Old Drafts- Assuming class & income

This is a post that for some reason I did not publish. If I did it would have been published on 7/29/2008.

Old BeggarI’m writing this post to acknowledge that when I observe my neighbors and fellow citizens, talking about their wealth or lack thereof is at best a guessing game. I hesitate to talk about the ‘suspected’ homeless guys who hang out all year, near where I work, because I don’t know if they are homeless. They don’t have a shopping cart of stuff and they appear cleaner than some of the ragged tourists who march around. It’s just that they hang out in the same spot day after day, winter, spring. summer, and fall, during work hours and occasionally one guy will whip out a cup with some change and shake it. There are all sorts of signs that strongly signal that they are homeless, but to my knowledge few to none have self identified themselves as such. So when I question and analyze my presumptions, I’ll say I’m about 80% sure. Because honestly, taking in their ages 1/2 of them, and they are doing what my retired uncle is doing, sitting around and staying out of Aunt M.’s way. They could be the same.
There are things about our neighbors that point in this, that and the other direction as to which is their economic class. Because we are not privy to that which, frankly is none of our business, our guesses about whether someone is a member of the underclass, the overwhelmed middle class, or wealthy is just that, a guess. Unless they tell us.
I guess this comes from some people watching I was doing.

It’s time to go

This weekend one of the neighbors was out doing some minor painting, reminding me I have to do some minor painting to my fence and security gate. Ah, home ownership. When asked about the sprucing up she was doing she confirmed that she is indeed planning on selling the house and moving back to her homecountry. “It’s time,” she said.
She’d been on the block a little bit longer than I have, by some months to 1/2 a year. In that time she’d done some home improvement, so at least 1/3 of the house is new. She’s also been a good neighbor in that she’d taken on the alley cat issue, trying to catch cats to get them spayed and neutered and the kittens adopted. Hopefully someone can fill that role when she does sell the house, and provided it isn’t listed at some super high price, it should sell. And hopefully, whomever buys it will integrate themselves into the fabric of our block.
And so another person makes an individual decision that can change the block adding to the dynamic nature of neighborhoods and neighborhood change. Which reminds me of the various reasons people I have known have given for moving, job relocation, family pressures, marriage, house too much of a burden/downsizing, etc. For renters, sometimes the decision is not theirs and is more financial when the owners choose to cash out or fail to keep up with their mortgage. No organized effort here, just individuals, with a tiny sliver of land, doing what they think is best for them.

Support Martin Fundraiser

As some of you are aware Martin Moulton, CCCA prez, and involved citizen, was dragged into court under hyped up allegations by Mr. Leroy Thorpe, as part of Thorpe’s on going efforts to silence his challengers. No matter how innocent you are, lawyers still cost money, and so the Long View Gallery is hosting a fundraiser, where 100% of monies raised will go to pay for Martin’s legal fees. Anyway here’s the info, hope to see y’all there.

Meet your neighbors and help Martin Moulton

Tuesday, January 19
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Long View Gallery
1234 Ninth Street NW

Friends and supporters of Shaw neighborhood activist and leader Martin Moulton are coming together to help raise funds to pay Martin’s legal fees, helping him defend against recent legal actions taken by Leroy Thorpe. Here’s a link to recent developments or you can review the official legal docket (Case No. 09 CA 007215) by searching “Leroy Thorpe” here.

Please make checks payable to “Harmon Curran” (the law firm representing Martin) and include “Martin Moulton Legal Fees” on the note line at the bottom of your check. Let us know if you prefer to use a credit card so we can process your contribution without incurring transaction fees.

Thank you for your consideration and we hope you will join us.

Host Committee (in formation): Kari and Jason Beard, Ralph Brabham and Drew Porterfield, Frances Evangelista, Mike Gormley, Miles E. Groves, Suzi Molak, The Hon. Alex Padro, Cary Silverman, Stephanie Slewka, Charles Walker, William Waybourn, Deborah Ziska

Please phone 202.518.2453 for more information or RSVP to info@longviewgallery.com by January 16th.

