It’s Labor Day Weekend — Celebrate!

It’s almost here — the last hurrah of summer. Last dip in the pool, last ice cream dripping down the cone, last beer outside in a plastic Solo cup, last time to sleep in on a Tuesday. Back to pencils and books and meetings and fading tan lines.

Make sure your summer ends with a bang — plan to go to one of the fun Labor Day events listed below.

Labor Day Weekend Music Festival — Hear local bands and musicians play at this two-night fest for free; 7 – 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1, Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW.

National Symphony Orchestra Labor Day Concert — Singers Mykal Kilgore and Nova Payton will sing popular R&B songs, 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol; free.

Greenbelt Labor Day Festival — Enjoy carnival games, funnel cake, live music and more at this annual family-friendly fest, 6-11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30; 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31; noon-10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2; free admission.

Caribbean Boat Party — Hop aboard and enjoy food, drinks and dancing to a Caribbean beat, 9:15-11:15 p.m., Boomerang Yacht, 2nd level, Georgetown waterfront in front of Nick’s Riverside Grill; tickets, $35, food and drink extra.

Last Party of the Summer — Dig into your closet for some fringe, capes or bell bottoms and head over to see this Earth, Wind and Fire tribute band, 8:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, Gypsy Sally’s, 3401 K Street Northwest, Water St. NW.

Nats vs. Marlins, Mets — The Nats are playing at home every day tomorrow through Wednesday, Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol Street SE; tickets, $14-$415.

Reggae vs. Soca Fest — Dance the night away — or the whole weekend. Fest runs from 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31-4 a.m. Monday, Sept. 2, Karma DC, 2221 Adams Place NE; tickets, $20.

National Book Festival — More than 100 authors will speak, hold discussions and sign copies of their books, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Pl NW, Washington

Turn a Page, Hit the National Book Festival Sunday

Stoke your literary fires this Sunday, Aug. 31, at the annual National Book Festival, where more than 100 authors will convene to give presentations and sign books.

Big names include: 

  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will discuss her book, “My Own Words.” 
  • Local celebrity chef and do-gooder Jose Andres, will talk about and sign copies of his most recent book, “Vegetables Unleashed,” and “We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time,” his book about feeding the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
  • OG Joyce Carol Oates, author of 70-plus books, will be signing copies of her latest labor of love, “My Life as a Rat.”
  • Jon Scieszka, renowned author of dozens of children’s books, including the blockbuster, “The Stinky Cheese Man,” will sign copies of his latest novel, “AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet,” along with illustrator (and son-in-law!) Steven Weinberg.
  • David Brooks, New York Times op-ed writer and frequent guest on civil TV news shows where people are only allowed to talk one at a time, will talk about his latest book, “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.”
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr., author, professor, filmmaker, journalist and more, will discuss and sign copies of his latest book, “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow.”

Seats for each presentation are not reserved, so get there early to get a better chance to see your favorite author speak.

The festival will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt Vernon Pl NW, Washington.

 

End-of-Summer Events in Clarendon

Summer is winding down. Pools are closing. Schools are opening. Don’t miss your last chance to attend a fun event for kids, grownups or dogs at Market Commons, 2800 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington.

Tomorrow, Aug. 23, Pam the Kindersinger will entertain children with an interactive show from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. including dancing, singing and puppetry. Next Friday, Aug. 30, the hugely popular children’s band Rocknoceros will perform. All concerts are held on The Loop.

If it’s your child’s birthday, they can get a free ice cream cone from Nicecream!

On Wednesday, bring your pooch to the final Dog Swim Paw-ty of the season from 4 to 6 p.m. Free scoops of Nicecream for dogs while they last!

Rock the Loop, a final end-of-summer celebration featuring music, beer and wine will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1. Rockville Strings will play from 5 to 7 p.m., and Driven to Clarity, a Baltimore rock and pop band, will play from 7 to 9 p.m.

Proceeds from the sale of alcohol go toward Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, a shelter facilitating private pet adoptions throughout the DMV.

 

 

Celebrate Summer at Food Truck Fest

They call it Truckeroo, but it isn’t so much about the trucks as the food that’s in them. It’s once a month, and Friday, Aug. 23, is your second-to-last chance to indulge this year.

Held at the Bullpen outside of Nats Park in Navy Yard, Truckeroo draws participating food trucks from throughout the DMV, so it’s your chance to sample a variety of cuisines, all in one spot.

These monthly events, which include live music and games, have been an effective way to lure hundreds to the area when the Nats are out of town; this weekend our Boys of Summer are playing the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The event is in its ninth year, and the last Truckeroo of this season is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 20.

