Metro to scrap automode, run Red Line at 35mph

Metro General Manager John Catoe announced two new safety provisions today. First, trains will be running in manual mode indefinitely, and second the Red Line will run at 35 m.p.h. until the cause of the fatal crash is determined.

This is in addition to putting Series 1000 cars in the middle of trains, and having all trains berth at the very end of the platform regardless of length.

First off, a personal observation. My commute involves the Red Line. On a normal day, my commute takes a little under 30 minutes. Today I attempted to take the Red Line, after using bus alternatives last week. Big mistake. When I arrived, the platform was already packed (this was at around 8:45 am) and the information display was not showing the next arrival. I waited about 12 minutes before deciding that even if a train arrived, I wouldn't be able to get on, and the display only showed a "-- Train" arriving in 12 more minutes.

Running the entire Red Line at 35 m.p.h. could indicate a few things. The first is that Metro has absolutely no idea why the accident occurred (perhaps the real cause has nothing to do with a faulty sensor), or they are aware of a problem that is limited only to the Red Line. What is that problem? It must be a pretty big problem because running an entire line at such a low speed makes me think they are very afraid that there will be another crash. The other alternative is that they have absolutely no idea what happened, but feel it would be too much of a burden to run the entire system at 35 m.p.h.

Is this an overreaction of caution in the face of nine deaths and what will surely be hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits? Or, are our greatest fears perhaps warranted and the entire system is vulnerable to a terrible crash? This excellent post over at Greater Greater Washington outlines the various safety systems Metro uses. From that post, we learn "Metro tracks don't have signals in the same way that older subways like New York do. Visible wayside signals only exist at switches." Question for Metro, does this make running in manual mode more difficult? The system will always limit speed to prevent crashes (even in manual mode), but what about the fear that the safety system is broken. Without signals, do the drivers just have to "watch out" for other trains? In 2005, there was nearly a horrific accident in the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, but operators hit the emergency brake in time. Metro has been silent on what may have caused that to happen. Imagine a crash in the blue/orange tunnel under the Potomac. I don't even want to think about that.

Metro has had problems training their operators--e.g. they don't always remember how long their trains are. There have been concerns about attentiveness after years of running trains in automatic mode. We know operator error was not the cause of the crash last week, but i don't really want my train operator to be playing a game of (reverse?) chicken in a twisting dark tunnel (of doom).

So again, I'll state some questions for WMATA:

1. Why is it only the Red Line operating at 35 m.p.h?
2. Is the risk of another crash more likely on the Red Line? If so, why would that be the case?
3. What were the results of the investigation into the 2005 incident?

BUT, hey, we did get Nextbus.

The future of hyperlocal blogging, or why blogs are not the future

I've discussed the spread of hyperlocal neighborhood blogging before, rattling off a list of things you can to do to ensure you're blog is the best blog in your immediate 8 block radius.

DC has a ton of neighborhood blogs. These are the new listserves, the new 'neighborhood newsletter,' so on and so forth. I'll even admit, I read some of these neighborhood blogs. I might even read three or four different neighborhood blogs. However, there's one thing that needs to be said, so I'll say it as clearly as possible.

'Hyperlocal' blogs are not a substitute for newspapers.

I keep seeing how local bloggers are filling the void left by the collapse of newspapers. I'll give some local blogs some credit, they are covering things that no one else is covering. The Washington Post doesn't send reporters to local ANC meetings to report on voluntary agreements and liquor licenses. This is very true. However, there is still a huge void in local news that cannot be filled by 'part-time keyboard jockeys' such as myself.

Blogs are great at 1) serving as a filter of local news, highlighting interesting stories that may fly under the radar and 2) providing entertaining commentary.

However, blogs do not fill the void left by the lack of actual hard news coverage. You don't have bloggers digging through court records and testimony to put together a several thousand word piece on an unsolved murder case. You don't have bloggers asking the tough questions at press conferences. That's because blogs are (generally) not a full-time occupation where the writer can spend their days doing research, conducting interviews and building stories.

Newspapers, television and radio stations have the resources needed to cover local news in depth. As we know, in DC, a lot of outlets don't do a great job at this. But on any given day take a look at CityDesk over at the Washington City Paper. Take a look at the Washington Examiner. And yes, take a look at the Washington Post Metro Section. This is where the real reporting is done. This is where the bloggers get their material. Without these sources, we'd only be writing about 'neat' doors, the new wine bar opening in the basement of another wine bar, or that time you think you saw a bunch of police do something and maybe a helicopter was involved.

Do the hyperlocal blogs serve a purpose? Sure they do, but they aren't a substitute for the Metro section. There's a niche for everything but I should hope no one confuses blogging for real, shoeleather journalism. Might it help the Post if they launched their own set of hyperlocal blogs? Maybe, but not until they do something about their awful web design. If the Post or some other media-savvy enterprise acquired a blog in each 'high profile' neighborhood and paid the writer to blog as a full-time job (with some sort of responsibility) then perhaps we'd actually get some good local coverage.

That would never turn a profit, though, as not enough people read such blogs.


DC vows 'crackdown' on fireworks

I'm not sure what's more useless, this article from WJLA or the subject of the matter, "D.C. Pledges to Toughen Fireworks Crackdown."

Sweet, ain't no kind of crackdown like a tougher crackdown.

Just like every other year, DC Police and the Fire Department are "cracking down" on illegal fireworks. In DC, that means pretty much all fireworks, excluding pointless "fireworks" such as sparklers and smokebombs and those things you throw at the ground that go "pop." Or the fireworks display at Nationals Park.

I grew up near the Illinois-Indiana state line, where the "illegal" fireworks trade came out each year in full force. Hundreds of fireworks stands popped up all along the Indiana side of the border. The fireworks were, as I understand it, illegal in Indiana, and if you bought them, you were agreeing you would take them out of state. The fireworks were also illegal in Illinois, so you'd have the Illinois State Police stopping all of the people as soon as they crossed the border. One fireworks dealer described the State Police's efforts as a "full paramilitary operation" involving camouflaged surveillance and undercover operatives.

Needless to say, despite the best efforts of law enforcement, each July you'd see and hear plenty of illegal fireworks as well as plain old gunfire as people "celebrated" the birth of our nation.

Here in DC, the "crackdown" apparently involves fire inspectors on the street and a partnership with MPD. Well, shit, I guess that puts that to bed. Nevermind the fact that I just heard about 15 firecrackers go off outside. Looks like the recession put the brakes on deploying the fireworks sniffing dogs on all of the bridges into DC.
While D.C. offers the annual PBS "A Capitol Fourth" spectacular on the National Mall, many residents prefer to create there own, including Calvin Scott Sr and his 9-year-old son, Calvin Junior.

"Come out here and we just shoot fireworks until 1, 2 O'Clock in the morning," the elder Scott said. "I mean, we have friends that go to North Carolina, pick up hundreds and hundreds of cases of fireworks. Believe it or not, we just sit out here and have an excellent time."

"We're going to shoot fireworks," he said, his son interrupting to question the wisdom of telling the world about their plans. "It's just something that's, you know, tradition," the elder Scott continued.
Fireworks can be dangerous, they can destroy fingers and start fires. Firecrackers can also sound a lot like gunfire (e.g. the person who called 911 saying they heard 60-80 gunshots! damn, must have been some firefight). However, this is quite like the battle against "illegal firearms" which the city has been losing for some time. Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that for as long as fireworks are sold anywhere on the eastern seaboard, people will bring them to DC and set them off. It's going to happen. No matter if we have an All Hands on Deck driving down every single block looking for some telltale white smoke.

