Monday, July 28, 2008

Alert to Alert DC

When Alert DC came online I had just moved back to DC, and September 11th was still on my mind. Alert DC is described by the DC government thusly: "rapid text notification and update information in a major crisis or emergency." I decided as soon as I new of the service to have all city-wide alerts about all incidents sent to my mobile phone. Mistake. If I had not changed my subscriber options, I would have had to switch to a billing plan that included unlimited incoming text messages.

I was thinking that if I received a message, I should actually be on alert. Now I believe that the DC government just doesn't want WTOP, Weatherbug, and office water cooler gatherings to form a traffic and weather reporting cartel. When one registers for alerts, one can select from the following list of "major crises and emergencies" about which to be alerted:

  • Weather
  • Traffic incidents including Metro delays
  • Utility outages
  • Government and school closings
  • Amber Alerts
  • Breaking news and information
I count four out of six factors above that are neither crises or emergencies; five of six factors that have nothing to do with DC Homeland Security, the agency that oversees the alerts; and one factor, "news and information," that could include any tidbit DC would like to share.

All I want to know is whether the text message or email I receive means "duck and cover." I need something to serve as the modern equivalent of an air raid siren. I'd like to see new choices for levels of emergency about which one would like to be notified. Perhaps the news and information selection could be made even more granular. I suggest: "shelter in place," "get out of Dodge," "and Homeland Security & Emergency Management personnel are soiling themselves" as indicators of the level of emergency. Are those too long for a subject line?

My concerns about terrorism have waned quite a bit; if anything, the securitocracy idiocy has me wondering if there's any threat at all anymore. I had to pass through a metal detector to get into the National Aquarium on a weekend because it is in the Department of Commerce building. I've been delayed while entering the Regan Building parking garage because my caffeine consumption caused my hand to shake while removing ID to show police officers. (I was seeing a client, wearing a suit, driving a Toytal Corolla with college stickers on it, and accompanied by a colleague who was not questioned.) But the best recent tale from the Twilight Zone of Homeland Security is this: People in our federal government were really wondering this past week if a family of ducks were killed by a terrorist act. (It was avian botulism that took them, if you're curious.)

In the meantime, here are some events I've witnessed in the past five years that I might have liked to have known more about:

In the late summer of 2003, while suffering a bout of very late night insomnia, I heard helicopters flying overhead. They seemed to be the really loud window-jangling military type, but I didn't think anything of it until they kept passing over my home over and over again for an extended period of time. In the following week, I discovered that the copter pilots were searching for an unidentified aircraft that had flown too close to the White House. The airborne object later turned out to be nothing more than a radar anomaly. Still would have been nice to know about an incident that the government apparently considered to be an imminent threat.

Periodically, I'll see armed security teams with German Shepherds trolling Metro stations. There's no way to know if they are responding to a credible threat or if this is just a new part of daily Metro safety.

Mr 14th & You and I would often travel between his Gaithersburg apartment and my Logan abode during our courtship. On a late-night weekday drive to DC from G'burg (shh, don't tell my parents) we were passed by a few police cars hauling south on 270 with lights and sirens blaring. Minutes later, city police, county police, sheriffs, highway patrol, and every other type of copper from jurisdictions as far away as Germantown started roaring south down the interstate. At least three dozen police vehicles passed us, jumped onto 495 S, and exited for Canal Road. Mr 14th & You and I got the distinct impression that we were driving toward something that we might not want to be driving toward, so we headed northwest to take Mass. Ave. inbound at a slow pace while listening to the radio. WTOP briefly reported police activity near Key Bridge and then didn't mention a single other thing. I would conjecture that we witnessed some sort of Homeland Security drill. I still wish that there was some way of knowing at the time whether or not we were experiencing a true emergency.

So if ever there's an incident that I should be alerted to because I need to be motivated to action to protect myself, I really hope that one of my friends or family will text, call, or email with reliable and prompt information. Meanwhile I will commit myself to being a cavalier unalert citizen by doing crazy things like not signing up for DC Alerts, ignoring carryout containers left on Metro cars (a.k.a. unattended packages), and not calling in backpacks abandoned in Shaw.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Self Congratulations and Thanks

14th & You's first birthday is coming up on August 31st. I will also mark the end of my fifth year as a Logan Circle resident on August 16th. Since Mr. 14th & You and I started writing, we have garnered over 44,000 hits to our site. It's really wild to imagine the incredible number of site visitors whom we have never met but who want to read what's on our minds. Many thanks are in order to those who think highly enough to link to us. DCist has been a source of over 11,000 site visits. Not far behind as referral sources are our fellow neighborhood bloggers and businesses. Help us out in thanking them and check out their sites:

Prince of Petworth
Bloomingdale (for now)

Thank you also to all of the 386 sources who have linked to us. We're thrilled to have caught your attention, even if you don't all like us or always agree with us.

