Bunches of Bens — Washington, D.C., October 2017
Currently showing posts tagged Washington, D.C.
Bunches of Bens — Washington, D.C., October 2017
It’s gonna be fun…
Also, the boy has finally made it to Netflix. Catch it while you can.
Standing posts — Washington, D.C., July 2017
Gray night, clear reflection — Washington, D.C., July 2017
Full moon over the Potomac — Washington, D.C., August 2017
Honoring Lincoln — Washington, D.C., December 2016
Blast of confetti at Bruno Mars concert — Washington, D.C., September 2017
Brunch with three of my four favorite women in the morning in Pittsburgh, then back to D.C. for game 2 of the National League Division Series between the Nationals and Cubs. #gonats #ppufamilyweekend
Fire escape — Washington, D.C., May 2017
Washington Monument — Washington, D.C., April 2017
Street confetti — Washington, D.C, July 2017
Mirroring the sky — Washington, D.C., March 2017
Rooftop view — Washington, D.C., March 2017
My nephew Eric is here visiting this week, his first trip to the D.C. area, so I took him to see a couple of his grandparents' favorite places. First stop: The Kennedy Center, where we saw a beautiful sunset at the end of a scorching day. Second stop: A nighttime tour of the memorials.
How hot is it? Air conditioners throughout the region are singing the same refrain: "I think I can, I think I can..." Toward the end of the tour, Eric wiped the sweat from his brow and apologized for bringing Texas with him.
And in other news, this announcement also came out today. Very proud of Ben, who has been cast in the Broadway-bound "Mean Girls," written by Tina Fey and produced by Lorne Michaels. The show opens on Oct. 31 at The National Theatre in Washington, D.C., with a run planned for New York in the spring.
The eagle and the bell — Washington, D.C., February 2017
Flowers on the wall — Washington, D.C., March 2016
Signs from the Women's March — Washington, D.C., January 2017
Outside the National Cathedral — Washington, D.C., May 2016
Newseum tour — Washington, D.C., June 2016
Exhibit at Holocaust Museum — Washington, D.C., October 2016
Last week, I had the privilege of shooting the 28th annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner for Legal Aid of the District of Columbia.
Legal Aid is Washington, D.C.’s oldest and largest general civil legal services organization serving low-income residents in our nation’s capital. This year’s dinner, with 775 guests and more than 40 sponsors, raised $1.2 million for the organization.
Honored with the Servant for Justice awards this year were Vanita Gupta, former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and Donald B. Verrilli Jr., former U.S. Solicitor General. Gupta is incoming president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, while Verrilli is a partner with Munger, Tolles and Olson. David Young, an associate with Ropes & Gray, received the organization’s top honor for volunteer excellence.
For more photos from the dinner, go to my Facebook album here or visit www.legalaiddc.org.
Soggy conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of supporters who came to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to advocate for environmental causes and science research on Earth Day.
The set up for the March for Science was similar to the Women’s March on Washington, held just three months and one day earlier. I was hired by the Entomological Society of America, one of numerous science organizations that took part in the event, to shoot members getting ready for and participating in the rally.
Throughout the rally, a broad range of speakers were supported by entertainment and a series of short films and clips. Questlove, whose Grammy Award-winning group The Roots serves as the in-house band for The Tonight Show, was one of the co-hosts. Jon Batiste, music director and bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, led the house band.
The steady drizzle turned into a downpour by late morning, and I left before seeing Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) speak or Thomas Dolby perform. These photos, however, capture some of the spirit of the day, which was mirrored in more than 600 cities on more than six continents.
To see more photos from the March, go to my Facebook page here.
Clock tower at Georgetown University — Washington, D.C., May 2016
Early morning at Arlington Cemetery — March 2017
Concluding a miniseries of black and whites, here's a stained glass window taken earlier this week in Washington, D.C.
Al's pal — Washington, D.C., April 2017
Keeping watch — Washington, D.C., February 2017
Fading sign — Washington, D.C., March 2017
The eye has it — Washington, D.C., January 2017
Gloomy day — Washington, D.C., January 2017
Fractured point of view — Washington, D.C., March 2017
Under the Dome — Washington, D.C., March 2013
Patterns and clouds — Washington, D.C., November 2016
Vertigo — Washington, D.C., December 2015
Outside Union Station — Washington, D.C., February 2017
Breezy day at Union Station — Washington, D.C., February 2017
Winter trees, beautiful clouds — Washington, D.C., January 2017
Stop in the shadows — Washington, D.C., September 2016
Two and a half years ago, just after developing the “Art & Dance” concept, I took a group of ballerinas from Metropolitan School of the Arts into Washington, D.C., where we shot photos at a graffiti park and in the Federal Triangle. The shoot was very successful, and spurred much of what has taken place since with this series.
