The King of the Kastles

July 26, 2011

Mark Ein, owner and founder of the Washington Kastles, the District’s World Team Tennis franchise, has brought his love of tennis to the nation’s capital, and in doing so has created a home base for the city’s widespread tennis scene and a center for community development.

When I met Ein at Kastles Stadium during the team’s practice, the metronomic clop of tennis balls washed through the empty arena like a summer shower. The players, preparing for an evening match, lent a pensive aura of determination to the otherwise languid silence of the blistering July morning. The familiar sounds were a comfort, recalling countless hours spent courtside working on my elbowy forehand, being reminded to bend my knees, get my racquet back, and adjust my grip.

Ein can relate to these fundamental tennis foibles, but his game has progressed considerably more than mine ever has — or perhaps ever will. Hitting with the Williams sisters in his inner-city tennis stadium might have helped. “If I wasn’t doing this interview with you,” he says, “I would be out right now doing drills with these guys.”

A successful venture capitalist who grew up around the area and a lifelong tennis player, Ein founded the Washington Kastles as part of World Team Tennis only three years ago. World Team Tennis, started by Billy Jean King, matriarch of professional tennis and advocate for gender equality, is tennis most have never experienced. It is played in a co-ed team format whereby each set is a different combination of opponents. A five-set match covers every combination of players: women’s and men’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles.

Nor is the etiquette quite in the vein of typical Wimbledonian cordiality. “It’s tennis in a basketball or hockey environment,” Ein says. “We have cheerleaders, mascots. We play music in between the points. And while 3,000 people [the capacity of Kastles Stadium] is actually a pretty good tennis crowd, it feels like three times that number because everyone’s rooting for your team. It’s a very different kind of crowd.”

It’s an environment unique to tennis that allows fans an opportunity to see their favorite players in a more congenial setting. The audience is encouraged to become part of the game, to interact with the players — root for them, even heckle them — and the players can let their own personalities come through. The Williams sisters, John McEnroe, Anna Kournikova, and Andy Roddick are among the national members that bring their game and their voice to the WTT stage.

For the Kastles, Ein has recruited Serena and Venus Williams as the marquee players, and assembled a veritable “who’s who” of all-star teammates, led by coach Murphy Jensen, renowned tennis personality and veteran champ who knows how to balance athletic discipline with the high-profile exposure of this tournament.

However, what makes WTT a unique institution is that, more than just showcasing competitive tennis, the cornerstone of the organization is bringing tennis into the local community, with a history of working with non-profits and charity organizations. “That’s honestly the core of this franchise,” says Ein. “When I started this, I had a mission statement … To expose tennis to a wider audience, create a center of fun activities in the middle of the city during the summer, help local charitable partners, and bring the city together … I never said win a championship. I never said win a match. It really was using this as the catalyst to create this sort of magnet where we could do all kinds of other great things. And that’s really what drives us.”

Ein has partnered with 35 leading charity organizations through the Washington Kastles. Every evening when the Kastles play a home game, between 100 and 300 children are brought to the match for free. Any fans under the age of 16 get a chance to rush the court after the match for autographs from all the members of both teams. Ein and the Kastles give out a thousand tennis racquets over the course of the season at free youth tennis clinics to children who want to learn the game but lack the means or equipment.

The Kastles host nine of these tennis clinics a season, the majority on the stadium courts in the heart of downtown, where the old convention center once stood. However, they sometimes go into the community to host them in rec centers and racquet clubs. The clinics are led by the players themselves — by the Williams sisters, Anna Kournikova or Murphy Jensen. It allows the star athletes to give back to the community and seems as meaningful to them as it is for the children.

“If you talk to Venus and Serena,” says Ein, “one of the reasons they love World Team Tennis is because when they were eight years old they went to a World Team Tennis clinic that Billy Jean King was throwing. They said it changed their lives forever to see Billy and get to meet her and be inspired by her. And so when they come to town, they do the same for inner city kids in Washington. They’ve done that every year they come. They did it again this year.”

