Curious what makes someone up and leave Washington for one of the bleakest habitats on earth? Last weekend, the National Geographic Channel premiered a new series called Life Below Zero, which follows six people who live “off the grid” in Alaska, just 122 miles below the Arctic Circle. Andy Bassich, 54, grew up in Wheaton, Maryland, and moved to Alaska in 1980. Bassich, his wife, Kate, and their 24 sled dogs now live along the Yukon River in Eagle, Alaska, 14 miles away from the nearest town. Each winter, when temperatures can plummet to 60 degrees below zero, the Yukon River freezes over and the Bassichs are completely isolated from civilization. We spoke with Bassich by phone to discuss living at the edge of the earth, what he misses most about Washington, and why Alaska feels like home.
What was it that made you want to move to Alaska?
I just like living out in the woods; I like living out in the bush of Alaska. I wanted a little more peace and quiet and serenity, a little bit more space.
What was your life like when you lived in Washington?
I graduated [from] John F. Kennedy High and became a cabinet-maker and a carpenter. I was working in Virginia. And at about age 22, I just had this really deep feeling that I needed to move to Alaska. In 1976 when I graduated from high school, I traveled around the country and felt like I wanted to go to Alaska then, but I had some family commitments at home that year—my sister was getting married. So I came back home and did the carpentry jobs for quite a few years. I had a really good job there, but there was just something inside, a gut feeling that told me I needed to go to Alaska. My grandmother just encouraged me to go and live my dream when I was young. I took that advice and moved up here. And I never regret it; I never look back. This is the place I’m supposed to be.
How did you meet your wife, Kate?
I worked on the Yukon River as a riverboat captain for 20 years, and I met her up in Dawson City. She was a tourist coming through, and we hit it off really well. We met in 2003, and we’ve been together ever since.
And how did you get all those dogs?
When I first came to Alaska and out to Eagle, I traded a truckload of wood for one sled-dog puppy and raised him that first winter. And then I acquired two more dogs. Then I kept about seven dogs for quite a few years—I would just trap in the wintertime with my seven dogs. Currently, we have about 24 dogs. They’re all up in Eagle right now, because we’re expecting to potentially flood and we wanted the dogs to be safe.
When you first moved to Alaska, did you experience culture shock at all?
No, absolutely not. I’ve always been a person that I just enjoy my alone time. Even when I’m alone, I never feel lonely. And I really enjoy the quiet that’s out in the wilderness out here. One thing I did miss when I left Washington was I was always very interested in the fine arts. When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike down Rock Creek Parkway and go to the Smithsonian and things like that when I was 12, 13 years old, on my own. I kind of missed that when I came up here. But as far as the hustle and bustle of suburban and urban lifestyles, no, I didn’t miss that at all. I’m much better suited to living out in this environment I think.
It’s now officially May, which means outdoor drinking is back. Penn Quarter Texas barbecue joint Hill Country is inaugurating the season by launching its Backyard Barbecue, a summer-long outdoor pop-up on the west lawn of the National Building Museum. Wednesday through Sunday, the venue will serve Shiner beers, sandwiches, sausages, and other BBQ staples, accompanied by live music from acts such as Austin’s Fatback Circus and Philadelphia’s Kalob Griffin Band. The first event is scheduled for this Friday, May 3; for more details on the lineup, visit Hill Country’s website.
Georgetown students who made it into school early Monday morning for the last SOCI-124 class of the semester were rewarded with an hour-long phone call from a very special guest speaker: Jay-Z. Student newspaper The Hoya reported that the rapper and entrepreneur called the class from Europe, where he’s accompanying his wife, Beyoncé, on her sold-out Mrs. Carter tour.
Granted, this wasn’t any old sociology class. Professor Michael Eric Dyson, an academic who’s written books about figures from Malcolm X and Bill Cosby to Marvin Gaye and Tupac Shakur, was wrapping up Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z, a class exploring the meaning of the artist’s life and work, and his role in black culture. “He’s a friend of mine, so teaching this class on him was an exercise in both the critical engagement with a towering icon and an attempt to understand the nature of his craft and his appeal in the world,” Dyson said in a phone interview.
As the old adage goes, if you’re going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. And if you’re
going to eat miniature crabcakes and drink Chardonnay at one White House Correspondents’
Association Dinner pre-party (now there’s an event that predates Twitter and resolutely
refuses to fit into 140 characters), you may as well eat miniature crabcakes and drink
Chardonnay at four of them. Here, without fear or favor, is a blow-by-blow account
of what happened at the Hilton on Saturday night.
