by Borderstan.com October 12, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

"Halloween"

The season is here. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Borderstan, I confess that this time of year is not usually a favorite of mine. The long summer days are decidedly behind us, the chill in the air makes me shiver unhappily and the decorations in most stores make me cringe, as I have arachnophobia.

While I think Halloween is a fun way for children to get out into their neighborhood in costumes and collect sweets and goodies, I do find some of the symbols for this feast rather unsettling. I don’t do too well around outsized spiders and their webs, so I give enthusiastically decorated homes and stores a wide berth these days.

This is also the time of year where, in other countries around the world, people think of their departed. Again, the theme is not typically a cheery one. I have memories from my childhood in Italy of visiting cemeteries on cold, drizzly fall days, tough, yellowing and slippery leaves underfoot and dark, bare branches stretching to the grey sky.

I admire and enjoy the Mexicans’ take on All Souls’: their dia de los muertos is a party, a pic-nic and a feast. Way to face down your fears and turn a day of dread into a fiesta!

In a similar vein, I have promised myself that I’ll make a point of facing (perhaps even facing down) some of my fears this season. Whether it’s having a needed but uncomfortable conversation with someone, or speaking in public, or perhaps even attempting that weight that has been eluding me in my workouts, be it what it may, I’ll take this spooky Halloween season as an occasion to be spooked about some things no more.

So, Borderstan, may we all conquer some of our fears and enjoy the mid-autumn!

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by Borderstan.com September 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

"Playfulness"

Kids at play. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Borderstan, I’ve been thinking lately about playfulness. Time spent with my little niece and nephew reminds me how much fun it is (at least, to me) to play with small children.

This triggered a related thought: Do we adults practice a sense of playfulness, and is it important that we do? I think it is.

Children play, but what we don’t tell them (because it would suck all the wind out of their sails) is that as they play, they stretch their imagination by taking their dolls on an exploration of Aztec temples and volcanic lakes in the hallway and dining room; they learn about the world they’re in during a walk in the local park observing trees, flowers, beetles and acorns; they acquire new skills by throwing balls and playing chase; they make discoveries which help them grow and mature. Meanwhile, all they think they’re doing is having fun!

Play is essential to growth, but it offers growth and learning in a more entertaining package than, say, sitting in a classroom, fretting before your mid-term exam. I try to practice playfulness even as an adult, because it keeps me happier, allows me excitement and discovery, and helps me find a counterbalance to those less positive moments, things, and beings I will inevitably encounter.

Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way[1] suggests we make “artist’s dates” with ourselves. These dates can be things like taking a walk in your favorite park, trying out a new recipe from scratch, playing music that makes you want to jump up and dance to it, collecting pretty fall leaves to create a seasonal centerpiece with… the choices are endless.

I’ve gone to local parks and hopped back on the swings, much to my surprised elation. I try out new workout routines or martial arts, feeling a sense of empowerment that I didn’t have before. I love to cook up something new in my kitchen, and it often helps me do the same with my imagination, when I next sit down to write. I sometimes make playfulness as simple as purposely walking into each puddle along my path on a rainy day, just because my wellies let me!

You’ve probably heard mention of “practicing mindfulness,” if you’ve taken a yoga class or a guided meditation. The idea is that you focus your awareness on the here and now, on the pose you are striving for (in the yoga class), on staying focused on your breath or the mantra (in meditation). You get better at it, with patience and practice. I am reminded of the slogan of a gym I used to go to: “Play Hard and Grow.” Even boxers and martial artists consider play an important part of their strength.

Well, why not get better at practicing playfulness? I am convinced that practicing playfulness is not a whimsical or frivolous privilege for the lucky few. It’s a key to keeping our curiosity alive, our moods in an upswing, and our hearts and minds open to adventure and life. We concentrate, when we play. Playing forces us to be present; worries and stress have no place in our minds, when we are busy cooking a brand new mole, trying some new athletic feat, practicing a musical passage, or playwrestling with a giggling, squealing “victim.”

We stay young and happy by playing, and I am grateful to live in a city and a neighborhood that offer so many options to do just that!

[1] Cameron, Julia, The Artist’s Way, Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam, New York, 1992, 2002 (with reprints).

