Make your suburban friends jealous – In Shaw – Mari in the Citi

Okay so if you’re young enough or new enough you’re probably spending half, or more than half of your income on a small apartment or tiny townhouse in the city. There is probably a reason why you chose to live in Shaw or Bloomingdale or Mt. Vernon Sq. over Springfield, Beltsville, or Mt. Vernon. For me it is the awesome commute (20 mins from front door to butt at desk) and the ability to live over a decade without owning a car. Maybe for you it’s the 5 minute walk to your favorite bar, or your second favorite bar. Or maybe you see the ridiculousness of driving 10 minutes or more to a gym to spend ½ an hour on a treadmill staring at CNN, when you my citified friend can walk or bike or take a bus to the kickbox-parkour-pilates-power-hot-yoga place…. While on your phone updating your Twitter. Do that in a car and you’ll find yourself wrapped around a pole, or in a ditch.


Our suburban friends, we love them, and I’m sure they love us, but they don’t see why we’d choose less than 1000 sq feet of urban jungle over .25 acres of grass that needs mowing and private parking. Remind them of what they’re missing and why it’s worth it. At least remind yourself.


It helps if your neighborhood is great. I have a bias for Shaw. Even in the bad old days of Shaw, with hot a cold drug dealers and gunshots every other night, it was walkable and close to Downtown with lots of transportation options (bus and metro train). Yes, no one wanted to deliver food to you, or come by and pick you up in their cab, but I had more options in early 00s Shaw than I did in Hyattsville. Now, Shaw is amazing and gets more amazing each day. There is still crime and drug dealing but the good mostly outshines the bad. There are more transportation options, I can start sentences with, “Lets get an Uber …” and have one at my door in less than 4 minutes. There are 2 Capital Bikeshare stations within a 3 minute walk from my house. And there are those little Car2Go things all over the place. I can walk to church, to either the Giant or the Safeway, to the metro, and to more than 50 bars, restaurants, and other eateries. There are a handful of places that want to deliver food to me from more than 100 restaurants.

Inside BKK on Snow DayWhen we had that big snowstorm (yes, I know it is summery now… finally) and the streets were blocked and folks who lived in less dense areas were stuck in their houses. We, were able to trudge to the restaurants and businesses that were open because some business owners were local. That was one little perk of living in town.

So enjoy the life you live, in the city.

This page contains a single entry by Mari published on May 25, 2016 11:06 PM.

Visitors Stink After a While – In Shaw – Mari in the Citi

Let me start of with a story about my mom, who I think is a wonderful person. She lives way over in Florida in the same town as my sister. My sister loves my mom as much as I do, but doesn’t think mom is as wonderful for reasons that I will explain.
On the rare occasions my mom comes up to DC I love having her visit. Mom would visit my sister almost every other day, because she could do that because they live in the same town, the grandkids want rides (to the mall/ the movies/ etc) and she has a key to the house. So it wasn’t too hard to imagine sis being annoyed after coming home from work to find mom in her house. The occasional visit is nice, the constant dropping by and hanging out (not always at the request of the grandkids) became intolerable, even though it is mom, who’s wonderful.

Corner guys
Now if someone as lovely and nice as my mother can make a nuisance of herself, the same can be said of the old guys on the corner.

The old guys claim to the area is they used to live around here. Fine, but still not a valid reason to hang behind a shuttered store under the “No Trespassing” signs almost every day. They may have friends and family in the area. Cool, they should visit them. Let those friends feel the same thing I feel coming home to see a gaggle of 5-6 or more hanging out on the corner.

They also don’t help that commercial strip. Right now there is only 1 business operating there. The corner store is closed and having a bunch of men hanging out back probably didn’t help and may have hurt. I worry about the prospects of that strip with that crowd constantly there.

I could bring up the drug dealing, and the public drinking but I will leave that for now.

The problem with mom has been semi-resolved. She comes over less often, but now finds herself with little to do, so she’s thinking of going back to work as a nurses aid. Part-time.