What was missing, however, was a second chance to take photos of MSA ballerinas in this type of setting. That changed on Monday, when five members of the Metropolitan Youth Ballet and a helpful apprentice went to Theodore Roosevelt Island and to Great Falls, Va., for the latest installment in the series.
Blessed by an early spring-like day, we navigated around an unusually large contingent of families walking around Theodore Roosevelt Island and took photos in a creek at a small park near the larger Great Falls facility.
At last weekend's Women's March on Washington, I was drawn to the vast variety of signs and messages directed at our nation's new president. To commemorate the historic day, I decided to create a collage of the various messages and make it available to anyone interested in purchasing it.
Titled "Signs of the Times," the print also is available with a foam core backing. If you are interested, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A portion of any profits will be given to one or more nonprofits that served as "Partners" on the march.
It's hard to imagine, on a sunny yet breezy and brisk morning, that this was the scene just one year ago today when Winter Storm Jonas (aka "Snowzilla) slammed the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.
The storm, one of the largest in the area's history, brought more than 2 feet of snow to the region. Schools were closed for more than a week and remnants from the storm could still be seen when the next snowfall hit a month later.
As the storm moved into the area, longtime friend Joe Frey and I embarked on a trip into the District of Columbia with plans to take pictures. The conditions rapidly deteriorated, however, and all of these photos were taken from inside the truck with the windows rolled down.
What’s memorable about this storm, which brought as much with it in one push as the back-to-back “Snowmageddon” that dropped 30 inches on the area within a six-week period in 2009-10, were the people who were walking around a mostly deserted D.C. At times, it felt like an episode of the “Walking Dead.”
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here or over to the Visual Storytelling section of the website.
An estimated 500,000 people descended on Washington, D.C., Saturday to show their support for women’s rights the day after the presidential inauguration. The march, which started with speeches and performances at 10 a.m. and did not finish until late afternoon, was an incredible demonstration of support for women as well as traditionally marginalized groups.
The large number — organizers had originally predicted 200,000 — of people overwhelmed cell towers. The Metro system set a record with more than 1 million riders on Saturday alone.
That said, the event was peaceful and largely positive. More important, no arrests were reported the day after 230 were jailed during protests by self-described anarchists in D.C. for the inauguration. #WomensMarch #WomensMarchOnWashington
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The Women's March was an incredible event, one in which people came from all over the country to, in Jill's words, show "what democracy looks like."
Peaceful, yet firm and assertive protests for the rights of women and traditionally marginalized groups made this a day to remember. Say what you will, and vote your conscience. But know also that a large coalition of people who took the November election for granted has had a wake-up call they will never forget.
And I hope and pray the country is all the better for it.
My father was a visual artist who painted not one, but two large murals on the living room wall in my childhood home when I was growing up.
I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.
That said, I’ve always been drawn to large murals, especially knowing that an artist’s creation can be painted over at any time and lost to the whims of boredom, creativity, or both. This is especially true with graffiti and street art.
As a photographer, I like to find ways to show the artist’s work, but with a twist. Rather than capture just the image that an artist has created, I rarely opt to shoot straight on. Using a different angle, or taking it from another spot, can occasionally illuminate the work in an interesting way.
Although graffiti is and remains illegal, with the potential for some stiff fines, Washington, D.C., has joined other cities — Philadelphia immediately comes to mind — in supporting the growth of public art. Open Walls DC, for example, holds “mural jams” to paint the walls under the overpass at Garfield Park, but you must get a permit.
I find myself returning regularly to the bridge under Garfield Park on H Street in southeast D.C. to see what has been created since I last visited. (It’s a great place for portrait shoots, too.) These photos were taken during three to four stops I made over the past year. For more, go to my Facebook album here.
At today's School Counselor of the Year event, in her final public event as First Lady, Michelle Obama finished with these powerful words for the youth in our country:
"I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong ... Don't be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear."
Jill is quoted in this Time.com piece promoting the ASCA School Counselor of the Year event that will take place tomorrow at the White House. So very proud of her and the much deserved recognition school counselors are receiving.
A family tradition has always been to visit the Lincoln Memorial when NIck is in town (see below). This year, I decided to capture a few extra shots while we were in our nation's capital.
When the kids were, well, kids, they loved going to the Lincoln Memorial at night. For several years, every trip Nicholas made to Virginia had to include a trip to see the tribute to Honest Abe.
Sometimes everyone made the pilgrimage, but often we were missing one. That was true again this year — Kate couldn't make it due to another obligation — but this time we added a new member, Nick's girlfriend Conner.
One of these days, we'll have everyone with us, and another addition or two would mean we have to take two cars. I look forward to that day...
Shadow walk — Washington, D.C., March 2016
Exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — Washington, D.C., November 2016
Watchful eye — Washington, D.C., August 2016
Inside St. Patrick's Church — Washington, D.C., March 2016
Sun peeking through — Washington, D.C., August 2016
Nice view — Washington, D.C., August 2016
Note: I'm taking some time away from daily postings due to travel and work commitments. Will return on November 1.
