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“Mango Mike” Anderson

(Steven Halperson/Tisara Photography)

Forty-seven years at a job he really likes to do

ALEXANDRIA, VA -While “Mango” Mike Anderson was growing up in Detroit in the ‘50s and ‘60s, his father, uncle, grandfathers, and just about everybody worked for automobile manufacturers. Mike worked for Ford Motor Company during summers and assumed that he would go back there when he graduated from Eastern Michigan University.

Under the pen name “Action Andy,Mike wrote a customer help column for the Eastern Echo (college newspaper); his friend John Horshok wrote a sports column as “The Golden Kazoo. When they graduated in 1971, Action Andy and The Golden Kazoo decided to go somewhere interesting for one year before starting their life journeys working for Ford.

They chose DC because the Nation’s Capital was exciting, had the lowest unemployment rate, and wasn’t too far from the ocean or Michigan. “But,” says Mike, “the killer was we’d heard there were seven girls for every guy in DC.”

On arrival, they drove around the Beltway looking for a place to stay, saw the Holiday Inn on Eisenhower Avenue, and took the Telegraph Road exit.

Del Ray Business Association Sponsors First Mayoral Debate May 2


Over 600 concerned citizens and campaign volunteers piled into the auditorium at Mount Vernon Community School to watch a live debate between incumbent Mayor Allison Silberberg and her challenger in the upcoming June 12 Democratic primary, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson.

NBC4’s Julie Carey brilliantly moderated the back-and-forth exchange and kept a steady pace of provocative questions fired at both candidates for the full 90 minutes.

Filmed by a three-camera crew from Audio Visual Actions in Alexandria, the video was live streamed for the community by The Zebra Press, and in archived in perpetuity on their website.

Alexandria Businessman, Jeff Yates, 63 Loses Cancer Battle

Jeff Yates

Jeffrey Lee Yates, prominent businessman in Alexandria, VA, passed away peacefully on February 22, 2018 in his Alexandria home, surrounded by family, after a courageous battle with cancer.

Jeff was born on November 2, 1954 at Maxwell Airforce Base in Montogomery, AL to parents, Naval Officer John Godfrey and Lena Mary Yates. Jeff graduated from Oxon Hill High School in 1972 and continued his education at the University of Maryland where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 1976.

He went on to work for Seagram’s Distillery in Baltimore, MD and then became an internal combustion engine patent examiner at the US Patent and Trademark Office in Crystal City, VA.

While growing up, Jeff was always involved in his family’s automotive business and worked many hours at Yates Gulf Service at 834 N. Washington Street in Alexandria, VA. His love for the family business and the automotive industry eventually inspired him to start his own business, Yates Auto Parts and Hardware, in 1977.

Jeff Yates bought the iconic Table Talk restaurant at 1623 Duke Street in 2015, promising patrons not to change a thing. (Courtesy photo)

Jeff shared his love for the auto parts industry with his brother Jim, and eventually they grew Yates Auto Parts into a regional conglomerate. Having achieved this success, Jeff changed his course, leaving the auto parts business to pursue his passion for real estate.

Jeff Yates frequented many of his businesses regularly but some say his favorite place to hang out was with the gang at his beloved car wash at 1018 N. Henry Street. (Courtesy photo)

Jeff embraced the real estate market and acquired many successful properties as owner-operator in the Alexandria area. He always had time for a friendly chat with customers and friends while working at some of his favorite businesses, especially Yates Car Wash and Detail Center on Henry Street and Table Talk Restaurant on Duke Street.

He made it his goal to both preserve iconic Alexandria properties and mentor dozens of decades-long employees to pursue their own successes.

Jeff will be missed by his many friends and employees, but especially by his family. Jeff is survived by his beloved fiancée, Connie Sofia, who was his partner in both life and business. He is also survived by his three children, Jacquelyn Marie Nevin of Darien, CT, Jeffrey Lee Yates, Jr. of Alexandria, VA, and Jessica Nicolina Yates of Delray Beach, FL; their mother, Mary Vanderberry Yates also of Delray Beach, FL; and his three beautiful grandchildren, Grace, William, and Olivia.

He is also survived by brothers John Godfrey Yates, Jr. of Waterford, VA, James Nicholas Yates of Occoquan, VA, Jason Allan Yates of Fairfax Station, VA; sister-in-law Virginia White Yates of Potomac Falls, VA; and many loving nephews and nieces. He is preceded in death by his brother Joseph Harding Yates and his parents John Godfrey and Lena Mary Yates.

