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Archive for February, 2010

Terrible news from Chile…another devastating earthquake shocks us this year.  Luckily the epicenter was not in as densely of a populated area like it was in Haiti.  Nonetheless, I have made myself available to travel to Chile if there is a relief organization that can use my services.  I speak Spanish and have been to Chile and would welcome the opportunity to help those in need.

Phillip sells a paper to a passerby (Photo: Reed S.)

On Day 75 I met Phillip, a colorful salesman for Street Sense.  I was driving north on Wisconsin Ave. in the Tenleytown neighborhood on my way to my father’s place in Pennsylvania when I saw a man on the right side of the road with a “Cat in the Hat” type hat.  Well, I had to pull over and meet this guy.

As it turns out Phillip is a Street Sense vendor and the hat is part of his “marketing.”  He is vendor number 202 and has been selling the paper for 2.5 years.  He told me that summer is the best time of year for selling the paper when he can often sell over his average of 30-40 papers a day.

Phillip is homeless and on two waiting lists for subsidized housing.  “You would not believe how many people are one or two paychecks away from being homeless,” says the former plumber whose problems started when he was hospitalized with stomach ulcers and bleeding.  He spent 17 days in the hospital and when he came out he found himself losing his home and his marriage in peril.  He got better, but unfortunately was not able to reconcile his marriage.  Financially he was in freefall and ended up on the streets.

Go see Phillip if you are in DC.  He radiates love and kindness.  He can be found in front of the CVS near the intersection of Wisconsin Ave. and Brandywine St.  Look for the hat!  Phillip needs clothes: Shirts (XL), Pants (38×34), Shoes/Boots (11), Gloves (Med/Large). 

Here is a great video clip of Phillip explaining how he stays indoors during the bitter cold months.  

There is another great video of Phillip on Facebook.  Click here to see it.

Update July 7, 2010: Here is some video of Phillip receiving some of your donations!

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Have you been checking out the Lend a Hand section?  I was really hoping that someone reading the blog would help out somebody on the Lend a Hand section, but so far that has not happened.  Some things that people need are things that I think would be pretty simple to give: clothes, used laptop, music stand, free counseling, etc.  I urge you to take a moment and review the page and if you can help, or know someone else who can help in any way, please do so.  It will mean so much to those that need your help.

Yesterday I gave my $10 to Monica and Bridget.  Two young professionals in DC.  Monica works at the Federal Reserve as a Research Assistant and Bridget works for National Geographic in the book publishing area. 

The two were sitting next to me at the Brickskeller.  They were very kind and cut me a little piece of their vegetarian burger and onion rings to try.  The vegetarian burger was excellent…usually I find them dry, but the Brickskeller’s burger is full of flavor.  

Our conversation was all over the map.  From the Olympics to how they met each other to Jayson Werth’s beard.  That’s right…they were big fans of Jayson Werth’s beard.  In fact they said that they “live with God in Jayson Werth’s beard.”  

Photo: David Swanson/MCT/Philadelphia Inquirer

They were not impressed that I couldn’t come up with who Werth was at first.  On the other side of me were Billy and Emmy.  Emmy thought it was pretty pathetic as well that I didn’t know who he was at first.  Once they mentioned the Phillies, my mind adjusted and I recalled the big right fielder for Philadelphia.  Oh well…blame it on me being a Mets fan.

Monica and Bridget said they would use the $10 to give to a waiter or waitress as part of a tip.  They both had worked at some point in the service industry and said they appreciated how hard they work for their tips.  

The two got up to have a cigarette outside…they said they would be back in a few minutes.  They never came back.  I finished watching the Canada vs Slovakia Olympic hockey game.  When I got my check, the bartender said, “Your friends not coming back?  Should I put their beer on your tab?”  In the spirit of giving…I said sure.  It was only a beer anyway.

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I decided to go over to the Shaw neighborhood today.  On my way I ran into Kenneth from Day 30.  He said he was having what he called “death nightmares” and was being admitted to Georgetown hospital today.  Kenneth, who suffers from various mental illnesses, was not sure how long he would be there.  My friend Mike had his own battles with mental illness and about eight years ago also went to Georgetown Hospital.  He said it completely changed his life and he now has his situation under control.  Kenneth usually sells Street Sense outside the north entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro…keep an eye out for his return and welcome him back with a smile and a hello…heck buy a paper!

When I came out of the Metro at Shaw, I was greeted by a fight between some teens.  The one boy got free and ran away.  It’s definitely a different vibe than my neighborhood.  I was about 15-20 blocks from my home and I thought that I would start to explore the neighborhood and gradually make my way back to my place on foot.  A few blocks later I met Dannie.