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by Borderstan.com September 7, 2012 at 4:00 pm 1,199 1 Comment

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

"shirts"

Put it out there. (Candida Mannozzi)

With the summer (at least officially) coming to a close, I was thinking of the fact that soon our tank tops and T-shirts will disappear under hoodies, sweatshirts and other clothing, no longer “messaging” others as we circulate around town.

I have always associated the many different slogans, messages and other information we can see and read on people’s clothing as a typically American phenomenon. In Europe I grew up seeing the occasional (now more ubiquitous) brand logo or designer name on someone’s jacket, pants or T-shirt, although more than just fashion designers are now creating clothing items with their company logos branded on the front.

Still, I think the United States easily holds the record in the number and variety of messages you can see on someone’s apparel. I own a few that I’m particularly fond of, such as a T-shirt saying “I’m not lazy, I’m overflowing with potential energy” (a gift from a physicist). Another is a gift from a friend who teaches film at a university in California who, celebrating our penchant for foreign movies, sent me a T-shirt saying “Not afraid of subtitles” from the Laemmle Theaters.

My bookstore T-shirt used to say “Support Independent Bookstores; Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Books in Chain Stores.” In the TV studio where I worked as Production Manager in the Czech Republic, we designed and wore T-shirts that read ‘”Don’t interrupt us, we’re shooting!” because so many of our interviews would be botched or interrupted by gawkers and curious passers-by who could not resist coming up to a TV crew whose logos were not those of the state-run television channels. Of course, as viewers became more used to tuning in to private TV stations, those kinds of incidents didn’t occur as often.

Apart from my rather modest personal collection, I do often recall and share with friends my sightings of particularly humorous or striking slogans. One was on a woman’s tank top which read: “Karma is a bitch only if you are,” another is a workout buddy’s shirt that reads (quite aptly for a government town like DC) “Department of Redundancy Department.”

Compared to most other cultures, Americans are said to wear their hearts on their sleeves. But I find they also like to tell you a whole lot about their preferences, beliefs, pet peeves, pride in their children, alma maters, political stances and workout attitudes on bumper stickers, yard signs, baseball caps, sweatshirts, you name it. We Europeans tend not to publicize much about ourselves in this way, reserving this information for discussions among friends, or similar occasions. This trend may well be slowly changing, as my annual trips home to Italy seem to reveal.

Borderstan, before they disappear under our winter clothes or the election season is over, what are some of your favorite slogans or zingers? Share, will you?

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by Borderstan.com August 24, 2012 at 8:00 am 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

"Pets"

Pets: We see them grow and become a part of our lives. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Borderstan, just this week a dear friend of mine lost her beloved pet, a dog she’d had for 14 years. Witnessing the grief and pain she’s been going through has made me reflect.

Pets are a wonderful thing to have in one’s life. The typical experience for most of us is that they become another full-fledged member of the family or household. We watch them grow, enjoy their affection, marvel at the many different expressions of their singular personalities and, yes, are occasionally irked by naughty behavior.

I am sure the reverse is true for them too; they learn to work around our preferences, time their biorhythms around our schedules, adapt to our personalities and carve out a life in our homes, with our families and friends, occasionally having to put up with a rowdy party, or a baby crying through the night.

In the case of dogs or pets we take outside the house, we may even make new acquaintances. How often have you heard people refer to neighbors as “So-and-so’s Mommy” or “XYZ’s walker,” etc. I’ve enjoyed occasionally dog-sitting for traveling friends, because I like the excuse to take longer exploratory walks, sometimes into areas I would feel more self-conscious just wandering around in aimlessly by myself.

With an animal on a leash, your presence is much less surprising, no matter where you end up. I also really enjoy observing what a dog picks up on or observes, in contrast to what I notice when we’re both in unfamiliar territory.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who can’t remember every single pet they’ve ever had. Even some of our friends’ and co-workers’ pets become memorable to us. They really do become a big part of our lives and our pasts, so it’s always sad to see them go. I still fondly recall the dog that used to accompany one of her owners on his evening shifts at my former bookstore. I remember the gentleman who, at times, walked around Corcoran Street and that vicinity with a parakeet on his shoulder (and bird droppings down the back of his shirt!).