Introducing tennis to youth culture is a critical mission of Ein’s, as well as the WTT league. He believes the fundamentals one learns in the game are resounding life lessons. “It’s the sport of a lifetime, not just because you can play your whole life, but because the lessons you learn stick with you in life,” he says. “Tennis is unique because of its individual nature. It teaches you discipline, self-reliance, problem solving — because it’s you against one person within four lines trying to figure it out. It teaches you strategy. It teaches you to think on your feet. It teaches you to be fit. And these are all fantastic lessons that you can apply to anything you do in life, whether it’s business as I’ve done, or anything you decide to do.”

Ein met Billy Jean King just over three years ago at the US Open tournament. After being introduced, the conversation moved quickly in the direction of organizing a World Team Tennis franchise in Washington. King had long desired a WTT team in the nation’s capital, but had never found the right owner. Until Ein came along.

King upholds a few major tenets within the league that inspired Ein in his efforts to spearhead the project: to promote gender equality — WTT is the only professional sports organization where men and women play together on the same team — make tennis accessible in a community atmosphere, expose new players to the sport in an engaging environment, and introduce tennis as a team sport, creating an entirely new dynamic within a well-established, traditional game. Or, as Ein simply states it, “Make it more fun.”

And while the causa causans of World Team Tennis holds steady, make no mistake that this is still among the highest quality professional tennis one will see outside of the majors. The companionship of teammates and a sense of home turf offense, almost unheard of to the solitary tennis champion, motivates players in fresh and unfamiliar ways.

Unlike most tennis tournaments, where players represent only themselves and fans cheer for good points more frequently than an individual, a WTT match really does function more as a baseball game. The home team will have the fans on their side. “Here, people are rooting for your team,” Ein says. “And that really gets people playing.” No one wants to see the visitors win, whether the Colts are trampling the Redskins, or the Washington Kastles are being defeated by the New York Sportimes.

And then there is the added pressure. In a typical tennis match, the pressure is largely internal. But on a WTT team, team pressure can keep a beaten player from giving up. Letting your team down can be far worse than letting yourself down, and this sharpens the players’ focus. It was this very sense of camaraderie that carried the Kastles to the championship last year.

“We were down three championship points,” Ein explains, crouching in, reliving the memory. “Olga [Puchkova] — who won it for us — she hadn’t had the greatest year. And she was playing … one of the best girls in the league, [Vania King]. And every point Murphy [Jensen] was coming out in between and saying, ‘You’re good. We love you. You’re gonna do this, you’re gonna do this.’ And he, like, literally carried her through. I mean, she was unbelievable, but the team really carried her through.”

Only three years after their founding, the Washington Kastles have a championship under their belt. Most matches in the 3,000-seat Kastle Stadium sell out. Ticket sales and sponsorships are by far the highest in the league — three times the league average and 40 percent higher than the second highest team. “It’s truly succeeded my expectations in every respect,” admits a humbled Ein, who attributes the ultimate and holistic success of the Kastles with the thriving state of the Washington tennis community

“I think D.C. is one of the best tennis communities in the United States,” he says. “I was a ball kid at what’s now the Legg Mason … There’s a long history of people supporting tennis.” With 60,000 adults in the Washington region registered with adult team tennis leagues, the District’s tennis scene would appear to be in its golden age.

To an outsider, tennis can seem beside the point, sluggish, even static. On television, the cameras don’t move, and it’s unnervingly quiet save for a few choice grunts and hollow popping sounds. But to those familiar with the game, that small green court with its clean white lines is the projection of interpersonal triumphs, of unresolved grievances. Surely I cannot be the only one to have stood gracelessly at the baseline, lamenting my hopeless serve and envisioning the superhuman potential unlocked by Sampras, Borg or Graf.

But a tennis player also understands that if you take away the stadium seating and the camera crew, those legendary showdowns between Nadal and Federer that seem to have happened in another world entirely, could have happened down the street at the local swim and racquet club.

Mark Ein and the Washington Kastles balance this experience exactly, bringing the Herculean battles of professional tennis stars down to the community level for all to enjoy. It is overwhelming and encouraging, inspiring and daunting all in the same breath. The season may have just ended, but the local Legg Mason tournament and the U.S. Open are just around the corner, and there are plenty of fair-weather months ahead. Now is a great time to pick up a racquet — and maybe start eyeing some season tickets to the Kastles.

