I was in Washington DC for a week of training and like all the training I have been to there is down time. Especially the last day when brains are fried and everyone is looking forward to going home. While physically we are there, mentally we checked out the day before. Or maybe that’s just me.
Friday we only had a little material to cover, a practice test, and out around 2pm. That left me a lot of time to kill in the city and I made the most of it. After training I headed to Fahrney’s Pen to buy a pen I saw a few days earlier. That night I was going to see George Porter Jr. Trio but had several hours to kill before that show kicked off.
My objective was to sit and relax so I decided to visit the National Gallery of Art to get a little writing done and enjoy some art. They had a special exhibit on the moon landing as it was the 50th anniversary and that was pretty cool. The Photographic and Systematic Chart of Moon installation took a bunch of smaller images of the moon and put them together to make a complete picture of the moon. Also saw some of the old masters on the main floor. I even managed to find an extremely old picture of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The picture is 135 years old but the canyon looks just like it did a hundred years ago, just in color now.
Twice I stopped to write letters. I don’t remember the paintings or the artists but I made my own version of each on a couple of the note cards. Really awful copies but I was very proud of my work. It was nice hanging out at the museum soaking up as much culture as I could in the limited amount of time I had.
Before I knew it announcements about the museum closing could be heard over the PA system. Always a good time at the National Gallery of Art. I can certainly spend hours here but I will take whatever limited time I can get. Not sure when I will be back in DC but I look forward to coming back and seeing what they have next time I’m rolling through town.
My first year living on the west coast and I was excited when Phish announced their summer tour. They have not been touring nearly as long as past tours but they are hitting bigger cities for longer stints which is nice. Over the last few years it has not been so much about the quantity of shows as the quality of shows. When they said three shows at The Gorge I was so excited. Unfortunately this conflicted with a company event and there was just no way I could swing seeing even one show at The Gorge.
Not being deterred I decided to hit three shows on the east coast. If I could not see them in my adopted home I would see them in my real home. This actually worked out for the best. While disappointed to not see them at The Gorge I was excited to see my family. I would see Phish for three straight nights to close the summer tour out. One more time at Walnut Creek and then two nights at Merriweather. The final show of the tour would be Sunday and never miss a Sunday show. It was also just after the 20th anniversary of me seeing Phish live. In fact my first show was their first time at Merriweather so this was a home coming for many reasons.
As the trip grew closer I gotta be honest, I checked out at work. I was so excited for what was about to come. SiriusXM just switched their Jam_On channel to Phish Radio which was awesome. I was going to see my family, and Phish, oh man so excited.
The entire trip didn’t disappoint at all. In fact it went well above my expectations. If there was anything to complain about it was the lack of any real down time. As soon as I landed till the time I took off the tarmac on a delayed flight, I was non-stop go go go. It was exhausting but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It does remind me that I am getting older however.
First thing after landing was picking up the rental car. I needed to make it to Craft House in Fairfax Corner for a drink with my old boss. That guy is great, taught me a lot and it was great catching up with him. He just had his third kid so I was happy he got a kitchen pass for the night to have a couple of drinks. That night I went to my brother’s house. That turned into a disaster, he’s an asshole.
Not letting it ruin my trip the next morning I was up pretty early for being on vacation. It was a five hour drive to Raleigh and I wanted to stop by Old Virginia Tobacco in Woodbridge to hangout and have a cigar. I was not sure who I would run into but I ended up seeing a shit ton of people.
The coolest thing was catching up with CJ. Last I heard he was getting out of OVTC and moving onto a better job. Well come to find out that fell through so he is now running the Woodbridge shop while he looks for a better paying job. Working at OVTC has its benefits but money is not one of them. I ran into a lot of customers including Ed, Sal, John, Baker, Clive, and Ben. Probably forgetting one or two people. For a Friday morning I was happy to run into so many familiar faces as I did.
The drive south to Raleigh was shit. I haven’t been on the east coast in a year and even longer since I have driven 95 during the summer months. I didn’t leave Woodbridge till after noon and it took me about 6 hours to make it down to Raleigh. Unfortunately this put a damper on doing any actives in Raleigh before the show. I had just enough time to check into the hotel and then I was off to the venue.
Despite being a Friday it was not sold out. I arrived about thirty minutes before the show and the lawn was not packed at all. What I couldn’t wait for was the sun to set. It is the south in August so needless to say it was hot and muggy that night. Finally when the sun went down things cooled off a little.