Try Korean BBQ Taco Box, Lombardo’s Detroit Style Pizza, Red Hook Lobster Pound, District Jerk, Mexicano Square or food from one of the 10 other food trucks that will be on hand.

 

 

Can I Get a Side of Culture with That?

You wouldn’t think you’d need an Around the World Cultural Food Festival in the DMV, because every day we spend here is a kind of cultural festival. But this event is a great opportunity to cram a lot of culture in quickly, without having to walk far.

In its fourth year, the festival is showcasing more than 26 countries. Attendees can sample food and beverages, shop for crafts, watch performers and even get their face or hands painted.

Sample foods from Colombia, Greece, Guam, India, Brazil, Jamaica, Lebanon, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, Yemen, Turkey, Italy, Morocco, Japan, Australia, Venezuela, China, France and the U.S.

The food at this festival is authentic an affordable — think Pop-Up Patisserie, not Le Diplomate. It’s free to attend the event, and food and beverages will be available for purchase. VIP tickets, which include a chair in the shade and a special, shorter food line for each vendor, are sold out.

Artisans and crafters will also be on hand, including South African Bazaar Craft Cooperative, Happy Henna Guy and Milena Guro jewelry.

We live in one of the most diverse cities in America. Food and culture from all over the world is just a few Metro stops away.


Cultural Food Festival, 11 a.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, Freedom Plaza, Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th & 14th Sts. NW; free

 

Try the Area’s Best During Restaurant Week

We’re in the thick of Summer Restaurant Week, but it’s not too late for you to plan to hit one of the 250 participating spots throughout the DMV.

For the bargain-basement price of $22, you can get a delicious breakfast or lunch, and $35 gets you a three-course dinner. This is an amazing opportunity to try out some of those places you couldn’t otherwise afford — and no, Minibar and Pineapple and Pearls are not on the list.

Instead, try the proven 1789, Capital Grille, Rare Steakhouse or Fogo de Chao for a five-star experience. If you want to fill up for your $35, maybe try Matchbox, Not Your Average Joe’s or Rosa Mexicana.

Some places we have visited and recommend include City Winery, Fig & Olive and Doi Moi.

The Restaurant Week website allows you to search by neighborhood, city, name or type of meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner), so you’ll have no trouble finding exactly what you’re looking for.

Summer Restaurant Week runs through Sunday, Aug. 18. Eat up!

Eat Your Veggies at the DC Veg Fest Sunday

While the number of vegetarians in the U.S. has remained fairly constant in the last 20 years, according to the Washington Post, their visibility and their acceptance may have grown.

It’s likely easier to live as a vegetarian or vegan in a big city where you have more food options. As a New York Times reporter wrote, her relocation to Kansas City, Missouri, where whatever isn’t meat is fried in lard, a vegetarian may be reduced to having a Budweiser for dinner in local restaurants.

Luckily you live here in the DMV, where vegetarian restaurants — and vegetarian options in restaurants that serve meat — abound.

This weekend, thousands of plant lovers will gather at Nats Stadium to celebrate their lifestyle at the DC Veg Fest. The event is hosted by the local nonprofit Compassion Over Killing, which advocates for animals. Vegetarians, vegans and even meat-eaters are welcome.

Come listen to speakers talk about food justice, empathy for animals, veganism and health, and more. You can also attend cooking demos, one featuring Italian cuisine.

Kids’ activities include games, arts and crafts, story time and entertainers, including a musician and a cartoonist.

Tasting booths will offer jerk barbecue chickpeas, nacho mac & cheese and ginger miso noodle salad. All food at the festival is vegan — even the dog treats — and some is gluten-free.

Reserve a tote bag or get there early to get one of the available 1,000, packed with free samples and offers.


DC Veg Fest. — 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 11, Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol St SE Washington; rain or shine; free.

County Fairs: Food, Fun and Farm Animals

Funnel cake. Ferris wheels. Tractor pulls. Farm animals. Blue ribbons on cherry pies. It’s the county fair, and chances are, there’s one near you.

County Fairs were invented hundreds of years ago as a way to share new ideas and farming methods. Because this is America, people quickly decided it would be fun to turn it into a competition. Thus, the farming ways of life were divided into categories suitable for judging, including cooking; sewing; arts and crafts; raising animals; growing fruits, vegetables and grains; and making honey, beer and cheese.

Today, fair organizers fuse time-honored traditional farming practices with newfangled aspects of pop culture, such as selfie contests and Twitter and Instagram scavenger hunts.

