Forget the rickety little structures of our childhoods: Today’s tree houses are decidedly upscale

Look up in the trees this spring and you’re likely to spot more than birds, squirrels and the occasional lost balloon. All over the Bethesda area, people are branching out into their backyards by building tree houses. And these lofty abodes aren’t just a few leftover planks nailed together and lodged in the notch of an old maple, either. They’re handcrafted playhouses for kids—and occasionally adults—that can cost as much as a small car or more.

Homeowners looking to put up a treetop dwelling have three options: Do it themselves; hire a general contractor or yard design specialist, such as Fine Earth Landscape in Poolesville; or call in a tree house expert, such as Nelson Treehouse and Supply in Fall City, Wash., or Tree Top Builders of West Chester, Pa., both of which have worked on projects in the Bethesda area.

No matter who does the heavy lifting, builders say tree houses are a growing trend. “We’re getting more and more requests for them,” says Joel Hafner, 45, owner of Fine Earth Landscape. “I think it’s because people had—or wish they had—a tree house when they were kids, and now they want their children to experience one.”

So how does someone get into the business of building arboreal abodes?

“I had to create this job for myself,” says Pete Nelson, founder of Nelson Treehouse and Supply. “I thought that if I could set myself up as the tree house guy, it would be a neat way to do all the things I love—design, architecture, using my hands and traveling.”

Finish reading this story on the Bethesda Magazine website now.

Photo courtesy of Erick Gibson.


The Despair of the New Dad: Paternal postpartum depression strikes about 1 in 10 fathers

Parenthood is always a shock to the system. “Frank,” a 48-year-old Adams Morgan resident, got hit even harder.

He and his wife decided that he would leave his job to be a stay-at-home dad when his daughter was born late last year. Although it was a role the first-time father had eagerly anticipated, the transition took an immediate toll.

“For the first two weeks, I was cross-eyed. It was intense,” says Frank, who asked to use a pseudonym as he undergoes therapy.

He had dealt with depression before, but he soon began to experience something different. He was constantly cranky, stopped cracking his usual jokes and began withdrawing.

“Part of it was the feeling of not being able to escape,” he says. “There’s no break.”

This initial reaction isn’t surprising, says Jennifer Kogan, a licensed independent clinical social worker in the District who focuses on children’s and parent’s issues.

“There’s sleep deprivation and a lot more to do,” Kogan says. “That’s when people start to have problems.”

In the ensuing weeks, Frank’s unhappiness escalated. “Every morning, it was completely grim,” he says. “I would relive the day before and how exhausted I was. I used to fantasize about doing fun things if I had free time; now I just wanted to be under the blankets in a dark cave.”

Finish reading this article on the Washington Post Express website now.

Artwork by Joseph Hirsch, Lunch Hour (1942)


Retro Fit – A local landmark harks back to another era as the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club

As you drive along Wisconsin Avenue, the Bethesda Theatre rises like a gleaming beacon on an otherwise drab shoreline. Bright white lights illuminate the marquee, and a rocket-shaped tower juts toward the sky with “Bethesda” emblazoned in baby-blue neon. There’s a timeless grace to the design, making the iconic building look simultaneously like a bygone throwback and a futuristic emblem.

Since its 1938 debut as the Boro Theatre, this eye-catching landmark has hosted thousands of Hollywood hits, headliners and stage productions. Now the storied space is entering a new era as Potomac real estate developer Rick Brown and a group of investors (includingBethesda Magazine publisher Steve Hull, who holds a minor stake) transform it into the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, which was set to open at the end of February.

Ticket-holders will see a diverse roster of performers putting on one or two shows seven nights a week. “We’ll have everything from blues to jazz to country to comedy to Motown to salsa to Celtic,” says the 64-year-old Brown. Right now, the venue is looking into booking top-tier acts such as Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall, and Branford or Wynton Marsalis, but for March, mostly area performers have been booked.

Ralph Camilli, a former booker and director of operations at Blues Alley in Georgetown, is in charge of bringing talent to the freshly minted space as director of operations. The 63-year-old industry veteran wants guests to feel as if they’ve taken a step back from the 21st century.

“There’s a chance to embrace a bygone era with a historic space like this,” he says. “I’ll be very happy if our first review is: ‘Bethesda Blues & Jazz takes you back to another time.’ ”

Finish reading this feature on the Bethesda Magazine website now.

