in their hands to something and the line wrapped around the block.
The Washington Memorial Lawn was packed with people as it usual is on a sunny afternoon. People were flying kites and walking their dogs or eating their lunch at one of the many food carts. The lawns were overflowing with people.
The tidals basin was packed with people. The storm the day before had knocked off some of the petals of the original blossoming trees around the basin but the rest of the basin was in bloom and was a spectacular view.
The basin in full bloom and after all these years I got to see it in its glory.
Looking back at the Washington Monument
Walking with the crowds amongst the Cherry trees
Spring is coming to Washington DC
We talk in our tourism classes at NYU about ‘over tourism’ and the Washington Mall really suffers from this. There were just too many people packed into a small space. Not only that it was the way people behaved. People with double baby strollers trying to maneuver paths not meant for it or unfortunately people in wheelchairs struggling to get through paths that were not ADA compliant and full of small hills and roots that stood out. It made it for a lot of abuse on the trees.
People were also climbing on trees, pulling down branches and pulling off the blossoms. I never really took into account of these things but now I really noticed how cellphone cameras have just changed people’s behaviors. People have gotten abusive to nature.
Still, I tried to not to be that person and moved along as soon as I took my pictures. It was nice to just walk around the basin and enjoy nature’s magic. I made another stop at the Jefferson Memorial which after a year is still being renovated. There was so much construction stuff around the memorial that it made it difficult to move. That and everyone trying to take the perfect picture created a situation where everyone was on top of each other.
The Jefferson Memorial with all its beauty from a distance
I think we are forgetting this
After the quick tour around the memorial and paying my respects to the president, I continued the walk around the basin.
The beauty of the blossoms attracted so many people
It was a nice walk around the basin on a warm sunny day
After the walk around the basin, I was starved and wanted something to eat. All around the Washington Monument there was an array of food trucks but they were all packed with people. It was all the same thing and trying to find the perfect cheesesteak truck was hard when you see pictures of the hero with lettuce and tomato on it. I decided to go back to Chinatown to Chinatown Express again.
Chinatown has gotten even smaller since I last visited. Three more restaurants closed so it has been reduced to four restaurants, one grocery store and one liquor store. If they knock down this buildings on this block, you will have two restaurants left.
What’s left of Chinatown in Washington DC. One block by a half block.
The ice hockey game had let out by that point and every restaurant around Chinatown and the downtown area was packed with people and Chinatown Express was no different. When I arrived, there was a line out the door and people were on top of each other. In a way, it was nice to see. Everyone was with family and friends and looked like they were having a nice time.
Chinatown Express was packed after the game
I ordered my old standby Cantonese Wonton Soup with wontons and roast pork, a side of steamed dumplings and some egg rolls. I was less than thrilled with the food this time around. Everything either was not cooked all the way through or was tepid. The taste was good but the quality of the cooking was really lacking. When I read the TripAdvisor reviews later that evening this seems to be a trend at the restaurant.
The egg rolls at Chinatown Express were delicious but tepid
I enjoy the same meal when I dine at Chinatown Express but the food was disappointing on this trip
After lunch was over, I walked down to the Portrait Gallery again down on F Street. I did not have much time on this trip so I just went through the Presidential Gallery with all the portraits and got to hear a lot of opinions of certain presidents and none on the ones no one knew or remembered (which was more than half of them). It seems that most people remember the first four and the last four.
The portrait of Pocahontas is always impressive
I was able to quickly visit the museum visiting some of the highlights. I want to be able to spend some more time here on the next trip to the museum.
After the museum, I walked back to the train station to return to New York City. I almost did not make it as every train back to Manhattan was booked. I was lucky that a sympathetic train employee found a way to get me on the Palmetto at 8:00pm. I did not get home until 12:45am that evening.
Still it was worth it to see the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin. It is worth the trip!