5:30 PM: ABC News cocktail party on the lawn
The sun was shining, unlike last year, so the ABC News party offered something that’s
typically at more of a #WHCD premium than selfies with Diane Sawyer: space. Even at
this early hour,
The Daily Show’s
John Oliver and
Aasif Mandvi were hanging out on the periphery with
Ty Burrell, and
Arianna Huffington was wandering around schmoozing in elegant black lace. The second ABC star to wander
Tony Goldwyn, a.k.a. Fitzgerald Grant, a.k.a. El Prez, and he was promptly mobbed by fans, as
Kerry Washington, a.k.a. Olivia Pope, when she followed on his heels. Even
Shonda Rhimes wasn’t safe. Apparently Washington really loves
6:15 PM: Thomson Reuters cocktail party downstairs
Downstairs at the Hilton is the Playboy Mansion grotto of the White House Correspondents’
Association Dinner parties—it’s dark, cramped, and more than a little claustrophobic,
but oddly enough you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a famous person. In the
Thomson Reuters party, which was elegantly decked out in shiny red fabric,
Kathleen Turner walked in looking slightly bemused by it all, while
Steve Zahn stood by the bar smiling and chatting animatedly. No sign of
Jeremy Renner, at least while we were there, but on the other side of the room the real prize—
Dan Stevens—was taking pictures and sporting a handlebar mustache. Maybe he thought it would
make him look less like someone who broke a million fan’s hearts when he [spoiler
alert if you’re not caught up] left the show and widowed Lady Mary? If so, no dice.
6:30 PM: Newsweek/Daily Beast cocktail party downstairs
What’s that we hear? The sound of a thousand iPhones snapping pictures and the hum of Washington fandom reaching peak frenzy? Sure enough, Nicole Kidman was walking down the hall with Harvey Weinstein close behind her, and Bradley Cooper hanging around nearby with what looked like either Brylcreem or eight weeks of unwashed hair on top of his head. They sauntered into the darkness of the Newsweek/DailyBeast/Newsbeast/Death Knell for Print Journalism party, which was about the busiest and least cheerful of all the parties, and Nicole somehow managed not to look completely freaked out by the fact that she was now crammed into a room with 800 people who all wanted to take a picture with her. She’s a pro.
Former Bethesda resident and University of Maryland grad Giuliana Rancic won’t be making a triumphant homecoming on the red carpet for E! at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this weekend. According to Politico, those duties will fall upon second-stringers Alicia Quarles and Marc Malkin. And unlike the Oscars, say, they’ll have the challenging job of identifying hundreds of less-recognizable faces alongside the stars. Hillary Clinton? Easy. SEC head Mary Jo White? Not so much.
The red carpet won’t be streamed live on E!, which is a disappointment to those of us hoping to gatecrash the mani-cam—according to the Washington Post, highlights from the red carpet will be broadcast the next night, which will give the network time to filter out any gatecrashers and focus on the real stars, such as Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Jeremy Renner, Gerard Butler, and, of course, Barbra Streisand. (The network will instead broadcast “Ready For Love: Meet Ben and Ernesto” from 5 to 7 on Saturday.) But we still say any highlight reel that doesn’t have Canadian Central Bank governor Mark Carney in it just isn’t worth watching.
So much of John F. Kennedy’s brief presidency has been immortalized in print, on film, and in interviews that it’s hard to imagine anything relating to his life and death having the ability to surprise anymore. Still, “JFK,” a show with three parts now open at the Newseum, offers glimpses into the 35th president’s life and death that feel both fresh and profoundly moving.
The two exhibition parts of “JFK” focus on the light and the dark sides of the Camelot phenomenon. “Creating Camelot,” a show of photographs by the family’s personal photographer Jacques Lowe, is almost all sunshine, featuring glorious large-scale portraits of John, Jackie, and a two-year-old Caroline Kennedy toddling around the Oval Office. The young president’s mystique is clear, but it’s Jackie who’s the star, luminous in image after image, whether she’s posing for Lowe in a yellow-and-white gingham dress or charming Nikita Khrushchev at an otherwise unsuccessful Cold War summit. But even these photographs have a tragic history—the negatives, stored in a World Trade Center vault, were all destroyed during the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, so the Newseum has restored them from prints and contact sheets kept in a separate storage space.
