April 2016 Archives

People Who Show Up at Your Door

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I've been talking with someone who lives in Baltimore and works in DC, and we have been comparing DC and Baltimore. We got on the topic of Jehovah Witnesses which led to talking about other people who show up at my door. However, it seems the other people I get beyond JWs are a DC thing, and others, I'm guessing a Shaw thing.

1. Religious People- These are your Jehovah Witnesses and more rarely Mormons. Everyone gets them, and everyone has their own opinion on the topic, so moving along.

2. Political/ Advocacy- They want you to sign to allow such and such on the ballot and they will come door to door to get those signatures because standing outside the metro and accosting people apparently wasn't working. Lately, I had someone from Save the Children show up on my door. I believe they wanted donations. So, no.

3. Utilities- No I do not want to change from Pepco or switch to a cable company.

4. Wrong door or Alica don't live here no 'mo- This happens less these days but in the early days when I arrived and the neighborhood was truly gentrifying with lots of subsidized homes and transition and change, you'd have people showing up at the wrong door. In a row of townhouses they all look alike and it doesn't help that the colors of the house changed and the fences changed when someone was looking for an old friend. Or when a house that used to have subsidized renters or so-in-so who was living with grandma has now been replaced by random white people. I got someone who was looking for someone three doors over who moved a while ago. I'd heard stories from other people who had people at their doorstep looking for people who moved several years ago.
I'm hearing fewer of these stories and I take it as a sign that Shaw is no longer 'gentrifying' it is gentrified. The middle-class and typically white people are no longer replacing poor black families, they are replacing middle class white people. There are still subsidized houses being replaced by market rate renters and owners, but not to the level it was in the 90s and 00s.

5. Sales- The door to door salesperson still lives. I think Capital Meats may have changed their name, but they do come around every so often. Typically, i say no. There have also been people hawking subscriptions for the Washington Post and other publications. Um, no.

6. Handouts/ Cons- This is seems special to neighborhoods like Shaw. I put handouts with cons because sometimes until later, until after you think about it or write about it on the neighborhood email list, you may discover it was a con. This winter we got a homeless couple at our door asking for whatever we could give. It was a cold night so we gave them a new hat and scarf I'd gotten as a present. I was planning to give those items to charity anyway, so I honestly don't care if it were a con.
Many years ago I got a woman at my door claiming to live around the corner, saying a relative was in the hospital, her car won't start or she needed gas because the hospital was in outer Mongolia Maryland, and she just needed something to help. I gave her a Smart-Trip card I found days earlier on the sidewalk.
Several months ago on one of the neighborhood forums there was mention of a white male going to doors claiming that he locked himself out of his house and had extra keys at work and needed money for a cab to pick up his keys. Like my lady with the relative in the hospital, he made a vague claim of being a neighbor. People who move to neighborhoods like Shaw tend not to know who their neighbors are, and con artists can use that ignorance.

History Amnesia

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History is like the present, only it happened a while ago. However, when history gets written, and rewritten (historians are doomed to repeat other historians) a lot gets left out, and forgotten, particularly if it doesn't fit the narrative of whatever tale is being told.

There is a book that I'm trudging through about discriminatory housing in Chicago. I got through a section that could have been called "Martin Luther King Failed in Chicago" detailing the civil rights leaders efforts to combat poor housing conditions, the Daley political machine, and other black ministers who worked against him. In the great narrative, this period of his life is either glossed over or forgotten, along with his opposition to the Vietnam War.

Immaculate CONCEPTION.jpgAfter Dr. King was assassinated, several cities erupted including DC. H Street NE, some parts of Downtown and Shaw, especially 7th and 14th St. But in this week I've posted on Twitter, other parts of Shaw (well the TC part) got some riot damage too. Pictured is 8th St NW. The business opposite Immaculate Conception, has written, and it is hard to see, 'Soul Brother' written on the door. Though it was 7th Street that experienced a lot of rioting fire and looting damage, it was 9th Street that bore the scars of the riot for 30+ years. With the exception of the area near Shiloh, 9th has been getting a lovely facelift, reflecting hip dining options, rather than post-riot neglect.

