Why you can’t compare a pre-gentrification house to today

Vacant house on P
214 P St NW with broken windows in 2008.

When I read studies about housing, housing stock and affordable housing, as it applies to areas like Shaw, I can’t help feeling there is a very wrong assumption flowing through them all. I encountered, that feeling when talking to a renter on my street who would love to buy, but was unaware of what some of us did to make affordable homes livable, and once they became livable, unaffordable to people like him. A house that was affordable in Shaw in the 80s or 90s is probably not the same house that stands today.

In the 1940s-50s Shaw was described as a slum. A slum was defined in some writings as an area where a significant number of houses lacked indoor plumbing or interior toilets, thus slummy Shaw. I want you, dear reader, to think about that. Living somewhere, when you have to go, you’ve got to go….. outside. But now there are laws and regulations so when you rent a place, you get that fancy pants indoor bathroom with hot water.

But there are other housing deficiencies that houses in the 90s and early 00s suffered from because of the history of disinvestment in the neighborhood. Disinvestment meaning, landlords and homeowners had no incentive to maintain properties, beyond necessity, with little to no equity gained. Not updating kitchens, or electrical wiring, or plumbing, resulting in cramped little kitchens, wiring that would fry your electronics, and leaky pipes.

Renovation_0045
House under renovation.

Then came the renovations and the gentrification. Some were crappy and cosmetic, like my house when I bought it, and some actually fixed long neglected problems or updated systems. Even crappy renovations cost money and those costs are pushed onto the end user, the home buyer or the renter. Yes, there are places where there has been no, to little reinvestment, and the prices act as if there were.

So next time you read a report that assumes the equity gained due to gentrification is unearned, question if the house that was affordable in year X is of the same quality, with the same features, when it is unaffordable in year Y.

So the Government is Closed- Longterm Plans

Capitol in My HandsThis is a personal blog and I am a federal employee who has found she has more time on her hands. But this is not a woe is me post. Nah, this is my 6th government shutdown. I’d been employed less than a year when I survived the 1995-1996 shutdowns (5 and 21 days) as a GS-5 step 1 temp employee with fresh student loans. The 21 day shutdown between December 5, 1995-January 6, 1996 was bad, but I survived. Somewhere in the archives of the Washington Post, there is a quote of the younger me bitching about it.

Mentally, I’m prepping for a long shutdown and praying for something shorter. Thankfully this time around there is another income to lean on. Typically, although there is no guarantee, we get paid, eventually for those shutdown days. Knowing that the contractors I work with, who do building maintenance, security, and other stuff won’t get paid, at all, makes it really hard for me to feel bad for myself and most other feds.

So in the vein of when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, or lemon tea, or lemon pasta, I’m making the most of it. On the first real day of the shutdown the Help and I went on a day-date and saw a movie. The rest of the week has been mainly about cleaning. Deep cleaning. The kind of cleaning a maid service typically won’t do. We got one of those dinner and a movie gift cards, so we may see another movie. If the shutdown goes past January 3rd, I informed the Help he was going to get a very expensive hausfrau. I may tackle somethings I’ve been avoiding, some sink repair, window cleaning, and bookshelf dusting (requires moving a ton of books and my MILs ashes).

I’ll probably check out some Shaw stuff, but seriously, there are a lot deferred cleaning jobs around the house demanding my attention. And now those unpaid jobs have it.

Silent Night

Street tree with Christmas decorationsA few nights when going to bed I have marveled at how quiet it was, and I fear by mentioning it, I’m going to jinx it.

When lying down in bed I noticed how I heard nothing. My neighbors who will at times blast their music have been really conscientious and turned it off before we head to bed. The Loudmouth Buppy Lawyer is either out of town or deciding it is too cold for a one sided profanity laced cell phone conversation on the street. And by shear fate, there have been no ambulances or cop cars blaring sirens on the major road nearby. Normally the sirens pierce through the house but for a few nights, I’ve heard nothing while lying in bed, closing my eyes and nodding off to sleep.