Photo: Reed S.

He was sitting at a bus stop, dressed in work clothes and a hard-hat.  He lit a cigarette as I sat down next to him and introduced myself.  Originally from North Carolina, Dannie now lives in the nation’s capital and says he loves it.  “It’s the land of opportunity” he says.  He is referring to the fact that he feels fortunate to have had plenty of work over the past 20 years.  Right now he is working on a window installation project at a local high school.

I asked him what he planned on doing with the $10…he smiled and said he would use it for transportation.

Dannie is a father and talked to me about the importance of his kids getting a good education.  Dannie didn’t continue his studies after high school and is now studying to become a carpenter…but he says that it is much harder going back to school at his age.  “It’s been over 20 years since I’ve done fractions!” 

Check out the video below of Dannie talking about education and how it has influenced his life.

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Today was a most interesting day!  Rarely do I get really nervous or scared approaching people for my project, however, today was an exception.

I was wandering around the city looking for somebody interesting.  There is a CVS on the corner of 17th and P.  Behind that CVS there is a park, I think it is called Stead Park, but anyway, there is a basketball court there.  As I walked by the court I saw a man wrapped in blankets standing in front of the far basket holding a basketball up toward the sky.  He stood perfectly still.  A few moments passed and he began to shoot one-handed lay-ups into the basket.

I walked over, unlatched the steel door to get into the court and approached the man.  I got about 6 feet away from him before he acknowledged me.  Bob was wrapped in old blankets, torn clothes and slippers that were falling apart.  On his head he wore large earphones, covered in aluminum foil and cloth, and a thin plastic bag (supermarket type) over his head.  If you put some nice clothes on him and pulled his hair back in a pony tail, and slung a guitar over his shoulder, I bet my $10 that he could pass as Willie Nelson.

Bob hides from a helicopter (Photo: Reed S.)

I explained what I was doing and Bob immediately accepted my $10.  I asked where he was from and he said originally Philadelphia.  When I asked him what brought him to DC, he got up in my face and in a slightly agitated tone said, “Well if you don’t know that, then you are pretty stupid.  This doesn’t speak much of your intelligence.”  I was a bit shocked and scared.  I considered just leaving…but I thought I would just be silent for a while and let him talk. 

The silence was awkward.

He started to shoot lay-ups.  He made about 10 in a row and then he looked at me and said, “If I must tell you…DC’s parks and common areas are much better kept than Philadelphia and other areas…it’s the nation’s capital and they want it to look nice and they got federal funds too.” 

He shoots some more baskets…never missing and then quickly approaches me and says, “Well, what else do you want me to answer?”  His quick, jerky movements were keeping me on my guard.  He kept one arm concealed under his blankets most of the time. I thought it was possible that he had something, a weapon, under the blankets.

I asked him how old he was.  At that moment you could hear a helicopter in the distance.

“I hate to interrupt, but I’ve gotta do this.”  He put the basketball up close to his head and hid behind the ball in silence.  He then motioned for me to give him my pen and notebook.  He said, “I really shouldn’t be talking since they are probably listening…I can write it down though.”  I gave him my notebook and pen and he wrote down the age of 66.

The helicopter flies away (for now) and we resume talking.  He tells me that he lives in a subsidized housing complex near Howard University for individuals who suffer from mental illness.  “I hate to be a snob” he says, “but it’s a better neighborhood since it’s surrounded by college kids.  Areas around universities can’t help but be influenced by the desire the students have to learn.”

The helicopter returns and circles above us….Bob goes back to his ritual of raising the ball above his head between him and the helicopter and remains silent.  This happened about 5 times.  I have to admit the helicopter did show an unusual interest in us…hovering almost directly above us several times.

The helicopter temporarily goes away again and we resume talking.  He moves quickly back and forth between me and his cart- which has another basketball and some other random items.

Bob made at least 109 shots in a row (Photo: Reed S.)

Asking him questions was not going well.  I let him talk about what he wanted to talk about.  He told me a half-dozen basketball stats, all which turned out to be correct.  He said, “You know, no NBA basketball player has ever made 100 consecutive foul shots.” He went on to tell me that Calvin Murphy made 78 consecutive points from the foul line.  Then in 1993 he said Mark Price came one shy getting 77.  It was later that year though he explained that Michael Williams reached 97 which still stands today.  He went on to tell me stats about Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, etc.  I later double checked each statistic he gave me and he was dead on. 

