Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Welcome to Write On with Dave Price

Hey there.

I'm Dave Price and I'd like to welcome you to my blog page on which I post about what we do, see, and hear in Washington D.C., which is only 3 Metro stops from our Crystal City apartment complex, as well as some entries about other places we visit in our ongoing retirement from the 9-to-5 working world.

This freelance blog writing project is part of my writing/speaking/tour guiding practice I operate DC, which is actually my 5th career, if you define career by the main way you pay your bills. You can visit my formal writing compendium Wordpress page by clicking here.

At the keyboard ...
In high school and during my years at Villanova University, I made money playing keyboards with a few different bands in the South Jersey shore-Philly-Delaware area.

However, in 1973, when I married the former Judy Lynn Snyder and our only son Michael Keith Price was born, it quickly became apparent that making $50 a night playing in a bar and running up a $25 bar tab at the same time wasn't going to support a family.

Fortunately, I found an $80-a-week job as a reporter on my hometown newspaper.

... in the newsroom ...
After a 10-year career in journalism that I loved, I realized that if I wanted to be home to help my son grow through his teenage years, I would need to switch careers. I had already taught news reporting for 5 years in college, an adjunct position which helped me secure an English teaching job at the high school I had attended.

I taught there for 20 years and completed my New Jersey education career by serving as a language arts coach and program designer for the Talent Development program out of Johns Hopkins University for five years.

In 2011, my wife and I retired and moved to our apartment complex. I didn't plan to work again, but friends convinced me to spend 4 years as a national DC-based educational consultant assisting at-risk students and overworked teachers in troubled urban schools.

After spending 14 months in Atlanta, where our son, Michael, our daughter-in-law Shannon, and our our two grandchildren Audrey and Owen, I decided to end my education career and start a new DC opportunity.

... lecturing in DC and getting
older by the day
Now while some freelancers undertake all kinds of writing (and I would too if the conditions and the cash were right), I decided to focus on 4 subjects I know fairly well:
  • the Baby Boomer generation
  • classic rock 
  • issues on aging, especially as they affect men and
  • dissent, protest, and free speech 
Take your time and look around this page. You'll find out a lot more about who I am, what I'm writing about, how I write, and why I'm writing.

I do have one final request. My wife Judy, who edits all my work, contends that I'm self-centered, insensitive, juvenile, careless, and verbose in both my talking and my writing. If you encounter her, even if you agree, please don't tell her that. She doesn't need any more validation for her views.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Motown Hits Make It a Soul-filled Night at the Millennium Stage

Jimmy Smooth, who has been performing for more than 60 years was one of the vocalists last night at the DC Legendary Musicians special Motown concert.
Opening and closing remarks were offered by DCLM leader Sarah Butler Truesdale.
Here are just a few of some of the legendary musicians who have called Washington, DC home.

Last night we attended a special 90-minute special Motown concert at the Kennedy Center featuring a half-dozen vocalists from the DC Legendary Musicians, with musical background provided by the immensely talented DC Legendary Musicians orchestra.

The performance included familiar hits songs by Motown artists the Temptations, the Supremes, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Michael Jackson, and DC's own native son Marvin Gaye.

The concert was part of the daily Millennium Stage Concert Series, but it was held in the Kennedy Center's main Concert Hall. The Millennium Stage offers a free concert 365 days a year at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Guiding Memories from 3 Years of Newseum Tours

The group that started it all. This is my first public tour group at the Newseum.
Me with my last private tour -- as group of students from Singapore
With the permanent closing of the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few days away, it's obviously a time to reflect on my three years leading First Amendment tours there. Here are 5 of the more memorable from the hundreds I conducted there.

From Russia with Love?
As soon as I approached the information desk, I sensed something was different. The information officer told me that someone had purchased all 20 tickets available for the 10 a.m walk-in tour, but there would be just two people going on the 7-floor trek, making it in essence a closed private event. I had never encountered that before and neither had the information officer. He pointed me to the two people, and, even though this wasn't scheduled to be my tour, I approached them to welcome them to the Newseum.

I introduced myself and the younger woman, in a heavy, yet understandable foreign accent replied" "I am Olga. I am with the Russian embassy."