Relatives and friends may call at Everly Wheatley Funeral Home, 1500 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA 22302 on Friday, March 2, 2018 from 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM and from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM. Funeral services will be held at the same location on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 11:00 AM. The interment will be held at Ivy Hill Cemetery at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to support the Bladder Cancer Research Fund at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. For more information please visit Everly Wheatley funeral home. 

[Editor’s Note: This obituary is reprinted with permission from the Everly Wheatley funeral home website.]

NBC4’s Julie Carey to Emcee Meet the Legends Reception

Julie Carey (Courtesy photo)

NBC4’s Northern Virginia bureau chief Julie Carey will emcee the Meet the Legends Reception on Thursday, March 15 at 6:00 pm.

Sponsored by Living Legends of Alexandria, the event introduces the 2018 Living Legend honorees and will be held at the Center for Design, Media and the Arts on the NOVA Community College Alexandria Campus.

Del Ray is Throwing a Bash for the New Gateway—And You Are Invited!


Help Raise Funds for Del Ray Gateway and Park Honoring Nancy Dunning

“We need to change the entrance to Del Ray into a vibrant space for all ages. The spray park would turn an abandoned pool into a play area where children could cool down in the summer and also work as a green space for people of all ages to hang out. I hope we can transform the space so when people enter Del Ray, they are welcomed by something beautiful.”~ Nancy Lee, Del Ray Gateway Committee Member

ALEXANDRIA, VA—The Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia cries out for its own defining entry, and the community leaders have put their heads together, canvassed the neighbors, and made a proposal to City Council to create what will be called the Del Ray Gateway.

“Nancy Dunning was a human gateway to our community, bringing people together and making people feel at home. This project in her name has the potential to create a beautiful and active gateway for our community. It will bring our neighborhood together.”~Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor of the Alexandria City Council (Photo by Jack Powers)

The major improvement project, in PARKnership with the City, will transform the corner at Mt. Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues into a beautiful new Gateway, which will include the Nancy Dunning Memorial Garden and a community Spray Park.  Right now the Colasanto pool and a corner pocket park occupy the space. 

King’s Jewelry: Still Glimmering After 60 Years


By Deborah Sanders

Andrew Bradford, Cathy Bradford Norman “Brad” Bradford, Tari Stribling and Gregory Bradord. (Photo by Lillis Werder)

To be in business for over 60 years in the same location, you must be doing something right. To hear Norman “Brad” Bradford tell the story, he makes it sound easy but, if you think about it, jewelry is not required for sustenance (well maybe for some!). In other words, customers are probably not shopping there as frequently as they might at a grocery store for example. So how has Brad been able to do it? By insisting on attentive customer service. 

FDA Warning: Avoid Using Hand Sanitizer With Methanol

Pixabay photo by Daniel Roberts

ALEXANDRIA, VA – On June 9, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disseminated a warning declaring certain hand sanitizer brands unsafe. Some brands include the ingredient methanol, which is toxic.

The FDA has provided a list of brands found to be unsafe. All of the brands originate from Mexico.  The full list can be seen HERE, along with the full news release.

The sanitizers listed should be discarded immediately. People exposed to methanol should seek medical attention right away.

The chemical can produce many side effects including vision loss, headache, and vomiting. Poisoning can result in death.

Methanol is not useful in any way in hand sanitizers. An investigation is ongoing, and the FDA will provide updated information when it is complete.

To help guard against the coronavirus, the FDA recommends these known safe practices: washing with soap and water or using sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol. They advise cleaning hands after coughing, sneezing, and before eating.

ICYMI: Renaming of T.C. Williams High School to be Considered by School Board



Superheroes Needed: Donate Blood to the Red Cross and Win Memorabilia From “Wonder Woman 1984”

Pixabay photo: Robert DeLaRosa

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The American Red Cross is in urgent need of help. The pandemic has resulted in a severe blood supply shortage. Yes, there are less people out and about, meaning fewer life-threatening injuries. But the other side of the coin is that not as many people are donating blood.

Wonder Woman to the Rescue

To encourage donation, the Red Cross has joined forces with Wonder Woman! On July 9, in a press release, the organization announced that Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Films will give away replica props that look exactly like ones used in the upcoming motion picture “Wonder Woman 1984.”

“Blood donors have a unique super power—lifesaving blood,” said Lisa Macaluso, regional donor services executive of the American Red Cross Biomedical Services. “Blood cannot be manufactured,and donors are the only source for patients in need.”

