Shopping with Bank Robbers

Because Destructo-kid goes through 3 gallons of milk a week and because I was running out of greek yogurt, I went shopping at the Giant this morning. A day or so ago the CDC said that we should be wearing non-medical (save the medical grade ones for the medical people) facial masks. So every other person in the store was wearing some sort of thing over their face. There were bandanas, blue surgical masks, dust masks, plastic face shields, wrap around scarves, and homemade contraptions like the one I was wearing. It was like shopping with bank robbers.
Sign At Giant
Despite the mask, I was able to identify a neighbor in the bread aisle. He has very distinctive hair. I saw another neighbor who works at the Giant, he didn’t see me, and we’re more wave ‘hi’ from a distance neighbors, not chatty neighbors.
Single rolls of toilet paper
So there is some toilet paper at the Giant, limit 2 per customer. I bought two rolls.
Some paper towels
There were a decent amount of paper towels. Since we had a lot of microfiber cloths, we started using more of those to clean up non-gross stuff. If it is gross, like Destructo deciding to spit food back out, it gets a paper towel. So our usage is low enough, and our current stock of paper towels is enough for me to pass on that purchase.
Were is the brocoli
Seriously, what is it with the broccoli? Once again no fresh broccoli. There was frozen broccoli. Also in the freezer aisle more frozen strawberries and pineapple than you can shake a stick at. No frozen blueberries. No frozen cherries. Back in produce, there were limes, tomatoes, some onions, a few shallots, salad greens, bok choy, and if you want fresh garlic you have to buy them in packs.

Thankfully, there was 2% milk. Once they turn two, little ones need to get off the full fat milk and on to lower fat milk. For the past week or so, the 2% has been hard to find. And speaking of dairy, there was Greek yogurt, better yet, lowfat Greek yogurt, for now. I bought 2.

I’m going to end with a check on my COVID-19 privilege. I’m not going to shame people on-line for not wearing a mask. They are hard to find in stores and on-line. I have the privilege of still having a paying job and having had been paid on Friday. So I could afford to go on Etsy and purchase masks. I had the good fortune of having fabric scraps, a sewing kit, plenty of thread and ribbon to make a mask last night. We have a few used N95 (used and filled w/ our germs) laying about in the basement. Not everyone is as fortunate.

There are other privileges beyond masks. My spouse and I still are employed, and can maintain benefits. We can work from home (not as productive) and posses the tools and the internet access that allows for that. That work provides the finances that allows us to stock up so we don’t need to go shopping as much or lets us buy on-line. Despite some stresses of being stuck together, I have people I can hug and touch to get that human contact I crave.

So after counting my blessings or checking my privilege (yeah I know that means something different, just go with it), I’m not going to get on my high horse and write contemptuously of people without masks, riding on the bus, shopping, or the like. It’s not like the District of Columbia government distributed masks, gloves, and a weeks worth of rice and lentils to everyone and they’re just refusing to wear them. It’s not as if there are free food distribution centers or grocery stores in walking distance of everyone. I can be classist, and try to keep that -ism to myself, but the classism I’m observing from others during this time is getting a little over the top.

ANXO’s Base Layer Cocktail

It has come to my attention that the world does not know the goodness that is ANXO’s Base Layer cocktail.
Old fashioned with 2" ice cubeMy friends if you thought ANXO was just ciders and small plates, you are sadly mistaken. There are other non-apple based drinks like vermouth, beers (meh- I don’t like beer), wines, and lovely cocktails like the Base Layer.

In the past decade I’ve come to love a drink called the Old Fashioned which is bourbon or rye whiskey, a sugar cube or simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and maybe soda water, maybe an orange peel, and maybe a cherry, over ice. ANXO has something close, their Base Layer, which is El Dorado 8-year Rum, Laphroaig a scotch, Pemartín Amontillado a sherry, spiced simple syrup, Angostura & orange bitters, and an orange peel. Tastewise, it seems like a very smokey Old Fashioned, even though the ingredients aren’t the same.