There is a narrative that goes with the riots, that fits in with a larger narrative about Black history and Shaw, which logically leaves out the Jewish and white story. Ray "of Sunshine" M likens the riot to kristallnacht, I don't share that level of interpretation, but there is evidence that the riots wiped out the Jewish merchants in Shaw, eliminating the Jewish presence. The merchant narrative, the Jewish narrative, tells of businesses barely surviving, where they experienced break ins and armed robberies before the riots. The riots were the nail in the coffin, and the graves were the storefronts that sat empty and the vacant lots that sat in their place. However that narrative doesn't sell. I doubt there will be a walking tour of burned out Jewish businesses. So thus it is forgotten.
UPDATE- I replaced the picture with another showing the same corner.

Over a decade ago when I was looking for a place to buy a home that was affordable and close to enough stuff to maintain my car-less lifestyle, I was doing some serious research on Shaw. In December of 2000 the Washington Post had a series called "Fatal Flaws: The District's Homicide Crisis" and along with it was a map showing a big gigantic splotch of unsolved murders along Rhode Island and Florida Avenues. And when I moved to the neighborhood, I would hear gunfire almost nightly. Sad, and eventually ugly, memorials of rain sodden stuffed animals and empty liquor bottles littering the sidewalk were a common sight. The crack years were winding down and people were still getting killed over turf battles.

So with all these people dying violent deaths in the streets and parks of Shaw & nearby Sursum Corda, the area should be littered with spirits of the dead if you go by ghost rules. The Help and I, enjoy a good ghost story of the mild horror genre. The usual story is such and such a place is haunted because X number of years ago so-in-so died a tragic and violent death. By this logic 7th and O should be paved with the poltergeists.  

We have friends who had to shoo people away from the Seminary up in Forest Glen when it was vacant and before it went condo. It was said to be haunted. People love haunted large buildings. People also like "interesting" haunting by interesting, middle class or wealthy persons or people associated with the wealthy. Haunted castles, yes. Haunted public housing, not so much.

I do relate to the supernatural, but in the regular practice of my religion. I am a skeptic regarding ghosts. That scratching in the walls? Rats. Maybe, squirrels. Lights flickering? Possibly crappy wiring by a crappy contractor or blame Pepco. Ghostly figures walking across the room? Obviously, your eyes are engaging in time travel.

I'm all about time travel.

Death and Taxes

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Back in 2013 I wrote about my dead Aunt G. who despite being very dead was still getting the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction. I chose not to out my dead aunt because I wanted to give whomever I was related to enough time to probate the will and get auntie's estate all straightened out. I figured I'd wait 5 years after her death for her estate to clear everything up, but due to a few things that have happened I'm gonna have to air this out earlier than planned.
pix of aunt and uncleI'd been keeping the voice mail where one of my relatives informed me of Aunt Geraldine's death back in January of 2012. Well apparently voice mails have a shelf life and somehow it did not get saved in a backup. It was my reminder when looking at my list of voicemails to every so often to check and see if she was listed as the owner of her house in SE.
And recently I was speaking with another relative about the situation. I mentioned that the property was still in Aunt Geraldine's name and the relative mentioned that her will was probated sometime ago.
I've held off long enough.
Uncle Randolph (pictured sitting on the right) has been dead since the late 80s
 and after his death, her health went south. Her last years were spent in a nursing home somewhere in Maryland. She hadn't lived in the house since the mid to late 2000s.
Before her death, she paid $570, and $635 in property taxes in 2010 and 2011. She died January 13, 2012, that year she paid $925 in property taxes, but they went down in 2013 to $799, $786 in 2014, and $865 in 2015. This year it appears her tax bill is $626. The house is valued by the city to be worth $220,810 (2016 assessment), but despite being very dead she (or whomever is running her estate) is getting the benefit of her (and my late uncle's) tenure in the house, with the 10% cap on how high taxes can go up and double bonus points of the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction.
It is great that DC has the deduction for seniors. However, the city does a poor job of checking up on seniors to see if they are still alive and kicking. I can't judge them too harshly with Aunt Geraldine because she still does not appear in the Social Security Death Index. However, she's not the only dead person in DC paying real property taxes with the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction.
Mrs. Geraldine Lewis is very dead, laid to rest in a Maryland grave and should be free of the burden of taxes.

Missed opportunities?

