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Check out D.C.’s official tree
Summer in D.C. often means that outside looks much nicer than it feels. The key to a pleasant outing is to stay in the shade—and you can soak up some shade, along with some local history, under the dense foliage of the scarlet oak, the official tree of D.C. Named the official tree in 1960, the scarlet oak is native to the D.C. region as well as much of the forests of the eastern United States. It gets its name from the brilliant red color of its leaves in fall. Though it’s too early to catch that particular show, the tree grows tall and wide and provides a beautiful green canopy for those who seek its shade. There are scarlet oaks scattered all over the city’s parks and front yards, if you know how to spot them. For those of us that aren’t tree identification experts, there are two notable places to see them. The National Arboretum’s Grove of State Trees is a sprawling 30-acre plot of land with 51 (thanks, guys) varieties of state trees—or, in some cases, trees that grow better in our climate. If you miss leisurely afternoons at museums, take a few hours to meander and browse the collection. For a more serene experience, head to the southeastern side of American University’s main quad. The largest tree you’ll see there is a scarlet oak that predates the founding of the university in 1893. The grassy quad is open to the public, so bring a book and settle in under the enormous branches of your home tree. The tree can be found across D.C., but notably in the National Arboretum and on American University’s campus. Free. —Ellie Zimmerman
Visual Novel Romance Collection for Black Trans Lives
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As rising heat and social distancing keep us inside for the summer, the Visual Novel Romance Collection for Black Trans Lives on itch.io offers the chance to explore 14 different video games while supporting a charitable cause. Through the end of July, all proceeds from the $10 bundle will go to The Okra Project, an organization that assists Black trans people experiencing food insecurity. The fundraiser is an independently organized response to itch.io’s Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, which raised over $8 million for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Community Bail Fund; game developer Souha Al-Samkari was inspired to host second bundle after the first declined to include games with adult content. All 14 games in the Collection for Black Trans Lives feature queer romance, and with the age limit lifted, some even get a little steamy, like Robert Yang’s shower simulator Rinse and Repeat. Of special note are the two visual novels D.C.-area video game company Pillow Fight has contributed to the fundraiser. In the horror game We Know the Devil, a trio of teens stuck at summer camp wait in a secluded cabin for the devil to arrive. As the night goes on, their overlapping friendships grow closer and further apart, determining who will survive the night and who will be left behind. Rock Paper Shotgun called Pillow Fight’s follow-up release Heaven Will Be Mine “2018’s most interesting game” for its combination of flirting and robot-fighting in war-torn outer space. The sci-fi mecha story imagines a world where trans people have power over both galaxy-wide politics and their love lives, where personal choice is enough to lead to their dream ending. The bundle is available at itch.io. $10 minimum donation. —Mercedes Hesselroth