A city can be loud. Doesn’t mean it has to be all the time. There can be moments when no one is screaming or hollering as they wander down the sidewalk. The sounds of a motorbike without a muffler isn’t heard as it makes its way through the neighborhood. Chatter from someone’s backyard bouncing off the rear walls is non-existent. There are beautiful moments of quiet, silence.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate and Happy Day Off to those who don’t.

The People of Metro are Telling Me Something

…and I think that something is that I’m old.

This is going to come across as complaining. But I’m not complaining. Not really. This is a behavior I know I need to encourage.

For the past two weeks, during my commute into work, people keep offering me their seats. I don’t think I look pregnant. I actually have lost 20 lbs since last year (cutting out sugar, eating less, etc), so that can’t be it. But I am getting old. I don’t dye my hair, and I stopped keeping track of my grey hairs after I turned 40. I probably doesn’t help that I don’t wear make-up and I guess my resting-b*tch-face is haggard hag face. That is the conclusion I’ve come to, people are offering their seat to the poor old woman, who apparently is me.

I typically stand close to the door because I just have to go a few stops and I like to work my core surfing the train. Also we have a rule in our house against sitting on the bed if we’ve sat on any public transit in those same clothes.

But back to people offering their seats. That’s sweet. I’ve had young black men, older non-black men, and women of various ethnicities signal and offer their seat on a crowded morning train. Every time, I’ve declined. However my lovely spouse suggested that I just once take someone up on their offer. I told him that I try to decline as nicely as possible and sometimes I remember to say that I appreciate the offer. But it’s 7 something AM in the morning, my brain isn’t 100% on and I don’t drink coffee.

So if you’ve offered me your seat, I just want to say, “Thank you very much. I really do appreciate the offer, but I only have a few stops to go. Thank you.”

When your own ethnic group can be oppressive

On this miserable morning I found myself on an unfamiliar bus, standing near the front overhearing a conversation between another rider and the metrobus driver. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about when they were talking about seeing “them” out in this weather with the cold wet slushy snow. The first snow of the season.

When they mentioned running I figured out the ‘them’ were joggers, white joggers. If people like the driver and rider did such a thing, they agreed, they’d catch pneumonia. Supposedly, we, African-Americans don’t jog, which is a lie. I don’t jog but I have witnessed black men and women jogging around Shaw and Bloomingdale.

This reminded me of the negative talk that floats around in my ethnic group that, I believe, keeps us down and back. Growing up I heard Black people don’t swim, play tennis, play golf, or any of those things, which is fairly harmless. Unless you’re a Tiger Woods or Williams sister. I also heard that excelling in high school was ‘acting white.’ That phrase. That mindset. How many young Black men and women have been kept back because of the fear of ‘acting white?’ So many minds, gone to waste.

In DC, in the arguments about bike lanes and gentrification, I’ve heard black people don’t ride bikes. This came from a blind fool who apparently ignored all the drug boys rolling around the neighborhood on bikes. I’ve also heard hints that we, as a people, only go to certain types of eateries that serve unhealthy Southern fare. My parents and older relatives like to prove this point often in their love for places like Cracker Barrel.

So I’m happy to be one of 2 or 3 black customers, the only customers sometimes, of the Protein Bar waiting for breakfast. We can eat healthy. We can live healthy. We can have strong minds, and good educations. Provided we push against, or ignore, those negative voices within the community.

Amazon- F*** me pumps

When you walk in the bar
And you dressed like a star
Rockin’ your F me pumps

 

Upon the announcement that Amazon decided to split its HQ2 between NoVA and somewhere in NYC, and all the local news, I couldn’t get Amy Winehouse’s song outta my head because of all the whoring local governments engaged in.

