Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We are in-between seasons right now in the DC area. Just two weeks ago, our trees were full of red, yellow and orange leaves of autumn. Recent rain storms speed up the fall process and now we have half-and-half trees like this one.

Poor confused trees holding on to some of its leaves while losing others in the seasonal process. Like the human residents in neighborhood, these trees are caught between the last brilliance of autumn and the cold starkness of winter. Whether we like it or not, I'm pretty sure that winter will win out in the end.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tree as Art

I'm getting too accustomed to using my iPhone as a camera now. It is delightful to know that as long as I have my cell phone, I can capture fantastic photographs.

During my walk in Penn Quarter over the weekend, I came across this fabulous tree outside of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. While it is a living tree, it is remarkable how sculpted it looks. I wonder if the museum landscapers intentionally selected this tree because it could so easily pass as a living piece of artwork.

Modern Head

Have you ever walked by something a million times and never noticed its significance?

Recently, I was walking around one of my favorite areas in the District, Penn Quarter and passed by this modern art sculpture outside the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I've seen it many times, but never stopped to read about its remarkable story. This weekend, I paused and read its adjacent plaque.  
Modern Head, by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, was originally installed in Battery Park in New York City in 1996. It was one of the few structures that survived the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings in 2001. The 31-foot sculpture only suffered a few surface scratches and served as an FBI message board during its investigation the days following the September 11 attacks.

What a remarkable story. I'm glad I took an extra minute to learn about it. I'll never look at this sculpture the same way again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Sound of Silence

Everyone has a favorite Simon & Garfunkel song. My mom's favorite is "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It doesn't matter who is singing it; she loves all versions.

I feel that way about Simon & Garfunkel's song, "The Sound of Silence." Whenever I visit quiet spots like this pond at the Smithsonian National Zoo, "The Sound of Silence" plays in my head. If silence was an actual sound, I imagine it would be similar to the melody of this song.

Besides its soothing, yet haunting melody, Paul Simon's lyrics have always spoken to my soul. Its words begs the question about our responsibility in silence. Are we the perpetrator of silence or its victim? Who is to say? As they say in the film, Shakespeare in Love: "I don't know. It's a mystery."
"The Sound of Silence"
by Simon & Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Waiting in Anticipation

This is what it looks like outside my window today. Autumn leaves still linger in the trees in spite of recent rain storms and cold spells. But any moment now, Thanksgiving will finally arrive and then my favorite time of year begins -- Christmas.

Each year, Christmas promises to bring joy and laughter, hope and possibilities, color and light, and the best part, Christmas music. My love for Christmas music knows no bounds. When played, it raises my spirits and always gets in the mood for holiday cheer.

After a rough start this morning, I broke one of my cardinal rules and listened to a Christmas music station on Pandora online. While I know I should have waited for the day after Thanksgiving to start streaming holiday music, I just needed a few holiday tunes to perk up my day and breathe a little optimism back into my soul.

So, please forgive me gods of autumn for being disrespectful to you by ignoring my pledge to not listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. It was a moment of weakness. I'll return to listening to my jazzy, alternative, top 40 pop songs Pandora music station tomorrow. But I will be counting down the days to November 25.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reconnecting with Langston

Over the weekend, I went to the famous DC area restaurant, Busboys & Poets, for brunch. It's been awhile since I last visited and I had forgotten the restaurant's connection with American poet Langston Hughes. Busboys & Poets' name was inspired by Hughes.

Before he took up residence in Harlem and became one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes lived in Washington, DC. He worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in the 1920s before he became a well-known poet.

The mission of Busboys & Poets is to create an environment for dialogue and thought that can create social change in our community, and then the world. Patrons include artists, poets, activists, writers and thinkers who dream big and make big things happen.

In honor of Hughes, their menu includes some of his poems and famous statements. This poem stayed with me and I thought I would pass Hughes' wise words along.
by Langston Hughes

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Childhood Safety

Yesterday, I stayed home from work due to laryngitis. Out of boredom, I watched too many hours of daytime television. In hindsight, I should have just turned off the television and opened a book or drafted blog posts. Beyond just coverage of the Penn State tragedy, it seemed that every show from soap operas, daytime talk shows, and movies on cable featured some kind of storyline about child abuse and its lingering impact into adulthood.

Beyond it being a depressing way to spend a sick day, it made me pause and think about the blessing of growing up in a home and world full of love and safety. Not every child is that lucky. My childhood was filled with loving, kind parents at home; professional, helpful teachers at school; and generous, respectful Catholic priests at church;. Not every child is so lucky.

