Friday, December 14, 2007

Fenty Tackles Sursum Corda

Not really in our neck of the woods, so to speak, but an interesting piece in the WaPo this morning about plans pushed by mayor Fenty for a complete redevelopment of the treacherous housing project known as Sursum Corda. I'll admit to having some degree of personal interest in this, since the 'Corda has attained virtual mythical status in our household for its highly concentrated levels off crime and general depravity.

You can view the WaPo article in full here.

People from the Logan Circle/Shaw/Mt. Vernon Square area who view the article will likely raise an eyebrow at the second sentence in the piece:

The $700 million project announced this morning involves some of the last undeveloped land on the outskirts of Washington's booming downtown.

Really? So, once they're done with the Sursum Corda project, pretty much all of downtown's close-in neighborhoods will have been redeveloped and/or reviatlized? That's likely to be news for those of you living around the Convention Center or most areas of Shaw.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fifth Day of Christmas (Shopping): Travel Gifts

I'm going to have to speed up my gift ideas postings before Christmas is upon us. Accordingly, gifts for the travelers in your life:

Little Luxuries
Go Mama Go (1809 14th St.) has a bunch of small items that make trips a little easier and more pleasant. Consider subtly scented luggage refreshers in fun patterns. For tired eyes, silk covered eye pillows and eye shades may help. Find all three of the above on a table in the center section of the store. Go Mama Go also stocks mini Archipelago Botanicals face and body products small enough to make it though airport security. For a little on-the-road soothing for mind a tummy, you can also pick up travel tins of five tea bags each. Flavors range from fruit-infused black teas to holiday spice, and a variety of greens.

To freshen the guest bedroom or hotel room, Candleman (1745 Connecticut Ave.) has Botanicus candles in mini tins. For Yankee Candle haters these are strong but not cloying candles scented with essentials oils -- from a Maryland company to boot.

We would all love to have the cashmere hoodie and travel blanket from Horchow. If you can't justify breaking the bank on a blankie for big kids, West Elm (1020 G St.) has very soft cotton bamboo blend throws. Weird, bamboo.

Pack It
Stop using those paper luggage tags from the airline flight desk. Now that you're an adult, try durable and more attractive alternatives. Go Mama Go stocks plain and elegant leather tags in neutrals and soft contemporary tones. Home Rule (1807 14th St.) stocks vinyl tags in bright colors and psychedelic patterns. Candida's World of Books (1541 14th Street) has super durable hard plastic and nylon webbing ArtTags with attractive photos of world landmarks encapsulated within. At Go Mamma Go and Pulp (1803 14th St.) find passport covers to coordinate with you new luggage tags.

Go Mamma Go also carries every size zip pouch and reusable shopping tote. Designs here are modern, not froo-froo, and include small metal mesh zippered bags on keychains, leather pencil cases, and bags made of woven plastic.

Stay Fresh and Clean
Germ phobes will appreciate adorably packaged Cheeky Monkey hand wipes from Pulp. Whole Foods has some less adorably packaged but nicely scented antibacterial hand gels. Fight travel breath with mints in novelty tins from Pulp. High maintenance travelers will like beauty products from Blue Mercury (Kiehls, Bliss, Dermalogica, Acqua di Parma). With a rotating stock of special holiday gift sets, it may be easier than usual to find travel-appropriate sizes.

Travel Books and Maps
Travel narratives will get your giftee in the mood for the journey ahead. I particularly like Bill Byson's yarns. In a Sunburned Country should be required reading for anyone going to Australia. Find numerous other travel stories at Candida's World of Books

In a twist on the traditional guide book, Go Mama Go has pocket size guide books to major US and international cities. The guides are bound in durable vinyl and even include a useful compass on the spine. Candida's stocks guides from the major publishers as well as maps. For your relatives who always get lost in DC, pick them up a full or pocket size local map.

One of my favorite romantic ideas for travelers is Places to Check Out: A Do-It-Yourself Travel Guide, a spiral-bound notebook decorated after the design of US passport pages for your travel thoughts. Any sort of travel journal is well suited for the introspective globetrotter. Try Written Word or Pulp for some nice ones.

For anyone who's ever griped about travel, there are books for the surly adventurer. At Kramer's or Candida' have a look for the following: Jon Krakaeuer gives us a ton or reasons never to go into the back country from Into the Wild to Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven, a story of fundamentalist nuts holed up in the desert southwest. Stephen Clarke indulges in a favorite pastime of Americans in Europe -- poking fun of the French-- in his book A Year in the Merde. The paranoid will like Worst Case Scenario Handbook: Travel. Folks who have had a State Department assignment or leisure travel experience in the developing world might like the Jetlag Travel Guides. Countries explored in the Jetlag series include Phaic Tan, San Sombrero, and Molvania.

Nostalgic Traveler or Homesick Ex-Pat
Candida's carries travel books that are more than just guides to other locales. To get in the cultural spirit of your favorite places, you can find poetry, travel narratives, fiction, and cookbooks from around the world.

Remind your giftee of his favorite place(s) on the globe with a photo from Claude Taylor’s Gallery (1627 Connecticut Ave.) A great coffee table book is Transit Maps of the World from Proper Topper in Dupont or Georgeotwn; some of the maps themselves are art and others will help you figure out where you took a wrong turn in Rome. Food can be another happy reminder of time spent abroad. Try some sweets and treats from World Market or pre-fab international cooking kits from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Quick Question

At 14th and Church:

Been looking at this quite a while now. 1) How did such a massive spill of white sparkly paint happen? (Looks like road paint.) 2) How is it that anyone walked through it after seeing the footprints of the first person to walk through it?

Heard in Passing

Outside Be Bar: "DC just hasn't found its identity yet."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One Step Closer to a Better Giant

The O Street Market and Giant complex ( a little background here) will go through. Fifth and O already has a summary of last night's zoning board meeting, so I'll direct you there for the details. All in all this is great news for Shaw and a ray of hope for all Giant patrons, even if we'll be losing some high-rise penthouses in the process.

Up until now I never really paid attention to the Zoning Commission. Some of its more newsworthy decisions seemed to me to be nonsensical, but of little personal consequence. The O Street Market situation casused me to look into the ZC a little more. According to their website, "The Zoning Commission is an independent, five-member, quasi-judicial body in the District of Columbia . . . . Three members of the ZC are residents of the District of Columbia appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council." (I'm really not quite sure what "quasi-judicial" means as compared to "judicial".) Last night the chairman of the Commission stated that as judicial body it was inappropriate for anyone to lobby the Commission. Nevertheless, I feel that when the ZC is acting against the wishes of the mayor, neighborhood residents, and ANC commissioners, they need to know it. The ZC is basically self-regulating, so for development projects that do not meet criteria for Board of Zoning Appeals review, the ZC is the only body that can make judgment calls. Without resident and elected official's input, how can we check the power of the ZC to ensure that their decisions really are consistent with the regs and that exceptions to regs are granted when appropriate (and only when appropriate)?

By the by, the ZC has embarked on a comprehensive rewrite of the city's zoning laws. ANC 2F Chairman Charles Reed is lobbying for the ANCs to have input in this process, and hopes to form a committee of 2F residents. Given the impact that the law rewrite could have on DC, I would argue that this is a far more important and sexy issue than it sounds to be. A lot of great developments and sensible home improvements have been blocked by current zoning laws while a whole lot of awful projects made it through the filter. More of my thoughts on this matter to come soon . . .

This Morning's Aggravation Brought to You by Metro

U Street, 8:25 a.m.

I snapped this after standing on the platform for a minute or two. Predictably, the first train to pull in was packed. The operator closed the doors after a few passengers entered and then reminded us that another train was close behind. I managed to board the second train — about 15 minutes after I entered the station. Some passengers waiting at Shaw/Howard who were unable to board the first or second train experienced a wait of up to 18 to 20 minutes — in rush hour. I know that Metro has limited resources, and even the best train systems have delays at times. What seems odd to me is the delayed train followed by two subsequent trains only a few minutes apart.

