December 2013 Archives

Thanks, bye

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If you see me say hi. Say hi to your neighbors as well.

Thanks for reading the blog. It has been fun. It's been great seeing the neighborhood change and grow.

Anyway, I'll be at TruxtonCircle and DC Vacant Properties.


Mari Inshaw

aka Marie /aka M /aka Mrs. Henry

It really has been great. Thanks.

Tuesday Misc- Few random thoughts

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The SUV selling drugs- it must have moved because I can't find it.

Don't get a roof deck- Don't bother with a roof deck unless you are a big apartment building or if it is right off of a kitchen. Roof access yes, roof deck no. Why? I have observed about three houses/condos that face New Jersey Ave that all have roof decks. Nobody hangs out on them, not for any length of time. I have heard the odd party (can't help to hear them) go up on the roof and then in less than an hour make their way back into the house. If you really want a roof deck, interview homeowners of similar houses and ask them about use and maintenance. Decks adjacent to the kitchen are a different story. Roof access, on the other hand, will make you popular with your neighbors if you're part of a big rowhouse row. Your neighbors will await your arrival home so they may ask if they can use your access to get up on the roof to deal with their HVAC unit or Dish or figure out that leak in their ceiling.

Support Local Non-profits- Think of all the non-profits that enrich your life, WAMU, WPFW, maybe performances at the Kennedy Center, the Fringe Festival or the Woolly Mammoth, art at the Phillips or the Artomatic, advocacy groups like the Washington Bicyclist Association or Casey Trees. You can also help people who help people who are worse off or trying to improve their lives by donating to Bread for the City or N Street Village.

Save for Retirement- I and the Help we both plan to die at our desks, but we still throw money at our retirements because you never know when your employer may take you out to lunch and change all the locks and passcodes while you're out. <-- This is based on something that happened to the Help's old supervisor.

Don't leave knives out on the street- That kitchen knife you put in the 'free' box on the sidewalk could kill someone. If you see a knife take it, you might save someone.

Be aware of your surroundings- Look up from your iphone, scan the sidewalk in front of you for dog poop, loose bricks, teenagers, cyclists, neighbors who might want to say 'hello' and drug dealers. Pick a playlist and put the damned thing back in your pocket. The closer you get to home, be more apt to interacting with the surroundings.

Citizen Policing- There is an unwritten law in DC, it is seared in the hearts of almost all the residents, 'stand on the right, walk on the left.' The authorities ignore this law but it is enforced, strongly and regularly by everyday citizens. I do it, my co-worker does it and I see others do it as I descend into the Metro system. We tell complete strangers who are mindlessly standing on the left to move over. Some do it gently, others scream a litany of profanities and insults, we all have our own style. When I see people enforcing this rule, I am reminded of Cambridge. Cambridge, England. I and a bunch of us from the Univ of Florida (Go Gators!) were studying there for 6 weeks. One of our party, Bill, rented a bicycle, and violated the rule of riding on the sidewalk. An old man walking on the sidewalk hit Bill viciously with a rolled up newspaper and told him to get the hell off the sidewalk. Thereafter, Bill stayed off the sidewalks of Cambridge. Imagine DC if certain rules were enforced by armies of seniors with newspapers.

Don't argue with crazy.

Read books- Cookbooks, reference books, the odd romance maybe (those things are mental junk food), audiobooks, a classic here or there, a history, something bigger than an article that will engage your mind if not your whole self.

Concentrate on your own happy. For me it's being right here, in this city, in this neighborhood with you. That and a really good cup of tea.

Banished? Productions

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I just found out ?banished?productions has a Wikipedia page. Neat.

What can I write on my last day about them?

I first encountered the local performance company at the 2009 Fringe Festival. I had no interest in Fringe Festival stuff before because it all seemed like the kind of weird I didn't care for and had zero interest in paying good money. But out on the Mount Vernon Square email list was an intriguing announcement of this thing, a dinner, as part of the Fringe Festival. Food. I like food. The price was right and it wasn't too far, just a short hop on the G8 or G2 if I didn't want to walk. So I went. The Tactile Dinner wasn't stomach filling but it was an experience. And it was an experience I am so glad I got to share with friends and neighbors when they did this piece again and again (but not the same exact experience as the first time) in different venues.

Look a book
From The Circle

They moved on from the Dinner and did other things. My favorite other thing, was The Circle. This was another Fringe Festival thing in 2012, and by this time I was willing to take a closer look at the festival catalog and find things that weren't too weird. I had a good time with it, and once again banished? gave me a memorable experience.

They have a new thing, well not so new as I have been meaning to blog about it and never did so I gotta get this in now... They have birthed the banished? ARTillery Tool Library. Lotta stuff goes into making art, which involves construction tools and hand tools to make a vision of artspace or a performance piece come into being.

I don't know what other things are in store, but I look forward to future banished? experiences with just the right amount of avant-pop weirdness.

Where is Shaw?

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Historically it is here:


or here


or here


I'll acknowledge times change. Truxton Circle is making it's own history and getting cut off from the rest of Shaw by the ward system, but wards came with Home Rule and Home Rule is a good thing.

Yellow Tape- Crooked House

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This will be cross-posted with DC Vacant Properties

Yellow Tape-Crooked House

This is 1801 & 1803 6th St NW. 1801 looks very vacant and appears it may one day fall down. Problem is that it is attached to 1803 6th St and I gather they are supposed to be one structure and are taxed as one and share SSL 475-0057, according to the Tax office.

InShaw- Gentrifiying still

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I don't know if I want to proclaim that Shaw is done gentrifying, not since there was some police action in my alley the other day. Between trying to see over high fences and straining to hear  radio chatter, police conversations, and the suspect/witness/informant/unknown's loud cursing and screaming I'm guessing it was drugs. There was no dead body, that I know of, so I'm going with drugs, and there were way too many police out there (seriously, how was I NOT supposed to notice) for some prostitution thing.

