A mystery: 18

notepad 1notepad 2In Leta’s (and by inheritance, Ann’s) effects I found a promotional notepad from the Southern Railway System, with a handy list of freight facilities on the inside cover. (Leta’s grandfather worked for a railroad.) Southern would have used that branding up until about 1980. A historian of the system might be able to pin down a date, given the list of facilities. It’s possible that 200-79 on the inside cover encodes a printing date. Yankee that I am, I used up the notepad.

notepad 3On the back of the backing is the real mystery: the inscription GLV 823. A vehicle license plate number, perhaps? But what state? Who made the hasty note, and why did they use the backing rather than a leaf from the pad? Does it capture a red light runner? A hit-and-run accident? The imagination trembles.

Walk among the Giants

Stephanie Mason led a small group through very changeable weather this morning. This is a regular loop for her, following the River Trail from the C&O Canal NHP visitor center and returning along the canal towpath. Because this stretch of floodplain has some majestic trees, among them 200-year-old sycamores, she has styled this trip Walk Among the Giants.

overwinteringStephanie pointed out some abundant drifts of the basal rosettes of Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea). I need learn that not all winter rosettes in the floodplain are Gill-over-the-Ground or Garlic Mustard.

scarce here 2scarce here 1We stopped for a Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii), an uncommon tree for the metro area.

At this point, my camera’s power gave out. But we did have some interesting discussions and opportunities for follow-up. I confessed a distaste for the messy suckerish habit of Box Elder (Acer negundo), yet Stephanie mentioned the tree’s food value for overwintering wildlife, and the rather attractive clusters of samaras persisting on the tree’s branches.

The question of where non-native invasive Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) came from came up (it’s native to Japan-Korea-China) and when it was introduced. Sources indicate that it was brought into North America in about 1890 as breeding stock for other blackberry cultivars.

It is used today by berry breeders to add specific genes to berry varieties or species. Wineberry is an example of one man’s flower being another man’s weed. Given containment, wineberry has desirable and useful qualities, but due to its invasive nature, it is considered a significant pest of agricultural and natural ecosystems.

We saw a good ten or twenty Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) feeding and loafing on the river.

Keep.

A relentless comic monologue, purportedly structured as a recitation of every item in Kitson’s house. The soloist, with a background in stand-up, can match heckle for heckle, calling out on this Wednesday two different audience members who had drifted away from total engagement. Quickly, the piece becomes less an itemization of the things that Kitson hangs on to and more a dump of the ideas and narrative wisps that he can’t let go of. He speaks well of keeping things around that make one sad; in one specific case, a shelf of clean, empty jam jars like “horrible little pockets of hope.” Despite the direct audience address, Kitson’s rapid-fire delivery sucks most of the air out of the room, leaving little breath with which to make a genuine connection with his listeners.

  • Keep., written and performed by Daniel Kitson, Studio Theatre Mead Theatre, Washington

At the park: 106

Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser trend chart

Better late than never, here’s the graphic of nesting success for the spring season. The Wood Duck number is a minimum. We had two nests for which we never took a good count of eggs, and a third nest that perhaps was predated. I did not count these nests in the year’s total.

The Hooded Mergansers were 40 for 51 (78%) and the Wood Ducks were 32 for 86 (37%). First estimated hatch date for the hoodies was 4 April, and the last estimated hatch date for the woodies was 29 June.

A Chorus Line

The most powerful moments in this production come from the no song, no dance passage told by Paul (Jeff Gorti), a honest confession of a story not captured by cast recording albums. Samantha Marisol Gershman brings a naturalness to “Nothing,” dropping at times from a clear singing voice into speech. Emily Tyra’s Cassie shows us the fragility of a performer who’s hit some bumps in the road.

  • A Chorus Line, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, directed by Matthew Gardiner, Signature, Arlington, Va.

Little Shop of Horrors

If the finale of the current production of this silly, entertaining show (some have even called it campy) lacks spectacle—where are the plants that ate Des Moines?—at least there is a great makeup change for the principals (whose characters are being slowly digested by Audrey II), not to mention one more sparkly red costume change for the doo-wop girls Chiffon (Selena Clyne-Galindo), Crystal (Charin Wereley), and Ronnette (Alana S. Thomas). Scott Ward Abernethy shines as Orin, the evil dentist, and the parade of hangers-on chasing Audrey II’s Time-Life fame. Choreographer Ilona Kessell has built an adorbs tango/hora/grapevine for Seymour and Mushnik’s “Mushnik and Son.” MattaMagical’s series of Audrey II puppets are increasingly alarming.

  • Little Shop of Horrors, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, directed by Nick Martin, Constellation Theatre Company, Washington

Future justification

Samuel Pepys lays down a paper trail:

…and that I do foresee the Duke of York would call us to an account why the fleete is not abroad, and we cannot answer otherwise than our want of money; and that indeed we do not do the King any service now, but do rather abuse and betray his service by being there, and seeming to do something, while we do not. Sir G. Carteret asked me (just in these words, for in this and all the rest I set down the very words for memory sake, if there should be occasion) whether 50l. or 60l. would do us any good; and when I told him the very rum man must have 200l., he held up his eyes as if we had asked a million. Sir W. Coventry told the Duke of York plainly he did rather desire to have his commission called in than serve in so ill a place, where he cannot do the King service, and I did concur in saying the same. This was all very plain, and the Duke of York did confess that he did not see how we could do anything without a present supply of 20,000l., and that he would speak to the King next Council day, and I promised to wait on him to put him in mind of it. This I set down for my future justification, if need be, and so we broke up, and all parted, Sir W. Coventry being not very well, but I believe made much worse by this night’s sad discourse.

Some links: 86

  • Converting 35% of the acreage of a coffee farm to shade-grown culture can maximize revenue, according to new research by Amanda Rodewald et al. and summarized by Gustave Axelson. Depending on the premium paid for shade-grown coffee, that percentage can go as high as 85%.
  • A smartphone attachment can test for the presence of norovirus in a drinking water sample and produce results in five minutes. The promising prototype comes from the biomedical engineering lab of Jeong-Yeol Yoon. Joe Palca reports.

    In the wake of hurricanes and other storms, flooding can cause sewage systems to overflow, potentially mixing with water intended for drinking. Municipal water system managers would breathe easier if they could be certain they didn’t have to worry at all about norovirus contamination.

  • How to cross a river. The water at Huntley Meadows Park is never this fast or cold.
  • Melissa Errico submits a “self-tape” audition.