Pets can sometimes even become a testing ground for our ethics or morals. If they get very ill, or are lingering in a terminal state, we have to face complex decisions about care, support, whether and when to terminate a life… They can teach and test us in ways we may not anticipate, spurring us to growth or added insight.

As I empathize with my friend’s fresh loss, I am reminded of the pets I had and the many friends who’ve been through this. The bookstore “guard dog” is no longer, but boy do we still love to reminisce about her; the parakeet owner posted desperately worded signs some years ago, after his bird was lost; we all share joy and grief as pets come into and eventually leave our lives. If we happily shared love and companionship with them while they were with us, hopefully that knowledge and those many good memories will do a little to help us get through those especially raw and difficult first days after they’re gone.

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by Borderstan.com August 10, 2012 at 8:00 am 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

"Charmed"

Enjoying the neighborhood. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Borderstan, lately I’ve had the good luck to receive several different expressions of friendship, encouragement, recognition or affection. I’ve also felt quite lucky to have things and people to look forward to every day, at work and outside the office. It may well be due to my oncoming middle age, but for some reason these experiences (that could be considered details in a long day, or mere happenstances) make me feel very happy and grateful.

I have been a CrossFit “apprentice” since last November and I’ve absolutely fallen for this high-energy, intense, challenging and rewarding workout regimen. It’s the ideal kind of exercise for Type A personalities like mine (!), as there’s always a new challenge, heavier weight, faster pace, longer distance (you get the picture) to aim for.

Well, I was absolutely stunned when our in-house star athlete, who has competed in the past four CrossFit Games and done us incredibly proud, offered to let me borrow her powerlifting shoes on occasion, as she thought they’d give me an extra “edge” in those exercises! I literally felt I’d been given “big shoes to fill,” novice that I am. (I tried her shoes on two separate occasions and have to say, they DO help. Now I’m in the market for my own pair.)

It was incredibly rewarding to feel recognized and encouraged in this way, especially in a discipline that’s quite new to me and has been bringing me so much joy and satisfaction!

Similarly, I’ve had a summer packed with meals, outings, parties, brunches, yoga workshops, impromptu happy hours, etc. with family and good new and old friends in which we’ve enjoyed each other, great food, movies, sports, the arts, and conversations on topics that have expanded my views or knowledge, giving me much food for thought and happy memories. Again, I’ve felt enriched and rewarded by the kinds of people I am lucky to spend time with and the things we choose to share.

Blame it on middle-age onset, as I said, but for some reason I feel as though I’m living a charmed life in our fantastic ‘hood, where amazing people, great conversations, exciting activities, and easy relaxation are all available without even requiring major effort or hassle to attain them. I don’t feel I can take this magical cornucopia for granted.

While I do think we shape our world and our lives to some extent, I also believe we’re not the sole actors of our destiny, and that some pieces of our life-puzzle remain firmly beyond our grasp and control. I have to say that in the over fourteen years I’ve lived in this part of town, life has most definitely improved, friends have multiplied, the neighborhood has grown happily and well and I am one of many reaping the benefits.

Borderstan, hooray! Here’s wishing that you can all happily live it up in our wonderful ‘hood!

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by Borderstan.com July 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm 1,340 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

"Harvest"

Hot peppers are thriving in the heat wave. You’ll appreciate them come winter. (Candida Mannozzi)

Is Borderstan ready to harvest? I know I don’t need to remind you that it’s HOT out there; a summer heat wave is upon us.  I’ve noticed less variety than usual at the farmers’ market, because many anticipated crops are struggling to ripen, or simply aren’t making it in the heat wave.

For instance, my favorite summertime legumes (the many different kinds of long and string beans) seem to be in very short supply this year. The news from across the country is sobering too: droughts, failed crops, herds at risk of being culled, anticipated shortages, and price hikes.

Thriving in the Summer Heat Wave

This has made me doubly excited to see the miniature Thai hot peppers on my deck turning to their bright red “pick me now!” color, in the past week or so. The plant is flourishing in the searing temperatures. I enjoy seeing the tiny peppers turn from dark green to orange to fire engine red. As I lay them out to dry, they look like a pixie’s duffle-coat buttons.

After harvesting them, I have fun stringing them up in my kitchen, making their festive mark on the place and giving me the feeling a mariachi band will burst through the doors at any moment. At the risk of being excoriated by the purists, I confess I grind them into my guacamole and they give it just the right kick! Humor this Latino-Asian fusion, will you?

