Holy Trinity, West 82nd Street

Visited Holy Trinity on the Upper West Side for mass yesterday. Its Byzantine character reminded me of the National Basilica in Washington, and its tile reminded me specifically of the National Basilica’s crypt. Here’s Holy Trinity:

Founded in 1898, today the Church of the Holy Trinity serves almost 1,400 parishioners on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  We seek to respond to the social, liturgical and faith needs of our active and diverse congregation by offering a wide variety of religious and social service ministries. Our Religious Education, RCIA and family programs strengthen the basis of our faith and provide an integral sense of community to all involved.

We have a rich and varied musical program whose offerings cover the gamut from Gregorian chant and polyphony to the contemporary music of the 21st century.

At the center of parish life, we have a singular, magnificent Church; built in the Byzantine style, decorated with Guastavino tile. This is our legacy from our forebears.

Please explore … the many opportunities Holy Trinity offers to celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ.

As mass was starting I tapped my Apple Watch to record the choir’s Kyrie Eleison:

I hope to be back.

Walking Broadway

We saw “Ah, Wilderness!” at the Sheen Center’s Black Box Theater today. I’ll write a bit about that tomorrow. In the meantime, sharing scenes from last night’s arrival in New York and this morning’s walk down Broadway. I initially caught the 1 from 137th in Washington Heights, planning to head directly to Columbus Circle, but due to a schedule change had an extra hour and decided to get off at 103rd Street and walk down Broadway to Columbus Circle.

We made our way to McSorely’s for lunch before the show. We met an older man named Bill who met Joseph Mitchell a number of times as a teenager. Joseph Mitchell captured probably the definitive literary portrait of McSorley’s in 1940, and he would come into the South Street Seaport-area bookstore where our older friend Bill worked when he was a teenager.

What the Freeh Report is good for

I haven’t thought much about Penn State’s November 2011 Jerry Sandusky scandal for a while. Not since the NCAA reversed itself in 2015 and voided its sanctions against Penn State and Joe Paterno, in acknowledgement of a rush to judgment driven by emotivism and vindictiveness. And not since the 2016 dismissal of felony conspiracy charges against Penn State’s former leadership, which was the most significant remaining issue with the potential to either confirm or refute the narrative of an institutional cover-up.

But I thought about the Sandusky scandal again today in light of the just-leaked “Report to the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University on the Freeh Report’s Flawed Methodology and Conclusions,” a minority report of the Penn State Board of Trustees. The 2012 Freeh Report was held up at the time of its release as an independent and trustworthy investigation of Penn State’s leadership. The Freeh Report’s conclusion of institutional coverup for the purpose of protecting the image of the university not only legitimized the Penn State Board of Trustees’s snap decision in November 2011 to fire then-Penn State President Graham Spanier and Coach Joe Paterno, but it also formed the basis for both devastating legal culpability for the victims of a former employee and for the NCAA’s decision to sanction the university and its student athletes.

It was in 2015 that Penn State’s new president Eric J. Barron dismissed the Freeh Report:

“There’s no doubt in my mind, Freeh steered everything as if he were a prosecutor trying to convince a court to take the case,” Barron said, adding that Freeh “very clearly paints a picture about every student, every faculty member, every staff member and every alum. And it’s absurd. It’s unwarranted. So from my viewpoint the Freeh report is not useful to make decisions.”

These criticisms of the Freeh Report echoed those of Dick Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney General, who in 2013 had underscored that the Freeh Report constituted merely “raw speculation and unsupported opinion—not facts and evidence.” Malcolm Gladwell has said as much. Bob Costas has said as much.

What has been amazing to those who followed the Penn State and Jerry Sandusky scandal, though, is that the Penn State Board of Trustees (the same Board of Trustees that commissioned that report) has never formally accepted or rejected the Freeh Report’s findings. This, despite the fact that the Freeh Report functioned to confirm the worst possible, most malicious narrative about Penn State leadership’s handling of Jerry Sandusky, and despite the fact that the Freeh Report opened Penn State up to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability for Sandusky’s crimes. Hence the need for a minority of Penn State Trustees to produce the now-leaked minority “Report to the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University on the Freeh Report’s Flawed Methodology and Conclusions,” which the larger Penn State Board had attempted to suppress last year. The minority trustees shared this statement in light of yesterday’s leak:

“The fact is the Board’s tacit acceptance of the Freeh Report led to profound reputational damage, along with over $250 million in costs so far to Penn State. It is perplexing that the University clings to the conclusions of a report that has been criticized by so many, including Penn State President Eric Barron. We fervently believe that the best way forward is for the Board and the University to openly and thoughtfully consider the comprehensive and well-researched findings from our review so that we can finally come to an honest conclusion.”