InShaw- Now with more gentrification. When I began this blog sometime around 2003 I had a few goals. One was to share with my friends, all 5 of them, what was going on. A friend, I'll call Nora Bombay, she and I would joke about the friendly neighborhood drug dealers on the corner, the guy selling boot-legs on New Jersey, [blank]-the crackho, nighty gunfire and other things regarding inner-city homeownership. I'd call her up sometimes and whisper a-la The Sixth Sense, "I see white people." The other, less vocalized reason for keeping the blog going, was to give the neighborhood, this end of Shaw, some PR.

InShaw- Historically Gentrified. At some point I got into neighborhood history. I'm still into neighborhood history, less so on gentrification. At a certain point, central Shaw, and Truxton Circle (which is IN Shaw) became a mixed neighborhood and income-wise I figured if your family survived the changes during the height of the housing bubble, you should be fine. Shaw has a fair amount of 'affordable housing' in tall buildings and not so tall buildings that all seem to have generous parking lots. We have more affordable housing units than Georgetown, Dupont, and Downtown, less than neighborhoods east of the river. I gather what those affordable units are not, is available, and so advocates ask for more and attempt to preserve the ones remaining.
The earlier "pioneers" made way and made things comfortable for another set of newcomers. The demographic changes helped* bring on changes regarding how the city government and other organizations related to the neighborhood. There was a time when you had to beg and plead for the city to come fix a street light and when they'd pretty much throw your 911 call to the bottom of the pile. There was a lot people could get away with because the city abdicated it's enforcement powers and abandoned parts of the city run by local insiders/tyrants you had to curry favor with to get information or to get something fixed. Finally getting city services, police attention, usable parks, more transparent ANCs, and an environment welcoming small businesses, this change, gave me something to write about. If gentrification means only having to have a few of your neighbors complain to the city to get a sidewalk fixed instead of being completely ignored, I'll take it.

The InShaw Blog- That's all folks. This may not be my last entry. I got 48 or so more hours before 2014 rolls up, who knows what I'll write about in that time. There was a SUV with expired Maryland tags someone may have been dealing drugs from parked in the church lot I'd been meaning to blog about. Then there are some pictures I want to post of what the neighborhood looked like, I don't know if I'll get around to writing anything on that. Then there is a townhouse-like apartment that I blogged about years ago on R St. I called it ugly. Since then the Monique and some new construction has popped on either side and now it doesn't look as bad.
I've accomplished a good amount in 10 years. The neighborhood has a place on the map. PR job done. There are few newspaper articles written about or mentioning the blog. I've been threatened with a lawsuit (twice) so someone's been paying attention. Posts have managed to get the city or press to pay attention to the odd issue here or there. I'll credit some effort via this blog for ending Leroy Thorpe's reign. I bet he will run again, please for the love of the neighborhood don't vote for this bully. I've been more than happy to help reporters, freelancers, students, researchers, indy filmmakers, and others who've approached me because of the blog. I've really enjoyed my 15 blocks of fame getting to meet and know neighbors who have gotten to know me because of this little old blog. This has been fun.

*Several old timers were hacking away at the problems of crime, poor city services and the lack of amenities before the "urban pioneers" and the millennials showed up.
Click below for the Oscar speech-

Buying in 20001 in 2001

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View of Street
The people who you could say were part of the late 90s-early 2000s gentrification wave were a completely different set of folks than the millennials continuing the trend now. I believe that because buying and living were different then, I know this because I have a file.
I have a file called "Buying [my address]". It has a lot of fun things: my contract with my Realtor Gloria Owens, my home inspection, photos and notes from the home inspection, various MRIS reports and printouts, a graphic from a 12/3/2000 Washington Post article (A24) about a decade of homicides-- one of the many splotches of murder completely covers the TC, fax cover sheets, a business card from my North Capitol's Home Buyer's Club housing dula Ms. Karen Garrett, and my bank info, including a stub from a $3,793.79 cashiers check to the title company.
I looked at four houses. Just four. A year earlier a friend of mine bought a house with what was left over from his father's estate. He spent way too much time pondering houses and it took him 2 agents and one year to get a crooked house in a working class neighborhood in PG Co. I did not want that. I did a lot of neighborhood research, figuring out which blocks I could afford on a $34K salary, a $125K loan limit, and which streets I felt comfortable walking alone from the metro at night. So when a house popped up on my map of desire (yes, I physically mapped out which blocks and to what point I was comfortable) I could be ready. I looked at the purple house on the 1700 blk of 4th St, 1851 3rd St NW, 1607 5th St NW and my house. I don't have the printout for the purple house so I don't have the address, but I remember it was HUGE inside, and a hallway window was broken and it had no yard, and the people on the street looked unfriendly. No. The 3rd St house was beautiful, but $4K above what I was approved and I don't know why my agent showed it to me. It was beautiful even though renovations were incomplete. There was this big square hole in the living room floor for a 'future' air vent. There was a dusty old piano in the garage basement. There were a million things I loved about this house, but I couldn't afford it nor would I have been able complete the renovations. The house on 5th street was small, the interior looked as if the renters were foreign to the concept of cleaning and my notes say something about roof and moisture issues and the kitchen being disgusting & tiny. The house was going to need repair before moving in. I put in an offer for less than the $109,900 asking price because the seller had tried to sell it for something like $75K the year before. The seller wasn't budging, they knew there was change afoot in the neighborhood and they were planning on cashing out.

Age diversity

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Just as a note: There is no more (or should be no more) CAPTCHA for the next few days. I had it off for a few hours and got slammed with spam.