After exiting at Gallery Place having missed my morning coffee date with Mr. 14th and You, I walked up to the sales office at Metro Center. Our two G-spot SmarTrips (we could only sometimes find the magic spot and wrist action to activate the gate) had finally died, and I decided to make the effort to replace one after months of procrastination. With three SmartTrips in our household, I had no idea which one I grabbed, other than it was a busted one. What I came to find out at the sales office is that my husband had registered the card. As he was living in Gaithersburg at the time of the purchase, and his address was different than the one on my driver's license, I could not replace the SmarTrip. However, had we shared the same last name (I made a conscious decision to not change my name after marriage) I could have replaced the card. Though I could name the registered card holder and his address while waving my wedding-banded finger at the window, I had no luck.

Mr. 14th and You will now have to go to Metro Center himself. Our other option, to mail the card in, is unacceptable; I have lost $30 in fare cards by mailing them in to Metro. I took a receipt for one of those farecards to Metro Center today. After waiting a year for reimbursement to arrive in the mail, I hoped that I could resolve the issue by bringing the Metro mailing envelope receipt to the sales office. If I had taken the de-magnetized card to Metro Center rather than mail it in, sales office staff would have replaced the card for me, so it seemed logical that the sales office could replace that card today. However, since I had mailed that card to Metro for replacement, the sales office can no longer help me; my fare card now falls under the jurisdiction of another office. Argh.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Fourth Day of Christmas (Shopping): For Arts Lovers

Logan and Dupont are perfect for finding gifts for your artsy and arts-loving giftees. So if you didn't get all of your holiday gift buying done on cyber Monday, I have a few suggestions for you. I'll keep rolling them out by category over the next few days or so. For the most part gift suggestions are ordered by approximate cost.

Gifts for Artists
Help your favorite starving artist with a gift of high-end supplies from Utrecht at 1250 I St. My personal favorite are the uber-creamy Prismacolor pencils.

Surprise a musically inclined giftee by refurbishing his college guitar. Sophocles Pappas’ Guitar Shop (1216 Connecticut Ave.) provides repairs and restringing. They also offer lessons if your favorite musician also needs retuning.

Visual artists may also appreciate having their opus framed. Gallery 2000 (1601 Connecticut Ave.) can help to dress up and preserve most flat compositions.

Classes for Arts ‘n’ Craftsy Types
Crafty folks may enjoy offerings from G Street Fabrics (11854 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD). Though the sewing class options are certainly plentiful and diverse, one can also take crochet and knitting courses, some jewelry making classes, bookbinding workshops, and home design instruction.

This area has two institutions offering professional level instruction in a variety of media – the Arts League of Washington at the Torpedo Factory (10 North Union St., Alexandria, VA) and Glen Echo Park (7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD). Classes range from darkroom photography to silver jewelry making and glass blowing. Some courses are one or two day weekend seminars and others meet once a week over a two month session.

Gifts of art
We have quite a few galleries and other retailers selling art in our neighborhood. Photography is usually the least expensive type of artwork to buy, but if you want to splurge you can buy one of Tipper Gore's masterpieces at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (1526 14th Street NW) for about $800 to $2200. But there are plenty of stores in the more affordable range. My favorite are the color photographs at Claude Taylor’s gallery (1627 Connecticut Avenue). His prints range in price from a very reasonable $20 for an unframed 5”x7” photo to $200 for a framed 14”x20”image. The gallery is also holding a five for the price of four sale. Taylor’s images capture iconic and prototypical scenes from famous sites around the world – a perfect gift for the traveler or former foreign exchange student. His palette tends to skew toward saturated reds, blues, greens and oranges, a lively complement to minimalist neutral home interiors.

If black and white photography is more your style, and Tipper is beyond your desired price point, Pulp (1801 14th St.) is currently featuring works by Frank Muzzy. Many of his photos feature architecture and stone sculpture rendered in black and white in medium contrast. Relatively large framed pictures are selling in the $400-ish range.

We also have a few galleries in the area featuring gorgeous paintings. My mostest favoritest artist, Chris Stephens is current exhibiting at Longview (1302 9th Street). His works are primarily slightly abstracted landscapes and stark representations of buildings. One of the pieces currently hanging reminds me of Van Gogh in both palette, brush stroke, and starkness. A serene composition of depicting a landscape along a river looks like a contemporary interpretation of the impressionist style. The prices range from $250 for his studies on board to thousands for his larger framed compositions. If his work is within your price range, I think it’s a fabulous value.

Also at Longview are some some more affordable gift items including wooden bowls and ceramic gift bags that look exactly like the paper versions — very wild.

For art lovers whose pockets aren’t as deep, Plan B (1530 14th Street) has a December show of art priced at $500 and under. I haven’t seen the exhibit yet so I can’t really say what types of art are hanging, but I can say that I’ve liked past shows there – everything from non representational abstract art to more traditional landscapes.

I will also recommend the Nevin Kelly Gallery at 1517 U Street. This month’s show is “Attainable Art” featuring works under $1500. The show includes artworks from a number of the gallery’s regular artists. Subject matter ranges from non-representational color block compositions to still lives and abstract works depicting people.


Representin' the 2 triple zero 9

And I continue at my poor attempts to make ANC meeting notes humorous . . .

The meeting that night was amazingly short due, in part, to few items on the business meeting agenda. Dyer, running the meeting in Reed's absence, was also adept at keeping the meeting moving.

The P Street bus stop issue is still coming up. The P Street resident who remains very concerned has asked for the assistance of the Mayor's office and DDOT.

The review of ABRA matters was really fast. Though there were 15 restaurants/bars/clubs up for renewal, only two will be protested Vegas Lounge and Be Bar. Both have created noise issue for their neighbors. In particular Be Bar seems to be a nuisance on Sunday nights at closing time.

The ANC will be reviewing its ABRA policy, which can be seen here. In short, the document outlines what our ANC will and will not support when an establishment seeks a new ABC license or modifies an existing license. The document also contains sample voluntary agreements that the ANC enters into with almost all alcohol serving businesses. For the most part, the policies totally make sense we try to prevent liquor and convenience stores from selling rolling papers and other potential paraphernalia, we seek to limit the sale of single beverages, we ask that businesses keep their properties tidy. Other stock elements of the voluntary agreements can be seen as overly restrictive. For example, the ANC seeks to dictate the hours when garbage should be picked up. The ANC also wants to make voluntary agreements enforceable for new owners who may take over an existing business, a move that could affect the value of a business for sale. Anyways . . . if you feel that the ABRA policies are not restrictive enough or too restrictive you have an opportunity to sit on the committee that will make recommendations for revising the ABC Guidelines. If you're interested contact the ANC.

In other news, the CDC has recommended that the ANC support down-zoning in order to prevent one and two-story "pop-up" additions to townhomes and rowhouses in our neck of the woods. You can see my thoughts on the matter here.

The US District Attorney's office has begun sending a representative, Roger Kemp, to the ANC meetings, as was promised a few months ago. He reported that Gregory Teal, the bicycle thief who was caught red-handed but initially was not prosecuted, is now awaiting trial. Two of the guys who were perpetrating home invasions in our area our now awaiting sentencing. Lt. Smith also reported that overall crime was down in our neighborhood. So, overall, good news from the law enforcement side.

The bus shelter at the Southwest corner of P Street the one near the entrance to Transformer will be removed and not replaced.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's ANC Monthly Meeting Week

Hi, everyone, and happy Monday. This is just a reminder that ANC 2F will hold its monthly meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Washington Plaza Hotel in Thomas Circle. ANC 1B will meet the following night at 7 p.m. at 1200 U Street.

ANC 2F agenda highlights:
There will be a report from the CDC regarding the redevelopment of the Central Union Mission. If you missed the completely unannounced CDC meeting (as I did), this will be a good chance to catch up. There are 14 bars and restaurants under the ABRA matters list. I'm sure that some of the application renewals and modifications will be contentious, so it's worth attending and speaking up in defense of your favorite neighborhood haunts. As well, there is an agenda item to call for volunteers to work on an ABRA policy revision. I don't know what the policy revision may affect, but if you feel strongly about establishments selling alcohol in our area, being a part of the revision process could be a good way to serve your neighborhood.