First show of summer tour for me and I was rather disappointed in the performance. All during the first set Trey kept screwing up his guitar work and the lyrics. To me it was so obvious. They would have this groove going and all of a sudden Trey would miss a note and it was like dragging fingers across the chalk board to me.
Thankfully the second set pulled it out and helped save the night. Still not a stellar performance from the band but it brought it up to an average rating. The Runaway > Antelope > Runaway > Antelope > Makisupa is what saved the night in my opinion. That little medley was awesome. By the second set I had moved further back and to the left so I wasn’t so crowded. Plus I was further away from all the smokers who where ridiculous.
Having missed dinner and not getting anything at the venue I was hungry for some food. Thankfully Raleigh is a larger city so it was easy to find something that was open late on a Friday night. Virgil’s Original Taqueria which was pretty good. I got three tacos and some chips which all was good but my eyes where bigger then my stomach. A great way to cap off the night.
The next morning I couldn’t sleep in as I needed to head north to Columbia for the show Saturday night. I made a long stop in Fredericksburg to see my mother and her husband at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. It was a already a long day of driving but thankfully only a little traffic. My mother actually had to kick me out so I wouldn’t be late for the show that night. It was so great catching up for them even if it was only for a few hours.
Similar to Raleigh I was able to check into the hotel, catch a quick nap and then head to the venue. It has been several years since I was last at Merriweather and it has changed a lot since that time. The area around the venue is now well developed with lots of new apartment buildings and retail locations. This changed the parking situation which is now a little confusing if you are not prepared. You can get tickets for parking ahead in numbered lots or just show up and they will guide you to the right lots in the back.
First night I had a lawn seat and tried to get there at a reasonable time. Parking ended up taking longer then I wanted so by the time I got onsite the lawn was already packed. Tonights show was sold out for months so it was going to be a packed house. I noticed that they redesigned the wings on either side of the stage to adjust the seating and have a new roof covering the area instead of those stupid canvas tents. They have also redesigned some of the concessions and looks like they will start doing a true VIP area soon.
First set really started off strong with Blaze On > Party Time. After that it just turned for a much slower pace of show. Blah…get over it. Set ended on a good high of Stash and 46 Days. Second set was constant flip flopping of old school, new school, repeat till the encore. Sand and Ghost had good jams and they rocked Fuego.
The encore was four songs. I over heard someone say this was the first time this tour that happened. Set two was barely over an hour long. They seemed to struggle to play during the second set. To me the crowd just wasn’t into the show. It started with such promise but failed to live up to the hype in a way. A failure of its own success you could say. So even a four set encore wasn’t anything to write home about.
Sunday was the first day I didn’t have to get up and travel some place. It was one day but a well deserved break. I got a casual start before meeting Nancy early for drinks. We were going to get together with others for brunch at Earls Kitchen + Bar. I got a simple eggs Benedict and it was pretty amazing. The Hollanda sauce had the right amount of tang and creamy richness.
After that most of us headed to Bungalow Lakehouse for cigars in the gazebo. Here I meet up with Jaye and Ed. The weather was finally starting to break. The humidity level was dropping along with the temperatures. This just meant that a weather front was moving in and it would rain. I smoked two cigars before I had to leave for Merriweather. Just before I left it started to rain and that meant the highways would be filled with idiots that don’t know how to drive.
After saying my goodbyes and filling up the tank it didn’t take long to make it to the venue. The whole way up it rained but I still made pretty good time. I was able to stop and get a sandwich before the show in fact. I had a pavilion seat so didn’t care if it rained or not.
I got to the venue with plenty of time before the show. As I showed my ticket and walked toward my seat I was shocked at just how closed it was. My seat ended up being the first row of seats, right behind the pit and eye level with the stage. This is the best seat I have ever had seeing Phish or probably any major band ever. One or twice I might have been closer from behind the stage but never this close from the front.
The entire second night kicked ass. Having such a good seat certainly made it a little more enjoyable but the setlist and the energy were all from the band. The rain stopped a little after 7pm and never returned. It cooled everything off quite a lot which was a welcome comfort.
The show got off to a rocking start and the jams throughout the songs kicked ass. Upbeat toons like Llama and BBFCFM are a good way to start things. Lots of these slow laid back kinda jams thrown in all throughout the show. I just couldn’t believe how good the first set was. The end was of the set was just flowed from song to song with a good selection of Tweezer > Bathtub > The Curtain With > Chalk Dust.
