Leaves are Dying, Here is Where you Monsters Can Watch Them

Sigh, autumn.  The season where the District skips off to collectively squee over shorter days, desolate beaches, vests and inedible corn, while its best friend summer is left to bleed out in a heap on the sidewalk.  IronCitySpy and I have spent countless hours trying to convince you people of the obviously superior season, a position that has only been reinforced by TV, music, movies, books, branding and overall number of smiles, but, in an attempt to turn over a new (dying) leaf, we decided to throw on some Tartan, sigh heavily, and help you watch some plants give up:

Option 1.  The best place in DC to take a million tree selfies without judgment and then watch Westworld

Image result for national arboretum

Columns at the Arboretum with leaves in various stages of despair (photo courtesy of DC-HBC)

The National Arboretum.  Hands down.  It is free, massive, and you can find plenty of places to practice your selfie in peace while still getting home for HBO Sunday.  You also can get pictures of autumn splendor reflected in other flora that thrive on the precipice of death, like certain  vines, shrubs, flowers, and autumn bonsai, which are ADORABLE.  The Arboretum does not have a restaurant, but it does sell snacks.  You could also pack a picnic and force everyone to eat on the freezing ground, because that seems like something that you people would do.

Other options include Rock Creek Park, C&O Canal Historic Park, Roosevelt Island, Arlington Cemetery (though perhaps not the best selfie spot) and yes, even the National Mall.  DC is actually a green city, unlike other cities who claim to be (*cough* New York) so just explore it.

Option 2. By “tree viewing,” I meant eating pumpkin pie in a large sweater.  Where can I do that, but surrounded by above-average dying trees?

An admittedly noble request.  The knee jerk response on most websites would be Harper’s Ferry, and honestly with good reason – great overlook hike, quaint restaurants, and a multitude of hiking options.  Yahoo rated it best foliage or something.  The problem with Harper’s Ferry is the CROWDS.  It is a zoo during peak leaf season, and it is tough to find anywhere to park or eat.  So go if you want, but, as an alternative, let me humbly recommend Frederick, Maryland.

Image result for frederick maryland autumn

Not only is that an old-timey locomotive, it is a MURDER MYSTERY DINNER LOCOMOTIVE. I am serious. Click the picture and search for “murder mystery dinner train”

I mean look at that.  It really has all your Fall things:  old buildings, Americana restaurants, covered bridges tours, three breweries in the city, one of which is named after Monocacy, a civil war battlefield that you can tour nearby if that’s your thing.  New Market, Maryland’s antiques capital, is a 15 minute drive away,  and, if you prefer eating your pumpkin pie in active wear, you can first hike in either Cunningham Falls State Park or Catoctin Mountain Park  25 minutes north of Frederick to really get the Thelma and Louise tree experience.

Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail

Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail, Catoctin Mountain Park, Credit: Alicia Lafever

I know, its almost too seasonal.  I’ll give you a minute.

Option 3. I can only tolerate tree viewing if I am constantly moving, like a shark.  I also have a dog. 

Photo of Overall Run Falls

Leaves in varying stages of death at Overall Run in Shenandoah National Park surrounded by water that cannot save them (credit MDEliz on Trip Advisor)

Another respectable request.  It will probably be freezing and dogs are pretty great.  For hiking, we are really spoiled for choice in the DC area, so I am going to highlight three trails that are good, dog friendly (on leashes) and maybe not as obvious as Old Rag and Great Falls:

  • Overall Run Trail:  Great views plus the tallest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park.  About 2 hours outside of DC.  There are many hiking options here depending on your persuasion. You can find a really detailed description of a 5.0 mile option on Virginia Trail Guide. Another option is 7.3 miles starting from Thompson Hollow.  
  • Sky Meadows State Park:  A pastoral state park with rolling hills, meadows and wooded areas.  Drive takes about an hour from DC. Numerous trails but one of the most popular is the Piedmont Trail. 4.7 mile loop. Then you can go to Hollins Farm for cinnamon donuts or Arterra Wine for…wine.
  • Kepler Overlook: Near Woodstock Virginia. Up and back hike. 6 miles total. Drive takes around 2 hours to get to.  Beautiful views, some streams and not very crowded. There is a berry farm and microbrewery combo nearby.  I know, I’ll give you a minute again. Tibet Knob is another excellent alternative nearby that is 3 hours but more strenuous.

