As Candice and I were walking back from today’s July 4th parade in Takoma Park, we overheard two women—both wearing an “I Care Do U” sticker—talking about the diversity seen in this progressive enclave from the participants of this most all-American of holidays.

There’s your medical marijuana advocates, Christian evangelicals, 9/11 truthers, Republican and Democratic candidates for county executive, the First Panamanian Marching Band of Maryland, Doggie Washerette, the MAGA (Mobsters are Governing America) PAC, all the public works vehicles (love the lawn mower guy spinning around in circles), Boy and Girl Scouts, the Intergalactic Female Motorcycle Federation, the Silver Spring Yacht Club, and the Takoma Park Lesbians and Gays all mixed together.

And don’t forget about the Reel Mower Precision Drill Team.

Keep It Reel

The Takoma Park Reel Mower Precision Drill Team “Keeping It Reel”

There’s a lot of chatter in the right wing entertainment universe these days about political correctness shutting down free speech.  But today’s experience in Takoma Park shows that this narrative about the progressives not hearing from different voices isn’t necessarily true.  Everyone had their say, everyone was treated with respect (if some were treated a bit more enthusiastically than others), and it all happened in a celebratory, civil, and often humorous way.

MAGA meets Takoma Park

MAGA meets Takoma Park

I was thinking about this as I read Dana Milbank’s column in today’s Washington Post about the battle for freedom. Milbank notes that “Every 75 years or so in our history, Americans have renewed their commitment to freedom.” The first time was our Civil War.  That was followed some 75 years later by our emergence from the Great Depression and the entrance into WWII.  Now, we are just past 75 years from that fight, and Milbank notes that much of the country now fears the loss of basic freedoms as Americans.  In a call for us to rededicate ourselves to freedom, he includes:

“Freedom from…constant attacks on women, immigrants, people of color, gay people and Muslims.

Freedom to work and live without discrimination, harassment and violence because of your gender, race or religion.

Freedom to get medical care when you or your children are sick.

Freedom to earn a living wage, to attend college or get job training, and to retire in security.

Freedom from a rigged economy in which the top 1 percent own more than the bottom 90 percent combined.

Freedom to marry whom you choose.

Freedom to make decisions about your own body.

Freedom to send your kids to school without fear for their safety.

Freedom to breathe clean air, to drink clean water, to live on a habitable planet.

Freedom to elect your leaders without the rich, or foreign governments, choosing them for you.

And freedom to speak, to protest and to publish without the threat of violence.”

We’ve never been the country we—or our founders—imagined us to be.  But we can be dedicated to freedom and continue to push toward the type of country we hope to be.

Only in Takoma Park

Celebrating – and fighting for – freedom in Takoma Park

Happy July 4th.

More to come…



How College Students Can Lead to a Wonderful Holiday Weekend

Baseball Prospectus at Politics and ProseWhen a colleague asked about our plans for the upcoming holiday weekend, I told her that Andrew and Claire each had friends from college who were in town and would be staying with us.  I assumed our role was “To stay out of the way.”

Thankfully, I was wrong.  Jason, Jordi, Jackie, Kelsey, Claire, and Andrew were delightful guests and hosts, sharing some of their time with us and also giving Candice and me the space to enjoy our weekend with each other.

We began with our “traditional” July 4th celebrations – and all the twins’ friends joined us (rather enthusiastically, I think).  While the Takoma Park July 4th parade didn’t have quite the pizzazz of a presidential year (I miss the “Mutts for Mitt” floats with dog puppets on top of cars and there wasn’t anything to reach the level of last year’s “precision grill team”), we still had a great time laughing at the floats and enjoying the world music you always hear at our little slice of Haight-Ashbury here in DC.  Afterwards, it was off to our neighborhood pool for the July 4th cookout.  It was my first time at the pool this year, but not the last time for the weekend.  We enjoyed catching up with old friends while the kids all hit the water on a very hot and sunny day.