The best resource in the city's crackdown is you and me, because as the DC Fire Department reminds us on their web site, it is our duty to report fireworks:
What can I do if I see someone engaging in illegal fireworks use or sales?

As a citizen of the District of Columbia, it is your duty to report the use of illegal fireworks use or sales to the DC Fire Marshals office at (202) 727-1600 for immediate action.
Calvin and Calvin Junior had better watch out. Maybe DC FEMS (God, they need a better acronym) can pull their best fire inspectors off fire hydrant inspections to go look for firecrackers. Sweet. How's that Eastern Market fire investigation going, anyways?


Catoe on Catoe: Online Chat at 2:30

There's no justice like angry Internet mob justice.

Today at 2:30 PM Metro General Manager John Catoe will be hosting an online chat to address questions about Metro's safety.

Will he answer the big, important questions? Will his lawyers advise him not to answer them?

I am currently out of town, in the land of Windy Shoulders, so I may have to miss this chat. I urge all of those in Internet land to attend if you can. See if your questions get answered.

Perhaps we can also administer some type of Turing Test to make sure that we're actually talking to a human, and not Skynet. The NTSB is realizing that Skynet let us down, and instructed the striking train to continue at 59 mph.

I'm curious to know if WMATA had any information about a sensor problem prior to the crash. Track work had been done in that area, and with the volume of trains on the Red Line it seems as though someone would have noticed this problem. Maybe not, though.

Also, Catoe announced Metro would be putting Series 1000 cars in the middle of trains, where they would be less vulnerable. Given that Series 1000 cars make up something like 30% of the rolling stock, it's not possible to do this in every case. However, why was this not already in place, given prior NTSB recommendations? Also, is that not admitting that Series 1000 cars are unsafe? I know this paints Metro into a corner here, but still.

Too little, too late? Or just enough? What do you want to ask John Catoe?

Also, are we still getting NextBus on July 1?


Coming never: A "grassroots" bar on U Street

via PoP: Community (party) organizer Nikisha Carpenter is aiming to open a new bar/lounge on U Street, called Kindred. The bar will be located at 1357 U St. Rather than relying on traditional ways to open a bar, Nikisha is instead asking for your spare change.

Opening a new bar is an expensive task. Generally people finance this with money raised from family, business partners, and loans. The idea is that once the business is operational, it will hopefully make a profit, and you can repay your loans and investors.

Nikisha "Yes, We Can" Carpenter decided to take today's trendy term "grassroots" and somehow apply it to the bar industry. Instead of having a business plan and getting investors, she's just asking for donations over the Internet. If it worked for Howard Dean and Barack Obama, it can work for her as well. Right?

Have you ever found yourself wondering why that bottle of Miller Light at the bar costs the same as a six-pack at the liquor store? Or, why you have to pay so much more for a martini that only takes a minute to shake when you’re at home? Well, the answer to those questions is pretty simple: Bars charge more than liquor stores because they have to pay more overhead: opening costs, renting a space, paying employees, and interest on bank loans. When you do the math, it all adds up.
So which ones of those (opening costs, rent, payroll and interest) don't liquor stores have to pay? It is true that a swanky lounge likely has more overhead than a corner liquor store. They also can turn a lot more profit.

The argument and apparent "mission" of Kindred is to raise $100,000 (that's a lot!) to open a lounge. Supposedly once this is open, prices will be very reasonable because they got $100,000 for free rather than from a bank or investors. It's unclear how that initial $100K will keep prices down in the long run. Will their employees be volunteers? Also, keep in mind that by donating you do not become an investor or shareholder. You are giving this person your money, because a web site told you that you'd be getting a cheap, swanky lounge.

So far, on the Kindred blog, we have a selection of testimonials. Here's one:
Nikisha is doing something great for the community, opening up more doors for everyone ... who wouldn't want to support that.
- Ice
Well, Ice, I'm glad to see that there's no better use for a hundred grand in DC than to open up a swanky lounge.

Again, from the site's mission statement:
I realize this is something unprecedented. My goal is to raise money through the community and via online donations from supporters like you to help cover the cost of opening KINDRED — a for profit business. And I’m hoping to do so with your help and support. Grassroots isn’t just for politics, after all, right?
It's unprecedented because it's a terrible idea. Don't get me wrong, it's awesome to get fired up about something and to raise money for a good cause. But there's a reason why bars aren't 501(c)3 non-profits. She even mentions here that it is a "for profit business." Non-profits across the region and the nation are struggling, laying people off and discontinuing vital services to people. And Kindred wants to ask people to give them $100K to open a bar along a trendy (and expensive) strip of U Street?

This, like socialism, sounds like a great idea. But come on, asking the world give you money to open a bar with the promise that you will only try to make a little bit of profit? I don't care who you are or how awesome of an idea you have for a bar, that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Even if you promised me a kickass Jurassic Park themed bar, I'm not going to just give you money because you said so! It's a lounge on U Street! Exactly how does a "cheap" $3 Miller Lite or a $5 martini help the community?

Gee whiz, I'd like to buy a house. Can the Internet help me pay for it? I promise once I get it I'll invite everyone over for dinner once a month.

In case you actually want to donate some money to a good cause, here's a few suggestions:


Follow up on Red Line

Here's a quick round-up of the latest on the Red Line crash:

From the Washington Post:
  • It is likely that the operator of the moving train attempted to apply the emergency brake.
  • The train was operating in "automatic mode" at the time of the crash. This would indicate some type of failure in the automatic braking system.
  • Passenger accounts say the train did not slow down prior to impact. It's unclear how accurate these accounts are, but if true, seem to indicate a massive failure in the braking system.
  • The first two cars of the striking train were 2 months overdue for brake maintenance.
What else do we know?

  • WMATA understated the magnitude of the crash when they put in the call for help to DC Fire. It's unclear how much blame can fall on WMATA for this, but DC FEMS did not hesitate to say that the first crews arriving were woefully unprepared for what they found.
  • "In a February 2008 online chat, Mr. Catoe also said the 1000-series cars had brake problems. He vowed a thorough investigation Monday aimed at preventing such crashes in the future." [Emphasis mine]
  • "A Metro spending document from October 2008 outlines the plan to replace the cars with new 7000-series rail cars by noting that the cars' aluminum structure was becoming 'brittle and fatigued with age and use.'"
And as we already knew, the NTSB told WMATA that the Series 1000 cars should be retrofitted to prevent this type of 'telescoping' which could result in massive casualties.

So, if we are to understand this correctly, all of the following are true:
  • Metro was aware that Series 1000 cars would likely telescope in a collision, potentially killing many occupants of the car.
  • Metro was aware that Series 1000 cars had braking problems.
  • Metro was aware that the structure of Series 1000 cars was failing over time.
  • The first two cars of the striking train in the crash were Series 1000 cars, and were overdue for brake maintenance.
All of this was known prior to the June 22, 2009 crash on the Red Line--a crash that involved a car telescoping overtop of another car, and suffering from braking problems.