Option 4.  I am willing to go wherever, but am anxiety ridden over figuring out when “peak foliage” is.  Do you know when peak foliage is?  Does anyone? I heard our summer pushed it back? Is that true? Did I miss it?!?!?

Deep Creek Lake, MD: presumably watered by the tears of leaves (photo links to park site)

First, no, you haven’t missed it. Plenty of places have not peaked yet.  However, from one psychopath to another, it is impossible to predict peak foliage within a neurotically-acceptable margin of error.  Yes, you can find a foliage map here, but as I have intimated above, it comes with caveats that are frankly unacceptable those that spend all their vacations agonizing over whether everyone is actually having fun or just faking it.  Thankfully, I have discovered a solution:  WEBCAMS.  Many awesome places have webcams that update in real-time or daily, so you can see if the foliage actually looks good. You can also see whether you have missed it, since peak season is very regional.  Here are some good ones:

So that’s that.  I hope the death of flora is sufficiently bloody for you people.

The One Where DCSpy Blogs Again But Sets Expectations

Okay, so it has been awhile. Three years to be exact.  The last time you left your faithful spy, she had abandoned her perfectly acceptable government-adjacent job to become a goddamn lawyer–a confusing and seemingly pointless endeavor that culminated in her taking a bar exam, mentally breaking down during said bar exam, showering with her clothes on like Tobias, and then somehow passing said bar exam to only land a job that can be summarized as follows:

(photo courtesy of this amazing lawyer coloring book by Sad and Useless)

Sigh.  And so, in a moment of existential crisis, after buying a year’s worth of costumes for her beleaguered hedgehog (known here as DChog to protect his identity / job at the crinkle tunnel factory), DCSpy decided to blog again.

And dear reader(s), so much has happened in DC in the past three years!  Eckington is a thing I know now! There are working streetcars on H Street! A Dupont underground!  Philz Coffee!  The rat colony behind my apartment has a new leader! People aren’t as into cupcakes as they were at one time! Angelina Jolie is single and supposedly teaching at Georgetown!

I will do my best to update the blog at least weekly with recommendations around our fair city and other general musings, but please know I say this with the distinct possibility I might abandon the idea entirely  in a month.  For now,  the posts will be short and definitely pointless, but they will be on the internet.  I will also be tweeting I guess, although past practice indicates it will likely be a jumble of DCSpy writing, deleting and re-posting virtually the same tweets ad infinitum.  Twitter is taxing on the neurotic.

Happy Halloween my beloved District!!

Oh hi DC. It’s been awhile since we chatted on this medium. Why you ask? Well, in our 22 month hiatus, your lovely spy attended law school, broke down as a human, abandoned everything she loved, was rebuilt as a poorly functioning lawbot, and then promptly short-circuited in her lawbot body due the bar exam even though she is nearing 3o and should be able to take a goddamn test. I now return to you as shards of twisted metal and obscure latin phrases to blog about pointless DC things and beg for your love and forgiveness.

So with that, happy halloween!!! Halloween in our fair district is fantastic — if only because the embassies give out candy, dauschunds look like hot dogs, and every building is haunted by administrations past (seriously even Wok n’ Roll in Chinatown was once the boarding house of Mary Surratt – the first woman executed by the U.S. government for her role in Lincoln’s assassination– and is therefore known to be haunted).

Sushi with a side of ectoplasm

Ironcityspy and I will be going out this weekend to a murder mystery party as Sam and Suzy from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom — a reality that is so insufferably hipster you should probably just poison some craft cider and put us out of our misery. If you are unfamiliar with Wes Anderson, just  assume our halloween will look exactly like the clip below — a movie trailer that is both parody and something I would seriously want to be an actual movie:

That being said, if you are in the district and looking for a party this weekend, I would check out both Eventbrite and Brightest Young Things to get the most comprehensive list of DC, MD, and VA activities. OR if you are lazy, you always could just dress up, drink at your house, and then take awkward photographs in front of national treasures. OR if you are even lazier, you could just eat Cheetos,  find a cat, force it to dress up as different U.S. presidents, and photograph it in front of terrible backdrops of national treasures that you drew.

