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.