Residents of small, rural towns have long looked forward to the fair as their opportunity to not just enjoy the company of their far-flung neighbors in a festive and fun atmosphere, but to indulge in traditional fair foods, ride the amusement rides and be entertained by magicians and ventriloquists.

While the modern DMV offers limitless opportunities for fun, the area’s county fairs still draw thousands who come to eat the kettle corn and deep-fried Twinkies, see the 600-pound squash and monster trucks, and line up to ride the spinning swings or get the ping-pong ball in the fishbowl to win a prize.

It’s a throwback to a simpler time when days were spent caring for cows, horses, pigs, sheep and chickens; peeling apples and slicing them into pies; and working on the rings quilt that will be your granddaughter’s wedding gift. No cell phones. No Netflix. No Honda Civics.

Could we live that way all the time? And if we could, would we even want to? Maybe not. But it’s fun to pretend for a few days, every August and September.

  • Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, 501 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, MD; Aug. 9-17; Tickets: adults, $12 online, $15 at the gate, children 11 and under free.
  • Arlington County Fair, Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 Second Street South, Arlington, VA; Aug. 14-18; admission is free, buy tickets for amusement rides for $1 each or 24 for $20.
  • Maryland State Fair, Timonium Fairgrounds, 2200 York Rd, Lutherville-Timonium, MD; Aug. 2-Sept. 2; Tickets: $10 for ages 12-61, free for everyone else.
  • Prince George’s County Fair, 14900 Pennsylvania Ave., Upper Marlboro, MD; Sept. 5-8; Tickets: $6 for adults, $5 for those under 13 and over 55.

If you don’t mind driving a bit, Harford County, Ann Arundel County, Howard County, Kent County, St. Mary’s County, Frederick County and Carroll County, all in Maryland, and Fauquier County, Loudon County, Prince William County and Fairfax County, all in Virginia, are having fairs as well.

Don’t miss your opportunity to sample some cotton candy, pet a fluffy sheep and hop on the tilt-a-whirl.

 

Enjoy Beautiful Butterflies Without Even Going Outdoors

Most people think bugs are gross, and they try to avoid them. However, there are a few exceptions. Ladybugs. Dragonflies. Lightning bugs. Butterflies. Although not all of them are technically bugs, each has some quality that we, as humans, find appealing.

We like ladybugs  because they’re red and shiny. (I’ll admit I found them a little unattractive when I awoke one morning in my mother’s house years ago, after having left the window open because she liked to keep the house at a dry 86 degrees in winter, to find hundreds of them covering the bedroom walls.)

We like dragonflies because with their size and brightly colored wings, they’re like beautiful airplanes. Plus, they eat mosquitoes, which are not pretty or fun. For some reason, dragon flies have become a common design on baby and children’s clothes, as if they were cute and snuggly.

We like lightning bugs because they light up. Light is generally considered a positive thing, and to create it with your own backside is just too cool. Its magic has been captured and distributed throughout the toddler world in the Eric Carle classic, The Very Lonely Firefly.

Butterflies are beloved to many. With their beautiful colored wings and quiet grace, they inspire people to stop and watch them alight on a branch or blossom. Especially if you live in the city, this may be a rare sight.

But there’s a solution now, and it’s the Butterfly Pavilion at the Museum of Natural History. Here, the butterflies float and flutter silently among the plants, and if you’re still, one may land on you.

The exhibit houses scores of butterflies from the U.S., Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.

While you’re there, if you’re a huge insect fan, head up to the second floor to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo, where you can see caterpillars, grasshoppers, leaf bugs and more. Watch the tarantula feeding at 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

The insect zoo — more than 40 years old — is the oldest operating zoo of its kind in the U.S. If you bring the kids, let them climb through the 14-foot-high replica of a termite mound.

If you’re on the Maryland side of the DMV, you can also see butterflies at Brookside Gardens, 1500 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, MD. The Wings of Fancy exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through Aug. 31. Tickets are $8 for ages 13+ and $5 for ages 3-12. Kids under 3 get in free.

Tickets: Adults (13-59), $7.50; seniors (60+), $7; children (2 to 12), $6.50; Free for everyone on Tuesdays, tickets still required due to timed entries.

 

Baltimore: The Antidote to D.C.

It was another slow August, and my girlfriend and I wanted to get out of D.C. She’d taken a week off work to visit her family in the Midwest, but decided at the last minute that she didn’t want to spend her paid vacation hiding in her childhood bedroom from her Republican parents, who wanted to have a serious talk about this business of living with a man she wasn’t married to. I hadn’t taken time off, but I didn’t need to, since I didn’t have a job to take time off from. We decided to visit friends in Baltimore.