Regardless, happy halloween and trick or treat!!! (Or as they say in Canada, “Halloween apples!!!” because God even their devil’s night is earnest)

Blogging for the enemy: IronCityspy joins Caps blog


In addition to recently selling out and getting advertising dollars on here, I’ve also been asked to moonlight at the very good Caps blog “Stop throwing hats“. What’s that? Why did I agree to work on a blog that gets it’s moniker from insulting my favorite player? Short answer, daddy’s got to eat. The proprietor is a talented writer that is getting a good deal of exposure (some of it nationally). Continuing my personal mantra of never being afraid to follow others, I am basically hoping to ride his coattails to some blogger glory. He is giving me complete creative control, and rather hopes I narrow in on what it’s like being a Penguins fan in DC. If you are interested in either the Pens or the Caps, I hope you will grace my unlettered scribblings from time to time.

At any rate, if you are interested my first article centers around the Pen’s and Cap’s tribute to the tragic fate of the doomed Lokomotiv team.

5 reasons why you should visit the National Geographic ducklings on Easter instead of buying one

Since it is sadly still common practice to buy children ducklings, bunnies and other types of living beings for Easter, I felt I would encourage DC residents to spare Donald’s life  and visit the local Mallard family that has chosen the National Geographic building pond as their home. Here are reasons why you should choose to watch those ducks instead of sacrificing an innocent.

(1) The National Geographic ducks have a ramp

I mean is anything more adorable than this?

(2) Ducks are anatomically incapable of being house trained

Why? Because they do not have a sphincter muscle. True story. In practical terms, this means they eat and defecate constantly with no control over where and when they go -  quickly converting them from adorable pet to perfect duck taco material.

One innovation? The duck diaper - seriously

(3) If, after growing tired of said defecating duck, you humanely set it free in a pond, it won’t last past its first birthday

This is because your duck was raised on a farm,  has no animal instincts whatsoever, and will likely try to be friends with a motorcycle. If it has the dumb luck of remaining in its park area and living off of children’s snacks – it will ultimately die when the winter arrives or it is enslaved by the mutant ducks who dominate urban ponds. So basically, you sold your duck into a trafficking ring. Bravo.

Your duck's new pond friends!

(4) The National Geographic staff have taken precautions to overcome the inherent stupidity of ducks

Because ducks are one of nature’s weakest, sorriest creatures, mother mallards will actually abandon their young if people get too close to them – yes, simply leave and never come back. How Darwin hasn’t taken care of this ridiculousness is beyond me. However, the Nat Geo folks have put up signs making sure people don’t come too close. Your duck on the other hand, won’t have such signs.

(5) Ducklings become full grown ducks in 30 days

To a certain extent, this is apt, because 30 days is about the time it will take your kid will stop caring or feeding Dr. Quackerson and move on to wanting a hamster-ey. At that point you are left with a disinterested kid and, well, an effing DUCK. A duck that looks like this and literally cannot do anything but quack around confusedly.

Awkward teen duck

I mean look at that feather tuft. For his sake, leave him to his farm life. His existence shouldn’t be sacrificed because you made a stupid impulse purchase. And besides, the Nat Geo ducklings are MIGHTY cute.

Xristos Voskrese!! (Happy Easter!)

DC Spring Obsessions

Happy Earth Day! As I sit here in isolation, I started clicking around what’s new in the world. Much of this is from DC – as that is the universe of a SPY. Since my DC exploration has temporarily stalled, I invite you to enjoy these wonders – so that I can live vicariously.

So dear readers, enjoy the things to do…

…and things to covet…

…and things to accessorize…

…and things to preserve…

…and things to wear to a fancy party with a horse…

…and things to just take in….

Enjoy the weekend guys! See you next week.