Then I turned to the distinguished looking gentlemen next to her and asked "Are you from the Russian embassy, too?"

He gave me a disdainful look, as if I should already know that answer, "I am Anatoly Andropov. I am new Russian ambassador to United States".

Alarm bells, just like those that used to ring on the old UPI ticker tape machines when I was a journalist, began ringing in my head ... Big News ... Scoop. My encounter with the new Russian ambassador, a close associate of Russian premier Vladimir Putin, was coming early in the days of Donald's Trump presidency. One of the hottest stories circulating at the time was that of the infamous "pee tape." According to reports, during a previous journey to Moscow, Trump had been secretly filmed in a Moscow hotel room watching Russian prostitutes pee on a bed once used by President Obama and his wife.

The journalist in me wanted to ask Anaprov three simple questions:
  1. Was there a "pee tape," had he seen it, and how many girls were involved?
  2. Did he have a copy of the tape?
  3. Could I see it?
Of course, the better angels of my nature were countering that I shouldn't ask those questions since I was now working as a tour guide, not as a writer. Just then, the guide who was scheduled for the tour showed up and I turned Anaprov and his aide over to her.

I rationalized my inaction this way. I didn't get the answers to my questions, but I did avoid what could have turned into a messy international incident. However, I still have so many questions about the alleged "pee tape".  So, if anyone reading this, has some definitive answers, I would really like it if you share them with me. Pictures would be great, too.

A Tip Not Taken
We sometimes began our tours in front of a large wall displaying the names of the major donors and patrons to the Newseum and this is where this tale is going to start.

I was chatting with a man, his wife, and his mother before beginning a private tour for the three of them. I immediately discovered this tour would be something different.

Pointing to a name on the board, the man turned to his mother and said," Look, Mom. There's Warren's boy Howard up there." Now by "Warren's boy," I knew he meant billionaire Warren Buffet, who apparently was a close family friend. In the next few seconds I learned that the three were in DC for, among other things, meeting up with one of Mom's best friends whom you might know too. She was the only woman in modern American history who was both the wife of one president and mother of another. That's right -- Mom's friend was Barbara Bush. I also learned the family had long been huge contributors to the Republican party, were from the Midwest and in the transportation business, and after leaving the Newseum, would be attending a lunch set up at his hotel by President Trump.

Now, as Newseum guides, we are not supposed to display our political leanings. For years, however, I have been wearing a peace watch displaying the 60s symbol for peace on its face.

The man, whom for purposes here we will refer to as Dwight, was keenly observant. He noticed my watch and then said with a huge grin, "I guess you are one of them".

"One of whom?" I asked, returning his grin.

"You know, those hippie lib-er-als," he answered.

From that point on, we both broke the no-political talk at the Newseum and engaged in one of the most engaging, most interesting tours I ever conducted. 

At the end of the tour, Dwight said," You know, for one of those hippie liberals, you're not too bad".

Returning the compliment, I said "Well, as old conservatives go, you're kind of OK, too"

He reached out his hand for a shake and, as I withdrew my own hand, I was astonished to discover that he had slipped two $100 bills into my palm. Now as Newseum guides we do not accept tips so,  as I handed the money back to him, I gave him a few suggestions for his offered money.

"There's a contribution jar up there at the desk. Or, you said you're going to be in DC for a few days, so if you run across someone homeless you could offer it to them or you could give your waiter today a really nice tip."

Looking at my watch, I noticed it was almost time for my group's lunch at the Trump hotel. "You need a cab, right? I'll go hail one for you," I said.

"You'd do that?" Dwight asked incredulously. 

Wanting to get one last good-natured political jibe in, I said, "Remember, I'm a liberal. That's what we liberals do".

I walked out onto the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk.  I put up my hand, Immediately, a cab stopped. Dwight looked somewhat amazed at the quick action. "Hey, what can I say, I'm a liberal," I said, shrugging my shoulders.

I opened the cab door for Dwight's wife and Mom to get in. Dwight reached out to shake my hand one last time and I again discovered he had slipped the two $100 bills back into my palm. With a laugh, I tossed the 2 bills into the cab and walked back inside the Newseum.