People who donate through July 31 will be automatically entered for a chance to win a package of props. It will include the Golden Lasso and a pair of gauntlets.

Gal Gadot Stars in “Wonder Woman 1984.” (Courtesy photo)

The Dire Shortage

The Red Cross usually has enough blood to last for five days, but not now. And in this country, someone needs blood every two seconds. Like the pandemic itself, the supply challenge is unprecedented.

Only three out of every 100 people donate blood. A viable supply is needed to treat cancer patients and car accident victims, for example. Tens of thousands gave during the start of the pandemic. But a supply can only last for so long. In the case of red blood cells, they last for 42 days after donation. Flatlets last just five days.

A Word About Safety

Most importantly, it is safe to donate. Protocols are in place to protect donors and medical staff such as wearing and changing gloves after every appointment, and wiping down surfaces. See a full list HERE.

“Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” said Jerome M. Adams, M.D., the U.S. surgeon general.

Red Cross centers nationwide are following the highest safety standards. Visits are by appointment only. Donors must wear a face covering, in keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Donating Blood in Virginia

To donate blood in Virginia, residents must be at least 17 years of age (or 16 with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds, have an appropriate iron level, and wait a certain number of days after a recent donation. The timeframe depends on specific blood type donated, i.e., whole blood, red blood cells, plasma, or platelets.

Technology can save time as well. The Red Cross uses RapidPass®, Donors can complete pre-fill health history information before their appointment, saving up to 15 minutes. To learn more, click HERE.  The app is available HERE.

To make an appointment, click HERE.

Contest Terms and Conditions

A valid email address is required. Limit five (5) entries per presenting donor. Winner will be selected and notified via the email listed in their American Red Cross donor profile on or around Aug. 10, 2020. Offer is non-transferable and not redeemable for cash. Void where prohibited. Giveaway begins July 1, 2020 and ends July 31, 2020. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries are not responsible for the promotion, administration or execution of this Giveaway.

“Wonder Woman 1984” movie poster (Courtesy image)

Movie Release

“Wonder Woman 1984” is due in theaters on October 2, 2020. Parts of the film, starring Gal Gadot, were filmed at Landmark Mall. See the trailer HERE.

RELATED: Back to the Movies: AMC Premieres Pandemic Protocols




On Wedding Traditions

Bride Amanda Morgan carries a flower garland to place on her groom, Rahul Nemade. (Photo: Nina Tisara)

Alexandria, VA – Lyrics from : “A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home… And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word… Tradition.”

We humans love traditions. Maybe as much as love them, we need them to keep from breaking our necks! And weddings are rich in traditions.

In last month’s column about weddings, I wrote about loving the altar of family photographs and the pageantry of the bride processing down the aisle on the arm of her father to meet the groom. With a bit of research I learned about the origin of the wedding ring and why the month of June is favored for weddings. I wrote about flower girls and ring bearers. As a wedding photographer, I witnessed many beautiful traditions.

One, both beautiful and colorful, is the Indian tradition of garlanding. When the groom garlands his wife, it is believed he bestows half of his spiritual energy on her. And similarly, when the bride garlands the groom, she shares her spiritual energy with him.

The Breaking of the Glass in Jewish wedding tradition is a symbolic prayer and hope that the couple’s love for one another will remain until the pieces of the glass come together again. In other words, that their love will last forever.

The ceremonial jumping of the broom before witnesses has roots in the 1700s. For enslaved African Americans in the mid-19th century, it was as open a declaration that a couple chose to become married as was then allowed.

An old German wedding custom of cutting a log represents the first obstacle that the couple must overcome in their marriage. They work together to overcome the obstacle by sawing through the log.

Tying the knot may refer to a custom in antiquity in which couples were literally tied together in ceremony to signify their spiritual bond. Although today, the knot is a mainly a figurative one, it is still at times a literal one in handfasting ceremonies.

