Have a Happy New Year

I just want to wish you all a happy new year.

In the New Year….

May your alley be free of prostitutes

May you never find crackheads on your front porch

May your home value go up just enough to get a good loan but not so high that you’re taxed out of the city

May you find peace with your neighbors

May your plumbing magically fix itself

May your gardens explode with fruit and color

May the abandoned houses get fixed and occupied

May the police always show up less than 20 minutes after you called them

May all your neighborhood construction get completed on time

May you find parking in front of your house

and may you have a blessed 2005.

Well at least he is somewhat entertaining

I caught part of the second half of Kojo Nnamdi’s DC Politics Hour with Jonetta when they were talking with former Mayor soon to be Councilman Marion Barry. Well he will be on the council, so there’s nothing to be done about that as the people of Ward 8 have spoken. Yet listening to him attempt to dance around Jonetta’s questions was very entertaining. Sad, but entertaining. Unfortunately for former Mayor4life Marion Barry, he has a past. Not just the crack, cause even if we forgot about the crack, and the crack girlfriend, there is still the running the city into the ground and the culture of cronyism. No Barry did not run the city into the ground all by himself, he had friends. Then there is his general political past of failed plans and promises. So he goes in with all this baggage, this glorious or horrendous past, that well, people are going to bring up. Even if we forgot about the crack there is this other stuff and when people like Jonetta and Kojo bring it up all he can tell us is to forget it and that it is all in the past. What kinda skilled politico are you Barry? You have got to do better.

Anywho, one of the questions raised in the show was did Barry have mayorial aspirations? This had to be brought up because Barry has launched his mayorial bids from his base in Ward 8, one has to, despite Barry’s age, wonder if he’s going to try for a threefer in 2006 based on his track record. He said no, and he has said no before. To be fair there was another segment that asked the same question of Councilmen Jack Evans and Adrian Fenty. Jack, love you, but don’t run. Ain’t no Georgetown white boy gonna be mayor of this majority black city for a while. Adrian, love you, run. Of course, Fenty’s handlers have advised him on the correct answer of if he was going to run for mayor in 2006, which is that he is to focus all of his attention on the citizens of Ward 4. The answer to has he thought about running for mayor in 2006 is, he is to focus all of his attention to servicing the citizens of Ward 4. Rinse & repeat. He’s smart I tell you.

Restaurant Review: Tobago’s Catering Cafe

Tobago’s barely fits as a nearby restaurant and a restaurant as it is a half block outside my willingness to walk radius and has only two tables. Yet the extra effort was worth it for the carryout I decided to pick up.

I chose chicken curry. You are given a choice between vegetables and rice or plantains and rice with this dish, I chose vegetables. In a few minutes of ordering I had about 3-4 large bits of chicken, vegetables, spicy rice, and beans crammed into a tin carryout platter ready to go.

The vegetables seemed to be crispy cabbage, carrots, and maybe carmelized onions in a brown slightly sweet sauce. All the vegetables were thinly sliced and made for a crispy salad. There were two green things, they might have been bell pepper, but experience has taught me when dealing with cultures known for their spice, avoid the green.

Somewhere in the brownish colored peppery (think black pepper, not red pepper) rice were some beans. I could taste them, but I couldn’t see them. They completmented the chicken and the rice.

The main portion, the curried chicken was very good, or I was very hungry. No, it was good. The dark soft green or brown coating wasn’t spicy but it was flavorful. The chicken was well cooked falling off the bone at times. The downside were the bones, small bones, bone particles, and other hard bony bits I kept picking from my mouth. Understandably, the bones gives the dish it’s flavor, but it is something to be aware of.

Outside of the meal a small downside for Tobago’s are their hours. They are open Tuesday through Thursday & Saturday from 11:30 to 6pm, Friday they stay open 1 hour later till 7pm. This is not so great for the residents of Shaw who may get back to the hood a bit later. Yet the lucky people of Howard University and those who work in the surrounding area have a good and tropical lunchtime option.

Home & Garden the book obsession

I go through phases where I cannot get enough of one subject. The history of this sometimes single mindedness can be found on my book shelves. When I was looking to buy a house I bought Tips & Traps When Buying A Condo, Co-op, or Townhouse by Robert Irwin, Ilyce Glink’s 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask a homebuying must read and several other Irwin books. I have given away some of those books because they will serve someone else better in their hands rather than on my shelves. I remember giving much away to Nora Bombay when she was buying her condo in Alexandria and gave The Virgin Homeowner to my next door neighbors.

After getting the house, came the fixing of the house, and so I have many many books on home repair, because you just can not have one book on plumbing. There are books on plumbing, wiring, trimwork, flooring, and doors and windows, in addition to the general DIY books. Among the DIY there is diversity. I have an incredibly useful book put out by Old House Journal on home repair and with a 100+ year old house, it has at times been helpful explaining “what the heck is that?” and dealing with the ancient stuff still in the house. Then there are the general DIY books put out by Home Depot and the UK version of Home Depot, B&Q. I like the B&Q book as it sometimes tackles old building issues like plaster and hot water heating.

