Recently in Quality of Life Category

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.

Decade in Review: Neighbors getting together for fun

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Our little stretch of street had another progressive party. I think it was the 3rd one this year. That's not counting the housewarmings and the other parties where most of the block was invited. These gatherings make our block a great place to live because there are so many postive ways to get to know your neighbors. It was also great seeing a former neighbor who sold this year and relocated to another part of Shaw.

I wrote about two of last year's progressive parties. For one, I broke my lime juicer. Don't worry I bought another. Another, I made a super rich chocolate pudding and posted the recipe. These are also pot lucks. This time I made a vegan entree, and I think I made too much because we kinda filled up on apps at the first house, so I was half full before even dropping off my dish at the second house.

Though we are sorta organized, I don't know if we could ever pull off what the 100 block of Thomas pulled off last year and is doing again for Halloween. They are currently taking donations for the most awesome Halloween block party. Last year they had silks, stilt walkers and a band.

Decade in Review: Better, depends on your POV

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In 2004 I wrote:

But what do I mean by better? I feel safer. Whether not I actually AM safer is another thing but I FEEL safer walking down the street, going home. I can chalk it up to not seeing as many people hanging out in certain spots and the crowd of young people loitering down the block seems to have dwindled a bit. Joggers & dog walkers, they strangely make me feel safer, despite all my complaints about them.
I also mean better in aesthetics. An abandoned house is not a pretty thing. Every other house on the block abandoned is just plain ugly and depressing. Rehabbed houses, new construction, and sometimes a new paint job make it easy on the eyes when walking down the street. At times, a house can be inspiring and uplifting, far better than being depressed by decay.
Another "better" is being able to spend my money in my neighborhood. If there are more opportunities for me to go out and eat or buy somewhere near my home, that is a good thing. I am trying to train myself to go to Logan Hardware over the chaotic Rhode Island Ave Home Depot. I do try to keep an eye open for businesses close to home worthy of my money. And if it is just one thing, like milk, I will go to G&G quickie mart. Before, I had to leave Shaw to buy somethings or the mini marts had nothing I wanted to buy or were too icky to even think of walking in.
It's getting better.

I've been meaning to write something after I came across a neighbor who had been talking to some other neighbors who were pre-1990s old timers, people who bought way before the 2000s. He had thought the neighborhood was far better than it used to be, and I agree, but the old timers did not.

I chatted with the old timers and it just seemed we all had a different defintion of "better."

For them, it seemed to be an elimination of a certain problem, the dealers. I'd love it there were no more street dealers in the hood selling poison to fathers, mothers and kids. But I think things are better, because there are fewer street dealers than there were when I showed up, and the dealers who are around are a bunch of old guys who sell heroin. Old guys are an improvement from hot headed young guys selling crack.

Bike lanes, sit down restaurants, fewer vacant houses, more homeowners, speed humps, and garden walks mean nothing, because there are still drug dealers. Old timers are convinced the shoe is going to drop. I'm going to guess the dropping shoe may be spate of drug related gunfire on our otherwise quiet block, or some other drug related event.

Decade in Review: 4th of July

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Once again we will be home on the 4th. In the past my reasons were to protect the house on that day because people in and from outside the neighborhood would get too close to the house (and other's residences) with the fireworks, legal and illegal. One time a minivan with Maryland tags vomited out a family who then blew off a bunch of fireworks on the corner, then hopped back in the minivan and drove away. As the years went on the level of smoke filling our street from the various fireworks became less and less. I would be fine with leaving the house, but less confident in dodging all the small scale firework shows I'd have to go through to get home.

I have suspected that someone is putting on a show somewhere in the region of the Cook School, and it was confirmed at last nights BACA meeting. Apparently last year, there were about 200-300 people on the unit block of P St, and so rightly so residents are concerned. This was brought to the attention of the police representatives at the meeting, so we'll see if the police will a) shut it down or b) just do crowd control, or c) nada. The concern is that the schools across the street (Langston and Slater) will catch on fire.

Last thought, there are some neighbors who like to burn sparklers and small legal fireowrks off in the alleys. If you haven't seen a firetruck go down your alley there is a pretty good chance a firetruck can't get into your alley, so if something catches fire (hopefully not with all the rain we've had), if and when the firemen arrive, there will be a delay. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand and have a fun 4th of July.

Decade in Review: Bikes

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This morning I spotted the following at R and New Jersey Ave NW.

CaBi station at Nj and R

CaBi station at Nj and R 2

CaBi station at Nj and R


New CaBi station! Well since this is a decade in review this is a far cry from the old ugly bike.

