Archive for the ‘TD Seal’ Category

Dance Ranger

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Glen Echo has a long history here in the Washington DC area. According to the official site

Glen Echo Park began in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly, which taught the sciences, arts, languages and literature. By the early 1900s Glen Echo Park had become a premier amusement park, serving the Washington area until 1968. In 1971, after the federal government obtained the land, the National Park Service began managing the park. The National Park Service collaborated with artists and arts organizations to create a rich arts program in the spirit of the original Chautauqua movement. Today the programs and facilities at the Park are managed by a nonprofit organization, the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc., while the National Park Service continues its role in managing the grounds and providing historic interpretation.

I have a vague recollection of going to Glen Echo one time as a child, when it was still an amusement park.

In recent years, I have associated Glen Echo, and its historic Spanish Ballroom, with contra dancing. I’m sure there have been many other kinds of dances at the Ballroom.

In today’s Washington Post, there is an article about Stan Fowler, a US Park Ranger that has been instrumental in rehabilitating and maintaining the flooring in the Spanish Ballroom over the past 30 years.

On nights when the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park fills to capacity, Park Ranger Stan Fowler escapes from the live music to the crawl space beneath the maple floor. There he listens to a different musical ensemble.

Above his head, the historic floor he restored gives as toes tap, heels grind and stomp, feet land from jumps and hops. A contra dance, a type of folk dance, flows in perfect lines of synchronized sound. Waltzes gently sweep past. Swing and Cajun steps are accented by sporadic thuds.

“Other than the music and your partner, the floor is the most important part of dancing,” said Fowler, 60. “I know every floorboard in here. . . . A lot of people say the floor is in bad shape. It’s not in bad shape, it has a story.”

The decision by the US Park Service to transfer Stan Fowler has the dance goers up in arms.

Last month, Fowler was unexpectedly reassigned to the Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia, a job he began Wednesday, and Glen Echo Park lost the man who had been the heart and soul of its community dances for more than 30 years. Many dancers worry that their beloved 1930s ballroom will fall into disrepair without Fowler, who has spent his career staving off the aging hall’s closure.

A group of dancers has organized a petition and sent hundreds of letters to National Park Service officials and members of Congress, begging someone to reverse the decision to move Fowler.

“My life has gone topsy-turvy with this,” said Lindsey Dodson, 49, a Friday night dance regular whose father took the trolley from Georgetown to Glen Echo Amusement Park for weekend dances around 1940. “Stan’s very, very much a part of the life of this park. I don’t know what we’ll do without him.”

Fowler has labored to restore and maintain more than just the Spanish Ballrooom

In the early 1990s, Fowler wandered into the park’s dilapidated 1923 bumper car pavilion. The structure was likely to be demolished if it was not renovated, a cost the Park Service pegged at more than half a million dollars. Fowler said he sanded down the end of a pine beam in the pavilion, counted 169 tightly grouped tree rings and decided that the structure had to be saved — if for no other reason than to preserve the historic wood.

The project took seven years, $100,000 in donations and 19,000 hours of volunteers’ time, Fowler said. Volunteers moved the building onto a new foundation, leveled its roof, carved out tunnels for ventilation, built a stage from recycled wood and unscrewed 7,000 screws to remove the metal plates covering the pine floor.

Fowler has petitioned the Park Service to remain at Glen Echo in order to “archive the history of Glen Echo dances and the story of the ballroom floor before he retires in a few years.” So far, his petition has been denied.

Fowler is awarded the ThoughtDocket Seal of Approval for his dedication to Glen Echo, the Spanish Ballroom, and the bumper car pavilion. Here’s to hoping that the US Park Service reconsiders.

Stan Fowler

Stan Fowler

Christmas Stockings

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

There was a feel-good story in today’s Washington Post about a local mail carrier that delivers Christmas stockings to more than 100 dogs on his mail route. Scott Arnold is a 27 year veteran of the US Postal Service and he has been doing this on his route in McLean Virginia for 17 years. According to the article, Arnold packs the stockings with

…rawhide candy canes, dog cookies and rock-hard biscuits, along with an ornament, different each year, that features a photo of the dog taken with Arnold’s 35mm film camera.

Also included in the stocking is a “Santa Paws” newsletter that welcomes new dogs to the neighborhood, acknowledges those dogs that have moved away, and remembers those that have passed on to the “North Pole Kennel”. As might be expected, Arnold has seen many dogs come and go along his mail route. In the cases when the dog dies during the year, Arnold writes a letter to the owner, in the “voice” of the departed companion. Scott Arnold is awarded the Thought Docket Seal of Approval for his kindness.

Scott Arnold

Scott Arnold

Coincidentally, last night, on Christmas Eve, I finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. This book is narrated by a dog named Enzo. Enzo has many human qualities, and is able to relate lessons learned by race car drivers to everyday life.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The book is highly recommended for “dog people” and those with an interest in high-performance driving.

And, speaking of dogs

I am thankful that I have had Tammy, Vicky, Trixie, Alice, Norton, and Ben in my life.

Good Deed, Indeed

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

The news these days is frequently not good. But today there was a genuinely “feel good” piece on A1 of the Washington Post. The story is about 60 year-old Earl Stafford who, after a 20 year military career, founded Unitech, a high tech company, in Centreville, VA.

Stafford and his family subsequently founded the faith-based Stafford Foundation in 2002. The foundation purchased JW Marriott’s $1 million dollar “build-your-own-ball” package just hours after Obama’s election. The package provides 300 rooms, four suites, and $200,000 in food for the inauguration over a 3 day period, and provides attendees with great seats, overlooking the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.

According to the Post article, the Stafford’s and their foundation intend to host the socially and economically disadvantaged, the terminally ill, and wounded soldiers among others at “The People’s Ball”. Beauticians, gowns, and tuxedoes, will be provided, if necessary.

This is the kind of action to which we should all aspire. For their kindness and good deeds, I recognize the Stafford’s with the Thought Docket Seal of Approval.

Earl Stafford and Family

Earl Stafford and Family

Let’s Be Thankful, But Let’s Act Directly, Too

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Thanksgiving, 2008

A day to reflect and give thanks for the life we have. I know I am thankful, thankful for living in the USA, thankful for the freedoms we have, the democratic institutions, the system of risk and reward, the innovation, the generosity of our people, our penchant for thinking and acting strategically, and the peaceful transition of power, among other things. As difficult as things are, right here, right now, they could be much, much worse.

I saw a story about a woman, Monique White, in Colorado who, a year ago, had run into difficult times. In the past year, she and her husband, Doug, were able to land new jobs and purchase a townhouse. On a lark, she placed a Craigslist ad inviting people to her house for Thanksgiving. You can read about it here. Thirty-two people responded to the ad, and all are coming to her house today. The story quotes Doug White

That’s what Thanksgiving is about: Helping other people out however you can.

That’s a really positive message. I have always responded positively to entreaties to direct action. What do I mean by “direct action”? For me, direct action means performing deeds directly for, or providing help directly to, those we intend to help. It is a little bit like eliminating – or at least reducing – the middle man. The opportunities for direct action are, of course, unlimited. Here are just a few examples:

Monique and Doug White are acting directly. Thank you, Monique and Doug, for helping to remind me what Thanksgiving is all about. For their kindness and good deeds, I recognize the White’s with the first ever Thought Docket Seal of Approval.