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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The new Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library has leaks...and plastic

The east side of the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library with wild, plastic sprouts growing from the roof/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Looks like something's blowing in the wind, and it's not trees at the newly renovated Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library.  Those are big pieces of plastic waving like flags from the roof, placed and plastered all around to stop leaks at the library which has not been open a year since its grand re-opening last October.  

The library was closed for almost two years for a $5.6 million renovation.  

Project architect, Leo Salom, led the team from
Ritter-Norton of Alexandria on the overhaul. The general contractor was Branch and Associates.

From the locations of the plastic, it looks like leaks have sprung all over.  The staff was reluctant to talk about the raindrops which keep falling on their heads, however, they did say more than one leak has been discovered.  These pictures were taken last Saturday during a dry spell and two days before Monday's rainfall.

I certainly hope the roof is under warranty and that Fairfax County taxpayers are not burdened with the cost of roof repair and/or replacement at the leaky library.
The west side of the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library with more plastic sprouts growing from the roof/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Friday, July 13, 2018

Never use certified mail

 Google images/

The U.S. Postal Service kept my passport for 26 days.

I mailed it to the visa office on May 30, 2018.  It was delivered to its destination on June 25, 2018.  The expected delivery date, according to the receipt, was June 1, 2018.

That was for a distance of 3.4 miles on the same street.

The U.S. Postal Service charged me $7.83 to mail my passport via certified mail which included $2.75 for a return receipt which I never received.

Strapped to the shell of a tortoise and ambling up the street, it likely would have reached its destination sooner.

More than one person has suggested that perhaps someone along the way attempted (succeeded?) to steal my identity.

Trying to locate my passport on the long journey up Connecticut Avenue, I made numerous telephone calls and trips to three different post offices, enlisted an aide in my congressman’s office, tweeted twice to the Post Office (no reply), and called the State Department to get a new passport (for an additional $200+). 

At every post office branch I visited, the clerks and managers had the same answer They had no more information than what I was able to read online. 

At the Oakton, Virginia post office, a clerk rolled her eyes and said to me:  "You mailed your passport by certified mail in D.C. and you're surprised it's lost?"

It was.  Lost in post office limbo, "in transit" and nothing more beyond June 7, 2018.

Try, just try, getting the phone number of anyone at the U.S. Post Office to help you. 

Here are a couple for you to save: Friendship Heights Distribution Office: 202-842-3332 (May take several phone calls before anyone answers and several minutes on hold if anyone answers) and the
Brentwood Warehouse: 202-636-1259 (May take several phone calls before anyone answers and several minutes on hold if anyone answers). 

“It may be in the cage,” said a postal official at the Washington Square branch where I originally mailed my passport, where I returned, seeking mercy. “Ask them to check the cage.” 
But "the cage" was empty (save the ones at the border with actual people) and lacked mercy, too.
It only took a maximum 30 minutes of holding, if anyone answered the phone at Friendship Heights or Brentwood, at which time I had to hang up, given my job requirements and other necessary parts of life which demand attention.

Holding at Friendship Heights allows the person who may answer the phone to try and find a supervisor or a clerk for Zone 20008 to "check the cage," and that person, likely as not, does not return to the phone, unless you can hold for double-digit minutes.

At Brentwood, the phone rings about five times before it goes to voice mail where the message is: “You may not leave messages here.”

At various times, Friendship Heights and Brentwood each blamed the other for my lost passport.  

When I called the State Department in desperado mood, a woman there seemed incredulous that the Post Office had lost my passport.  "M'am," I said, "I've got the proof right here, if you want to see that it's on hold somewhere in post office la-la land." 

She scheduled an emergency meeting for me to obtain another passport so I could make my trip.  I gathered up the necessary documents for another passport:  a certified birth certificate, more paperwork, and a bottle of Russian vodka.

Earlier I put a tracer on my envelope which is only good for seven days.

Suddenly, the passport turned up.

When I visited Russia in 2013 I went to the Russian consulate’s office and got my own visa. It took me two or three visits but I got it in a timely manner and did not worry about it. I knew exactly where it was.  (Besides, I liked practicing my new Russian at the consulate's:
"Здравствуйте," I said, and she looked at me like I was from another country. I have learned that Russians don't smile much; they think it's a sign of imbecility, and besides, my Russian instructor says:  "They've had a hard life." Oh, yeah?  What's their mail service like?) 