This page contains a single entry by Mari published on May 14, 2016 3:29 PM.

Cleaning up with Brother Brian and Father Watkins

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.

Brian 1

In 2001 Brian and his wife moved to DC, as renters.  Compared to where they used to live in Chicago, Shaw, even with its problems “was nothing.” Arriving, he “asked God about this. How does a white man enter an all black neighborhood, or predominately black neighborhood?” His prayers were answered with a phrase, “Go get a broom, use it,” followed later by, “And be silent until someone speaks to you.” Quietly Brian began picking up trash and throwing it into black contractor bags on the 1600 block of 4th St. NW. Slowly he has expanded his area to include the 400 block of R St up to 5th St and around Florida Ave NW. Despite Shaw being less dangerous than Chicago, he still found weapons, “I’ve collected a number of knives, scary ones,” along with other objects.

Both men make prayer a part of their trash removal efforts. Fr. Watkins prays the rosary while sweeping and Brian prays for the drug dealers, the people in the houses and for himself. “I love to pray the rosary*,” Watkins admits with some enthusiasm. When he picks up and sweeps the sidewalks, which he does at least once a day, he can pray 3 rosaries at 15 minutes each, reflecting and praying for intercessions for the parish and himself. He said he’s not big on praying the rosary while sitting in a quiet space, but rather while he’s doing other things so that his prayers are infused with his work. For Brian, a Protestant, prayer pervades his cleaning activities, as well. “When I’m out sweeping, ” Brian said, “I’m usually talking with God or arguing with God, or shouting at God,” quietly, as to not to scare the pedestrians. “I try to be in prayer the whole time, and I’m not always successful. Actually a lot of time, I’m really struggling with my own dirtiness. My own brokenness. The Bible would call it sin. I’m a mess just like everyone else.” Intertwined in these prayers, conversations and internal struggles is that bit of neighborhood activism that sent Brian out to the streets in Chicago. Here, drug dealing is the problem, so here he sweeps up the dime bags. He takes up the humble position of servant and cleans under the drug dealer’s car and sweeps quietly around the dealer, as it is, “just a cheap excuse to just keep praying and praying and praying until he [the drug dealer] leaves. That’s been wonderful to see that happen. Of course, they keep coming back. So…. ” Then he reflects, “the Bible reminds me that I need to be relentless and paints the beautiful picture of the old woman who flies at the judge ’cause she’s been denied justice.** And that’s [how] God wants us to approach this.”

Being out on the streets, cleaning up as often as they do, they have found it to be a great way to meet and really get to know their neighbors. “I meet people,” Fr. Watkins put it, ” I could stay inside my house all day, or inside the church or I could go off in the car.. But to be on the streets, you bump into the parents dropping of the kids at the school.” He adds, “It gives me a chance to chat with people along the way. I get to know them by name, otherwise I would never know some of the neighbors around us. So it [the street cleaning] serves a lot of other purposes which benefit me personally, and the parish.”

The way of the broom was Brian’s method for first getting to know his then black neighbors. As the demographics in the neighborhood have changed he now sees his role changed from ‘new comer’ to ‘connector’, linking the now new people to the older neighbors or groups or whatever in the neighborhood that would help the newer, and typically younger residents find that desired connection where they live. Brian is typically out on Sunday mornings, so regularly that it has become like office hours. People have said to him, “I know that I could find you out here on Sunday. I just had to walk around until I saw you. So anyway, can I talk to you…” The conversations are not forced and they flow freely. From my own experience and talking with neighbors, there have been some deep thought provoking conversations out there on the sidewalks, the kind of talks that you used to have in college at 2AM. Brian has also been good company for sharing a joke or passing along general information.