I look forward to the many winter stews I’ll spice up with their fire, the tomato sauces that will get an extra kick from these little peppers, the separate bottle of olive oil I’ll cure with a couple of them, to drizzle over pizza or focaccia. I imagine all the outdoor heat they’ve stored in their flesh and seeds, to be released in the dishes I’ll make once the temperatures plummet back down to a wintery “shiverrrr” from the summer heat wave.

So, as I make my tiny, urban harvest in this summer heat wave, I imagine a time when I will actually be asking for more fire. Thanks to my Thai peppers, I’ll have the means to access it. Happy harvest and late summer, Borderstan!

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by Borderstan.com July 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2 Comments

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Litter in the gardens and steps. (Candida Mannozzi)

Borderstan, I don’t know about you, but I get annoyed when I walk up to my building to find a drunk, disheveled, drooling (or worse) person on the steps, barring access to my home. I know — picky, picky, picky!

The other day I ran into the same drunk on my front steps who I’d asked not to loiter there a few weeks before. Back then, he protested that he had a bad back and needed to rest because there are no public benches anywhere nearby. This is a fact, but so was the smell of booze coming off his breath and the empty hip-flask sized bottle of gin in his open bag. Not to mention that those cement steps were likely not providing significant support to his bad back. I pointed this out to him and asked him to stop loitering on private property. By the time I exited my building some minutes later, he’d left. Huzzah!

Fast-forward to yesterday and there he was again, on the front steps, drunk, drooling, spitting onto the steps (thanks, man, truly spectacular!) and blocking my way into the house. He was swaying so hard from side to side I could barely get past him. One of my neighbors must have called the police, because a short while later I heard noises and saw them getting ready to take him away.

These urban misadventures come with the territory, I suppose. But what I don’t understand is who sells the local drunks booze, lets them loose in the neighborhood, and why?! Maybe liquor store operators should be asked to enforce the same “no serve” policy as most establishments practice with inebriated customers? Because I doubt there’s much success in levying the $500 fine for an open container of alcohol in a public space on someone who’s essentially penniless (blood from a stone, no?).

Booze sellers know who the local drunks are, why can’t we ask them to no longer serve up that “daily dose” and spare the rest of us the dubious pleasure of dealing with their trash scattered in our front yards or left on our stoops after consumption, and equally unsavory behavior.

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by Borderstan.com June 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Featured image of Dupont Circle Fountain by Candida Mannozzi.

Borderstan, we’ve been lucky with the heat, so far, this summer — until now, it appears. In fact, with the more typical DC temps and humidity suddenly upon us, I’m reminded of how good we’ve really had it. The Mallard Duck I recently spotted bathing in the Dupont Circle fountain instantly evoked a number of memories from my summers growing up in Italy.

The first image was literally a transposition of the duck-bathing-in-Dupont-fountain: I remembered the many tourists literally cooling their heels in Italian marble fountains (or worse, stepping over the ledge to soak in them completely).

"Tomatoes and Lemons"

Dining al fresco on the appropriate summer foods was important as a child in Italy. (dracisk in the Borderstan Flickr pool)

While this may be a welcome relief to the tourists, we Italians, by and large, really don’t appreciate the spectacle, nor do we enjoy this misuse and disrespect for what are, in many cases, historic sculptures. We locals usually go past such scenes thinking or even muttering: “I’d like to try that in your main piazza’s fountain back in Switzerland, Germany, fill-in-the-blank… and not be hauled off by the municipal police!”

But back to the cooling memories: another is of the delicious “granite” (pronounced: grah-KNEE-tay), called sno-cones here. Some of the favorite flavors among Italian children are lemon, mint, sour cherry and coconut. I remember the ambulating vendors, their call as they pushed an umbrella-shaded cart: “Eccole! Le graniiiiiteeeeee!” working their way up and down the seaside promenades. They would stop whenever a flock of children or families gathered around them.

The ice was shaved into a little pyramid off a huge block, the syrup poured over it liberally. Then, it was all scooped up and served in a pointy cup made of twisted wax paper. Often mothers cautioned the vendor not to give the kids too much sugar by going easy on the syrup (try putting any bambini down for their afternoon nap after a dose of THAT!).