Claire's July 4th in 2013Afterwards, Claire, Andrew, and their friends all took off to watch the fireworks on the mall with other friends from college – Andrew from the waterfront in Georgetown, and Claire from a roof at George Washington University (see photo of her great vantage point). After dropping them off, Candice and I found one of the few restaurants open on July 4th (a Mexican restaurant) and ate dinner…which we immediately wished we had skipped.  The resulting heartburn put us both on the couch for the evening to watch the fireworks at home.

By Friday we’d recovered and generally had a leisurely day of rest, exercise at the gym, and an early dinner with Jordi and Andrew.  Candice had noted that the Bethesda Big Train – one of our local wooden bat league teams – had a home game that night, and we made the decision to head out for a night of small-town baseball.  As I’ve written before, we love the feel of these league games, so we joined a sell-out crowd of 700+ at Shirley Povich Field for a terrific night of baseball and a tight, 3-2 Big Train win over the Rockville Express.  Both teams wiggled out of bases-loaded jams with less than two outs on a night where pitching and defense were a priority.  As we walked back to the car, I opined that this was the best baseball I had seen all season.  (The Nats are still hovering around .500, although they are just starting to get healthy.)

Saturday morning began bright and early, as Andrew had a singing “gig” at Franklin Knolls.  The team rep had asked if he would sing the National Anthem before the swim meet where the graduating seniors would be recognized.  The four of us went (we let our guests sleep in) and we all had a great time catching up with more old friends from swim team days past.  We even set a dinner date for later in the summer with a family we enjoy but don’t get to see that often.

Then last evening was the icing on the cake of a very rich weekend.  Candice had noticed that the stat geeks from Baseball Prospectus were going to be speaking at Politics and Prose on Saturday.  We went early, I had a seat near the front, and I wallowed in 90 minutes of OPS, “bat missing” pitching prospects, and “five tool” players.  As you can see from the picture at the top, these guys aren’t pretty, but they are smart (and Candice would add “opinionated”). As one P&P regular put it, these guys are the Nate Silver of baseball.  And since Silver started as a stat geek in the sports world, the analogy is apt.  Important points from the BP guys:  they haven’t given up on the Nats this year, they don’t think Harp is as good as Mike Trout (and they think that the O’s Manny Machado, who turned 21 yesterday, will soon be added to that list of phenoms), and most of them are picking the Cardinals and Tigers for the World Series.  Candice and I came home and brought out the steamed crabs we’d picked up late in the afternoon for a good old-fashioned Maryland crab feast with Jason and Claire, followed by a trip to Dolci Gelati in Takoma Park to cleanse our palettes.

Today will be for relaxing, catching up, our 5:30 service at St. Albans, and then dinner with Jordi, Andrew, and Claire.  But I was reminded once again of how much I enjoy being with our children when – after dropping Jason off for the bus ride back to NYC – Claire and I enjoyed a Starbucks and the ride home talking about life.  When the subject dipped into the environment, Claire spoke passionately about why corn-fed cattle made no sense from an environmental, animal rights, or health care perspective and she went into all the reasons to feed cows grass – which they can actually digest without the use of chemicals!  I was reminded of the “Grass is Good” sign at our friend Julie’s wonderful Evensong Farm which – when placed next to the bluegrass band featuring Julie’s dad Tom Gray and the late Mike Auldridge, had a terrific double meaning.

Off to a busy four days this week before Candice and I leave on Friday for three days of “Good Grass” at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival near Staunton.

Happy Independence Day holiday everyone!

More to come…


Bluegrass in the Barn 101010 019

A Takoma Park July 4th Celebration

Yes, that’s a “precision drill team” made up of environmentally friendly reel mowers you see in the picture.  (See my update at the end of the post)

Welcome to the Takoma Park July 4th Parade.

Folks who live in the Washington area have a wide range of Independence Day festivities to choose from.  You can have your fireworks on the National Mall, as far as I’m concerned.  My favorite thing is to hop on the Metro, take a short ride to the next station, and then head into downtown Takoma Park, MD, for the annual 4th of July parade.  We’ve done it for years, and it takes some major event to pull us away from this family tradition.

