Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 05/19/10

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    First, bikes. It’s Bike to Work Day this Friday, so saddle up. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Commuter Connections want to have as many people as possible biking to and from work.

    Unfortunately, our job and schedule won’t allow us to participate that morning.

    But this past weekend, we did take a couple of two-wheel rides around downtown, parts of Southwest, Capitol Hill and the National Mall. It's a cool way to rediscover what we buzz past every day in our vehicles. The Capitol Hill town houses are more distinctive -- you can see the actual bricks -- when they’re not just a passing blur.

    The sweep of Massachusetts Avenue -- and Independence and Constitution -- comes alive with rich textures of sights and sounds. Along U Street NW, the vibrancy is electric on Sunday afternoon. The National Mall is a long, dusty walk, but a whole different experience on a bike.

    And, of course, on too many streets, the rippled asphalt is way too bumpy; patches of crumbling concrete are far too hazardous; and unyielding motorists are even more of a threat when you realize you’re outweighed by 2,000 pounds or more.

    It was our first sustained bicycle outing in maybe 10 years.

    We picked out our new bike at Capitol Hill Bikes on Eighth Street. It came fully equipped with safety lights, locks and a water-bottle holder. We skipped the padded bicycle shorts, a decision we started to rue a bit later.

    Sales clerk Justin helped select a bike that met our needs for casual riding. We’re not going to be racing with the mayor, we told him: “I want an old man’s bike. If I have to go up a hill, it means I’ve made a wrong turn.”

    On Sunday, the new bike zipped us from Southwest near Arena Stage to Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. The sun was out. The crowd was thick, and we don’t remember ever having seen so many bicycles before. It must be like baby carriages: Unless you’re pushing one, you don’t realize how many there are.

    Around noon we rolled through Capitol Hill. The police sentries on every corner kept watch, eyeing the backpack (filled with gym clothes) on our side. Massachusetts Avenue has become filled with big-box buildings of rental and condo apartments, different but too much alike.

    There was a stop for lunch at Busboys and Poets, the rather-new one at Fifth and K streets NW. It was the first chance we had to lock up our bike. We were nervous the whole time, sitting at the bar and taking peeks outside between bites of the eggs Benedict and sips of bloody mary.

    Mayor Adrian Fenty and transportation director Gabe Klein are remaking city streets to be far friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists. Does that mean they’re anti-auto?

    Some motorists who see heavily traveled traffic lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue becoming bike lanes may think so. But Klein says the urban area has to strike a balance for livability. And bikes are part of the future.

    We’re glad we’ve purchased ours.

    But if you’re ever sitting in a bar or on a bench somewhere and want to start a lively conversation, we know how. Just ask which is worse, the bicyclists who break every traffic rule and the police who let them do it, or the vehicles that block biking lanes and don’t yield to cyclists or give them room to maneuver.

    You’ll settle the Middle East conflict before reaching agreement on that debate.

    • The Bard-a-thon returns.

    The Theatre Lab downtown is bringing back its tribute to Shakespeare as part of a fundraising event Friday night. But this is no highbrow performance.

    For starters, the famous balcony scene of “Romeo and Juliet” will be performed by yours truly and former D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz. It could be a low point for culture, but funny for anyone who can sit through it.

    News 4’s Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler will tackle a bit of “Hamlet."

    It’s all good fun for The Theatre Lab, which in addition to training professional and amateur actors does all sorts of good works with young people, older citizens and other groups, including incarcerated criminals. Acting out is a good way for many people to better understand who they are and from where they come.

    Deb Gottesman, one of the Lab founders, notes that The Theatre Lab was picked by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities as one of the 50 “top programs in the country serving youth outside school hours.”

    Find out more at theatrelab.org.

    • Filling a big hole.

    Everyone misses “The Awakening,” that super-cool statue that once graced the tip of Hains Point. The giant figure, which stretched only partially out of the ground, was a favorite for old and young alike.

    But a couple years ago, the privately owned artwork was sold to developer Bill Peterson, who moved it to his National Harbor development in Prince George’s County.

    We were talking with Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans the other day about the void left on Hains Point. Evans had tried to use city money to buy back "The Awakening" for twice what Peterson paid for it. No deal.

    So why not move the U.S. Air Force Memorial -- with its dramatic jet plume -- from its cluttered site in northern Virginia to Hains Point? It would be a destination worthy of the Air Force. All the planes taking off and landing at Reagan National would provide superior sightings of the memorial. The presidential helicopters would fly over it almost every day. And it would be more accessible to groups that visit and want to hold ceremonies.

    Something to think seriously about, Evans mused.