Intersection of Interests or Diversity is Hard part #354

Sunday, an obit in the paper edition of the Washington Post caught my eye because of the circumstances of the persons death. Courtney Mykytyn was standing on a curb, chatting with a neighbor, when another neighbor in a car accelerated in reverse, hitting and killing Mykytyn. I’m sensitive to drivers killing pedestrians and cyclists and even stupid people on scooters. [insert 1000 word rant about American car culture and climate change genuflecters who make no real change in their energy consumption habits. Did you know your drivers license is a license to kill?] It wasn’t until the near end of the obituary when I realized I had listened to her podcast.


Integrated Schools is a well produced podcast, but I found it super cringey. I know. I know. I am not the target audience. I’m a black mom and this is a podcast for lefty white parents talking to other lefty white parents about their whiteness and education. Knowing I’d probably write on this, I listened to some more podcasts to be fair. What I got out of that was an exposure to only what I can call a perverse white superiority that feeds on black and brown dysfunction. And it isn’t just for white people, Asians and bi-racial people can join in on struggling over their privilege too. Opposite of the Asian Parenting for College Success podcast.  I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Listening to these podcasts I grew concerned about my own neighborhood and the in-boundary school of Seaton. The message I was hearing in these podcast to white parents was ‘don’t bring your A game.’ To which I am going to scream BRING YOUR A GAME! I wanted you to fight and try to #SaveShawMS (RIP Shaw Middle School). Was that effort lost because some parents were holding back? Why did I just sit in the background and not bring my A game? I’ve got a great excuse, because my kid is 2 and not enrolled in Seaton and thus not in a feeder for what would have been Shaw Middle School.

I also grew concerned about childless white neighbors and they deciding to hold back too as a way to confront their own whiteness. Nah, I need you to keep on the SaveMcMillian Park effort. This effort began before most of you got here. Former ANC and BACA president Jim Berry put me on some committee or panel a decade and a half ago to slow it down. Mayor Bowser is hellbent on getting the greenspace paved over and developed, historic districting/landmarking or whatever bedamned.

I listened to Integrated Schools podcast episode regarding gentrification and school segregation. There was one thing Ms. Mykytyn said regarding getting mugged that ticked me off. Listen friends, your whiteness is not a bulletproof shield. It does not protect you from stray bullets. It does not protect you from the mentally ill beating you, or raping and killing you. I want you to be safe. Get those damned headphones out of your ears. Be aware of your surroundings. Say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ to people you pass on the street.

Folks diversity is hard. There are no easy answers and there are many moving parts. Resist the urge to turn people into magic minorities. Resist the idea of not being and giving your best in service to your neighbors. There are so many stories I could tell about how the neighborhood was saved (or delayed an unwanted inevitable until the nab could handle it) by having a lawyer or journalist or some A type personality in the group. It wasn’t their whiteness but the skills they developed in their profession. Bradley Thomas & Teri Quinn brought their lawyer skills, not black lawyer skills but competent lawyer skills to the betterment of Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle. So not about color. Diversity is our strength when we are united in a goal, be it holding people (developers, city govt agencies, etc) accountable or reducing crime after a fatal shooting.

Lastly, on parenting, diversity, and gentrification let me share with you an observation. When I first moved into Shaw in the 00s it was not uncommon to see a Black mother yelling at her kids using profanity and verbally abusing her children. Humans are very social animals. We observe and watch each other. Sometime in the last 10 years I began noticing young and not so young black fathers in the neighborhood interacting with their kids in similar ways as hipster white dads. Several months ago I observed another black mother, walking down the sidewalk,  fussing at her elementary aged son. She was mad. She was livid. But not a single curse word passed her lips. That’s improvement.

The End Is Near

Coming SoonCan I blame the kid on this one?