I recoiled the first time I saw the video of Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away.”
One of the best songs off of one of the best albums I’ve heard in years, the video tells the story of a couple who becomes entangled in the throes of the woman’s mental illness. It ends, as do too many of these stories, tragically, leaving the survivors to cope with unspeakable grief.
“The song is about loving someone unconditionally through not so easy times. The concept of the video came to me as that would be the hardest possible space in which to love somebody,” Stapleton says in an interview on the Campaign to Change Direction website.
Stapleton’s debut album, “Traveller,” has sold more than 1.5 million copies in the U.S. It won two Grammys and drew attention for its mix of old-school country and Southern rock. The video for “Fire Away” has been viewed almost 15 million times, creating awareness around an issue — mental illness — that is too rarely mentioned or not seen at all.
Until it’s too late.
I’m a lucky man.
I’ve known two people — one a close friend; the other the daughter of family friends — who have died by suicide. I have a daughter who is ADHD/bipolar and struggles to maintain her equilibrium at times. An uncle and an aunt also have suffered from severe mental illness.
Their experiences have helped shape me as a person and as a father. I feel fortunate to have known these people, and lucky to have a daughter as kind at heart as Kate is. And I’m committed to sharing our family’s struggles in an effort to draw some attention to mental health issues.
Hearing that Stapleton would be performing in D.C., I noted the show was scheduled during an intense period of travel and was unsure if I could make it on a Sunday night after returning from a second trip to Pittsburgh in two weeks. Then, when I went to buy a ticket, all that was left was a single seat in the upper nosebleed section.
Jill had a dinner to attend that night, so she told me to go ahead. The cause is the right one, and that’s what’s most important.
The Campaign to Change Direction is a national initiative designed “change the culture of mental health in America.” Its goal is to get people to learn and share the five signs of emotional suffering — change in personality; agitation; withdrawal; decline in personal care; and hopelessness — so that we can prevent tragedies and help others to heal.
When Stapleton had the idea for the video, he didn’t work with a specific charity on mental health issues. Actor Ben Foster, who is in the video, suggested the campaign, which has received the support of Prince William, First Lady Michelle Obama, and actor Richard Gere, among others.
Stapleton agreed to work with the organization, although he had no idea about the video’s potential impact on his audience. He also had to get his record company to buy into the project, noting that label executives “looked at me like I had three heads” when he told them the idea.
“I didn’t want to be in the video. I wanted to make it with these actors because it felt more artful and meaningful,” Stapleton says. “It was just a notion, but then we made it and it became real and useful and something that hopefully can make the world a better place. … That notion became a good thing.”
The DAR Constitution Hall is a great place to hear a show, but a tough venue to maneuver. The lines are long. The bathrooms are in inconvenient places. The seats, especially in the upper reaches, have extremely limited legroom.
Having driven more than 500 miles over the previous two days, I had to get up midway through the show and walk around a bit, so I went down to the restroom and saw an usher I had talked to while waiting in line earlier. Listening to the music, we made momentary small talk about the show and I mentioned my connections to the cause, then told him I had to go back up. I didn’t want to miss “Fire Away.”
At that point, the usher opened the door and said, “Go on in,” pointing me to an empty seat in the orchestra section. “Wait a few minutes,” this random stranger said, “and I’ll take you up a little further if I can.”
After standing in the back of the orchestra for a few minutes — by this point no one was sitting — the usher tapped me on the arm and escorted me up toward the front, just five rows from the stage. “Stand here,” he said. “You won’t have a problem.”
And then he left without a trace. Two minutes later, Stapleton started playing “Fire Away,” just in time for me to pull out my phone and record it. At the end, he asked the boisterous crowd to repeat the last chorus, holding up their phones to shine a light on issues that are underreported and often unseen.
The audience complied. Here is the video I took of the performance.
On Saturday, Lindsay’s family will participate — as they do every year — in one of the Out of the Darkness walks sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you would like to help, go to the team page here.
Pay it forward. It's the least we can do.
Blowing in the wind — Washington, D.C., October 2016
Several years ago, Ben and I attended the Helen Hayes Awards, where the Kennedy Center’s production of “Ragtime” was up for multiple honors and legendary playwright Edward Albee was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. If was an opportunity — a year after the Kennedy Center run ended and four months after “Ragtime” on Broadway closed — for Ben to briefly reunite with the theatre family he had come to love.
Terrence McNally (author of the book for “Ragtime”) introduced Albee, a longtime friend and writer of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “A Delicate Balance,” among other classic shows. At the after party, we were celebrating with “Ragtime” alums Sarah Rosenthal and Laurie Ascoli when I noticed Terrence and Albee talking.
