Stories of Evolution

Rainy weekends are perfect for curling up with a good book, and this weekend, DC residents and visitors have the best selection at the 11th National Book Festival.  The two-day event, expanded from previous years, features storytelling for children and talks from the best contemporary life, poetry, and prose writers.  It all takes place on the somewhat soggy National Mall, with tents for hourly readings and book signings.

To get there, we boarded a Metrobus driven by a soon-to-be Texas preacher, who ministered to the passengers.  During the ride, he gave instructions on how o a path in the crossroads of life. He expertly navigated the tight streets to downtown D.C., telling his life story by the time we reached the Capitol.

Entrance to the Museum of Natural HistoryWe split our Saturday between the Museum of Natural History and the author readings, first exploring the fossils in the dinosaur exhibit and then listening to the anthropological poems of Claudia Emerson.  Both were expertly curated and only slightly crowded. In the museum, the heavy traffic areas circulated around the dinosaur bones and Hope diamond, an odd contrast of what can be discovered when digging through the dirt.  At the book festival, the crowds congregated around the fiction tent, where writers shared their stories of their evolution.



Closing Time

During college, I would visit Borders almost every weekend. As a bookstore, it fit somewhere between the city-staple Barnes and Nobel and the Books-A-Million that I had grown up with.  It didn’t serve Starbucks, but it served up a hearty clearance section and plenty of comfortable chairs in its cafe.  On a visit almost a year after graduation, the store had barely changed, and I still saw the same people.  One commented that he hadn’t seen me in a while, so it felt like I had never moved away at all.

The familiarity of Borders is gone now, as are most of the books, as the store enters its last two days.  The mark-downs are drastic – 80-90% – so some new books cost less than a dollar. But inventory is low and limited to several romance novels and an endless supply of Sarah Palin books, Lady Gaga magazines, and a  Jonas brothers booklet that’s going for about 20 cents.  Perhaps pop culture has conquered the more traditional book, but in this case it sits on the shelf a little bit longer.

Fortunately, the store closes in the same spirit that it operated, with good music playing over the speakers, even after the cafe has shut down, its fixtures sold piece by piece.  Customers carry out bookcases at the rate of three for $100, and it’s my hope that they will be filled again.  As we left, the song changed to Semi-Sonic’s “Closing Time,” a very appropriate end to this beginning.

Sole Searching

Thankfully, we live in a part of the city that tolerates bare feet.  My husband tested this tolerance at least twice in the past week: first by locking himself out of the apartment without shoes and second by running in his Vibram Five Fingers shoes. In the first case, he walked three miles to and from my office, completely barefoot, with blisters as a result.  In the second instance, he swears by the experience of running barefoot, claiming that it alleviates his knee pain and makes him faster.  I almost believe him, particularly after he shed three minutes off of his 5k time, so this weekend I decided to test the trend myself.

In shopping for new shoes, I tried on several minimalist styles, including the Five Fingers, which take more than five minutes to get on the first time and feel oddly constraining and freeing at the same time.  Uncomfortable standing still, they provide more freedom when running, but I couldn’t commit to purchasing a pair, even after an REI employee made an excellent pitch based on his on running.  The only downside, according to him, was that you have to watch your step.  When running with a dog, he admitted, this can be tricky. So I took one step back to the Merrell cross-training shoes that also feature a Vibram sole.  Though closed toed, they provide a similar minimalist feel without the awkwardness of a glove.  They will be great for walking to work, taking the dog outside, and even hiking around the city.

Oddly enough, Vibram also soles booties for dogs, so I guess Georgia will be the next one in the family to experience the minimalist style.  But she’s already used to walking the streets barefoot, so we are sure to have more runs and adventures in the weekends to come. Though Labor Day might be the unofficial end to the summer, being barefoot makes the season seem a little longer.