Grownups found refreshment in various aperitivi, like the bittersweet “Campari e soda,” or the citrus-flavored “Aperol.” White wine (the cheaper table wine variety, mind you!) was sometimes lengthened with sparkling mineral water. Ice cubes were rare (they are gaining some traction now), so most drinks were just fridge-cold or cellar-cool.

During the summertime, dinners started much later in the evening, to allow an appetite to really build. Who wants to eat in the blistering heat, after all? It was not uncommon to sit down to dinner around 9 pm or later, having also slept for a few hours during the hottest part of the afternoon in a shaded room or hallway, with a cross-breeze blowing over cooling tile or marble floors.

Summertime meals started with slices of prosciutto and chilled “melone” (cantaloupe) or figs, or with a helping of the famous Caprese salad made of  alternate mozzarella and tomato slices, dressed in basil leaves, salt, pepper and olive oil (if I hear you pouring vinegar on this, I am coming after you!). What a great way to rehydrate and also replenish the sodium that the summer heat had sapped from us, as we played and perspired outside in the sun!

A favorite seaside breakfast was yesterday’s not-so-fresh bread, sliced, toasted, rubbed with the open face of a halved garlic clove, and then covered in the dark red, meaty, sweet diced tomatoes that abounded in the summer. Basil leaves, a pinch of salt and a light circle of olive oil topped the whole thing off: viva la bruschetta! The moisture from the tomatoes and olive oil softened the bread, though we could still feel the crunch of the toasted crust, the oil and tomato juices would go running down our cheeks and chins with each bite. We gobbled down kilos!

Washing-up? We just hit the sea.

But the most fun came from eating watermelon. We held a variety of contests with the seeds, either measuring spitting distance, or target accuracy, or pinching their pointy end to make them flip up in the air and (hopefully) plink rewardingly into a bowl or glass. On some occasions, the competition was about volume of seed-volleys: a few kids (and dads!) were true pros at conjuring almost machine-gun like effects with a mouthful of seeds. Don’t come near me with those seedless watermelons, they may be organic, but they’re sad, genetically modified freaks to me! Not to mention witnessing the hilarious effect of people arguing over a disputed target hit or other disagreement through a mouthful of juicy, oozing watermelon…

Most summertime dishes were served cold or at room temperature, and had been prepared that morning, sparing the cooks any work over heated ovens or stoves in the hotter hours. Some favorites were the stuffed tomatoes or peppers (pomodori ripieni, peperoni ripieni) filled with rice salad, or rice-and-mincemeat, or tuna salad), meatballs (tiny, rolled in bread crumbs for a lovely crisp finish, flavored with herbs, garlic and some hot pepper flakes… some even had melted mozzarella in their center), capponata (a vegetable medley similar to the French ratatouille — though, forgive me, way better!), and of course myriad pasta salad variations.

I remember the excitement of being able to play with the other kids late into the night, feeling the cool nighttime breeze as we found our way around in the darker shadows and splashes of moonlight, guided by the scent of a jasmine hedge or a lavender bush, tip-toeing or running, crackling over the rough needles of the fragrant Mediterranean Pines, while the grownups remained within earshot at the table, chatting, laughing, sharing the last bit of cellar-cool wine.

Borderstan, my nostalgia aside, what are some of your favorite summer cooling-off activities or recipes? Share, will you?

by Borderstan.com June 1, 2012 at 11:00 am 0

"Sunset"

It's important to create a bank of memories for the future. (Candida Mannozzi)

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Borderstan, this past Memorial Day weekend reminded me of how important it is for all of us to have happy memories to tap into, and the related need to be building-up a collection of rewarding experiences we can later revisit.

I took my four-and-a-half year old niece to the beach. This was special event for several reasons: it was our first overnight trip together without her parents (i.e. a “big girls” trip), we were staying with good friends, and sand, water and other small children were on the menu. The end of May could not come soon enough!

We had a wonderful time. I felt rewarded by her parents’ trust, allowing me to take her away for several days. She rewarded me (and them, by extension) by being on her best behavior and becoming a very welcome new playmate to the other children there. Since our return, I have been “playing back” countless scenes from our weekend at the water’s edge. I hope that she will remember this weekend too, maybe even into adulthood.