ANC 1B agenda highlights:
ANC 1B has 15 bars, clubs, and restaurants with ABC applications or renewals pending. Check out the extensive list here to see if you want to voice your support or objections publicly. The ANC will also be discussing space for a public art project and three grant applications for $2000 each.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More on O Street Market

Roadside Development unveiled its plans for the O Street Market/Giant complex to ANC 2F during the August CDC meeting. The meeting was well attended, and I don't recall a single negative comment about the proposed development. In fact, folks seem to be very excited about the rehab of that lot and plans for other residential and retail development in the area.

However, the Zoning Commission is determined not to approve the Roadside's current design despite overwhelming support from ANC 2C and ANC 2F residents, council members , ANC commissioners, and Mayor Fenty. The Zoning Commission objects to the building height and the high density of development. Many worry that the Zoning Comission's desired changes will limit Roadsides's ability to include extensive parking -- necessary to serve new condo residents, grocery shoppers, and retail customers in this complex.

The Zoning Commission does not provide for citizen testimony of any sort. As we already have the support of our elected representation, there really aren't too many more public figures to appeal to regarding this matter. Our last opportunity to influence the proceedings will be the Zoning Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, December 10 (directions here). Showing our support with a large physical presence is key for impressing upon officials how important this matter is to us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Defense of Tim Page

Must we hear about it every time this crack addict attempts to rehabilitate himself with some new -- and typically half-witted -- political grandstanding? . . . . I cannot think of anything the useless Marion Barry could do that would interest me in the slightest.
In my eyes, Tim Page of the Washington Post is guilty of one thing only: violation of his employer's technology policy. I have myself sent some intemperent letters to city officials and Wahington Post writers from work email addresses. And a plurality of my readers are accessing this blog at 9 a.m. or 5 p.m. using T1 connections. I would have to guess that some of you shouldn't technically be doing personal surfing during the work day. But if we get caught the worst penalties usually fall far short of a public flogging.

Let's review elements of Page's email:

"I cannot think of anything the useless Marion Barry could do that would interest me in the slightest, up to and including overdose."
Granted, I can't support wishing anyone dead or implying that their death is of no concern to me. Yet, Barry has served as a council member or mayor for about 23 of the past 32 years; that he gets reelected is the single best reason I can think of for DC public school reform. It does seem like nothing short of death will end his reign -- even permanent incapacitation. In fact, he could be like Tupac and keep up the idiocy from beyond the grave.

But given that Barry is alive, well, and serving perpetually in public office, all Tim Page and I can do is to ignore him. He is going to be embarrassing to our city and ineffective as a leader. And as long as that happens, I will continue to cringe and rant every time I see him get media coverage. So, yes, I do understand why Page would say that nothing Barry could do, up to and including an overdose, is of interest to him; ignoring Barry is a good way for him to keep his blood pressure down.

Crack Addiction
Fact: Barry is a crack addict and has been since at least 1988 when investigations of his drug use began. As early as 1984 he was accused of using coke by his paramour and fellow user who was also DC government employee. In my opinion Barry is the worst type of addict -- the type who not only puts himself through the hell of multiple arrests, incarceration, and financial ruin, but who puts others at risk. Those others are the entire population of DC whom he has represented throughout his two decades of drug problems. Not only does he make bad decisions as a leader, he's ineffective. As well Barry has supported the coke and crack drug trade, one of the largest contributors to violence in DC and a plague on Ward 8. If we look at just his recent transgressions, Barry decided not to pay into the city budget that the council spends; he failed to pay completely his federal and DC taxes from 1999 to 2004. He then violated his plea bargain in that case by failing to file on time in 2005. He also endangered the lives of others by driving under the influence. For these reasons, I am inclined to think that calling him a "crack addict" is almost polite as compared to "crack head," which better connotes his irresponsibility.

Yet Bary believes that he has been unfairly labeled. If you call him a crack head, support the Park Police for booking Barry on a DUI, or think that he should be prosecuted for tax evasion you are, according to Barry, racist. I think that he is the one making the hideous equation of being black with being a drug addicted repeat law violator.

Maybe Barry isn't useless to his family, friends, and political allies. But he's nearly useless as a leader. His illnesses and addiction contributed to Barry missing 35 percent of DC City Council votes from 2005 to 2006. He also failed to author any of the over 200 pieces of legislation passed into law during that same period.

In 1982 DC was in severe budget crises, which wasn't necessarily all Barry's fault, but it was his job to manage that crises well and put the city on better footing in the future. Under Barry's leadership in the 90's budget problems resurfaced. Ineffective leadership and outright mismanagement caused agencies to be placed into receivership throughout 1997 and Congress temporarily suspended home rule in 1998. Given the budget issues and income tax evasion I find it ironic that he serves on the Council Committe on Finance and Revenue.

In his first terms as mayor he repeatedly proved himself corrupt. The ruining of DC's reputation may actually qualify him as worse than useless as a politician. From 1979 to 1986 over 20 DC government officials were convicted (not just indicted, mind you) of crimes related to their official duties. These were high ranking folks including two deputy mayors. If he were CEO of a publicly traded company he might have been accountable for fraud under his watch. In fact, current city CFO Natwar Ghandi is being held responsible for unethical and illegal actions in offices by an agency he oversees.

Wait, there's more . . .
Barry's not just an inept crack addict who clings like a barnacle to DC politics. One could go on for days about conflicts in his public statements, how he's failed to represent the poor he champions, and the way he consistently embarrasses DC.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Third Day of Christmas (Shopping): Gifts for the Working Stiff

Unfortunately, I can't picture the gifts I talk about without potentially violating the copyrights of manufacturers and policies of some stores. I've linked to the websites of the various stores mentioned below so that you can preview some their merchandise and get a sense for their respective styles. Many of the sites also have online ordering.

By the by, I hope that everyone understands that "Christmas gifts" are also suitable for Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule, Saturnalia, Pagan Winterfest, or any winter solstice holiday you prefer. That said, here are some gift ideas for the desk-bound in your life:

Unusual and Classy Office Supplies
Fahrney's Pens (1317 F ST.) has elegant pen and pencil sets, a huge improvement over the Bics that your giftee is presently using. Prices range from $30 for basic roller balls to over $600 for a limited edition Parker fountain pen.

Bring some individuality to your giftee's office supplies. Letterpress 4"x4" note sheets from
Go Mama Go (1809 14th St.) are an attractive alternative to Post-Its. Next door at Home Rule (1807 14th St.) check out the brightly colored contemporary desk accessories from painted binder clips to scissors shaped like rabbits. Just a hair down the block Pulp (1803 14th St.) stocks fun graphic attache folders from Roger La Bourde.

Anyone who is interviewing, working directly with clients, or thanking donors needs to have attractive thank you cards. A short walk from Go Mama Go, Home Rule, and Pulp is
The Written Word at 1427 P St. which stocks lovely paper goods. There you can find all manner of cards as well as address books and day planners that the Palm averse still use.

Caffeine Dependent

Instead of supporting Starbucks or Caribou by buying their gift cards, get a Firehook "DC Born and Bread" gift card. Your giftee need not live or work in Dupont to redeem the card; Firehook now has locations in Alexandra, Tysons, and all over DC.

Tea drinkers will appreciate loose leaf teas from Teaism (2009 R St.) or the unique Tea Forte pyramid tea bags from Sweet Magnolia (1534 U St.).

We caffeine junkies also need desk mugs and travel mugs. Sweet Magnolia has especially beautiful ceramic mugs with brightly colored designs combining floral and stripe patterns for about $9. They also have more masculine designs including chili peppers and mostly solid colored mugs accented with subtle stripes in earthy tones. Pulp has really fun ceramic mugs including "Bush's last day" and designs from Anne Taintor , "the original vintage humor company." Great durable travel mugs from Bodum can be found at Home Rule (1807 14th St.).

If you know someone who insists on Starbucks, consider buying him a day or week wireless access pass. Passes are available from T-Mobile here. The passes can also be used at T-Mobile HotSpots at airports, Hyatts, Borders, etc.