He was also very knowledgeable about the snowfall records.  He mentioned that DC broke the 54.4 inch record that previously stood.  Also he mentioned that Baltimore’s record of 62.5 inches was broken when they got 79.9 inches and Philadelphia broke their previous record of 65.5 inches set in 1996 with a new total of 71.6 inches.  Again I checked all the numbers, and he was right.  Keep in mind he is giving me all these numbers as he shoots  one-handed lay-ups…never missing.

As we were talking, Ron from Day 24 walked by the basketball court with a can of beer. I  waived. 

Bob seemed like he was tired of talking to me so I said my good-bye.  I walked over to where Ron was sitting and chatted with him.  I watched Bob shoot 109 one-handed shots in a row without missing.  Bob actually told me that his own record for consecutive shots with out a miss was 2,900 with his right hand and 2,700 with his left hand.  Ron said he believed it since he was there every day for eight hours or so shooting baskets, never missing.

Would you believe I forgot to ask Bob what he was going to do with the $10?  I will go check on him one day next week and let you know.  Bob was very interesting…but also a little unnerving.  One of my more dynamic recipients.

Later that day I walked by Nikki from Day 66…she was sitting on the ground begging for money south of Dupont Circle.  She said she was doing ok.

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Gregory has been homeless in DC for almost eight years.  He stands bundled up holding this sign and a ripped up cup at the corner of 18th and Connecticut Ave. in downtown Washington, DC. 

Photo: Reed S.

I spent about 45 minutes talking with Gregory.  He is very soft-spoken and gentle.  He says that he lost his job and his wife left him for another man about 8 years ago…the cocktail of events started a chain reaction that left him homeless and drinking.  Gregory said he used to never drink…he said he didn’t even like the taste, but he felt that he was able to escape from the pain and depression that he suffered from by drinking.  He paused and said that he has been sober for seven months now. 

His voice got even softer and he fought off tears as he shared some of the painful memories.  He told me that he had seen some doctors at one point and they wanted to give him pills for depression and mental illness.  He never took them.

Like almost every homeless I have met, he does not stay in shelters due to the violence, theft, and poor conditions.

While we talk, a man who was eating at Fuddruckers came out and gave him a small box of food, said nothing, and left.  Gregory continued to talk to me for a few minutes and then asked if I minded if he ate while we talked.  He opened the container to find an order of French fries.  He seemed hungry as he ate the entire box. 

I asked him what he planned to do with the $10 and he replied, “I know exactly what I am going to do with it.  I can get 3 meals at McDonald’s and have a dollar left over for something else…maybe something on the $1 menu.”  His favorite food is fried fish.  I asked him what the most he had ever received and he pointed to me and said $10.  

We talked about different services that are available to him.  I suggested he sell the Street Sense paper as well…several of the vendors do quite well once they build up a loyal customer base.  I asked him if there was anything that the readers of the Year of Giving could do for him and he said that he could use some jeans and other pants.  He wears a size 38 x 32.  If you are in DC and would like to meet Gregory, he is normally in front of the McDonald’s on M Street in between 19th and 20th Streets.  If someone else is there, he usually goes to Connecticut and 18th Street.  I can also reach him if you would like to get something to him.

By the way, I went down to try one of John’s burritos at Pedro and Vinny’s burrito stand.  It was excellent…I highly recommend it!  You definitely need to check out his stand at 15th and K. The food is tasty, the banter upbeat and interesting, and the line is full of regulars who he quickly recognizes.  An interesting thing is that John has somewhat of an honor system going on for payment.  He has a box that you are supposed to put in the amount that you owe.  I liked that.

On my way home I saw Roger from Day 57 but we didn’t get to talk.  About 4 blocks away I ran into Nikki from Day 66.  She didn’t recognize me and seemed pretty out of it.  She said she was talking to “the Man upstairs” and continued walking on to meet with a group of men standing in the center of Dupont Circle.  I also saw Kenneth from Day 30…but he was across the street and I was late for a meeting so I was unable to say hello.  Needless to say, I am starting to really get to know my neighborhood!

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In an era of emails and blogs it is very possible that the art of writing letters by hand is close to extinction.

I was wondering if Karin was going to mail her friend my $10. (Photo: Reed)

I had lunch today at a favorite place near my house, Teaism.  The upstairs seating is often crowded and you usually end up sitting very close to your neighbors.  The room was an interesting mix of people…my favorite was the rather strange man that I caught eavesdropping and trying to strike up conversation with two women who quickly switched to German or Dutch to make their conversation more private.

I noticed an interesting ring that Karin was wearing and she explained that she was a metalsmith and had made it herself.  She and two friends launched a boutique together in their hometown. 

