Plans of men

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So this 7-28-16DDOT.JPG
is from a handout given out at the yesterday's special meeting Bradley A Thomas had arranged with DDOT. These are just design proposals. Nothing is happening any time soon, and folks in Eckington might have something to say about the proposals on their side of North Cap.

Anyway, I and later others noticed the part about closing off the ramp/turn off, whatever you call it, that drivers use to peel off from North Capitol coming south to get on to Florida Ave NW going northwest. That corner is owned by Joe Mamo. Joe Mamo has been proposing to do something with that corner, currently an empty lot, for over a decade. If DDOT does close off that bit of roadway and claims the corner lot where the ugly people hangout then I know that screws with whatever plan Mamo had.

I have very little sympathy for Mr. Mamo because he has taken too long to do whatever he plans to do. If he were Jamal Douglas (a big developer in DC) nothing happening would just be Jamal being Jamal and getting to projects when he's good and ready. But Mamo is just slow. Back in 2005 I posted about a project he proposed for his lot. He had a whole development posse with him, with pictures and plans. This meeting was so long ago the people I mentioned in my meeting notes have moved away.

So fast forward to 2011 and on the BACA blog there is a drawing of what the proposed building Joe Mamo wanted to build. There is even a schedule. Construction was supposed to start in 2014.

Most recently in the history of this slowly going nowhere project, someone voted to support extending Mamo's PUD, again.

DDOT's plans may provide an excuse to keep this lot a lot for another decade.

Instead of complaining more, I'm just going to make Joe Mamo jokes because you hear the name and think "Yo Mama".

Joe Mamo so slow watching paint dry was too fast for him.
Joe Mamo so slow he's running to catch the purple line in Maryland.
Joe Mamo so slow he makes dead snails laugh.

If you find a person on the sidewalk, call 911

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So the other week I was heading to work when I spotted a person laying down on the sidewalk. This was unusual because the area was all residential, it was the morning, and people do not lay down in that spot ever.

I wasn't the only one to spot the person to spot the person on the sidewalk. Some youngish dude saw her, and hesitantly halfway crossed the street as I crossed towards the person. We walked over the person and I grumply mumbled something about calling 911. And I called 911.

I explained to the dispatcher there was a person on the sidewalk. The person was unresponsive to verbal and (after a neighbor nudged --gently kicked-- the person's feet) physical cues. I was unsure of the person's gender or their age, I guessed late 40s early 50s..... I dunno.

The dispatcher asked if I wanted the police. NO. If a person is knocked out or out of it, I tend to think it is a health care issue not a law enforcement issue.

At one point there were 4 of us standing around the person, two of my neighbors and the youngish dude. Then as a firetruck was making its way to us, the young guy left, as well as one of my neighbors. I stood around for probably 30 seconds after the EMTs(?) hopped out of the truck and headed to work. The whole thing took 8 minutes of my time and I made it to the metro in time to see the young dude on the platform.

I tend to ignore people on the sidewalk in other places, places where I expect to see homeless or wayward people sleeping in public. I won't ignore them if it looks like they've placed themselves in danger, like laying in the street.

I'm not perfect. There have been times when I second guessed my level of involvement and wondered if someone was worse off if I had not just walked by or if I was just a bit more insistent.

It's a city. You will have many encounters with strangers and many tests to your character.

Debt Spam Caller

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Spam calling debt collector So one day I will perfect the outgoing message on my land line. Yes, we have a land line. It is the number we give out when we might actually need to hear from the party requesting our number but we really don't want to give our number. We have a long outgoing message, which tends to eliminate some of the robo calls. I think the robo calls are getting clever.

A week ago I got two calls in one day from "Alisha Morton" at 855-208-9664 saying there was a "formal complaint received for service of process". That's just gobblygook to sound scary. Apparently it was for some dude with my last name.

I checked the number and saw it was part of some debt collection scam. Probably up there with the fake IRS lady with the Jamaican accent saying there is a "criminal lawsuit" against me.

Delete, delete, delete.