Working for the Weekend

We've all had the friend or coworker who reliably suffers from a Friday morning hangover. Support their Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with fun cocktail accessories including flamingo-topped picks and mini umbrellas from Go Mama Go at 1809 14th St. Add to the festive atmosphere at holiday parties with bubble soap packaged in mini champagne bottles from Pulp (1803 14th St.) . For the party aftermath consider an elegant silk eye pillow from Go Mama Go and a Mr. Bump gel ice pack from Pulp, which you may want to wrap up with some Advil and Gatorade.

Politically Themed Stuff
We all know that the Federal Government is the largest employer in the area. Lobbying firms and political think tanks can't be that far behind. If your politically-oriented giftee has a sense of humor, get him a Quotable Notable card from The Written Word at 1427 P St. Cards feature die cut full body photos of politicians as well as stickers with "quotes" from that person. For example, stickers with the George W. Bush card include "Rove made me do it" and "WWJD". If your political junkie giftee is not in the mood for poking fun of politics, head over to AMERICA!'s Spirit in the West Hall of Union Station for more serious gifts such as campaign memorabilia.

The democratically aligned among your friends and family may appreciate the numerous anti-Bush offerings from local stores including magnets, mugs, and stickers from Pulp (1803 14th St.) and Wake Up Little Suzie (3409 Connecticut Ave.).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Second Day of Christmas (Shopping): Gifts for Your Host

Late additions have been typed in at the bottom of this post.

With Thanksgiving next week I thought this topic was timely.

Food and Wine

Before you start shopping for the Thanksgiving meal consider going to the farmers market at 14th and U this weekend. Saturday will be its last day of the season. Just amble down to the Reeves Center between 9 and 1 for some great fresh farm goods. If you can't make it on Saturday try the Dupont market right next to the north exit from the Metro station from 9 to 1 on Sunday.

If sending a gift basket is your style, order one up from Whole Foods. (I know that I'm violating my locally-owned standard, but this option still beats ordering from Harry and David.) You can easily order online and either pick the basket up yourself or have it shipped.

Cheese is a good reason to be alive. The amazing Cowgirl Creamery (919 F St.) exists in only two places in the world Point Reyes Station, CA and Washington, DC. I love it so much that I stopped by the CA location on my honeymoon. At the store you can usually get a sample or two and good advice on selecting cheeses. Online orders and cheese clubs are also available.

For wine try De Vinos at 18th and U (2001 18th Street). The small shop is rated well for having a good selection given its size. It also made the W*USA 9 A-list. If your shopping takes you into Dupont rather than U Street, Best Cellars (1643 Connecticut Ave.) is perennially popular though not truly a local shop. They too are lauded for having great inexpensive wines as well as an easy to understand classification of wines by taste and style. Online orders of "six packs" can be shipped to DC, MA, NY, and VA.

Baked Goods
My favorite bakery in the entire Washington area is Amphora (294 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon). If you happen by some misfortune to be in Herndon you must stop by. Actually it may even be worth renting a Zipcar for this place. Cakes are light and fluffy and have the most heavenly icings and fillings including booze flavored wonders. My wedding cake came from them and I couldn't have been happier.

If, however, you want to stick to places within walking distance, there are myriad options. In my opinion, Whole Foods is worth skipping. A lot of the cakes are dry and not very flavorful. I can recommend the fruit tart though. Cake Love (1506 U St.) gets mixed reviews. People either love the super dense expensive cakes or find them dry and less flavorful. Take a test drive with a cupcake from Love Cafe. If pumpkin is your thing, they have a number of seasonal selections. Of course, Firehook (1909 Q St.) is a fabulous choice for cakes, tarts, and pies. If you don't feel like balancing a cake on your lap for duration of your trip to a holiday dinner, they have locations across DC as well as Alexandria and Tysons.

The shop doesn't look like much, but the flowers I've gotten from Flowers on Fourteenth (1718 14th St.) have been great and very well arranged. I think that they prefer you to call ahead, but I've also been helped on the spot. FTD is an overpriced mega company that frequently drops the ball on accuracy and quality during holiday peak order times. So put down your mouse and walk down the street to a family-owned business.

Additional Ideas
Most of you will be enjoying turkey on Thursday, and some of you will dine on it again at Christmas. At Home Rule (1807 14th St.) you can purchase turkey accessories such as lifters, a lacer, stuffing bags, and reusable pop-up timers. They also stock a truly weird candle in the shape of a roasted whole turkey.

After every meal comes the clean-up. Also available at Home Rule are the fragrant Caldrea home products. It is now possible to lust for dish soap and counter cleaner.

Sweet Magnolia (1534 U St.) carries wooden serving trays so beautiful that they could be considered art. The trays feature raised edges and are currently stocked in three different themes butterfly, vegetable, and desserts. As well potpourri from Sweet Magnolia will help chase away lingering cooking smells.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We're, uh, number one.

According to the Washington Post, the area around 14th a U is one of the most heavily littered in the city, vying only with H Street NE and Martin Luther King Blvd. in SE. It's an expensive problem too about a third or more of DPW's $75 million solid waste budget goes toward cleaning up street and alley litter. If folks could simply place their litter in trash cans, DC would save a bundle.

Based on a NJ study, it is believed that adolescents and young adults are the biggest litter bugs. To counter the mentality, DPW has run TV and radio ads to convince young folks from ages six to 24 to "show DC some love" by picking up trash. The logic behind the campaign is to change a "culture of litter" as the most cost-effective way of battling the trash issue. I gotta wonder is it really a culture of litter that we need to battle or a culture lacking respect? I don't think that the eight-year-old who slapped me while riding past on his bike is going to turn around and show DC some love any time soon. Nor do I think that the constantly littered block 1400 block of R Street is going to solve their garbage issues before getting a handle on drug dealing and car theft.

Apparently volunteer campaigns are good but can't attack the volume of the year-round problem. I have to believe though that they set a good, if limited, example of positive behavior. I would also like to see some "volunteers" from McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Kazanchis cleaning up the messes outside their storefronts . . . All of this reminds me, the monthly Shaw clean-up will be held on Saturday morning at 9. Those interested should meet in front of Azi's at 9th and O. We'll do what we can to "develop a community that will help us keep the streets cleaner," as Nancee Lyons of DPW said.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

12 Days of Christmas (Shopping)

It's about that time when DC residents will wander zombie-like down to Gallery Place, Metro Center, and, worse, suburban malls to buy generic holiday gifts from chain stores. No one wants to receive another faux cashmere scarf, slippers, or coffee table book. In this post and subsequent entries I will highlight more original gifts available from DC businesses, most of them in Logan Circle and Dupont.

Disclosure: I do dislike the early holiday shopping ads, but I feel the need to counter their influence before Black Friday 2007 arrives.

Take Me Out
Your friends and family may already own much of what you could afford to buy them. Give them the gift of time with you and encourage them to try something fun that they may not have done on their own. I've tried to order the following by approximate cost.

Guided Walking tour
Washington Walks offers some really interesting walks on a regular basis including Moveable Feast: A Taste of DC, described as a "snack-a-thon". Take a walk with your giftee for $10 per person or give them a $40 Walkabout Card good for five walks.

House Tour
The Logan Circle Community Association will be holding their annual LCCA House Tour on Sunday, December 2. Enjoy a little house porn and an early holiday gift for only $15 per ticket.

Dinner and Gallery Hop
Dupont has quite a few commercial art galleries. On the first Friday of every month galleries stay open late and often have a unique feature of the night such as food and wine or live music. For more information go here. Before you begin your art stroll have dinner at any one of Dupont's great restaurants. (I recommend Heritage India at 1337 Connecticut Ave.) Similar gallery events also occur in Gallery place on the third Thursday of the month and in Georgetown on third Fridays.

Dance and Dine
You and your giftee want to dance, but you feel awkward about it, and Arthur Murray just isn't your thing. So learn salsa in a casual setting at 14U (1939 14th St.) on the first Friday of the month. For an exotic experience, grab some mezze and free belly dancing lessons at Mezze in Adams Morgan (2437 18 St.) on Sunday nights at 10.