What makes my street and my immediate neighborhood great are the people. The buildings and amenities are lovely too, but I really get a lot out of my interactions with my neighbors. Though on one level income diversity is a good thing, what I have experienced is the joy of age diversity.
Maybe it is just me.
Older neighbors who were here in the 'bad old days' can tell me about what I have thankfully missed and together we can recount what we've experienced together to neighbors who moved in after me. Older neighbors who moved in after I did, we also recount what we've experienced together so far. Both sets provide a perspective of what life in this city may be like as I get older. Retirement looks awesome, not retiring working full-time or part-time in a job you love-love, looks awesome too.
Younger neighbors who were born and raised here provide hope and heartache. There's a little more heartache here for these neighbors who were here before I arrived. The ones who provide hope have moved on, and typically out of their parents' houses, and so they're not so much neighbors as welcomed visitors. Younger neighbors who moved in sometime after I did, provide energy and a willingness to join in with projects and efforts to improve the neighborhood. Unfortunately, younger neighbors can be distracted, one example is that of their phones. Then there are the even younger neighbors. I sometimes first meet them when they are still kicking around in their mothers. Then they are out and seeing the world and the neighborhood with new eyes. They tell you about DC's Pre-K and they make Halloween (or any kid-centered activity) fun.
But diversity means very little if your don't interact with any of your neighbors. Fortunately, I talk to many neighbors, run into them, do small favors and there are plenty of opportunities to get together. And in these various activities of neighborliness I get to appreciate the differences and what we have in common.

Looking forward to 2014

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...even though I won't be blogging here. At DC Vacant Properties, yes. At, yes. At the Bureau of Fight Club's agency blogs: the public one,occasionally; the internal employees' only one, daily.

I found a list I made last year for 13 things I'd like to make and 13 things I wanted to accomplish. I failed on the making things list, accomplishing 2 out of 13. Of the other list of accomplishments it is a little better sorta 11 out of 13. Sorta being, I sorta accomplished it, as in I sorta cleaned up the back yard, and I sorta mended some clothes and I sorta read a dead tree book. The back yard was only half cleaned, I mended two things but there is more that needs mending, and I got a used Kindle.
There are only two things on our list for 2014 and they are biggies. One is the final reno project on the house. In 2003 I was too cheap (didn't have the money) to repair the kitchen's walls. Now there are some pretty nasty looking cracks in the non-party walls. Those walls need repairing, like, now. While we're at it, we'll put more square footage on top and try to line it up with the neighbor's house. Back in 2007/2008 the neighboring house also had a 1 story kitchen, but the developer knocked it down and built up to the 2nd floor. We'll sort of do the same, except we won't change the footprint. We'll try to keep the interior. I like my Corian counter tops and white boring appliances. And with that every single structural issue in the house's 140 year history will have been addressed. Also I think I will be the only owner who has bothered with permits in that same period of time.
The second big thing will be starting the adoption process. We've got mentors, and we've informed our families and they are on-board. We look forward to the challenges of raising small people in the city, this city.
If I can fit it in, there are a few writing projects and history projects I'd like to do. I'm making the history of this neighborhood, Truxton Circle, and the rest of Shaw my thing, and sharing that history with others is also my thing. If you want a good primer, I highly suggest looking on Amazon or on or where-ever you may get used books for City of Magnificent Intentions. It is a textbook. There are two versions I've found, one that ends in the 1980s with a positive note and the other that ends in the 1990s that's just depressing. It gives you the basics of DC history from the 1800s to the late 20th century.
2014 is going to be a year of change.

Arboreal Outlaw

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There were plenty of things I had to leave out for the "Cleaning Up with Brother Brian and Father Watkins"  or otherwise it would have been too long. One part that was cut out was about Brian's tree activities.
In addition to cleaning, he will cut away with a pair of handheld snips, dead parts of tree. He told me about times when he's been approached by DDOT guys who asked what he was doing and he explained what he was doing and they went their merry way. Then there was the time when a woman on R St yelled at him for trimming trees with his snippers and threaten to call the cops on him. She didn't, probably because he was sweeping up the block as well.
A pretty good story was when he was walking with his father, who was in town visiting. They were walking toward the O Street Market construction. They came across a few guys spray painting the sidewalk near 7th & Q to mark out some tree boxes. So Brian engages them and asks what were they doing. One guy explained that there was some city grant money in relationship to the O St. market and they were going expand the tree boxes. Then his father gushes, "Oh, you should see 4th St! Wow, all the new trees. It's amazing! And the neighbors are planting and buying them, and it's absolutely stunning!" Then the city guy looks at Brian with some confusion, and he confirmed, "Yeah we're planting trees." Then the city guy says, "With permission, right?" "No," Brian answered. Still in gush mode, "They're incredible, they're so beautiful!" Then at one point one of the city guys asked how long he's been planting trees, and the guess is 10 years doing 1/3rd of the block. One of the city guys asked, "So you just give up on the city?" "Yeah in regards to trees, yes."
About eight to ten years ago, Brian with started with a little 8ft oak tree in front of his house. It was like a street sign and about 10 kids from the block helped him plant it. Now the tree towers above the townhouses. This is a theme when it comes to tree planting. He doesn't do it alone, he gets the neighbors, be they kids or adults or both, to pitch in and make a thing of it.
Sometimes a part of the city is involved, sometimes not. I remember taking a boatload of photographs of all the treeboxes on the block in for a BACA thing because Brian asked. Then we (the block) got a tree and a bunch of flowers from BACA. Can I find any of those photos? No. But I do remember the day, kids were out, parents and other adults were out planting and digging, and neighbors were getting to know each other. It was the year the tree in front of 1622 was planted. Brian continued to care for the tree when contractors kept damaging the young tree's limbs by parking their van too close. There is a bolt in the tree's limb, put there to repair the damage done.
Earlier this year neighbors, with Brian as the ringleader, planted a tree on the block. It might have been a tree neighbors pooled money and bought. So the call goes out, a tree is bought and neighbor labor is organized and a tree got planted. This was in
Men plant tree
April. Fast forward to  early December, another set of neighbors gather together and decorate the trees on the block, including the new tree. So sometime this month a city crew comes out, they've got a trailer with a few trees, a truck full of men with shovels, and a guy with a clipboard standing near the new tree. Brian spotted them and went to talk to clipboard guy. It seems that the neighborhood requested a tree three years ago to replace a dead tree. It was in some system somewhere that a tree needed to go where neighbors had planted a tree about 7 months ago. The exchange was peaceful but the clipboard guy was insistent that we/Brian should have applied for a permit to plant the tree. This was going on while the shovel guys were trying to figure out the decorations. The problem was the crew was there to plant a tree, because the city wants them to plant a tree and there is a tree in the spot where they need to plant a tree. How do you solve this problem? Part of the solution, apparently, was to illustrate why getting a permit is needed. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the permit to plant a tree (remove a tree yes, plant tree not seeing it). Another part of the solution is explaining what kind of tree it is, and how it is one of the types of treebox trees allowed. Long story short the tree was allowed to stay an the men with shovels and the guy with the clipboard went away. Yay.
Christmassy tree
Merry Christmas