Will ANXO be a catalyst?

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ANXO menuBack in 2007, at R and 1st NW, a corner quickie mart opened up as a coffee shop. It's name was Big Bear. The same month it opened there was the Bloomingdale Farmer's Market. That summer everything changed.
Later I noticed real estate agents were mentioning Big Bear in their descriptions for houses in Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle ('cause it is on the edge of B'dale). Big Bear would get mentions from not only me, but other bloggers, it got good press, and became a gathering place for people in the neighborhood.
Eventually, other places that we know and love popped up further down 1st Street, and no I'm not ignoring Windows on RI Ave-- it just did not have the same level of impact. Then came Rustik, and Baccios, then Bloomingdale Liquors got spiffed up, then Boundary Stone and the big dog of the culinary scene, Red Hen. Yes, I'm leaving out some other businesses and I sorely miss Costa Brava, but I don't want to go off on a tangent.
So Truxton Circle has ANXO. The TC has some other places but those are mostly over on North Capitol which has its particular challenges, and no room for outdoor seating. Also ANXO brings with it a uniqueness of being DC's only and first cidery, and an impressive background, with founders who have years of experience at other DC destination restaurants/pubs.
As someone who lives on this end of the TC, on one hand I'd prefer that it not become a destination restaurant/bar, because parking is already at a premium. On the other hand, while I was enjoying a nice French cider, I leaned over to my spouse (the Help) and said, "Our property values just went up."

This is unacceptable bus behavior

Seat TakerI don't know for sure what this guy's problem is. He might be some sort of neurodiverse person, but still, this is unacceptable behavior on a bus that was pretty much standing room only when I boarded the 79 bus heading downtown.
He's a regular on the morning 79 Express bus and he will, given a chance, take up all the seats on the bench, as pictured. It doesn't matter if it is in the front, near the driver (I've seen him do it there) or in the back near the rear door. Today, it didn't matter that several people were standing, like I was, in the aisle. And it doesn't matter if you ask nicely, as I've done in the past, so you can sit down. His answer was no.
I have entertained the idea that he might be neurodiverse, as in somewhere on the autism spectrum. Regardless, it is still a rude move. It might be a reason but it is not an excuse. And if because of his mental health he needs a buffer around people, maybe a rush hour bus that is known to get crowded is not the best option. It is unclear if MetroAccess would even be an option.
I've also entertained the idea that he's an a-hole. Seriously, three seats? People who take up a seat plus their big bag, just do 2 seats, but 3? If you need 3 seats for you and your bags, you need to take a cab.
I'm venting, but I needed to get that out.

911-Domestic Abuse - Call it in

I want to thank the guys, or at least the guy, who called 911, when witnessing a guy hit a girl.

The Help and I were walking back home after enjoying lots of wine and cheese when I noticed three guys looking at something in an alley entrance. What they were observing were a couple. The guy had hit the girl and grabbing her. She wasn't resisting. It was a slight mix of PDA & MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), heavier on the PDA side, which is why it was a confusing scene.

Unfortunately it is a scene I've seen before, so I automatically did what I normally do, even if it is totally ineffective. I loudly asked the girl (woman in her 20s) if she was alright. They always say they are fine, even while the guy might be tugging roughly on her or pulling her hair. They are not fine, they are actively being abused by their boyfriend.

Unless you want to deal with his violence, never ever confront the abuser. Yes in total there were 5 of us and one of him, but I was tipsy, overfed and about 5 minutes from crashing, the Help is not a fighter and I don't know about the other guys. Besides, when an abuse victim sees her lover/abuser getting attacked she may defend him. Yeah, it's stupid.

The safest thing for you is to call 911. The best thing for her is to call it in to 911. If you are not sure, or if you are in the Metro system (told station manager there was a couple slapping each other on the platform, she directed me to call WMATA's information number #seesomethingsaysomethingFAIL) call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-7233.

About Calling 911
To the guy who asked should he stay on the line with 911, yes, and thank you. I or the Help should have called them too.