Contact the author: [gallery ids="99180,103234,103229,103224,103219,103243,103214,103247,103209,103251,103255,103239" nav="thumbs"]

Maryland Blue Crabs: A Delmarva Summer Send-Off

Whether you’re eating out or going down to the Wharf to pick up your catch alive and fresh, here are the best places in town to get some quintessential crab.

A Last Political Parade at Adams Morgan Day

People say the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington is a place where you can find just about everybody – young, old, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, straight, gay, and maybe even Mars people.

Usually they all gather for the annual Adams Morgan Day Festival in September to celebrate the neighborhood’s diversity. This year it was election year, and Sunday’s festival became a staging ground for political theater on all levels.

Sunday, Mayor Adrian Fenty and City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, facing a down-to-the-wire battle for the mayoral ticket, both showed up around the same time and in roughly the same place, although they didn’t actually come close enough to bump fists. Their appearances, nearly two hours each, overlapped, and in just less than two days before the election showed off the contrasts in style and approach of the two protagonists of what has become an intense political drama throughout the city.

These weren’t the normally huge crowds you can expect on Adams Morgan Day — it rained throughout the night and sporadic showers had been occurring. Yet there were plenty of voting targets on the move still. At mid-afternoon, there was Mayor Fenty near the gateway to the festival, shaking hands, grabbing photo ops, getting his picture taken with locals, giving “thumbs-up” victory signs, talking policy, answering questions, speaking with residents and media types alike. He was fit, tanned, ready-for-business, repeating his most recent campaign mantra about all the things Gray wouldn’t talk about, about having to make tough decisions, about moving the city forward.

Fenty appeared tireless, and you would never have guessed that he’d just competed in a triathlon that morning. In the home stretch, with early voting and same day registration, nobody was making a real prediction about the outcome, although the most recent poll of two weeks ago showing Gray with a double-digit lead was still echoing loudly.

“There are still people around who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of schools not working,” he told one reporter. “That’s not this administration. We moved forward, and you’re going to get some folks angry, you’re going to get opposition.”

Given the perception that the city is deeply divided along racial and economic lines, he was asked if he might consider resurrecting former Mayor Anthony Williams’ Citizen Summits, which brought all parts of the city together to participate in planning. “Well, I don’t know if we’ll go precisely in that direction,” he said. “But we’re looking at listening tours, at things that will get people involved that will make them feel as if we’re listening, that they’re more engaged with the process.

He declined to offer details. “We’re totally focused on these last days now,” he said. Then he waded into the crowd, toward the mini-donut vendor, but apparently resisted the temptation.

Fenty’s green signs and Gray’s blue signs bobbed along the aromatic festival route from Columbia Road to Florida Avenue. While there had been reports of angry verbal clashes elsewhere, none occurred here. At Madam’s Organ, the popular 18th Street blues and rock club, Gray supporters had parked themselves on a second story balcony, shouting slogans en masse. On that afternoon, the place really was a house of blues.

Further down the route, with Fenty still in the house, Gray made his appearance in the festival, surging forward toward Columbia Road in what looked like a New Orleans-style march, without the actual music. It was slow going. While Fenty’s approach is to somehow touch as many people as possible in a kind of political speed dating, Gray can go through a crowd, catch up with old friends, build new lifetime friendships, and explain in detail his approach to schools or economic development.

It made for vivid, immediate contrast that spoke to the personalities of the two men and their style of doing things, which has become as much a campaign issue as buying votes (accusations on both sides), Gray’s record at DHS, Michelle Rhee, cronyism charges and so on.

Other candidates were here in Ward One, including Bryan Weaver, setting up a basketball booth, and Jeff Smith, challengers to Jim Graham, who was running for re-election here and well ahead in the polls. There was at Large Candidate David Catania, and a local ANC Commissioner, and somebody to sing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” near a karaoke bar.

