Alexandria, VA

Eric Crenshaw believes in fate and that he was destined to create paintings depicting the emotion involved in the story of the Enterprise slave ship.

The ship left the port of Alexandria on Feb. 11, 1835, and was blown off course by a hurricane and landed in Hamilton, Bermuda, where a British Court freed 72 of the 78 slaves, who were held in appalling conditions on the Enterprise.

The 64-year-old Crenshaw is currently working to depict the emotion involved in the unbelievable story with an art installation. “Building Bridges, Not Walls” will be showcased next year in Alexandria and at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in Hamilton. Crenshaw is currently finalizing a location for the exhibit in Alexandria.

“This is a story about freedom, and I’m working to find descendants of the Enterprise as we speak,” Crenshaw told ALXnow. “It’s the story of turning tragedy into triumph, and I’m a Christian. I believe that God had a hand in making this happen.”

Two years ago, Crenshaw and his wife, Rhonda, were visiting friends in Hamilton when they came upon a historical marker recognizing the Enterprise.

Many of the slaves on board the ship were kidnapped freed blacks and were not listed on the ship’s manifest. The previous year, Britain abolished slavery in each of its territories, and upon arrival the Enterprise’s captain, Elliot Smith, was presented with a writ of habeas corpus by former slave Richard Tucker, commanding him to deliver the 78 men, women and children to a Bermuda court. Thomas Butterfield, the chief justice of the court, then interviewed each slave and freed them all.

It was only 25-year-old Matilda Ridgely who decided against freedom and returned to the United States with her five young daughters, Ann, Betsey, Helen, Mahaley and Martha.

“Matilda’s story is what captivated me. She had to choose between freedom and returning home to her other children in the U.S.,” said Crenshaw, who lives in National Harbor. “One of the paintings I’m working on is called ‘Matilda’s Dilemma,’ which will show the pain of the decision that she had to make. She’s going to have five tears streaming down her face and in the tears you will be able to see the reflection of her children.”

As part of the installation’s creation, Crenshaw met Tom Butterfield, founder and creative director of the Masterworks Museum and direct descendant of the former Bermudan chief justice. He is also now working with a genealogist to locate descendants of the freed slaves to invite them to the exhibit, and plans to include pieces by Bermudan high school students.

“The fact that we were just walking down the street and saw this plaque, that the gentleman I met at the museum just so happened to be the great-great-great grandson of the chief justice of the Bermuda court who freed them, and so many other things that have lined up to make this happen seems to me to be more than coincidence,” Crenshaw said. “I was meant to do this.”

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As Virginia starts making progress towards the decriminalization of marijuana, one local business is working to make it easier to connect people to medical marijuana licenses.

Veriheal, based in Old Town, educates clients about medical cannabis and connects them to doctors who can get them approved for a medical marijuana license. The company works in 23 states with its structure changing based on state laws. Anthony Dutcher, marketing director for Veriheal, said they’re working to get started in Virginia.

For $200, Veriheal will book an appointment with a licensed marijuana doctor. The cost includes the consultation fee, physician copay, medical evaluation and approval recommendation. If approved, the client will receive a medical marijuana card that can get them access to dispensaries. The company’s website says they offer a full refund if the client is not approved for medical marijuana treatment.

The company also charges an annual $200 fee for wellness appointments and follow up medical appointments necessary in places where medical marijuana cards must be renewed annually.

In Virginia, Dutcher said that the process is a little more tricky. While some medical marijuana use is approved with heavy limitations, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor charge, and even those approved could still be arrested. The law currently only allows those with epilepsy to use medical marijuana.

“There’s a lot we can’t do in Virginia… there are not a lot of dispensaries, but we’re expecting them to open soon,” Dutcher said.

So far, Dutcher said the main work of Veriheal in Virginia has been laying the groundwork, like getting patients pre-registered to be able to legally use marijuana as soon as its legalized. Dutcher said that in many areas of Virginia, having a medical marijuana card could open up a little leeway with law enforcement if they are found to be in possession. In Alexandria, Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter has been taking steps to offer alternatives to prosecuting marijuana cases, though Porter has also acknowledged that his powers there are limited until the state legislature decriminalizes marijuana possession.