Bike Handle
Originally uploaded by In Shaw.

This was first seen in the 2005 entry "Bike Handle on Richardson." Yes, people of Richardson Place, your street used to look like crap, with that mix of broken concrete and brick.

One of the great things about the neighborhood in the early days was it was a good place to get around without owning a car. Still is, but back in 2005, you had to own your own bike. None of this fancy schmancy CaBi stuff. I had a little series of posts called "Living in Shaw with no car" one of those was in regards to bikes. Looking back on that post there have been some changes. Chain Reaction is no longer there. It was a cool bike shop, where Red Toque currently sits, operated by the now defunct Shaw Eco-Village non-profit. It had young men, teenagers, fixing bikes at a nice price. Now I use Bicycle Space, which is a bit further from the house.  Also from that post I see that bike lanes were appearing on R but between 7th and 14th. Love that in the following years the lanes expanded. I really wish they'd expand more to have something between 7th and North Cap that gets you past NY Ave and Downtown. There is so much more around here to walk and bike to it is wonderful.

100_0439.JPG
One of the great things about the neighborhood, and I say "neighborhood" in the general walking around space, ignoring political and civic boundaries, is the Bloomingdale Farmers Market. The BFM is coming back for another wonderful year of fruit, doggies walking around, meats, and baked goods. Saw the announcement that this coming Sunday it will be open again from 9AM to 1PM.

2007 was the first year of the market, per a quick look of my old posts. That was the same year as the opening of Big Bear, and as we know from experience, the two go together. I'm quite sure if I searched  I could find a post mentioning a previously failed market in Bloomingdale that sat around on Joe Mamo's lot. A farmer's market outside of the coffee shop just works, so it would be best to keep it where it is.

As  a resident and blogger I have enjoyed the market. I seem to have mentioned the market each year it has been open. It is not as big as other DC markets but it is great in its smallness. Neighbors can meet up with each other, kids can get introduced to unprocessed food, and people can talk to farmers.

I look forward to Sunday.

Decade in Review: New Stuff in Bloomingdale

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Last night we drove past the new Italian Bloomingdale restaurant Red Hen, and man that place was crowded. It looked fun but crowded. We'll probably wait a week or two before checking it out ourselves. But this got me to thinking that Bloomingdale is the place where the cool destination places are landing, while we over in the TC just get to look and walk over.

Part of me wants to say it started with Windows, they were there first, and pointed to as a signal of change in the neighborhood. This was in 2005. The next year Big Bear, the coffee shop, opened after much, much waiting and hoping and a few get to know the neighbors events. Then it became the tie for the Bloomingdale Farmers Market in 2007, and real estate ads began citing it as an amenity. Now the coffee shop is all fancy and stuff and popular.

In early 2008, Kim Wee opened Timor, now Field to City. Back then it was just a few shelves and some fresh milk in glass jars. Back then, if you wanted milk in glass jars you had to go all the way to the Logan Circle Whole Foods. Back then it was also quirky, as Kim would adjust and change things, like making the side door the entrance after he was robbed.

Two years later there was a hint of the Boundary Stone coming to Rhode Island Avenue. I'm doing this decade in review to check the copy of the old blog, so by the time the Boundary Stone opened in 2011, I'd moved from inshaw.com/blog to blog.inshaw.com. A bit before Boundary Stone's opening, Rustik opened in the fall of 2010

It seems each year after that Bloomingdale gets something new, some new place or thing that helps define the commerical part of the neighborhood, making the place more and more attractive. These changes did not come quickly, as nothing seemed quick about them as we waited for construction, and licenses, and stuff before we could start enjoying these places and taking friends to them. I predict Red Hen won't be the last new great thing in Bloomingdale, as there is something about the neighborhood. When we figure out what "it" is, maybe Truxton Circle can get some.

 

Note: I also found in my old blog posts EC-12 dating back to 2006, there is probably some 2005. EC-12 is the firehouse on North Capitol that was supposed to become a restaurant. In 2006, that's pitiful.

Decade In Review- 2007-2008 City Services

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I tried to find a post that marked when the neighborhood turned a corner for the better, when it went from being a transition where one could question how long it would be transitional to a point where you could see the 'good stuff' on the horizon. Well with city services it appears to have been around 2007-2008.

In 2007 the city finally took care of a dead tree. A tree I had complained about had been dead for a few years and I had alerted the city to it, but the city, for reasons beyond my understanding, did nothing. A complaint that we had in the hood was that we did not receive city services, simple city services and enforcement, like other well to do neighborhoods.

