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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween!

This Halloween has been a memorable one, to say the least, mostly because I was the recipient of an unexpected five-day weekend. If you've been following the news recently, you're certainly aware of Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it has wrought upon New York and New Jersey. With the storm approaching amid dire warnings of high winds and flooding in the Washington, D.C. metro area, school was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for both my daughter and me, and we spent two mostly boring days stuck indoors while the rain came down and the wind howled outside. Fortunately, though, our area was spared from the worst effects of Sandy, and except for some flickering lights on Monday evening, our power stayed on the whole time (unlike the apartment complex across the street from ours, which was in darkness all throughout Monday night). However, while our electricity supply remained stable, other areas were not so fortunate. Amber's elementary school was without power until late Tuesday night, and we didn't get word that she would have school today until around ten p.m. last night. In my case, it was even worse - FSI remained in the dark, necessitating yet another day off today. 

So how does one enjoy an unexpected day of (paid) freedom, especially when the temperatures are in the mid-40's (around 7°C) and the skies are overcast and still threatening to rain? In my case, I took a long walk this morning through downtown Falls Church, the city in northern Virginia where we've been living since May. Thanks to a number of signs pointing out historical sights, there were actually a few things to see along the way. Take, for example, the Dulin Methodist Church, parts of which date from 1869. My wife takes English lessons here three mornings a week:

Down the road from this church, and past a small park looking pretty in the glory of autumn...

...stands a Presbyterian church. Its bell tower was built in 1884. In the parking lot were pumpkins for sale, with an honesty box set up to receive payment. It was the kind of scene where if someone had posted the photo on Facebook and said it had been taken in Taiwan, would have generated numerous comments about how uniquely honest the Taiwanese people are, and how this sort of thing could only happen on the blessed island of Formosa. Sorry to burst your bubble, folks (actually, I enjoy doing this sort of thing), but here is the mid-Atlantic region of the United States:

It wasn't long before I came to the downtown business district. If it wasn't for the constant flow of (albeit slow-moving) traffic along Broad Street, this part of Falls Church could almost qualify as a charming slice of small-town American life. My favorite shop here is the The Local Market, where there is a nice selection of locally-grown produce and locally-made foods - my favorites are the sodas, jams and syrups. Pamela, unfortunately, seems to prefer shopping at large, faceless and impersonal supermarket chains, so we don't patronize this establishment as much as I'd like:

It wouldn't be America without an NRA-approved, Second Amendment-distorting gun shop around:

I walked as far as City Hall before turning around. Next door is the local community center, where my daughter has a ballet class once a week. This complex, and the adjacent park, have played host to a number of local festivals that we've had fun attending, the most recent being a Halloween Carnival on Saturday evening that Amber really enjoyed. The building, surprisingly, looks more like it belongs in the U.S. Southwest than it does here on the East Coast:

The State Theatre, where upcoming acts include NRBQ, Men Without Hats and, yes, Blue Oyster Cult, of "more cowbell" fame:

The route back took me past a couple more historic homes. Construction on the Birch House started in the 1850's and was completed in 1873. It was saved from destruction in 1976:

Tallwood was built in 1870, and once belonged to Dwight Eisenhower's brother Milton, who resided here between 1938 and 1943 (all these facts and more courtesy of the aforementioned historical markers that line both sides of Broad Street). The General and Mamie Eisenhower spent New Year's Eve 1941 here, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor:

Other houses might not have been historic in any sense, but they were nice to walk by. Many homes were decorated for Halloween:

Of course, today being Halloween, it was entirely appropriate that I took a stroll through Oakwood Cemetery, founded in 1779:

Before returning home, I stopped off at Eden Center, a shopping complex serving the metro area's large Vietnamese community. It's a great place to eat, and I picked up a sandwich and iced milk coffee to have for lunch at home:

Other than Hurricane Sandy, the other reason these past few days have been memorable ones is that this was the first real Halloween for my little one. Amber had been given a taste of the occasion while at kindergarten in Taiwan, but tonight was her first genuine all-American Halloween, and she enjoyed every moment of it, going door-to-door through three of the four buildings in our apartment complex, as well as handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters who knocked on our door. Here is the picture she drew to hang out front...:

...while this was one of the three Jack-o'-lanterns that graced our balcony, taken from the ground floor (we live on the third floor):

As you can see, my little devil made out quite well. Too well, in fact. It looks like our dentist will be able to move into a higher (but lower-paying, if Mitt Romney gets elected next week) tax bracket, thanks to all these treats that will soon pass over Amber's dental work:


  1. There was never anyone I wanted to see at the State when I was at the Oakwood. I'd consider seeing NRBQ and BOC for the lols ...

    1. If this were, say, 1987 instead of 2012, I might think about seeing NRBQ. Apparently, though, the only original member left in the band is the keyboardist.