This is a great neighborhood

Despite all the complaining I do, and please understand that complaining in my family is a form of recreation, I love my neighborhood. No, really, I do.
From the time I moved in, what made the place great were my neighbors. Well, them and my not-so crappy commute into Old Town Alexandria. I not only knew my next door neighbors, but the people down the block and across the street. I don’t know everyone, and I’m fuzzy on names, but there are familiar faces and known characters. These relationships range from the wave ‘hi’ or polite nod to borrowing tools, eating over, going out to functions (art show/ drinking) and exchanging information/gossip.
Second, I love my current commute. Getting from here to Alexandria took about an hour. Time spent reading books on the metro. Then when I worked up in PG County it went down to 45 minutes. Now, on a good day, 20 minutes from door to desk down in Penn Quarter. The only way to make it better is to work closer, and I don’t know if Africare is in need of a librarian. The good think about a very short commute is when you forget something (cell phone, security badge, money) it is possible to just turn around (I refuse to wear the flimsy temp badge of shame) and go back home. Negative, no real valid excuse not to show up at work during bad weather.
In the past few years a few things have popped up in and around the hood that make life better. When I moved here there was no Big Bear, no organic bodega, no Thai carryout, no farmers market, the liquor stores were crap, the dry cleaners was too far, and I had to walk to U Street if I wanted to sit down and eat. Now, I’m a tad spoiled. I know this because when I was more lazy than picky, instead of going to a store 2.5 blocks away for good white wine, I dropped into the liquor store 1.5 blocks away for passable white wine. There’s stuff I need to take to the cleaners, and I have no real excuse not to, as it is a two minute walk away. There are other local businesses I go to, that weren’t here several years ago, and I appreciate them being around.
The other thing about the small businesses is that are open in and around is that you can get to know the owners/ regular workers. I love going into Catania’s on Saturday mornings and chatting with Nichol about France or bread. Or going into the Timor Bodega and hearing Kim talk about the farm fresh produce that just arrived. Or making small talk with the woman who runs the 4th Street Dry Cleaners.
That’s some of the good stuff. And now we will get back to my regular scheduled complaining about vacant houses, street characters, cell phone guy, and crime, later. For now, just enjoy the goodness.

About the past and the present

A lot of my friends are former History majors (or minors) so I sometimes like to ask the question, ‘if you could go back in time to any time period what would it be?’ The answer varies, depending on their interest. When I add, would you go there knowing you could never come back to the present, then the answer tends to be ‘no’ from everyone. There is just something about modern medicine and dentistry that makes today a preferred time.
Looking at Shaw’s urban renewal history and the ‘stuff’ that went before, that basically called for the need for the renewal, makes Shaw’s past an interesting place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. Well given a choice between present day Shaw and say the area near the old Shaw Jr. High circa 1940. What I see are a lot of structures built for investment purposes (two or more units on one lot), making it a land of rentals with absentee landlords. Landlords, who if good, did some maintenance and patched here and there, but really weren’t very likely to invest in major projects. Overtime that lead to the blighted conditions, which mixed with the crime, and the overcrowding.
The legacy of bad landlords still lives on in Shaw, bringing that glorious bit of history to our present lives. On my block there is a landlord who does very little to keep up the property. This person only cleans out the gutters maybe, maybe, when there is a change in tenants. As these houses are all connected problems from the bad landlord’s house, become problems for the adjoining houses. Now imagine 1/2 a block or a whole block of landlords like that.
Urban Renewal Shaw is an interesting place to visit. I like seeing how different community groups came together and split apart. Their visions of the future tells an interesting story of desires and dreams. Their cries of frustration still remain in some corners and in 40 or more years I wonder if somethings can be adequately addressed given that you have mere human beings running things. Now, I wonder if future Shaw might be a better place to stay.