And there was the dog shooting, which occurred in the early afternoon, and was the subject of a lot of talk along the route. There were a lot of different versions of this incident to be had — most people described the dog as a pit bull, for instance, and the police was attacking people in the crowd. But many people were shocked that the dog was shot in the middle of a large crowd. The dog’s owner, a Dupont Circle resident who had been fostering the dog while it awaited adoption, said he would file a complaint.

School Without Walls Awarded 2010 National Blue Ribbon

Last Thursday, School Without Walls, the D.C. magnet high school, was named a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School. This year only around 300 public and private schools nationwide were granted this distinction by the U.S. Department of Education.

Mayor Adrian Fenty, controversial Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan were among those present for the announcement of the award. With the award comes the recognition that Schools Without Walls has made great strides in enabling its students to achieve, especially disadvantaged students and those belonging to minorities.

Other schools that have earned the award within the last three years are Noyes and Murch, though Schools Without Walls is unique in its partnership with George Washington University. The relationship has enabled juniors and seniors in high school to take college-level courses and get acclimated to a university class environment. 20 such students are enrolled at George Washington currently, with DC Public Schools covering the costs.

Schools Without Walls also boasts a 100 percent acceptance rate of students into four-year universities. This is incredible when you consider that the school only reopened last fall, following renovations that provided the students with advanced I.T. resources and followed green standards. The school now ranks 112 among Newsweek’s top high schools in the country.

DC Water Continues Commitment to Chesapeake Bay

Recently, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) agreed to a new operating permit that will reduce the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant’s nitrogen emissions to an all-time low. The move is part of an effort to improve the state of the Potomac River and subsequently the Chesapeake Bay.

DC Water was the first company to comply with the Chesapeake Bay Program’s aim of reducing 1985 emission levels by 40 percent and continues to underscore its dedication to healthier waterways.

By reducing nitrogen emissions, local water plants limit the growth of algae, which is responsible for reducing oxygen levels in the water. The new limit, 4.7 million pounds of nitrogen, is almost half last year’s limit and will require the $950 million nitrogen removal facility DC Water has constructed if it is to be met.

Additionally, the updated operating permit sets new phosphorous, bacteria, and trash controls.

Last week, the Washington Post hailed the Potomac River as being “cleaner now than it has been in decades.” Clearly, DC Water believes there’s still room for improvement.

The Georgetowner Hosts Final Mayoral Forum between Fenty and Gray


-Friday afternoon, September 10, at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place on Washington Harbor, The Georgetowner hosted the last of the 2010 Mayoral forums between Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray. Drawing quite a crowd, the debate dealt with subjects as expansive as the state of small businesses and as focused as the improvement of Georgetown’s parking meters. The end result was a forum that provided greater insight into the positions of the more prominent candidates on the ballot and enough drama to keep the air of excitement billowing until voting day next Tuesday.

Unlikely candidate Leo Alexander opened fire, arguing that small businesses were being taxed out of the District due to costly rent. Gray echoed Alexander’s fears with a plea to voters: “Let’s not run customers out of the District to Virginia or Maryland.” Gray went on to add that his efforts lead to the personal property tax exemption rate being raised, eliminating the tax altogether for small businesses with a net worth under $225,000.

In spite of his opponents’ concerns and criticisms, Mayor Fenty remained optimistic, pointing to the 26-year success of his family’s own small business (he did not specify what type business his family runs). Noting his history of working with the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Fenty asserted “We are revitalizing Georgetown in a fantastic way.”

Another issue on Georgetown voters’ minds was Georgetown University’s student body encroaching into the community, as they have more frequently been taking up residence within the neighborhood. Alexander cited a lack of communication between the university and the neighborhood as the reason for all the worry. Fenty labeled the debate one of “acrimony.” However, it was Gray who offered a definitive plan to smooth over the “strange relationship,” promoting the establishment of a zoning commission that would handle the 10 to 15 year growth plans of city universities. Gray’s hope is to limit college housing expansions to campuses because a large number of students are transient.

The candidates were given the chance to tackle Georgetown’s parking problems as well. Alexander pointed out how expensive it was to have a good time in Georgetown, joking that in order to even park your car for dinner, “You need to have a roll of quarters with you.”

“Two rolls!” shouted an observer, to the amusement of the crowd.