Not wanting to miss out on a chance to have Ben’s picture taken with two of the great playwrights of the 20th century, I convinced him to ask Terrence, an incredibly kind man who generously agreed. Laurie, Sarah and some unidentified woman (unceremoniously excised from this photo during the editing) joined in and we got this.
Upon hearing of Albee’s death last night, I immediately thought of this special moment as well as one dating back to my time at University of Houston, where he taught playwriting starting in the late 1980s. I was taking an acting class in pursuit of a minor for my long-gestating degree, and we were asked to read some of the students’ work for Albee.
The character I read was the villain of this noir-ish piece, which needed some work, and I had no idea what the hell I was doing. (I am not, repeat NOT, an actor.) I remember only one part of the scene, where my character asks a prospective victim, “Do you know how long it takes to watch a person drown? … Seven minutes … I timed it on my watch.”
At that point, Albee nodded, looked at the writer and us, and said, “Thank you. Not bad.”
Best review of my life.
"For the Revolution" mural at the W Hotel — Washington, D.C., August 2016
Oldest bank in the nation's capital — Washington, D.C., August 2016
Cigar store Indian — Washington, D.C., August 2016
Potomac River at sunrise — Arlington, Va., June 2016
Stay warm — Washington, D.C., March 2016
Kennedy Center lobby — Washington, D.C., August 2016
Storm clouds on the National Mall — Washington, D.C., August 2016
For much of the past year, I have been profiling winners of the LMJ Scholarship for one of my clients, the Washington, D.C.-based Minority Corporate Counsel Association. My newest piece, “The Future of the Legal Profession,” focuses on the 2015-16 scholarship winners and is featured in the current issue of MCCA's magazine, "Diversity & The Bar."
You can access the feature by visiting the New/Recent Articles section of my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/freelance.
Continuing what has suddenly become a music thread….
Billy Joel became the first performer to play three times at Nationals Stadium on Saturday, and he did so despite a torrential downpour that delayed the start of the concert by more than an hour.
You can't carry a "professional camera" into events like this without a press pass. (I would not have brought my camera in anyway, given the rain.) However, this is one of those times when iPhone photos usually come nowhere close to the images you can get with a regular camera.
Still, if you're lucky and recognize the shutter delays, you can occasionally get a decent image.
Let me know what you think of these and the ones on my Facebook page here.
Joel, as usual, was terrific in concert. He hasn’t written new music since the early 1990s, but embraces one of the best and most popular catalogues with enthusiasm. In turn, the rain-soaked crowd embraced him.
“What’s it like sitting there with a wet ass?” Joel asked the cheering crowd.
Fortunately, after seeing the Piano Man multiple times in multiple places (North Carolina, Madison Square Garden), we splurged and bought tickets on the stadium turf. No wet butts for us.
Unfortunately, we were among the large contingent of the 40,000-plus fans who came to the concert via Metro and were left stranded due to the storms, which delayed the show by more than an hour. Thanks (or not) to “SafeTrack” maintenance, the subway system closed at midnight, and there was no way we could see the encore and make it to the last train.
Joel even made a joke about the troubled transit system — “Is the Metro running tonight? … So basically, you’re (expletive).”
With no warnings in advance from stadium officials or Metro — a transit worker at the Navy Yard said they had not even been told about the heavily promoted concert (cough) — we were stuck with a long wait and a very expensive Uber ride.
The show was still worth it, though.
Doors to justice — Washington, D.C., March 2016
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center — Washington, D.C., June 2016
Here is a 3-minute slideshow of photos I took at the Graduate Management Admissions Council's annual conference last week in Washington, D.C. The slideshow aired at the beginning of the conference's final general session.
GMAC has been an outstanding client. I've shot the council's last three annual meetings as well as other events and staff portraits.
Send me an email or give me a call if you are interested in having me shoot your conference or event. Hourly, half-day, daily, and multiple day rates are available.
Holly bush — Washington, D.C., May 2016
Jill's cousin, Brian Hodges, received his MBA Friday from Georgetown University with his wife, Elise, son Parker and parents Gerald and Susan in attendance. Brian, Elise and Parker are moving to Chicago later this summer as he takes a position with S.C. Johnson. Congrats to Brian on this fantastic achievement!
The day after I saw this humorous advertisement touting the Breaking Bad ticket for 2016, Jill had an opportunity to scratch an item off her bucket list. With her co-worker Amanda Fitzgerald, she had the chance to meet and have a picture taken with Bryan Cranston at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's annual Hope Awards in Washington, D.C.
As much as we might want a Heisenberg/Pinkman ticket, we'll have to settle for Cranston's portrayal of another president instead. The four-time Emmy winner won a Tony Award for his outstanding portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in the play "All the Way." The movie premieres later this month on HBO, and it looks like Cranston could walk back onto the award stage again.