Museum of the Americas, DC Fashion District at Long View Gallery
Glamourai (in Balenciaga), Ring from Charm in Georgetown
Female Tie by Ginger Roots Design, Necklaces by Claranette
Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Shenandoah
Outfit by Urban Chic, Dress by Line & Dot at Treat Boutique
LOVE sign at Dupont Circle (in honor of VA is for Lovers)

Adidam Washington Post ads and why I could be a spiritual leader

So I don’t know if anyone else has noticed these ads in the Washington Post:

Yeah. I did. Having that face stare at me while I read about a man being glued to a toilet seat at Walmart (yes that happened) was just too odd, so I did some investigation. What did I find? (1) Adi Da (the guy) is dead – He died in 2008 at 69, (2) this ad is to join the Maryland chapter of the religion of his devotees, and (3) I really need to become a spiritual leader.

According to Wikipedia, this guy, born Albert Jones, was a Lutheran, raised in Long Island, attended Columbia and Stanford, did tons of psychotropic drugs in yuppie Palo Alto before moving to Greenwich village where he did yoga and things. His dad said he needed to get a job so he trained to be a Lutheran minister, had a breakdown and dropped out, became a Scientologist, then dropped out of that and started traveling around India until one day he said he realized “the bright” (spiritual enlightenment) in LA, opened an Eastern religion bookstore  with a Scientologist’s backing, and started lecturing about his autobiography he had just written .

The most spiritually enlightened of mullets

Then he founded his religion, then called “The Dawn Horse Communion,” now called Adidam, in which he declared himself “the divine lord in human form,” and declared that people can find spiritual enlightenment through him.

I am like the sunlight in the morning. I intensify the light of morning until you Awaken…Am your own True Self-Nature Appearing within the dream to Awaken you. I am your Awakening, and your Always Already Conscious Statefrom the ad link (specifically tailored to Washington Post readers)

It is in the style of Indian religions, and has involved meditation, yoga and “sexual theater” (i.e. group orgies).  He was under investigation for sex abuse and tax evasion – he had numerous wives. He changed his name multiple times, including once to “Bubba Free John.” Technically the religion consists of 7 steps toward enlightenment, titled things like “abiding in consciousness,” and there are all these other details about the stages etc that I have no patience to address now.

Yoda-inspired shot

I mean. He is a crazy person. Also sort of looked like a serial killer in his youth. Which seems funny until you realize Adidam has enough money to do ads in the Washington Post, has quotes from UN Officials who have found enlightenment, and has spiritual centers internationally. One of my friends told me she wanted to be a spiritual guru. She said it would involve cucumber slices, yoga and Death Valley. Honestly, why not? Here is what you need

  • Cited influence of a small religious sect in a warm-weathered developing country that is not easily accessible
  • A designated number of steps that must be followed but the final two steps can never ever be realized
  • Temple in a tropical place with manicured grounds
  • A Scientologist friend (for money)
  • Your own garden where grow your vegetables and fruits
  • Ambiguous phrases (i.e. beauty that transcends without, becomes beauty that compels within)
  • A fountain or even better, a stream
  • Forced isolation and awkward silence
  • An autobiographical spiritual awakening
  • Beaded necklaces
  • A pilgrimage to somewhere hotter, more remote and more isolated
  • Flowing shirts (just not linen – you imperialist)

Now, obviously drugs, sexual liberalism and other things are optional. However, let me stress that it must occur in warm weather – nobody wants isolation in Siberia. So is Adidam my spiritual teacher? No. But if you need one, let me know. Many cucumber slices await you.

A delicious sandwich on a Friday afternoon

I figured since it was Friday and not exceptionally warm out, I would end the week on a high note – namely, a note of sandwiches. You see, Ironcityspy is now working in Courthouse – and after a few hungry visits, I have concluded that Courthouse is one of the best places around for work lunches. Don’t believe me? Think about it. You have Pho 75, Five Guys, Ray’s Hell Burger, Dehli Dhaba, and Fireworks. You also have tons of places to sit down and watch sports. If you want, you could even truck it up to El Pollo Rico in Clarendon for some cheap and delicious Peruvian chicken.

Such delightful foods behind that sign!