1628 4th St NW

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I am hoping by posting this that the owner of 1628 4th Street NW will fix her property and to possibly warn future renters. But who am I kidding, it's Gemma and renters rarely do this level of research before renting.
The last art student of the three is moving out. The other two left because conditions in the house had deteriorated so badly they could not take it anymore and left before their lease was up. That roof problem I wrote about last month, may have been the cause of leakage inside, which damaged some of the tenants' belongings. Neighborhood chatter mentioned something about mold, I can't confirm that, but it would make sense considering the building's history and owner Gemma Belton's continuous lack of decent maintenance.
If the residents wanted to stay and fight, they would have had the law behind them. DC has some very tenant friendly laws, and a quick check of DCRA's PIVS fails to show occupancy records or BBL records, which make me wonder if this house is a legal rental. If the house is not a legal rental because it lacked the right permits, they could have stayed and maybe used the rent money on repairs instead of paying an unresponsive landlady. The Office of the Tenant Advocate is supposed to help, but I gather moving was a better option than fighting Gemma.
I really wish one of two things would happen. I wish she'd hand over to operations to a professional property management company or if she is already using one (I doubt), maybe a management service that actually provides the tenant some service. The other option would be to sell it. This is an awesome block with some really wonderful neighbors and the location is great. The house is a gut job and if a buyer does a half decent renovation, 1628 could be a lovely home for someone.

Quickie post- Change

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Okay yesterday I discovered that old photos I put on a thumbdrive degraded. Degraded badly. I also discovered that photos taken prior to 2006, not thrown on the web are not on the CDs and the external hard drive I thought they were on.

Change it happens and in the TC the neighborhood change didn't always require people to be moved out. The neighborhood was losing people since, oh, the 1950s. Many months ago I tweeted (I need to bother to tweet more):
I had remembered I had taken a while back the following photo:
It is on the 1500 block of 3rd St NW. I am not so sure of the date because my camera was wonky and defaulted to 1/1/2003. I have a fuzzy photo of those houses from a different angle of what they look like today:
Fuzzy 3rd St NW
In the case of these two houses, there was no one there to kick out to make way, as is the general charge with gentrification. Truxton, as well as the rest of Shaw had and in some spots still has plenty of vacant and blighted housing.
Truxton doesn't even have half of the population it had in 1940. Not. Even. Half. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the neighborhood is no longer overcrowded, and we are not 1940s people. We don't live like people in 1940. We don't have the same kind family structures with the  same percentages like people in 1940. We rarely take in boarders or share close quarters like people in 1940. It takes more square footage to make a 21st Century person happy, apparently 2x as much.

Sidewalk closed, go walk in traffic

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Sidewalk closed

Today I decided to take Rhode Island Avenue to the 7th St bus stop. Not doing that for a while.

That is because there is something going on with the northern 600 block of R.I. Ave. I think it might have something to do with the big trees and redoing the sidewalks. I encountered in one section of the 500 blk of Rhode Island a section of the sidewalk blocked off. I waited for traffic to stop so I could walk on to the street to get by. Now there was no cute sign like the one your see here. I figured I'd have to walk out into traffic all on my own.

Then I got to the 600 blk. No "Sidewalk Closed" sign because the day-glo plastic fencing is your heads up. The blockage spanned several houses. Who ever put up the blockage also made the wooden ramps that go from the houses' gate entrance straight into traffic. The only other option for residents of those homes would be a possible rear exit, if such thing exists. So once again, I waited for the light to stop traffic and stepped out into the road.

At the intersection of R/Rhode Island and 7th another blockage. This time there was a sign. Once again, I walked out into traffic to get to the bus stop. Jaywalked right in front of a police cruiser. Stopped to make sure I wouldn't get hit by a bike in the bike lane, and then I got to the bus stop.

What did I want? I want jersey walls. That or a logical heads up before I get to the center of a block to take the option of walking on the other side.

Cleaning up with Brother Brian and Father Watkins

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Since this blog is going to end soon I decided to do something a little different. This is a much longer post than normal, regardless I hope you enjoy it.

Brian Bakke and Monsignor James Watkins have much in common. They both are men of faith, similar in ages, who moved to Shaw 12 years ago. Both have taken to cleaning up their part of Shaw and have observed the changes in the neighborhood while regularly picking up trash from the sidewalks and the streets.

The reasons why they began picking up trash differ.

When Father Watkins came to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Shaw from St. Matthew's Cathedral in 2001 he noticed, "a tremendous amount of trash. All over the sidewalks and curbs and properties." The building for Center City Charter School, adjacent to the church, used to house Immaculate's Catholic school back then and the children had to walk through the trash to get to school. The trash the children and their parents had to step in and over were used needles and condoms and broken glass. Watkins said, "I just thought, for the safety of the children and their sense of pride in their church and school," and thus he began removing trash from their path, for their safety. Using parish funds, he had eight trash canisters placed along the 1300 block of 8th St. and on N Street NW, near the church. These aid in his campaign against trash.