I was hoping for as close to the original 8/8/1998 show as possible so during the second set I got a Piper and then a really really good 2001 > Harry Hood to close the set, close the show, close the tour. What a groovy second set they played I was completely blown away by it.
Encore was a mix of typical encore slow jams. Not bad but not really great either. The second Tweezer Reprise certainly was a change of pace and not expected. They opened set two with the reprise so this came completely out of left field.
Just a great show and the perfect way to end the day. It was a short ride back to the hotel and a well deserved nights sleep. The next morning I planed on getting up and out at a reasonable hour. I had a late flight so took the opportunity to visit the National Gallery of Art in the morning. Here I browsed and took some time to do a little writing. Eventually I meet Nancy for lunch at Plan B Burger Bar. I was still on vacation so we started the afternoon off with a couple of beers. After lunch we headed to Ocelot for some more beer before she dropped me off at the airport.
I think going west is easier because you gain all your time back. It does make for a long day but I think its easier getting home and adjusting to the difference. The weather at IAD ended up not playing well and delayed my flight by over an hour. Whats worst was the hour or so lost on the tarmac just sitting there. This just made for a long day of travel getting home. The seats are not the most comfortable so my ass was already hurting before I even left the ground
Once I got home I took the Max home. It felt so good to get home that night. I dropped my bags on the floor and crawled right into bed. This trip was a lot of fun. Not a lot of time to stop and smell the roses but I was able to accomplish a lot of what I wanted. I saw three shows of Phish with the Sunday show completely blowing my mind. I also managed to see a lot of friends and family so it was awesome catching up with them. This was a trip when I really did need a day to recover from my trip. Next year I hope that I can make The Gorge shows. But if they play Merriweather again it is worth it going home to catch them at my home venue. Always a blast.
Phish Friday, August 10th 2018 Walnut Creek – Raleigh, NC
Set 1 starts at 7:33pm 1. Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan 2. Funky Bitch 3. Ocelot > 4. The Wedge 5. Wombat 6. Guelah Papyrus 7. Birds of a Feather > 8. Saw It Again > 9. Timber (Jerry The Mule) > 10. Limb By Limb > 11. Farmhouse > 12. More set over at 8:49pm
Set 2 starts at 9:35pm 1. Meatstick* > 2. Drowned > 3. NICU > 4. Thread > 5. Runaway Jim > 6. Run Like an Antelope > 7. Runaway Jim > 8. Run Like an Antelope > 9. Makisupa Policeman > 10. Run Like an Antelope > 11. You Enjoy Myself set over at 10:38pm
Encore starts at 10:40pm 12. A Day in the Life house lights at 10:46pm
Notes * Trey did a dance associated with In My Feelings. Page teased the theme from Barney Miller after Wombat. Trey quoted Clowny Clown Clown in Saw It Again. Saw It Again was teased and quoted in Timber. Trey quoted In My Feelings and did a dance associated with the song during Meatstick. The first Runaway Jim and the second Run Like an Antelope contained Thread quotes.
Phish Saturday, August 11th 2018 Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD
Set 1 starts at 7:38pm 1. Blaze On > 2. Party Time 3. Breath and Burning 4. Sugar Shack 5. Home 6. Joy 7. Stash 8. 46 Days set over at 8:46pm
Set 2 starts at 9:19pm 1. Sand > 2. Mercury > 3. Ghost > 4. Fuego > 5. Slave to the Traffic Light set over at 10:23pm
Encore starts at 10:26pm 6. Twenty Years Later > 7. Martian Monster > 8. Rocky Top > 9. Golgi Apparatus house lights at 10:46pm
Notes Trey teased Wingsuit in 46 Days.
Phish Sunday, August 12th 2018 Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD
Set 1 starts at 7:36pm 1. Llama 2. Big Black Furry Creature from Mars 3. Meat 4. Alaska 5. Tweezer > 6. Bathtub Gin > 7. The Curtain With > 8. Chalk Dust Torture set over at 8:50pm
Set 2 starts at 9:24pm 1. Tweezer Reprise > 2. No Men In No Man’s Land > 3. Twist > 4. Prince Caspian > 5. Piper > 6. Backwards Down the Number Line > 7. Also Sprach Zarathustra > 8. Harry Hood set over at 10:37pm
Encore starts at 10:39pm 9. Heavy Things 10. Bug > 11. Tweezer Reprise 12. house lights at 10:54pm
Notes Trey teased Streets of Cairo during Meat. Trey teased L.A. Woman during Tweezer. Trey teased San-Ho-Zay in No Men in No Man’s Land. Page teased In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in Twist. Piper contained a Tweezer Reprise jam and quotes. Also Sprach Zarathustra included Martian Monster teases.
