What do you mean by better?

I was wandering around my agency, I’ll just call the Death Star, looking to nab some extra office supplies, when I happened upon a group of Imperial Stormtroopers talking about DC housing prices. I could not help myself, I joined in the conversation. I made a comment explaining why some neighborhoods are getting so pricey in that the area was getting better. One trooper looked at me with a steely look and asked, “What do you mean by better?”

In one second I noticed I was standing on the edge of a muck hole of race and class issues, so I said, “Oh, the crime has gone down.” The trooper reflected, agreed and went on talking.

I keep forgetting the race and class issues when I say the neighborhood is getting better. Some can interpret the statement negatively, and they do have a point, as for some others “better” means doing away with the old residents of a neighborhood. I have seen articles in the Washington Post about how older residents feel threatened by newcomers who demand a different way of life. These newcomers are usually white and middle class and the old timers are black with a wide range of income levels.

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.

Hopefully, the neighborhood can keep all her citizens black, white and latino, working class to upper middle class, and all who work for “better”.


When does a neighborhood stop being transitional? When is it done?

This weekend, I was enjoying the city, catching 3 movies ( a record for me, oh and don’t waste money on Shall We Dance?), walking and biking around. And I saw the neighborhood in a slightly different light. Might be the uptick of people jogging in places I didn’t see people jogging before. Then there are all these people with dogs. Parts of Shaw I think are done being transitional. They still have problems, but on the surface, things look fine. But when is a neighborhood done? And what does not transitional look like?

Blogjam @ DC9

Right now I am multitasking so bear with me as I blog, do laundry and cook curry all at the same time. Okay, maybe not as I just spilled curry on open gas flame….

Tonight was Blogjam, a reading by queer bloggers. I attended in support of Jimbo and as you can tell, took pictures. The most famous of the bloggers, as far as I know, was Andrew Sullivan (below). He was not what I expected, I expected DC dweeb. I was also expecting Wonkette, as I remember she was on the line up, but with the theme of gay & male bloggers she really wouldn’t have fit, despite her great fame.

The event went well I think, though I did leave just as the dance music began.

Mr. Sullivan spoke about what he writes about best, politics. His reading of the night was on Bush’s push to add an amendment to the constitution banning same sex marriage and the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. Dogpoet and Crisafer read off poetry, doing what poetry is supposed to do best, describing greatly, so briefly. Thankfully, Geekslut was not as bad as I thought he’d be, as I could only deal with reading two of his blog entries. Actually I found it refreshing that he was (if I got him right) was anti-crystal meth. ‘Cause really, crystal meth is so wrong, in so many ways.

Restaurant Review: B&Js

B&Js on the corner of Rhode Island and 3rd, is not a fancy place. Actually fancy doesn’t come to mind, Ben Chili Bowl looks like The Inn at Little Washington compared to this place. The food is uncomplicated and straightforward. Greens, mashed potatoes, turkey, ham, and meats between bread to make a sandwich.

It is friendly I will say. I walked in an the old guys said hello and we exchanged friendly banter. The fellow running the place has a smile that seems permanent if involuntary, it’s just there. He seemed happy to have me there and glad to show me the laser printed menu listing the various dinners at modest prices.

The decor is the big negative. It reminded me of a relative’s kitchen. Okay my grandma’s kitchen/dining room. Not the slightly out of it tumor in her head grandma, no the mean pack rat grandma. The place was cluttered, with miss-matched being the overall theme, like my grandma’s house. The counter had condiment bottles in the way, desserts wrapped in plastic and suspect Styrofoam (is it clean, is it not clean?) littered the counter. There was a table for eight taking up the rest of the floorspace. Other things like a popcorn machine and a jukebox were stuffed in the corners.

The food is average. I had crab cakes. They didn’t have a lot of filler, a good thing, as that normally makes for a good crab cake. They were made out of the stringy bits of crab meat, not lumps, which usually makes for a very mediocre crab cake. Oh, and no Old Bay seasoning, making for a less than average crab cake being served so close to Maryland. Well, the turkey dinner the fellow next to me had looked really good.

Not everything is on the menu. You could get steak, if you wanted steak. You just gotta ask what else is there. The fellow behind the counter was very patient and helpful with the suggestions of what he could prepare. You want a sandwich, he’ll make a sandwich.

Now no one else besides me and this guy was eating. One old fellow was there when I entered and he was just hanging out at the counter, watching the old TV up on the kitchen wall. Another fellow was feeding the jukebox that blasted R&B hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s, drowning out the TV. I wished the TV had closed captioning, but it was so old the volume had to be controlled with a pair of pliers. The feeling I got was that it was a neighborhood hangout for some. A little girl, about 4 or 5 wandered around the dining and kitchen area. You come, you eat, sit around, chat, listen to the music, what have you. Just like my grandma’s.

I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention a serious negative. It has been cited before for a health code violation in the past 3 years. I don’t remember what the exact violation was but I do remember seeing the blurb in the Washington Post. The clutter can give the dirty appearance and be offensive to those more accusomed to a sanitized looking dining experience. I could see where with all the things around a cite for unclean food surfaces or other such violation could be found.

Now, would I eat there again? I give you a very hesistant yes/maybe. B&J gets super duper bonus points for being friendly and homey. One or 2 points on the food itself. At least one negative for the clutter. Now I would eat there again if I had an insane desire/craving for mashed potatoes or greens.