This recent memory brings up of one of my own first “big girl” experiences, when my parents let me stay up past regular bedtime to watch a ballet on TV with them. We did it on the sly; I went to bed at the same time as my younger brother in order not to cause any jealousy. But they came to fetch me after he’d fallen asleep and I tip-toed into the living room at an hour that had been off-limits to me until then. I felt so excited and proud to have been chosen for this special treat, this exception to the rule! I even remember the After Eight chocolate mints they had put out on the coffee table for me to munch on, as I sat on the edge of the sofa and watched Swan Lake on a grainy, black and white TV set.

Summers can be conducive to creating such lasting memories: we plan time off, we may be looking forward to a vacation, to some time spent visiting distant friends or exploring new places. We’re likely to be doing something we’ve worked towards, saved for and planned – excitement and anticipation are in the air!

Borderstan, I wish all of you success at creating and enjoying your new adventures, that they in turn may be added to a growing store of happy memories.

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by Borderstan.com May 18, 2012 at 11:00 am 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Borderstan, I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a lot of creative and visual expression in our area (and in the city, at large). Perhaps the spring weather encourages our creative neighbors and friends to display their activities outdoors and open their workspaces to the public. Certainly, the larger art institutions seem to plan numerous outdoor events and happenings for the season.

"Borderstan""MidCityArtists"

Creativity is all around the neighborhood. (Luis Gomez Photos)

One such event is the film projection onto the outer walls of the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on the Mall. Created by Doug Aitken, “Song 1” (showing through May 20th) is a 360-degree film projection from multiple cameras, covering the entire surface of the circular walls of the Museum.

The soundtrack to “Song 1” is part of a verse from “I Only Have Eyes for You” (written and composed by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, 1934 ) and interpreted by various actors on screen … to varying degrees of success. The excerpted verse is looped over and over, as the images flow. Make sure you bring your own music with you, in iPod form, so you can dispel the “it’s stuck in my head for the rest of the night” effect when you leave!

Still, seeing the entire building come alive with moving images is truly something you ought not to miss. Projections start at 8pm (or right around sunset), and the movie plays on a loop throughout the evening.

Go on a date (or with friends), bring your pets or go on your own… but GO! Mostly I enjoyed switching my gaze from the enormous images on the museum walls to the “zoomed out” version that included the entire Hirschhorn with the surrounding darkening sky, or the nearby Washington Monument, or other items in my line of sight, taking in the entire spectacle in its larger context. Don’t miss walking all the way around the Museum to see the projection from as many different angles available.

Another celebration of creativity is this upcoming weekend’s 10th Mid City Artists (MCA) Open Studios in our very own ‘hood! Of the almost 40 member-artists, more than one-half are opening their studios to the public, allowing glimpses into their creative spaces, their current works-in-progress and their previous collections.

I say we wear our neighborhood pride on our sleeves this weekend! Let’s visit as many of our creative (and courageous) neighbors as possible, celebrating the variety, imagination, humor, insight and talent these artists bring to our ‘hood. From Florida Avenue and W, all the way to 10th and N Streets NW, it won’t be hard to pop-in to a handful of studios this Saturday and Sunday.

MCA’s helpful map of participating studios also lists Capital Bikeshare locations in the area for anyone wanting to cover more territory than a leisurely stroll might allow.

Hooray for Borderstan and the amazing its number of creative neighbors! It’s truly a privilege and a growing pleasure to live here.

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by Borderstan.com May 1, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

"Borderstan""Union" "Labor Day"

You can celebrate workers' rights any day. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

As many of you know, May 1 marks International Labor Day and is an observed national holiday in many countries around the world. What we may not always remember is that this date was chosen by labor movements around the world as the day to commemorate an event that had actually occurred in the U.S.

In early May of 1886, a workers’ protest outside the McCormick factory on Haymarket Square in Chicago turned violent and was brutally repressed by the local Police. A few days later, anarchists organized a protest for the event and again, shots were fired on the protesters, resulting in numerous victims. A year later, on November 11, 1887, four workers, four labor union organizers, and four anarchists were hanged for organizing the strike and manifestation of May 1, 1886.