Statue outside the National Archives — Washington, D.C., March 2016
Enjoying a game — Washington, D.C., April 2016
Zebra at the National Zoo — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Light under the bridge — Washington, D.C., March 2016
A photographer's financial bread and butter, in addition to portraits, is often reflected by your ability to shoot meetings and events. Over the past couple of years, I've been fortunate to obtain a number of recurring clients.
Over the past month alone, I've taken photos for the Graduate Management Admissions Council's day-long staff retreat, the American Payroll Association's Capitol Summit, the Equal Employment Advisory Council's annual meeting and policy conference, and the American Staffing Association's law conference.
At the GMAC retreat, in addition to the group photo seen here, I compiled photos from the event into a five-minute slideshow that was shown the following day.
To see the slideshow, go to GMAC Staff Retreat 2016. This type of work is part of commissioned services I can provide to clients.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Stepping out — Washington, D.C., March 2016
A little boy at his first baseball game — Washington, D.C., April 2016
Waiting in line — Washington, D.C., July 2015
Gutenberg sculpture at the Newseum — Washington, D.C., April 2016
Standing guard — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Spring break tourists hoping to see the cherry blossoms at peak bloom have been a little disappointed, as Mother Nature’s, well, nature has been moody at best the past several weeks. A spike in late-winter temperatures had some forecasters pushing the peak date up to this past weekend, more than two weeks earlier than the average of April 4. However, a cold snap accompanied by drizzle and heavy winds pushed the forecast back a few days.
I had hoped to catch the peak along the Tidal Basin after shooting a conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, but with temperatures in the mid 40s and a gusty, wet wind, I had to settle for a beautiful sunset instead.
Fortunately, forecasters say the blooms have withstood this most recent spate of cold and will start to peak later this week. According to the National Park Service, the blossom peak will last 4 to 10 days, a period in which more than 1.5 million people likely will head to the Tidal Basin to continue a decades-long tradition that started when Japan gave the trees to the United States as a sign of the two countries’ friendship in 1912.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Statue outside the Department of the Treasury — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Children looking out the window from the White House — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Traffic in the rain — Washington, D.C., February 2016
Rays of light — Washington, D.C., February 2016
Life at the National Zoo — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Park bench during last month's blizzard — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Watch your step — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Lights outside the East Room of the White House — Washington, D.C., January 2016
Pillars at the Treasury Department — Washington, D.C., January 2016
First Lady Michelle Obama honored Katherine Pastor of Flagstaff, Ariz., as the 2016 School Counselor of the Year during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House on Thursday. Obama has honored the past two winners of the American School Counselor Association program at a White House ceremony and will host a third event before the administration’s term ends next January.
Pastor, who works at Flagstaff High School, was introduced by one of her former students, Wyatt Whitegoat, a Navajo Indian who lived in a dorm on campus. Whitegoat is now in his senior year at Cornell College in Iowa, earning degrees in kinesiology and psychology.
Also speaking at the event was John King, acting secretary of education. Among the attendees: former Duke and NBA basketball player Shane Battier.
Pastor and the others recognized by their states will conclude several days of events in the nation’s capitol tonight with a banquet at Union Station.
Note: As many of you know, my wife, Jill, has coordinated this program for ASCA since its inception. The program is one of the largest of the year for the organization, and would not be possible — or as successful — without a total team effort from the entire staff. It was nice (and a bit overwhelming), however, to hear the First Lady give my wife a shout out by name in her speech on Thursday.
To see more photos from the event, visit my Facebook album here.
Bare trees at dusk — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Ice on the bridge — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Keeping watch — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Courtney Lapenta is one of the most interesting and talented dancers I’ve known in my time as a photographer for Metropolitan School of the Arts. Now a sophomore at California’s Chapman University, we took advantage of her fall break to take pictures at the Capitol Columns site at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
Stones in the road — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Through her work with the American School Counselor Association and the First Lady's Reach Higher Initiative, Jill has been spending quite a bit of time at the White House this year. Today, she was there to help launch the "Better Make Room" campaign that seeks to provide educational opportunities for students around the United States. #Bettermakeroom
Very proud of my lovely wife...
DATE CHANGE: Get your tickets now for RAW-Uprising, a show featuring more than 40 Washington, D.C. area artists (including me!) that will be held Wednesday, November 18 at the Howard Theatre. Tickets are only $15.
I need to sell 20 tickets by Sunday, November 15. Ten of my photos will be featured. Purchase your tickets at www.rawartists.org/glenncookphoto. If you can't go, buy a ticket and I'll make sure it is given to a deserving artist...
Support the arts!
Waiting for dark — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Making a not-so-subtle point — Washington, D.C., October 2015
Marilyn keeping watch — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Sunset in the nation's Capitol — Washington, D.C., March 2015
In general, I try not to be a provocateur on social media's chosen issue of the day. I prefer not to rile people up, in part because it’s a time suck and in part because you rarely hear substance over the shouting.
