Black Lives Matter Plaza, November 8th, 2020

On Saturday, when the news outlets called the Presidential race for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, thousands of people flooded into downtown DC. They came in by car and by metro, gathering in celebration at Black Lives Matters Plaza.

I wasn’t there. I saw pictures of the crowds later, and I saw the traffic going into the city as I drove past it in the other direction on my way to Maryland. Why did I go to Maryland? You’ll have to wait until Wednesday’s post for the answer to that question.

Nevertheless, I was really curious to see what it was like in person though, so I went the very next day, on Sunday the 8th of November. I took the Metro to McPherson Square, which put me back on the street only about a block or so away from all the hubbub. It was not as shoulder-to-shoulder crowded as the news showed it on Saturday, but it was a warm and sunny day and people were still coming by to see. Also there were a lot of reporters doing reporter things. I walked past a guy with a Reuters camera a bunch of times, so if any of you see me in news footage of the day, please let me know.

Some people held up protest signs, some were just there like me to see it in person. A lot of people were there with their children, showing them history in progress.

Here’s something I never realized about Black Lives Matter Plaza before- it’s gigantic. The painted letters are two full blocks long. In the pictures below, I was standing at the intersection of BLM Plaza with I Street NW. In the first picture, I’m looking north. That’s where the street says BLACK LIVES. The second picture is looking south, toward the White House, and that’s where it says MATTER. I didn’t truly realize just how enormous those painted letters really were until I was standing on top of one.

At one point, I put my phone camera right up to the opening in the chain-link fence that runs along H Street. This is as close as you can get to the People’s House right now, and this is two full blocks away as seen through a zoom lens. Pennsylvania Avenue has been closed off since the protests last summer, and Lafayette Square remains fenced off so nobody can come in.

Speaking of that chain link fence, it was just absolutely covered in protest signs, posters, and artwork for most of the distance between 15th Street and 17th Street, anywhere it touched Lafayette Square.

I’m going to skip my usual thing where I intersperse all the photos with commentary and interesting factoids because I don’t think any commentary is really needed here. No context is missing, and no subtle background details need to be filled in.

These are the protest signs of an angry, stressed out, massively divided country finally allowing itself the chance to have a small sigh of relief. I didn’t see a single pro-Trump thing all day until I got back home and looked at Twitter again.

Enjoy the photos, friends.

Did you see any interesting celebrations this weekend where you live?

30/52 (and 9 of 30!)


The DMV in the DMV (and how I chose my custom license plate)

I’ve referred to my new home in a couple of different places online as the DMV. Since I’m likely to use that term a lot in the future, I thought that it might be a good idea to explain why this doesn’t mean the Department of Motor Vehicles (except for when it does.)

Part of moving to any new place is learning the ways that the locals refer to things. For example, many people who live inside Washington DC refer to it as The District. Similarly, people who live in this geographic region sometimes call it the DMV because it’s comprised of three very close-together places- DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

As for the place most commonly known as the DMV, that was a challenge. Since the pandemic started, the local DMV has a reduced capacity and is appointment only. I arrived in Arlington on August 8th, and I went online to make an appointment for my Virginia driver’s license on August 10th. The first available appointments were in mid-October, and I set one for October 15th.

In the interim, I was able to change my voter’s registration easily- there’s an elections office a short distance away, and I was able to walk in and fill out that form very easily, no muss no fuss.

While I waited for the DMV appointment to finally arrive, I noticed that there are a LOT of custom license plates in Virginia. I’ve always noticed custom plates more than most people, because they fascinate me. Sometimes they’re hilarious (like the Corvette I once saw with a plate reading ZOOOM), and sometimes they’re just completely obscure and ineffable.

I have since learned that part of the reason there are so many vanity plates here is that it’s really inexpensive to get them customized. When I realized how cheap it was, I decided I was going to get a custom plate. I started work-shopping possible plates with my friends. Here’s some of the contenders:

  • Every possible version I could think of for my name was taken, except for STG42 and STEEEV. (Hilariously, STEEV was already taken, so I needed the extra E.) I considered this one to the very end, but ultimately chose not to use it because I don’t even call myself Steve. I’m a Steven, through and through. I also considered BLOO42 because I like the color blue and the number 42.
  • DRFATE and MOGO – two of my favorite less frequently used DC Comics characters, and both were inexplicably available. I liked both of these as potential plates, but not quite enough to go with them on my car.
  • UNGOTH – this plate tickled me a lot and it very nearly won out.
  • WHMSY – I have said on numerous occasions that my resting state is whimsy, so this would have been appropriate. NERFECT was also available, as in “Pobody’s Nerfect.”
  • WHTSTR, NLSHOK, and BBYLON were all available, in case I wanted to go with my Babylon 5 fandom. I like to think of my car as a Whitestar, so it was tempting. Notably, both ZATHRAS and NOTTHE1 were both already taken.
  • SISYPHS was available, and it appealed to my sense of futility. Also, I live on a hill so this would have been extra funny to me and only me.
  • “GZIP SUV” is available. This is extra funny to me, and I might have gone for it, except that by the time I thought of it, I had already chosen and ordered my plate.