President Grover Cleveland decided that commemorating the success of the labor movement in obtaining an 8-hour workday and other basic workers’ rights in early May could ignite repeat protests for the violent events that had also occurred at that time, so in the United States the Labor Day holiday was moved to early September.

In Europe, the Second International congress in Paris ratified May 1 as the official date for Labor Day celebrations in 1889, in commemoration of the events on Chicago’s Haymarket Square.

It seems ironic that the international and widely adopted Labor Day holiday is scheduled to commemorate an event that happened here in the United States, while we observe it during the opposite season, in the early fall.

At a time when many of us are struggling to find work or employment, remembering Labor Day and its history seems especially poignant.

Whenever you decide to observe a day of commemoration for the now widely established eight-hour workdays and numerous other workers’ rights, may it bring you satisfaction and solace, Borderstan!

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by Borderstan.com April 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

"Borderstan""Balconies"

Remember that we live very close to each other in this neighborhood. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Borderstanis, with the warmer weather upon us (and boy, are we getting some temperature spikes!) we are all pouring out of our homes to enjoy time outdoors. Be it sidewalk cafes, outdoor seating at our favorite restaurants, or, for the lucky among us, our own patio, deck or balcony, there we all are: enjoying the mild weather and the lengthening afternoons and evenings. The presence of more people and pets outdoors makes the city feel festive, alive and buzzing.

The warming of the weather does, however, bring with it a couple of possible drawbacks.

Noise Pollution

Let’s remember that in most areas of our ‘hood, residential units are located directly above, across the street, around the corner, or down the alley from our favorite haunts. While I’m not advocating everyone use “their inside voice” while dining or happy-houring al fresco, you may want to check-in on your volume, especially if the gathering you’re attending has consumed its fair share of un-inhibiting libations(!).

Your neighbors near and far will thank you for keeping the conversation limited to your table, rather than proclaiming it across the entire outdoor patio, or making it echo across the intersection.

Lights and Music

If you’re one of those lucky folks who can entertain in your own outdoor space, more power to you! Please think about your neighbors and their possible desire to have a quiet evening at home, or their need to tuck in because of an early morning conference call or departure on a business trip the next day.

So, especially if you’re entertaining or sitting outside enjoying a mild, breezy weeknight, consider taking your dinner guests indoors and turning the music and lights out or down, once the quiet hours for your building kick in. You’ll be raking in a ton of gratitude and that, especially among neighbors, always comes in handy.

All that said, I am just as jazzed as you about the longer evenings, warmer temps and the chance to sit outdoors without having to wear three to four layers of clothing in order to make it more than 10 minutes. Here’s wishing all of us many enjoyable hours in this lovely springtime and early summer weather.

Catch you on a patio or deck somewhere!

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by Borderstan.com March 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm 1,224 4 Comments

Corcoran Street NW, Borderstan, Luis Gomez Photos

1500 block of Corcoran Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Featured photo by Candida Mannozzi: A hyacinth in bloom on Corcoran Street NW.

True story: I was returning home on an errand around lunchtime and a babysitter, a friendly looking lady in her 50s, was sitting at the bottom of the flight of steps that lead to my building’s front door. She was spoon-feeding her ward some yogurt. As she realized she was blocking me from getting into my building, she apologized profusely and made way. I smiled, thanked her and went inside.

About five minutes later, I was on my way out again and the babysitter and stroller were gone. In their place, on my front stoop, was the empty yogurt container. SERIOUSLY?! She was SO sorry to be sitting on my stoop, but leaving her trash there was not a problem? Wow. Well, I’m glad to know some people have their priorities all synced-up. I look forward to a memorable “come to Jesus” moment the day I run into her again.

I feel for all the owners of front stoops and gardens, who regularly have to pick up the garbage that rude passers-by feel perfectly entitled to toss over a railing or bush onto their property, instead of finding the closest public garbage can. Not to mention those urban hybrids, native to our neighborhood: the empty beer and liquor containers that regularly blossom in our gardens and sidewalks after every weekend night.

Where I grew up, we used to tell people caught littering not to publicize the fact that they’d been raised in a pigsty. Borderstan, it’s time to take back our front stoops, gardens and sidewalks! I plan to shame any litterbug I catch in the act. Thoughts?