“I stand corrected.”

Fenty’s plan to improve parking would involve more Circulator routes and further expansion of the upcoming trolley lines. Gray hopes to see smarter growth in the future, providing more housing where mass transit is located.

The forum came to a head when Fenty claimed he had recently been endorsed by former mayor, Anthony Williams. “He did not endorse you!” interjected a livid audience member. Fenty, in an attempt to brush off the situation and repeat his allegation, was interrupted again — “He did not endorse you!”

While the moderator eventually quieted the outraged woman, it was Gray who was able to shed light on the situation. The woman was none other than former Mayor Williams’ mother, defending her son’s neutrality throughout the campaign.

With the matter settled, the candidates went on to give their closing statements. Alexander pointed out the political ramifications of Fenty raising $5 million in campaign donations, Gray $2 million, and himself $35 thousand: “Think about the strings attached to that money,” he warned rather ominously.

Gray’s spoke to the state of the economy: “We have got to get people back to work again.”

Fenty challenged Gray’s reluctance to criticize mayoral decisions, until the political season, and defended Chancellor of DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, who Gray could replace if elected: “Michelle makes tough decisions that don’t always make the city happy, but for the right reasons. A mayor must make tough decisions, which [Gray] is not prepared to do.”

Sharp words to end a tense debate. Here at The Georgetowner, we consider that a success.

The Player: Father John Adams

July 19, 2011

“Our vision is that we go out of business,” says our July Player, Father John Adams, president of So Others Might Eat (SOME).

Adams is the only D.C. leader Bob Madigan and I have interviewed who speaks hopefully of the demise of his organization. And a glance around – inside the O Street building where we sit that provides medical and psychiatric care and across the street to the dining room that serves about 900 meals each day – illustrate the huge vacuum were even two of the 40 SOME facilities to disappear.

But Father John believes these services shouldn’t be the responsibility of a nonprofit. “Everybody that needs food should have it, everybody that needs a home should have it, everybody that need medical care should have it,” he elaborates.

“We’re probably going to be around a while,” he adds wryly, “especially as the economy is not getting better.”

A two-day electricity outage during our early June interview has closed down the dental clinic and limited medical care, and they’ve had to switch from hot meals to sandwiches but Father John appears unruffled. With an accent that hints of his original hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, he projects calm as he voices his commitment to D.C.’s poor and homeless.

But actions speak even louder than words or, in the quote he likes to reference by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” And evidence of his three decades of caring and effective leadership abounds. To name just two: he was chosen as a finalist for the 2007 Opus Prize, a top international humanitarian award that brought SOME $100,000, and was selected as an Olympic torch carrier. SOME has been visited by the last three presidents; pictures show the Obama family serving lunch on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last year.

Support (Not Just for the Celebrities)

Issues of mental health, drug abuse and addiction play out daily in the media. Politicians, journalists and actors check into rehab to cure their addictions, then surface again to promote a new show or movie. Yet for the poor these failures are more costly, often snowballing as they lose jobs, health services, safety and their homes. But our society often demonizes and depersonalizes them, viewing them as a group whose failures justify immense suffering (about 70 percent of women on the streets have been abused, as an example) and the loss of our compassion.

SOME offers deeply personalized stepping stones back to a secure and healthy life. SOME’s tagline – “restoring hope and dignity one person at a time” – and early attempts to improve food and conditions in which it was served under founder Father McKenna 40 years ago show as much.

For many, it begins with dining. The cheerful waiting room features a large screen TV showing a video of services available across the street: dental, medical or psychiatric care; support of a social worker, or help for drug addiction. After one of the two hot meals served daily, people can shower, choose from clothing donations, or remain to hear success stories of formerly homeless (20 percent of SOME staff).

“If you did it, I can do it for sure,’ they think,” says Father John, “because they knew some of these people on the streets.”

A path through SOME may include being placed in a safe house almost immediately or seeing a doctor or getting a psychiatric evaluation or dental work. Or one might join a drug treatment program of a year-and-a-half (completed successfully a high 80 percent of the time) that includes 90 days in a West Virginia facility nicknamed Miracle Mountain by its residents. Care often culminates with job training aimed at earning participants a living wage (defined by Father John as $15 per hour with full benefits).

