Archive for the 'About Town' category

Happy Holidays 2014!

Family christmas card 2014

Family christmas card 2014

Urban Renewal, Beijing Style

Out with the old, in with the new most often happens in a sudden and shatteringly disruptive sort of way in Beijing, with lifetimes of memories of place wiped out in an afternoon, quickly replaced by something new that fairly effectively makes reminiscing about what used to be there seem fairly pointless.

The GuLou neighborhood renewal carries on

The GuLou neighborhood renewal carries on

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A few weeks ago, one of my favorite little coffee shops in Beijing’s old town sat in the curve of the small hutong road as it turned to go around GuLou, the Drum Tower. The wifi was fast, the shelves were full of quirky books and magazines, and there was always a French fellow (who claimed to be a math professor teaching at a prestigious Beijing university) teaching French language to Chinese college kids.  The last time I went back, a team of (de)construction workers, likely migrant labor from Hubei or Hebei or Henan province, had already made quick work of the place.

The anxiety, or more often resignation, of the locals, is that the whole neighborhood will be completely transformed, the old buildings and old little shops, bars, and homes where so many memories have been made will be forgotten and Beijing will have yet another “traditional” hutong commercial street, done up in a sort of Disney-ish version of what a colorful old Beijing street may have been imagined.

Bless this coffee…

Biking through the posh neighborhoods, and gully communities, which seem to pass one into the other so abruptly in this bifurcated city, on a quiet cool Sunday morning can be a wonderful thing. Especially when there is rum to sweat out of the system, and the church choirs are just picking up steam in the omnipresent jamaican churches.

Destination: my favorite coffee shop, to check the morning’s news and views and to recaffeinate for the ride home (unfortunately it is all up hill…).

One of their morning’s first customers, I am privileged to witness the opening group prayer, what I assume is a daily ritual performed by the crew of pleasant young women who always serve me the lovely Blue Mountain coffee with a suggestive smile. Not simply a prayer, though, as much as a five minute plunge into song and hymn, holding hands in a tight circle, eyes closed, oblivious to the cafe patrons who continue to file in, patiently waiting for their own chance at redemption through ritual… Though their sacrament of coffee is not quite the same…

DC Places

There are “Washingtonians” and there are DC residents.  The members of one group considers themselves “local” if they manage to stick around for more than two years, they go to cocktail happy hours in the rooftop bars of hotels, they discuss the political drama of the day. Members of the other group  vote in local elections, worry about the local drinking water and the local schools, get incensed about DC’s lack of Congressional representation. They are proud of the DC flag.

Unfortunate fashion statement at the National Gallery of Art. Japanese tourists get a pass, however, as their often unapologetic adventures in clothing result in as many “awesome’s” as it does “ugh’s.”

Sitting and Standing, American tourists enjoy the modern art in the Smithsonian.

DC even has good coffee, and pleasant places to drink it while reading a book.

Tunnel between art museums, National Gallery of Art.

Boston, Mass.

4th of July in New York City

Futbol Diplomacy

Washington, DC, the international city that it is, is a seething petri dish in the World Cup fever laboratory. Locales include Lucky Bar for the sad South Korean loss, and both Oakwood Residences with State Dept friends and the rooftop of Local 16 for the even sadder USA loss to Ghana.

More pictures, Eastern Market

Eastern Market, Sunday

Discovering the virtues of manipulating one’s Depth of Field, the espresso becomes the sole obsession of the photograph, the background rendered inconsequential. Contrast this with, of course, a perspective whose view of what lies  behind is as clear as that of the object of focus, begging the question what really is the subject?

New Camera, Old City

The figs making their first showing here in Northwest Washington, DC.

These are the first pictures with a new DSLR camera – I can’t wait until I figure this thing out!