When calling DC 911 you might not get an operator immediately. When asked what is the nature of your emergency, say you are witnessing domestic violence then describe what you are seeing. The trickiest question you will be asked is your location. Pick the closest house and use that address, the city's system seems to hate intersections and general blocks (ex. 300 block of R St). You may be asked your name and phone number, you can say you would prefer to be anonymous, unless you're okay with saying it. If you leave a number, sometimes, but not often in my experience, the police will call you back.

All of Shaw is a stage

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All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts... -Shakespeare

When I am on the bus or train, sometimes I like to play a game in my head called 'Casting' where I take everyone on the bus or in the car and decide what kind of movie or television show I can have with the people I see. On the bus it tends to go towards a Tyler Perry movie. On the train, if there is a cop, a security guard, or military people, it is an action adventure. It's all about the people.

The neighborhood is the same way. Yes, the built environment plays a part, like a set, but it is the cast of residents, workers, visitors, and others who come into a space playing a part that tells story of the neighborhood. Yet, there isn't one story, there are several stories, and depending on whose point of view, anyone could be an extra, nameless minor character with or without a spoken role, supporting actor, or the lead. Then there are the many unseen, the stage hands, the gaffers, transport captains, etc. All the people responsible for the Giant, the traffic lights, the coffee shops, the new buildings, the rehabbed old buildings, the vacant buildings, and the dollar store with the identity crisis, set up the scene. Sometimes people double as seen actors and behind the scenes, such as the resident who opens an eatery or a gym.

A few days ago I called 911 regarding a man who was laying in 7th St. Yes, he was on the asphalt, near a corner where a cab came dangerously close to running his feet over while turning. Why was he laying in the street? Beats me, I have theories and they are probably wrong. But walking up I asked him if he needed help. He was babbling something. So I asked him to grab my arm to help him up. He wasn't budging or making sense. Then from across the street a young African American man, who looked like he worked out at a gym, came over, pulled the guy up halfway onto the sidewalk, then ran back to catch his bus. While this was going on, a small group of elderly "people of Walmart" women were saying he should be left alone and nothing should be done.  At some point I call 911, explain to the dispatcher where I am and what's going on, then while on the phone EMS shows up. Apparently the old guy in the street has done this before and has been hit before. I leave, pop into a restaurant to wash old guy off my hands and head home.

That is just one story of the neighborhood. It probably doesn't fit the preferred narrative of gentrification. Almost everyone in the story was black, me, the guy in the street, the fellow who picked him up, maybe the cabbie making that turn. The old guy may have been displaced by the progress in Shaw, but his mental health seemed to be his biggest problem. I am a homeowner and government worker, and I've enjoyed the changes. The well-toned fellow, looked like he belonged in one of those shiny new apartment buildings or condos they keep building around here. Maybe so, maybe not, that was just my impression. Maybe someone called 911 before I stepped onto the scene, but city services showed up quickly. Possibly chance, or more likely the behind the scenes efforts of people to improve the city's response to the area. There was a time when the wait for someone to bother to show up would not have been so quick or taken seriously.

Many play a role in the various scenes that unfold every day in Shaw. What's yours?

Housing. Supply. Quality of Supply.