Brian began cleaning up his neighborhood streets long before coming to Washington. He and his wife moved to a street in Chicago that was the dividing line between two opposing street gangs. The gang members would throw bricks and bottles at cars to draw out rival members to try to kill them. Brian wanted to stop it, so he went hunting for the projectiles used to start fights: the rocks and the bottles, and found them on tires of parked cars, near trees on the sidewalk, and began picking and throwing them away. He recalled the gang members' reaction, "I overheard them saying, 'He's picking up our stuff!'" It should be noted that Brian is 6'6", over 200 lbs, a former college football player and he can only recall being challenged by women who question his efforts. With a broom and wearing dark clothing as he does, he is a fairly intimidating looking character.

NW Co-op
I have a 'fee simple' bias. For myself I don't care for condos and sure as heck don't care for co-ops either. While we're at it, not a fan of HOAs either. Personally, I like owning the dirt that comes along with the structure. Ownership of the dirt (fee simple) allows you to do several things not allowed when you're in a condo or co-op. With a fee simple you can have a 100 lb dog, two of them if you'd like and throw in as many cats as it takes to get labeled a 'cat lady'. You can rent out your home out when ever it suits you without having to get approval from a board. And my favorite, no monthly fee.

However, co-ops, limited equity co-operatives in particular, are probably the best way of keeping affordable housing in a particular spot. There are about 3 such creatures in Shaw that I know of, which have managed to be absolutely unchanged by market forces gentrifying the neighborhood. Because they are limited equity, regardless of the changing fortunes of the occupants (see the 2012 HUD Audit for the 2nd NW Co-op, pdf) that pesky monthly fee/rent is fairly low.

The key is denying owners in the co-op equity. Equity is the key. Equity is that thing that gives owners the incentive to fix up their houses or condos so they can sell at a higher price, probably making what was affordable, unaffordable. Or it allows owners to use their property like an ATM and take out a HELOC or refinance and get extra cash.

Twelve years ago I purposefully chose to buy in DC because of the various and generous first time homebuyers programs. There were the classes taught by a non-profit which were invaluable and then there were the deals with the devil which were helpful. I signed a buttload of papers but one of them was something along the lines of if I sold my house within 7 or 10 years I would owe the city some percentage of the equity based on some odd mathematical formula I could never figure out. It was just easier to stay in place. Thankfully I did not take a HPAP or anything like that which may have had any influence over my ability to refinance so I could fix up the house and deal with 80% of the building's structural issues. I could refinance because I could tap into the house's equity.

However limited equity co-op owners can't do the same. For one as with any co-op you don't really own your unit, you rent it. What you own is ownership in the co-op and the financing is a little bit different than buying a fee simple house or a condo. The funny thing is co-op boards can limit who can buy into a co-op, there are known cases in New York City where famous people weren't allowed to buy certain co-ops because the board disallowed them. They can also restrict to whom you can rent (if they let you rent) your unit. With limited equity co-ops there tend to be income restrictions, which keep the co-op affordable to certain income groups but I can see can be a total PITA for both the seller and buyer. 

As a neighbor, a limited equity anything, has no incentive whatsoever to spruce up the exterior of the property. For the most part the property itself is clean and decent, but never beyond that. There is probably no incentive either to add any amenities or make the laundry room nicer. As long as the equity is limited it won't become luxury.

So that's my solution to gentrification. Limited equity, limited possiblities.

The Rent Is, What It Is

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Not too long ago I was recollecting my early days in DC, Back in 1995-1996 I moved to the DC area (bouncing from MD to VA and later back to MD) with my first job working for the government as a GS-5, despite the shiny graduate degree. I made around $19K a year but I remember that my half of the rent (I had a roommate) was four hundred eighty something, about half of my monthly take home.  So when I read that some people pay over 30% of their take home, I think back to those days, I paid far more than 30%.
I get semi-shocked by the amount rents are for the luxury apartments and houses in NW and the plain jane apartments in random parts of non-NW DC that happen to be near a metro. Part of that reason is I'm a homeowner with a fixed mortgage, the only thing I have to concern myself with are taxes. However the benefits of home ownership don't really make their greatest impact until you lived in the same dang spot for several years;  after the cost of living has surpassed your fixed rate amount. Even after the big renovation that took my lovely $600 mortgage for a pile of crumbly bricks to the land of $1500 for a nicer house that still has mouse issues, it is still lower than what the local rent is in this neighborhood. If I were to start all over again, it would probably take 5 or 10 years before I got to the land of where the mortgage and maintenance costs became lower than the rents.
Is the rent too damned high? It's high, but if someone is willing to pay them, even if it is half of their take home, even with a roommate, apparently not. If people would refuse to pay those prices, then the rents would go down. When I rented out my extra room, I just made up prices trying to figure out what would the market bear. I'd put something out on Craigslist and if real people (not bots or scammers) failed to respond, then I'd lower the price until I got enough inquiries.
The problem is not enough space, and too many people who are willing to spend a lot on rent. Until the market is flooded with housing options, or people decide they'd rather live in PG or NoVa than DC if the rent is too high, then the rent will be what it is.

Things left undone

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I was reminded at a neighborhood gathering involving lots of small people and maybe too much colored sugar, that holy smokes this blog will come to an end in 2 weeks. So today I figured I should clean out my draft file.

My process for the past year or so, has been to write up something every day or every other day. Most of the time I can produce something I'm happy with, but every so often, I write it and I'm just not happy with it. Those unhappy things get deleted or I work on them again after clearing my head.  Then there are those that I leave for later and forget all about. Those are the ones I've decided to either delete or publish as is.