You’re more than a fan
Lookin’ for a man
But you end up with one-nights-stands
He could be your whole life
If you got past one night
But that part never goes right
So, hopefully, whatever bl*w job incentives DC promised to get Amazon, we’re not under any obligation to fulfill because the District got nothin. Sorry to be so crass but the whole HQ2 circus was so undignified that it just seems applicable. I’m so glad it is over with, its worse than a sports franchise or the Olympics. No, that’s wrong, Olympics are 10x worse.
But the area got it, and I guess that’s what matters. Like our area football team. The Skins can stay in Landover as far as I’m concerned, and Amazon can sit in the cultural wasteland that is Crystal City. Maybe that area might gain a personality.
So what does this have to do with Truxton Circle? In DC? We’re Yellow line adjacent and the Yellow Line goes to Crystal City/Capital Landing. We’re co-mingled with and next door to Mt. Vernon Sq. On weekends and off-peak, the Shaw-Howard metro gets in on some yellow line action. I’m sure some of those future high salary Amazon workers may already live around here. That’s why Amazon picked this area, the talent is already here.

Adoption- Dear Birthmother

November is National Adoption Month, so I’m writing a few posts about our experience.

Let’s hear it for the birthmom’s because without them, some of us would not be parents. We tried and failed to have a biological kid of our own. Miscarriages suck. I only had one and that was enough. But I came to appreciate that brief moment of pregnancy when an adoptive mom said that I at least was able to get pregnant. I’d like to think I’m a realist about our ages, so IVF would have been a waste of money and moral and mental energy. So adoption was the logical choice, and there can’t be adoptions without birthparents deciding to place their children with strangers like us.

I am incredibly grateful for Destruct-O-baby’s birthmom and her decision to let the agency pick us. Mainly because that let us re-name him and until then no birthfamily wanted us, like never getting picked for the parent team.

On some level I get that deciding to make an adoption plan to place (we don’t say ‘giving the child up’) a child is very difficult. We had to read the book “Dear Birthmother” and trying to understand the birth families’ perspective was a major part of our adoption classes. The agency continues to champion the side of the birthparent in the seasonal magazine we get from them. One issue talked about the challenges one mother in forming romantic relationships. So guys, if you’re dating a gal and you really like her, and she mentions she has a kid out there in the world being raised by other people, don’t be an ass about how you respond. You’d be doing me a huge favor.

Holy Crap this is close- ANC 5E-05

Holy Crap!

Seriously.

Holy F’ing crap. Just a 2 vote difference. Your vote may be a drop in the bucket in citywide elections but it means a lot in ANC races.

First. Is this even legal? Ms. Robinson-Paul appeared twice on my ballot. She ran against Kenyon McDuffie, the current councilman for Ward 5 under the name Joyce (Chestnut) Robinson-Paul. That I expected, as it was in the Voter Guide that was sent out. But I was taken aback when I saw her name again when I went to vote for my ANC Bradley A. Thomas. I was under the impression Bradley was running unopposed. Was this mentioned at yesterday’s BACA meeting (I was home because the kid was miserable and I didn’t want to abandon my spouse for a meeting)?

Second, WTF?

Foster Care- Alternatives

November is National Adoption month and I have a few posts in mind for that. But there are a few personal stories I want to share about avoiding foster care. It is great that foster care exists, because in some countries in the world, it does not. However, of the options that exist for kids it isn’t the best, and we forget, there are other options.

Back in the mid-1970s my mom had her 1st nervous breakdown due to post-partum depression. I was pre-schooled age at the time and I was sent off to stay with various relatives while my mom recovered. I’m not sure what was going on with dad (maybe discovering the joys of alcoholism). This happened again when my parents were separated and mom was hospitalized for mental health issues. Grandma, my aunts and uncles and their spouses took over and returned us immediately and the state was not involved. If they weren’t there to help, my sister and I probably would have gone into foster care. I am grateful that they stepped up.

Decades later, my sister was a single mom with two kids living in subsidized housing. Something happened that I’m not going to talk about and mom convinced her to send the kids to stay with her retired brother and his wife. The kids returned to their mom after a month or so. My nephew and my uncle formed a very strong bond. So when my then 2 year old nephew regressed developmentally after his return to his mom, he went back to our uncle. Long story short our aunt and uncle adopted my nephew. This sort of thing was normal on my dad’s side, which makes trying to do a genealogy annoying. On my dad’s side there is a paranoid fear of the state taking away kids, so the family gets involved before the local government does.