Simultaneously, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has been leading an effort to decriminalize marijuana use — though some say those efforts don’t go far enough.

Dutcher says Veriheal also pushes for Virginia to open up telemedicine — accessing doctors via phone or computer rather than in-person visits — to help people in areas of the state without immediate access to doctors who can grant medical marijuana licenses.

“We really push that telemedicine helps open that up,” Dutcher said. “Virginia doesn’t have that yet.”

As marijuana laws continue to change, Veriheal also walks a line of tenuous relevance. In some states that are starting to open up to medical marijuana, full legalization is already on the horizon, which would eliminate the need for a medical marijuana card.

“That’s something we think about every day,” Dutcher said. “We’re diversifying, which is why we’re taking the wellness approach as well. So even if it does go recreational we can still help those people with a wellness plan.”

Photo via Veriheal/Facebook

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Gwen Day-Fuller’s greatest memory is attending the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lincoln Memorial.

On the sultry morning of Aug. 28, 1963, Day-Fuller went to the speech with her mother, Lucille Peatross-Day, and her aunt, Mary Stokes. The then 19-year-old was on her summer break from Hampton University, and she and her family were among 250,000 people who disregarded widespread warnings that there would be riots at the now-fabled March on Washington.

Day-Fuller, 75, is the daughter of Ferdinand Day, who served as the first African American on the Alexandria School Board. She is a retired elementary school teacher and lives in the Alexandria house her parents bought in the early 1970s.

This week, ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, we asked Day-Fuller about her experience all those years ago.

ALXnow: What stands out in your memory of that day, Aug. 28, 1963? 

Day-Fuller: It was a very, very hot day, in August. And the crowd was immense. I mean, you were shoulder-to-shoulder and there had been a lot of discussion prior to the speech about how there would be riots, there would be people fighting. They anticipated a lot of problems. It was all on the news and everything. Well, the exact opposite happened because you could hear a pin drop out there. That was the thing that was so kind of eerie that I remember. People just walked along arms together. You know, it was just a very peaceful, kind atmosphere.

ALXnow: You and your parents and your aunt still attended the speech despite those warnings. 

Day-Fuller: We just were so inspired by Dr. King and everything that he stood for at that time. Also, it was almost like what could be worse than what we were living through already? And to think that somebody could come and have an impact upon the nation, that it might lead to a positive change. I mean, it’s like my dad, who went to Atlanta to Dr. King’s funeral. He just said that he had to go. That’s how, you know, we were just so grabbed by Dr. King as a man and over what he had done so far and what he was trying to do.

ALXnow: Where did you watch the speech? 

Day-Fuller: I was right near the Reflecting Pond. That’s where people were all around just trying to cool off. And that’s where we saw celebrities just walking along the way, like I remember seeing Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte. We also watched Roy Wilkins [former executive secretary of the NAACP] speak.

ALXnow: How long were you out that day? 

Day-Fuller: A long time. I remember everyone wanted to leave early to try to beat the crowds and be sure to not miss the bus. So, it took awhile for him to come on to actually make the speech, and I remember the heat, it was so hot. But there were no issues, not one. I don’t remember anything being that silent in my life. And there he was, he appeared onstage, and to think that you would get a glimpse of him was just amazing.

ALXnow: What effect did the speech have on you at the time? 

Day-Fuller: It was like my hairs were standing on-end. It was just amazing. I had heard heard him speak on TV and on the radio, but to be right there. I mean, I had no idea then that the speech would get the prominence it would. All I knew was I was in the midst of somebody extraordinary…  It just gave you hope. It made you feel like maybe this is actually going to come to an end — what we’ve been experiencing in this country — and maybe now things will change, maybe there is hope for change.

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When the Chevy Chase bistro Little Beast announced that they would be bringing back their bakery, Washingtonian senior editor Andrew Beaujon celebrated the long-awaited D.C. arrival of an exotic breakfast treat: The Cruffin.

But not so fast! Other astute readers rightly noted that Junction Bakery and Bistro in Del Ray (1508 Mt. Vernon Avenue) already has cruffins. So who gets to lay claim to crushin’ the first cruffin in the region?