So in the 2010-2013 batch are:

Carrots or the instruments of gentrification- org date 5/6/2011

Home Production- org date 5/16/2011

I think I may be a grumpy old timer- org date 6/14/2012

Education and inequality- org date 2/17/2013

The Call- a form of fiction- org dat 2/13 /2013

I tried to see if I could do the same thing with the drafts for when I was using Blogger, but they show up as new posts as with "Five reasons to keep my security bars" . I have several drafts on blogger. I really should figure out what I plan to do with them.

Affordable no mo

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I honestly cannot remember who I was talking to about affordable housing, but somewhere in the discussion I wondered aloud about the long term plan for such projects. What happens 30 years after the building or complex built to house the poor is completed and the people for whom the effort was made move in? In my work, I have come across building projects from the past (early 20th Century past) like Greenbelt, the socially conscious Washington Sanitary Improvement Company's 2 flat units along Bates, and St. Mary's Court in Foggy Bottom. The Greenbelt cooperative was never created to serve the poorest. The homes formerly part of the WSIC portfolio of rental housing mostly are now privately owned homes, many renovated into single unit townhomes, while very few are still 2 flats. St. Mary's Court, formerly public housing during the Roosevelt era, now is a different structure (same name and area) and is HUD-financed senior housing. Things happen, things change.

So I wonder what is the future for 1330 formerly the Immaculate Conception Apartments, and the Lincoln-Westmoreland buildings, now according to the banner, "Heritage at Shaw Station". The Kelsey Garden Apartments, owned by some church in SE DC, is long gone and by next year should be luxury-ish apartments. The many, many, many properties in Shaw owned or once owned by the United House of Prayer for All People (UHOP) are varied in the income levels of people they house, but in the past ten years has been going more market rate and above. As much as I dislike all the Suzane Reatig UHOP structures going up in Shaw, it is still better than the Shiloh Baptist properties left to rot. The few things that appear not to be going the way of market rates or senior housing are the two Northwest Co-operatives. Though they say with investments, past performance is no guarantee of future results, what can the past efforts of affordable housing tell us about the future and the present?

Gentrification, demographic change, does play a part in all this. If there wasn't economic and other changes and pressures there would be little need or political or economic will to change. As I go down Seventh Street NW, looking at all the construction, I am a little sad for what was lost, but more excited about what is to come.

Why I love Uber

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I wasn't feeling well the other day and took a half day off from work. There were a few things I wanted to finish and foolishly thought I could do a few hours work and come back home to bed. I took UberX to work and back home because I was just not well enough to deal with with walking and public transit. Looking back, I wasn't well enough for work, but that is another issue.

In the pre-Uber days I would have stayed home (which I should have done) because experience gave me zero faith in DC cabs. To me cabs are like cats, if you call them they don't always come when you want them. I came to the DC metro area to live about 18 years ago, I lived without a car, so taxis were a possible option in the toolkit of transportation options. Cabs were these things you caught downtown. When I moved to Shaw, well over a decade ago, cabs were still those things you caught on the street, because the few times I tried calling for one failed time after time. Back then I shouldn't have been too surprised, I couldn't get a pizza delivery to come to my house, much less a taxi. If I needed to go to the airport I would either book a flight where I could use Metro or used SuperShuttle. The only time a cab has taken me to the airport was when it was arranged by my employer, and that was Red Top out in VA.

Then there was experiencing bad taxi service secondhand from roommates. One roommate from Philly wanted a cab to take her a few blocks from the house to the metro station because it was raining really hard. She called, and waited, and waited, and waited, and no cab showed up, even  after she called to find out what was taking so long. Another roommate, a South American who was staying with nuns in Brookland before moving in with me, had taken a cab from there to Shaw with two pieces of luggage, and was charged $60 for the one way trip. This was back in the day of zones.

But to be fair I did stay with two guys who had good taxi mojo. One was a bartender and had a better sense of cabs and cab companies. So most of the time when they called a cab, from this one company they knew well, a cab came within 10-20 minutes. But even then, I was still distrustful of DC cabs.

When Uber first came on the scene it was for the black sedans and it was about $15-20+ a pop. That was a little too much for me. But I liked the idea, that if worse came to worse, it was an option. I didn't sign up until this year. It was because of word of mouth, in the jury room. One of the jurors regularly took cabs to come to the courthouse, and had been burned by taxis just one time too many and was fed up, but not fed up enough to use Metro. Another juror suggested Uber. The juror tried it and was overly enamoured with the service. Their songs of praise and comparisions won me over enough to try them out. This year has been the year of illness and having an Uber taxi has been great when leaving the doctor's office and I really don't want to be around a lot of people. So basically I use Uber when I am not in the mood to deal with crap.

I still use regular cabs. I hail those on the street. I get into the cab before I tell them where I want to go. If a cab won't let me in and wants to haggle first, I ignore the cab and try to hail another. These are the days when I can deal with crap.

I have heard the defenders of the DC cab system and the best comparision I can come up with is, regular cabs are like an old boyfirend who says you're crazy, making things up, that didn't happen, it must be that time of the month and you just don't understand his problems. Uber is like the guy who tells you you're beautiful, smart, funny and we should do this again sometime.

Le Fini is a hair salon

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Thank you to my neighbor who alerted me to what was Le Fini. It's a place to get these Brazillian blow out things and hair extensions and stuff.
Le Fini

See Facebook-

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Le Fini

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What is it? I dunno.
Le Fini
It's on the 1500 blk of New Jersey Ave NW

Just say no to brick

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I did a little shoveling of icy slushy stuff last night, only after I heard my neighbor doing some shoveling. I shoveled the space in front of my house and then a bit more for my neighbors. I made a crooked path, for that is my way. I pressed the snow shovel down against the pavement, made several little pushes to pick up the ice then pushed the ice into the gutter. None of this makes for a straight path.