Help Through Homes

While SOME already plays a critical role a city where one in six people live below the poverty line, their current goal, to tackle what they see as the biggest need in D.C., is even more ambitious. About seven years ago, they decided to expand permanent housing for very low income people by an additional 1000 units. Single adults, families and elderly people earning 30 percent below the median area salary are eligible. The $38 million investment – structured as a sophisticated package of loans, tax credits, tax exempt bonds and their own equity – is well underway.

Providing homes for the poor has been a circular journey for Father John. As one of seven children to an Erie family, he led a secure existence until his father was injured at his steel industry job and laid off. The tyke ended up going to eight different elementary schools as his family scraped by.

“We were the first homeless family in Erie because we lived in tents all summer long. We thought it was great,” he recalls. “My parents were very upset about the whole thing. We struggled and I think what kept us going in a lot of ways was the church, nuns, and priests that very quietly helped out or we probably wouldn’t have had anything to eat.”

He was influenced to choose a faith-based career. After attending the Divine Word Missionary high school seminary, he studied philosophy, theology and social work at Catholic University. He joined Catholic Charities in Northern Virginia and started the Christ House in Alexandria to work with poor before joining SOME as a director 32 years ago. SOME was serving about 60 meals a day, often improvising.

“When I first came we had the building across the street which was an old animal shelter and SOME had just purchased it six months before with 2 or 3 people working part-time,” he recalls. “We were struggling – the place was not in great shape. We had to often times cook on a neighbor’s stove upstairs and bring the food down. There was no hot water running.”

He was determined to get basic services and to build a volunteer presence. However, he took an unusual step, deciding to sell a house in Northeast that had been purchased for drug treatment but was unstaffed in order to buy a stove and get hot water.

Next they added dental care. Georgetown University agreed to provide full time faculty member and to require dental students to volunteer for two weeks and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald convinced Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joe Califano to donate dental chairs.

Over three decades they added transitional and permanent housing, state-of-the-art job training and a summer camp for seniors.

The Challenges Ahead

The deinstitutionalization movement and dramatic social cuts under President Ronald Reagan – including drastic cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development – expanded the homeless population in the 1970s and 1980s. The recent recession has also grown this impoverished group. Yet again this country is contemplating major cuts to health and social services, imposing sacrifices disproportionately on the poor and middle class rather than the richest Americans who have thrived these past three decades.

And while the Catholic Church has a rich trove of documents on social justice and other religions prescribe helping the poor, America, despite its highly religious population, hasn’t adopted these values as a guiding force in policy making.

Locally, the fight’s had recent success. Father John and other nonprofit leaders reversed the large majority of tens of millions of dollars of proposed D.C. budget cuts that would have affected the poor and homeless, although a huge need still remains.

For a moment, Father John gets passionate and political.

“This is supposedly one of the more powerful cities in the world but we can’t take care of our own people,” he pauses. “That says something.” [gallery ids="100229,106494,106510,106506,106502,106499" nav="thumbs"]

Weekend Roundup

July 11, 2011


-ANC News

On Monday, November 1, ANC2E held its November session. At the meeting, Commissioner Ed Solomon acknowledged a crime spike in Georgetown, which includes nine thefts, two assaults and one assault with a deadly weapon in recent weeks. Furthermore, Solomon stressed caution in granting a liquor license to USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer David Sakai’s planned restaurant/bar, “International House of Pong” (IHOP). Sakai intends for the bar to hold up to 300 people—a cause for concern should the establishment fail to curb noise.

The ANC tabled the renewal of Third Edition’s liquor license for similar reasons, citing numerous neighborhood complaints. Amplified music at its open-air Tiki bar has become a continual disruption because of the establishment’s failure to monitor entrance and exit properly. While the ANC assures it is not trying to put Third Edition out of business, it expects bar management to renew its agreement to ensure peace and quiet.

Additionally, the ANC expressed support for Georgetown hosting the Lawyers Have a Heart 10k race in June 2011, despite it requiring the closures of K Street, the Whitehurst Freeway, and Canal Road. The 10k raised over $500,000 last year. That being said, events of this nature will face greater scrutiny going forward due to resident complaints surrounding last-minute closings.