Questions for John Catoe:
  • If it was known that Series 1000 cars have braking issues, why was a Series 1000 car allowed to be 2 months past due for brake maintenance?
  • Were Metrorail operators made aware of the potential for braking problems on Series 1000 cars?
  • Since taking the job as Metro General Manager, had you reviewed the NTSB recommendations regarding the Series 1000 cars?
  • If so, how was the decision reached to not retrofit these cars or accelerate their removal from service?
  • Will you resign?

Statistical look at crime in Columbia Heights

For anyone interested, I looked up some information on crime in Columbia Heights.

Here's a breakdown. These figures are percent change from (2007-2008) to (2008-2009). These are yearly figures compared, so you get an idea of trending.

EDIT: You can get an idea of crimes that have occured in the past two years. I am by no means a statistical expert. I am an expert in saying "crime has not decreased since 2007."

For Police Service Area 304, which encompasses the area between 16th St. and Georgia Ave, Florida Ave. and Harvard St:

Homicide: +200%
Sex Abuse: -62%
Robbery (no gun): +12%
Robbery (gun): +6%
Assault w/Dangerous Weapon (no gun): +20%
Assault w/Dangerous Weapon (gun): +75%
Total Violent Crime: +10%

For Police Service Area 302, which is between 16th St. and Park Pl., and Harvard St. and Rock Creek Park:

Homicide: +100%
Sex Abuse: -23%
Robbery (no gun): +25%
Robbery (gun): +14%
Assault w/Dangerous Weapon (no gun): -13%
Assault w/Dangerous Weapon (gun): -53%
Total Violent Crime: +5%

In both PSA 302 and 304, violent crime is up. Homicides are up. Assault with Dangerous Weapon is down. I don't know if that's because of better policing, or that the shooters are more accurate and have turned more ADWs into homicides. Sex abuse is down across both PSAs. That's good too. Plus one for Law and Order: SVUMPDC. But PSA 302 is in bad shape. And now, you've got figures and not just a blogger making unfounded assertions.

Look at those stats for PSA 302 and tell me if a rowhouse for half a million is a "Good Deal or Not."

Here's a Craigslist ad for you, "Now with 200% more homicide!"


First thoughts on Red Line crash

It's been less than 24 hours since the Red Line crash, and the NTSB is already pinning blame on WMATA. And honestly, it doesn't look good. At least nine people are dead, and WMATA ignored important safety recommendations from the NTSB.

Loose Lips is all over this story, combing through the reports from the crash at the Woodley Park station. Here's a back and forth between the NTSB and WMATA:
Either accelerate retirement of Rohr-built railcars, or if those railcars are not retired but instead rehabilitated, then the Rohr-built passenger railcars should incorporate a retrofit of crashworthiness collision protection that is comparable to the 6000-series railcars. (R-06-2)

WMATA does not plan to do a heavy overhaul on the 1000 Series, Rohr railcars. Instead WMATA plans to replace these railcars with the 7000 Series railcars on which design has already started. WMATA is constrained by tax advantage leases, which require that WMATA keep the 1000 Series cars in service at least until the end of 2014. The 296 Rohr railcars make up over a third of WMATA’s current rail fleet and have performed well for over thirty years. The railcars will be replaced around 2014. Current Situation: All WMATA rail cars are fitted with anti-climbers on the end of the cars. These are designed to engage during a collision and to reduce the tendency for one car to climb over the other. The newer 6000 design, while retaining the anti-climber feature, has included additional energy absorption in the front end of the car. That absorbs energy as its deforms and collapses in a higher speed collision. This type of design will be used on future procurements.

NTSB Conclusion:
In view of WMATA’s response to the Board’s recommendation, it appears that further dialogue on this issue would prove futile. Consequently, we have no choice but to classify Safety Recommendation R-06-2 Closed Unacceptable Action.
This morning NTSB spokesperson Debbie Hersman said "We recommended to WMATA to either retrofit those cars or phase them out of service. Those concerns were not addressed."

Of course this is all irrelevent to the fact that one train crashed into another. That, of course, should never have happened. However, the fact that WMATA had been warned about such horrific potential in the event of a crash is unbelievable.

From the NTSB back in 2006:
"The failure to have minimum crashworthiness standards for preventing telescoping of rail transit cars in collisions places an unnecessary risk on passengers and crew."

As of last night, WMATA Chief John Catoe found no reason to suspend the use of the Series 1000 railcars.

Bottom line:
Some type of system failure occurred to allow these two trains to collide. Operator error was most likely involved as well (witnesses say train did not attempt to stop before collision). HOWEVER, WMATA ignored NTSB suggestions for years that could have minimized the number of injuries and fatalities. Yes, Metro is low on funds and retrofitting cars is expensive. This is true. However, that's not a reason to run a system that is unsafe. Shut the damn thing down if it's not safe.

John Catoe should submit his resignation by the end of the day or be fired.


Back in the District

I was out of town for the weekend, and am still processing all the news about the crash on the Red Line. Obviously it's far too early to comment about anything relating to that. I'm sure we'll see some sort of fingerpointing soon, and I do have to wonder who will be the first to say this is why Metro needs more funding.

On a completely different topic, there was an article in the Post today that shouldn't be overlooked. Looks like the reporters over there have just discovered that Columbia Heights is not safe.

I am sick and tired of hearing people talk about how Columbia Heights has changed so much in the last year, and it's now a destination place to live and shop and all of that. I lived in Columbia Heights (or whatever they are calling things near 14th Street north of Newton) in 2007, and it wasn't any better or worse than it is now. 5 years before that I remember trekking over to visit a friend's brother, and it was about the same. There's been retail development, of course, but that doesn't get at or resolve any of the major problems that still remain. Bottom line: it wasn't safe then and it's not safe now. I harp on this all of the time, but it's the truth.

[Columbia Heights resident Tazah] Richardson said it is a mistake to think the rejuvenated commercial corridor has done anything to curb shootings and robberies. Many victims erroneously assume that the area is less vulnerable to crime because of the expanded retail presence.

"I saw a woman who just bought something at Best Buy walk down this street, and a guy walked up and snatched it," Richardson said. "Sometimes people seem to forget where they are."

In much of Columbia Heights, violent crime rates have held fairly steady in recent years, said D.C. police Inspector Jacob Kishter, acting commander of the 3rd Police District.

"Some of these gang-related fights have been going on for as long as you and I have been alive," he said.

If I see another person I know talking about how they just got such an "awesome" basement apartment on Fairmont Street, or hear about a condo selling for $400,000 near Girard, I'm going to have to continue to blog about this crap. Columbia Heights hasn't been "fixed" by plopping a Target down. Just like it wasn't fixed when the Giant opened, and it wasn't fixed when the Metro station opened. You can masturbate to your Yelp application on your iPhone while eating at the "Gastropub" or at RedRocks all you want, but that doesn't mean you won't have to dodge bullets on your way home because you bought a house that's in the middle of a disputed gang zone.

In most other cities, you wouldn't be paying $1600/mo to rent a 1BR in a neighborhood like Columbia Heights. Hell, you should be earning some hazard pay for that kind of duty.

It ain't all fun and games, even though it's in "Northwest."



This story is breaking all over the Internets, and I'll go ahead and add my $0.02.