But they should be.

Regardless of laws and reason, we have a moral obligation to protect children by ensuring and providing the safest environment we can for them. A safe place where they can learn how to love themselves and others. A safe place where they can mature into optimistic, hopeful adults. A safe place where they can seek help and support without facing recriminations and fear. Whether they are our children or someone else's, all children deserve childhoods with food, shelter and safety. It's up to us -- the grownups -- to be their champions and protectors against a world that at times is hurtful, painful and dangerous.

What an upside down world we live in. I wish those who are so passionate about protecting life that doesn't exist yet would extend that same passion, focus and commitment to improving and protecting the little lives who already walk among us. God knows there are children in foster care or juvenile justice systems, or still living in dangerous situations who could use that kind of advocacy and caring. Who speaks up for them? Who demands that the world pay attention to their plight and create a new and better world for them?

I do. Every day at work, I tell reporters and organizations that our children deserve more attention than what we give them. I love and treat with dignity and respect the children in my life and adopt them in my heart as my family. I refuse to be a Joe Paterno and do the bare minimum to protect children I know are being victimized. I refuse to be an accomplice to their traumatic childhood. Instead, I will be the safety net. I'll be the person that speaks up even though the price for speaking up may be costly. We all can. If I don't, if you don't, we deserve the horrible future ahead full of regret and guilt because we witnessed a crime we could have stopped or prevented if we had just said something.

The world's children deserve more than we've offered them. While children are resilient, there are some tests to the human spirit that are avoidable and unnecessary. Some kids survive these perilous childhoods. But there are others that flounder and don't make it. Or even worse, as adults, they become the night terror for another innocent child and the cycle of trauma begins again.

So, let's turn off the daytime television shows that tell us what we already know to be true -- children deserve to be surrounded by love and safety. Let's pay more attention to the world around us. Let's break the cycle. Let's offer them light and hope to break up the darkness encroaching their world. I'm in. How about you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Complain at the Ballot Box

Today is Election Day in the United States. This election is important; American voters should know that voting today is a warm up for next year's presidential election. If you are not sure where to go or unclear what's on your ballot, visit and enter your residential address to find out more voting information.

I'm not sure why Election Day is not a national holiday. Voting projections are suggesting that even though the stakes are high for this election, voter turnout will be very low. Voting participation could improve if voters didn't have to schedule voting around work. If the federal government can designate a holiday to celebrate explorer Christopher Columbus and his exploits discovering America, why can't we acknowledge with the passing of a federal holiday the importance and solemnity of the annual occasion when we implement our democratic right?

Voting is the foundation of democracy. It's citizens' best opportunity to direct and instruct their government on what is important to them and how they want their democracy implemented. Go to the voting polls and instruct them well. While we may not agree on the direction, I have more respect for those who vote than those who choose to sit on the sidelines, ignore this civic responsibility and just complain. Complain at the ballot box please; it's the only place policymakers still listen to your concerns.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Autumn by the Riverside

Today, I received the latest issue of O Magazine in the mail. The issue highlights Oprah and the other magazine contributors' favorite things. Among pages of gifts large and small are other types of recommendations too.

One of the O contributors and a woman I admire, Maria Shriver, shared one of her favorite things -- her favorite words of wisdom. It's a simple prayer, and one that I might say in a whisper when visiting such a serene place as this spot along the Potomac River. It might be one you will want to remember as well.
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kodak Moment

This image makes me laugh. Without intending to, it resembles the types of photographs used in those 1970s Kodak camera and film print ads. The brightness of the rising sun cast an eerie glow over the river and its inhabitants, making the image look more dated and antiquated.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Autumn Road

Here's a an autumn moment of zen. Looking at roads like this one, lined with trees full of brilliantly-colored leaves, makes me want to get in a car and just drive for hours.

If I could describe serenity, it would be sitting on a deserted beach watching the ocean waves or driving along a tree lined road like this one during autumn. Both scenarios are so peaceful and calming. Not going to lie, I could use one of those trips right now.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All of the Colors of Sunrise

From the piers of the Washington Sailing Marina, the sunrise is pretty impressive. At one point, before the sun appeared above the horizon, it seemed as if every color in the color spectrum appeared across the sky. Between the sky and the water, there was a splattering of blues, purples, pinks, yellows and oranges.