Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!

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28 June 2011
Two venerable DC institutions you won't see from the Tourmobile

If you have limited time in DC, and haven't visited since your 8th grade Social Studies trip, by all means check out the museums and monuments and the National Mall. They are mostly free, after all. But if you're able to plan ahead a bit, and have a hankering to hang with locals, I invite you to check out two DC musical venues that are nowhere near the tourist trail.

Filene Center
WolfTrap Filene Center, photo by Scott Suchman

If you have a car...
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Seeing a show at WolfTrap is one of my all-time favorite summer activities. They have concerts in The Barn over the winter, but there's something magical about wining & dining & spectating alfresco at the magnificent Filene Center. It doesn't matter whether your tastes run to opera, Elvis Costello, or Bugs Bunny cartoons with live orchestral accompaniment, I dare you to have a bad time at WolfTrap. You just haven't lived until you've heard the 1812 Overture with live canon fire.

We typically grab a bottle of wine (or ten) and some picnic snacks (the prepared foods bar at Whole Paycheck is right on the way), and try to arrive early to stake out a good spot on the lawn. Actual seats in the pavillion are also available, but then you can't self-cater, and that's at least half the fun.

Filene Center, aerial shot
Filene Center, photo by Robert Llewellyn

Besides a full cadre of kickass shows, WolfTrap offers summer programs for kids, places professional artists in classrooms, and administers performing arts scholarships through its Foundation. But my favorite WolfTrap factoid is that it's part of the National Park System, and the National Park Service maintains the grounds and helps with theater tech. If you look carefully you just might spot Ranger Smith in his green khakis running lights behind the scenes.

Summer would just not be summer without at least one trip out to WolfTrap. Yes, it's a bit of a hike outside the city, but completely worth it. Hey, if you buy me an extra lawn seat, I'll happily give you a ride out there!

9:30 club
9:30 Club, photo by PatrickDB

If you're public-transport-bound...
The 9:30 Club

Originally housed in a sketchy location downtown where rats were commonly seen running along the ceiling beams, and now in a slightly-more-upscale neighborhood off the hipster U Street corridor, Nightclub 9:30 has been *the* go-to spot for live music in DC since 1980. With capacity for about 1200, this midsized venue is a great place to get up close and personal with the band, provided you get there well before the opening act starts and are willing to stand around. We tend to prefer to perch on the third floor, which has a separate bar and offers a great view of the performers as well as the crowd.

According to the Washington Post, the old club on F street was known as "a station of the cross for ascending bands working outside of music's mainstream." While the "new" 9:30 Club pulls in a more conventional roster, owner Seth Hurwitz prides himself on a  diverse lineup. We always get tickets to see hometown favorite Thievery Corporation when they're in town. Also Ozomatli, who take advantage of the lack of seating to perform a conga line through the crowd at the end of their set. Other recent excellent shows have included The Shpongletron Experience, GWAR, and Richard Cheese.

Josh Burdette
photo courtesy Consequence of Sound

Watch for 9:30 mainstay Josh Burdette, aka the scary-looking bouncer with the wicked piercings, and don't get on his bad side!


How to do it right

Both venues regularly sell out, so it does pay to plan a bit and get your tickets ahead of time. To plan the perfect musical interlude, figure out your transportation situation, cross reference your genre preferences, and pick a venue.

If heading to the 9:30 Club, hop on Metro's Green Line to U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo and pick one of the many excellent Ethiopian restaurants along 9th Street. Or stop at Dickson Wine Bar for wines by the glass and a huge front window for peoplewatching. Head over to the club when doors open (or before, if it's a popular show) and stake out a spot on whichever of the three levels suits your fancy. Earplugs are available for a buck a pair at the tshirt stand on the ground floor. Don't forget to tip your bartender well and prepare to have your world rocked.

If you're going to WolfTrap, pick up a few bottles of wine or six packs of beer, and score some picnic snacks at your supplier of choice. Whole Foods? Gas station convenience store? Whatever floats your boat. Food & drink is available for purchase onsite but of course it's much more expensive. You can get to WolfTrap via the Dulles Toll Road or Route 7, both of which can get jammed during rush hour, so plan accordingly. The parking situation can be a bit bewildering, but just go where you're directed; there's no such thing as a good space and you'll be walking uphill to get to the Filene Center no matter what. (Consider it pre-justifying the calories you're about to intake!) Bring a blanket or two, and try to get there well before the doors open so you can participate in the mad rush for the perfect spot on the lawn. Secure your location, crack open your beverages, spread out your treats, and prepare to make friends with your neighbors, especially if they've brought something even yummier! By the time the sun goes down and the show starts, all will be right with the world.