Amanda Casey who facilitates event rentals at Historic Hollin Hall on the grounds of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church added these traditions signifying the joining of two individuals into one couple:

· The Unity Candle where the bride and groom light a single candle from individual flames;

· Unity Sand where the bride and groom have different colored sand they pour into a vase;

· Unity Planting where the couple each brings dirt from their hometowns and re-pot a plant in the dirt;

· Norwegian weddings guests may be served kransekake, a pastry with origins in a horn of plenty;

· And among Christian elements there is the ceremony of Feet Washing and the Cord of Three Strands. In Feet Washing, the groom washes the bride’s feet representing Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The Cord of Three Strands symbolizes the joining of man, woman, and God into marriage. God taught them to love and by keeping Him at the center of the marriage, His love will continue to bless the marriage. Won’t you share your favorite wedding traditions – write ninatisara@ninatisara.com

Mosaic Artist/Photographer Nina Tisara is the founder of Living Legends of Alexandria

ICYMI: Memories & Musings – On Weddings

Judge Nolan Dawkins Surprised by 100-Car Parade Upon Retirement

Undersheriff Tim Gleeson, Officer Bennie Evans, Captain Kelly, Chief Callicott, Judge Nolan Dawkins, Sgt Hall. Lt. Richardson, Deputy Sorgho and Sheriff Dana Lawhorne. (Courtesy photo)

By David Lord

Alexandria, VA – Over 2,000 years ago, Socrates opined that there were four characteristics that defined a good judge. “To hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly; and to decide impartially.” On June 26, 2020, Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Nolan B. Dawkins retired after a quarter of a century on the bench. Judge Dawkins epitomized the qualities identified by Socrates by bringing compassion, humility and integrity to his job on a daily basis. Judge Dawkins has been a life-long trailblazer, from his childhood, where he was one of the first black students to attend the newly-integrated George Washington High School, to his judicial career, where he became the first black judge to serve in this city.

Still Lives in Alexandria Boyhood Home

As a proud native Alexandrian, Judge Dawkins continues to live in his boyhood home, where he was raised by his parents Curtis and Mittie Dawkins. Judge Dawkins attended Lyles Crouch Elementary School and began high school at Parker Gray, until deciding in 1963 to become one of the first black students to enroll in George Washington High School. This action became possible when T.C. Williams, who had opposed integration, was replaced as superintendent for the Alexandria City Public Schools by John Albohm. Two years later, Dawkins would graduate from the school.

Dawkins legacy of service began at Central State University in Ohio, where he enrolled in ROTC. He would go on to serve the country as a Lieutenant in the United States Army, including a deployment to Vietnam, returning home in 1971. After leaving the military, Dawkins was offered a job in Ohio, but decided instead to enroll in law school in New Jersey, moving there with his then-girlfriend and later wife Lorraine. Dawkins attended Seton Hall Law School and, upon graduation, became a legal aid attorney in that state. In 1977, Dawkins returned to Alexandria, where he had a civil practice with the firm of Dawkins, Delaney, McCarthy & Colton.

Judge Nolan Dawkins with brothers, Dr. Arthur Dawkins and Robert Dawkins at the surprise retirement parade. (Courtesy photo)

Making History

In 1994, Dawkins would make history by being selected as Alexandria’s first black judge, taking the bench on Alexandria’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Dawkins would hold the position for 14 years and would develop a reputation for fairness, compassion, and innovation. An example of his pioneering work included the adoption of a drug court that sought to provide substance abuse treatment to parents struggling with addiction and to provide them with a second chance at reuniting with their children. In 2003, Judge Dawkins would be recognized with the Ally in Prevention Award from SCAN of Northern Virginia, an organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.

In 2004, Judge Dawkins sought a position on the Alexandria Circuit Court and was the preferred candidate of the Alexandria Bar Association. Governor Mark Warner was prepared to appoint Judge Dawkins to the position, but Dawkins withdrew from consideration out of concern that Republicans in the General Assembly would not select him for a full term. Four years later, Judge Dawkins was selected by the legislature to serve on the Alexandria Circuit Court. A remarkable crowd of 300 individuals would pack the courtroom for his investiture as a Circuit Court judge. The historic day included speeches from individuals like Bill Euille, who himself would make history as Alexandria’s first black mayor and who was a boyhood friend of Judge Dawkins.

In 2013, Judge Dawkins would join other luminaries by being named to Alexandria’s African American Hall of Fame in an exhibit housed at the Charles Houston Recreation Center, which sits on the original site of the Parker-Gray school. One of Judge Dawkins’ brothers, Arthur C. Dawkins, is also in the Hall of Fame. Arthur Dawkins was a noted musician, educator and vice-Principal at T.C. Williams High School.