I was thinking that I was so thankful that we have concrete sidewalks and not brick as this would have been harder and possible more damaging to my plastic snow shovel. It crossed my mind to grab a neighbor who expressed an interest in brick sidewalks and have him compare shoveling the two. I decided against it. I can tell you the difference. With the concrete I can place my shovel down against the pavement and push until I hit a square that juts out or until my shovel has gotten too heavy. With brick, I am constantly hitting uneven bricks which ruin by flow and nicks my shovel more often. And so, if I get the engery to mess with bricks I don't do as much of the red stuff as I do of the grey stuff.

Wally World open

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Wally world

I hear the opening for the 2 Wal-Marts in the District was quite popular. Lots of crowds and a few protesters, just in time for the Christmas shopping.  I will be avoiding Wally World, not because of some philosophical issue regarding wages. Nope, I just hate crowds. I'm not going anywhere near a shopping mall (unless it is the dead mall of PG County*) this month. Then there are predictions that the urban Wally Worlds will kill local businesses.

I wouldn't blame Wally World. I'd blame Amazon. I recently got Amazon prime, to save on shipping and I love, love, love it. I have done about 95% of our Christmas shopping on-line, and a majority of that through Amazon. I've also begun shopping for things for myself and having everything shipped to the Help's job.The only negative is that it isn't instant, and once Amazon sent me the wrong thing, but they fixed it so it's all good.

I won't do all my shopping through Amazon. There's food and my desire to support some local businesses. On Small Business Saturday I bought Christmas cards from Pulp, and contractor trash bags from Logan Hardware. I need to buy a light for my bike, I'll probably get it from the bike shop on 7th. I need to walk over the Old City Green to get some pine garland, if they have it. And I seemed to have misplaced my good headphones, so I'll wander over to CVS or Walgreen's or Radio Shack (I stopped boycotting them for bad service) to get one set, and get backups from Amazon. I realize my not walking into a brick and mortar store has some impact, which is why I try to make the time to walk into stores I support.

I can't let it go, but those who hate and bad mouth Wal-Mart but still shop there are hypocrits. They are like the alcoholic who blames the liquor store for his plight but keeps buying the Velicoff. In this city there is no real excuse. In DC there is this place called Target. It is on the green line. Buses go past it and there is parking in a garage nearby. Either acknowledge your strange freaky love for the low prices or walk the talk.

Visitor Parking Passes are in the mail system

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From the Eckington List, in a letter to John T. Salatti:

We have finalized the mail out of the passes to the remaining wards, which includes Ward 5.  I can confirm that the bulk mail has been submitted to the US Postal Service and residents in the area should expect to begin receiving their passes by the end of next week.  Please feel free to share with your neighbors that they can contact the DDOT Call Center at (202) 673-6813 should they have any questions on the status of the delivery.  However, we request that they allow at least one week for the mail process to be complete.

The passes are the nice little visitor parking passes you give to the contractor working on your house, or the housesitter or relatives visiting out of town. With workmen, demand the pass back before sending the final payment.  I'm guessing, we'll get them in January.

Gentry Giant

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There are nights when I cook, and nights when the Help (the spouse) cooks. I think about a few days out before it is my night, so meat has enough time to thaw in the fridge (whole chicken 3-4 days) and for my upcoming day I thought of a dish that we make cauldrons of, beans and rice. We make a bunch, eat a portion for dinner and freeze the rest in individual packets for future lunches. Since we make so much, I decided to send out an email to the neighbors on my street to join us for this simple dinner.
So six showed and we had some great dinner conversations, one about the new Giant. We pretty much agreed that the old Giant was a Ghetto Giant and the new Giant is nicer. Some liked the layout, but some were disappointed that the old structure didn't have little stalls and it was like a regular old Giant. Then there was a short exchange about what to call the new Giant. I think Gentry Giant won out. The rules are the descriptors have to have the same first letter as the name of the store, like Soviet Safeway.
I've been in the new Giant several times so far, mainly to pick up a few things. The store is big, the parking is underground and there appears to be bicycle parking, unless those  waist-high poles weren't meant to be bicycle parking. I do remember talking about the loss of the surface parking lot, the hustlers and other characters who hung out at the old lot, at the dinner table but I don't remember where it all led.
Band at Giant
Jazz band playing in
Giant Cafe
The new Giant is geared towards the type of residents who'll occupy the apartments above and the apartments being built across the street. In the meantime, there are the little old ladies blocking the aisles when they run into their friends and the few millennials who try to get around them while not spilling their beer. Oh, that's another thing that I'm still trying to wrap my head around with the new Giant, beer and wine. Not just for sale to take and enjoy at home but to drink while shopping. One of the dinner guests told me that the carts had cup holders for the beer or wine. I wouldn't know because I never had a quarter or whatever on me to rent a whole shopping cart. I'm also amazed by the D'Artagnan section in meats. I want to buy the $22 package of boneless quail or the venison, but I don't. The last time I saw venison in a grocery store, I was at a Wegman's, and I think that may be the audience this Giant may be trying to go after.
On one of my visits, the Help and I just looked around. There is lots of evidence of this Giant being the food source for young single professionals. Well besides lots of Lean Cuisines, there were other heat and eat, or cook and eat, or pick up and eat meals. The sushi from the sushi bar, the soup & salad bar and the hot bar was self serve pick up and eat. Then there is the pizza counter and the deli counter. I really didn't pay much attention to the cafe. Not too far from the pizza were these single serving meals of a meat and starch in plastic. I gather you nuke that. In the meat section were these $5 stuffed chicken breasts that you cook in the oven. One was enough for both of us.
When the apartments along P & O Sts are all done this area is going to be very different with a new spirit. Maybe this revitalizing spirit will move down the street and get those empty spaces in the Convention Center filled.


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There are various things that make me wince. A wrong note when someone is playing a familiar tune, grammar* and  poor use of a word or concept.