For those of you who don’t know, cruffins are the final result of a Dr. Moreau-esque hybrid where a croissant’s flayed dough is wrapped around the flesh of assorted fillings, and stuffed into a muffin mold.

In accordance with Betteridge’s law of headlines: no. Junction’s cruffins preceded the re-opening of Little Bistro’s bakery, but other bakeries around the region had them first.

It is true that Junction Bakery has cruffins in a variety of flavors. Today (Wednesday) those flavors are chocolate hazelnut and raspberry. There are no egg or dairy-free options, so this vegan ALXnow reporter could not personally vouch for them, but others in the restaurant and on Twitter claimed to enjoy them.

Staff at the restaurant said they’ve been very popular, but noted that Junction Bakery was not the first in the area to stuff a cruffin.

A Washingtonian article from 2016 said Bayou Bakery in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood has cruffins, though that was on Fridays only at the time and staff said they don’t currently have cruffins available. Eater credited Bayou Bakery with introducing the cruffin to the region.

Staff at Junction Bakery said they started serving cruffins six months ago, so that would also not pre-date Little Beast’s initial bakery run in the fall of 2018.

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A new restaurant called Thai Signature could be taking over 722 King Street, once home to local establishment Geranio Ristorante.

Geranio Ristorante closed in 2018 after 42 years of serving up Italian meals and the building has been empty since then. Recently filed permits show, however, that Thai Signature could be taking over the space with a focus on offering street food from Thailand. The restaurant will also have a bar serving wine, beer and cocktails.

Before Thai Signature opens, new restaurant will also have something of a facelift, with plans to remove the awning and replace the front facade with a new green and white design.

The space was originally a cobbler shop in the 1880s but the current building was constructed sometime between 1902 and 1907, according to a city staff report.

The original plan was a wall-to-wall glass building with a very modern design, Historic Preservation Manager Al Cox said, but staff worked with the applicant for something more Old Town appropriate. The new designs were unanimously approved at the Dec. 18 Board of Architectural Review meeting.

On the same block, a new pair of restaurants called The Handover and The King’s Ransom are in the works for the space that was once Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper and Bar PX, with signs recently placed in the window.

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When Riverside Taco comes back to the Alexandria waterfront this spring, it could be expanded into a new music venue.

The eatery currently consists of the Airstream trailer that dispenses tacos, soft drinks, and beer — seasonally — as well as a 90-seat picnic table area. A new special use permit (SUP) requested for Riverside Taco would allow the market to host live acoustic entertainment.

“The outdoor market will continue current operations, but would feature live acoustic musicians and/or amplified background music for market patrons and passerby during the hours of operations,” the permit said. “This change is consistent with other approvals along the Waterfront, and aligns with the goals of the Waterfront Small Area Plan which calls for a variety of creative, dynamic, and inclusive uses at the Waterfront to create ‘better public spaces.'”

The permit says the added music would enhance and activate the waterfront, citing proximity to the Torpedo Factory Arts Center and the bevy of artists working on the waterfront as compatible local arts uses.

The permit is scheduled to go to the City Council for review on March 3.

Photo via Riverside Taco Company/Facebook

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An elderly, golden-haired cocker spaniel named Solo is, ironically, looking for some companionship.

The 10-year old spaniel at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (4101 Eisenhower Avenue) has a number of tricks he’s been showing off in foster care — like sit, stay, down and come — but also has a more specialized ability to find treats hidden around a room on command.

“With his golden, flowing locks and award-winning smile, you might think Solo was an international dog model, but in fact, he’s just a sweet senior spaniel looking for a home,” said Gina Hardter, spokeswoman for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.

Solo has a liver condition, but it’s well managed with medication, Hardter said.

“He plays like a puppy, but he’s a perfect gentleman on a walk,” Hardter said. “Despite his puppy-like demeanor, he’s looking for a home in the company of like-minded adults (or older children) where he can snuggle, play and enjoy the occasional well-deserved nap in the sun.”

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Computer programming tutoring franchise Code Ninjas is celebrating the launch of its new West End location with a grand opening celebration this weekend.

