Happy Summer Solstice 2014, the longest day of the year! Here’s our latest altered DC postcard, encouraging you to tour DC’s Space Needle, follow the National Arboretum trail to the top of Mount Hamilton (240 feet above sea level!), kayak Rock Creek (if the water’s at least two feet deep!) and visit a farm(ers market). Just remember: No matter what you do this summer weekend, Obama will be watching you…
On Saturday, April 26, at 11 a.m., thousands gathered on the National Mall for the finale of a weeklong protest to reject construction of a transcontinental oil pipeline and protect America’s land and water.
Hosted by the Cowboy Indian Alliance – a group of ranchers, farmers and Native American tribal communities – the “Reject and Protect” protest sought to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed TransCanada pipeline would carry crude oil from the tar sands of Canada’s Alberta province to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Although there were a half dozen teepees and a smattering of Native Americans and aboriginal Canadians in the crowd, the closest thing to a cowboy appeared to be Neil Young – and he’s Canadian. Following a series of speakers, the protesters gathered behind Neil and tribal leaders and marched to the White House to present President Obama with a hand-painted teepee. Since the proposed pipeline would cross an international border, it needs Obama’s approval to move forward. Although the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline has been in limbo for five years, Obama is waiting for a recommendation from Secretary of State John Kerry before he makes his final decision.
Click on the thumbnails below to see shots from the rally and the march.
On Friday, DC’s Awesome Con, a self-described “comic-con that embraces all aspects of geekdom and pop culture,” attempted to break the Guinness World Record for most assembled costume players photographed at one time. The clarion calls went out through social media, microphones and bullhorns for all superheroes (and villains) to meet at noon at the Reflecting Pool in front of the U.S. Capitol. The goal was to beat the current world record held by China’s World Joyland, the Chinese equivalent of Disneyland, which gathered 1,530 costumed characters on April 19, 2011.
There must have been a confluence of worldwide calamities yesterday, because only 237 superheroes showed up – and most of them were under four feet tall.
Heyday DC was there on the National Mall to witness this grand fizzle of a nonhistoric non-event. Click on the photos below to see some of our favorite costumed crusaders.
Welcome to the second in our series of eavesdropped conversations.
[We couldn’t help but overhear your private conversation in a public place.]
EXT. NATIONAL MALL, NEAR REFLECTING POOL IN FRONT OF U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING – JUST AFTER NOON
Hundreds of costumed crusaders are gathered in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most assembled costume players gathered in one place. Cameramen and reporters swarm the crowd looking for the inside scoop on how it feels to pretend to be a superhero. A reporter confronts one of the more authentic-looking spider-men, among a half-dozen imposters.
Spider-Man. Can I ask you a question?
[strikes superhero pose with hands on hips, feet in a wide stance and head held high)
What do you think of the funding being given to science programs in elementary schools?
Each spring, thousands make their annual pilgrimage to DC to gaze in awe at the riotous blooming of the Japanese cherry trees. Poet Pablo Neruda, distinctly not Japanese, once wrote, “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” Although we think that’s pretty hot, it has nothing to do with the history of the cherry trees in Washington, DC.
The first shipment of Japanese cherry trees arrived in DC in 1910, a gift from the city of Tokyo intended as a gesture of friendship and goodwill between the people of Japan and the United States. When the trees arrived, however, they were so infested with insects and parasitic worms that there was no easy way to re-gift them to another country. So President Taft agreed to have them incinerated in a heaping big bonfire. Many thought this was no way to accept a gift.
After much diplomacy to smooth over the embarrassing burning of the gift, in 1912 the people of Japan sent a new bug-free shipment of 3,020 cherry trees, and these were planted along the Potomac River. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin, and workmen planted the rest around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park. (The two original trees are still there, near the John Paul Jones statue at the south end of 17th Street.)
In 1965 Japan gave First Lady Lady Bird Johnson (that’s a mouthful) 3,800 more trees to plant, and today there are 3,750 trees of 16 varieties on national parkland in DC.
This year marks the 102nd anniversary of the original gift of friendship from Japan, although on the 39th anniversary, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, so how’s that for friendship? Four days later, four cherry trees were chopped down in suspected retaliation. The culprits were never caught. To prevent further attacks against the trees, the Cherry Blossom Festival was suspended during World War II (resuming in 1947), and the trees were referred to for the remainder of the war as the “Oriental” flowering cherry trees.
This wasn’t the end of the cherry tree assaults though. In 1999, the trees were attacked once more. But this time they found the vandals – beavers! The beavers were forcefully removed from the Tidal Basin, and fences were erected around some of the more defenseless trees.
If you’d like to take a gander at these celebrity cherry trees, you can find them in three National Park Service locations: around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point) and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. (For more info on the varieties of cherry trees and their locations, click here.)
Some random facts about the DC cherry blossoms:
- The National Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled every year based on when the National Park horticulturalists predict peak bloom, but nature doesn’t always cooperate. The weather determines when the trees will bloom, and sometimes it’s not during the festival.
- Most of the trees are of the Yoshino variety, and the average blooming date for the Yoshino cherry trees is April 4.
- Peak bloom is defined as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino trees open.
- The earliest blooms were on March 15 in 1990.
- The latest blooms were on April 18 in 1958.
- The Kwanzan cherry tree, the second-most-numerous variety between the Tidal Basin and Hains Point, blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees. So if you’re a late bloomer, you still have a shot at seeing some blossoms.
To commemorate this perennial event, please submit your very own cherry blossom haiku by email or in the comments below. We’ll read them all and publish the best of them.
Here are two to get you started…
tourists swarm around
cherry trees in luscious bloom
as if sedated
the beaver vandals
hide in the day, but at night
they eat your blossoms
Renamed by an Act of Congress in 1985, Raoul Wallenberg Place SW is the stretch of 15th Street SW on which the Holocaust Museum is located.
While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest from July to December 1944, Raoul Wallenberg successfully rescued tens of thousands of people from certain death by issuing protective passports and sheltering Hungarian Jews in buildings that he rented and designated as official Swedish territory. He was later arrested by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and died at the hands of the KGB in 1947.
One of the thousands saved by Wallenberg was U.S. House Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif., in office 1981-2008), the only Holocaust survivor to have served in the U.S. Congress.
Other streets named after Wallenberg include Raoul Wallenberg Street in Jerusalem, Place Raoul Wallenberg in Montreal, Raoul Wallenberg Boulevard in Charleston, S.C., and Raoul Wallenberg Avenue in Trenton, N.J.
It’s not surprising that many countries want to claim this heroic guy as their own: Wallenberg is an honorary citizen of the United States (the second, after Winston Churchill), Israel, Hungary, Australia and Canada (the first honorary citizen of Canada).