This post is part of Cambria Suites' Backyard Gems blog carnival. What are some gems in your own backyard?

The Filene Center at
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
1551 Trap Road
Vienna, VA 22182
tickets: 877.WOLFTRAP

Nightclub 9:30
815 V Street, NW
Washington, DC
tickets: 877.435.9849

Dickson Wine Bar
903 U Street, NW
Washington, DC

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22 June 2011
WanderFood Wednesday: Finger Lakes finger food

On a recent trip to upstate New York for a family wedding, we took a brief side trip to the Finger Lakes wine trail. I'm working up a whole post about that, but in the meantime here's a quick tease... a few snaps from our afternoon snack at Bully Hill Vineyards in Hammondsport.

baked brie with an accompaniment of house wines
baked brie with an accompaniment of house wines

We went in with the intention of ordering a small snack, but the allure of baked brie was impossible to ignore.

Bully Hill Vineyards overlooks Keuka Lake
Bully Hill Vineyards overlooks Keuka Lake

I had the chard (butterific!) but Mark took a walk on the wild side and tried the daily special, a tart and tasty Verdelet with the crisp tang of green apples. Only slightly less green was the waitress, who was working her way through her first day on the job and was impressed when we mentioned how this wine reminded us of a Portuguese Vinho Verde. We're such winos.

For more great foodie posts, be sure to visit Wanderlust & Lipstick's weekly WanderFood Wednesday blog carnival!

Bully Hill Vineyards
8843 Greyton H. Taylor Mem Dr.
Hammondsport, New York 14840

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19 June 2011
Dad is my co-pilot

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! Special shoutout to the dads who have gone on to that Great BBQ Grill In The Sky.

Kesh and Justin
Kesh and Justin, relaxing post-hike in Kamloops, BC

Thanks for always being there to pick us up and carry us on your shoulders when there are just too many prickly bushes in our path.

Jack and Popsy
Jack and Popsy, at a wedding in Bethlehem, PA

And cheers to the dads who have mellowed out with time, and become even more fun as granddads! (Such is the case with my own dear ol' dad, pictured above with our nephew Jack. The family resemblance is uncanny, no?)

Enjoy your dad, dads!

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17 June 2011
Photo Friday: DC in the hizzouse

@middleseatview and @landlopers
@middleseatview and @landlopers

turns out @nerdseyeview isn't a big fan of oktapodi
turns out @nerdseyeview isn't a big fan of oktapodi (hey, nobody's perfect)

It took a trip to Vancouver to bring together some of the usual suspects from our monthly DC Travel Tweetup. During Sunday's TBEX lunch recess we gathered at The Mill on the waterfront to break bread with our East Coast comrades, plus maybe even an interloper from "the other Washington."

@wheresandrew and @nerdseyeview show off their tats
@wheresandrew and @nerdseyeview show off their tats

@laurably and Mark
@laurably and Mark

@marilyn_res needs a bigger mouth
@marilyn_res needs a bigger mouth for that massive salmonburger

up close and personal with @20stravel
up close and personal with @20stravel

Want to meet these tweeps in person? Come hang out with us at next week's joint DC Travel Tweetup and Meet,Plan,Go! social, hosted by Hosteling International. On Wednesday June 22, we'll convene, as we do each month, to talk travel and swap stories of our latest adventures. It'll also be a chance to hear a bit more about what's in store for this year's MPG DC event on October 18. C'mon out, and bring a friend!

The meetup event is free, but we're asking everyone to RSVP in advance so we know how many people to expect.
Register for Meet, Plan, Go! - Washington DC meetup 6-22-11

For more great travel snaps, check out Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.


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15 June 2011
Go 'Nucks Go

we've got spirit, yes we do
we've got spirit, yes we do

creative trash-talking
creative trash-talking

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't give a rat's ass about hockey.