We took the train to Baltimore and then a taxi to the house where Lana’s childhood friend Aidra was staying. It was a three-story townhouse in a moneyed neighborhood right on the water. The house was owned by Aidra’s aunt, who was traveling around the world that summer, and Aidra said we were free to crash in any of the bedrooms. Aidra seemed a little twitchy, but I figured it was because she’d spent the summer alone in the big empty house.

I dropped my bags off and went to meet my friend Jon, while my girlfriend stayed behind to catch up with her friend. Jon was a student at MICA, the art school, and he lived in a huge warehouse with several other art students. The place was so big that they each had their own prefab shed or gazebo they’d bought at Home Depot, all of them arranged in a rough circle, so it was like a huge indoor Smurf village, only instead of Smurfs it was populated with dudes wearing paint-splattered boots and girls who didn’t shave their armpits.

Low-Rent Districts

It looked like a utopia to me. “How much is your rent?” I asked Jon.

He shrugged. “Two hundred a month, but a lot of months we don’t pay. The landlord doesn’t keep track.”

“Really?”

“Someone was killed right outside last week,” he said. “Right on the corner there. I guess he figures no one else would rent the place anyway, so why bother?”

No one had been killed anywhere near my house in D.C., not for a long while, even though I lived just a block from what was supposedly the deadliest intersection in the city, 6th and O. This was before gentrification really picked up, but it was clear the neighborhood wasn’t bad anymore, and our rent had started to reflect that.

The only crime I’d seen was when someone robbed the corner store across the street while I waited in line to buy a 40 ounce with my unemployment check money. He’d flashed a gun, but asked for the money politely, with a smile, and left without even squeezing off any warning shots, which at least would’ve held off that year’s rent increase.

We drove in Jon’s truck to a bar that had dollar beers. Halfway there, he paused at an intersection and pointed down a long, deserted street. Rusted out kitchen appliances were piled across the street to form an impassable barricade.

“No one even cares,” Jon said. “It’s been like that for months.”

Home Sweet Home

Baltimore seemed like the opposite of D.C., like heaven on earth. Dilapidated warehouse villages, Mad Max-style anarchy, murders and municipal indifference to keep rents down. D.C. just seemed so D.C., populated by earnest nonprofit employees and interns in their early 20s who dressed like they were in their early 40s. Rents were steadily climbing, and I knew it was going to get a lot worse, though I had no idea how bad it would eventually get. As we drove, I felt the uneasiness of someone realizing they’d made the wrong decision.

At the bar, I felt self-conscious about being the only one without paint splatters on my clothes. I made a decision then and there; I was going to move to Baltimore. If Lana wasn’t on board, we’d have to break up.

Upon returning to Aidra’s house, we found police cars parked along the street, their lights flashing. Lana was sitting on the front steps of the house, one arm bandaged, as a group of cops tried to calm a raging, purple-faced woman who I suddenly realized was Aidra.

“What happened?” I asked Lana.

“I don’t know. Aidra went off her meds last week, and just came at me.” Lana pointed up at the third floor. “She tried to push me out that window while screaming gibberish. She had me halfway out before I was able to fight her off. The glass cut my arm all up.”

“What should we do? Call her aunt?”

“We’re going home,” Lana said.

A Sinking Feeling

She went into the house as Aidra screamed at her from behind her cordon of police about the hidden microphones and cameras Lana had installed in her house. I stood there thinking that if Lana hadn’t gotten hurt, maybe I’d have gone through with my plan and told her I was staying in Baltimore, but now I felt bad, although that was only part of it.

I also remembered now that my name was on the lease for our apartment, and that I couldn’t just walk away from it. It seemed like an extremely D.C. thing to think, and I realized that even though I’d made the wrong choice, it was maybe too late for a do-over.

Baltimore was twice as cool, at half the price, and was trending in the right direction, or at least not trending in the wrong one. D.C. was all about property values, career advancement and young, white-collar couples pushing Cadillac-style strollers, sipping expensive coffee from cardboard cups. When I told people in D.C. I was on unemployment, they moved away from me like they thought poverty might be contagious.

When Lana came out with our bags, Jon drove us to the train station, and we returned to our life in D.C. — orderly, upwardly mobile, and certain, and at the same time, stifling, sanitized, oppressive, a vaguely Stepfordian dystopia. Every time a neighbor bugged us about our grass being an inch too long, I thought wistfully back to the Baltimore of unpredictability and furor and rusty appliance barricades. A few months later, Lana and I broke up. She immediately moved to Baltimore.