Indirectly yes, but I saw a sign that our moving would be inevitable. And that sign was our neighbor’s “For Sale” sign. Our beloved neighbors of over a decade are moving a few blocks over for more square footage. It wasn’t a nail in the coffin, but it is one of many things, many signs that point to our eventual move.

When? I’m guessing 2 to 6 years. It really depends on who replaces our neighbors and if my work relocates to the suburban campus.

That last part really annoys me. I remember Eleanor Holmes Norton saying she helped author some rule saying a percentage of federal jobs were supposed to stay in the District. For as long as I’ve been with my agency, most of the opportunities were out in the burbs.  Since having a kid, I’m making more of an effort to go up one more GS level, and that means going out to the burbs.

Another thing, and I may explore this a bit more, I’d like to live a more Black middle class life. It was at my cousin’s wedding reception in upper PG maybe Howard Co., MD, with two beautiful words, “open bar.” Anyway, surrounded by other Black mostly educated professionals and retired professionals, I thought, this is nice. Problem, I really don’t get that living in Shaw. I do like living and being in integrated spaces. But now with my son, I’ve become extra sensitive to what impression the people in the neighborhood present. He sees the old guys on the corner, the homeless guys shuffling through and horseplaying juveniles more often than he sees the black church elders & deacons, and his retired (but very busy/active) relatives.

Shaw is diverse but the diversity is uneven. There just aren’t enough Black middle class families here. So when we talk about black white differences, it’s white rich/ black poor. It might be a different story in other neighborhoods with thicker pockets of the AfAm middle class.

In the meantime, I’m just loving the city. I’m loving the occasional peeks of the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument on my daily commute. I’m loving the fact that there is an awesome restaurant 2 blocks from my house and that most of what I need is within a 15 minute walk. Despite my complaints about 311 and various city services, I’m loving that there are apps and websites and a whole community of people here working towards making city government less sucky. Most of all, I’m loving the universal Pre-K, the one thing keeping me from going, “Let me put in a transfer to Burbsville and put the house on the market this Spring.”

Halloween reminders

Kid in babyshark costumeOkay some quick reminders about Halloween tonight:

  1. If you don’t want people coming to your door, turn off your porch light, draw your curtains/drapes, and lower the lights on the first floor.
  2. Yes, people trick or treat. Ask your neighbors what it was like last year.
  3. Yes, adults and teenagers not in costume will come to your door. That is why I get crappy candy, just for them. The good stuff, the Reese’s, the Snickers, and the like go to the people in costume.
  4. Trick or treating starts around 6:30-7PM and I stop giving out candy around 8:30-9 when the uncostumed to costumed ratio gets to be a bit much.

UPS My Choice Hell

If you are stuck in UPS’ My Choice where they will not deliver your packages to your home because it is set to reroute your packages to an alternative location, just cancel your enrollment.
Here’s my story.UPS Cancel Membership
So many years ago I suspect someone, probably my mother in law (who is currently sitting on my bookshelf), sent a Christmas gift which was stolen by porch thieves. I also had an eBay purchase that I didn’t notice that I didn’t get until weeks later (I was ordering a lot of things, don’t judge me). So I contacted UPS, signed up for their My Choice program to make sure packages were sent to a nearby liquor store. I didn’t have things sent to the house, they usually went to the Help’s work. Fast forward and because of some changes at the Help’s job, he couldn’t accept packages for a period of time.
Fine. So I ordered something off Amazon that I figured would fit in our mailbox. A few days later I get this email from UPS saying there is a problem and the alternative location I picked many eons ago is no longer available. Okay. I contact UPS and after a while on the phone manage to get them to send the package to my house. I go on-line to their My Choice website and try to change things there, but encounter a technical problem. I figured I could fix it later. I was wrong.
I had seen a few package delivery boxes outside of residences and thought I could make or buy one and have inconsequential stuff, like diaper pail inserts, parts, Keto candy, etc delivered to the house, and limit expensive stuff to the Help’s workplace. So I order a box off Amazon. UPS was to deliver it. A few days after ordering, I get an email from UPS saying they can’t deliver it. After over an hour on the phone, I get UPS to agree to send it to my house. Day of the delivery, no package. I look on line, it says it was delivered to my house 15-30 minutes before I arrived home. It was a large unwieldy package and I was doubtful someone swiped it. So I ask my neighbors with cameras if they have a UPS driver on the street at the time. Then a day later I notice on my answering machine a message I was ignoring. I ignored it because people want to buy my house. I don’t want to waste time on their messages. But it wasn’t some buyer. It was a guy one street over with the same house number who had my package. Thank goodness that my land line was listed on the label with my address. So we go over in the car to get the large, unwieldy package.
Then I test it out by ordering cheap things, like paper towels and shower caps. When delivered by USPS, no problem. But an item that was to be delivered by UPS, that stayed in limbo.