Gary Sinderson of WMAJ, which leaked the minority report, puts the news in context:

The document, officially titled, “Report to the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University on the Freeh Report’s flawed methodology and conclusions” was completed and presented to the full trustee board in the summer of 2018.

The seven trustees who commissioned the report said the full board decided to not make its findings public.

In 2011, in the wake of the arrest of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges that included involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, the university commissioned former FBI Director Louis Freeh to compile a report on the university’s involvement. Freeh was reportedly paid $8 million.

In its report, the group of seven former and current trustees concluded Penn State paid for an independent investigation that was not independent, fair or thorough.

The trustees’ report said the Freeh report investigators used deeply flawed methodology and the report is full of factual mistakes. Page 18 of the trustees’ report, titled “Use of coercion,” said the Freeh investigators “shouted, were insulting and demanded that interviewees give them specific information — such as — tell me Joe Paterno knew Sandusky was abusing kids.”

This report said some university employees who were interviewed were told cooperation was a key to keeping their jobs. In fact, one employee told the investigators of the Freeh report that he was fired for not cooperating.

The trustee’s report said the Freeh team did not interview many key figures in the Sandusky scandal, including Sandusky, Paterno and university administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schutz, as well as Mike McQueary.

The Freeh report said Penn State has a football culture problem. But the trustees’ report says Freeh had a conflict of interest with the NCAA, and that his company was attempting to be the organization’s go-to investigative firm.

The trustees’ report also contains a long discussion about the Freeh team’s claim of being independent, with the trustees’ report finding the Freeh team was actually sharing information with the NCAA, Penn State administrators and the prosecutors in the Sandusky case.

Freeh has long defended his work at Penn State, saying in the past, “Since 2015, these misguided alumni have been fighting rearguard action to turn the clocks back and resist the positive changes which the PSU students and faculty have fully embraced.” Freeh’s report included more than 100 recommended university policy changes, many of which were adopted by Penn State.

And Elissa Hill at Onward State writes on the report’s takeaways:

The seven current and former trustee signatories to the report are Ted Brown, Barb Doran, Bob Jubelirer, Anthony Lubrano, Ryan McCombie, Bill Oldsey, and Alice Pope. They used their access to this source information to develop the report that was published by WJAC, disputing the Freeh Report’s findings and calling the Board’s previous “tacit acceptance” of the Freeh Report “a fiduciary breach.”

The report lays out its findings in a pretty straightforward manner:

  • There’s no support for the Freeh Report’s conclusion that Paterno, Spanier, Curley, or Schultz knew of Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
  • There’s no support for the Freeh Report’s conclusion that Penn State’s culture was responsible for allowing Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
  • The independence of the Freeh Report was compromised by collaboration with the NCAA, then-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and the state attorney general, and members of the Board of Trustees.
  • The NCAA, Corbett, and the Board of Trustees influenced the Freeh Report with conflicts of interests.
  • The Freeh Report used “unreliable methods for conducting and analyzing interviews” upon which it based its conclusions.

The report from the small group of trustees rejects the Freeh Report, saying Freeh “did not fulfill his obligation to conduct an independent and comprehensive investigation.”

No serious person who has been paying attention to this story since November 2011 can still plausibly argue that Freeh conducted an “independent and comprehensive” investigation into Penn State’s role and culpability for Jerry Sandusky’s actions. No one seriously defends the Freeh Report except for those who paid for it and benefited from its since repudiated findings—that is, no one seriously defends the Freeh Report except for the leadership of the Penn State Board of Trustees itself, who has a perpetual interest in discouraging any public acknowledgement of their own culpability for fiduciary breach, rush to judgment, and downright naiveté.

Arlington snowfall and history

Large, beautiful snow fell on Washington last week, and I captured a bit of that snowfall mid-afternoon and then in the evening near Court House Metro station:

Arlington is full of apparent neighborhoods, but has no clear center of gravity and no central downtown. It was once a part of the District of Columbia, and its more recent history is distinctive:

Arlington County is a jurisdiction of 25.8 square miles located across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.  The County was originally part of the ten-mile square surveyed in 1791 for the Nation’s Capital. From 1801 to 1847, what are now Arlington and a portion of the City of Alexandria were known as Alexandria County, District of Columbia.  In 1847, at the request of the local residents, Congress retroceded Alexandria County to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In 1870, Alexandria County and the City of Alexandria were formally separated and regular elections were held by a post-Civil War government. Subsequently, in 1920, Alexandria County was renamed Arlington County to eliminate the confusion between these two adjacent jurisdictions. The name “Arlington” was chosen because General Robert E. Lee’s home of that name is located in the County, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

By law, there are no cities or towns located within the boundaries of the County. In 1922, the Virginia Supreme Court held that Arlington is a continuous, contiguous and homogeneous entity which cannot be subdivided nor can any portion be annexed by neighboring jurisdictions.