How do you get into metalsmithing and making jewelry you ask?  Well, Karin has an interesting story.  She served in AmeriCorps where she traveled around educating kids about literacy and the arts.  When she finished, she used her stipend that she had received to study metalsmithing at Maine College of Art.

Karin said she was going to add the $10 to a donation she was planning to make this week toward a fundraiser that her godson is doing through his school to help fight heart disease.  I was touched by her decision given my family’s history with heart disease and my past work experience with the American Heart Association.

Jewelry by Karin

Interested in seeing or purchasing some of Karin’s jewelry but don’t want to drive to Oneonta?  You can see check out her work at www.windfall.etsy.com. Independent metalsmithing, like letter writing, has all but vanished.  By purchasing her work you will help support talented artisans continue their craft.

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A start of a new week.  Is anyone following the Olympic hockey?  I saw several matches this weekend.  Although I was shocked and thrilled to see the USA beat Canada, it was sad that Finland could not redeem themselves from the 2006 Olympics and beat Sweden.

As I am not working now and I have finished with my theatre commitments, I have some free time.  I have some consulting work that I am doing, but so far it is fairly flexible.  So, what do you think would be interesting to do with my time?  I keep myself busy volunteering, working out, consulting, job hunting, etc…but I have been thinking that I am probably missing amazing opportunities to travel or volunteer in unique ways, etc.   What do you think?  Let me know and be creative!

So on day 69 my $10 ended up in the hands of Lauren.  She is 26, lives in Virginia, and has a degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech.  Perhaps she would have came across my uncle Larry while at school…he was a professor at Virginia Tech in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science – but she said that his name was not familiar to her.

Brian and Lauren at Brasserie Beck in DC

Anyway, Lauren was with her friend Brian having some oysters and Belgian beers at Brasserie Beck.  I had never been there and happily give it a thumbs up.  One complaint would be the noise factor.  It was so loud that the video I took of Lauren and Brian didn’t come out very good so you will have to use your imagination and trust me that they were a lot of fun.

Lauren tells me that she will give my $10 to a homeless person and promises to follow up with me to let me know about her experience.  

Oh, and as for the oysters, Lauren said they were amazing…her favorite ones there were called “blue diamond” she thought.  

They were Foodies of a sort…they told me about some of their other favorite stomping grounds such as: Zaytinya, the Capitol Lounge, and the Red Derby.  The Red Derby sounded pretty interesting.  Lauren and Brian tell stories of an almost secret location on 14th Street in Northwest, DC where there is no sign, just a red painted derby hat on the door (reminds me of the Quarry House in Silver Spring, MD).  They rave about the weekend brunch, the can only beer selection, and a variety of board games on hand to keep your group entertained.  On top of all of this, every Wednesday is Big Lebowski night where they play the cult film and offer White Russian drink specials.

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I found James on the streets near Chinatown in Washington, DC.

I have debated what to write about my encounter with him.  I have heard some interesting and sometimes unbelievable and crazy stories.  For the most part I think that you need to have faith and give people the benefit of the doubt that they are honest.  That being said, I just didn’t believe James’story.

He claimed that he needed money to get home from his job as a “Class B Engineer.”  He had a tool belt on, a measuring tape on his jacket, a flash light, miner’s head lamp, and a half a dozen other small details that would suggest he was an electrician.  However, there were several things that simply didn’t add up.  I guess the bottom line is that I just didn’t buy it.  Plus, his speech sounded like he might have had a few alcoholic beverages before I met him…check out the video and you judge for yourself.

As for the $10, James says that he will use it to get home and get a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.

Maybe James will check out the site and leave a comment and tell me that I am wrong.

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I updated the Statistics Page yesterday…check that out if you are interested in where the money is going as well as where the people following the blog are from.

A few updates.  I heard back from Jenny from Day 13.  She landed a job doing regional Public Health work!  Congratulations Jenny!  She sounds really happy.  She is still waitressing a few nights a week to help pay off all the bills that stacked up due to her extended unemployment.

Roger selling Street Sense at Conn. and K St., NW in DC (Photo: R. Sandridge)

I also met up with Roger from Day 54.  He said that after we talked the first time he was inspired to try to reach out to his estranged wife.  You can hear directly from him on the Facebook page.  By the way, he still would like very much to have some counselling sessions as well as a used laptop.  If you know of anyone who can help, please let me know.

I ran into to Leonel from Day 56 as I was out one day.  I plan to set up a time to follow up with him in the coming weeks and will post that to the Facebook page.