I winced and winced hard when I saw a video on youtube created by a middle schooler who contacted me. She was doing a project for school and had to make a short video on a topic, she chose gentrification. The video is so-so content-wise for the first 20-30 seconds and then went downhill.

About a zillion years ago I first met the Help (now spouse) at the end of judging for National History Day. I judged videos and digital projects. I was blown away by what the kids produced. obviously some were influenced by Ken Burns, except one. A girl from Bethesda, her video was horrid. It has been well over ten years since then, but I can still tell you why the Bethesda video was a horrible waste of VHS tape**. So I was reminded of that after seeing the not-so-great youtube video on gentrification.

I emailed the Youtubber and tried to be a sensitive and helpful adult to a child who lives in a well-to-do homogeneous country where gentrification is truly a foreign topic. Love the internet, it is so international. I made some suggestions for a few tweeks to the first part to make it a little less vague and a bit more accurate.

For the rest I mentioned ways to improve the video from either an anti- or pro- gentrification stance. For an anti-gentrification piece for her grade level, I suggested focusing on housing. An image of evictions could make her point, and for the call to action part I thought she could do something supporting 'affordable housing'. The pro-gentrification suggestions were to keep the first part to show the negative but the rest to show the upside. What would the upside look like? Maybe it could be an image of a vacant house with boarded up windows and trash in the yard, then the next image of a similar house, fixed up with curb appeal. I mentioned new businesses, which an image of a hipster in the doorframe of his shop could show.

Even if she doesn't take those suggestions I do hope she removes the "filler" and the parts that show that she doesn't know the topic. There was a generic call to action in the video that could have better applied to the topic of preventing air pollution or saving baby pandas. The filler was too obvious. Even if the teacher doesn't know a thing about gentrification he/she will certainly pick up on the uninformative parts where the student is filling up screen time. It is the equivalent of playing around with fonts and justifications to make an 8 page paper into a required 10 page paper.

History Showcase this Thursday at Dunbar H.S.

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This almost totally slipped my mind, but since we're on the topic of history. I'm going to copy and paste this one:

Dear Friends,
Please join us on Thursday, December 5th, from 6-9:30pm for the 7th Annual DC Community Heritage Project Showcase! This program celebrates the work of 18 grantee organizations who have created innovative and exciting new projects that interpret and preserve Washington, DC's historic landmarks, neighborhoods, and culture!

The program will be held at the brand new Dunbar High School (101 N Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001) Please note the venue change.

RSVP for the Showcase at:

You are guaranteed to learn something new about DC!

This year's projects include:
  • The Logan Circle Heritage Trail Curriculum
  • The Gold Coast Documentary
  • Crestwood History Project
  • Dunbar High School Alumni and Pioneers
  • Langston Terrace Dwellings Oral History
  • Mt. Zion Cemetery Website Development
  • DC Gardeners' Oral History Project
  • Master Builders of Deanwood
  • African American Pioneer Muslimahs Pt. 2
  • Remembering the Dream Makers 
  • Citizens We
  • We are Fairfax Village
  • Kendall Green and the National College for the Deaf
  • Military Road School Alumni Oral History Project
  • A Loud Silence: a Visual Code on the Underground Railroad
  • Documenting the History of Rehoboth Baptist Church

When histories meet

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For well over a year the Help and I have been working on his church's archive. We've done most of the heavy work. Right now we're waiting for certain preservation supplies to get ordered. Anyway, in the meantime, we're getting known as the people doing the church archive.  This weekend before Sunday school, while we were waiting in the atrium for coffee and tea to appear, an older member handed us a 1929 church directory. I did the membership part of the archive, so I took quick a look at it just a scan of one of the pages.

Page from 1929 Church Dir

Upon the page I flipped to was a resident of Truxton Circle. You'll have to click on the image to get a close up, but my eye landed on Miss Nina Lapham of 21A Bates St NW. I got all excited, speaking with a high pitched voice, which bounced around the atrium and probably woke up the dogs in the neighborhood. It is not like I hadn't looked at the directories before for possible Truxton residents. The Help's church started in 1912 in NW Washington, DC, before heading out to PG County in the 50s-60s (I also did facilities but I couldn't give you dates of the different moves off the top of my head). In those early years, when the church was at Randolph St. and New Hampshire Ave NW, most members lived in the District. When flipping through those directories it seemed most members live in upper NW. On this page, not too far from the TC lived a Mr. & Mrs. Guy Hoyme at 42 Q St. NE.

Once we are done with the Help's chruch, I want to move on to mine. I know for a fact that my favorite Truxton resident of the past, George Glorius, worshipped at Immaculate Conception at 8th and N. I know he and other members of the family are in those church records somewhere.

I believe I have gotten gifts for everyone who is getting gifts fotr Christmas and those items are going to Help at his job because he can accept packages. Before the Help, there was Nora Bombay, who lived in, moved and returned back to the building with the underpaid concierge. And before Nora, I worked at a place where I could recieve and mail off packages. We also have friends in the burbs with porches.

It's that time of year again when there is a spike in stolen packages, when theives think you're getting something good. The friends and relatives in the Sunshine states tend not to send us anything, except food baskets, which I'm okay with if they get stolen. But they never do get stolen, lucky me.

If you get stuff from the wonderful Amazon, Ebay, or Etsy and there is a chance a thief following the FedEx truck or a keen eyed crook passing by will take your stuff, you need to invest in your social network. First off, offer your friends the chance to help you. Friends at work, friends at church/temple, friends in the neighborhood, friends who can accept packages at home or work. Secondly, are you a regular somewhere? Is there a bar stool with your name on it? Do you show up so often at a place you might as well work there? Maybe that place can accept a package for you. I've heard of dry cleaners and other business that accept packages for their super regular customers.

There are other options not involving friends, such as using a mailbox sevice, but we should look to involve our friends in our lives.