Beloved Home-Town Hero

Judge Dawkins surrounded by family after the car parade in Old Town Alexandria. (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Judge Dawkins status as a beloved home-town hero was on full display on his last day as a judge. Despite the challenges created by the COVID-19, well-wishers wearing face masks gathered in the courtyard to wish Judge Dawkins a happy retirement. The occasion was marked with a sixty-car parade as the community said thank you to judge Dawkins for his service. On a personal note, I’ve had the opportunity to appear as an attorney before Judge Dawkins for nearly 15 years, both in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and the Alexandria Circuit Court. Judge Dawkins has never viewed any legal matter in his courtroom as “a case.” Rather, he has always sought to connect with the people that come before him, to understand their challenges, passions and needs. Judge Dawkins has always strived to find true justice and to improve the lives of others. Judge Dawkins will be remembered by the Alexandria legal community as a trailblazer known for empathy, compassion and justice.

David A. Lord is Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, Special Victims Unit Supervisor and the Alexandria Treatment Court (ATC) Coordinator; White-Collar Crimes Liaison; Extraditions & Interstate Detainer Actions, Electronic Evidence Order/Warrant Review; and Conviction Integrity Review point of contact.

ICYMI: Registrar of Voters Retires After More than 22 Years of Public Service

Registrar of Voters Retires After More than 22 Years of Public Service

Anna Leider was reappointed to her position as Registrar of Voters for a new four-year term in May 2019. (Photo: Jack Powers)

Alexandria, VA – When Anna Leider began serving as an election official, Alexandria had 67,400 registered voters and 24 polling places. Today there are now 98,200 registered voters and 30 polling places., and she has helped manage over 40 elections, including four presidential ones plus three statewide or regional recounts.

Leider announced her retirement this past month. Jack Powers, Secretary of the City’s three-member electoral board said, “The Alexandria Electoral Board (AEB) has enjoyed the fruits of Anna’s leadership for many years. She is an outstanding administrator and supervisor, a gifted leader, and a talented employee. We will miss Anna in the multitude of roles she has filled for us under the Federal and State elections laws. We are already proceeding to fill her position and that makes it abundantly clear what Anna did for the voters of Alexandria. We will miss Anna immensely.”

Anna Leider, retiring Voter Registrar, Angie Maniglia Turner, Elections Manager (Acting Voter Registrar) and Electoral Board Secretary Jack Powers.(Photo by Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Leider grew up in Alexandria, attending Alexandria City Public Schools and graduating from T.C. Williams High School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Amherst College and a master’s degree in business administration from New York University. She also studied early Renaissance art in a master’s program at the University of Chicago.

Before she began working as a full-time election official, Leider owned a small educational publishing company in Alexandria. She also served on the City’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee and 250th Anniversary Commission.

Lifelong baseball fan Anna Leider with the Washington Nationals World Series Trophy in 2019.

The position of General Registrar is established by the Constitution of Virginia for each city and county. Each registrar is appointed by a local electoral board, which is in turn appointed by the judges of the circuit court. The registrar’s statutory responsibilities include operating a local office and voter registration services, maintaining voter registration records, certifying candidates for local office and providing a local elections administration.

ICYMI: Governor Northam Plans to Postpone Virginia Elections Due to COVID-19

Cat in a Box—July 2020


Alexandria, VA – “Chota wonders why I took the bug out of his box. He says it was a much better toy than my catnip mouse, Mom,” wrote in Donna Gelhart.

The next time your cat finds his or her way into a boxy predicament, snap a photo and send it to us. If we publish it, you will win a $25 gift card to an area retailer or restaurant. Be sure to include your cat’s name, your name, and your home address in case you win (so we can mail you your prize!). Please send to editor@thezebrapress.com with CAT IN A BOX in the subject line, along with a descriptive sentence or two.

Donna just picked up a $25 gift card from Chadwicks Restaurant in Old Town!

ICYMI: Cat in a Box—June 2020

Book Review – Future World Parallels Today’s Challenges

Cyber Knot (Photo courtesy of Amazon online)

Alexandria, VA – As we all fight through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and witness social interaction evolving in we may not have thought possible, Paige Etheridge’s work reinforces how fast a society can change.

When asked about the ebbs and flows of humanity and social order, she’ll tell you, “Life will always find a way, even in what we may perceive as a dystopian world. Old and new will continue to blend throughout time. Find your individual way. You’ll see things out of my work that I won’t necessarily see.”

Cyber Knot shepherds us into a bold new world where the physical intertwinement of people and technology is common. Cyber Knot falls in a new genre of science fiction called cyberpunk and biopunk: an intersection of lawlessness, oppression, and technology. MX is a new addictive drug being hard pedaled to citizens by a government looking to control the masses and create a race of unfocused 21st century slaves. The lure of taking MX is a very generous stipend; the downside is losing one’s ability to function normally. Many take the bait.