The suspect in the Thursday shooting at the Columbia Heights Metro is an intern in Councilmember Jim Graham's office. Yes, that's right. When I first saw this headline, I was thinking about how this just writes itself. I mean, really, it ties together so nicely Grahamstanding, the failed DC Summer Jobs program, and the gang problem. All in one nice, neat, web-ready package.

But no, it gets even better. When Graham was informed an arrest warrant had been issued for the shooter, he confronted him and drove him to the police station. Can someone check and see if Graham has installed a cage and lights and sirens in his VW Beetle.

From ABC 7:
Black, a recent graduate from Wilson High School, has been working in Graham's office making $12 an hour for about a week and showed up to work after the shooting, the sources said. Graham questioned Black about the shooting Thursday, but Black denied involvement, sources said. Black allegedly admitted his role Friday, and Graham drove him to the police station, the sources said. (Emphasis mine)
I don't know about you but I suppose what I find even more surprising than the fact that the suspect was an intern is that Graham pays his interns $12 an hour. I mean, holy shit. I've worked a lot of 'real' jobs (part and full time) that didn't pay $12 an hour. I don't know why this kid went and screwed up a pretty sweet arrangement. At that rate, he could probably have worked his way up to executive assistant to the Mayor or some such and be pulling in $102K before he knew it.

Those federal interns might be annoying when they can't operate their farecard on the Metro... but they are working for free and aren't shooting each other. At least the DC kids know how to multitask, I suppose. Though it did say he was 'absent from work' following the shooting.

I guess the "let's hire gang members and pay them more than they make hustling" plan is probably not viable.


A year since tragedy, some perspective

One year ago a good friend of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident. Katrina Matthews was only twenty when she died in the middle of Southern Avenue. She was riding on a motorcycle driven by 28-year-old Demarkus Henry of Landover.

Henry was likely trying to show-off, driving on the wrong side of the road at a high rate of speed. He collided head on with a car, though somehow he survived the crash. He was charged in DC Superior Court on June 24, 2008 with Involuntary Manslaughter.

In December he pleaded guilty to the charge of Negligent Homicide. Five months later in May of this year he would finally receive his sentence. 18 months in prison, 15 of those months suspended. 18 months of probation and 200 hours of community service. Also, a $100 payment to the victims of violent crime fund.

Katrina and I both started working at a hardware store the same day. Well, she'd always say she started the day before me, but we went to orientation on the same day. We had come to that job from completely different backgrounds. I was temping and working the door at a rock club, and needed more money. She was raising a baby girl and needed work. Her commute to the store would some days be upwards of 2 hours, on the bus and Metro. But she always came in.

Everyone at the store loved her, and when I left in April of last year to open another store, I knew I would miss her. Fall of 2007 had been a rough time for me, and she'd always hear me out when I had something to complain about. She had a way of making me shut up when I'd complain that life wasn't fair or some other similar drivel.

A year ago, I was waiting on our delivery truck at the new store. I knew they'd be stopping at my old store first, so I called them for a status update. I knew something was wrong as soon as they answered the phone. I started to ask about the truck and was cut off with "Dave, Trina is dead."

This is an intensely personal post for this site. I can't speak to whether or not justice was served in this case. She left behind a beautiful little girl, and I can tell you with certainty if I had talked with her and she mentioned riding on a motorcycle with some guy she just met, I would have told her she was being stupid. I would have told her to think about her little girl. But that's all beside the point. There's nothing that can be done about it now. It's a tragedy and that's all there is to say.

She always had a way of making other people realize what's important, and not to let things get to you. She was great with customers and could disarm even the snottiest, rudest people. She was going to attend the DC Fire Academy in the Fall of 2008. Sadly she didn't get the chance. She was so excited about that.

This has nothing to do with the mission of this site. I just wanted to share that story. Going through the emotions of this helps me put into perspective what is important. It's easy to get wrapped up in things, to be consumed by them. Take a deep breath and tell your friends and family how much they mean to you.


Lead leader moves to suburbs

I swear, I can't even make this stuff up. Via the Washington Post:
Jerry N. Johnson, who oversaw the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority when high levels of lead were found in the city's water, was chosen today for the top post at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the troubled Maryland utility whose underground water pipes have been breaking in record numbers.
Johnson has been in charge at DC WASA for the last 12 years, and was recently "let go" from his job. "Let go" means the WASA board of directors bought out his $230,000/year contract a year early. They gave him a silver parachute as a way of "restoring public confidence after the way the lead discovery was handled five years ago."

As I wrote in "Lead (Pb) follow or get out of the way" back in January, the lead controversy is more than just a "scandal" it was a real health emergency that was handled extraordinarly poorly. People were fired for blowing the whistle, those doing the firing now have even better jobs, not to mention the whole not telling anyone about the lead in the water.

Do I need to remind people that "[a]n investigation found Johnson was personally involved in decisions to avoid sounding the public alarm, even after federal law required the utility to issue specific warnings about health risks from rising lead levels."

I've been writing about this lead thing for 5 years now, and honestly it's getting a bit ridiculous. WSSC doesn't even acknowledge that there is anything controversial about their selection, instead citing that they have a close working relationship with Johnson because WASA treats WSSC's sewage.

With this hiring decision, isn't it now the other way around?

Say hello to the "Dulles United"

The Post is reporting that the DC United is continuing its quest for a stadium in the area. Months ago the deal for a stadium in the District fell apart, and it looked like they would become the Prince George's County United. Sadly, that deal fell apart too, and now the team is considering Montgomery County as well as Loudoun County.

The team is circulating a survey amongst fans asking for their preference in location. Montgomery County seems to be the front-runner here, since they apparently have some sort of "Soccerplex" in Wheaton or Silver Spring. The sleeper entry here is Loudoun County, which continues to delude itself into some sort of relevence within the DC Metro area. They lay claim to about half of Dulles International Airport, plus a whole lot of home foreclosures. Located 40+ miles away from the District, it would be stretch to call the team the DC United if they build a stadium out past the airport.

However, why not move this out to Virginia? Apparently soccer is very popular out there.
"There's no doubt that Loudoun County would be a fantastic place for a soccer club. It's ground zero here for soccer on the youth level," said David D'Onofrio, a Leesburg communications consultant and soccer fan who has pushed for a D.C. United move to Loudoun. "If you take a look at where Major League Soccer is finding success, it's in suburban areas as opposed to urban areas."
Fans clamor for 'boarding passes' to see the Dulles United square off in a 'match'

Public financing is probably out, as Loudoun County is struggling and can't drop a few hundred million on a stadium no one will want to go to. So why not explore corporate sponsorship. Given the team's name and the close proximity to the airport, why not team up with United. They are out of bankruptcy so they are probably looking to waste money again, right?

Wait, no, how about we keep them in DC. We aren't good at keeping anything around, and pretty soon the Nats will probably move to Portland. However, instead of dropping another near billion dollars on a stadium for the Redskins, why don't we just make RFK the permanent home of the DC United. It's already got public transportation connections, supposedly there'a some people here who enjoy the games, and it's working fine for now. Sure, it's not 'OMG' new development at Poplar Point but it's in the District. Someone out there in Internet land, tell me why RFK is an unacceptable option.


Actual historic landmark to be assimilated by Marvin (updated, w/photos)

On the heels of Anne's post,

From the Washington Business Journal:

"Eric and Ian Hilton and the team behind the tremendously popular Marvin restaurant on U Street are eying a parcel in Petworth to open another restaurant concept."