Photo courtesy of Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.


Review: Pink Floyd – The Wall [Immersion box set]

Some fans can remember the exact moment they heard The Wall for the first time. For others, it always loomed large without a defined beginning. The masterful rock opera is so intertwined in the pop-culture lexicon and the bloodlines of rock and roll that it’s even possible to believe that you know the sprawling double album without having heard it. Its influence is so great that the concept of “The Wall” has even invaded academic discourse on social criticism alongside 1984 and Animal Farm.

But before it was a movie, a tour, a touchstone or a metaphor, The Wall was an album. This seven-disc “Immersion edition” brings the 1979 classic together with a live performance culled from the original tour, two CDs’ worth of unheard demos, a bonus-filled DVD and a slew of tchotchkes, from marbles to a scarf. It’s an impressive amount of material. Most records don’t warrant such in-depth exploration, but The Wall isn’t your average album. To call it a brilliant record is an understatement so large that it dwarfs even Roger Waters’ massive ego.

Listening back to the remastered edition now, it’s impossible to not be floored by its complexity, hubris, beauty, power and majesty. There are so many moments co-opted by classic rock radio—“Run Like Hell,” “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” and “Hey You”—and yet it is the entirety that is most impressive. The songs working in concert together and their collective storyline still possess the “warm thrill of confusion” and the “space cadet glow.” But this reissue is less about what The Wall was and more about where it came from. And that’s why the two discs of demos are such a key selling point for this exhaustive set. Many of Waters’ original demos are brief fragments—often less than a minute long—which makes them more of an intellectual curiosity than anything else. However, the full band demos are closer to their ultimate running times, so there’s enough flesh on the bones to enjoy. Of special note is “The Doctor,” which ultimately became “Comfortably Numb.” The original is less hypnotic with blunter lyrics, an intriguing genesis of one of the great stoner anthems.

Two of the odder inclusions are David Gilmour’s original take of “Comfortably Numb,” strummed on acoustic guitar with a “doo-doo-doo” scat line, and his instrumental demo of “Run Like Hell.” Even diehard fans will have a hard time not hitting “skip forward” the second time these tracks come up in their iTunes playlist.

Like the “Immersion editions” of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here that came before it, this souped-up reissue requires a substantial investment of time and money. A soft shag rug to lie on and a big pair of speakers are also highly recommended. Whether you’ve heard The Wall a thousand times or if this is your first listen, it’s worth the outlay.

This review originally appeared in Filter magazine.


Review: Brett Anderson – Black Rainbows

Since releasing his eponymous solo debut in 2007, Suede frontman Brett Anderson has plotted an increasingly odd path. Turning at times to cinematic scores, folk tunes and classical symphonies for ideas, his albums have gotten progressively farther away from the influences that helped make Suede the best anti-Britpop band of the ’90s. Thankfully, his fourth outing, Black Rainbows, finds him once again turning to his two biggest heroes: Bowie and Morrissey. The result is his best and most kinetic solo album yet. “Crash About to Happen” crackles with a delicate energy that recalls a Dog Man Star–era B-side. Poetic couplets like “ashtray eyes” and “antiseptic skies” litter “Brittle Heart,” showing off his considerable lyrical prowess. And “Thin Men Dancing” shakes and swaggers with the kind of shameless bravado that’s been missing since Head Music. Welcome back, Brett, we were afraid that you had gone off the deep end for good.

Rating: 87%

This review originally appeared in Filter magazine.


Hang in There

Your memory’s maybe a bit fuzzy on the exact sequence of events from last New Year’s Eve. But bet you can’t forget the next morning, when you had to pay the price — and it was way higher than the credit card charge for that round of Jell-O shots. To ensure that the first day of 2012 isn’t a repeat of that head-pounding punishment, try one of these hangover helpers.

The Chef’s Recipe

When Dennis Marron, the executive chef at Poste (555 8th St. NW; 202-783-6060), wakes up after one too many, he makes a beeline for the fruit bowl on his kitchen counter. “The sooner you get something in your stomach, the better off you are,” he says. “Melons are good because of the high water content.” For a purely liquid breakfast to help you rehydrate from the previous night’s debauchery, he prefers coconut water or carrot juice. However, if you’re looking for something a little heartier that won’t break any of your New Year’s resolutions, Marron recommends frying up a few egg whites.