UPS Technical Service is a lie

So I kept going back to the website to fix the package redirect. But every time I tried it wouldn’t let me or said there was a technical problem. So I tried the website chat bot, and got a chat human. Who after telling me to go through the same steps I’d been going through with no success said I needed to call their technical service number, but at the time it was after hours, so I waited until the next day. So I call the technical service number, and I get a lovely young lady who tells me to go through the same steps I’d gone through before with the chat human. She tells me I need to call the technical service number and I inform her that I called that number and got her.
At the same time I had emailed UPS and tweeted my frustration. As it would be no surprise, they tell me to go through the same steps as everyone else.
On the phone the young lady pushes me over to “technical service.” Guess what? It’s a guy who tells me to do the same steps but assures me that if there is no alternative location then my package should arrive at my house. Yeah….. I decide not to argue with him, because, what would be the point? So I wait. And the package does not come to me, it is in limbo.
A fellow from UPS reaches out to me and tells me he can provide technical service. Great. Guess what? He tells me to go through the same damned steps I’d gone through with the other customer service people.
At this point I don’t believe UPS has a technical service department. The problem I was having with the UPS site was a technical problem. After about 3 hours combined dealing with UPS, I am convinced they were all reading from the same incorrect script.

So then Amazon notices the package did not arrive. This forces me to contact them. They are also limited. I can’t redirect it and I can’t get another service (USPS) to deliver it. So a refund it was.

In Conclusion

I decided to just cancel my membership and see what happened. Once I cancelled, packages, UPS packages arrived in my package delivery box.

and then you will quietly move away

The message I’m hearing is that if you want a high quality public school education for your children, you should move. Quietly. If not quietly, apologize profusely, publicly state your commitment to traditional and neighborhood public schools, maybe mumble something about needing more space, and move to an overwhelmingly middle or upper class neighborhood. There, the minorities are in the minority, other involved parents are in your demographic, and no one is going to make you feel guilty about being a tax paying, college educated homeowner.

Don’t send your kid to a charter

I love charters. They are the thing that kept many people in the city after they had kids. I had neighbors who stayed longer because of charters and moved because of charters (kid #1,#2 or #3 didn’t get in). It stays with you when a family puts their house up for sale soon after the March/ April lottery results come in. And it’s reinforced when I notice families with 2-3 year olds sell or move in late Spring and early summer.

The anti-charter/ pro-DCPS voices are making parents feel bad about charters. Charters aren’t transparent. Charters funnel money and good students/parents away from neighborhood schools. Charters have a powerful lobby. Charters are connected with current/historical segregation. Simply charters are morally suspect and you’re a horrible person if you support them.

And some of that is true. Charters could stand to be more transparent and publish the same data as DCPS schools. With nearly half of DC students attending charters, yup that money isn’t going to DCPS. Involved and conscious parents are going to choose certain schools for their kids. Compared to other pro-traditional schools organizations with older and deeper ties to DC’s political body, the powerfulness of FOCUS is questionable. And even traditional school districts are getting more segregated.