And to the bloggers who did not respond kindly to our friendly overtures, I send a raspberry and a "neener, neener" in your general direction. I'm that mature.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Show D.C. Some Love, Part 1: Urban Architecture and Beauty

All images by Mr. 14th and You

In March of 1791, Pierre Charles L'Enfant rode into the port village of Georgetown with grand designs for the soon-to-be federal city. Classically trained as an artist in Paris, L'Enfant--an established civil engineer and architect who had designed, among other notable structures, Federal Hall in New York--had a vision for a grand capital city born from the plans of such great European cities as Rome, Paris and London. Surveying an area of land that was at that time a mixture of swamp, forest and farmland, L'Enfant envisioned a metropolis rising from the confluence of the Potomac and Eastern Branch rivers boasting grand avenues, vast, open spaces, monuments and stately buildings befitting the capital of a young nation filled with promise.

It took awhile for the city called Washington to materialize into the grand capital L'Enfant had imagined whilst taking his first strolls through the federal city's land. Development was slow in coming to the District, and it wasn't until the 1870s that the District undertook an unprecedented developmental effort to pave roads, install sewer lines and the like. With the arrival of the "City Beautiful" movement in the last decade of the 19th century, and the subsequent issuance of the McMillan Plan in 1901, however, Washington finally began to resemble the majestic capital L'Enfant had planned over a century before. And what a city it became.

The monumental core of Washington, D.C. stands alone in the United States, and rivals its European counterparts, for awe-inspiring classical beauty and sheer urban planning brilliance. The sweeping vista of the National Mall afforded by the view from the steps of the U.S. Capitol; the symbolic strength of our nation's leaders embedded within the stone and concrete of presidential memorials; the gentle reflection of amber light in the waters of the reflecting pools; the grandness of the classical and Parisian-inspired structures that surround the Mall and its nearby avenues; the gentle natural beauty presented by the blooming of the cherry blossoms around the tidal basin each spring; this is L'Enfant's city come to life. A city rich in symbolism and character, beauty and elegance. A city that rarely disappoints--the image of the brightly lit Capitol dome standing guard atop its perch on "the Hill" never fails to inspire or, at the very least, demand from me a second glance or extra moment of attention.

D.C.'s architectural heritage and influence didn't stop 100 years ago, however. I.M. Pei's design of the East Wing of the National Gallery provides a sleek, modern contrast to the columned, neoclassical design of the West Wing. The Museum of the American Indian has been lauded by architectural critics for its boldness, due particularly to its prime location on the Mall. Though office and condo towers springing up throughout the city run the gamut from interesting to dreadful, its evident that the city, while not necessarily at the forefront of design, is not hesitant to push forward beyond its traditional architectural heritage. Further evidence still lies in the landmark vote last year by the D.C. city council which led to D.C. becoming the first major U.S. city to require LEED certification (environmentally friendly "green" construction standards) for private projects.

It could be argued that the true beauty of the city lies not among its monuments, memorials and museums, but rather in the multitude of buildings, homes, circles and parks which dot its landscape.

Everyone, it seems, has his or her "favorite" place in Washington. For some, it may be a block of meticulously conceived Victorian rowhouses. For others, the serene majesty of a church or cathedral beckons. Still others find beauty not in the structures themselves, but rather in the people (and characters) that come together from every walk of life (and nation) imaginable to form the community of Washington, D.C. For this particular Washingtonian, a personal favorite is the nearly surreal image of Rock Creek Park observed while traversing south along Connecticut Ave. towards Kalorama, the minaret of the National Mosque and rooflines of various structures visible over the treetops. An impression bested only, perhaps, by the view of the Potomac and Georgetown as taken in from the terrace of the Kennedy Center; or, again, perhaps by the autumn landscape of turning leaves enveloping the ornate mansions that surround Logan Circle.

Whatever one's passion, whatever inspires and moves, the city of Washington affords no shortage of opportunities to find it amongst the gleaming marble, carved brick and stone and glorious fountains and monuments. The mere mention of street names and neighborhoods--Pennsylvania Ave., Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, Massachusetts Ave.--invokes images of magnificence and elegance that some, this writer included, sometimes find difficult to translate into words.