"Developer Chris Donatelli, who is working on the property along with Mosaic Urban Partners LLC, confirmed that he is in talks with the group for a new restaurant at 3815 Georgia Ave. NW. Donatelli and the city recently negotiated a land deal for the spot."

The location, 3815 Georgia Ave. NW used to house Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks, a meeting place for civil rights organizers during desegregation. The building is a DC historic landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

I find it amusing that an important monument to the desegreation movement will now become yet another monument to gentrification. It will be "an establishment similiar to Marvin" which of course likely prices out most Petworth residents.

However, to preseve the history, maybe they will name it "Martin" or serve Malcolm X Salad and Medger Evers Mashed Potatoes.

We'll see if there are any protests to ensure that an actual historic landmark is repurposed in a respectful way.

Photos of the original restaurant [from the National Park Sevice]:

The secret’s in the sauce: How to create a successful restaurant in DC

New restaurants are great and always welcome. But please, DC, stop beating a dead horse and then turning it into an overpriced entree: DC does not need anymore Marvins. It does not need more "speakeasies". And for God's sake, it does not need any more proprietors of fancy fried chicken. It's fucking fried chicken. DC restaurants act like a gaggle of high school girls who all have the same cell phone except one girl has purple while the rest has pink: the point is one might try to be different but it doesn't try too hard (gotta stay in that neatly packaged fusion/tapas/fried chicken box!).

But if you do want to follow the mold of DC restaurants, follow these easy steps:

1. Fucked up fusion food is your friend. Asian/Mediterranean tapas. Belgian and Southern cuisine. Since those are taken, feel free to think outside the box and blend two relatively disparate food sources and countries: San Marino Sautéed Potatoes. Finnish Spaghetti Barn. Gullah gumbo and Bhutanese hot wings. Also, fucking up comfort food staples can never steer you wrong (mac and cheese made with Mongolian kumis, meatloaf seasoned with Yemeni qat, Kobe beef hot dogs. Oh wait, that’s at Policy!).

2. Take advantage of urban blight. Lower rents mean that yuppies and hipsters will be banging down the door, begging to eat overpriced food in the ghetto. This will rapidly gentrify the neighborhood and in 10 years, it will look indistinguishable from Gallery Place. U Street is taken and H Street NE is being sold one parcel at a time. May I suggest Barry Farm?

3. An avant garde approach to breakfast. Any jackass can do eggs and bacon. How many can do chorizo and quail eggs? (ok, a lot of people). Thousand year old eggs and pork sashimi will really get people’s attention (and waivers signed beforehand will ensure you won’t get sued if some moron actually eats your culinary abortion).

4. Have a clever name that somehow ties in an esoteric fact for DC. Marvin is so named because Marvin Gaye, a DC native son, spent 2 months in Belgium where he wrote and recorded “Sexual Healing”. There are dozens of DC celebrities to choose from, mostly B-list, and they each have hundreds of obtuse life experiences that can serve as the name of an overpriced bistro. Where’s the American diner named in honor of local boy Maury Povich, serving up greasy fare with clever names such as the “Are you my daddy?” flapjacks and “when the chair hits your eye like a big pizza pie” pepperoni pizza?

DC is overrun by government types, so in my restaurant I’m going to honor them by naming it after the government’s comprehensive personnel form, the SF-86. The restaurant will serve government regulation food in neat, orderly lines and every server will ask if you’ve ever had ties to a group seeking to overthrow the government of the United States.

My restaurant will be opening in the old dry cleaner's slot on 14th and U. All the local bloggers will be invited to a friends/family/enemy night where you can sample the shitty fare and write glowing reviews of it on Yelp, complemented by photos you took on your cell phone. It'll be like the Emperors New Clothes, or Red Rocks, in that no one is brave enough to speak about how terrible it is because all the cool kids shout its merits from their rowhouse rooftops. Estimated time burden: 2 hours.


DC Council Approves 'Bag Tax'

This film scene just became $0.05 more expensive to reproduce

Today the DC Council approved the $0.05 tax on plastic bags. File this under the "great ideas in theory, but wait a minute..."

I'm not going to address things such as how this is a regressive tax that hurts lower income people. Any flat-rate tax is regressive, and will hurt lower income people. This is true, whether an economist says it, or someone with the American Chemical Society (absolutely no conflict of interest there) says it.

How about enforcement of this? None of the news articles I've seen talk about how this tax will work. WTOP's report is of a tax on bags "leaving" stores. Is the store charged for every bag it purchases and then it must pass that tax along to customers? How will it work? Couldn't one store eat the $0.05 tax in an attempt to get more customers and not pass the tax along?

What about self-checkouts?

What about plastic bags for fruit or meat?

Why not just ban the bags all together?

Why not just not bother.

Less cops on the beat due to bad management

I don't know how this story slipped under the radar. Last week the Examiner reported that nearly 17% of D.C. Metropolitan Police officers haven't completed mandatory training from 2008.

The training in question covers important items such as CPR, first aid, and updates to the criminal code. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is now on the spot, frantically trying to get 680 officers trained in anticipation of the summer crime surge.

From the article:
The backlog not only puts the department on the wrong side of the law, but is forcing Chief Cathy Lanier to rush the remaining hundreds through training before the annual summer surge in violent crimes. The remaining officers will be trained in two shifts every day, and the training won’t be finished until at least July 2.
The Examiner piece makes it sound as though 680 police officers are not able to work because of the lack of training. It is unclear whether or not this is the case, but it is clear that for the next while a good deal of the force will be tied up in training.

When asked for comment about the backlog, Lanier said:
“I wouldn’t think there would be any,” she said. “Any officer that didn’t go to firearms training or stuff like that would be suspended.”
MPD officers are often the first responders to medical situations (shootings, crashes, etc.) and it's obviously important that they have this training. How in the world can 20% of officers be missing mandated training for 2008? 2008 ended a while ago. How does management get away with this? We're supposed to believe that Lanier can coordinate effective "All Hands" weekends, when "All Hands" really only means 80% of the department?

The police union's comment is best:
“During the most violent time of the year, 20 percent of the people are going to be in training,” police union Chairman Kris Baumann said. “That’s a public safety issue and that’s bad management.”
The Examiner does the math and determines that 16,320 man hours of policing will be lost in the next 2 1/2 weeks because of this.

Got those priorities

Residents in the "Borderstan" neighborhood (that sliver of disputed territory between MPDC PSA's 307 and 208) held a protest outside 1841 16th St, NW Monday night.

Sadly this report would be more interesting (though completely irrelevant to this site) if the house in question was a crackhouse. Or a brothel. Or the house where Robert Wone was murdered (though now owned by someone else).

No, residents and preservationists gathered together to demonstrate against the demolition of the house. You see, the house is falling apart. It's a late 19th Century home. It has no particular historical significance beyond it looks like most of the other houses on the block. It is awfully nice looking, I'll give it that--except for the fact it's been condemned and is on the verge of collapse.

The house is owned by a George Washington University professor, and apparently was run as an apartment house for many years. Until it was judged to be unsafe for occupancy. According to a DC Preservation League press release, the owner of the home did not have a license from DCRA to rent the property.

OK, I'll give them a few points here. 1) Regulation is important to protect tenants, and 2) Slumlords are bad and can put people's lives in danger.