Besides seeing demographic changes, they’ve seen changes in what gets dumped on the sidewalk and in the streets. Watkins notes that 2005 was the year the needles disappeared. When Brian started, there were more used diapers. He finds fewer hair extensions, which he considers a creepy kind of litter in the way it clings to the sidewalk like a starfish, and then hops on to his broom as if it had a life of its own. As the neighborhood changed, not just in who moved in and who moved out, but in how people used the spaces in the neighborhood, the men have made progress in the war on trash. With the construction of the City Market at O project, some groups no longer hang out or ‘party’ as frequently as they did before on 8th St., leaving empty Patron bottles or other evidence of the night’s activities, that become the morning’s trash.

Please clean up after your dog

Though changes in the neighborhood reduced most trash, it introduced another kind of refuse, poop. Canine fecal matter arrived about 6 years ago. Brian mentioned how the presence of dog walkers helps reduce crime, but yes, there are a lot more droppings. Fr. Watkins responded to the problem by placing reminders along 8th for dog walkers to pick up after their pets. He’s gotten positive feedback from owners as the signs communicate a tasteful and positive message.

At some level the men would like others to take ownership of their own patch of sidewalk or block.  Watkins wishes people would take responsibility for their property, take care about the way it is presented and develop a sense of community pride. “DC would be a different place if people took on a greater ownership of the spaces where they live, work and play,” says Brian. He later added, “There is an appalling lack of public ownership. Some theologians and philosophers call it the ‘public good,’ or the ‘greater good’.”

There is no guarantee that if you began cleaning up your street or block tomorrow that you will meet and really get to know your neighbors. Nor is it recommended that you go out and directly confront drug dealers with a broom and dustpan. But if everyone were to lay claim to their yard and the sidewalks in front, eliminating the signs of chaos, DC would definitely be a different place, a better place.

*A rosary is a form of devotion in which five, or fifteen, decades (set of ten) of Hail Marys are repeated, each decade preceded by an Our Father and followed by a Glory Be. Typically practiced by Roman Catholics.
**Luke 18:1-8. See the parable of the persistent widow.

Quiet July 4th

Now if you moved into the neighborhood less than a year ago you’ll probably think I’m nuts, but really this was a quiet July 4th, compared to previous years. Since I wasn’t invited to anyone’s rooftop this year, I stayed home and decide to watch a chick flick with a glass of wine. At a point the localized explosions brought me outside where B. was sitting on his porch. Then a neighbor across the street ventured out and we then made our way to the end of the block to catch a glimpse of the Mall’s fireworks beyond the trees (damned trees!).
Last year I mainly stayed in for the smoke because the empty space at the end of the block had served as a staging area for a local fireworks show. This year that space was filled with parked cars. Some guy walking by expressed his amazement that my block wasn’t getting blown up. He said that there had always been something in the last 40 years. I can believe it. But this year, nada. Now there was something going on in the direction of the Cook/Slater schools, maybe even the Armstrong (CAPCS) school lot.
Yes, there will be more fireworks going off for the next few days or weeks. Now either I’ve gotten so that I can mentally block them out or there are fewer non-July 4th fireworks going off. Normally, one can expect nighttime explosions until early August. Since this year seems comparatively quiet, the noise may cease earlier, like mid July.

Looks Like We’ll Have a Library This Summer

The following announcement came across some of the listservs about the Waltha Daniels/ Shaw Library.

Dear Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library Patron,

The new Watha T. Daniel/Shaw library located at 1630 7th St. N.W.,
across from the Shaw Metro station is scheduled to open on Monday, Aug.
2. The Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Interim Library, located at 945 Rhode Island
Ave., N.W. will close Tuesday, July 13 at 5:30 pm in order to move to
the new library.

The new three-story library is approximately 22,000 square feet and will
feature separate reading areas for adults, teens and children; a
children’s program room; space for 80,000 books, DVDs, CDs and other
library materials; 32 public access computers with free Wi-Fi Internet
access; comfortable seating for 200 customers; large program room for up
to 100 people; two 12-person conference rooms; and a vending area.

The nearest libraries are Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Library, 901 G
St, N.W. and Northwest One, 155 L St, N.W. Library users can return or
renew books at any DC Public Library.