Before it would require effort to get the city to enforce parking rules (church parking issues excepted) and deal with suspected stolen cars. But in 2008 when I saw a big orange boot on a car on my street, a sign that the city was being proactive (ie not requiring residents to constantly complain) about parking.

Why the change? One theory in the comments was that the city figured it was a way to get more revenue and greater chance of ticketing someone who'd actually pay up. I have another theory, the departure of Vincent Orange from Ward 5. Vinny was our (useless) Ward councilman from 1999-2007. When he was replaced by Harry Thomas Jr., who dispite stealing money from children, was pretty in tuned to residents needs and aiding with city services.

This photo is one of the things I have to keep an eye on as I plan to delete things off the inshaw.com/blog directory. I can't delete this, photo P1010007a.jpg.

Anyway, I always fear jinxing myself when I write that the drug problem is getting better. It is getting better. This photo was taken back in 2005 writing about a fellow a observed standing in 20F weather for no apparent good reason.

I was writing about our 'friendly neighborhood drug dealers' since 2005, though they were there long time before that. Residents on my street who lived here decades before I showed up would tell me about how the dealers were so bad they had even set up a table to do business. By the time I moved in, the only furniture they had were chairs. They would sit at the corner of 4th and R on found chairs. They'd be there when I came home from work in the evenings, and they'd be coming around when I left for work in the mornings.

The 'friendly' is a mix of truth and something else, sarcasm? A play on your friendly neighborhood Spiderman. With the exception of the teens trying to be and look hard the drug dealers were friendly. As I mentioned in one post, they'd say hello, I'd say hello back, keeping the friendly vibe even though I was calling the cops on them on occasion.

When did it turn? Well they aren't really gone, just less visible. But they became less visible, I guess around 2008, when I mentioned that a set of dealers had moved on. Well at least in my area of the TC. I do see on occasion someone who I believe "managed" the low level dealers. There were a lot of things that heppened to make our street less suitable for dealing. Demographics helped, meaning more dog walkers and joggers, fewer people who allowed/tolerated dealers hanging in front of their house, more people calling the cops, fewer people providing labor and shelter for the drug trade, and more homeowners. Better policing may have helped, with the shotspotter and better communication with email, but there is still room for improvement. Better city services also helped with the drug problem, fixing lights, ticketing cars, and the like as crime likes the shadows and dealers would stash drugs in unmoving (possibly stolen) cars.

For other parts of the city where the dealers haven't moved on, be they friendly or not, I hope that you can just keep chipping away at the problem. Keep calling the police, demand city services, demand enforcement, and make your area attractive to the types of people who will help make your neighborhood a nicer place. 

Decade in Review- Characters- DM

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I honestly don't know what to make of some of my early posts where I named some folks and well gave names to some, one being Drama Momma, whose actual name I have forgotten. Then there was a nickname I may have mentioned but I don't see it in a search, Cindy [insert title here]. Because I believe Cindy has changed and I see her everyso often, I feel no desire to dig up her dark past.

Dramma Momma, is another story. I see her rarely. I know she's around. But I don't think she has changed much, so I don't feel that I'm damaging any recovery. DM, or Dramma Momma was a neighbor that I (and others) had on again off again issues with. I first mentioned her in 2003. And I mentioned her off and on after that. She was a troublesome neighbor and a broken soul. She was a single mother with a very angry son. She'd be on the wagon and fall off. Some days she'd curse me out on the street, others invite me over for a bite. She was loud. She'd blast her music for hours.

I would be lying if I said I missed her. I'm very happy that her landlord was forced to sell most of his properties (probably because he was overextended), which resulted in a nice fellow from Maryland buying the house she rented. This nice fellow fixed up the house a bit, moved in, then moved out to follow his dreams. Now rent there is a nice couple who are musicians who make waaaaay less noise than DM. Heck I never hear them.

Gentrification-wise, her move was another African American renter being replaced by whites. Neighborwise, it was a switch out from one problematic neighbor where the drug dealers would comfortably stand in front of or in her yard, to new neighbors who don't assist the criminals and work to improve their yard and the street. Yes the story of gentrification has the sweet old lady who'd been there for years, suddenly tossed out by evil white people. This is not that case here. I'm sure I wasn't the only one breathing a sigh of relief to see her go. She was the sign of a bad neighborhood, with chaos reigning all about her, spilling into the sidewalks and seeping through the party walls. The party putting her out was a black landlord who had his own problems and had to sell the house DM rented and another house on the block. I suspect he had financial issues of his own, forcing the sale. So even the idea of white landords don't work with the usual gentrification line here. Was it gentrification that put her out? Don't know, don't care. She's gone and it is peaceful.