But given our family’s circumstances, it’s impossible not to talk about mental health issues, especially as they relate to children. And with the staggering increase in mass shootings in this country, all too often tied to people with mental health problems, it’s becoming more difficult not to say something about gun violence.
So here goes…
We might not agree on gun control, but I think we can agree on gun violence. And there’s way too much of it these days.
Two weeks ago, a 26-year-old gunman killed nine people at an Oregon community college before committing suicide. Earlier this year, nine people were killed at a church in Charleston, S.C. Before that, there were mass shootings at a movie theater in Colorado and a school in Connecticut.
And the list goes on and on. Between 2004 and 2013, according to numbers compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 316,000 firearm deaths. More than 1,000 mass shootings, an all-time high, have occurred in the U.S. since 2013. This year, in Chicago alone, there have been more than 2,300 gun-related crimes, and it’s estimated that someone is shot in the Windy City every three hours.
Yesterday, Jill was visibly moved and affected after attending a daylong “Domestic Violence Awareness Summit” in Washington, D.C. Hosted by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a severe brain injury in a 2011 mass shooting that killed six and injured 13, the summit featured various speakers who talked about the ravaging effect of gun violence on their lives.
Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, formed the group Americans for Responsible Solutions to talk about ways to stop gun violence, particularly against women. They have raised almost $25 million for a political action committee to promote legislation that will address gaps in gun control laws.
The statistics they cite are just as staggering as some of the others I’ve cited:
• Women in the U.S. are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if that person has access to a gun.
• More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms.
• More than half of all murders of women in the U.S. are committed with a gun.
“We don’t have to agree about everything, but we can agree on this,” said Giffords, who believes people convicted of stalking and domestic abuse should not be allowed to possess firearms. “We can change our laws. We can fight for responsible solutions.”
Just after the Oregon shooting, I walked into a local gas station. A TV was tuned into CNN, which was running non-stop coverage. I shook my head and said to the clerk, “This is sad.”
The clerk, who was either in her late teens or early 20s, put her fingers up in air quotes and said, “Yeah, and I’m sure they’re going to call it a mental health issue.”
That’s when I knew I had to start saying something about this. Yes, the majority of mass shootings occur because someone who is mentally ill gains access to a firearm. But it terrifies me that mental health issues and gun violence have become inextricably tied.
Here’s another fact: Most people with mental health issues are not violent, but the potential exists. As a parent of a child with a mental illness, the thought of her ever coming near a gun frightens the hell out of me. I see her impulsivity and her potential to flash to anger while manic/depressed/mix of both, and I can't imagine what would happen if she had a firearm in her hands at the point when things are totally irrational.
What does it say about this country’s attitude toward difficult issues that we can talk about mental health awareness and services only in the face of record gun violence? I think it says a lot.
Recently, while working on a freelance story about trauma-informed public schools, I interviewed several people with experience in dealing with crisis situations. One interview was with David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement.
Earlier this year, five students and three teachers filed a lawsuit against the Compton Unified School District, saying the system fails to educate kids who are exposed to repeated violence and trauma. The lawsuit also will test whether “complex trauma” is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act; if so, schools could be required to direct funds to ensure students receive adequate care.
Schonfeld, who is not involved in the Compton lawsuit, said he is not sure whether the case has legal validity. But he then told a stirring story about the effect of long-term poverty and violence on a community.
“I was talking to a group of teachers recently in an inner-city school system that is known for having gang violence and extreme trauma, and one said to me, ‘If 20 children die in a suburban school district, it’s called a natural disaster. When it happens here it’s called a typical day’,” he said.
Schonfeld was shocked by the teacher’s seeming belief that “it was ‘normal’ for children to be in gangs and ‘normal’ for children to murder other children.”
“That’s never normal for a child,” Schonfeld said during the interview. “Common maybe. Tragic definitely, and something that happens with alarming frequency, but as soon as your staff starts to think it’s normal than they’re not going to help the kids try to do something about it.”
The teacher later apologized for his remarks, but Schonfeld said they illustrate the crux of the problem in many school districts where violence is common.
“These kids experience so much loss, and adults don’t try to help with it because they’re overwhelmed and don’t know what to do,” he says. “So the kids stop asking for help and turn to their peers, gangs, and other forms of support. Just because they stop talking doesn’t mean they don’t need help. In reality, they need it more than others.”
The previous story has limited bearing on the current gun control debate, and is only tangentially related to the issues the panel brought up yesterday. But I was surprised by how affected I was by the interview.
Just like you, I don’t have a definitive answer, only opinions informed by my individual and familial circumstances. I’m not, despite what you may think, against responsible gun ownership.
Jill and I know people who collect guns for their historical value. They are responsible, good citizens on this planet. They take safety seriously, make sure all the rules are followed, and are firm believers in the 2nd Amendment. They feel just as horrible as anyone when something like this happens, and they're working to do everything they can to encourage responsible ownership.
