Thursday, April 18, 2013

April's Night Out at the Movies

The evenings are warming up, but we're sneezing from the pollen. It's a pleasant evening for dinner at our usual place, and the paella special is accompanied by a wonderful Spanish white wine. After a dessert of brazos de gitano, we joke over the bill and then head up the street to our favorite theater.

First up is a 1905 bonbon from Segundo de Chomon, "A Dreadful Night."

And since it's cherry blossom time here in DC, here's "Japanese Butterflies" from 1908.

And for the feature presentation...the 1932 horror comedy "Strangers of the Evening."

The show's over, and we wend our way down the street for a drink at our favorite cafe....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

D&C's DC: A Field Trip to Seneca Quarries

The Smithsonian Castle is one of DC's most famous landmarks, but one aspect of it is often overlooked: the red sandstone that was used to build it. It turns out the stone was locally quarried, and much more was quarried and cut for other buildings in the area, some of which are still standing. My pal Garrett Peck recently authored an entire book about it (The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry), and also leads the occasional tour to the site, so a few weeks ago I joined him on an adventure out.

The quarries are actually right along the C&O Canal towpath, upstream from Washington. Our tour started at the Seneca Aqueduct, a landmark on the canal.

The span to the left was wiped out by a flood, and hasn't been reconstructed.

The lock keeper's house at the aqueduct.
A short distance upstream from the aqueduct, the towpath is flanked by the river on one side and a pond on t'other. Many simply regard the pond as a place for fishing, but it was actually a turning pond, where canal boats coming upstream could be loaded and turn back. If you follow a path branching off from the towpath behind the pond, you'll find some interesting ruins.

This is actually a stone-cutting mill, closed since about 1901, built of the same red sandstone that is found in a small around around here. The stone is red because of its iron content; it's a sandy gray when first quarried, but after prolonged exposure to oxygen it basically rusts, turning red-brown.

One of the astonishing things about this is how many people don't know this is there. On the tour we had some local residents who had no idea this was here.

The sluice that ran through the mill, running the water wheel that powered all the machinery.

The sluice-gate.

A broken lintel, amazingly still in place.

This image was very touching. Lorenzo Sager was a mill employee who became the son-in-law of the quarry master. As far as is known, the mill closed in 1901 (the records are spotty) and it seems he carved this as a way of bidding farewell to a place that dominated his life for a long time.

 Trees are growing in the ruins, and here a tree was blown down by a storm...but when it fell, it dragged up some of the flagstones from the original floor, and a rail from the narrow-gauge railway that took stone from the quarries to the mill. These are lost under the years of dirt and leaves that accumulated on top.

 These are foundations of fence posts at Lafayette Square, removed during security renovations, and returned to the site of the quarry.

This flower bed is probably over a century old, at the site of one of the quarry buildings, or where a worker lived.

A stone, set in the ground, with a hole. No idea what it's for.

One of the quarries, now overgrown.

Water seepage at the quarry site.

These eyelets guided cables that dragged blocks of stone.

The quarry master's house, now a private residence. On the hill over the quarries. The walls are native sandstone cut in different styles, probably as a sort of built-in advertising.

An old car, riddled with bullets. There's signs of bootlegging in the area, and who knows if this was really gunned down or just used for target practice over the years.

This overgrown gulch is the remains of the Bull Run quarry.

Another one of the Seneca Quarries.

This area is called the Rock Garden, for obvious reasons.
It's difficult to explore there in warmer months, as it becomes too overgrown with brambles and creepers and poison ivy. But this is a great spot for exploring; the map in Garrett's book points to a worker's cemetery that I wanted to check out but didn't have time. Next fall, I think. Seneca sandstone is no longer quarried, largely because it fell out of style and in the long run is not an ideal building material, as it degrades over time. Still, for adventuring, there's nothing like an old quarry to stir the blood.