That all being said, however, I have a few questions.
  1. Why are they not protesting outside of the owner's current residence? This address was published in the press release about the protest.
  2. Why is the main thrust of this protest to protect the "historical" property, and not to focus on the real dangers that can happen when people rent out unsafe properties?
  3. Why not protest outside DCRA?
  4. Have you tweeted to @DCRA about this?
I've discussed here before that people can and do actually die because landlords rent out properties that are unsafe death traps.

So here we're going to have a bunch of stuffy "preservationists" strap themselves to a house to block the bulldozers. I wonder how many of the people at the protest illegally rent out their English Basement apartments?

I saw the group of people while I was waiting for a bus at 16th and U tonight. I didn't happen to see if they had any clever signs. Maybe "honk if you're horny for historical houses."


Fenty's hummer

Mike DeBonis over at the City Paper took this photo at this weekend's Capital Pride Parade:

No front tag? This Hummer had better been licensed in Delaware or Pennsylvania

Yes, that's right, Fenty was sporting a huge Hummer decked out with FENTY signs. I don't know if Fenty was trying to be humorous here, with the whole Hummer double entendre... But I do find it an amusing vehicle of choice. I suppose there must be a law that would prevent him from using his Smartcar, since this is obviously a campaign event. But a Hummer? Really? Oh the irony of the "green" Fenty signs all over this thing.

Wouldn't it have been better to have ridden the bicycle instead? You know, since you're one of the 25 fittest men in the United States world and all.

The rest of the City Paper piece demonstrating the politicking of the Pride Parade is pretty interesting. It is a highly visible event, and it's no surprise that the politicans are present. Marion "I voted for gay marriage before I voted against it" Barry (D-Ward 8) was not present.

A (re)statement of purpose

A few items to note. First off, the obligatory "how about that weather" statement. No, really, how about it.

Now I'd like to address the most frequent comment about this site:
"I don't understand that site, if they hate D.C. so much why don't they just move away?"

Pictured: The D.C. Blogosphere

While James F. and Rusty would give you different answers (e.g. they actually did move away), I'm looking at this a bit differently. I didn't grow up here, but I've been here for a while now. I'm going to stay here for a while. There's a difference between hating living in Washington, D.C. and hating all of the incompetence and stupidity that makes it difficult to enjoy living here. I do not hate living here. I quite enjoy living here. My goal for this site is to point out the things that are wrong with this place. You've got a million and a half I love D.C. blogs. You've got thousands of "oh my goodness I love living here everything is great museums yay!" blogs. If you're reading a site called "Why I Hate DC" there is no point in leaving a comment saying "you are too angry why don't you just move."

On top of it, I managed to find a good job in D.C., I'm not about to pick up and leave.

So to sum up, here is a basic mission statement for the current iteration of Why I Hate DC:
why.i.hate.dc exists to provide timely, informative and often humorous commentary about the difficulties and problems of life in Washington, D.C.
If you have any questions about that, well, too bad because that's how it is. Read the site if you'd like, don't read it if you don't want to.

"If you're the [blog] police, who will police the police?"
"I dunno... Coast Guard?"

In other news, never doubt the power of the blog.


Less than 24 hours

It took less than a day for the DC Council to link the tragic shooting at the Holocaust Museum to that pesky Ensign Amendment. From an article in The Hill:
“Today’s event should be a wake-up call for why we must work to fend off the controversial gun amendment that was most recently attached to the DC…Voting Rights Act, and will certainly resurface as part of future legislation,” said D.C. Councilman Michael Brown. “Loosening the District's gun laws is a deadly proposition.”
Yes, because the hidden text buried deep within the Ensign Amendment makes it legal to go on armed rampages in support of the agenda of radical domestic terrorist organizations. I'm sure glad that the Hatch Amendment of 2000, which would have legalized crashing airplanes into buildings was never passed.

No, it gets better. Phil Mendelson decides to chime in with this piece of amazing logic:
“Congress needs no more evidence than today’s tragedy, which occurred blocks from the White House, for the justification of the District’s strict gun laws, which protect the President, Members of Congress, D.C, residents, and millions of tourists who travel to Washington, DC each year to visit monuments and other sites like the Holocaust Museum,” said D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson in a statement.
Oh man. I sure hope the mayor holds a commemoration ceremony for the anti-gun laws that took down the shooter at the Museum. While were at it, maybe we can stop wasting money on all of these All Hands On Deck weekends, because hey, we've got all these laws that make crimes like murder and robbery illegal. And hey, who needs the Secret Service, it's our gun laws that keep the President safe.

I mean, really, can't we at least wait until the body of the murdered guard is cold to start using him as a spokesperson for why Guns Are Bad(TM). The reality of this situation is that a cold blooded killer (from Maryland) came to DC with a gun and was intent on using it. No gun law was going to prevent him from committing that crime. Whether or not a DC resident has an easier time legally purchasing a weapon has nothing to do with whether terrorists will shoot people. I mean, the obvious lesson here is that we should not expect more out of politicians (not that we did).

Sadly, I don't think anyone in DC will be surprised to hear this.

Whether pro or anti-gun control, I hope most people have enough sense to realize that this tragedy has nothing to do with gun laws.


An announcement

Due to a variety of reasons, I must report that M@ is no longer a contributor at why.i.hate.dc.

While this site has never purported to be a serious hard-hitting news outlet, a certain tradition was established by the previous writers. James F. and Rusty both spent years building a considerable audience for this site. Their posts were biting, timely and often hilarious. They took on some serious (and not so serious) issues, and made their marks on the D.C. blogosphere.

I fell into the role of administrator of this site when other people lost interest. I've never been one for censorship, and I generally agree it's a good thing to rile people up. Usually that gets people thinking. However, there's no place for a lot of the things that have been posted here. It's regrettable that they appeared on this site at all.

For those readers who are interested in reading M@'s thoughts, please visit his personal site. This site is about illustrating the problems (big and small) and annoyances of D.C. It's not an extension of a personal blog. No one is perfect, and it's undeniable that our personal lives will bleed into our posts here. However, the moment that this site becomes associated with rape fantasy and all of the other bizarre circumstances surrounding some posts, is the moment something has to be done.

The Internet is, after all, serious business. But really, no sarcasm tag here, that's not cool. While this site hasn't always been the epitome of perfection, there are just some things that are not acceptable.

DC turns down voting, doesn't want guns

This story broke yesterday, but the DC Voting Rights Act has died. DC's favorite non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton pulled the legislation due to that pesky Ensign Amendment that would have eliminated most of DC's gun regulations. Now, of course, most of DC's gun regulations were already struck down by the Supreme Court in Heller. The Ensign Amendment would have permitted all sorts of crazy things such as armor piercing sniper rifles and would lower the age of gun buying to 18, rather than 21.

DC wouldn't go for this at all, because we are still thinking that letting people legally purchase firearms will somehow make crime even worse than it is. Clearly this would put some sort of burden on the city to register all these sniper rifles and tanks and nuclear weapons and so forth that would be legalized. Also people were up in arms (ha ha, but not taking up arms) because the Ensign Amendment would allow DC residents to purchase guns outside of DC. They say this creates interstate weapons trafficking problems. That might be so, except, DC isn't a state, and it's ridiculous to say that people in DC can own firearms but can't buy them anywhere except at the maybe one gun dealer in the city. That would be similar to saying people who live in Richmond can't buy guns outside the city limits.

