Monday, July 20, 2009

DC Summer Cool and Passing

It is a beautiful DC summer; it is very cool, not the usual hot or muggy. It is very civilized on the one hand, but another DC institution of our less partisan politics past is closing. Trover Book Shop, a 50+ year institution on Capital Hill is nearing its end. We tune into the DC Examiner, already in progress:

David Aime, a retiree from Springfield, was doing research at the Library of Congress, when he stepped into Trover, purchased a chocolate bar and browsed the shelves. For him, the closing of the family-owned business marked "a blow to civilization."

"It just breaks my heart to see a small bookstore go down the tubes," he said.

According to Andy Shuman, [one of the owner of the family business] business at the store took a turn for the worse two years ago when a fire at a neighboring bar, the Capitol Lounge, caused a half-million dollars in damage to the Trover card shop, which was just three doors from the bookstore. The losses were so extensive they closed the card shop and combined its merchandise with the bookstore. Now, with the economy in a slump and online booksellers chipping away at the customer base, Shuman says the store's time is up.

"We don't want to see it go, but unfortunately with the way the industry's going and other stores closing, we'd rather be on our own terms than someone else's terms," he said. The brothers wanted to avoid bankruptcy and pay off their bills "so we can walk away with our heads held high instead of with our heads between our legs."

The full story is at:

On their web site the shop still advertises, that, under one roof, they can help with the latest directory to Congress, the hot, new bookby Senator What's His Name, that sizzling article in your favorite (or not so favorite magazine,newspapers from across the country, and guides to lobbying, fundraising or the upcoming elections.

I used to go there for interesting magazines, books and out-of-town newspapers. The knowledgeable committed people at Trover seemed like another branch of government, in the shadow of the Capital, designed to ensure public knowledge and input. We lose a family business and an independent bookstore--two threatened institutions. Is DC life better off with so much easily available online? There are pluses and minuses and no one appears to be the villain. But are we losing some of our heart and soul?

In their own words, they sum it up and say goodbye:

Dear Trover Shop Friends,

It is with great sadness that we inform you of our plans to close our Capitol Hill location, but given the current economic climate and the changes in our industry we are faced with no other viable option.

We would like to thank our parents, Joe and Anne Shuman, who worked tirelessly for decades to grow this business. They not only enjoyed watching us grow within these walls, but had the great fortune to watch many of you come through these doors as children, as young adults and finally as parents.

We, ourselves, have now worked full time for a quarter of a century. In that time we have watched your families grow as our parents did, and we hope that we have served you well.

To those of you who have been with us over the years, please know that we have truly appreciated all of your support and friendship. Capitol Hill is one of the most remarkable places in the world to both live and work, and we have been fortunate to be a part of it for over 50 years. We hope that the Trover Shop has been a source of support, fun times, fond memories and a wealth of knowledge to this community and we will miss serving you. Thank you.


Al, Steve & Andy Shuman

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Roger Wilco Over and In

The night was beautiful, the lawn was filled and the air above was a crisp summer sky blue. It was a huge sold out crowd (cars spilling out the parking lot into surrounding areas) for Wilco and Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band at Wolf Trap last Wednesday. It had to be one of the best and noisiest rock shows at Wolf Trap.

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band opened as the sunlight silently fled over the green hillside, offering up a mix of part mock serious and part light. The pleasant-enough paste of many-themed, rootsy country-rock had one notable couple blocking the view while they danced away.

Wilco took to the stage and suddenly the wooden spaces filled in with a wave of cheering humanity that rose and never sat again, as the group opened with the title track ("Wilco," the Song) from their latest studio effort, Wilco (the Album). Cheers followed with favorite "Shot in the Arm" where many sang along repeatedly with the lines "Something in my veins, bloodier than blood!"

The show become one part intimate and upbeat Jeff Tweedy, and one part skilled and showoffy riffs of string-jointed, lead guitarist Nels Cline on "At Least That's What You Said" and new album jam "Bull Black Nova," which reverberated through the surrounding woods of darkness. Favorite 'You Are My Face' followed and led easily into "I'm Trying to Break Your Heart" and "One Wing."

Tweedy then took the crowd aside and promised “the most requested song in the history of our Web site”--36 votes, and delivered a quiet "How to Fight Loneliness." This led to the melodic "Impossible Germany" that suddenly filled easily with heroic Cline riffs before the newer "Deeper Down," and fan favorites "Jesus Etc,"' "Sonny Feeling," "Handshake Drugs," "Hate it Here" and "Walken." Wilco closed out the set with "I'm the Man Who Loves You" and "Hummingbird," and left briefly to a cheering throng of several thousand happy fans.

After a very quick break, the band began to throw out as much musical bouquets as possible to the enthusiastic crowd before the curfew came. The band played the new "You Never Know" "Heavy Metal Drummer" and "Misunderstood." A strum and drum "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" followed by "I'm a Wheel" ended the night on the right note.

Tweedy proudly announced “[t]he last time we played here was nine years ago...we were opening for Natalie Merchant.” Time has flown by and Wilco has grown up into a very skilled band with many dedicated fans who enjoy the large catalogue of interesting Wilco songs. Wilco and the fans were a pleasant force on a fantastic summer night.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dark Moon Over a Perky Storm

The perky star of 50's TV, Gale Storm, died at age 87. She was one of the early stars who went from radio to movies, to radio again, to television, and ultimately to rock 'n roll.

The roles she played in TV--Margie Albright, daughter of a wealthy playboy investment banker in the television situation comedy "My Little Margie" and Susanna Pomeroy, social director of the S.S. Ocean Queen in "The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna"--displayed her as a woman very much in control of the male characters in her life, and in control of her life well before women's liberation. Margie was her own person and did her own thing long before TV or society blessed this role for a woman.

In each episode, no matter what her father, Vern, (who tried to reign her in, in the same way he tried to run his business) and hapless boy friend Freddie wanted or expected her to do, Margie plotted her own course and that of her male counterparts. She had some similarities to the quirky lead characters in "I Married Joan" and "I Love Lucy," but Margie and Susanna were more in control. Her characters were fine role models for children growing up in the 50's. Ironically, "Margie" started as a summer replacement for the wildly popular "I Love Lucy," and in 1953 a poll listed Storm as television's most popular star following comedienne Lucille Ball. Margie usually had the last laugh, and we laughed with her.

Gale Storm was one of the earliest television stars to crossover to rock with her cover record of Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knocking," which hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts, followed in 1957 by "Dark Moon" that went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. I have many pleasant memories of Margie and Susanna, and Gale Storm's hit records.

As the media pores over the talent and excesses of the immensely gifted Michael Jackson, another trailblazer passes on with little notice.