However, I don’t see the anti-charter school push moving parents towards neighborhood schools. Maybe to DCPS schools WOTP (West of the Park- Rock Creek) as one notable blogger has done. And even when some parents decide to take a chance on their neighborhood school, their presence isn’t necessarily welcomed.

Step back, move away from the school

The Post has an article about PTOs, Parent Teacher Organizations and the problems of inclusion with racially mixed parent groups. What the article leaves out is not every DC public and charter school has a PTO. Dunbar doesn’t seem to have an active PTO, nor does Garrison Elementary. It makes it look like this is a DC, East of the Park problem.

So I guess racial harmony exists over in the burbs and WOTP? Because those areas never seem to pop up in gentrification stories, where most of the Washington Post’s readership lives. If involved parents want to avoid this stigma, they should… I dunno, move to the burbs and WOTP?

Private School Snob?

It’s expensive, so move.

There is someone out there to make you feel bad if you choose private schools.

  But Matthew’s kid is still very young and not all private schools are “fancy”.

…. I should write a blog post about all the private predominately black schools in DC. I digress.

I’ll end with this: Can pro-traditional DC public school advocates draw middle class parents to DCPS without sending the message, move to NoVa or parts of Maryland? Yes, DC Charters are the competition, but so are the surrounding jurisdictions of Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery, Charles, and Howard Counties. Not so much PG County Schools. I’ve heard no one come out and say directly they’re moving because of schools. But when you notice people with kids start mysteriously disappearing when their eldest hits a certain age (2-3 or middle school), it’s hard not to conclude, they are moving because of schools.

Thought Exercise: Moving out of Shaw

B/W px of a early 20th century moving vanI had a job interview a few weeks ago, it went well, so well I seriously gave thought to what we would do if I was chosen for the position. You see, it is in the same suburban area of Maryland where my spouse, the Help works, and I said if I were to get a job there, we’d move. So for several days I was looking at moving to Maryland and all that would entail.

We already know what neighborhoods we want to live in on the other side of the border. Yes, this is something we think and talk about on a regular basis. But I hadn’t thought about the consequences of leaving Shaw and the city.

What we’d lose
Walkability
Our part of Shaw is a wonderfully compact. Within a 1/3 mile I can walk to the grocery store, a couple of bakeries, a bunch of restaurants and bars, the metro, and Destructo’s daycare. I haven’t owned a car for over twenty years and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve driven. I like being able to walk with Destructo or plop him in a stroller and walk to a park. When I looked at a few houses on-line that I thought was close enough to a metro station, PG Plaza was over a mile away, and a park well over 1/3 mile. Whereas our block has a WalkScore in the 90s the areas I was looking at had scores in the 30s… and no sidewalks.

Lower Property Taxes
When looking at possible homes in our price range, looking at the property taxes made some places just, unaffordable. A lovely little 3 bedroom in the $300-400K range had taxes above $5,000 a year. Our taxes in DC are somewhere just below $3K a year. A couple hundred dollars of our monthly mortgage goes to taxes and insurance, but I was seeing sizable $400-$700 a month going to taxes for PG Co. properties.

Free Pre-K
Dangit, I been paying into this system, I’m going to get my 2 free years. Destructo won’t enter the school system until 2020-21. If we were to move, we’d be paying for  2 more years of daycare since PG County doesn’t have free Pre-3-4K. That’s when I decided I’d rather have a bad commute (I’d worked at this location before) than pay $30,000+ for 2 years of daycare.

Loss of connections
Living here for nearly 20 years, despite people constantly moving, we’ve got some deep strong connections here. After observing others move to other nearby neighborhoods or over into suburbs, I know after a while you stop seeing those people. I wouldn’t expect us to be any different. We have friends and family in PG County and those connections would get stronger, but I would miss what I have built here in Shaw.

Other things I had to consider
Sell/Rent house?
Then there is the question of selling or renting. I’m emotionally attached to this house I live in. It was my first property. I’m not sure I can just hand it over to some renter to make their mark on. However, renting would allow me to return to the TC if I manage to return to my current duty station if an opportunity arose. Also the rules about renting in this city seem to get more complicated, which would mean hiring a property manager. Some of my former neighbors self manage, other use a property manager. Question would be would I want to self manage my baby?