I also considered multiple different iterations of the number 42 and “Don’t Panic,” but every iteration I could think of was already taken by somebody. At the last minute, before I went to the DMV, I tried one last option, and it was miraculously available. That’s how I wound up with this plate:

The actual DMV visit wasn’t much worth writing about. They only let you in ten minutes before your appointment, there are no walk-ins, and their capacity is very much reduced. That being said, I was able to get my Virginia driver’s license, car registration, and license plates sorted out all in one visit, so I’m making a note here, “huge success.”

Do you have a custom license plate? What does it say?

29/52 (and 8 of 30!)

Local Tourist, Day One… er, Three

Let’s time travel, dear friends, back to the day I arrived on the Amtrak. The train arrived early on Friday, August 7th, and I was on the platform by twenty to nine in the morning. It didn’t take them long to unload my car, and I was on my way to my new apartment pretty quickly. Once I arrived, I unloaded the car, taking multiple trips to do so. I snuck in a brief but fitful nap to try to offset the mediocre sleep from the train, before my first visit to Harris Teeter I described in yesterday’s post.

On Saturday, August 8th, I waited for Verizon to come and install my Internet – a process that took all of 90 seconds once they were here. Afterward, I drove to a nearby Best Buy and acquired a new television- my previous TV committed Seppuku about two weeks before the move, so I needed a screen. I also drove by a local friend’s house to pick up a small table and chair that she was willing to part with so that I didn’t have to use my toilet as a desk until the movers arrived. I also made my first visit to a new favorite place, a local Irish pub with delicious food. The corned beef and cabbage was delightful.

Which brings us to Sunday, August 9th. The first day in my new city that I had no specific goals or plans in mind. I decided, after a little waffling, to take a Capital Bikeshare over the Potomac and check out the National Mall. I’d seen it all before, of course, but not as a local! Here’s my local tourist afternoon in eight photos.

Photo the first: After blundering my way through the Arlington roadways on my rented bikeshare with the help of my phone’s little mapping robot, I made my way to the Arlington Memorial Bridge. I stopped about halfway across to look at the boats on the Potomac, and the pretty stellar view of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

Photo the second: There was a rack for the the bikeshare pretty close to the Lincoln Memorial, so I made the decision to re-rack my bike and walk the rest of the way. This gave me time to poke around the Lincoln for a little bit.

Photo the third: Walking east from the Lincoln Memorial, I moved along the Reflecting Pool, enjoying the fact that although it was still a hot day, the breeze was actually cooling me off. That never happened in Florida.

Photo the fourth: Just past the Reflecting Pool is the World War II Memorial. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know much about this one- I know there’s at least a dozen different Memorials that I haven’t seen before, but this is a big one. I probably saw it on a previous visit, but it didn’t make an impression until I stumbled across it on this day. This is a big place. I bet it gets really crowded on especially hot days.

Picture the fifth: Continuing east, I reached the Washington Monument. Somehow in all the times I’ve been by here over the years, I never noticed before that there are two different colors to the marble, starting at about 150 feet up. This is because construction halted for about twenty-three years for a variety of reasons including the American Civil War. When they resumed construction in 1877, the marble came from a different source so it has different shading.

Picture the sixth: Still the Washington Monument, but the sun and clouds were doing neat things and I thought it would be an interesting photograph.

Picture the seventh: I continued east along the National Mall, past several of the Smithsonian museums, and toward the Capitol.

Picture the eighth: This is where I concluded my tourism for the day. I stopped at the Smithsonian metro station beneath the National Mall, and took the metro back to the station closest to my apartment. I’m very happy that I can walk a few minutes from my apartment to the Metro, and then take a fifteen minute train ride directly to the National Mall.

When post-pandemic life resumes and there’s more cool stuff going on in the city, I think I’m gonna be doing that a lot.

Have you been to the National Mall? What’s your favorite thing to see there?

28/52 (and 7 of 30!)

The United States Air Force Memorial

One night pretty soon after my arrival in Arlington, I saw this giant pointy thing from the passenger seat of a rideshare.