Or combine your dancing with some embassy hopping. The International Club of DC hosts a number of dance lessons and some balls at fantastic locations around the city. Upcoming are waltz and salsa lessons at the French embassy on December 19th for $20-$35 per ticket. They will also be hosting a New Year's Eve gala at the Wardman Park Marriott ($155 per ticket or $215 for VIP tickets), and a Viennese ball at the National Museum of Women and the Arts on February 23rd.

Bar Hopping
Pick up the tab for a night of bar hopping in the neighborhood. Some places I love are Bar Pilar (1833 14th), Saint Ex (1847 14th St.), and Chi-Cha Lounge (1624 U St.). Top off the evening with a Nutella calzone at Coppi's (1414 U St.). Remind new parents what it's like to get out at night by also securing a baby sitter.

Jazz Night
Try HR-57 (1610 14th St.), Bohemian Caverns (2001 11th St.), or Twins (1344 U St.) for a night out. HR has a BYOB policy, very low cover charge, and a really relaxed atmosphere. At Twins you can enjoy two great neighborhood traditions Jazz and Ethiopian food. Bohemian is arguably the most famous area club with the most unique atmosphere.

Fine Dining
Use this gift as an excuse to treat yourself as well as your giftee to a great dinner. Swanky neighborhood establishments include Komi (1509 17th St.), Restaurant Nora (2132 Florida Ave.), and Viridian (1515 14th St.).

Wine Tour
Tour the wineries of Virginia in a limo. Virginia Wine Country Tours will chauffeur you around in a luxury sedan for $70 per hour or $35 per person (based on a minimum number of people and the reservation of certain type of car). They also have options ranging from hiring a chauffeur to drive you in your own car to renting a luxury yacht. Alternatively you can tour on the cheap by offering to be a designated driver on a self-guided wine tour. See the Virginia Wines website for more information.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Easy Activism: Taxi Meters

As I've stated in a previous post I believe that DC cab rates are already too high. The currently proposed time and distance meter rates have the potential to be even higher by an average of $0.97. Ugh. In any event, DC cab riders would pay the highest taxi fares in the nation if the proposed rates go through.

The Washington Post has already run a story estimating fares here. According to the organization DC Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares, the Post will run a story in the coming week that will feature the organization's viewpoint that rates are too high. Local WJLA news has also featured the efforts of DC Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares.

If you happen to agree that rates are too high, the simplest thing you can do is to sign the petition here. When you sign electronically, you will also be able to add a comment to the Mayor. As of last week's round-table held by Jim Graham, there were 850 signatures and 42 pages of public comments. You can also send a form letter to Mayor Fenty, the DC City Council, and DC Taxicab Commission simultaneously through this website. I have an unproven belief that customizing the letter and subject line may be more effective in grabbing the attention of our leadership.

Jim Graham has oversight of the Taxi Cab Commission, so you might want to target him personally for your correspondence. His contact information can be found here. If you live in Cardozo/Shaw, Adams Morgan, or Columbia Heights, as constituents of Ward 1, Graham may be even more likely to pay heed to your concerns. As the Mayor's office has proposed the new cab rules, you may want to copy them on any correspondence that you send to Graham or other Council members.

The number of DC citizens who make their voices heard on this issue is very important. Jim Graham seems to believe that he represents the wishes of all 6500 cab drivers in the city by supporting zone meters and threatening to legislate this issue. The Mayor's office as well appears to be supporting drivers by setting the drop fee so high and maintaining current surcharges. Commissioner Sandra Seegars of ANC 8E has a petition stating that 97 percent of Ward 8 residents support fixed rates. Those in favor of time and distance meters as well as lower fares will have to respond in numbers sufficient to counter the cab drivers and the approximately 71,000 residents of Ward 8. I also believe that we can come up with more convincing arguments than the opposition is using
the Mayor is overstepping his authority; we need to protect the business interests of cab drivers (who may or may not be DC residents) over the cab riding public; neither residents nor cab drivers have a problem with current fares.

Please take 5 minutes from your home or office computer to sign a petition and/or send an email.

Encourage Small Business

We're back from a weekend in Virgina wine country and felling very relaxed. (No, Virginia wine country is not an oxymoron. And, yes, it is far far better than other eastern U.S. wine regions like Long Island.) Now back to life in DC . . .

I received a blast email from Jim Graham's office this morning regarding a town hall meeting tonight to address city-wide tax relief for small businesses. As his office puts it:

Small businesses are facing incredible market barriers and bureaucratic
impediments to staying in their longtime locations, expanding into new
sites, or just trying to open a business for the first time.

This meeting will be held at the Lincoln Theatre (1215 U) from 6:30 to 9 this evening. Think about what a huge issue this is for our neighborhood and come out to listen or to testify. Even if you don't want to speak, critical mass at these meetings is important to show city leaders what issues matter to their constituencies. Tax relief will ensure the long-term viability of neighborhood favorites like Pulp, Go Mama Go, Home Rule, and Redeem. It will also level the competition for storefront space, perhaps limiting the rapid proliferation of bank branches and blah national chains.

This could be one of the few times that I agree with Graham. It's just a shame that the email notice didn't go out until today.

Friday, November 9, 2007

New Restaurant Rumor

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be at the Washington National Cathedral several times in the next few days. You probably don't have tickets to the sold-out gala tonight, but you can see him for free on Sunday morning in the nave from 10 to 11 at the forum entitled "Can We Forgive Our Enemies." This is not a service, but rather an interview-style conversation with Dean Lloyd. Tutu will also be lecturing on the spirituality of reconciliation on Tuesday evening at 7:30

On to the restaurant rumor . . .

I will not disclose the source except to say that the information came to me third-hand. I really am just spreading a rumor here. It's exciting, so I hope it's true.

There may be plans for a restaurant called Policy at the corner 14th and T Streets. Further rumors are that it will have quite a pedigree the same architect as Brasserie Beck (Core) and a Michelin-starred chef from L'Auberge in VA. (I've heard that L'Auberge was formerly located in McLean, but due to fire now exists in Great Falls.)

Evidence that at least some type or restaurant is coming to the space is that there is a posted liquor license application for a three-story restaurant to include rooftop seating. I've been told that the application does not give a restaurant name, which caused some to fear a chain moving into the neighborhood and thus a license protest based on the usual "peace and quiet" concerns. Then again, there is still a large "for lease" sign up; I don't know if the space owner could be slow to take it down, if there is additional space to rent, or if the rumor is simply untrue.

Anyone been by to look closely at the liquor license? I can't make it today before heading outta town. Have you ANC 1B folks heard anything at the monthly meeting? In my experience, ANC's pounce on protesting licenses.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dirty Fighting Aginst Fair Fares

First of all, I want to offer my sincere apologies to Prince of Petworth. I had no idea that he had also posted a pic of Run-D.M.C. this week until Mr. 14th & You told me about an hour ago.

On to cabs . . .

I sat through 12 citizen comment periods and one statement from Peter Nickles, the General Counsel to the Mayor. Around 6:15 I just couldn't take it anymore. I'm surprised that I made it that long given that the first word I heard while walking in during the middle of one person's testimony was "gentrification."

A Little Preamble:
The Mayor's office has proposed time and distance meter regulation based on a number of surveys and citizen feedback. This proposed legislation will go into a 60 day public comment period tomorrow. Why do I think that Jim Graham was just trying to be first into the fray by holding his hearing this afternoon?

Community Testimony
Of the 13 people whom I saw speak only two were cogent, a representative of DC Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares and Peter Nickles who as an appointee has full grasp of what Fenty is trying to achieve. Both of the above parties are in favor of time and distance meters. One other gentleman was also in favor of meters; he kindly summarized his AU thesis citing 1930's court precedents. Let's just put him in the less cogent category.

Graham's Real Agenda
Jim Graham wants zone meters. His logic seems to be that everyone likes the zone system and the fares, but if we just had a more transparent way of tracking fares, everyone would be happy. He also made a vague threat that if he and the Mayor's Office could not come to agreement that Graham would spearhead legislating the issue.