Pissed at myself

As some of you may or may not know, I have been doing research on the Truxton Circle part of Shaw looking at the 1880-1930 census. It’s been a hodge podge job, where I do a little here for this census year and then do a little there for another census year.

Well I lost about a couple of days work of the 1880 census. I remember having it. So now I’m pissed at myself.

How I’m culling the census is super labor intensive. As I get annoyed with the long dead residents of Truxton Circle, I am collecting house by house info. I find mutli-generation houses a chore. I find houses with many boarders a pain. People with kids, bah. I like hermits and lonely widows, and old couples who live alone. I also dislike big blocks where the houses are small and plentiful, like all the blocks between Q and N, North Cap and 1st. Now work for at least 1/2 of one of these blocks is gone.

Subject matter wise, I am discovering heavy pockets of Irish & German immigrants and 1st generation Americans. It will be cool when I can plug all this data into a computer and see demographic patterns shifting.

Well I’ll have to do some of the transcribing again, and do a better job of keeping up with my stuff.

Ward 4 says no more single beer sales

Brass Monkey – that funky Monkey

Brass Monkey junkie

That funky Monkey

There is a theme I sense. In the new issue of Budget Living has a recipe for Brass Monkey using that lovely ghetto drink Old English. The next time I actually see the brand in print is today’s Washington Post article on store owners up in arms about the ban on single beer can sales in Ward 4. Somewhere in Ward 4 there is a mom & pop store with a refridgerator filled with Old English “800”, along with Zima and the drink that seems to be popular around Shaw, Steel Reserve 211. With some stores selling 40% to 50% booze, they are up in arms.

I’d like to see how Councilmember Fenty’s experiment works out. Will it cut down on the litter? Will it cut down on the loitering? Well we will find out. If it does work I would love for it to come to Ward 5.


The Regal Theater at Gallery Place (fake) Chinatown will open this weekend. It is sorta open now. Currently they are running a $1 special. I don’t remember if it is just for today and yesterday only or what. I went out to dinner with a friend and everything but Harry Potter 3 was sold out. He bailed and for $1 sure I’ll watch Harry Potter, one less Netflix to bother with.

It’s a modern movie theater. Big chairs for the typical fat American lard butt (and I say this with love in my heart), theaters up high, parking down low (3 hours free then $7 an hour), several levels.

The thing that bothered me and my friend was you had to walk through what is essentially an alley to get to the theater. It’s a disneyfied alley, but an alley none the less. So far it is well lit. When you exit it is also well smoked. The alley is where the ciggys hang.

Anyway, the future looks bright for Gallery Place. It has many retail shops and gawdawfully expensive condos in the area. If it weren’t for all of us black people wandering around, I’d say it was turning into Bethesda, Woodmont Ave. I look forward to the opening of Miso Hungry, which sadly makes me think of a bad rap song’s lyrics. And there are other shops that will open in the future turning Gallery Place into a destination.

Foot traffic is so good over there, I was able to hail a cab. So maybe now after dancing I may get off at Gallery Place instead of Dupont to get a cab.


If you happen to work for the government you would have by now, if not in the very near future, received your Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) pledge card and catalog. If you haven’t filled it out already please consider some of the charities working right here in Shaw. You can give all at once or spread it out like I do, over the course of a year. Invest in your neighborhood, please give.

N Street Village, Inc (8281) Provides services to homeless women, addiction recovery, emergency housing and advocates for affordable housing, and daycare. I came to know N Street when I got lost looking for the Episcopal Church in the area and wound up at the Lutheran Church instead. When the tithes were being collected I had the option of earmarking my donation to N Street. I have been supporting them ever since.

Historical Society of Washington(9139) Oh they need your help. The city museum did not bring in the numbers they hoped for and so they need your support. They do, and did before their museum days, offer programs to assist you with historical research of things DC. It was in their archive I found photos from the 1940s of my street.

Shaw Eco Village (7606) They run the bike shop on 6th and R where I bought the crap bike (it’s a good bike, but it looks like crap) and had the good bike fixed. The bike shop and other programs that train and focus on the neighborhood youths.

Studio Theater (8619)- Your contribution would support reduced ticket and free programs for this P Street theater.

Manna, Inc (8847) Despite my occasional problems with this non-profit, I still think it is worthy of support. It advocates for and builds affordable (and market rate) housing. It provides home buying classes for first time homeowners and recently opened Maggie Moos, an ice cream shop on U Street.

Bread for the City (8219) Provide health services, food, clothing, and some legal aid to needy citizens. They have an office at 1525 Seventh Street, NW.

Africare (0303) Has their offices in Shaw on the 400 block of R in an historic building that used to be the Morse School. Their charitable work takes place in Africa.

Kingman Boys and Girls Club (8135) Provides activities for Shaw youth. I believe they are in charge of my neighbor’s pee wee football team.

Shiloh Family Life Center Foundation (8523) Supports the day care center and other activities at the Family Life Center on the 1500 block of 9th Street. It’s parent organization is the Shiloh Baptist Church, my aunts’ church.

Catholic Charities (8054) I really wanted to support St. Matthias Mulumba House on 621 Rhode Island Ave but it is part of a packaged deal. I occassionally run into D’Arcy the social worker there. He’s nice. I like D’Arcy.

There are other charities in Shaw, but these are a few that are close to my heart. Feel free to add others in the comments section.