But I might actually be paying some attention to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup this evening. Because I found out firsthand that Vancouver has some major school spirit.

the scene
street scene

Mark and I were in Vancouver last weekend for TBEX '11. In between meeting up with our fellow Meet,Plan,Go! hosts and attending the TBEX opening night party, we found ourselves literally caught up in Canucks Fever.

the Tourism Vancouver has the spiritdude on the street's got the spiritOn Friday night, the Canucks won Game 5 of the series and downtown Vancouver erupted. En route to the TBEX party at the Vancouver Art Gallery, a small group of us wound our way through the heart of the melee, as air horns blared, the crowd whooped, and fans wearing all manner of blue and green swarmed the streets.

It was a little like being on Bourbon Street in the midst of Mardi Gras, except the whole thing was just so darn polite. Despite being surrounded by a crush of strangers, I felt completely safe the entire time. I've never seen so many high-fives. The whole scene was totally Canadian.


We Want the Cup!
We Want the Cup!

no, WE Want the Cup!
no, WE Want the Cup!

After the TBEX event, instead of hitting the cool-kids' afterparty, we opted to stand at the corner of Granville and Robson and watch the real party. More legendary high-fiving, chants of "We Want the Cup!," and some creative variations of the blue-and-green thematic. Nothing too rowdy, just a genuine good-natured celebration of the sort we don't see too often in the US. It was one epic block party.

new BFFs
new BFFs

I'm a bit sad that we're back in DC now and won't be around to see the results of Game 7 in person. At the Vancouver airport, it was fun to see that just about everyone supported the home team, from the food court cleaning lady to the jersey-clad gate agents. "Go Canucks Go" signs were posted at every business and in every hallway at YVR, just as they were throughout the city. As a pretty staunch non-sports-fan, I can't claim to care much about the outcome of the game itself, but for the sake of the spirited Vancouver crowd I hope they get their win.

what will the streets look like tonight?
what will the streets look like tonight?

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10 June 2011
Photo Friday: searching

Sonia and oktapodi enjoy the view

We took the even-more-scenic route back to Vancouver, choosing to drive through Fraser Canyon and past some amazing vistas. Smell that fresh mountain air! Not even a temporary halt for road construction could dampen this gorgeous road trip.

Mark checks out the construction delay

Check out Delicious Baby's Photo Friday for more great travel snaps, including lots of Vancouver-themed pics from folks in town for TBEX!

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08 June 2011
Quiet moments


Life on a farm with two small children can be anything but quiet. However, there are some priceless moments where things slow down, allowing space for a nice big deep breath of appreciation.

dad and Kikibelle


mom and Kesh

It tends not to last very long.

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06 June 2011
Loopy in Kamloops

Kiran & Kesh: rockstars in training
Kiran & Kesh: rockstars in training

backyard view
backyard view

It's a shame we haven't been having any fun here in Kamloops. All this delicious fresh air and gorgeous scenery... our friends' insanely adorable (and endlessly entertaining) kids... the chill lifestyle... the great conversations about living an authentic life. It's just been sheer torture.

the sheep aren't quite sure what to make of us
the sheep aren't quite sure what to make of us

oktapodi makes a new friend
oktapodi makes a new friend

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05 June 2011
The BC Adventure begins!

drive from Vancouver to Kamloops
once again, oktapodi is my co-pilot

Great googly-moogly, what a long day. Anytime we have to get up before the sun, it had better be for a good cause. Fortunately, so far British Columbia hasn't disappointed!

We're in BC for about a week, first to visit friends in Kamloops, and then to attend TBEX '11 in Vancouver. Even in our jetlagged condition, the 4.5-hour drive from Vancouver to our friends' farm was spectacular... a jaw-dropping, ear-popping, white-knuckled jaunt through many elevations and remarkable scenery. It reminded me of majestic mountain drives through Furlo Gorge in Le Marche, in the back of a pickup truck in the Guatemalan highlands, and the trek from Sacramento through Reno to Burning Man. This one definitely made it into the pantheon of greatest hits!

We arrived in Kamloops in desperate need of a shower, but psyched to catch up with our friends Justin & Andrea, whom we haven't seen in five years since they "bought the farm." (More on that later.) After a splendid feast at The Noble Pig, Kamloops' finest brewpub, we crashed, hard. We'll need our sleep for all the adventures to come!

* Furlo Gorge - photos or story
* The Great Space Coaster | How I found myself hurtling through the Cuchumatanes mountains in the back of a pickup truck
* Burning Man photos and posts
* browse TBEX '10 blog entries

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