For this trip, the visa fee was built in the tour price, and the tour company, Travel All Russia, told me to use
"a reliable mailing service" (either UPS or Fed Ex, it stipulated) to mail my visa application.  Since UPS and FedEx both leave packages and envelopes at doors and do not collect signatures at my dilapidated complex where
mail is frequently stolen, I thought the USPS would be a better option.  

To finally retrieve my passport and visa, I took the Metro on Tuesday out to the visa service in northwest D.C. not far from Ohio (IMO) where I had left multiple explicit instructions not to mail my passport since my trip is this year and not next century.  I probably won't live that long anyway.  

Take my words for it: If you live in and around D.C. and plan to visit Russia,  skip hours of worry, phone calls, visits, additional costs, frenzy, and visit the consulate's office yourself (where speaking Russian is not required).
As my wise son says: “This is what you get with government and no competition.”

I may start my own visa application service, and I shall not be using the U.S. Postal "Service" for my deliveries.  I'll be using my own wheels.  Write for info.  Dos vedanya.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

'Anne Truitt' closes today at the National Gallery of Art

Anne Truitt, from her website.
Anne Truitt, Twining Court II, 2002, acrylic on wood, John and Mary Pappajohn. © Images
Anne Truitt, Mary’s Light, 1962, acrylic on wood, Angleton/Khalsa Family. © Images
In the Tower:  Anne Truitt at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Nov. 14, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Anne Truitt, Insurrection, 1962, acrylic on wood, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Stern).

Anne Truitt, Insurrection, 1962, is at far right and was one of the tallest sculptures (8.5 feet) which she made finishing it at her Twining Court studio near Dupont Circle/Photo by Patricia Leslie at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Nov. 14, 2017
Anne Truitt, Sand Morning, 1973, acrylic on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Mercedes Eichholz, 2014

 In the Tower:  Anne Truitt at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Nov. 14, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Anne Truitt, Knight's Heritage, 1963, acrylic on wood, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee

An exhibition of nine block sculptures and more by Anne Truitt (1921-2004), an early minimalist, ends today at the National Gallery of Art

The show includes two paintings and 12 works on paper representing the different media she used from 1961 to 2002.  Wikipedia says her early 1960s' pieces are "considered her most important work." 
On its website, the National Gallery describes minimalism as "the sculptural tendency that emerged in the 1960s featuring pared-down geometric shapes scaled to the viewer’s body and placed directly on the floor."

Unlike other artists of the genre, Ms. Truitt sanded and painted her wooden sculptures by hand and used bold colors.

She was born in Baltimore but considered Washington her home, living here most of her life, and renting various studios around town. (Is there an Anne Truitt studio tour?) While raising a family of three children and performing all the household chores demanded of a mother, she snatched 15 minutes here and there to make art. (Note to moms:  You can do it!)   

A visit to the Guggenheim Museum in 1961 inspired Ms.Truitt to begin making smaller geometric figures.

The show, In the Tower: Anne Truitt,  originally scheduled to end April 1, was extended three months, due to a Gallery decision in January to postpone a Chuck Close exhibition because of his alleged sexual misconduct. (Thomas Roma is another artist set to be honored this fall at the National Gallery, also postponed for the same reason. Thank you, National Gallery of Art!

It's ironic that Ms. Truitt's art continues to occupy space originally reserved for that of Mr. Close since in the 1960s, she suffered the effects of sexism as much as any other women of the period.  Her dealer tried to get her to hide her first name and others in the art world set up her first solo show without any input from Ms. Truitt but called her "the gentle wife of James Truitt," a newspaper writer. Her art is owned by major galleries throughout the world.

For insight into her personality and background, please see her obituary from the Washington Post.

The National Gallery's James Meyer curated the show.
The National Gallery's James Meyer at the opening of In the Tower: Anne Truitt, Nov. 14, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie

WhatIn the Tower: Anne Truitt
When: The National Gallery of Art is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday. The exhibition closes Sunday, July 8, 2018.

Where:  The Tower, East Building, the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission charge: It's always free at the National Gallery of Art.

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:

Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

Saturday, July 7, 2018

St. Francis of Assisi and the Stigmata close tomorrow at the National Gallery of Art

 Bernardo Strozzi, Saint Francis in Prayer, c. 1620/1630, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Joseph F. McCrindle 

Works from the late 15th to the mid 18th century of St. Francis of Assisi (1181/1182-1226), the stigmata, and the beginnings of the monastery at La Verna, Italy will be on view at the National Gallery of Art through Sunday, July 8, 2018. 