Find out the tips from the doctor, mixologist and trainer by clicking over to the Express website now.

Photo courtesy of Daniele Marlenek/marlenekzio on Flickr.


Smashing Pumpkins – Gish & Siamese Dream [deluxe editions] Review

Time has not been kind to Billy Corgan. During the Pumpkins’ dominance between 1990 and 2000, he was (sometimes rightfully) labeled a tyrant, an opportunist and a megalomaniac. These labels still dog him. Of course, Captain Zero didn’t do himself any favors during the intervening years by reforming the band with only Jimmy Chamberlin. Or by going completely cray-cray by dating Jessica Simpson, writing songs for Hyundai and diving deep into the world of pro-wrestling. The end result is a caricatured vision of a bald-headed freak who now gets more press for his messy personal life than for his music.

But look past all that drama and distraction. During the ’90s, Corgan was also one of the most potent and prolific forces in modern music. For a decade, no songwriter could match the quality and volume of his output. These lovingly remastered and richly expanded editions of the Smashing Pumpkins 1991 debut Gish and 1993’s mainstream breakthrough Siamese Dream soundly prove that the band’s place in rock history is firmly cemented. These are two of the best records made since 1990—bar none, hands down, no argument.

Bob Ludwig’s note-by-note, track-by-track overhaul revels in and reveals Corgan’s obsessive love of extreme nuance. There’s the warble of a whammy bar at the beginning of Siamese Dream’s “Rocket” that was buried in the original mix and the once overwhelmed, delicately tremulous plucked notes on Gish’s “Suffer.”

Each album comes with a DVD of a full live show, as well as a second disc of unreleased demos, alternate mixes and BBC sessions. These excavated extras aren’t just for completists—there are some top tunes here. The guitar line in the “Rocket” demo possesses a searing edge that the final version on Siamese Dream lost, while a newly unearthed version of the druggy epic “Drown”—which originally appeared on the Singles soundtrack, but is packaged with Gish—showcases an even freakier guitar solo. Even if these reissues don’t change your opinion of Corgan, they will remind you again and again why we started talking about him in the first place.

Gish Filter Grade: 91%

Siamese Dream Filter Grade: 93%

This review originally appeared in Filter magazine.


The Rolling Stones – Some Girls [reissue] Review

Some records aspire to tug at your heartstrings; Some Girls wanted to play with your balls. The 1978 classic showcases sleazy come-ons (“Some Girls,” “When the Whip Comes Down”) alongside mournful goodbyes (“Beast of Burden,” “Miss You”). It was the last great Stones album (fuck off, Tattoo You—“Start Me Up” and “Waiting on a Friend” do not an album make), so it’s nice to see it getting an exhaustive overhaul à la last year’s Exile on Main St. reissue.

Producer Don Was has unearthed a couple of real gems from the vaults, some of which include newly recorded vocals or instrumental tracks to fill them out. Street-smart, swaggering “Don’t Be a Stranger” is a standout, as is “Claudine” with its infectious skiffle beat. The lyrics are throwaway skat lines, though. On “Do You Think I Really Care,” Jagger off-handedly suggests, “Hey, put your umbrella up your ass, baby.” How’s about you pull the pen out of your ass instead, Mick? A lot of these unreleased tunes weren’t worth resurrecting anyway, because they’re far too similar to other, far better Stones tunes. “Tallahassee Lassie” is a sloppy “Shattered” on speed; dirge-like “When You’re Gone” is a blues brother to “Midnight Rambler”; and “I Love You Too Much” is a lifeless cousin to “When the Whip Comes Down.”

If this mixed bag of bonus material isn’t enough, you can always pony up $150+ for the super deluxe version. It includes a “Beast of Burden” 7-inch single with its original banned artwork (it involves a lion and a circus performer in what could be construed as a compromising position) that might get a few spins, a book of Peter Corriston’s artwork that you’ll look at once, a print from photographer Helmut Newton that might elicit a “hmm…cool,” a quintet of postcards you’ll never send and a poster you’ll never hang. Sure, the original album may still tickle your testes and get you off, but this boxed set is nothing more than a handjob without a happy ending.

Filter Grade: 79%

This review originally appeared in Filter magazine.