Now, I agree with the no-tip Newseum policy; it's the right thing to do. And I must admit carelessly tossing away $200 felt kind of good. But I also admit that over the years, I have found myself in quite a few situations where $200 extra dollars would have been really nice to have. Oh well, as they say, easy come, easy go.

Finding a Good Friend
Sarah Lerner gets to chat with CNN reporter Jim Acosta at the Newseum.
When I began guiding tours, I never really considered meeting someone whom I consider today to be one of my best friends still in education.

A few months after the gun deaths of 17 students and five teachers at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, I was assigned to be the tour guide for English, journalism, and yearbook teacher Sarah Lerner and 17-year-old yearbook photographer Rain Valladares, both of whom had been trapped inside the school during the tragic shooting.

Even though I wasn't scheduled to guide the pair until the next day, when I learned Sarah and Rain would be speaking the night before our Newseum tour as part of a Citizens Protest Movement and Congress Program at the National Archives, Judy and I attended that event. I introduced myself to the pair after the event. While we were chatting, their DC handler came up and asked if I could spend the entire day with them and make sure they got to National Airport for their flight back to Florida.

So, instead of the usual 90-minute Newseum tour, the three of us took four hours checking out all that was there and talking about the student-led anti-gun national protest movement that had sprung up within days of the fatal Florida event.

I then accompanied them to National Airport, where we talked for a couple hours more and I made sure they sampled Washington D.C. iconic half-smoke from the Ben's Chili Bowl branch there. Sarah and I promised to stay in touch on social media and over the ensuing months our friendship deepened.

Now, we get together whenever Sarah visits DC to speak or for a conference or rally. She fills me in on what's happening with Rain, who is now obtaining a university degree in Spain. And, through Sarah, I have met several other young students at her school who were present at the shooting and are now working to change America's gun culture. Those contracts with Sarah and her students have made me quite optimistic that realistic gun regulations will be coming to America soon.

If you want to be inspired by the resilience of youth or vicariously learn what it is like to experience a horrid act of almost incomprehensible violence first hand, pick up a copy of Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Majory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories, a book which Sarah edited.

An Enemy of the People? I Say Definitely Not
Soldeda O'Brien with Kevin and his family.
Over the years, a number of well-known TV journalists have broadcast from the Newseum. For example, George Stephanopoulos's popular Sunday morning show once emanated from a Newseum studio, as did the short-lived Al Jezeera America. However, in 2019, only CNN commentator Soledad O'Brien regular taped a show there. Few people saw Soledad at the Newseum, however, since her taping usually concluded long before the museum opened its doors.

However, on one particular Thursday I was conducting a tour for 30-year-old Kevin, his mother and father, and his older sister. It seems Kevin was something of a celebrity back in his home area of Denver, Colorado where he was a spokesperson for people with disabilities and had his own YouTube channel.

As I was heading to show them the green room for our largest studio, we ran into Soledad, who had been involved in a late taping that day. I explained Kevin's interest in journalism and his status as a news reporter and advocate in Denver. Soledad took it from there. For the next seven minutes or so, she talked to Kevin, every moment treating him as if he were an actual colleague.

Now Soledad didn't have to do that. But she did. So while Donald Trump might consider the CNN journalist an enemy of the people, I don't. I think the enemy is Trump. And, when it comes to Trump, I doubt he has ever given even 7 seconds, let alone 7 minutes of his time to make someone's life a little more special.

A Pulitzer Timed Out
A fake Judge Kavanaugh takes a stand.
For the 11 years of its operation, you knew exactly how to get to the Pennsylvania Avenue location of the Newseum. And once in the Newseum, it was easy to find the 1st-floor location of the Pulitzer Gallery, where every Pulitzer Prize winning photograph ever taken was displayed. But no one ever knows exactly where you will find news or a great photo.

One Thursday, I was just starting a five-person tour and I was explaining about the importance of the four protest rights -- freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition -- included in the First Amendment. As part of my explanation I mentioned those rights were being demonstrated as we spoke outside the Supreme Court, where for and against rallies were being staged for the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice.

All five of my group indicted they really would like to see that, and, since the Supreme Court is only a few blocks from the Newseum, I said let's head up there and I would finish the Newseum tour when we returned.