Well, yay! I’ll admit I haven’t ventured over to the trailers when the library building was getting worked on because my lazy self thought an extra block and a half was too far to go for horrid flashbacks of the classroom trailers I had to endure in high school.
Now I wonder how strong that wi-fi signal is going to be as I imagine internet junkies hanging around the outside with their Starbucks cups. I’m glad to see that there will a section for children, which hopefully will include children’s books, something woefully lacking in the old building. Though I avoided children’s anything in library school, I do realize the great importance of reading to small children. I hope the library will have the classics Cat in the Hat, and Goodnight Moon.
While I have your attention I’m going to propose calling the new building the Shaw library because people keep thinking ‘Waltha’ was a woman and it’s too Barry-era to me. Shaw, is the neighborhood name.

This page contains a single entry by Mari published on July 2, 2010 10:28 AM.

Believe me when I say there is trash

Trash bag and trash

Shane on Q has been to BACA meetings before to plead for help or some relief from the trash that piles up on the 100-200 block of Q Street NW. The street gets cleaned up on the Co-op’s side, and I gather that is due to management of the property and its block proper. However the opposite side of the street gets to have McDonald’s bags, liquor bottles, and today, watermelon rind littered upon it. The only one cleaning it up (unless you witness someone else also doing it tell me) is Shane. And Shane is getting kinda frustrated.For Flower Power I did a walkby on Q, noticed the trash and decided to get a bag and clean up. I ran into Shane and he offered to join me. He wondered if he should leave the trash so that when the FP group walked through we’d see the trash and understand his predicament. Noted that his problem was he was out of the range of cleaning crews and trash pick up guys. 100-200 Q is too far west of the North Capitol and NOMA clean up crews. It is too far north for the lone guy from S.O.M.E. picking up trash. Too far east for Brian (big tall blond guy with the trash can). And not adjacent to a major church, which would have some caretaker.

I suggested residential parking. Now I’ve just had an unfortunate incident with residential parking as my new roommate got a ticket, with me thinking that parking enforcement wouldn’t be around. Wrong, so I am very aware of the downsides of resident parking. But I think it might help with the trash. The trash come from people visiting and being bad guests, tossing their trash on the street. Now my block got the residential parking to combat drug dealers. The presence of drug dealers is down, but that comes from a combination of things of which parking was a tool.

This page contains a single entry by Mari published on June 26, 2010 11:38 AM.


Apparently from the Shaw listserv and a conversation/discussion/ friendly debate I had with Truxton Circle Scott about the BBC liquor license, noise is a theme.

It seems that someone was having a party. A loud one somewhere around N and 6th Streets. It went a little late, late enough for someone to take the mike and tell their fellow party attendees to keep it down for the neighbors before blasting more music. Loud enough for people to call the cops. If the cops came or not, little matter. In my own experience the problem is cops come, the music may get turned down, cops leave, music/noise goes back up. Neighbors lash out in variety of ways, one is cultivating deep hatred that may manifest itself at the next community ‘we all need to work together’ thing.

Scott and I were talking about some of the concerns surrounding the Big Bear Café liquor license. Scott is completely for it, even though the hours on the application go way past their current to the witching hours. And we got to talking about volunteer agreements and how they are applied where he works and where his tenant/housemate works. He’s in a completely commercial area, they close fairly early 10-11PM though they can go to 2AM, housemate in a very mixed part of Dupont, where they shut down at 10-11PM and have to gently put glass bottles in receptacles because of noise. Both are restaurants.

Scotty (you know I love you) was being dismissive of my noise concerns, saying we live in a city, it’s noisy. I was trying to relate how with different noises, some bother me, others don’t. Sirens blaring on the next street, the now rare gunshots, sometimes the call to prayer from the mosque, cars passing, odd firecrackers a block off, and buses I can tolerate enough to sleep though. Of course the 5AM-ish call to prayer has a 25% chance of waking me up a good hour before my alarm goes off and pissing me off enough to write a terse letter to the imam. People carrying on a prolonged BS session in their yards (patios/ decks) along the alley will keep me up. Dumping your glass recyclables in the alley at 2AM will definitely wake me up. Base, I can feel through my bed and is simply intolerable. If it is a car, I let it pass. If it is a neighbor I debate whether I want to get dressed and ask them to turn it down or do I want to reach over to the phone and call the cops?