Not that we’re excited or anything, but the countdown to the annual celebrity deathmatch that is the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner has begun. The main event happens April 27, which means in less than two weeks you won’t be able to walk through Georgetown or casually sip a coffee at Starbucks without tripping over the likes of Dakota Fanning (she’s teeny and easy to miss), Charlize Theron (she’s not), or Eliot Spitzer (the only person I wasn’t too scared to ask for a photo in 2012).
We’ll have lots more coverage over the next couple of weeks, but for now, here’s a
list of the confirmed guests attending the dinner, and whom they’re going with. We’ll
update as we learn more.
George Lucas and his fiancée, Mellody Hobson
Actress Sophia Bush and Invisible Children’s Jedidiah Jenkins
Comedian Tracy Morgan and his fiancée, Megan Wollover
Author Khaled Hosseini and his wife
Musicians Ben Ruttner and James Patterson of the Knocks
Actress Jessica Alba and her husband, Cash Warren
Actress Connie Britton
Actress Hayden Panettiere
Actress Kerry Washington
Actress Sofia Vergara
Actor Eric Stonestreet
General Lawrence D. Nicholson
Actress Nicole Kidman
Actress Olivia Munn
Producer Harvey Weinstein
Former White House speechwriter Jon Favreau
Former congresswoman Jane Harman
Senator Claire McCaskill
Washington is often cited as one of the most literate cities in the world, but it’s a lesser-known fact that the city also serves as the setting for countless novels. DC Public Library’s Tony Ross and Kim Zablud have set out to expose the vast world of local fiction by creating a new interactive literary website called DC by the Book.
The site provides a database of fiction books that are set in the District, and is based around an interactive map that shows the exact locations described in books that take place within city limits. Readers can enter addresses or ZIP codes to see which books have passages set nearby, and can also submit parts from books to be included on the map. The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded Ross and Zablud a Technology Act Grant for the project last April, and the two began working on it in October.
The launch party for DC by the Book was at the Chinatown location of Busboys and Poets Wednesday, March 27. Librarians, historians, and avid readers walked through the bustling restaurant into a small room in the back corner of the building at Fifth and K streets, Northwest. The room was only supposed to hold 90 people, but a few more squeezed into the intimate space for a chance to hear about the new website and to see the local authors who had come to support the project.
Ross, who grew up in the area and was wearing a Cool “Disco” Dan shirt, began the program by talking about his initial idea for the map.
“I started to discover there’s this bigger world of DC authors,” he said. “This is a tool that’ll help people learn about their neighborhoods in a different way.”
A year after his last trip to Washington, when he hobnobbed with Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Ban Ki-Moon at a fabulously glitzy dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, Prince Harry is heading back to town. The 28-year-old helicopter pilot will make another trip to the US May 9 through 15, visiting Hurricane Sandy victims in New Jersey and playing in the Sentebale Polo Cup in Greenwich, Connecticut, as well as attending the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado.
Not on the agenda: a Vegas trip. (You may remember that the Prince’s post-Olympic visit to that city in August of last year resulted in nude pictures of him being splashed all over the tabloids after a not-so-successful game of strip poker.) The naughty-but-nice British royal and future uncle to 2013’s most anticipated baby will, however, be stopping in Washington, visiting wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, swinging by Arlington National Cemetery, and heading to Capitol Hill to see an exhibition on efforts to clear landmines in his new role as patron of the HALO Trust—a charity his mother was famously involved with.
For more pictures of Prince Harry (because why not), check out our slideshow from his trip in 2012.
From free taco Friday to a drawing for an HDTV, these bars have plenty of specials to keep you coming back throughout the NCAA men's-basketball tournament.
Drink specials: $3.50 Coors Light and Miller Light bottles and drafts; $4 Redd’s Apple Ale; $4.50 Sam Adams, Sam Seasonal, and Sam Light; $5 Loaded Redd’s Apple Ale (topped with Fireball whiskey); $15 buckets of Miller Lite and Coors Light.
Details: With more than 60 HDTVs, you won’t miss a minute of March Madness action.
Food specials: A different special each day of the week; most are $5.
Details: Fast Eddie’s also has Fairfax, Springfield, and Centreville locations for even more tournament fun.
Drink specials: Bottles of Miller Lite or house vodka drinks are $2 between 5 and 6 PM, $3 between 6 and 7, and $4 between 7 and 8; Monday through Friday.
Details: This U Street bar has free WiFi and DirecTV with ESPN FullCourt to keep you fully plugged in during the games.