Honestly, I'm not trying to gain favor with the NRA here, I just think this whole thing is stupid. I believe the DCeiver touched on this a while ago: This is probably one of the only times in the history of the human race where a government wants to give people both voting rights and guns. We are asking for more representation, we are angry, and the government wants to give us guns? Why don't we just take them? C'mon!

People are also upset that Obama hasn't commented on this issue and didn't put pressure on Congress to make this work. Well, that probably is some crap. Barack's got bigger fish to fry and whatever, he's not changing his voter registration to DC. He's got all sorts of representation back in IL. But dude. You've still got some political capital.

In the end, Norton and the DC Council and everyone else should have just bit the bullet and accepted the Act with the amendment. It gets us a vote, we can stop complaining about not having it, and we can have some pretty sweet gun parties. And, if, down the road Congress decides to stop being assholes, our for realsies Congressperson can propose a repeal to the Ensign amendment. This was never about statehood. Even with a voting member of Congress, we'd still have to bend over and take it anytime Congress wants to dabble in our business. With our without the Ensign amendment, Congress could still repeal our gun laws without giving us votes. Sure, we have a Democratic and maybe even liberal majority now, but that's not going to be forever. It's a lot easier to take the voting rights now, which would NEVER be repealed and work to change the gun laws at a future date.

How about we stop bitching that democracy isn't fair when we are bitching that we want a slice of that democracy. Attaching amendments to bills is part of the sausage factory on the hill. Maybe we should just attach DC voting rights as an amendment to the "Don't Slaughter Puppies on Live TV Act of 2009."


Setting Expectations

In a story that may or may not make the rounds on the blags (sic), the on-time graduation rate for D.C. public schools students has dropped below 50%. From the Post:
The study, released today by researchers affiliated with the trade publication Education Week, examined data from 1996 to 2006, the latest available federal figures, to calculate the percentage of students who graduate from high school within four years of starting ninth grade.

In 2006, the study found, the D.C. graduation rate fell to 48.8 percent, down 8.8 percentage points from the previous year. The figure did not include public charter schools.
To compare, Maryland and Virginia were at 73.5 and 69.2, respectively. Of course, this is comparing states to a troubled urban area, so those statistics are not particularly helpful. In reality, this story is mostly a non-starter. Back in 2006 USA Today reported (this was most recent data for metro areas I could find during my mid-morning Googling), school districts in Detriot, Baltimore, and New York City all had much lower graduation rates. Detriot was at 21.7, and Baltimore at 38.5.

For stupid comparisons, Baltimore County had an 81.9% rate, and Fairfax County was at 82.5%. No real surprises there.

My favorite part about this whole thing, though, was the statement at the end of the Post article.
[D.C. Schools Spokesperson Jennifer] Calloway declined to comment on the study's graduation numbers, saying that it was D.C. school policy not to discuss performance data from the period before schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee took office in 2007.
I suppose this might be a very valid political move, don't talk about bad things. However, this is setting up some awfully high expectations for when studies come out in the post-Rhee universe. What about if the on-time graduation rate falls again, maybe by 5% or 10%? You should have commented today, saying the figure is very troubling and that there is still a lot of work to be done.

But nah, it's all spin spin spin. Of course, I mean, Rhee was on the cover of Time Magazine and got name dropped by Obama at the debates. She's doing a heckofajob, I'm sure. Hell, maybe she is, but I also know that the D.C. schools is a perennial topic of "oh gee whiz doesn't that suck" amongst most people in this town. You know, except for the people who actually go to or send their kids to, a school with a 30% graduation rate. Hell, even the Obamas don't actually trust Michelle Rhee with their children.

Maybe we can just throw even more money and even more vouchers at the public schools. Oh, and maybe planting some gardens (or building soccer fields) can help improve things as well. We won't ask the hard questions about the systemic failure of the schools, which have been (literally) crumbling for decades. No reason to make the nation's capital have the best schools in the country (or world). This isn't the 1800's, we aren't a city on a hill.


Tysons Corner Center: "War Chic"

Saw this on the Metro the other day:

I gazed over and saw it, and thought "That's a weird usage of the Vietnam War Memorial." I looked closer, and noticed that apparently Dockers and CakeLove perished in the war waged decades ago.

I have to wonder... when this ad was being designed, did they think that evoking the Vietnam wall would be a good strategy, or were they so blind that they didn't notice? Or have they just farmed out everything to freelancers who sit at Tryst and pretend to know Photoshop?

When exiting the train, be sure you're not still in the tunnel

Is Jim Zorn driving a six or eight car train?

Back in 2008, Metro started running more 8-car trains to accommodate a growing ridership. These trains, which run during rush hour, fill the entire platform from end-to-end. There's no room for "error" as far as where the train can stop in order to have all the cars be in the station.

Sadly, Metro can't even train their operators to correctly pull a train into a station. Or open the doors on the correct side of the train. I don't even work for Metro, but I've pretty much memorized which side of the train a platform is on for most stations.

From the Post article:
From March to May, there were 17 such door incidents, all but three involving eight-car trains that were not properly berthed. Most took place during the rush period, and the largest number occurred on the Red Line, which is Metro's busiest. Three incidents involved six-car trains: Two berthed short on the platform, and one opened its doors on the wrong side.
Now if only it were a matter of train operators "forgetting" a policy regarding 8-car trains. Rather, just as the case was in 2008, it's train operators forgetting they are driving an 8-car train. That's right.
Virtually all improper door incidents occur because operators forget they are in an eight-car train, officials said, and don't pull the trains all the way to the front of the platform. Instead, they are berthing them as if they were six cars long, with the end cars no longer abutting the platform.
So far, there have not been any injuries resulting from someone walking out of an open door of a car that's still in the tunnel. However, it will happen eventually. Someone won't be paying attention, or god-forbid someone who is blind will walk right out and fall onto the tracks.

What does Metro do with these careless operators? Well, they get three strikes before they are fired, but generally they end up getting demoted to being a bus driver. That's right, if you're too careless to even know how long your train is, you can still drive a bus.

Obviously there are a whole lot of things wrong with this whole situation. The fact that Metro still can't figure out how to train their operators after more than a year of running 8-car trains is troubling enough. Additionally, since this poses a safety hazard, why don't they just implement the common-sense solution of having all trains stop in the same place (all the way at the front of the platform) no matter if it's six or eight cars.

Or you know, you could just stop hiring dumbasses who can't even manage to say, put a post-it on the dashboard that says "8-car train, stupid."



Contributor's Note: Look for this blogger featured this week in the Washington City Paper.

In my wallet, I never keep a condom but a couple of Ben Franklins—a number of contingencies far more likely than that for which one hopes—and some foreign currency, a plastic bill adorned by Queen Elizabeth for a homeless man to come.

The muggers never get my wallet, a tattered curvilinear fold of black leather, fraying at the edges, a part of my body. Steel, aluminum, plastic, something taps the back of my head, demanding that other part of me and now there are four faces, to which I assign names. One’s fat. His name is House. One wears a yellow and black rag on his head: Mosque. The other two I name Dudley and Leroy; don’t ask why, it just pops—rote—into my mind and I turn to run.