Paige Etheridge keeps her readers engaged. She touches on many issues in Cyber Knot, from basic survival and drug addiction to romantic pressures. The central character Sky (Keira) lived through a broken home and learned to survive on the street, going as far as faking her own death to escape the clutches of an oppressive gang culture. Self-preservation takes over again and pulls her into a new gang.

Marshall law is the order of the day, but its control of civil order is limited, as marauding gangs and renegade military rule the day. Sky was imbedded with a chip which gave her unusual powers, but then threatened her life. When the chip is removed, Sky learns she is weaponized. Then her fight really begins, as does a new/old romance.

Although Etheridge majored in creative writing in college, her unique creativity outstripped her professor’s comprehension. “In my junior year, I wrote a dog walking horror story. My teacher was (initially) unimpressed. It was our final story for the semester and I let it flow with no expectation of the outcome. The feelings I wrote came from my recent college ex and his friend giving me advice on our breakup. They had a whole other world that I never knew. I ended up getting an A.” Paige capitalized on the axiom fiction writers live by: There is a great deal of material in the theater of everyday life.

Cyber Knot is an entertaining page turner. The author touches on many futuristic uncertainties: environmental issues, militaristic rule, government intrusion, unchecked violence, artificial intelligence, genetic manipulation, and dehumanization. Her characters, Sky, Naomi, Aziel, and Wild are developed nicely. I especially recommend Cyber Knot for sci-fi fans, but non-sci fans will not be disappointed.

Cyber Knot author Paige Etheridge (Photo: Paige Etheridge)

Paige lives with her husband and their puppy Athena near Virginia Beach. She is wrapping up her next work, which is based on the Brazilian mythology of Boto Encantado, a dolphin shapeshifter in traditional Amazon River folklore.

Cyber Knot is published by Solstice Publishing, available on Amazon. A solid Zebra rating of 5 stars.

ICYMI: Book Review: The White House’s Unruly Neighborhood

Is Your Quarantine Staycation Causing Cabin Fever?

Reagan National Airport is aglow with the early morning sun. (All photos: Susan Fleischman)

By Paige Conner Totaro and Veronique Autphenne

Alexandria, VA – It’s been months, right? Flights canceled, trips postponed, dreams dashed. You can be thankful to have avoided the ravages of the coronavirus and also be climbing the walls of your home, as comforting as it’s been all this time. But, we get it. You want to travel. We do, too. Here are our answers to some of your pressing travel questions.

What does travel look like right now?

As travel planners, we are looking ahead to a time when we can fly freely to countries and islands we’ve never seen before, visit farmer’s markets, go to museums, dine in French bistros, or bathe in thermal spas. Our clients and friends are getting itchy feet too, and are starting to ask when they can stop dreaming and start traveling again. It will happen (!) but it won’t happen quickly. In fact, it may be a few years before travel gets back to travel as we know it.

Where can we go?

Research your destination. As far as we can tell, COVID-19 regulations are all over the map, with some areas much stricter than others in what you can and cannot do. Some states, such as Maine, require a two-week quarantine for out-of-state visitors. Alaska requires that visitors provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours to five days before arrival, or they can take a test when they arrive. California currently has different guidelines depending on locality.

The New Orleans waterfront is feeling a little empty these days. (All photos: Susan Fleischman)

Bottom line: Guidelines change fast, so make sure you keep track of the latest recommendations before you leave. Your best bet right now is probably a well-planned road trip within your state or to a neighboring state, with cleaning supplies and PPE for the inevitable stops along the way.

Can we fly?

Domestic flights are returning, but they will look different. Most airlines are requiring all passengers to wear masks and are encouraging physical distancing by blocking off middle seats from booking unless people are traveling together. Many airlines have already dropped routes to smaller cities and, given the massive reduction in revenue, it won’t be surprising to see some airlines shut down entirely.

Can we travel internationally?

Right now, international air travel is mostly for repatriating people to their home countries. In most international destinations, you’ll be required to quarantine for a couple of weeks before venturing out, so unless you have a month or two to spare, international trips are going to be off the table.

The ruins of Pompeii have withstood their fair share of pandemics. (All photos: Susan Fleischman)

While many tourism-dependent European destinations such as Greece and Italy are open and encouraging tourists to try to get their economies back on track, they are not necessarily welcoming guests from all countries. Italy and many other European countries are not open to visitors from the U.S. And even if you are allowed, you may need to plan for a longer stay. The UK, for instance, has a 14-day quarantine in place.