Takoma Park is known – to put it mildly – for its political activism and progressive outlook.  For instance, it is the only “nuclear free zone” in the DC metropolitan area.  Takoma Park also has a well-deserved reputation as  being a bit quirky.  Many of our friends from the pool and the twins’ schools live in the city, so we’re always looking to visit and support them.

Today Candice and I took up our traditional spot along a shady sidewalk on Maple Street to watch this year’s version of the parade.  The teenagers doing jump rope tricks were a hit with young and old alike.  The parade always features a couple of steel drum outfits, with their groupies jiving and dancing alongside the floats from where this wonderful Caribbean-influenced music pours forth.

This year brought some rich political activism, from “Declare Your Independence from Big Money in Politics” to a clever campaign to get the local school board to listen to the Young Activists at Piney Branch elementary school who have raised over $10,000 to buy and operate a dishwasher as part of a no styrofoam project.  Children and parents passed out the styrofoam trays, which are now used once per child every day in the schools across Montgomery County and then sent to be incinerated.  Slogans calling for the board of education to listen to the children, save money and “Speed up the Piney Branch Pilot Project” were written on the trays.  We all let the board of education members know where we stood on environmental and fiscal waste as they came by in their cars.

It wouldn’t be Takoma Park without a bit of political theater.  This year the “Ru Paul Tea Party” candidate for state senate brought out laughter and commentary alike.  I’m not sure which Tea Party sign was the most humorous, the call for drilling local Sligo Creek, paving over the Chesapeake Bay, or the sign that called the float “Sarah Palin approved” and then added “The Founding Fathers were geniuses – They wouldn’t let ME vote!”

Luckily we haven’t lost our right of free speech (which we were reminded of by handouts of the Bill of Rights by the local VFW post).  Enjoy the rest of the photos, and Happy 4th of July!

And, of course, there’s always the final clean-up.

More to come…


Update: A Washington Post photo essay today noted that The Scottish Reels (the name of the drill team at the top of the post) won first prize in the parade’s Wacky Tacky Takoma Award.

Happy July 4th

July 4th on the Mall 2009We’re at the end of a busy July 4th celebration here in the Brown household.  The picture at left is a photo Andrew took this evening of the fireworks on the National Mall as viewed from the grounds of the National Cathedral (with a bit of a time lapse).

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Andrew and Claire returned from a pilgrimage to Northern Ireland  on Friday (pictures to come in the days ahead) which meant we jumped right in to the July 4th celebration.  They had a swim meet this morning, so Andrew and Claire left with Candice bright and early while I began to put the house together following a week’s worth of painting.

One of the down sides of July 4th falling on a Saturday July 4th Parade 2008is that we have a swim meet and miss the annual 4th of July parade in Takoma Park.  We’ve been going for years, and love the quirky, small town sensibilities the parade provides in this unique community full of eclectic historic houses.  So I’ll post a photo to remind us of the great time we’ve had in the past – with the promise for more in the future.  If you live around Washington, consider adding the Takoma Park parade to your future July 4th plans.  Bring a lawn chair and your sense of humor.

Our neighborhood pool has a traditional 4th of July cookout and pot luck which we enjoy.  We ran into a friend we met at last year’s July 4th pool party, and spent the time catching up on our various lives.  It wasn’t long before we realized we’d spent two hours just relaxing, eating, and enjoying the company of our pool family.

Which brings us to tonight.  Picnics in tow, we met up with friends on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral.  Hanging with the mass of humanity on the mall doesn’t interest me, but it was very civilized to join a few hundred people to get a view of the fireworks from the Washington National Cathedral.

To top it off, on the July 4th weekend the Nationals finally get a win AND National Public Radio has a great interview on Friday with the owner of the Chatham Anglers (used to be Athletics) in the Cape Cod Wooden Bat League.   Regular readers know of my love of Wooden Bat baseball, so I recommend the interview.

Ready to call it a day.  Happy Birthday USA!

More to come…