It is also home to one of my favorite DC sandwiches – the Monty. The Monty is from Earl’s Sandwiches on Wilson Blvd in between Courthouse and Clarendon. It’s ingredients are as follows: Freshly roasted beef, cooked medium rare and served warm with mayonnaise and barbeque sauce on a toasted sesame seed roll. It looks like this:

DELICIOUS. What? It is basically meat and sauce on a bun you say?  Ignorant fools. As any  devout follower of the pulled pork sandwich already knows, it’s all you ever need. That and Earl’s roasts all their meat, peppers and garlic in house, they hand cut their fries, and their crab cakes are made to order and their soups are made from scratch. It is this attention to freshness and detail that makes the place so good.

So you should go. Pick up this simplest of sandwiches from the smallest of sandwich shops (Earls seats about 10 people) and grab a local DC Dominion root beer while you are there. Or malt vinegar for your fries.  Earl’s even has non-meat offerings for those that don’t eat delicious things. Oh, but eat the Monty HOT. Hot sandwiches don’t deserve to go cold in your bag. Do it for the SANDWICH.

Earl’s Sandwiches
2605 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 248-0150

Why I love DC in the spring and some restaurant news

Actually that is sort of a disingenuous title. I tend to hate spring. I mean, I like spring in the abstract/Walden Pond sort of sense – the slow retreat of winter, the budding of tulips, daffodils and other lovely flora, the idea that soon bbqs, beaches and warm days will be the norm. However in real life, spring is a tease. It is hot, then it is cold – it is June and it is still cold even though it should be summer and spring should have ended like ages ago but it didn’t.  It rains all the time.  Spring breezes are cold breezes. Sometimes it will randomly snow. I hate pastel colors. Basically, I like spring for about 3 weeks – then I want summer.

Soothing April showers!

However, the one thing my warm-weather self will admit is that DC is very pretty in the Spring. Exhibit A, the dog park near my house:

Seriously, could anything look more idyllic? Also since we are talking about new flowers opening and rebirth after winter and other poetic things, the U Street area will be getting a host of new restaurants just in time for spring.

  • Standard, the burger joint, has already had a soft opening next to Home Rule at 14th and S St (Borderstan)
  • Pizza No. 17 opened at 17th Street at Q, next to Agoura (review forthcoming, as I stopped by)
  • The Pearl Dive Oyster Bar and BlackJack Lounge is set to open “late spring/early summer” at 1612 14th St (14th and U)
  • Boutique steakhouse Lost Society will be opening in the Spring at 14th and U (14th and U)
  • Touchdown a sports bar has opened on U Street at 13th (no word as to its companion chipper – Codmother) (U Street Girl)
  • Oh and don’t forget a new Dunkin Donuts will be classing up the space next to the Gibson on 14th (DCist)
  • And, further afield, we have Medium Rare, a new steakhouse that just opened this week in Cleveland Park (PoP), the Queen Vic a British pub opened on H Street (for drinks only now, kitchen should open soon) (check their FB page) as well as many new places lined up all over the city that will be disclosed on ispy in time

I mean, all of these things sound amazing – make spring’s Russian roulette of weather worth it. They are also all within walking distance of my house. SCORE. Happy spring!

Of course the missing Bronx Zoo Egyptian Cobra has a Twitter account

So as you may or may not know, New York City’s Bronx Zoo has closed their World of Reptiles exhibit after an Egyptian Cobra went missing on Friday afternoon. Yes. A cobra – as in a deadly and venomous 20-inch snake. It looks like this:

Before it broke out of dodge, it was being held at a separate facility not accessible to the public. Although zoo officials believe that the cobra is most likely hiding somewhere within the facility grounds, they have alerted the public out of safety – stating that cobras seek closed in spaces and do not like going out in the open. Well, unless they are hungry that is, which is how the keepers hope to find it.

Have they found it? Of course not. However, despite living in the shadows the cobra has managed to establish a twitter account. And it is quite amazing. You can find it here: BronxZoosCobra. Some tweets include:

I mean. He is quite witty for a snake in hiding. Anyways, to my New York friends… good luck and godspeed. I have read that it is an adolescent, which means, upside, it’s smaller than most, but downside, it has rudimentary control over its venom so could easily kill you. It is also likely filled with angst and wearing a Hot Topic sweatshirt.