Keep track of COVID-19 infection rates, just as you would keep track of Malaria or Zika infection rates, in your destination, by checking the CDC website. And check the U.S. State Department website for country-specific warnings if you go overseas.

Can we rent cars?

Yes. Most car companies have added enhanced cleaning measures in between rentals, but for your own peace of mind, bring your own wipes and clean the handles and steering wheel and knobs you might touch before you get in. Don’t forget to wipe down the key fob, too.

Can we go camping?

Yes. And this is one of the few areas of the travel industry that will be thriving this year. Whether backcountry camping or luxury RV-ing, people are getting ready to hit the road and head outdoors. RV sales are booming as people realize they want to get out and travel even if airlines and hotels are not available. Keep in mind, though, that shared campground bathrooms are, well, shared campground bathrooms. An RV might give you better options for controlling your environment.

Are hotels open?

Some hotels are open, but you’ll want to do some research to see what sort of safety standards they have put in place. Some hotels are keeping rooms vacant for a day in between guests. Many have added new cleaning standards. Nearly all are requiring masks of staff and guests.

Smaller hotels will be more attractive to some since they will have contact with fewer people but larger hotel chains may have better-articulated cleaning protocols. Make sure you research dining options as many hotel restaurants are not providing in-person dining. Some will refer you to local take-out options. You may have a temperature check when you check in. Also, don’t expect daily housekeeping as many hotels are only offering this service by request.

New York City’s Central Park is a popular spot for both tourists and residents. (All photos: Susan Fleischman)

Bottom line: Do your research and stick to your comfort zone here. We recommend calling the hotel directly with your questions about safety, current regulations, and any other concerns you might have.

What about house rentals?

Vacation rentals and Airbnbs are having a bit of a boom now, as people consider that the population density of hotels might be more than they are comfortable with.

These are a great option because they allow the most control over your environment. Many rental companies have revised and upgraded their cleaning protocols to make it a safe option but a quick wipe of high-touch areas and bringing your own linens and pillows should take care of any lingering risk.

Bottom line: We think this is a great option. As with hotels, contact the owner or rental agency with any questions about their cleaning protocol.

So when CAN we start planning our next international trip?

This is a tough question to answer. Until there’s a widely distributed vaccine, countries will be responding to surges in infection rates as they happen, so there’s no way to predict a safe date for your next trip to Greece, or Morocco, or Costa Rica, or Thailand (although all of those countries have had relatively few cases compared to their neighboring countries).

The Chicago River at Clark Street. (All photos: Susan Fleischman)

If you’re pining for travel, rent an RV or a beach/lake/mountain house you can easily drive to for now, and start planning and saving for your next international trip in 2021. We will be here to answer your questions and help you plan your next adventures!

Paige Conner Totaro is a co-founder of Unquote Travel, a tour and travel company. She is looking forward to a yoga retreat in Greece in 2021. Veronique Autphenne owns Pax Travel Design, a travel planning company specializing indesigning one-of-a-kind vacations for families. Both Alexandria residents are co-authors of Brussels with Kids, available on Amazon.

ICYMI: Sometimes Waiting Is the Hardest Part: One Writer’s Experience with Fear, Delay, and a…

Renaming of T.C. Williams High School to be Considered by School Board


Alexandria, VA — Alexandria City Public Schools announced today that this Friday, July 10, the Alexandria City School Board will begin the process of officially considering the request to change the name of T.C. Williams High School.

T.C. Williams was named after Thomas Chambliss Williams when it opened in 1965. Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was the superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools from the mid-1930s until 1963, resisted desegregation and argued that black and white students learned differently and should remain in separate schools.

Today, T.C. Williams High School is proud to educate students from 120 different countries, with 121 different languages spoken. Alexandria City Public Schools views our diversity as a strength. Ensuring racial equity is at the heart of the school division’s Strategic Plan: Equity for All 2025. While we still have work to do inside our schools, the school’s name does not align with who we are as a community.

The decision to start the process follows a community petition that was sent to the School Board in June 2020. When the School Board meets on Friday, their agenda will contain a motion to begin a robust public engagement process regarding consideration of a name change this fall in line with School Board Policy FF (PDF) and Regulation FF-R (PDF).

The Alexandria City School Board and Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. will discuss the scope and process required in a work session on August 27, 2020. A public engagement process will begin in the fall of 2020 and the superintendent will present a report with recommendations to the School Board in the spring of 2021.

