I hate brick sidewalks

Puddle in Brick SidewalkMost days brick sidewalks around here are trip hazards.

In Winter they are a pain to shovel.

In Spring, like today, they present a minefield of puddles to be avoided in the rain. By the time I made it home, my socks were wet. I tried to walk around or jump over the mini-lakes between the 7-11 on Rhode Island and BKK on New Jersey Avenue, but it was no use as the wet crept up and got me. I should have just walked in the bike lanes.

I am thankful that the neighbors of today are not clamoring for brick sidewalks like they did in the aughts. “They look more historic,” I remember being told by one long time resident who liked the look of brick sidewalks. If I’ve remembered exactly who this neighbor was, she didn’t shovel her walk, so she was not experienced with one of the challenges of brick sidewalks. Besides these were the days when no one really took the rules about shoveling snow off the sidewalks seriously.

Thankfully, there are plenty of messed up sidewalks around Shaw to disabuse people of romantic notions of brick sidewalks. After a while a new brick sidewalk’s edges get looser and then all the bricks loosen. The ground shifts and then the walk is uneven with dips and bumps. On the plus side, they become deadly for e-scooter riders.

Voting with their feet- please don’t take citizens for granted

My feetsmLet’s take a break from the church histories and look towards the future and present. When I last pondered people voting with their feet it was in regards to DC parents.

I hope the politicians and the city government, in general, does not take its citizens for granted. It’s hard to put my finger on one thing, but I can’t shake this feeling that the city is taking its tax base for granted, like we don’t have the option of moving a couple of miles across the border to Maryland or Virginia. Yes, there are citizens who are stuck, I’m not talking about them. I speak of the professionals, the comfortably retired, the people with options.

When my spouse and I moved to the DC area in the mid 90s*, DC was just freaking depressing. The Downtown was dead after 5pm. It was kind of dead on the weekends too. These were also the days of the Control Board. The city was dealing with a crazy murder rate craptastic schools, the crack epidemic, and a lousy bond rating. These were the bad old days of bad city services when no one would bother answering the phone. The bad old days can return if we aren’t careful and that’s my concern. Maybe housing advocates will get their wish and DC will become affordable because of a slow exodus of the middle class.

Right now, compared to the 90s, DC is awesome. Let’s not take the awesome for granted because it can be less awesome in the future. There are some things DC has that the surrounding counties don’t. But there isn’t that much, except their own stubborn citizenry, that can keep those counties from doing some of the same great things DC government is doing and luring our neighbors away.

I’ll stop now. I’m rambling.

*We did not meet until the late 1990s.

Change of heart due to change of neighborhood

I have had a change of heart about Sunset Liquors. The Help still holds feelings of hostility. These feelings are based on my view of this liquor store from the early days of the neighborhood when the last thing we needed were liquor stores.

So jump into my little time machine, and head back to oh, 2005-ish. The perceived to be patrons of the local liquor stores were alcoholics who would then drink around the neighborhood, hang out in parks, relieving themselves in people’s basement wells and alleys. We’d find empty cheap vodka bottles and 40oz cans litteBodegónring tree boxes. It was such a problem there used to be a blog called TreeboxVodka around here.  People still litter Shaw treeboxes, but not as often with Velicoff as they did in the bad old days. BACA would try to close the handful of liquor stores in Truxton Circle, on 4th St, on 1st Street and the two on North Capitol. Those efforts failed.

DC has more liquor stores than all of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In the ‘aughts, that was too many, considering the state of the neighborhood.

So what changed? Several things, not just one thing. The major thing was the demographic change. The population of Truxton Circle was trending down before the gentrification got going. What gentrification brought was an influx of young professionals who did not publicly self-destruct with alcohol. These young professionals would buy 6 packs or cases of beer to take home, or to someone else’s home to enjoy. They were not known to buy 40oz cans of Steel Reserve. Related to this change was a change in what some local liquor stores stocked, less MD 20/20 more merlot. My favorite change was the disappearance of Plexiglas. For my own self-esteem, I avoided shopping in stores where there was bulletproof glass between me and the cashier. I found it insulting, but I understood the reason why. Some stores, not necessarily liquor stores, removed the glass, and then later the store became a victim of armed robbery. The neighborhood wasn’t ‘there’ yet and people were hurt. There are some Shaw and Truxton stores with the glass, but plenty of places where isn’t used. For myself, it is now a tolerable level. In the case of Sunset Liquors, across the street, the Florida Avenue Park was renovated. Prior to the major renovation, the junkies and the alcoholics would hang out in the park, wander over to Sunset, then wander back to the park. Sometimes they would pass out on the play equipment. It was not a park kids could use because of the needles, the glass, and the human waste. Sunset was part of the problem. Then the gates came up and you can only exit on the 1st Street side. Add this with the demographic changes, parents, grandparents, and kids own most of the park, not junkies and bums. Another change, also Sunset specific, was a change in relationship with the neighborhood. Before you walk into Sunset, you are greeted by a blackboard with an affirmation. You can also see inside the store from the outside. In the old days we complained that the windows were covered with beer and cigarette ads. There is still some clutter, but you can see inside. The store is a UPS drop off, and that was the reason I walked in. I found a super helpful employee, my package, and a red zinfandel.

I have yet to make it to the new wine shop at Florida and North Capitol. I blame the weather and my own laziness. I hope it is as nice as the Grand Cata wine shop on 7th Street.

The neighborhood has changed. It is now strong enough to have a few decent liquor stores and maintain its upward trajectory. Of course if you want to go old school, there is always Big Ben.

DCist Pending comment about CaBi usage

I’m only posting this because I see a comment I made on DCist about CaBi usage is pending, and I’m not 100% sure what I wrote that would warrant a flag. Maybe saying race and income doesn’t explain everything but around here (DC) it is used to explain everything. In the case of the Capital Bikeshare race and income aren’t the major reasons in light of other information.

Looking at this image

CaBi bikeshare usage map
Image of CaBi usage and income. Note whiter areas with little to no bike share usage

So there are rich white areas of DC way west of the park where there are 0 ride per hour yellow dots. The DCist story interprets this as Capital Bikeshare failed to be available to all users because there are so few rides in Wards 7 & 8.

There are more stations in “areas with higher shares of white residents, lower poverty rates, higher income, and higher college attainment,” according to the report. CaBi’s user survey, which it undertakes every two years, bears this out. The 2016 survey found that 80 percent of Capital Bikeshare users were white, with Asian and Hispanic/Latino riders both at 7 percent, and African-American riders at 4 percent.

Yes.

As one of the 4% African American CaBi users, I’ll say there are more stations because there is more demand in my now predominately white, formerly predominately black neighborhood. I know there is lots of demand because if the morning weather is nice I need to get my butt out of the house before 7:30 or else all the working bikes nearest me are gone.  And there is lots of demand for slots near where I work, because I will encounter a full dock and try to figure out where is the closest empty dock may be.

Also if you look back at the map, the cluster of yellow is in a highly dense area with lots of retail/ jobs. The yellow along Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW into the areas of Upper Caucasia also are in dense-ish areas with retail.  What do we know about Wards 7 & 8? Not enough retail. Not enough grocery stores. Also it lacks density of say Ward 1.

If memory serves me I think I wrote that I would prefer to see an overlay looking at age and retail rather than race.

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.