What people don't seem to get in this debate is there’s no either/or solution. I would never own a gun, but that's due to my personal situation. I don't see how anyone with a child/friend/loved one who is lacking in stability would even consider owning a gun, especially if child/friend/loved one could gain access to it in some way.
The key here is that we’ve got to put our polarized views aside long enough to find some reasoned, thoughtful solutions. We've got to do something, sooner rather than later.
Gun control has been a debate in this country for generations. There should be no debate about preventing gun violence. #StopGunViolence
My wife’s words rang through my head, at times louder than the music: “Damn those stigmas.”
As parents of a child who has mental health issues, one of our largest fears is that she will use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Mental health and substance abuse are linked in another way, through the stigmas that prevent many people from talking about them openly and publicly — as the illnesses they are, not just the poor choices we make.
A new organization, Facing Addiction, is working to change that perception. And they took a huge step Sunday with UNITE to Face Addiction, a five-hour rally and concert that drew thousands from across the U.S. to the National Mall Sunday in Washington, D.C.
Described as the first of its kind, the rally featured a terrific lineup of performers who cut across genres and generations. Featured were Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, Jason Isbell, The Fray, John Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls, Jonathan Butler and Tommy Sims, who wrote “Change the World.” All have faced substance abuse issues or been affected by someone close who faced addiction.
The audience, a vast majority of them recovering addicts or people who had lost a loved one, slowly grew throughout the damp and dreary day. Many carried signs with pictures of loved ones who had been lost to addiction; others were there because they are in long-term recovery. They cheered each of the artists, but individual songs or performers brought many to tears, especially when The Fray — a personal highlight, along with Isbell — performed “How to Save a Life.”
Facing Addiction, a recently formed organization that has been working to focus attention on the cause, organized the rally. Officials with the organization say addiction affects one in three households and 85 million people in the U.S. It also cuts across all class, socioeconomic, and racial lines.
Among the speakers: U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy; Michael Botticelli, a recovering addict who now is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; and syndicated talk-show host and surgeon Mehmet Oz. Others included Emmy Award-winning actress Allison Janney, whose role in the sitcom “Mom” drew loud cheers; and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who is battling a family legacy of substance abuse and mental illness.
The biggest piece of news at the event was when Murthy, surrounded by three of his top staff, announced that his office has commissioned the first-ever Surgeon General’s report on alcoholism and addiction.
And the numbers are there to justify it: Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in people under 50. Stigma or not, that is a sobering fact.
Damn those stigmas.
Play ball — Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., August 2015
Rowing down the Potomac — outside Washington, D.C., August 2015
Full moon over the Washington Monument — March 2015
Vines in the city — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Graffiti nerd — Washington, D.C., March 2015
Brake lights in a tunnel — Washington, D.C., April 2015
He's back! — Opus, taken at the Newseum, Washington, D.C., September 2013
Circuit board — Washington, D.C., September 2013
50th anniversary of the March on Washington — Washington, D.C., September 2013. (For more on this, go to the Events section of my website)
Art in all caps — Washington, D.C., October 2014
D.C.'s new Trump card — Washington, D.C., March 2014
Jefferson Memorial at sunset — May 2015
Labor Day — the last day of summer vacation for the kids — was spent in D.C., with Ben and Ginno down from New York. Trips to the Smithsonian, complete with the inevitable visit to the Dorothy shoes, the World War II memorial and the Kennedy Center followed. A lot of fun...
D.C.'s answer to the Tony Awards recognized Ragtime's terrific showing with four awards: Best Resident Musical, Best Actress (Christiane Noll), Best Director (Marcia Milgrom Dodge) and Best Costume Design (Santo Loquesto and Jimm Halliday). It also was an opportunity for Ben to reunite with a number of his friends (and there are quite a few) from the various shows he has done here.
Cast members from the Billy Elliot tour went on a tour of their own — the White House — thanks to the efforts of our friend, Tom Pratt. The best part: The kids got a front row spot to see President Obama leave on his helicopter before the tour truly began.
I caught these photos will attending meetings on Capitol Hill this week. Interesting what you can get with a phone, even if that is not my preferred method of photography.
The arrival of the Billy Elliot tour at the Kennedy Center has provided a number of opportunities for reunions for the boy and some of his fellow cast members from the Broadway company. First, Neil and Ruby came down and spent some time with their former cast mate, taking a backstage tour after the show. Then, more than 100 students and teachers from Metropolitan Fine Arts Center came to see Ben as Michael and show their support.
2012 got off to a great start as we celebrated New Year's Eve at the Kennedy Center following a Billy Elliot performance.
Then, between shows on New Year's Day, the cast held a "Hootenanny." The event, held every four to six weeks, gives cast members a chance to showcase their amazing collection of talents, usually between shows on a weekend.