There was an illegal night club on P St. near North Cap. I passed by it once when someone with drums was practicing. My impression was that it was being used as band practice space and seemed buffered by the Slater and Langston schools to be no bother to the residents of the area. Imagine my surprise when a resident who lives way on the other end of P said he could hear the music inside his house. He made an effort to shut the place down.

Some parts of the city are louder than others and the type of noise is different depending where you go.

Monday walkabout

Greetings from the free and liberating part of Shaw, Truxton Circle. Pretty much a block or two away from the Convention Center nothing looks different. Well except for police loitering over at Dunbar or in the park across from the Safeway.
I walked around. Ran some errands. The register was down at the 5th St Hardware and I think I saw Michelle Rhee walking out the Safeway with her assistant/ aide/ some random guy pushing her cart. 5th Street is normal. 6th Street appears to have the 70 bus running down it. Military vehicles block 7th and 9th and a tiny portion of 8th for one level of security. The G2 seems to be running normal on P, and taxis were running up and down O. I was able to walk by the Humvees and military personnel towards the checkpoints without showing any ID. The sidewalk is blocked off at 7th and O on both sides and I didn’t test whether ID required to walk to the front door of 1330 7th St. Little matter as you can get to their parking lot from the rear.
I spoke with one resident living in the militarized zone and he pretty much had a good spirit about it all. Of course he complained about the set up noise and the helicopters flying overhead kept him up at night. Also he’s happy he’s parked in just the right space where it is close enough, but doesn’t require the military to unblock his way.
Also I noticed on my walk, some hangerouters moved to sitting in cars and throwing chicken bones out of open windows. I nearly got hit by a bone. The grocery stores were busy. Azi’s didn’t look busy. But it was 11 something and one guy in there. I don’t know how busy they are normally.
Some others have reported on the security around the area. Such as Economic Policy Journal looking more at the south end. The BAANC blog editor worries about fire safety. CCCA has a clever SHAW MASH post but I’m guessing the military medical vehicle wasn’t sitting in front of Kennedy when the Prez was out there. Cause that would have been a good picture. Maybe I should walk out again (I forgot something at the store) and take a picture of it.

From- Subject: [MPD-5D] Neighbors Who Are Unable to Get Around

Because me knocking on some strangers door while I’m angry is not a good idea. My neighbors and I have shoveled our street, but the routes to the Giant, the Metro and most bus stops are ice covered danger zones for the elderly who walk with canes and have basically shut in the wheelchair bound.

Haven’t you noticed fewer or almost no motorized wheelchairs around lately? So my sympathy is for the people who have been trapped in their homes because others are too lazy or too cheap (there are 10 yr olds w/ shovels looking to make money) to shovel their sidewalks.

Look around at who is getting around and notice who is missing.
This morning mothers are having to lead their small children through small icy trails of yellow lined paths to get to school.
The wrongness of it angers me because pedestrians deserve better and they deserve justice.

The preceeding was in response to this regarding ticketing for lack of snow removal on the MPD 5th District listserv:

Yes, businesses should be ticketed, but have you knocked on the door of your neighbors and asked why they have not shoveled?
> Maybe there is a sick and shut in person or someone not physically able to move the amount of snow that is out there. I have lived in my neighborhood for eight years and my husband and son are very vigilant about keeping our space shoveled. However, during this last storm, our shovel broke and although our area was shoveled for the first storm, he could not shovel with his hands and he could not even get out of the parking space to look for one. My neighbor came to the rescue and let us borrow one until we were able to purchase a new one.
> I am tired of the snow more than the next person, but be neighborly and see what the circumstance is before begging to give someone a ticket. This is an unusual storm and unless you are young and very able, the ice is very difficult to move even for the strongest man right now.
> Calm down people and have a little patience.

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.