Like always I took Metro into the city and when I got off at the Smithsonian stop I was surprised to see a buzz of activity going on. The following week is the inauguration of Trump and they had already started to put up barriers, erect tents for the press and put a cover over top the grass to protect it from everyone walking across it. In fact there where more people on The Mall then I expected but it was good seeing everyone outside enjoying The Mall.
I planned to start at the NGA to see the classic art they have and then later walk over to the East Building to see the modern section. I have been to the NGA before so I branched out and saw a few of the newer collections and some of those that I didn’t see on my last trip. When I arrived it was still pretty quite with only a few people walking around but let me tell you by the time i left the place was packed. All those people I saw walking around on the Mall before had finally made their way into the museums.
I came in on Madison Dr. and I love the water fountain at the center of the rotunda. They always have it beautifully decorated with seasonal flowers, it looks amazing. From here I turned left and explored some of the collections. Just look at the map for a better idea of what types of art the gallery offers. I eventually found a nice spot to sit and relax for a while in front of a picture of the Pantheon in Rome. I choose this spot because I remember seeing this in real life and I loved looking at the painting of tourist at the Pantheon from several hundred years ago.
After a long time of looking at old art I made my way to the East Building and the modern art collection. The walk is pretty awesome because there is an underground walkway from one to the other building which was nice. One section has a really cool light synchronized light show. Even managed to get some food from the cafe which was decent but overpriced.
I saw most of the exhibits in the East Building. The building architecture is setup with a huge open space in the middle with the galleries in the corners. This allows for large art installations which was really cool. One thing I noticed while walking around was I am not a big fan of modern art. I get what the artists are trying to do and I can appreciate it, its just not my favorite style of art. There was one whole section dedicated to minimalism and the brief description I read on the style even said this movement is all about one, maybe two colors at most. One pieces of art that was an octagonal linen cloth just nailed to the wall. This exact pieces is exactly what another plaque I saw talked about. To paraphrase that plaque: because it is in this building, it is art. I get why they call all it art and some people really like this kinda stuff, it’s just not me. I can look at some of the older paintings and just get lost in them. Looking at all the detail, looking at the brush strokes the artists used. The thought that went into each stroke so it would perfectly represent what the artist had in their minds eye. Art is in the eye of the beholder.
Before heading out of town I stopped at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial along the Potomac. Its been open a few years but I have never been, it was about time I made a trip. Monday was also MLK Day so I thought it appropriate to stop and pay my respects to one of the many leaders of the civil rights movement. While I think we have come a long way since the 60’s there is still work to be done.
A wonderful afternoon at the art museum, makes me want to visit some of the others along The Mall. I like traveling to the city and it was just plan fun looking at all the art on the wall. I just loved the relaxing stroll through the museum taking in the culture.
This past weekend Nancy was in North Carolina for a baby shower, so I had Saturday to myself. It is not often that I get a day by myself so I took the opportunity to walk around Arlington and DC. The weather started off below freezing but the high was going to be near fifty and for the middle of winter around here, that is not bad. I saw Nancy off around 8 and by 9 I was out the door and headed north.
My first stop was to Arlington National Cemetery, weird I know. A good friend of mine died a few years back and I have always wanted to go back to his grave and smoke a cigar. I sat there for 45 minutes or so, smoking my cigar and just enjoying the early morning. I left one on his grave for him, I hoped he liked it.
From there I was in a walking mood and took the Mount Vernon Trail north to Roosevelt Island. The trail was filled with runners and bikers also out enjoying the weather. The island is a little slice of nature just outside the city. It is an 88 acre island in the Potomac between DC and Virginia that years ago was last purchased by the Theodore Roosevelt Association and given to the American people. On the island is a memorial to the 26th president with several hiking trails that cross the island. I took the longest trail around the island and was pretty impressed with the amount of wildlife I saw for such a small island. I managed to photograph cardinals, robins, a woodpecker and strangely, saw a couple of deer roaming around. I ended at the memorial which is rather large. In the center is a giant statue of Roosevelt depicting him giving a speech with several sayings of his on either side about manhood, democracy, etc…
By now I had worked up an appetite so I walked back across to Virginia and had lunch in Rossyln. I wanted to head to the Mall and enjoy a cigar but decided to cheat and take Metro. For a beautiful day, the Mall was packed with people taking full advantage of the nice weather. Most of the lawn was occupied with Frisbee football games, regular football and even a couple of rugby games at the far end. On each side runs and bikers zipped by the tourists and pedestrians who where out in droves. I just sat on one of the benches and did some people watching while enjoying my second cigar.