The exhibition celebrates the stigmatization of St. Francis which he received when he went up to the mountain of La Verna for a 40-day fast in the wilderness.  One morning while there, he was visited by an angel who bore the wounds in his hands, feet, and side of Jesus Christ when he was crucified.  When the angel departed, St. Francis discovered that he, too, was marked with the wounds. 

St. Francis is the first known person in Christian history to become a stigmatic which happened two years before he died in 1226. A 1935 study of St. Francis's medical records revealed he may have suffered from trachoma and quartan malaria which would have partially explained his bleeding and pain, according to Wikipedia. A 1987 hypothesis posited St. Francis suffered from leprosy.

Whatever the case, the works at the National Gallery are astonishing to behold in the flesh and blood, and viewers are grateful for the opportunity.
 Jacopo Ligozzi and Domenico Falcini, The Chapel of the Cardinal [plate G], in Fra Lino Moroni, Descrizione del Sacro Monte della Vernia (Florence, 1612), engraving with an engraved overslip of a rock revealing stairs when lifted, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Acquisition funded by a grant from The B.H. Breslauer Foundation, 2013, 2013
German 15th Century, Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata, 1500/1510, woodcut, hand-colored in green, yellow, indian red, and blue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1943
 Italian 15th Century, Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata, 1470/1480, woodcut, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1943

Note the differences between the German and the Italian versions of the Stigmata (above), both from the 15th century.

 Cosmè Tura, Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata, 1470s, miniature on vellum, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1946

On view also are two first-edition copies owned by the National Gallery of the 1612 Descrizione del Sacro Monte della Vernia.  

In notes, the Gallery calls St. Francis's experience at La Verna, " a critical event in Western spirituality and proved to be the effective birth of modern monasticism." La Verna still operates as as monastery today.
 Johan Baptist Enzensberger, The Stigmatization of Saint Francis, 1760s, pen and brown ink with gray wash over graphite on laid paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Wolfgang Ratjen Collection, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2007
 Sebastiano Ricci, The Ecstacy of Saint Francis, 1706/1720, pen and brown ink and brown wash on laid paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Rudolf J. Heinemann, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1991.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Saint Francis beneath a Tree Praying, 1657, drypoint and etching, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1943
 Jean-Jacques de Boissieu, Desert Monks (after Francisco de Zurbaran), 1797,  National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 2000

Leading a tour of Heavenly Earth is the curator of the exhibition, Ginger Hammer, assistant curator in the department of old master prints, National Gallery of Art.

What: Heavenly Earth: Images of St. Francis at La Verna

When: The National Gallery of Art is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday. The exhibition closes Sunday, July 8, 2018.

Where: West Building, the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission charge:
It's always free at the National Gallery of Art.

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information
: 202-737-4215

Friday, July 6, 2018

Extended! Olney's 'On the Town' is merry must-sea!


From left, Robert Mintz (Ensemble), Lance E. Hayes (Ensemble), and Rhett Guter (Gabey) in On the Town at Olney Theatre Center/Photo: Stan Barouh 

Amidst these days (and weeks, sigh) of turmoil, conflict and depressing news, who doesn't need a fantastic escape?

On the Town at the Olney Theatre Center arrives at the right time with sets, costumes, and songs from the 1940s to make you happy.  (Well, it made me so happy, had I not been seated midway in the row, I might have bolted right up on stage and become a dancer meself!
 Claire Rathbun (Ivy) and Rhett Guter (Gabey) in On the Town at Olney Theatre Center/Photo: Stan Barouh

Three sailors come to New York on 24-hour leave in search of women and excitement. (You were expecting something less than romps, laughs, sex, and more?) On the Town is an hilarious trip with music, lots of dancing, and non-stop action.

The sailors set off on a journey to find THE girl whose picture Gabey (Rhett Guter) has seen plastered in advertisements, the winner of the "Miss Turnstiles" competition (huh?). Gabey has fallen in love with a photo, but never mind. Can he find her? 

And can his buddies help?  They start a hot chase.
 From left, Evan Casey (Chip), Sam Ludwig (Ozzie), Rhett Guter (Gabey), and Bobby Smith (Bill Poster) in On the Town, now playing at Olney Theatre Center/Photo: Stan Barouh

Along the way they stumble (surprise!) upon  adventure, becoming entangled in rollicking scenes with dancing and song.