As for November 2 voting, two new commissioners were elected to Georgetown’s ANC. Jeff Jones and Jake Sticka were the new additions, with GU student Sticka receiving a mere 6 votes (his own included). Sticka plans to promote GU’s Campus Plan and improved student safety measures, mainly in Burleith. Jeff Jones promises a more evenhanded approach, balancing resident and student concerns regarding zoning discrepancies and university expansion.

Heart to Hart Tennis Experience

The Recreation Wish List Committee, in partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, has invited several local politicians to participate in its 12th Annual Heart to Hart Tennis Experience. Among the politicians in attendance will be former mayors Marion Barry and Anthony Williams, Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray, Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., and Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander. On Saturday, November 6, they will join tennis celebrity Zina Garrison, area youth, and their families for a full day of tennis, community and fundraising.

The event will feature a day-long junior-adult doubles tournament, a rematch between defending champion Marion Barry and Anthony Williams, clinics, an awards ceremony, and a silent auction. A portion of the proceeds will be forwarded to a scholarship fund established in memory of Velma Love Nellum, a RWLC founder who recently lost her battle with cancer.

Heart to Hart will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, at 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE. Adults may register online through Friday, November 5, at a discount ($100) or onsite at 8 a.m. that Saturday ($125). The senior fee is $55 to enter, and general admission is $50.
Nightvisions: Portraits in the Night

From 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., on November 6 and 7, FotoWeek DC will be presenting Nightivisions. The all-night photo creation event challenges amateur and professional photographers alike to recruit a subject and produce a digital portrait. Each photographer may submit up to 10 images, in person, to FotoWeek DC’s Satellite Central at 3333 M Street, NW.

Following delivery, a team of renowned photo editors, art directors and gallery curators will select one image from each batch of submissions. This image will be printed and displayed as part of a weeklong slideshow projected on Satellite Central’s walls. Meanwhile, participants can enjoy the snacks and music offered at the all-night photo party for $10.

Synetic Theater’s “King Arthur”

This weekend offers a final chance to see Synetic Theater’s visually stunning production of “King Arthur”. Presented at Synetic’s new home, Crystal City Theater, the play is the latest installment in the company’s repertoire of wordless movement dramas. Add to this the fact that the troupe is performing on a liquid stage, one covered in a few inches of water, and the choreography will seem as fluid as the floor on which the actors splash. Showings will occur at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The $30-$50 ticket cost is a small price to pay to see such a physically-charged spectacle.

Ravi and Anoushka Shankar at the Kennedy Center

Legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar will return to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday, November 7. As India’s best-known living musician, the virtuoso has attained worldwide notoriety. Now, in celebration of his 90th birthday earlier this year, Ravi will perform alongside his daughter, acclaimed sitarist Anoushka Shankar. The concert will take place at 8 p.m. that evening. Tickets range from $25-$77. [gallery ids="99494,104474,104477" nav="thumbs"]

I Want to Hold Your Hand

June 2, 2011

The year was 1963, and the place was Washington, D.C. It was the year Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the country with his “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. A few months later, the unthinkable happened when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and the nation recoiled in horror and grief. For three days, people sat in front of their television sets, watching the memorial services for the fallen president unfold in front of the White House, the Capitol, through the avenues of the city and finally to the cemetery at Arlington. It’s hard to believe that all of this happened almost 50 years ago.

To illustrate just how long ago this was, take a look at prices. The average American home sold for less than $20,000 and a gallon of gas cost 30 cents. In the pop music world, Elvis was the undisputed King, and teenage girls swooned by the thousands when he came on stage. But popular music fans in this country were barely aware of a new musical group called The Beatles, who were taking Great Britain and Europe by storm.

A Washington teenager named Marsha Albert heard about this group and couldn’t figure out why we weren’t listening to their music here in America. She wrote a letter to DJ Carroll James of WWDC radio and asked him to play their records. When he asked around, the DJ found out that while Capitol Records had the rights to release their music here, the president of the company didn’t think “foreign bands” did very well on this side of the pond. Even worse, when Capitol asked for the scoop on The Beatles, a music critic told him that they were “a bunch of long-haired kids” and to forget about them. And so Capitol Records put the group on the back burner. That is, until the DJ and the teenager took matters into their own hands.