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I've been noticing the progress of the property at 1740 New Jersey Ave NW. Can't help but to notice it as I pass it often coming home or going to the metro. I will admit that I haven't paid too much attention to the back and forth that went on before and during the start of the work on this formerly vacant house. Yet there are some things I see, that confuse me and make me wonder if they were some sort of concession made.
1740 NJ Ave NW
The first thing that confused me was eliminating the half circle driveway and making the two curb cuts, one on Rhode Island and the other on S Street. If you are new to this area of DC let me tell you, curb cuts are money. Most of the time you neighbors will not support your efforts to get one. So if there is not a curb cut there now, there is a snowball's chance in Miami of getting one. Yes, there is the possibility of being annoyed by drivers who might try to use the curb cut as a short cut and I'd understand eliminating one point of entry, but both were made useless. Also in the past that half-circle has been used as a temporary parking spot, a very valuable asset.
1740 NJ Ave NWThe other odd thing was this doorway that appears to be turning into a wall. I could be seeing this wrong, but that just doesn't look right. If I am right, that's a waste of some perfectly good stairs and a walkway going towards this doorway.
Lastly, I'm confused this thing is calling itself an Urban Land Company project. I swear that ULC used to have a better sense of place then what the sign below would suggest. I thought we were past the days of calling this end of Shaw, "Logan Circle". Logan Circle is about 5 blocks west. U Street is sorta kinda a couple blocks away, and Florida Avenue, just around the corner from this place turns into U Street, eventually, so I'll give that a pass. Shaw is the only accurate thing. It is in Shaw. 1740 NJ Ave NW
UPDATE- There is a door where the door is supposed to be.

Still Annoyed with #NSS2016

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Selfie with Security
Okay now I'm annoyed about my church being surrounded by security fencing.
Before I was just pissed about the militarization of the civilian commercial and residential space during the conference.
Now the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit is over with and things that were supposed to get back to normal after 12 noon, are not. There is this big heavy metal security fencing in the parking spaces on 8th Street NW, taking up several parking spaces.  The security fences are surrounding Immaculate Conception, so that you have to walk half a block to get in. The fences also were still up on 7th Street when I walked by a little after 5PM on Saturday.
Seriously. Next time. Pick the boonies of Virginia or Maryland if you need so much security.

Nuclear Summit Neighborhood Mess

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Dear Organizers of the Nuclear Security Summit,

Next time consider the Dulles Expo Center. No it isn't in DC but that's never stopped some organizers of other events from calling their thing the DC Whatever.

Yes, nuclear security is important. But your importance seems to require shutting down major thoroughfares (Route 1), MPD man hours not spent on addressing the terror of crime on DC streets, and a dozen or so humvees with a bunch of National Guardsmen from the Mall to the Shaw metro, f'ing up traffic.
I've lived in DC for well over a decade and I understand that "security" however you define it and however it is expressed is a big thing around here. However I find this expression offensive. I hate the militarization of civilian spaces. I'd understand if some of my fellow residents had rioted, burned down a bunch of buildings and were looting. If that's going on, yes, send out the National Guard, the sooner the better. However, in the past decade the National Guard has been lingering around Shaw for special occasions, with heavy equipment at least 3-4 times. The past 2 inaugurations and this summit. I know not just Shaw, but Mt. Vernon Square and Downtown get a bit of this too.

I find it unsettling to walk to the metro in my neighborhood and see a tan humvee at the 7-11 on Rhode Island Avenue. I found even more offensive to my sight a humvee parked on the wide pedestrian sidewalk, at 7th and P next to Beau Thai. It appeared that even my church was blocked off by the National Guard, strangely I'm not that upset about that as I am the commercial corridors.

I guess the part I find most offensive is that someone thought it was okay to to do this to my neighborhood, a place where people live, a neighborhood of residences and churches and schools and daycares. Is security in the hands of a bunch of Virginians who think, "OMG that place has a bunch of black people, send out the National Guard!"

If security is so frigging important why the heck did someone or some group decide to pick one of the busiest places in the metro region. Surely Camp David is available. It just doesn't seem to make sense to have an event in a highly populated commercial and residential area if security is a concern. Heavens knows you're not taking advantage of the metro since Mt. Vernon Square Metro was closed down for this event and Metro buses were rerouted. I feel badly for the 9th St restaurants several of who have had to warn diners on their twitter feeds of the traffic mess, so I wonder, did you come for our fine dining? I sort of doubt it. But if you needed hotels and restaurants, maybe next time have it at the National Harbor and ferry participants safely along the Potomac.

Yes, I know it is only for a couple of days once every so many years, but someone seems to be making a habit of injecting the military into civilian neighborhoods. Pope Frankie's visit had some crazy security and closings but with fewer firearms and heavy equipment. So next time, please pick another venue because your presence is a PITA.