Code Ninjas has a simple but ambitious goal: make coding accessible and fun for kids. The school’s game-based curriculum focuses on teamwork, logic, math and problem solving, according to the company website. The company has locations across the country, including locations in Falls Church and Burke, and has been working to expand internationally.

The Alexandria location opened in November at 4694 King Street, in the northwest corner of the city.

The celebration is scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and will include games and prizes, as well as tours and special membership deals, according to the Facebook page for the company. An event description said the grand opening will feature kid-accessible robotics, drones and virtual reality.

Photo via Code Ninjas/Facebook

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A city resident is $100,000 richer — before taxes, at least — after buying a winning lottery ticket.

The Virginia Lottery says Tom Roltsch, an engineer from Alexandria, bought a New Year’s Millionaire Raffle ticket in Arlington, from the Harris Teeter in Pentagon City. His ticket number was one of five selected statewide on New Year’s Day for the $100,000 prize.

Roltsch was ecstatic about winning and called his brother and friends to tell them the good news, according to Virginia Lottery. He says he has no immediate plan for the winnings except for paying his bills.

Alexandria received nearly $4 million in lottery funds for K-12 public education in Fiscal Year 2019, according to Virginia Lottery.

Photo courtesy Virginia Lottery

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West End bar/arcade/laser tag arena Doyle’s Outpost is planning to host a grand opening celebration on Friday, Jan. 10.

The new “entertainment venue” in the Seminary Plaza shopping center (4620 Kenmore Avenue) features a restaurant and bar along with a two-level laser tag arena, with some arcade games and VR attractions thrown into the mix.

The grand opening is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. with the ribbon cutting at 6 p.m. City officials are scheduled to attend, according to the Facebook page, but whether they will play laser tag is unclear.

The venue mainly focuses on drawing in groups — like birthday parties or corporate events — but staff said the full-service bar and restaurant, arcade games, and laser tag are all open to individuals as well.

Food at the restaurant are mainly sports bar staples like flatbread pizzas and assorted entrees, like meatball subs or tacos. The alcohol menu ranges from cocktails and beers to “slushie drinks.”

The laser tag arena is the centerpiece of Doyle’s Outpost, with a nearly 6,000-square-foot arena depicting a scene of apocalyptic destruction in D.C.: local icons in flames, helicopters flying overhead, the Lincoln Memorial in shambles — all the classics.

Individual laser tag games are $9 per person, $16 for two games, or $20 for three games. The laser tag arena can also be rented out for private events.

Photo via Doyle’s Outpost/Facebook

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A new Japanese sushi bar and grill is coming to 909 N. Saint Asaph Street in North Old Town, but it’s still several months away.

The restaurant will be the first location for Chef Hyun Su Kim, as first reported by Alexandria Living Magazine, though Kim has worked in sushi restaurants throughout the region for 14 years.

Kim told ALXnow he’s hoping to open the restaurant in late March, but there’s still more work that needs to be done on the building in the meantime. The menu will focus largely on seafood and will emphasize the sourcing of ingredients, he said.

“We’re definitely looking at fish dishes, with a lot of focus on telling people where the fish is from,” Kim told ALXnow. “We want to let people know where each meal comes from.”

Kim said he’s still working on the menu, which will try to walk the line between affordable and fancy. Kim said prices could range from $25-50 per person, which seems to fit with the luxury apartments built above it, called The Gables.

Hinata is one of several new businesses coming to the block, including the Smart Press cleaning service, pet store Loyal Companion, and a barbershop called Cut and Shave.

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(Updated 10:30 a.m.) Your Christmas tree was beautiful, but it’s 2020 and it’s time for the tree to go.

Starting today (Thursday), Christmas trees placed on residential streets will be collected by the city. Pick up will run until Friday, Jan. 17.

Trees must be placed at the regular waste collection point by 6 a.m. on the scheduled refuse collection day.

Trees set out for recycling must be stripped or ornaments, tinsel and tree stands. The trees should also not be placed in plastic bags, which will contaminate the mulch. The trees are ground up into mulch that can be picked up by residents in the spring.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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