Arriving at the Supreme Court, I spotted something unusual on the far right-hand corner of the steps. I saw a man with a backpack and two paint cans heading up toward the court. He stopped, dropped his backpack, turned the cans around, and set them down. I saw that one of the cans sported a giant Budweiser beer label, the other one for Miller High Life. The man reached into his back pack and pulled out a Judge Kavanaugh mask that he had obviously made from a newspaper or magazine photo, and slipped in on. He then proceeded to unbuckle his pants and let them droop, which clearly exposed his red underwear. Finally, he picked up the beer cans and turned toward the crowds of protesters.

Now I might not be a great photographer, but my years as a journalist and a college professor of news reporting had taught me to recognize a cool picture when I saw one. I shot a couple of pictures and then posted the best one on my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. I even remember the exact time of the posting -- 11:17.

Gathering up my group, we all returned to the Newseum and I completed our tour. At the end of my shift, I returned to our Crystal City Apartment. Now since I had been working quite a bit on my writing, I had arranged for Judy and I to enjoy a relaxing dinner. And I had promised not to check my phone even once until we returned back home.

When we got back around 9 p.m., I checked my phone and discovered that ABC News had contacted me, wanting to run my "Kavanaugh shot". As I practiced my Pulitzer acceptance speech, I replied to ABC news via Twitter. Within a few second, I received a reply. "Dave, we wanted to use your picture but that news cycle has passed". There would be no Pulitzer for me. But the incident did leave me with a great story of just how fast the news cycles come and go in our 21st Century world of cable and internet news.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

And the Young Shall Lead

Today, Judy and I headed to the annual Grump's Christmas sale of local arts and crafts held in our 12-block underground here in Crystal City.

There were all kinds of artsy, cool Christmas gifts for sale and since we often describe our post 9-to-5 working days as "our whatever life", we had to purchase an ornament that read: "Ho-Ho Whatever".

Our newest ornament displayed on our bookcase.
Now ever since the election of Donald Trump three years ago, the DC area has seen dozens of young men and young women (mostly teenagers and pre-teens) walking around daily sporting Trump's Make America Great Again red baseball caps and hats. Obviously, Trump has his supporters.

One of my anti-Trump t-shirts
But I am definitely not one of them. I believe history will clearly demonstrate that Trump has been the worst president in America's ongoing experiment with democracy. To counterbalance all the red Trump caps, I have taken to wearing a series of anti-Trump t-shirts showing my disdain for the current temporary resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On Saturday, I was wearing one of my favorites - a t-shirt with a zombified face of Trump and the title American Horror Story displayed on the front.

As I walk around the DC area, I get interesting reactions to my collection, most of them positive.

I had already received a host of great shirt comments ... smiling nods ... or big thumbs up from artists and buyers at the Grump holiday sale when I was approached by a young man with a serious look on his face. His name was Sherwood. He was 7. And he wanted to make a sale to benefit the activist cause he was representing.

You're never too young to make a difference.
In his hand, Sherwood was holding a series of cards, all with unflattering images (would it be possible to take a flattering picture) of Trump on them and bearing the slogan "Shut him up now" (oh, that we could).

I asked my new fellow activist what he found undesirable about Trump.

"Oh, all the bad things he does," Sherwood said. "Like climate change".

Of course, I gave Sherwood money for his cause. But I told him he could keep my card and resell it, gaining in even more cash for the anti-Trump battle.

As I continued to talk, Sherwood's mother, father, and teenaged sister smiled approvingly. It was obvious that Sherwood was not the only presidential dissenter in his family. One of the family's biggest causes is the Organic Consumers Association, an advocacy that pushes for safe, healthful food, a just food and farming system, and an environment free of pollutants. Today, however, by his own choice, Sherwood was focusing on Trump.

Now as someone who began his political activism 50 years ago on the campus of Villanova University and the streets of Washington, DC., it makes me feel good to see young people today, many of them much younger than I was when I started, take up the call for social, political and legal change.