When I first moved to Washington, I wondered whether living here would dull my senses to the aesthetic wonders the city provides. Would I cease to be enthralled by the gentle strength and prestige of the Lincoln Memorial, or fail to be sated by the subdued power and radiance of the White House, visible through the trees of Lafayette Park? Would I come to view the impossible-to-reproduce loveliness of the city's residential architecture as but mere dwellings, not altogether different from the cookie-cutter homes and manicured lawns of the suburbia I grew up in?

Thankfully, I should say not. Hardly a day goes by in Washington that I do not find my eyes getting drawn towards something I had not noticed before--or something I had noticed a thousand times. The enchanting federal city still impresses, its imagery still invigorates. For that, I am constantly thankful that I have the opportunity to call L'Enfant's city my home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Caution: Wet Paint

The benches in Dupont Circle have been repainted. How do I know? I just spent ten minutes scrubbing black paint off of my white pants. Fortunately, the enamel is more sticky than wet, so it marked my clothes, but didn't set into the fibers. So if you head out there tonight, avoid all of the benches, not just the ones that have been roped off. If you're more observant than I was, you'll see all of the newspapers stuck to the tacky surface of the wood. 

Homicide on 1300 Block of Vermont

Is it just us, or does gun violence seem to be on the rise this summer? Without having taken the time to thoroughly research the crime statistics and trends, our own non-scientific observations seem to indicate that the level of violent crime in our area has increased this summer. A few days ago, we were treated to news of a woman who was shot and killed during an attempted carjacking near 9th and Barry Pl. NW. Then yesterday, this: a man apparently gunned down in the alley behind Vermont Ave. near 13th St. (near the Metropolitan Baptist Church and the Logan Station Condos) near N St. No motive, no witnesses and no suspects.

As someone who frequently finds himself running items out to our alley-located recycling bins late at night, this is anything but good news. The full text of the MPD release on the matter is included below:

WASHINGTON, D.C .- The Metropolitan Police Department is currently investigating a homicide which occurred earlier this morning in the 1300 block of Vermont Avenue, NW.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 17, 2008, officers from the Third District responded to the alley rear of the 1300 block of Vermont Avenue, NW, to investigate the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, officers located an unidentified adult male suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. D.C. Fire Department emergency medical personnel responded to the scene, but were unable to find any signs consistent with life. The victim was subsequently pronounced dead on the scene by a representative from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia.

This case remains under investigation by detectives from the department's Homicide and Sexual Offenses Branch. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call police at (202) 727-9099 or *1-888-919-CRIM [E]. *Anonymous information may also be forwarded to the department's *TEXT TIP LINE *by text messaging *50411. *

* *

The Metropolitan Police Department is currently offering a reward of
up to *TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS *to anyone who provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for any homicide
committed in the District of Columbia.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Restaurant/Bar Coming to 14th St.?

We missed this when it was discussed at the ANC meeting a couple of weeks ago, but apparently a new establishment called "Cafe Salsa" is set to take over a space near the corner of 14th and R St. (I believe it's in the space that is currently undergoing renovations, next to Cork, but am not positive.)

A quick Google search turns up only a discussion of a voluntary licensing agreement with the ANC and nothing else. Does anyone have any additional information about Cafe Salsa and their plans? If so, please post in the comments section.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What to say?

At least the parties involved used protection for their romantic alley encounter. (This is behind the south side of the 1300 block of R Street and the north side of the 1300 block of Corcoran, not too far off from where that infamous Knee Deep in Mud incident took place.)

Those Darn Kids

My 14th & You and I enjoyed a late lunch at Teaism today. Yummers. Even better than the lunch was the entertaining conversation between three young 20-somethings seated next to us, one of whom was contemplating taking the LSAT and applying to law school. 

Their chatter was very enlightening. Did you know, for example, that 26 really isn't so old to go to law school and that, furthermore, some people in their 30's make $60k or less a year? As it turns out, Ms. Future Attorney had an acquaintance sitting at the next table. Her table of three and his table of three then started chatting, which was when one gentleman proclaimed that he scored a 175 (out of 180) on the LSAT without even studying. When asked why he didn't then go on to enroll in law school, he said that he "wanted to do something more intellectually challenging." 

I love DC, I really really do. But could these young 'uns head off to grad school somewhere else? Quickly. 

Friday, July 11, 2008

Assault at 17th and R Last Night?