Then we’d have to make the house suitable for renters. When you own your own home, there are things you let slide. Our AC died 3 years ago. We’ve got portable and window units that work well. The bathrooms aren’t painted that well, because I painted the whole house myself and never ever got back to them. There is a whole long list of little repairs that should be done, but since the health of the house does not depend on those repairs getting done anytime this century, they don’t.

If I were to sell, the property tax issue I have such a problem with would be less of an issue, because the equity we have in our home would make some places mortgage free. I wouldn’t have to think about managing a DC property.

Mari InShaw to Mari N. Peagee?
A lot of my on-line identity is based on being in Shaw/Truxton Circle. Would I change it if I moved? I’m still pondering that one.

Recently, I found out I wasn’t chosen. I called one of the interviewers, who I knew professionally, regarding why I wasn’t and now I know what areas I need to improve. So when the next opportunity pops up I know what I will do, and if chosen, I have a plan.

Edited 12/11/19 to add Walkscore URL.

Crime of Opportunity- Just a few seconds

I have a superpower, it is finding money on the ground. I cannot summon money, it would be absolutely awesome if I could. This superpower comes from constantly scanning the ground. I’m looking for poop, so I can avoid stepping in it. And while I’m keeping an eye out for poop, and spit, I’ll see money, or a SmartTrip card with money on it.

I also spot other things.

This weekend I spotted a purse, with a cell phone sticking out sitting on the sidewalk. It was next to an SUV, where a mother was doing something on the opposite side (out of view of her purse) on the 1500 block of 7th St NW. Her husband was about 2 car lengths away for some reason. He showed up when we pointed out to her that her purse was just… sitting there. I spotted the purse ahead as we walked past Compass Coffee. She waved off our concerns. This is why I don’t say things or point things out to people. Y’all obviously don’t care that if I’ve noticed that you left your car keys or house keys in the lock, or your laptop in the backseat (seriously people stop leaving your electronics in your car) or left your bike unlocked (yes, you’re popping in for one second). But if I’ve noticed, someone else who is more willing to walk off with your (keys, laptop, bike) stuff has too.

Yes, you are just leaving it there for a second. But it doesn’t take long for a young pair of legs to run off with it.

The Curse of 1640 4th St NW

1640 4th St NWWhelp, it looks like 1640 4th Street NW has thwarted another owner. The last owner, apparently had contractor problems, as in ran away with money problem. The owner before that, tried her hands at renovating the place and for some reason failed. The owner before that, well, she’s the reason I believe 1640 is cursed.

The 3rd owner back and the neighbor next to 1640 had a toxic relationship. The neighbor claimed the 3rd owner called her the N-word, but even before that, they hated each other. I doubt they ever liked each other. So the neighbor was very antagonistic towards the 3rd owner back…. and the woman who bought it from the 3rd owner…. and the current owner. So whoever buys 1640, know the neighbor will hate your guts and do everything in her power to make things difficult.

The plans the current owner has doesn’t help. In the row of 2 story homes, the plans show a pop up that does not match any of the housing on the row. Now I can already hear Scott Roberts saying, “if you don’t want a pop up you should’ve fought for a historic district.” Yeah, no. I have no problem with the idea of a pop-up, I just have a problem with fugly pop-ups. Non-fugly pop-ups are possible.

This property is a shell. The current owner had the back ripped off (so it’s exposed to the elements) and the owner before that had done some demo. $735K seems to be a lot for a shell in my opinion, however, it isn’t the only shell in Truxton Circle in the $700K range, so what do I know?

So whoever buys 1640, not only do they have to deal with a cantankerous neighbor, they also have a partial shell. This would be for an experienced developer, someone who has developed property in the District. However, at the current price, anyone with more sense than money won’t touch it.