Graham's cab driver friends, in between making some odd and unrelated and incoherent comments, also seemed to be in favor of zone meters. If you would like to test the zone meter experience for yourself, Yellow Cab has already installed them.

The Riders' Conundrum
Graham has couched this entire debate as not about money; "There's no rebellion about current fares." Apparently, even the cab drivers aren't claiming that they want to make more money. (Again, this is Graham's summary of his understanding of the testimony.)

DC Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares counters that logic. As of this evening, they had 850 signatures on their petition which had only circulated for 24 hours. They also have 42 pages of citizen comments that have been entered in the record. This group's concern is that on average the time and distance meters fares will be $0.97 higher than the zone fares. In Virginia, they say that riders will be paying 20% less than in DC and 32% less during rush hour.

If you, like me, have a problem with the drop fee and the surcharges, you need to let Graham and the rest of the City Council know. Graham is also planning on hosting other similar forums in locations outside of the Wilson building; we can't let the cab drivers overrun other residents at these meetings.

Odd Comments and Observations
Aside from the usual honorifics Graham was also called "Congressman Graham" and "Counsel Graham" by some of the cab drivers.

From a cab driver who had already spoken well past his alloted time: "Anyone waiting on a cab at two in the morning isn't gonna give a doggone if the cab is running on two wheels."

From Sandra Seegars, 8E-02 ANC commissioner:"Meters legitimize cheating." Um, isn't the cheating part of the equation what brought us to this round-table discussion?

One of my favorite semi-circles of reason: no DC cab can presently accommodate electric wheelchairs —> cab drivers need to be grandfathered in to hack licenses with a face value of $200,000 —> that $20000 asset will allow them to secure loans for . . . —> wheelchair lifts. Oh yes, Mayor Fenty is arrogant, and somehow not having fixed zone rates would prevent cab drivers from providing two years of tax returns to financing institutions in order to obtain . . . wheelchair accessible cabs.

Urgent O Street Market News

Thanks to for this tip off: There is a petition in support of Roadside Development's plans for the O Street Market/Giant complex, but you gotta fax it in or hand deliver it today. Judging by the turnout at the August CDC meeting, a lot of you are interested in this project. For a very brief history of the zoning conflict threatening the project, click here. Go to renewshaw or the ANC2C02 forum for further info. and links to the petition.


Before I head off to the taxi meter round-table I'm summarizing last night's riveting ANC meeting.

Chairman Reed was really testy almost to the point of hilarity. Almost. It is, after all, an ANC meeting. He told Helen Kramer to wrap up her Crime and Public Safety Committee presentation "before my clothes go out of style." In a no nonsense move he led the charge to have the Attorney General and the Inspector General's offices investigate the property of one Logan homeowner. Reed also confronted Izalco Restaurant about its past noise problems.

In all of the excitement, Mike Bernardo looked apoplectic and Chris Dyer buried his head in his hands. I can't really blame the other commissioners for texting, typing, and BlackBerrying.

Prostitution, of course, was a big issue in both Lt. Smith and Helen Kramer's reports. Now that we've all seen the blogs and the evening news casts, this is the issue of the moment. though Lt. Smith complained of not having enough resources to consistently attack the problem, the police prostitution squad will be assigned to our area, most likely temporarily. If you haven't yet observed it for yourself, the Mr. Wash alley, the alley between 12th and 13th Streets behind O, and Blagden Alley are problem areas. The BP station on 13th is also a drug transaction center. One of the night staff has brilliantly been allowing a crackhead to sleep on the property, and there isn't much that the cops can do if she's granting permission to this guy. In not surprising news, the 1400 block of R remains a prime spot for drug activity and stolen cars.

If you're concerned about the recent robberies (14 last month as compared to five for the same period last year), Logan Hardware is selling pepper spray for five dollars.

Mr. 14th & You remarked after the meeting that the reports of the police department and the Crime and Public Safety Committee seem redundant. I hadn't really thought about it, but he has a point.

Reed's crusade, the nuisance property: If you live near 1402 12th Street, and you've had problems with the owner or tenants, you should contact Reed and/or SMD 2F-04 commissioner Jennifer Trock. Both have heard previous resident complaints and support sicking the AG and IG on the owners. At issue are alleged late-night parties, improper homestead exemption, renting the property without a certificate of occupancy, and possible sale of alcohol.

Dyer had an interesting point on the matter. He does not consider the ANC to be a fact-finding body. He also does not consider the ANC contacting the AG and IG to be good use of resources. He does, however, support individual citizens contacting city offices to pursue the matter. I found his opinion to be well reasoned. However, his statements led to a rapidly devolving legal argument between him and Reed.

DDOT matters are about the same as always. The 14th Street Streetscape report from the last public meeting should post to the website this week, and the next meeting is scheduled for January. The 15th Street proposal for two-way traffic and bike lanes is still on the table. Due to funding issues though, it won't really be explored until 2009. The Q Street work is about one month from completion, and Church Street will most likely be repaved once the condo developers all pony up money for the work. The long awaited 11th Street repaving should start in May or June.

Debate about the 14th and P bus stop rages on. A Metropole condo resident would like to see the P Street bus stop in front of his building (NW corner) moved east across 14th Street to the side of the Studio Theater building. Chairman Reed believes that a pull-out area will keep buses from stopping up traffic in the narrow single lane there. I, on the other hand, can see the bus not using the pull-out (do they ever?) and backing up traffic into the circle. The stated major issue for the rabble rouser in the condo building is that at times there are buses stopped on both the north and south side of P causing traffic blockages, particularly during the weekend double parking spree . . . .

"Th-th-th-that's all folks!"

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Where do you take your dog(s)?

The Mrs. and I do not own a canine, but the issue of dog parks is a hotly debated topic'round these parts. An organization called "DC Dog" (no, I've never heard of them either) is sponsoring an online petition to encourage the District to help facilitate the creation of dog parks throughout the city. It's a cause we typically support, so if you're so inclined you may access the online petition here. (You must be a D.C. resident in order for your signature to be valid.)

Good Eatin': 14th Street About To Be Un-Corked

There have been a number of new additions to the neighborhood dining scene recentlyVeranda on P St. opened to rave reviews, Marvin brought the ESL guys out to 14th and U to offer their pricey mixed drinks and $15 burgers, and Vinoteca Wine Bar (not to be confused as I did with Veritas, over in Dupont) uncorked their first bottle over at 11th and U St. Soon, however, an unprecedented second wine bar, Cork, will be opening up at the former location of Sparky's Espresso, near 14th and S.

A recent walk-by of the place still showed the brown Cork-logoed paper still covering the windows, but a sign promising an opening soon. Unfortunately, the proprietors of the establishment, two Logan Circle residents, didn't respond to my email to them asking for additional details about their opening and offerings. Their website promises a wine selection "from unexplored regions of the world" along with "simple, local food." I know that a lot of people were upset at the closing of Sparky's (many also noted that its demise had, in fact, occurred long before it finally shut its doors), but my initial impression of Cork seems to be one of a couple of neighborhood residents who are striving to create an accessible place with a true community feel. With price points and food offerings not yet announced, it's unclear exactly how many of Cork's offerings will be accessible to those throughout the neighborhood (Marvin's aforementioned $15 hamburger drew much scorn, for instance), but it's certainly a place we're looking forward to trying.

In other gastronomical-related news . . . Logan Tavern on P St. is in the process of a build-out on an addition to their existing space. No news on when it might be completed.

Just in time for the chilly fall weather, Mar Del Plata (near 14th and Rhode Island) is making use of their recently granted sidewalk permit and have added a couple of tables outside. Good for them.

Still no word on the "tapas-style" eatery that was to open in the space formerly occupied by the 100% Mexico store. I've been unable to find anything about this, so I suspect that the project was hung-up during the alcohol license application process (which would be shocking), or the owners have had trouble raising sufficient capital to open the place.