The kids are alright

One of my neighbors is a good neighbor. His goodness is in the fact that he actively does good, as opposed to the definition of “good” being “doesn’t give trouble.” He picks up trash on the sidewalk, not just in front of his house but on our whole block. When he is so inspired, he’ll take the trash pick up to another adjoining block. He works for a non-profit do-gooder organization, that allows him to go to far off lands to spread the good. This winter he and I shoveled our block. He’s a fascinating guy to talk with, good humored and most of the time good natured.
He’s mentioned his father, when I’ve asked or we’ve talked about why he does what he does, in passing. And one day I came upon one of his dad’s lectures on iTunes University, where his father speaks of my neighbor and his brothers as kids. Which is interesting, because many of us come from somewhere else, so we tend to only know our neighbors as their adult selves, with very little knowledge of what they were like as kids, teens, very young adults.
Anyway, my neighbors father is Raymond Bakke, a professor of urban studies/urban ministry, who has some ideas about city living. One of the ideas (of several) that I found a bit hard core was raising children in a poor urban environment. No private schools, no home schooling. And so my neighbor went to the tough Chicago schools, including High School. Bakke advocates for strong parental involvement. As far as making up for what the public schools lack, he suggests extra enrichment classes. Taking what parents may have spent on private school, he points out, those same funds could go to family trips abroad, books, lessons and other experiences that would enrich their children.
The children that Prof. Bakke mentions in his books and lectures are grown now, and I am honored one lives on my block. My neighbor is a product of urban family living, and it seems that the kids are alright.
… next week more grousing from me about bad teenagers.

New Eyes

My 25 year old cousin is enjoying her stay with me, not so much for my company (I’m sure the familial bonds play a part) but because so much is happening outside. My cousin had been holed up in what she calls a ‘housing farm’ up in northern PG County, car-less. The house farm has single family home crops, townhome crops, and condo/apartment crops where she could go days without seeing another human, with her parents as the exceptions. Even on days where she doesn’t leave my house, she sees people walking, drunk guys screaming, homeless guys pushing things, kids screaming, a whole show of humanity all from her window. Maybe I’ve been here too long but the screaming people have lost their charm.
For her the neighborhood is wonderful and exciting, for slightly different reasons I find the neighborhood wonderful and exciting. For her a 2 mile walk in any direction is an enjoyable excursion, and the centrality of the neighborhood is an added bonus. For me centrality good, mixed in with several transportation options, but a >2 mile trek better not include huge highways (New York Avenue) and should have places of interest along the way. Also for me the wonderfulness rests on knowing my neighbors, something she’s cluing into. A couple of neighbor ladies stopped her on the sidewalk to interview/ interrogate/ check her out and another instance (in the middle of the day while I was at work) where she needed a tool, I told her if she didn’t find it, which neighbors were home who might lend her a plunger.
It’s been interesting getting her perspective of the neighborhood.

Great Weekend

Block clean up
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

I want to thank BACA, Anita Bonds our ANC and my neighbor Brian for making for an awesome block treebox planting. BACA (regular meeting is tonight at 7 @ Mt. Sinai) provided a tree, Anita provided the plants, dirt and mulch and Brian was just amazing. Bri organized the residents, going door to door (if you didn’t get the message you weren’t home) a week or so before, talking to neighbors about the treeboxes in front of their homes, getting commitments from neighbors for particular tasks (supervising, digging, etc), and picking up the donated material from Bonds and BACA. The result was a fun work filled morning where new neighbors got to meet each other and older neighbors, kids running around, plants getting planted, treeboxes getting built (Thanks John!) and the block being totally awesome.
More pictures of efforts all over north TC at the BACA blog.

We did get trick or treaters but not as many as last year. I don’t know if it was due to rain, or it being a weekend night or what. We started off with the big gang of 15-20, kids and their parents. They all had barreled out of one parent’s house and slowly made their way down the block. Then a few small clusters of families and I swear one drive by… parents in an SUV who saw some candy action, dropped the kids off, got candy and drove off. I shut down about 10 mins to 9PM, when some neighborhood teens who sorta made an effort came by. When I get teens it’s time to quit.

Trash and the new people

One tell a tale sign of a new neighbor, should the movements of a house absolutely escape us, is trash.
If you have a big alley, your trash tends to get picked up in the rear of the house. If you have a small (too small for a truck) alley or no alley your trash tends to get picked up in the front. And if you are in a multi-unit building your trash might get picked up by a private contractor.
So when you dump your bags of trash onto the sidewalk, where it awaits the cats, squirrels, and birds to put holes in them, you have revealed that you are new. I’m waiting to see if one of your closer neighbors is going to pin a sign on your pile of trash informing you of the proper trash disposal. Like they did the last time a new person set out trash on the sidewalk.