According to an eyewitness account, 17th St. between Q and R last night was flooded with cops and EMS vehicles after an individual supposedly was assaulted with a knife. Details are sketchy at the moment, so if anyone can point us towards anything more substantive, please do.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Show DC Some Love

A consistent conversational topic amongst the 14thandYou household is the apparent inferiority complex and/or general dislike seemingly shared by a good many people with regards to the DC area and its environs. To be sure, the District has its share of problems--many of which we have written about here. Crime, local government ineptitude, questionable/back-asswards developmental policies, poorly run city services...there's no shortage of fodder for these topics. Many cities share them; some less, others more so than D.C.

But it seems that in D.C. there's a greater degree of scorn geared towards the city, and in my own completely arbitrary and un-scientific survey, it seems D.C. has greater proportion of residents who feel "trapped" or "stuck" in their present location than perhaps any other U.S. city. This feeling manifests itself in a multitude of ways, but perhaps none more vocally than the blogosphere. Why, there's even an entire blog devoted to a *hatred* of the District (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek). A couple of days ago, DCist posted a story about how Outside magazine had ranked D.C. as the #1 "town" in the U.S. Talk about arbitrary rankings; D.C.'s seemingly random placement atop the list (followed by such urban behemoths as Chatanooga and Crested Butte) was simply bizarre. But, hey, the District at least warrants a pat on the back for the good press generated by the Outside magazine ranking, no matter how seemingly strange it may be...right? Not according to the majority of commenters that followed, many of whom reacted with a mix of head scratching and disdain over why *any* publication might rank D.C. atop *any* list, short of perhaps a list of governmental inefficiency or some other unfortunate ranking. Which we feel is more than a little unfair.

The 14thandYous don't take issue with many of the complaints lodged against the District, but a lot of truly wonderful aspects about our fair city get completely overlooked in such visceral commentary. Thus, we're embarking upon a series of posts designed to point out the things that we love about living here (with full respect and props to the recently launched To cap off this introductory post, and shed a little light on my own feelings about the District, I'll share a brief, personal story:

Growing up in the midwest in the livable-but-tremendously-bland Columbus, Ohio, I often imagined packing up and heading off to greener pastures in one of the great American cities. Boston with its New England setting and high culture called to me, as did the gleaming towers of Chicago. New York was, well, New York--congested, overpowering, expensive and amazing; and I was fairly certain life in San Francisco would be highly enjoyable. But no city captivated me with inspiration and--dare I say--romanticism like D.C.

I never made it to D.C. as a child. Despite living only 6-or-so hours away by car, my family always had other vacation destinations in mind. Thus, I grew up with a somewhat larger-than-life vision of what visiting the city would actually be like. To stroll the Mall amongst the Smithsonian buildings, to see the Capitol lighting up the night atop its perch on Capitol Hill, to stroll through Lafayette Park on the way to the White House, capped off with a dinner in Georgetown--these were the thoughts that resided amongst my midwestern-bred mind.

My first visit to D.C. came eight years ago, on a business-related trip. I'll never forget my initial gasp and excitement as my car wound its way up 395 into the heart of the city and the Washington Monument appeared in view. Strolling through the streets of the city that evening, observing the way the light gently shown off of the stately federal buildings, the quiet and surprising tranquility of the downtown at night, the reflection of the Kennedy Center in the waters of the Potomac, I became instantly hooked. I had a strong suspicion that somehow I would end up here someday.

My opportunity would come several years later, in the form of a job opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I moved here with my small, ill-tempered feline companion in spring 2004, met the future Mrs. 14thandYou several months later, and haven't looked back since. I'm still awed at times by the stunning beauty of L'Enfant's city; how the city can--despite its problems and warts and everything else seemingly leveled at it--radiate with an elegance unmatched by any other American city. Both of us truly do feel blessed to live here.

Feel free to share any of your own personal observations or stories in the comments...we hope to have our first installment of this series up within the next couple of days. Cheers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Crime Mindfulness

The summer mugging season is well underway. According to information passed from Officer Mike Smith to Borderstan, robberies are up over last year and, in some cases, even last week. However, though we had four violent crimes in our PSA in June, your chances of being personally victimized are still statistically very low. Please see the text below regarding robberies taken from a June 30th Borderstan email. If you would like to be on this mailing list, contact borderstan {at} gmail {dot} com. [If you are not familiar with the term "Borderstan" it refers to the blocks near 15th Street, the dividing line between PSA 307 (east) and PSA 207 PSA 208 (west), an area that has had less attention from MPD patrols in the past due to straddling the police service area diving line.]