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by Borderstan.com March 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com. Featured photo by Candida Mannozzi: A hyacinth in bloom on Corcoran Street NW.

As the weather has been granting us sunnier and warmer days and as the bulbs and first flowers push through the brown-grey winter soil, I am feeling gratitude and cheer spreading in my heart.

This may, in large part, also be due to my having come home from nine days in New York City, where the academic non-profit organization I work for held its annual meeting. The event was exciting, our largest yet (with over 8,700 attendees) and New York proved to be a wonderful, responsive and accommodating venue.

DC, spring, daffodils, Candida, Mannozzi

Daffodils often bloom in March in DC, but this early? (Candida Mannozzi)

So, as I (literally) poured out of the return train to DC and made my weary way home four days ago, I felt a mix of elation and exhaustion at having been a part of this intense event. At the same time, I felt blue and was missing Manhattan, which I have always had a soft spot for.

One of the most noticeable things upon my return was how early spring has come this year to DC. Flowers are blooming a month ahead of schedule, and some of the cherry trees in the neighorhood are already in a full state of pink blossoms.

Since my return, I’ve been resting and recouping, enjoying the weather, taking things easy; and at the eve of returning to the office this week, I find I have to declaim (yes, the Italian in me will not settle for less!) my gratitude for our neighborhood and the way it pampers and accommodates us.

Borderstan, we have a fantastic little enclave here! I’ve been able to sleep in on weekday mornings without suffering major traffic or construction noise, I’ve been to four yoga classes of very different kinds (my hips are rather testily pointing this fact out to me), I’ve stocked up on fresh, healthy vittles at the Whole Foods and farmers markets.

I’ve taken long walks in the neighborhood, enjoying some of our green space and easy forays into the many diverse shops, whether just for a quick look or a more thorough browse. I felt free and safe as I wandered Borderstan, seeing people and pets on the sidewalks, overhearing snippets of conversations, and picking up on what seems to have been a universal good vibe in our ‘hood, this early spring weekend.

It feels good to live here! So, at the risk of being accused of adding special ingredients to my drinking water, I will leave you with a heartfelt hooray for how refreshing, stimulating and accommodating Borderstan is. It’s not a given, to live in a city neighborhood that can allow us so easily to rest and recoup, but also to satisfy our needs for meaningful, creative stimulation in its retail shops, theaters, clubs, restaurants and public spaces.

I hope we can continue to support all the friends and neighbors who make our ‘hood what it is. Thanks to everyone in Borderstan for doing their part!

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by Borderstan.com February 20, 2012 at 10:30 am 0

"Borderstan""Dog"

Love your dog: she depends on you.  (Luis Gomez Photos).

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at [email protected].

Borderstan, some of you may have seen scenes like this and I’m not sure where you come down on them, but I’m declaring my displeasure.

I am usually fine with the sight of dogs tied up outside various neighborhood establishments, as it normally involves a 5- to 10-minute foray into the supermarket, pharmacy or flower shop of choice. Fine, you remembered you needed dish soap as you were walking your pet, and combined a quick pop into the store with the rest of the walk. No problem, I hear and understand you.

But do not get me started on the folks who tie their dog up outside a restaurant or bar while they are inside hanging out — inside — with friends, having drinks or even a full-blown meal while their pet is sitting outside, tied to a railing or tree box. My latest such sighting came as I was walking a friend’s dog at night and we turned the corner onto Church Street NW.

My dog was sniffing along and suddenly we heard a pitiful whine coming from a pet tied up in the next tree box, essentially sitting in all the pee and other traces left by earlier dogs, unable to defend himself if attacked, looking and sounding pretty vulnerable and miserable.

For real?! This particular owner couldn’t take their pet back home before hitting the happy hour or getting to their dinner date?

I imagine that sometimes the daily walks can be a drag or an interruption to our other activities; in certain weather they’re downright uncomfortable. But let’s not forget that dogs living in city apartments or condos, with no yard to run around and relieve themselves in, rely on those walks for an essential function, one they’ve patiently and generously learned to avoid doing around our homes. Let’s at least show them the courtesy and caring not to make those moments outdoors become associated with feeling abandoned, exposed and otherwise humiliated.

Finally, kudos to all those caring dog owners who don’t subject their pets to the behavior described above. You are (thankfully!) the rule.

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