Faceless house
So I have been in Baltimore this week (not overnight) and so that gave me an opportunity as I walked around West Baltimore to snap a picture of one of the city's many, many vacant houses.
Baltimore has so many vacant houses it is not even funny. Riding in on the MARC train you can see them as you come into the city. The parts of the city where I've been walking around, not so much the touristy areas, there are some noticeable vacant houses. Some just have boarded up windows, some have braces to keep them from killing pedestrians (cross the street anyways) and some of them are like the the house pictured, where the front, or the back or the roof is missing.
There are about 16,000 vacant houses in Baltimore City. There are a few houses one could buy for less than $2500 each. Yes, they are shells. Baltimore City government has a "Vacants to Value" program, some are shells, others serious fixer uppers.
At a point in time DC was like Baltimore is today. Shaw had a lot of vacant houses. Between the middle of the 20th Century and the end, Truxton Circle lost a lot of its population and experienced vacancies. Though I cannot find the internet proof, I know my house, where I live, was once a vacant property.
When we think of housing, decent housing, we think of places with roofs that don't leak, places with toilets that flush, spigots that run vigorously, and outlets that don't spark when you plug things in. DC and Baltimore both have a lot of old ('historic' if you want to be fancy) housing stock. Say what you will about gentrification, it gets the old houses fixed up (I'm ignoring the new construction). If not properly by the developer who slaps on a new coat of paint, the next homeowner or next developer who does a better job and addresses the lead pipes, the lack of central air, the so-so water pressure, and other housing emergencies.
Many vacants are not decent housing. The vacants listed at DC Vacant Properties have issues. 509 O St NW has so many problems, like being vacant for way too long, and legal issues, it is a nuisance just standing there. The row of yellow houses at 313-317 R St NW have had squatters but have water, mold and other interior damage and are not fit for safe living.
So lets go back to the house in Baltimore missing half of its front brick. It is a house. In theory it could house someone. In its current state it probably could kill the inhabitants by falling on them. In its current state it can't house anyone safely.

banished? forever

Look a bookYesterday I got the sad news that banished? productions will be no more.

I came to know banished? when they wowed me with the Tactile Dinner. I may have gone to 2 or 3 Tactile Dinners since 2009, all of them different than the last, involving edibles, dance, film and being, not just thinking, outside the box. Then I enjoyed The Circle, (pictured) which was an audio time travel walkabout affair. What I loved about banished? was it wasn't just art, where you look at a thing, be it a thing on a wall or a thing on the floor. Nor was it just theater or dance where you sit back and observe a thing, which is fine. But theirs was an experience, where it did not depend on the passive audience, well the productions I attended, but active participation.

When they moved out to Brookland they had a tool library and held classes. I enjoyed the woodworking class, where I got to saw and drill. I also found pleasure in the whittling class. I wished I had taken some of their other offerings, I think there was a welding class. Once again, active, not passive.

banished? will have their last performance July 20-24 with she took me back so tenderly, I have no idea of what it will have in store, but I'm sure it will be transformative.

Random thoughts on housing and affordablity

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There was a recent report on the relationship between minimum wages and the affordability of a two bedroom apartment. I'm going to reveal a little of my philosophical bent when I write a minimum wage job has as much to do with a 2 bedroom unit as a studio apartment as to do with housing a family of 4.

I remember a lovely trip to NYC where we visited the Tenement Museum, I highly recommend it. Large families would live in these cruddy little spaces which were the size of some studio apartments. We learned laws to make these places more sanitary slowly and later quickly incentivized landlords to close up the tenement apartments and just rent to commercial enterprises. There are costs to renting residential housing borne by the landlord, in the case of Lower East Side landlords, it wasn't worth it.

So what are the costs to rent out say a small apartment building in DC. Well for one, you need to get a small apartment building. The cheapest building so far is an empty 4 unit near Ft. Totten for $895K. From what I can tell it needs work and could turn into 6 units if you have a lot of 1 bedroom apartments. The minimum monthly payment and we haven't fixed the place for human habitation is around $6000. If the owner decides to fix it up, that costs money to pay for permits, labor and materials. Over $1500 a unit if we have 4 apartments, $1000 with 6. Insurance, maintenance, utilities for common areas, property taxes, and property management haven't been added. There are some other concepts such as vacancy, that time when no one is in the unit covering the mortgage. Then there is the idea of profit because what is the point, unless you're a non-profit with another motivation.

Even companies and persons who've owned their properties a while still have to pay for updates, maintenance, management (the people you call when you need maintenance), insurance, property taxes and a bunch of other stuff.

But when you are the one looking to rent, that doesn't matter. There are many people looking to rent and if a landlord can charge $X,xxx for their dinky little 1 bedroom they will, provided it is worth renting it out over mothballing it.

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