The Arlington County government exercises both city and county functions, one of the few urban unitary forms of government in the United States. Arlington’s form of government, the County Manager plan, was implemented in 1932. Arlington was the first county in the United States to choose this form of government. Arlington had an estimated population of 211,700 as of January 1, 2012.  The County is almost fully developed; there are no farms and little remaining vacant land.

Georgetown snow

Arrived back in Washington late last night as snow began accumulating meaningfully throughout the area. There was that absolutely-silent calm that follows snowfall.

In weather like this, I wonder how much quieter daily life might be a century from now if and when electric vehicles have wholly supplanted the internal combustion engine. Another way to think of this is to wonder how much quieter daily life was something like 125 years ago.

Marcinello

Andrew Chamings writes in The Bold Italic on Marcinello, a thankfully failed project to transform the wilds of the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco into a 1960s suburbia. Here are the Marin Headlands with San Francisco just visible, from Flickr with a Creative Commons license:

In the 1960s, when the suburbs were taking over America, a keen real estate developer from Pittsburgh, Thomas Frouge, dreamed about building a city on top of the Marin Headlands—Marincello.

His vision: a city rising from the slopes of the Tennessee Valley, where residents could gaze across the shimmering water, past the Golden Gate Bridge and on to San Francisco. Frouge described the headlands as “the most beautiful location in the United States for a new community.”

But thanks to some persistent conservationalists, red tape and shoddy planning, that vision never came to life—and those rocky headlands just north of the bridge remain a natural haven. The open hilltops and ridges are still cloaked in coastal shrub. The flowing, open natural landscape is one of the most frequented tourist attractions in Northern California. …

In 1972 the land was sold to the Nature Conservancy for $6.5 million, and the area soon became part of the newly formed Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

I’d rate running through the Marin Headlands and experiencing that natural landscape for an afternoon as probably one of the best experiences of my life. San Francisco can fix its population probably by fixing its zoning and density problems.

Lime-E bikes in Washington

I was walking to my office in Arlington earlier this week and I passed by a dozen or so brand new Lime-E electric bikes. News later in the day confirmed that Lime had just launched its e-bikes in Washington and the surrounding area, joining JUMP bikes as the only electric, dockless bikes in the area. There are a handful of electric Capitol Bikeshare bikes, but I haven’t come across any to try. It was a beautiful, only somewhat chilly day that day, and there were still a few of these left outside the office at the end of the day, so I hopped on one and rode it home to Georgetown:

Rode as well as the last time I was on one, which was in Seattle over the summer. Total fare come to roughly $3.50, which is a bit more than Metro would have been (but which would have involved a substantial walk from Foggy Bottom), and a bit less than the typical $4.50 Uber Pool from my office to my apartment.

Georgetown Wawa opens

I’ve been watching Washington’s second Wawa take shape over the past few weeks near M Street in Georgetown. Here’s a photo from this afternoon:

When I mentioned to a Washington friend a few weeks ago that Wawa was expanding here, and that its second location was to be in Georgetown, he scrunched his face in genuine confusion and asked, “Wawa? They’re putting a gas station in Georgetown?” Wawa Food Markets didn’t generally have gas stations until about 15 years ago, but I guess its expansion has shaped most people’s experiences at this point. Anyway, as a Pennsylvanian at heart, I was thrilled to see this Wawa—which did not bring a gas station to the neighborhood—officially open today:

The Georgetown location will offer free coffee for customers through its first weekend of business. …

To commemorate Wawa’s arrival near Georgetown, a new Bulldog Double Shot latte (iced or hot) is available at its touchscreen ordering counters. The themed drink is filled with salted caramel, a double shot of espresso, whipped cream, and blue and silver sprinkles. It will be available during the store’s first three months of operation. 

The 7,000-square-foot convenience store is open 24/7 and sports Wawa’s new urban interior design. Free Wi-Fi encourages study sessions. 

The first 200 customers through the door at 8 a.m. get free T-shirts, and Wawa’s charitable arm will announce a new community partnership with MedStar Medical/Surgical Pavilion at the Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center.

A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre

I saw A Christmas Carol for what was probably the first time in person this past Thursday. It was also my first time inside Ford’s Theatre. It’s a small, comfortable playhouse. The cast of A Christmas Carol was great. Craig Wallace played the role of Ebenezer Scrooge and Rayanne Gonzales played the Ghost of Christmas Present, and were my two favorites. Rick Hammerly delivered as Mr. Fezziwig, one of my favorite bit characters.

Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed actor Craig Wallace returns to play Ebenezer Scrooge in a production heralded as a “rich visual and vocal treat” (TheaterMania) and “infectiously jolly” (Washington Post).

I grew up watching Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol before graduating to George C. Scott’s A Christmas Carol. What makes A Christmas Carol timeless is that we encounter a man breaking out of what Bishop Robert Barron describes as “the black hole of self regard and really to want the good of the other.”