Carroll James found a friend who knew a British stewardess who agreed to bring a Beatles record back to the U.S. with her. And so, at 5:15 p.m. on December 17, 1963, the 15-year-old Marsha Albert announced on WWDC, “Ladies and gentlemen, appearing for the first time in America, the Beatles singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The radio audience response was overwhelming and James said his switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. He played the recording all week and the listeners loved it.
Capitol heard about the phenomenon and decided to bring the record out on Dec. 26. It went to the top of the charts. In fact, it became the fastest selling single in recording history and eventually went on to occupy all five of the Top Five positions on the Billboard charts, something which hasn’t been duplicated or surpassed since.

In February, the Beatles arrived in New York to be on the Ed Sullivan Show, where an unprecedented viewing audience of 73 million people tuned in to see the group. But their first live concert was here in the District at the Washington Coliseum. They couldn’t fly into National Airport because of a snowstorm, so they had to take the train to the then-dilapidated Union Station, where a screaming group of 2000 teenagers waited in the snow behind police barricades to welcome them. They drew a full house at the Coliseum, where tickets, by the way, started at $3.50 apiece.

The Beatles went on to dominate the popular music scene around the world for an amazing two decades, and Washington gets the credit for giving them their first introduction to what turned out to be a huge American audience, thanks to a determined teenager and an enterprising DJ.

Susquehanna Antique Company

May 23, 2011

“Traditional” is a word David Friedman admits is a good description of both himself, an antiques dealer, and his shop, the Susquehanna Antique Company. But he’s quick to add that in a modern marketplace exactly how tradition is defined is often subject to different interpretations.

One thing that’s clear is that antiques are a tradition in Friedman’s family. His grandfather started the business in Port Deposit, MD, and his father worked as an auctioneer and used furniture salesman. “I was close to my dad, and was brought into the business at a young age. He could buy something for $10 and sell it for $15. Not everyone can do that. I inherited that from him.”

Friedman has been a dealer since the late ’70s, with the Washington incarnation of the family firm established in 1980. He’s seen Georgetown’s prominence as an antiques district wax and wane over the years, but his own O Street shop has become something of a landmark.

To enter Susquehanna Antiques is almost to go back in time, to an era when antiques dealers were neither interior designers nor merchants in home décor. Baronial-sized dining tables and Philadelphia highboys jostle for space with Continental chests and Chinese porcelains. Centuries of portraits and landscapes fill the walls and are stacked in the aisles. Up the narrow stairs is a warren of rooms with more furniture and art, as well as Friedman’s collection of more than 600 period frames. It’s exactly what an old-fashioned antiques shop should look like — a place where discoveries wait in every corner.

But old-fashioned antiques are often a harder sell in an era when a mahogany sideboard and silver tea service aren’t always part of everyone’s lifestyle. “Traditional furniture, Old Masters, and 19th-century paintings are less of a broad-based focus for people,” says Friedman. “The market is more and more diverse.”

He’s weathered that changing market by virtue of business acumen (“You need a commercial sense of things”), high standards, and a having “a knack for buying what your customers want.”

He’s also an educator for customers for whom a familiarity with antiques may not come naturally. Friedman deals in history and passion, not just objects. He emphasizes that “people want to buy something that’s been selected,” vetted not only for its beauty or utility but also for its meaning and significance.

“Standards stay the same. That’s what collecting is about,” he says. And that just may be one definition of tradition on which everyone can agree.

Susquehanna Antique Company
3216 O St.


Christian Zapatka: Reinventing the Georgetown Townhouse
Frank Randolph: Interior Designer Extraordinaire
John Rosselli: Georgetown’s Antique Aficionado
Marston Luce: In Search of Elegance
Scandinavian Antiques & Living: International Accents
Susquehanna Antique Company: Redefining Tradition
Sixteen Fifty Nine: A Mid-Century Renaissance