Currently, I’m not interested in fooling with the house for a while. Now my interest is gardening. This year I got a bunch of good fruit from my tomato plants and I am inspired to try some more food crops in 2005. For Christmas Nathan and BL got me a month by month gardening book and that was a lovely addition to the small number of gardening books I do have. So far in December, according to the book, I do squat. Also for Christmas my cousins got me a Border’s gift card. Now when I walked into the store I was going to buy a Ray Charles CD and maybe a small C.S. Lewis book, but music and philosophy are downstairs and gardening is ground level. I am now the proud owner of two books on container gardening. One being one of those general on sale books you find in the front of the store, the other being The Bountiful Container by McGee & Stuckey. So far so good, with recommendations on the type of container or soil depth needed to grow potatoes, squash, collards and the like.

Good City Car

Right now I am barely talking to my neighbor because of thisarticle(Tiny Car to Test U.S. Tastes (washingtonpost.com)). I got all excited seeing that the Smart car and he just dismissed it as another ugly car.

First, it gets 60 miles to the gallon.

Second, it is perfect for the city as it is smaller than a Mini Cooper.

Third, loved them in Britian.

Fourth, you don’t like the color you can change the panels.

The importance of age diversity

Over Christmas dinner my Uncle Jimmy was saying how important seniors are to certain segments of the economy which got me to thinking about age diversity. One of the reasons why I like my block is the diversity.

Seniors are important to the civic life of a community. While I’m working, far from home, they are an extra set of eyes on the block. If they are retired but still mobile they can go to city hall or other city offices with petitions and complaints about things effecting the neighborhood. Why can’t I go? Well I’d have to use my annual leave, my precious annual leave to do those errands. Also there are many seniors, like my Uncle Jimmy, who volunteer for activities and causes in the area where they live.

On the other end of the scale, young heathens, also known as children can be put to good use. I am a great believer in child labor. It’s not the best labor, but work is a good thing. I hope that Giant will sell some cheap snow shovels so I can get some good cheap child labor to make a path, not a good path, down the walk for $3-$5. I discovered the wonders of cheap child labor when cooking and discovered I didn’t have a certain ingredient and couldn’t leave the stove. There were some 10 year olds hanging out in front and I knew one was allowed to walk to the Giant. So for about $1 and some loose change I got a food runner.

Teenagers. So far they’ve been good for hanging out on street corners and making the neighborhood look less safe.

The rest of us, what are we good for? Home and garden improvement? Filler. We make good filler.

Baby it’s cold outside

Dang dagnabit it’s cold.

You have to forgive me I am a native of the land of sunshine, shorts, and flip flops, Florida. I believe it is my right, my right I say, to walk around in sandals. The cold weather is infringing on that right and forcing me into restrictive sweaters and clunky boots.

Anyway I figure this is a good opportunity to inform you, my neighbors of some cold weather things. First, if you see a homeless person and it is under 32F (below freezing) call 800-535-7252 and someone will come around and try to get him/her into a shelter or at least provide the homeless person a blanket if they are too hardheaded and want to stay out in the cold. Second, at some point in the season we are going to get ice. You are responsible for the little stretch of sidewalk in front of your house, please salt your sidewalk so I won’t slip, fall, and sue you. The Ghetto Giant has bags of salt and ice melt in the front of the store near the cashiers, pick up a bag so you’ll have some when that first icy rain hits.

DC population numbers down

According to the Washington Post’s article “DC Down, VA, MD up” the District lost about 4,000 people , less than 1% of the District’s total population. I’m going to blame gentrification as part of the reasoning.

Looking at my block alone, houses that once held multigenerational families now hold singles and childless couples. There are a few people having kids or families that have remained, but not that many. Before I moved in there was a woman and her son living in my house. Some houses where stuffed to the gills with family, friends, boarders and what have you before new watchful neighbors helped crackdown on the overcrowding.

Mr. Bowtie, our lovely Mayor Tony Williams wanted 100,000 new residents over a period of 10 years. If Tony is the cool calculating accountant I think he is, he doesn’t want families anyway. Families might be a bit more stable than we feelwheeling singles who can get up and move in a blink, but those families want schools and other services, services that cost money. No I think Tony wants a tax base that will generate money for taxing out the wazzoo and ask for very little (like snow plowed streets and garbage picked up) in return. So maybe in the back of his little mind he might be happy families are leaving the city, chased out by poor schools and higher costs of living.

For your gentrification pleasures

If you have DSL or some other fast internet connection check outOut of the Rubble, A Public Housing Drama Rises (washingtonpost.com) There are 3 video segments on the Arthur Capper Carrollsburg project featuring residents, activists and a DC government official. The artist Anu Yadev who I mentioned before appears in the video along with bits of her play.

I do like the last vingette about the woman who moved up and out to better housing. Change is the Devil, but it can be a blessing that kicks you in the pants and forces you to reevaluate your life and do something. It forces you to decide if you are going to stay in the same rut or move on. Of course if you’re over 60 ruts are good and change always bad.

The video also talks about who stays and who goes and the official mentioned the good and the bad. I could say there are no such thing as bad people, but good souls with really bad habits, but I’m just not THAT good to believe it completely. However this desire to separate the wheat from the chaff that the housing official wants to do is slightly troubling. I totally understand the logic. If you are going to have a public housing, mixed income project that is stable and healthy you just can’t have certain people coming in who may/will hinder the project’s success. If you want the area to be free of drugs and low crime you can’t have criminals or crackheads or their other drug abusing cohorts. But those criminals or crackheads do belong to families who contain individual members who are clean and can be considered good. However you take out the drug dealer you take out his whole family. And that is something we may have to accept.