Chip (Evan Casey) finds a taxi driver, Hildy (Tracey Lynn Olivera) who has lots of "fares" on her mind  (Come Up to My Place), and she can cook!

It doesn't take long for Chip, the initially reluctant participant in this scheme, to join goal tending until the couple is rudely interrupted by Hildy's conservative roommate, Lucy (Suzanne Lane), a mousy creature and dressed for the role par excellence.  (Rosemary Pardee's many 1940s costumes are rainbows of pastels and designs, adding more allure to the visuals. In real-life, Chip and Hildy are a happily married couple whose stage passions leave one in awe of the chemistry on display.)    

Then there is flash and dash Claire DeLoone (Rachel Zampelli) who teams up with Sailor #3, Ozzie (Sam Ludwig) in-between trying to placate her  "understanding" husband (Bobby Smith in one of seven (!) roles he plays). 

The show has many standouts, and my favorites were those with multiple roles, perhaps because they were on stage more often:  Bobby who, towards the end, makes you happy seeing him appear since you know guffaws lie ahead, "darling," and Donna Migliaccio, 
fresh from a real-life stage in New York, and her six (!) roles here. (My fav was the old lady and her mannerisms and "Style 7" walking, but where is a grumpy old man?)
Perhaps the elevations and descents of various entertainers center stage doing their solo performances are a bit overdone, and the lacklustre title really needs some work, but director Jason Loewith, Olney's artistic director, commands excellent performances of all, and never a dull moment passes by.   

The numerous scenes (by Court Watson) transform in a whirl, and what appears to be minimalist props are deceptive for scenes are mean to complement, not distract from the script.

The effects and Roc Lee's sounds magnify the  "New York, New York" experience with brakes screeching, horns going off and subway rides which sway and lurch, rocking passengers forwards, sideways, and into others. 

Live music always makes a more enjoyable performance and Christopher Youstra's baton enriches the show with the big band sounds of 14 musicians onstage playing 17 instruments, the largest orchestra in Olney's history. (None of the vocalists are ever drowned out.)

Choreography by Tara Jean Vallee is stunning, and at times I found myself labeling it a "musical ballet," and it was based on Jerome Robbins' ballet,  Fancy Free. 
Claire Rathbun's skill as a ballerina (formerly with the Washington Ballet) is apparent in her role as Ivy, "Miss Turnstiles," particularly during the deux pars de deux when she and Gabey dance elegantly back to back, gliding across the floor, hugging stage corners and "ignorant" of the other's presence while the ensemble enters the stage from right, from left, to mingle and spin a partner, logistics which prevent "the" couple from ever laying eyes on each another.
From stem to stern, this is another shipshape production for the regional celebration of Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday in Olney's 80th season (and Director Loewith's 50th) which continues to strengthen the theatre's reputation as a delightful locale for live entertainment. 

It's just another 24-hour day.  Whatcha gonna do with yours?  Tempus fugit.

Rounding out the cast are Ian Anthony Coleman, Ashleigh King, Amanda Kaplan, Claire Rathbun, Alan Naylor, Connor James Reilly, Shawna Walker, Jennifer Flohr, Lance E. Hayes, Robert Mintz (also, dance captain), Ron Tal, Taylor J. Washington, Ronald Bruce, and Emily Madden.

Other members of the creative team are Colin K. Bills, lighting; Alexandra Pohanka, wigs and hair; Zach Campion, dialects; John Keith Hall, production stage manager; Dennis A. Blackledge, production; and Debbie Ellinghaus, managing director. 

What: On the Town with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics, Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832.

When: Extended! Now through July 29, 2018, Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., Wednesday matinees July 11 and July 18 at 2 p.m., a sign-interpreted performance Thursday, July 12 at 8 p.m., and an audio-described performance, Thursday, July 19 at 8 p.m. There is no performance Saturday night, July 28.

Talkbacks:  After matinees, July 7, July 14, July 21 

Tickets: Begin at $42 with discounts for groups, seniors, military, and students.

Ages: Recommended for ages 11+ due to mild sexuality. The Olney rates it "PG."

Duration: Two hours and one 15 minute intermission

Refreshments: Available and may be taken to seats

Parking: Free and plentiful on-site

For more information
: 301-924-3400 for the box office or 301-924-4485