To end my day, I headed to the National Gallery of Art that just reopened their French masters section for a little reading. I was disappointed I had to check my bag at the door but I grabbed my book and found a nice comfy couch to relax in and catch up on some reading. I was trying to close to place down but I needed to get to my dad’s house for dinner. For an entire week me and Nancy were not eating meat, out of choice, but tonight I was going to break that fast and enjoy a nice steak. To wash all this down we headed over to Rustico after dinner to sample some beers. We lucked out and got a booth in the back as some people where leaving as we were arriving. We took the opportunity to sample some different Belgium and Germany beers from their extensive list.
After a long exciting day I was happy to get home around 11:30 that night. According to my GPS logger I walked about 6 miles in total and I was feeling it. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, then up early to see Nancy off and all the walking wiped me out. On my adventures that day I did get a few ideas of things to do with Nancy. I can’t wait for spring and the cherry blossoms, if they bloom, I would like to have a picnic on the Mall again. This winter has been crazy and is causing the plants to get confused. There were the tulips starting to bloom on the Mount Vernon trail and some cherry blossoms at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden starting to bloom as well.
Monday was a federal holiday so both Nancy and I had off. With all the snow still on the ground we wanted to get out of the house for a while and decided to take a trip to DC. Last semester Nancy had an art appreciation class, for extra credit she could visit any art museum and write a one page report. The class is long over, but we finally decided to visit the National Gallery of Art.
When we arrived in the DC it was pretty desolate with the federal government closed and the city declaring a snow emergency. Finding a garage near the National Gallery of Art was actually real easy. When we surfaced from the depths of the building we had a choice to make, see “old” art or the “new” art. I have been once before to the old art gallery and I was impressed. The marble architecture of the building is amazing. Outside the building looks like any other museum on the Mall. When you walk in from the Mall entrance you are greeted with a huge rotunda and a fountain. There are giant black pillars of marble that ring the space and go all the way to the ceiling.
From this main hall you can go two ways, left or right. (Map: ground, main) Down each hallway you will find various exhibits ranging in style, country and period. Starting from the 13th century and going to the 19th century spanning most every country in Europe. The collection of art includes paintings by such notables as Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, da Vinci, Picasso and many others. Not being familiar with art I was able to point out many famous works myself. Those paintings when you see them you say “I know that piece,” you might not know who painted it, but you know they are world famous works of art.
If you have time I would suggest bringing a book to read while you are there. I know it sounds weird, but there are two garden courts that are just beautiful and so peaceful. Being an art museum there is not a lot of talking, just low murmurs from patrons. In fact the museum has a policy that cell phones are not to be used in the exhibit areas. If I worked in DC I would take my lunch breaks at the two garden courts to relax and decompress. Or sit in front of some of the pieces of art, many of the master works have couches you can sit in while contemplating the meaning of life or what ever the artist intended.
I have always had a great respect for artists; painters and photographers in particular. They have this vision in there head and they somehow transfer that to canvas or cellulose. I might not be able to appreciate all the finer details, but I can still appreciate the work.
After leaving the museum we were hungry so we found a sports bar to grab a drink and lunch. I was hoping to have more options, but most places where closed. We found the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern to enjoy a nice cold beer and some sandwiches. As we ate our lunch the snow really started to come down. The ground was to warm for any accumulations, but at least it was snowing. By the time we left it was almost a full blizzard and I was loving it. Nancy couldn’t wait to get back to the Jeep and into the warmth. On the short walk back to the Jeep Nancy magically transformed herself into the squirrel whisperer. There where a ton of squirrels inhabiting a small park with some trees. Living in the city they are use to humans and probably get a lot of hand outs. Well Nancy starts squeaking and one decided to be brave and check it out. Fortunately it didn’t get to close, but I got some good closeups.
Driving out of the city with the snow proved to be a bit of a nightmare. It was not a full blown rush hour, but traffic was heavy and slow. We finally arrived back at her apartment around 5, almost time for me to leave for class. It was great spending the afternoon in the city as it was almost empty. The snow kept most people away so the streets and museum were pretty quite. I still want to hit the modern art museum next door, might have to do that when spring arrives so I can take advantage of the color the season brings with it.