According to Wikipedia, the phrase is an Appalachian colloquialism that was used in early 20th century America to refer to things whose names were forgotten or unknown. In this usage it was synonymous with thingamajig and whatchamacallit, as in "hand me that hootenanny." Hootenanny was also an old country word for "party". Now, most commonly, it refers to a folk-music party.
In 1912, 3,000 cherry blossom trees were bestowed on Washington, D.C. by Tokyo, Japan. Rooted strongly and surviving outside elements, the trees have withstood the test of time for a century in the tidal basin, which includes the Jefferson Monument and memorials to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, a five-week event, snarls traffic around the basin as residents and tourist from around the world take a look at the trees in bloom. One recent, cloudy Sunday morning, Nicholas and I had a chance to photograph the beautiful flowers as they moved into peak form.
So this has been a big week for baseball for our twins, Ben and Emma.
First, on Wednesday afternoon, Ben had the chance to sing the National Anthem at the Milwaukee Brewers-St. Louis Cardinals game with other cast members from Billy Elliot. The touring cast is in Milwaukee this week, and they had a chance to sit back and watch the game before performing that night.
Check out the sign Ben is carrying in the photo above, and watch the video of the performance below.
Emma is even a bigger baseball fan than her brother, and with Jill in Minneapolis and Kate in New Orleans, it gave us a chance to spend some father/daughter time at Nationals Park with her friend, Ashley Frey.
The game got off to a great start, with the Nationals taking a 9-0 lead over their hated rivals, the Atlanta Braves. Given that it’s summer in D.C., however, we had to endure a rain delay, and it didn’t end well.
The Nationals gave up the nine-run lead and went into extra innings tied 10-10. Before long, fans started chanting “Sell more beer! Sell more beer!" As an Astros fan, that’s an all-too-familiar chant in games like this.
Of course, the Nats lost 11-10, but we had a good time together…
Given its proximity to Halloween, some clever person decided to dub Hurricane Sandy “Frankenstorm.” Appropriate, given that this was a particularly ghoulish event, in part because it is so rare to have such a massive storm whip through this late in the season.
For several days, the threat of Frankenstorm presented a new chapter in the DC-NY rivalry, except this time neither city wanted to be the winning team. In the end, we were largely spared as the storm smacked the eastern seaboard. For us, Frankenstorm was really Frankenweenie.
That wasn’t the case in New Jersey and New York, which were hardest hit, as the storm surge hit New York City on Oct. 29. Streets, tunnels and subway lines were hit, and power in and around the city was shut off for hours.
We didn’t lose power. The lights flickered, but we didn’t lose it, which is amazing given that our grid often feels like it has a short on a regular day.
I witnessed some other miracles during and after the storm, as well as a few things that make you wonder what the hell is happening to our world. First, the miracles:
• My teenage girls didn't lose it at each other. They agreed, without discussing it, to temporarily put aside their differences and get along for the first time in many, many months. The cat was glad to get her scratching post back, even if it's only on a temporary basis.
• My teenage boy is safe in Manhattan after being evacuated from the building where he is staying. It's near a crane that was perched precariously near a series of apartments and stores in midtown.
• Jill's Atlanta meeting went very smoothly, The travel gods were so kind that she actually got home on time.
Of course, there are things that make you shake your head, such as:
In the middle of the wind and rain, the phone rings from someone wanting to know if I'm "voting for conservative family values." The last thing I need to add to the atmosphere is more hot air. In fact, I think Frankenstorm is Mother Nature's response to the barrage of political ads that are permeating the airwaves.
And finally, Sandy illustrated the inherent risks you see in live TV news coverage. On one station, a reporter said: "Wow, this thing is pounding me from behind..."
Ben is used to performing, so serving as an understudy was a bit of a challenge at first when he started work on Ragtime at the Kennedy Center several months ago.
Also, given that he is in fifth grade, he had to do something to show his teachers at Lorton Station what he was learning during the experience. So why not combine the two?
The result is this 17-minute video, which includes audio interviews Ben did with members of the cast of "Ragtime." The interviews are accompanied by stills from the show. Special thanks to Eric Jordan Young, Quentin Earl Darrington, Bobby Steggert, Sumayya Ali, Dan Manning, and Manoel Felciano for participating.
(Also, look for video at the end of Ben dancing with Chita Rivera...!)
Having lived 15 miles outside Washington, D.C., for almost 14 years, it might seem strange that we've never been in our nation's capital for the Fourth of July celebration. That changed this year as we took in a Nationals game in the morning and saw the fireworks from a spot near the Washington Monument. Weather prevented me from bringing the good camera, but some advance studying about exposures did allow me to take some decent shots on an iPhone. Although that is sacrilege to most commercial photographers, I was pretty pleased with the result.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook page.
Handicapped parking spot — Washington, D.C., March 2015