Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thanks to My DC Dad

Father's Day. A time to reflect. My dad was born at home on 9th Street Northeast to Greek immigrants in 1916. He grew up here and never left the DC area except to travel. We didn't sight see unless we had out of town guests. We didn't go to the Smithsonian or other museums,  but he did leave me an appreciation for living in Washington, and I'd like to thank him for many things like:

Taking me to the zoo.  A lot.  Sometimes just on spur of the moment, sometimes for a birthday.  It was uptown and it was free.  I remember parking right near the elephants, partly on the sidewalk. I know we weren't supposed to leave the car there, but his home made sign with he stencil "Modern Linen -Making Delivery" left in the windshield of our station wagon seemed to do the trick.

Taking me to the circus at the DC Armory. The circus was great, but I have always felt it was my fault we left so late because I couldn't make up my mind about a souvenir. As we walked down the now mostly deserted streets, it became increasingly obvious that the group of older boys behind us didn't want us in their hood in 1969. We crossed the street, and they followed. One threw a rock that hit my dad. It was at that moment that he turned around and froze, hands clenched at his sides, and he stared them down. He was five foot six, but he may as well have been the biggest guy in the world. We turned the corner, and the boys walked on.

Telling all those DC stories about how the Italian statues got into AV's yard on New York Avenue, or how Ulysses Auger ("Blackie") got his start after World War Two when everyone was craving meat after years of rationing. Blackie sold steaks from his trunk and worked his way up to a roast beef sandwich cart... which led to a lifetime in the restaurant biz.

ntroducing me to DC centric food by asking for a half smoke over a hotdog or a fried chicken wing sandwich at the Florida Avenue Grill. Bones n all.

Teaching me how to drive with impunity in Washington which included passing slow pokes, mind bending lane changes on the Beltway and bold U turns on avenues in the city. Even though he constantly scared my mother,  he gave me a lot of confidence behind the wheel.

Taking us to see a concert on that floating barge on the Potomac River. It was the same venue the kids went to in the movie "Houseboat." with Cary Grant, and it's a good thing they caught that era on film because few people can imagine stopping traffic for anything like that now.

Once it was called Watergate, but now it's just a strangely marvelous out of place staircase on Ohio Drive.

photo from Library of Congress

Introducing me to the irrepressible Lola Revis and her daughters at Sherrill's Bakery on Capitol Hill. Local film maker David Petersen almost won an Oscar capturing those crazy personalities and the scene there in a documentary- another place that is long gone. The "girls" as he called them always made a warm fuss, pinching cheeks and handing out cookies.

David Petersen's Film Title

Showing me how the linen service works and taking me in the back doors of restaurants all over town to meet the people in the kitchen. He gave me my first job pulling weeds for a penny a piece, and another one at the laundry when I was in older. Then when I wanted to be an artist my senior year in high school, I'm sure he thought I was crazy, but he let me paint the laundry trucks. 

Both my mother and father let me be me, which is often a hard thing for a parent to do, but was definitely one of the biggest gifts they ever gave me. Thank you.