Community Buy In

If you want residential parking for the block, you have to go around and encounter your neighbors. I don’t remember what the percentage, probably 50%, have to sign on to it. Literally sign your petition, with their addresses, to show the city that the community actually wants it. Same thing with speed humps. Walk around, talk to the neighbors, and get the signatures of about half of them. Just a vocal few can’t demand it, like some other things, it requires the consent of some of the other neighbors that don’t go to the civic or ANC, PSA, or district meetings.
I’ve remember going around to neighbors to get petitions sign for things I was against, like a zoning variance. A developer can gather the signatures of whomever happen to be around, and in our neighborhood that can include our loitering masses. Fighting it, meant knocking on doors, introducing yourself and talking with neighbors and convincing them that your cause is right and you really could use their support.
There are just some things that you need the community’s support and buy in for political cover (particularly for contentious topics where there is a sizable/loud contingent against the idea), and permissions (zoning, ABC licensing).

The new guys

This is one of those posts I fear because as soon as I write something positive, a gang of fire-bomb throwing drug dealing door to door con-artist ax murdering plant thieves descend upon the neighborhood. But here goes….
We are no longer up for sale. To my knowledge all the houses on my street have been bought or are under some serious contract. The New New Guy, as opposed to the New Guy and the Other New Guy, was at his place with a contractor and happy to get the neighbors. We got 3 new guys. I had already met the Other New Guy when he was Potential Buyer Dude, and I was probably a little stand offish early on. Mainly because I didn’t know if he was an investor or a person with intentions of living on the block. But now he’s the Other New Guy and I’ve already done the neighborly thing of lending him tools. So for the most part our block (once the two new guys bring in furniture and the other place is confirmed sold) is stabilizing. The old families aren’t going anywhere, there are only a handful of houses rented out, and the majority of the households are rainbow collared** middle class.
And Sunday was just a lovely day. The Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market was good and I enjoyed the Confit Duck Ravioli from Copper Pot. I bought a bunch of cherries and made several batches of cherry liquor to sit. Got strawberries to make more fruit spread and blueberries for my own yogurt mix in.
Besides the monsoon type rains, the neighborhood looked great.

**Some families are middle class through prudence and good financial habits, some have businesses where they work with their hands and get dirty, not everyone is a desk jockey.

Why my block is cool

I am just now chilling out having been at a neighbor’s party for the past 3 hours. A lot of my other neighbors were there, and their kids. The toddlers used their cuteness to get picked up and held by random adults. The 3 to 7 year olds ran in bubble blowing screaming packs. The grown ups drank, ate and conversed. New neighbors were introduced (three new households moved on to our block in the last month). A good time was had by all.
Besides the odd party, a number of us do come together over various things. Just this morning the homeowners of the two houses on the end of the block were cleaning up trash from the sidewalks and gutters. We give advice, exchange information, share garden plants, and lend a hand as well as tools. There are parents who get the kids together. And being so physically close to each other, because our houses are only 12 to 18 feet wide and attached, we are constantly interacting with each other.
Most neighbors, provided they haven’t been completely shunned, do get a wave and a nod. And that makes the block pleasant. But what I think makes it cool are these deeper relationships that go beyond exchanging pleasantries. Yesterday I sat in my neighbor’s backyard, joining them for dinner, talking about anything from Justice Souter, LEED building, to what exactly is growing in that pot?
I thought of the party that was to come and the previous evening’s dinner when I read this morning’s Post’s “From Nod and Wave to Know and Share: How to Spark A Neighborly Connection. It got me thinking about my introduction to the block. It began with two of my neighbors serving as the block’s welcome wagon who encouraged me to go the BACA meetings. I met some neighborhood people there. Several people moved in around about the same time I did, so the general curiosity of asking about work being done (our houses were fixer uppers, some more than others) led to introductions. Oh, and the blog helped too. As well as puttering around in the front yard, having roommates who made connections, and seeing familiar faces in places other than the immediate neighborhood (Hey, don’t you live a few houses down from me?). And it builds, neighbors who you already know introduce you to other neighbors, breaking the ice and giving you a chance to find common interests.
Also, as noted in the article, there are people who are more private. Then there are those whose lifestyles are such getting to know the neighbors is hard. Or worse someone could get stuck in the middle of a bunch of private, superbusy, or reclusive neighbors.
I was chatting with one of the new people at the party, and he was telling me how he’d asked his Realtor about bars and restaurants in the area to get a sense of the place. Well we don’t have any bars and the nicest place to sit down is a coffee shop in the next neighborhood over. But what we do have, few real estate agents would know about and if they did know, they probably couldn’t tell you legally.
If you’re a friendly sort of person, couple, or family with really young kids and you want want to settle down on my block, and happen to have between $400-$500K to spend on a townhouse, email me. We have an opening, and I can tell you as much as I can that your Realtor can’t.