You might zigzag but I don’t. Fear mixes with anger and I see House from the back of my head, staring and pointing.

Shoot me.


This blogger
does not have AIDS.

Tags: Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.


One More Reason....

My youth burning several years ago to a cosmic crescendo, I joined colleagues in building a quintessential Washington experience—forming an adult kickball team in one of several metropolitan-area leagues.

Though my recollection of those Monday nights in Adams Morgan remains hazy, I believe we called ourselves the “Kicktards,” registering with the World Adult Kickball Association, known as WAKA, of Washington, D.C. Wearing oversized blue jerseys, we drank Pabst Blue Ribbon while challenging other teams at flip-cup, stripping to boxers and panties for little to no reason whatsoever.

Last week, the satirical newspaper The Onion nailed the experience in a feature, quoting a fictional bar owner in St. Louis who sponsors one such team:

“[N]ot one of these brats can order a drink without using a fancy-ass name for it," Henton added. "You want a 'Cape Codder'? It's called a vodka-and-cranberry, dickhead."
After confirming that sales of Pabst Blue Ribbon had doubled since he began sponsoring the team, Trimble confessed that the new business was coming from patrons he never wanted in his bar in the first place.
"These are people I should be beating up, not bankrolling," Trimble said. "Now this place is turning into a total hipster nightmare."

Does anyone still do this? Thankfully, I haven’t seen any of that bullshit since moving to Arlington.


This blogger does not have AIDS.

I wish the real world would just stop hasslin’ me

Hey, what better way to capitalize on a turning point in American history and the sudden rebirth of “cool” in Washington, DC (if all the fluff pieces are to be believed) than exploit a gaggle of barely legal twenty-somethings with a rowhouse full of alcohol and 18th Street as their playground?

The bets start now.

First “hipster” DC bar that will instantaneously lose hipster cred once the film crews set up: Wonderland. Start writing your obits now.

Days until they visit H Street NE: Ten. They’ll barely last a week and a half before they’re clamoring to play putt-putt in the hood.

Days until they visit Bloomingdale: NEVER. Deal with it, Bloomingdale! You are nothing but gang-bangers, former hippies and indie kids who need a good shave. Try not to get a cap in your ass when you’re walking 10 blocks home from the metro tonight.

First “DC resident” activity they’ll partake in: Start a blog with photos of neighborhood row houses as a backdrop.

Second “DC resident” activity they’ll partake in: Blog about how much DC sucks (but hey, it’s better than when Barry was in charge, right folks?)

First blog to provide proof of the Real World house (in the form of a heavily redacted copy of the lease) in the most prosaic, banal post on God’s green earth: Prince of Petworth. Hey, maybe there’ll be a PoPTrekker to search for the row house’s lease at city hall, too! Keeping my fingers crossed!

First blog to dig up evidence of a cast member’s criminal background: City Desk. Good to know their special Creative Loafing bailout will be going to good use.

First blog written by an old man who complains about these “damned kids” taking DC’s attention away from such pressing things as trapeze school and focusing on where the cast whores are drinking and by the way they totally need to get off the old man’s lawn: Farm Fresh Meat. If his whiny, “I hate Brightest Young Things because I’m too old and/or physically unappealing to go to their events” post is any indication, we can only expect more curmudgeonry.

First blog to snap photos of supposed cast members but it’s actually a bunch of interns looking to get high: 14th and You

First blog to snap actual photos of real cast members: Those insiders at DCist because they’re the only ones who will get a real press release and credentials.

First blog to write a Real World post that nobody will ever read or care about: DC Avenger (your mission statement sucks, by the way. The witty revolutionary banter ripped off from V for Vendetta and hot pink “kisses” tagline are about as interesting and hardcore as a stack of Avril Lavigne t-shirts at Hot Topic).

First blog to actually write a semi-interesting piece on the cast that doesn’t involve the word “change”: Going Out Gurus. The Washington Post site was clearly designed by a blind man on meth, but they’ve got good content when your eyes aren’t bleeding from the horrible set up.


How to succeed in business without being legal

No doubt you’ve read all about the latest Graham-declares-war on pizza kerfuffle. He's too busy blaming all our ills on legitimate, tax-paying businesses while completely ignoring an actual illegitimate business practice that’s so prevalent in his ward: folks selling shaved ice on the street and mango slices out of coolers.

When I first saw this practice I thought “Oh, that’s cool. Street vendors.” and walked on. They tend to mind their own business and just stand there, unlike the CD and filched goods salesmen lining U Street who yell and plead with you to buy their wares. I’m sure the people tending these carts and coolers, handing out shaved ice and bagged fruit to passersby are nice, upstanding citizens. I’m not saying otherwise. What I am saying though is no matter how well-intentioned, this is flagrantly illegal. And not because “the man” said so to be a dick but because they present a real and present health risk.

I’ve seen many shaved ice carts tended by children far too young to be manning anything that requires handling money and customers. Hell, these kids are too young to ride their bikes in the street, let alone man a cart in the sun for four hours. Not only is it illegal child labor, but I wouldn’t trust a kid to make me a shaved ice. It’s not hard, but I doubt they use gloves when they scoop the ice and for all I know the bin they’re scooping hasn’t been cleaned out in months. Kids are also not known for their personal hygiene.

The little old ladies selling Ziploc bags of mango slices aren’t free from this, either. Proponents say they’re just trying to make a buck doing something relatively easy and appreciated by the community, what’s the big deal? The big deal here is that it’s unsanitary and at times can create a public nuisance, crowding the small area behind the bus stop on 16th and Irving. Some might say “Why bother fighting this? It’s a victimless crime”. Yes, and so is prostitution, but just because it’s victimless doesn’t make it legal.

What’s more, it’s not entirely victimless; any number of communicable diseases and bacteria can be spread by improper food handling and packaging. How about some Hepatitis A with your mango? Or if not that, could I interest you in some norovirus? All it takes is that little old lady hawking bags of sliced fruit to cough a little or neglect to thoroughly wash her hands after using the bathroom and then grope some mangoes. Next thing you know you’re hunched over your toilet cursing God, your impulsive purchase of street fruit, a random conquistador you remember from high school Spanish class, and Jim Graham.

Of course, as in anything in life, caveat emptor or “buyer beware”. If you’re dumb enough to buy fruit or shaved ice off the street without knowing if it was produced in a reasonably sanitary manner, you deserved that diarrhea. But that’s why laws about food handling and operating a legitimate business exist: because you shouldn’t be put in that situation, anyways. Getting food poisoning from your local restaurant sucks and shouldn’t happen, but it does, and when it does you have a proper legal process to file a complaint against the restaurant. Health codes are there for a reason (and not just to give money to those companies that make the “wash your hands” signs). Don’t believe me? Read The Jungle.

The only reason Jim Graham allows this to continue unabated is because these folks are keeping him in office. If he were to crack down on this he would lose his seat to – GASP – someone who would probably represent the yuppified hipster class that’s elbowing in on his territory and are scheming to rid themselves of Graham’s lunacy. Listening to his primary constituency of Hispanic immigrants and tending to their needs is wonderful and all, but turning a blind eye when they are blatantly disregarding sanitation and business laws is wrong. Blaming crime on legitimate business like Jumbo Slice, Alberto’s, and fining LEGIT businesses who advertise with sidewalk sandwich boards just makes this transgression even worse.