So those are personal stories and this next story, I heard from Bethany, the adoption agency we used. There was a single mom in Texas with 3 kids and for reasons unknown to me, she decided to look for a new family for her kids and reached out to an adoption agency. She found a family in Maryland who agreed to adopt all three, keeping the siblings together. I can guess at the various reasons why she did what she did (terminal diagnosis, 10-20 yr prison term, degrading mental illness) but I want to applaud her decision to keep her kids out of the foster care system. In the system there is no guarantee that the kids would stay together. There is no guarantee the kids wouldn’t be moved from house to house and out on their own the minute each one turned 18. Twenty percent of foster kids become homeless after turning 18, and the stats for foster kids is frickin’ depressing. In this case there is a family who will be there for them and their various milestones and provide a home to boomerang back to when they become adults.

Lastly, I am thankful the foster care system exists, it’s better than the institutional orphanage system. In the short term it is a lifesaver for kids in crisis who have no other options. Long-term, eh, there are problems, no simple solutions, and it could be better. If there are options to get kids out of the system or to avoid the system altogether, they should be considered. Family members should step forward and intervene early or the parents should consider being pro-active and find an adoptive family for their kids.

Slugg: Fathers are important

So a little bit more from Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The single most impactful issue plaguing black communities across the country was, relatively speaking, hushed.
Families aren’t supposed to function with one parent. Children need a pair of loving parents…. Given prison, death, and abandonment, in my neighborhood the number of homes without a father was extremely close to a hundred percent.

My parents were in a high conflict marriage. My father was an angry alcoholic, my mom struggled with mental health challenges, and the marriage suffered infidelity from both parties. Taking a selfish look back, my parents staying together while we were minors was the best thing they did for my sister and myself. After becoming a parent, I see what a luxury item my father was, despite himself.

@MrTonyLewisJr tells of what his life was life before with his father and after when his father was shipped off to prison. Before, he lived in a nice house in the suburbs with his mother. His father would drive him to private school. He had new clothes on his back. Hanover Street was a place to visit family. There was stability. Then his father’s life and the Feds caught up with him. They lost the house and his mother slowly lost her mind. Hanover St NW became home. He also lost his 2nd parent to mass incarceration and the safety net his father provided. Thankfully due to kin and family friends he remained in Catholic school, but they could not make up for the fact that he was like so many of his neighborhood friends, fatherless.

In our effort to be merciful towards and supportive of single parents, we dismiss the importance and of the 2nd parent. Since Destruct-O-Baby I’m freaking tired and considering my own and my mother’s mental health history* I NEED the Help, and there is no way in Hell I could do this alone and stay sane. The other parent, the father, can bring a lot of valuable things to the table. Unfortunately too many AfAm children are lacking fathers in their lives, and are poorer for it.

A neighborhood with a high number of female headed households are poorer. The matriarchy has failed to control her sons. Her sons sling dope and shoot at everything with bad aim. Young men surrounded by struggling women become predators as the potential to become hard working respectable men is squandered on the corners. Little boys yearn so much for male attention, any male attention, even from drug dealers, it is so heart breaking. There are hardly any men who look like them in the schools and in their lives that they absorb whatever masculinity they can like a bone dry sponge does any liquid, be it life giving water or deadly antifreeze.

For girls it’s different. Not to dig up more family dirt, I am very thankful that my sister in law’s ex has custody of their beautiful daughter considering my SIL’s poor romantic choices (who she decided to bring into the home), the fact that both her sons are away at college, and her mental health (and housing) challenges. The ex has provided a better safety net than nothing.

*My mom suffered from post-postpartum depression, had several ‘nervous breakdowns’ and was at a low point suicidal. I don’t think I want to detail or summarize my own challenges here.