Finally, in the midst of pushing all of the newcomers to the neighborhood, I'd be remiss if I didn't also put in a good word for our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Lalibela. The wonderful food (the Lalibela tibs and vegetable sampler are our favorites -- better than Dukem, we think) and an unbelievably friendly staff make it perhaps our favorite comfort food in the District. (The Saturday night musical entertainment is also frequently unintentionally comical.) Sometimes, in the midst of all of the new places popping up, it's easy to lose track of some old favorites, so don't forget about all of the places that were around the 14th-U corridor before 14th and U was "it". And, seriously, try the tibs at Lalibela. They're spectacular.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Be a Good Citizen

The ANC 2F meeting is tomorrow night. You can view the agenda here. There's nothing too exciting on the table, but it's always good to hear about public safety and DDOT issues.

Jim Graham is holding public round-table on the proposed taxi cab rates. If you want to be a party of the fray, the meeting will be held Thursday of this week at 2 p.m. in the Wilson Building council chambers (135o Pennsylvania Ave. NW). The scheduled time is clearly ridiculous, but some predict that the conversation will go well into the evening hours. Yes, you will be able to see it in the news and read about it in the papers the next day. But it would really be great if we could show our displeasure by packing the chamber with DC residents. Show up whenever you can.

Public hearings on the Metro fare increases are set to begin next week. Hearings will be held in DC on Wednesday, November 13th and Thursday, November 14th. The full hearing schedule can be found here.

Through November 19th, there will be a Ward 3 can food drive at the Chevy Chase Community Center.

Congrats to Knee Deep in Mud (perhaps too graphic for your office or your children) and Off Seventh for drawing attention to the continuing issues of prostitution and drugs throughout northwest. Though I don't think that their blogs were specifically mentioned, Fox 5 local news picked up the story. It's a bummer that this garbage still happens so flagrantly, but it's great that DC blogs are filling in reporting gaps that the newspapers and local TV don't cover.

Friday, November 2, 2007


All of a sudden, cab meters suck. With the proposed drop rate and the $1 rush hour surcharge, I could actually pay about the same rate for a ride into Dupont. Last month, I did the fare math here. The Washington Post estimates that a one mile trip would be about $7 and a 2-3 mile trip would be about $10.33. I think I'll just get my exercise and budget an extra 20 to 35 minutes to reach close-by destinations.

Metro wants more people to use SmarTrip because it saves them money. I like the SmarTrip in theory, and our household owns three. The trouble is that the microchip inside the card shifts around and sometimes spontaneously stops working. Mr 14th & You was instructed by one Metro employee to flex the card while scanning it. This sorta works some of the time. Despite the advice we currently have two busted SmartTrips and one that I call the G-spot card. I suppose one day I will make it to Metro Center during business hours to rectify the situation.

Council member Jim Graham annoys me. He has never once passed up a single press opportunity, and I am now tired of hearing him talk, especially since he frequently has nothing useful to contribute.

Apparently the DC Council has decided that the Greater Southeast Hospital takeover deal might not be so great. Some Council members say that they were not given adequate information about Specialty Hospital's finances. It's their job to find these things out. And if the city's CFO raises a red flag, delay the vote instead of kvetching about it later.

I welcome GW and Georgetown students to DC. It's great that they have fun here while spending whatever money they have left after tuition payments. I also like the friendly student staff at the West End Trader Joe's. Yet some students are so distracted by shopping with their 4 roommates or talking on their cell phones that they form giant embolisms in the narrow aisles during peak shopping hours. I am about to promote having the inept shoppers confined to their campuses.
The following are issues for me only because I am silly enough to own a car in the city. I therefore acknowledge my culpability in these situations:

While I was driving on Wisconsin Avenue in Cathedral Heights this afternoon, an ambulance passed down the street. Both of the traffic lanes were packed with cars stopped at a light. I always thought that it was not just my job to yield right of way to an emergency vehicle, but to get the hell out of the way -- turning down a side street or pulling into an intersection if I could safely do so. My spot in traffic just isn't as important as the life of someone who may be critically ill or injured.

Traffic in the adjacent lane had nowhere to go, so I pulled into the curb lane to make some space for everyone to move over. No one got out of the ambulance's way. But what I found really heart warming is that a car tried to prevent me from merging back into traffic once the ambulance had passed. I was signaling and gently pulling into the traffic lane, but she inched up and tried to block me. Losing patience I gunned it and cut the other car off while waving a middle finger. Then I looked in my rear view mirror I saw that I had just flipped off an elderly woman. Is it bad that I feel no remorse?

I drive a manual transmission. If you want to get within two inches of my rear bumper while stopped on a hill, that's your choice. If I then deliberately let my clutch out slowly, that's my choice.

The Sears Tire and Auto shop at Montgomery Mall is beyond awful. I got a flat in Chevy Chase so I limped into the closest shop possible, theirs. The tire salesmen try to cross sell you on a bunch of pointless services, bleeding you $15 at a time. Right now I am in the midst of a three month battle to get them to replace decorative lug nut covers (little hexagonal pieces that fit inside the centers of myhubcaps) that they lost. After promising to order the covers and install them, today Sears suggested that I 1) go to the dealership, 2) have the dealer order the parts, 3) return to the dealership to pick up the covers, and 4) then take the receipt to Sears in Bethesda for reimbursement. After that suggestion I had an out-of-body experience which I believe resulted in me expressing displeasure by calling the sales guy a "pain in my a$$."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Shooting at 14th and Harvard streets


You would hope that we would be past this sort of thing by now but, disappointingly, we are not. Amidst the typical Halloween ruckus yesterday evening, four young men were shot in a drive-by shooting while standing at the corner of 14th and Harvard in Columbia Heights.

That some gangbanger would commit such a brazen and callous act is sickening and beyond the pale. No doubt there were witnesses (including the four victims, all of whom survived), but one has to wonder if the "stop snitchin'" mantra is going to go into effect here. Jim Graham has already issued a statement condemning police actions (or inaction) in preventing crimes like this, but one has to ask: What should the police be doing? If the victims themselves--much less other bystanders--or either too frightened or simply don't care enough to divulge what they saw to the police, what is to be done? There are increased calls for street cameras, shot-tracking devices, and other such initiatives . . . but they've not been widely instituted. Should they? Do you think they would make a substantial difference in preventing crimes like this -- or at least aid in the catching of criminals like this?

I, for one, am not keen on being watched on every street corner in this city. But if others here don't care enough to do their part to keep our streets safe, I suppose I'm willing to allow it in the name of catching these punks. So what do you think?

Thanks to Prince of Petworth for alerting us to this story.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

PSA for Those with Fur Children

It may be a little late for this message but I'll put it out there anyway:

I saw a few small dogs on 17th Street last night that looked totally freaked out. (Great race, by the way.) One shaky little guy nearly got stepped on a few times and then, while circling nervously around, wrapped his leash around my ankles. I adore almost all mammals and it kills me to see dogs in crowds shaking, whining, or getting the dribbly poos.

Seriously, think about the things that might make some people anxious -- loud unexplained noises, feeling confined/constricted, or physical discomfort; these things will also make your dog anxious, and he doesn't have the cognitive ability to reason himself out of panic. If you feel really confident and want to take your dog out tonight for a party or to greet the tricker treaters, please be a good parent and tune into signs of distress.

I'll get off my pulpit now . . .

Humane Society Article on Pets and Halloween

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

O Street Market Update

At the end of my Friday post I mentioned that the O Street Market plans may have hit a hitch. Thanks to Kevin Chapple's ANC2CO2 Forum for reporting on the zoning board meeting for this project. The board's major hang-up seems to be that the current O Street Market plans call for structures as high as 110 ft. and a higher building density than the surrounding area. Despite Fenty's support for Roadside Development's construction plans, the zoning board is requiring that the developer either re-draft its plans or come up with further justification for a height variance. Apparently there is concern that the planned redevelopment would be out of character for the neighborhood. Hmmm, out of character for a neighborhood that already has the convention center? Anyway, the ANC2CO2 Forum post and comments do a much better job than I could outlining the issues. Seems like the DC gov't. is once again out of line with what many residents and ANC commissioners want for their neighborhoods.