ACPS is committed to launching a robust community engagement process in the fall to allow for ample time to engage all members of our community with plans to conclude the engagement process in spring 2021. This process will be shared publicly after August 27.

View the full motion by the Alexandria City School Board (PDF).

Watch the School Board meeting at noon on July 10, 2020.

See the Frequently Asked Questions and follow the public engagement process on the T.C. Williams website.

SUP Garbage Man Cleans Up Well (and You Could, Too)

A unique view of river grasses. (Photos: @SUP.Garbage.Man)

Alexandria, VA – It’s 5 a.m. Joe Wright hits the Potomac River on his stand-up paddleboard (SUP) before the sun rises, often having it to himself. Wright began paddling seven years ago and over time he developed a true love for it.

One morning in May 2019, he observed, not for the first time, many plastic bottles and other pieces of trash in the water, either lapping the shoreline or in open water. Joe pulled some out, but quickly realized he needed a receptacle to put them in. First he placed milk crates on his SUP to contain the trash, but needed more lightweight capacity.

Beautiful lighting helps to illuminate the trash problem.
(Photos: @SUP.Garbage.Man)

And so Joe built himself a nifty basket made with a laundry bag he’d already pulled from the river and PVC tubes. Thus, the SUP Garbage Man was born.

Wright’s routine has been honed over time. “I used to just start picking up all the little stuff as soon as I hit the water. But now I head out to the big pieces first, and there are always plenty of little items to collect along the way,” he says.

Plastic bags are everywhere, unfortunately.
(Photos: @SUP.Garbage.Man)

Because Wright needed a way to grab items from the water while standing up, he procured his first set of reachers – think of huge tongs – at the Variety Store in Hollin Hall (what don’t they sell?). Demonstrating impressive balance on the SUP, Joe extracts plastic bottles, tennis balls, doll heads, shoes, plastic barrels, traffic cones, BMX bicycles, Styrofoam, plastic bags, food containers, jugs, you name it. He repurposes some items, like the wooden dowel (formerly a broomstick) that keeps the back window of his truck propped open since the hydraulic arm died. He plucked foam pipe insulation from the river to wrap around his reachers to keep them afloat should they end up in the water. He’s installed a quaint boardwalk around his home from salvaged lumber, a nod to his coastal upbringing in Florida.

In addition to his basket, reachers, and an extra trash crate to hold trash, Wright carries his GoPro cameras. His photographs are exquisite, whether capturing sunrise over the Potomac, the river’s sometimes roiled waters, or sad, swollen heaps of the garbage he’s collected. He photographs each day’s catch and posts to his Facebook and Instagram pages. Wright takes time to edit and punch up his photographs, the currency of social media. The more “likes” his posts garner, the more awareness he’s created.

The sun rises on New Year’s Day over the Potomac.
(Photos: @SUP.Garbage.Man)

It didn’t take long for people to notice. Wright met French Ambassador Philippe Etienne when, as an eco-citizen winner, he received a G7 AWAKE watch for his sustainability efforts. SUP Connect magazine ran a feature story on the SUP Garbage Man in January 2020, and he’s been covered locally by The Gazette and WUSA-TV. He’s partnered with the Werner Paddles Sustainability Team and their Healthy Waters Initiative.

Truth be told, Joe’s not in it for recognition. He started collecting river garbage because he was tired of hearing complaints about pollution and the environment, and this was how he could help. Wright wants people to be more aware of the trash they create. He’s not here to preach, scold, or shame. But trash comes from people, whether accidentally or on purpose. “I just hope people will pay attention to their actions and the part they play in all of this trash,” he says.

What’s next for the SUP Garbage Man? Whatever it is will be to build awareness. Maybe a blog, maybe sponsoring clean-up events with his budding nonprofit (supgarbageman.org). “The more I do this, the more I seem to collect stories, along with the trash,” he says.

The SUP Garbage Man watches as a Southwest flight descends at Reagan National Airport.
(Photos: @SUP.Garbage.Man)

Has the coronavirus impacted his operations? Not to this point. Most of the trash Joe collects has been in the river for a while, and he’s always practiced safe and healthy sanitizing habits. What drives him to do this? “Good question,” he says. “It can get boring paddling out here. Once I started picking the trash up, I just kept doing it. It gives me something to do and makes me feel like I’m part of the solution.”

Follow the SUP Garbage Man on Instagram and Facebook, @SUP.Garbage.Man. Visit his website at supgarbageman.org to learn more. And clean up after yourself.

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