Theft from vehicles remains most common crime in Logan. This crime is largely preventable; please keep valuables out of sight in your cars. Please also advise your guests to do the same. You would be surprised at the crummy stuff that thieves will smash a window to access old CD players, car breakdown kits, change, SmarTrips, sunglasses.

Just wanted to let you know that there has been more robberies in the area since my last email. One in particular was unusually violent in that one victim was possibly pistol-whipped during the robbery. That incident occured early Sunday morning at approximately 4 am at the corner of 15th and Church Sts NW. The victims had just parked their car when the suspect approached and asked the driver for directions. Suspect # 1, described as a black male approximately 5'7" with a thin build, short afro hairstyle then punched the driver in the face demanding money. The driver was able to exit the car pursued by Suspect #1 who continued to strike the victim, then he produced a black handgun, striking the victim again. The second suspect was described as a light skinned black male or hispanic male approximately 5'9" with a stocky build. His hairstyle was described as somewhat unique as it was described as long black hair pulled back into a knot, th en the hair below the knot appeared to be braided. Suspect #2 held the second victim at gunpoint as victim #1 was robbed. Both suspects fled on foot on Church St towards 16th St.

Also to let you know I did arrest one suspect for attempted armed robbery at the corner of 15th St and Q St on Friday night at approximately 10:15 PM. This suspect approached two pedestrians and produced a box cutter and attempted to rob them but they were able to flag down a patrol car and the suspect was immediately arrested.

Robberies are occuring on both the 2D and 3D sides primarily between 14th and 16th Streets, mostly between R and U Streets. I have been working with the 2D detectives office to see if we can identify the suspects. Crime over the last 7 days is up over 170% from the same period last year (18 crimes vs. 6 criimes a year ago).

Starbucks "Emergency"

FYI, if you happen to use Starbucks to survive the post-holiday weekend Mondays, you might be a little disappointed today. The person responsible for delivering baked goods, prepared food and milk quit before his shift last night leaving most of the DC stores unstocked. This is a good day to visit Teaism, Mocha Hut, Java House or any other local coffee shop, especially if you need a snack.
Unfortunately, I'm out in the West End with no fast options for caffeination nearby.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What Happened to Pink November?

In a comment in another thread, this question got asked:

"Sorry for the off topic question, but does anyone know what happened to the store Pink November on 13th and U?"

I think I might be able to shed some light on that one. A few weeks ago, I was dropping off a pair of shoes at George's at 13th and U, which shares the building with Pink November. While chatting with George, he mentioned that his shop would soon be moving--to the corner of 16th and U. The reason being, a developer has purchased the building at 13th and U and has plans to redevelop the property. George mentioned at the time that he had approached the owners of Pink November and inquired about partnering with them to purchase the building, but they were not interested.

So while I can't say for certain what has happened to the store--whether or not they plan to reopen elsewhere, or whether they're gone for good--what I can say is that they won't continue to exist at their current location.

And I would be remiss if I didn't throw out a plug for our favorite neighborhood shoe repair guy, George. He does great work at reasonable rates, and he's been a neighborhood fixture for years. He was still in business at 13th and U the last time I checked (about a week ago), but he should be moving to his new digs shortly.

11th Street About to Get All F'ed Up

A safe bet is that your 11th St. commute is going to get pretty nasty come this fall. According to a message from ANC 2F06 commissioner Mike Bernardo:

In response to my continued questioning about the reconstruction of 11th
Street, NW (between L and P Streets), DDOT has informed me that bids will
open tomorrow, on July 2, 2008. In approximately six to eight weeks, a
Notice To Proceed (NTP) for construction will be issued. They don't expect
actual construction to begin before September 2, 2008.

In other words, expect construction to begin sometime in late October to early November, to go on far longer than planned, and to enormously disrupt business operations, traffic, and pedestrian/bicyclist access.

The problem with these "reconstruction" projects, as we've seen on P St. in Dupont and, more recently, Q St. in Logan, is that they *always* run over their projected timeframe and are *always* more disruptive than initially believed. (Q St. finished approximately 6 months over schedule, and the P St. project virtually killed the commercial strip west of the circle in Dupont.) 11th St. should be particularly interesting (read: frustrating) due to the volume of traffic it carries and the 66/68 bus lines that frequently travel it.

This will also be worth watching due to the pending 14th St. "streetscape" project and the streetscaping of the Logan portion of P St.