There has always been, and continues to be, right and wrong in the world. At age 7, Sherwood already realizes this and is ready to do his part. Now, if we can just get that acts-like-a-spolied-obnoxious-whiny-7-year-old in the White House to move out of the darkness and into the light, or at least out of the presidency, we will definitely be getting somewhere.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Christmas at the National Botanical Garden

There are many great annual events leading up to Christmas here in DC. One of our favorites is the holiday display at the National Botanical Garden. If you go, here is just some of what you can expect to see:

Monday, December 2, 2019

And So It Goes: The Life of Kurt Vonnegut

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do Dc

Like so many of his generation, award-winning biographer Charles Shields became fascinated with the writings of Kurt Vonnegut as a college student in 1969. He says Vonnegut's most known novel Slaughterhouse-Five "broke over our heads like a storm."

"It captured the bewilderment and confusion that so many of us felt as we were trying to make the 1st moral decisions of our lives," Shields told the crowd assembled tonight at the Politics and Prose bookstore to hear him discuss his latest work And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life

Searching for a subject after completing Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, Shields, a former English teacher, decided upon Vonnegut. After some initial reluctance, the author agreed.  "Kurt felt he was under appreciated," Shields said. "He was a little miffed that no biography had even been written about him."

On their first meeting, Shields said Vonnegut greeted him at the door of his New York residence and said, "'Hey. You want to come up and see my room.' It was like a thing one boy would say to another." Vonnegut and Shields then left to have dinner at the author's favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. Shields was ready with a few questions to break the ice, but Vonnegut immediately launched into a "litany of grievances" against his family. "Even after all those years, it was like he was an aggrieved adolescent seeking vindication," Shields said. "If the voice were higher, I would have thought I was talking to a 13-year-old."

After years of studying Vonnegut, Shields believes this adolescent anger, spread throughout his writings, may be one of the chief reasons Vonnegut continues to be popular with college-aged readers who are coming to grips with the fact that authority figures are not always right.

Over time, Vonnegut warmed to the biography project. He would call Shields late at night and ask "Hey, how's my biography coming?" Or he would introduce Shields as "This is my biographer."

However, after 3 lengthy interview sessions, Vonnegut took sick. He died a few days later. But even without the author's first-hand accounts, Shields was able to draw upon more than 1,500 lengthy letters the author had written. "I think he used letters as a warmup for his writing," Shields said.

During his early years as a writer, Vonnegut struggled and his writing was consigned to science fiction pulp racks. In 1965, he was a last-minute choice to head the Iowa Writer's Workshop, "It all  congealed for him there," Shields said. "He realized that he didn't have to be constrained." In 1969, Slaughterhouse-Five became a success, bringing with it the fame and financial security Vonnegut had so long sought. "He moved to New York. He bought into the life he had always wanted. If a writer can achieve the American Dream, he did," Shields said.

But personal happiness was to remain elusive. There were long bouts with depression. There was an attempted suicide. Shields said he found Vonnegut to be an extrovert who couldn't maintain friendships. Near the end of his life, he would sit alone on a street bench. When someone would approach and ask "Hey, aren't you Kurt Vonnegut?" Vonnegut would dismiss them with a gruff  "not now."

The author constantly fretted about his place in literature cannon, steadfast in his belief that he deserved more serious acclaim than he was receiving. Finally, he rationalized that it was his simplistic writing style and his "and so it goes" fatalistic universal outlook that was the cuplrit. "Anything that seems simple can't be worthy," Vonnegut reasoned.

But Shields believes Vonnegut's legacy will last. "He belongs in the cannon. He brought post-modernism into the mainstream. He made it popular," Shields says. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Washington Nats Celebrate Improbable World Series Title with Huge Parade

Washington, DC. often hosts huge marches and rallies. But's today's parade was something special - it was 95 years in the making. The extravaganza was in celebration of the Washington Nationals winning the World Series from the Houston Astros 4 games to 3.

The series marked the first time in the history of the 3 major sports -- baseball, basketball, and hockey that offer a best-of-seven tittle series -- where the winning team won 4 away games while losing 3 at home.

The title was the first for the Nationals (who were once the Montreal Expos). And it was the first baseball title parade in the nation's capital since 1924, when the old Washington Senators behind Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson won the series.

As you can see from these pictures, a good time was had by all. And as you can also see, there was a lot of that all there.