Check out Garrett's book for more information and history, if you're so inclined. If you're one of those who hikes or bikes the canal, consider this for a side trip.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dust & Corruption Calendar for April 2013

It's April...leaves are pushing out, flowers are starting to bloom, pollen is in the air, taxes are due. Sorry I'm dragging on this, folks. I've been sidetracked by work and family issues but am here to give a few things for some springtime fun.

As always, the Observatory in Brooklyn, NY, has a schedule of fascinating talks and workshops.

And Atlas Obscura always lists interesting things in different cities.

Saturdays: Speakeasy Saturdays continue at The Big Hunt; shows start at 9:00, and every Saturday is something different.
4/7 - Lord of the Pasties: The Two Tassels, Baltimordor Invasion! Burlesque inspired by Tolkien, including Cherie Sweetbottom's hilarious Gollum act, and Mourna Handful's white swan, along with Buster Britches, Memento Mary, Valeria Voxx, Deanna Danger, Hazel Honeysuckle, and Oneira & Eugenia. The Windup Space, 12 West North St, Baltimore, MD. Doors 7, show 8, tix $13.

4/11 - Sparkly Bits! Baltimore's own Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey return home for an evening of burlesque and comedy. With Mr. Gorgeous, Bradford Scobie, and Kay Sera. The Ottobar, 2549 Howard St, Baltimore, MD. Doors 8, tix $15.

4/12 - Gilded Lily Presents: The Moon Muses Menagerie. One of Baltimore's resident burlesque troupes comes to DC for fun evening, headed by Maria Bella. With Gigi Holliday, Sophia Sunday, Valeria Voxx, Mourna Handful, Lauren Marleaux, and host Hot Todd Lincoln. The Black Cat, 1811 14th St NW, Washington DC. Shows at 9 and 11; tix $10 adv, $12 at the door.

4/13 - Countdown to Yuri's Night - The Year of the Robot! The annual lunacy returns with this salute to mankind's conquest of space. With burlesque performances, live music, an art exhibit, drinks, and tons of bizzarerie. Info and tickets here; this is quite an event and not to be missed.

4/19 - Tilted Torch Presents: Lion's Den. Burlesque, dance, and music from my dear pals Miss Joule and Malibu, joined tonight by NYC boylesque sensation Tigger, belly dancer Shahrzad, contortionist Topher Bousquet, musical burlesque from Sunny Sighed and Bal'd Lightning, bumping and grinding from Ruby Rockafella, and hosted by fem-cee Shortstaxx. The Black Cat, Washington DC. Doors 9pm, tix $15.

4/20 - The Marquee Ball: Kiss Me Deadly. A huge costume ball, with live music, bar, and refreshments, all with a film noir theme. I can't go but wish I could. The Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MD. Tix range from $40 to $185.

4/25 - Poe House Unhappy Hour. This month's theme is Poe's poem "Dream within a Dream." Live music, cash bar, performances. Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond, VA. Doors at 6pm; $5 suggested donation.

4/30 - Walpurgis Night! Witches and demons run abroad. It's also Dust & Corruption's birthday!

That's about it for always, if you know of something, let me know!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

April at the Phantom Cabaret!

It's a cold night for April, but we're gathered at the new nightspot in town, in the basement of an Italian restaurant on a side street. So far, so good; the drinks are cold, the crowd is lively, the service attentive, the decor is just tawdry enough without seeming overly cheap.

And then a hush falls over the crowd as the star attraction takes the small stage...

William Bolcom is a 20th century composer dear to my heart; he's also composed some jazz pieces like my beloved "Ghost Rags," and the opera "Casino Paradise" which include a knockout song, "Night, Make My Day" which is criminally unknown. These songs are from two cycles that he composed for his wife, Joan Morris, and that have become a part of the vocal repertoire. I sing them in the shower and hope to sing them onstage someday.

Anyway, it's a cold night outside, but it's warm inside...let's enjoy some more music and laughs. Hey, that guy over there is checking you out...