826DC Love

If it has been a little quiet here at the blog, that's been in part because I'm tiptoeing into the world of Twitter and working on a Facebook "Author" page--and in part because I've been, well, living. This is such a great city, and I've missed it while I've been gone. 


On Saturday, my sister and I kicked off a lovely afternoon at the grand opening of the 826DC Cave, which is located at the Museum of Unnatural History--proud purveyor of such products as Koala Containment Units, Primordial Soup, Missing Links, and "Wood in Personal Crisis." The 826 empire started in San Francisco when author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Clements Calegari founded 826Valencia in 2002. These nonprofit 826 centers offer tutoring, writing, and publishing opportunities for kids 6-18 in eight cities around the country; DC is the newest addition. 826's signature elements include having a top-notch crew of local authors involved hands-on in the learning process, a lot of one-on-one attention to young writers, and a quirky sense of humor. 


While we waited for the crowd to gather, my sister took advantage of the $1-a-piece "build a creature" display. Here she is with her flying something-saurus.


The cave, which like our National Zoo's panda bears is "on loan from China," was introduced by famed and fearless explorer Montana Smith--or rather, by his slightly less-famed and less-fearless son, Toledo Smith (played by friend and humor writer Sean Carman). Though he was slated to read a letter from his father, with a dramatic flourish Cleveland tore the paper in two and spoke from the heart. Here's some of what he said:


My father told stories of the early days in his career, when he was bullied by other archeologists for his unorthodox sketches of pre-historic animals. Some of my father’s sketches were based on his practice of assembling fossils in ways that defied standard archeological methodologies. [[Ed note: He and my sister think alike, apparently. Great minds.]] Other sketches were of animals he envisioned first and discovered later, when he happened upon bones he could assemble into their imagined forms. None of my father’s sketches were particularly well received.

Ever since those early days, my father wanted explorers of all ages have a space to think creatively, a place where they could create a world that they imagined, where they could dream their own discoveries.

And he wanted that place to have a cave. The cave was very important to him. I cannot emphasize this enough. A cave would symbolize the constraints of some ways of thinking, and exemplify nature’s wonders. His dream was that the cave would hold exactly 12 children at one time, 13 if they squeezed.

Today that dream is a reality. The cave is perfect. It is just what my father would have wanted. Thank you all for making his dream come true.


A cute kid cut the ribbon with appropriately huge scissors. Inside: chalk for wall drawings, a to-do list with one column for Hunt and another column for Gather, a surprisingly chic chandelier, and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. One of the photographers (Diana Bowen, Nevin Martell) must have been in the cave, because here's a peekaboo shot of me with my trusty POETRY bag. 


If you're in Columbia Heights, be sure to drop by; they're open from noon to 6 PM every day of the week and the address is 3233 14th Street NW, smack dab in a thriving development of stores/restaurants/a fountained plaza. The Museum shop has all manner of unique artifacts and gifts--at reasonable prices--and all proceeds benefit the center's programs. You can also "Like" their page on Facebook for all the latest updates, or follow them on Twitter @826DC. They run some of the best readings and most fun fundraising events in town, not to mention the Mustache-a-thon. Congratulations to all at the Center for pulling off yet another feat of, well, amazingtude.