Drag is a Beautiful Thing

The annual high heel race down 17th Street is tonight. Somehow I have managed to miss this DC event in all four years that I have lived in Logan, but this year I'm going to be there.

The race itself runs between Church and R Streets at 9 p.m. However, the scene starts well before then around 7 o'clock. Some suggest getting down to 17th Street around 6 in order to get a patio table from which to watch the festivities.

[Photo taken from 2003 race photos at]

Pre-Gentrification Local History

I was walking along U Street during Howard homecoming when I overheard an interesting conversation. A Howard alumnus who appeared to be well under 30 commented to his friend that gentrification had overtaken U Street since his student days. So without digging into current gentrification debates about race and income, I became curious about the history of the neighborhood. I found that there was a lot about 14th and U that contributed to its current state, much of it I didn’t know about previously. What follows is a little lengthy but worth knowing if you live here.

I'll follow up not long from now with more recent events; there was just too much material for one post.

How U Street became a center for the black community
The history of African Americans in the neighborhood dates back to the Civil War when war refugees flowed into military encampments north of DC. Immediately after the war Howard University was founded in 1866 and helped to draw the black community’s intellectuals and artists to the neighborhood. In fact, until the 1920s, the 14th and U Street area it was the largest black community in America.

A lot of the residences in Logan/U Street were built during the Civil War and post-war population boom. In fact, the 1400 block of S Street, the 1400 block of Swann Street, the 1200 block of T Street, and the 1800 block of 12th Street all have homes dating back to this era. Driving at least part of the late 19th century boom was the installation of a major horse-drawn cross-town streetcar line on U Street.

As early as 1948, professional African American families began to leave the U Street corridor. The oft-mentioned “white flight” started around 1950, and the 1980 census showed the lowest reported number of white residents. Though the number of black residents to leave the city was fewer than white residents, the black population still fell by 88,000 between the 1950 and 1980 census. During the same period the city’s overall population fell by almost 164,000 and continued to decline another 66,000 between 1980 and 2000. By basic rule of supply and demand, housing prices sunk as people left the city.

Of course, we all know of the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Stokely Carmichael, a black activist, led crowds gathering at 14th and U to demand that local businesses close out of respect for King. Before long the mood of the crowd turned violent and looting had broken out. The following day, Carmichael addressed a rally at Howard after which rioting spread to 7th Street NW and H Street NE. An article in the Howard Hilltop states $24 million of damages were sustained in the five days of rioting, and a Wikipedia article estimates that the damages totaled $27 million is 1968 dollars.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Metro Floats Proposal to Increase Fares

This morning the Post reported that Metro is considering a significant fare increase. On a positive note, no decision will be made until December after the Metro board holds public hearings. After all is said and done, I think that it's unlikely that rates will increase as much as proposed. Unfortunately, if the proposal does pass, it will only cover $89 million of the current $109 million budget shortfall leaving us with some continuing safety and service issues as well as higher fares.

Rush hour train
Current rate: $1.35 to $3.90
Proposed rate: $1.65 to $4.70

Bus fares
Current rate: $1.25
Proposed rate: $1.25 for SmarTrip users, $1.35 for those paying with cash
It has also been suggested that paper transfers be eliminated. There are plans to distribute free SmartTrip cards to low income residents.

Parking fees
Current rate: $3.75-$4
Proposed rate: $3.90-$4.15
Reserved space: $45/month + daily fees

Post reported that board representatives from the 'burbs tried to keep maximum fares and parking fees low while Council member Jim Graham, the DC rep to the Metro board, was most concerned with keeping bus fares down because of the lower income of DC riders.

I like the idea of increased Metro funding, and I can afford the extra $0.60 a day to get from U Street or Dupont to downtown destinations. Some city residents will also be more than happy to pass the burden of the fare increases on to suburbanites
after all, they use DC's resources without paying taxes. Nevertheless I have two big issues with this proposal.

1) Would it be so bad if all Metrobus users had to pay a $0.10 or more fare increase? If bus riders made a round trip every day the total increased cost would be $6 per month, assuming that no transfers are used. Metro also has in place a number of discounts that help some low income riders; I assume that similar policies would remain in place

* Students who are DC residents pay a reduced fare.
* Children under 4 ride free.
* Seniors and the disabled pay half the regular bus fare when using a special fare cards, senior SmartTrip cards, or a Metro issued ID.
* Some Anacostia routes cost only $0.75.
* Riders in Fairfax County pay $1 for regular buses and $2 for an express bus.

If the fares are truly not affordable for some, could we not implement a discount SmartTrip fare system similar to the one used for seniors?

2) I think that unlike gasoline demand that demand for Metrorail will be more elastic; there are alternatives to training into the city — driving and the express bus chief among them. The express buses currently cost $3 each way, and I haven't read of any proposals to increase the fare. If a suburban rail rider defects to the bus, he would contribute up to $3.40 less per day to Metro. A park and rider could save up to $7.55 per day by taking the Express bus.

Here's the really scary scenario: more people drive into the city. If it costs a park and ride customer $317 a month to have a reserved parking space and pay for his Metro fares, doesn't a monthly parking contract downtown look appealing? If nothing else, the occasional downtown drive with early bird special parking rates may be enticing. Of course lengthy car commute times will continue to encourage some to use public transportation.

Granted, I have no idea if the Metro board has considered the above issues in their discussions. They also may have access to commuter data that I don't have. But I want to be assured that we have some realistic estimates on demand elasticity and revenues before this proposal moves forward.

Am I overly paranoid? What do you think about the fare increase?

I'm working on an entry about the history of U Street and Logan. I hope to post it later today or tomorrow. The thesis that I've developed is that it's not just traditionally defined gentrification that has changed our neighborhood.

There may also be zoning trouble for the proposed O Street market/Giant/hotel mega complex. I'm so bummed. More to come on this soon.

Veranda = Yum

So the Mrs. and I finally had a chance to scope out Veranda last night. Normally, going out on a chilly, drizzly Thursday evening in October to a restaurant that has only been open for two days isn't at the top of our list, but I am happy to report that it was worth itthere were positives all around.

First of all, the space is really well done. We sat at the bar, and they had a couple of tables up front, with more in the back and around the kitchen in the dining area. Kostas the bartender was very friendly, and was more than happy to serve us our Chimay and Allagash. (Chimay, Allagash and Yeungling appeared to be the beers they had on tap, but they seemed to have many more in bottles including pumpkin ale, my personal favorite).

We were initially disappointed because we were told that the first two items we wanted to order, the dolmades and the pita pizza, were unavailable. Drat. However, as we were making up our minds about alternative selections, Paul, the chef, happened to come out and strike up a conversation with us. Lo and behold, it turns out that he had one order of dolmades left, as well as enough ingredients for the pizza. (I guess it pays to talk to the chef, eh?)

Both, it turns out, were fabulous. Mrs. 14th & You who happens to be half Greek and thus a fine judge of the quality of such foods deemed the dolmades to be exemplary. I had to agree. The pita pizza was a nice plate of salty goodness with feta, tomatoes, olives and other spices. Both are definitely recommended. Unfortunately, neither of us were overly hungry, so we stopped there. Actually, that's not entirely accurate as we DID save room for the tiramisu, which was also fabulous.

More than anything though, what I liked most about Veranda was the neighborhood feel it had. From the wonderfully pleasant hostess who welcomed us to the restaurant (I only know her as a friend of Alex, one of the owners, and unfortunately did not get her name), to the friendly people whom we met who live down the street from us and also have a fondness for Lalibela, to the overall coziness of the place, everything seemed about right. It was precisely the kind of atmosphere that can only be generated at a local neighborhood establishment. The food was a little slow in getting out to us, but that is a minor complaint considering that the place has only been "officially" open for two days. In fact, I'd consider the service and quality excellent for an establishment that has only been around for such a short time.

So, long post short, if you haven't yet been able to check it out, try to make your way over to 11th and P sometime this weekend and sample what Veranda has going on. We run the risk of potentially becoming regulars at the place, and it's great to have them around.