I had no idea what it was, and the driver of my Lyft didn’t know either, so when I got home I set about looking for it on Google Maps. I knew approximately where I was when I saw the thing, and it was obviously huge so it didn’t take long to figure out that it was the United States Air Force Memorial.

When Lorrie came up for a weekend visit a few weeks later, we noticed signs indicating it was nearby while we were on the way back from a diner. I had been meaning to go check it out, so we decided to stop. I’m glad we did, because the place was pretty neat.

The United States Air Force Memorial is at the east end of Columbia Pike, on the grounds of Fort Myer just south of Arlington National Cemetery. It is a fairly new memorial, relatively speaking- groundbreaking was in 2004 and it was dedicated in October of 2006.

The three metal spires are all different heights between 201 to 270 feet tall. They’re meant to look like the contrails of three jets doing a “bomb burst” maneuver, with the fourth spire missing to suggest a missing man formation.

Near the spires are four 8-foot-tall bronze statues sculpted by Zenos Frudakis, representing the United States Air Force Honor Guard. Across from the spires on the other side is a free-standing glass panel with the image of four F-16s in a missing man formation.

On either side of the spires are large reflective granite walls with various details carved in them. One section lists all the recipients of the Airmen Medal of Honor award, while another section contains comments and quotations from various important Air Force generals and other notables. Near the drive in are large carved inscriptions from Presidents Reagan and Bush.

I learned during the writing of this post that when there’s not a pandemic on, the United States Air Force Band holds concerts here every Friday night in the summertime.

Have you ever been to the US Air Force Memorial?

26/52 (and 5 of 30!)

Nanopoblano and a brief update.

Back at the start of the year, I said that I was going to try to do at least a post a week, thinking I should be able to come up with something bloggable that frequently without too much difficulty.

Then the pandemic happened, and most of the things that are interesting enough to talk about went away- travel, concerts, going outside a lot… each of these things vanished and I spent more than half of the year (so far) in my apartment, without anything interesting happening. The blog posts have fallen off as a result.

Enter Nanopoblano! Nanopoblano is “the Internet’s least-official November blog challenge.” Basically, it’s a bunch of people who commit to following one of several paths- some people will post every day for thirty days, some will commit to engaging with the other participants. The recommended way forward is “10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.” I’m going to go my own way a bit and try to do the 30 posts in 30 days route. It might be the kick I need to make blogging a habit again. I might suck at this too, but I’m at least going to try.

Team Tiny Peppers, 2020!

Now that I’ve got the Team Tiny Peppers housekeeping out of the way, I can detail some of the myriad ways that I’ve been spending my time since I arrived via the Amtrak Auto Train in the last post. The last post which was nearly 90 days ago.

  • I’ve been setting up my apartment, more or less, once the movers brought my stuff. There are still lots of things to do.
  • I’ve been exploring my neighborhood.
  • I’ve updated my voter registration and been to the DMV.
  • I’ve been working a lot, naturally. I enjoy my job- it’s challenging and busymaking and really doesn’t require more comment than that.
  • I’ve been ordering a LOT of GrubHub- like too much. Seriously it’s so easy, which is very empowering for a wannabe agoraphobe.
  • I’ve explored a few local monuments and touristy things and taken lots of photos- I’ll make a post out of these because I’ve got pictures.
  • I had a houseguest for one weekend a while back when my longtime friend Lorrie visited. We went to some of the aforementioned local touristy things and even had lunch with another friend who went to high school with us.
  • I purchased and returned an uncomfortable, inadequate sofa. This is also going to get its own post because I have analysis, lessons learned, and – of course – photographs.
  • I’ve been to a crazy number of different grocery stores since my arrival because I still haven’t quite settled into a preferred grocery option. Long time readers will remember that I had the same problem with grocery shopping when I got to Germany. It’s really tough to top Publix. This is probably going to get its own post as well.
  • I’ve been having at least one meal out every week or so with one of my local friends, but I haven’t gotten to see everyone I know around here because some of my local people are skittish about going anywhere during a pandemic. I don’t blame them for being more cautious than I am, but I miss seeing them. I did have dinner once with my cousin but then got wildly side-tracked with things- I definitely need to share more meals with her now that we’re geographically close for a change.
  • I went to an actual concert in an actual venue with an actual live act and an actual audience. And it was actually weird.

And that’s pretty much it! I nearly traveled to Florida for a family thing, but did not. I’ve had lots of canceled events and trips, and it’s just been day in and day out of the same stuff, most of the time. There are seeds in the above list of longer posts that are going to be coming throughout the month, but this is where I’ll leave it for the moment.

See everyone back here tomorrow! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

How have you all been for the last 90 days?

22/52 (and 1 of 30!)