Speaking of the Facebook page, we have about 200 fans now…growing slowly.  If you haven’t already become a fan, please do so.

So on Day 67 I had met some friends for lunch at Nooshi.  Good place for noodles and sushi.  By the way, Wagamama (the British-based ramen noodle restaurant) is coming to DC in May!  418 7th St. NW.  I was introduced to Wagamama when I was in Dublin.  Check them out!  Back to Anthony’s story. 

So as I left lunch I saw Anthony selling Street Sense on the corner of 19th and M in DC.  I love this guy.  He is one of the original Street Sense vendors…he started in 2005 and has badge number 005. 

We talked about DC Urban Plunge, an event every year where mostly college students come to DC and live on the streets to experience and understand homelessness.  Anthony really likes interacting with the young people when this event happens. You can read one person’s account of doing their own “plunge” in DC here

Anthony says he will use my money to get some food.  I asked him if he needed anything in specific and he said he would really like help getting into some type of apartment.  Also he would really appreciate a size 9 pair of sneakers…even lightly used would be ok.  I hope someone reading this will be able to help Anthony out.  You can find him at the corner of 19th and M most weekdays or you can email me and I have his contact information.

Check out the short video I took of Anthony:

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Nikki panhandles near Dupont Circle, DC (Photo: R. Sandridge)

Nikki has been homeless off an on for the past 20 years.  She is 55 and says she suffers from various health complications stemming from some aneurysms that she has had.  She sits on the cold concrete ground, rocking back and forth, and never looking at me in the eye.  The emotion in her face has been completely drained.  She maintains that cool steady expression during the entire time that we speak.

I asked her what she planned on doing with the $10 and she said that she would probably use $5 for food and the other $5 to put on her Metro SmarTrip card.

Nikki says that people can stop by and say hello to her.  She is in/around the Dupont Circle most weekdays.  Also, she could use some help from somebody who understands Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  She has been denied benefits and says that her case manager is not very helpful in getting the issue resolved.  So if anyone has some knowledge about this and is willing to share with Nikki, please let me know.

I taped a little video with Nikki which you can see here:

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Stephen waits for work

Stephen has been a bike messenger in DC for two years.  Prior to that, he studied sociology at George Washington University.  

It was not too cold when I met up with Stephen, however, the wind was blowing a little and there was a lot of snow and ice on the streets and sidewalks.  Both of which create challenges for Stephen. 
He is dressed for the job: helmet, heavy coat, messenger bag, radio, and pants that are pinned so as to not interfere with his peddling.  His bike leans against a pole nearby.  “I’ve got four other bikes…different bikes for different occasions.”

Most of his jobs are downtown.  Transporting documents for law firms.  In fact, he says more than 90% of his work is for law firms and lobbyists.  Occasionally he gets the odd request to pick up some pet food or something like that.

As we talk, some other couriers show up.  I detect that they have their own lingo.  One of them talks about an area of DC they call “the hole.”  They mention dangerous jobs like going from Capitol Hill over to Arlington to an area that was not plowed.  Hopefully they get some hazard pay or something for taking such assignments.

Occasionally Stephen’s radio will squawk…and there is the chance for work…but unfortunately that is not the case while I am there. 

Check out the video to find out what Stephen is going to do with the $10.  And keep a look out for these guys when you are driving…try not to hit them, they really do earn their living.

How did I forget to ask him about the mullet?!

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Today I met with Danny Harris, the talented journalist and photographer behind the blog People’s District

Keeping with the style and format of how Danny journals the stories of the people that he meets, today’s entry is composed of Danny’s own words transcribed from our conversation.

“People’s District started because I wanted to meet the people I saw every day, but never stopped to introduce myself to: the crossing guard I saw every morning, the homeless guy on my corner, my grocer, people like that. Oddly, approaching someone with a camera and dictaphone made asking, ‘So, what’s your story?’ somewhat less threatening than not having those tools. From there, it grew into a broader collection of stories about D.C. What I think makes People’s District unique is that you have people of all different wards, backgrounds, races, ages, and perspectives telling stories that take place in/around/about/because of our shared city. That brings in this familiarity, so no matter what neighborhood you live in, you can feel a connection.Maybe you have never been to that area, but it is only a few metro stops away from where you live. This city is only 68 square miles, which makes us all neighbors.”

“One of the hard parts is telling someone’s story in only three to six paragraphs. Some of my conversations with people last hours. I just do my best to capture the spirit of someone and share what they assess is the best/worst thing about the city. My goal is to simply add texture to the people and neighborhoods we see, or maybe don’t see, every day. In this city, you may spend more time seeing your bus driver or your dry cleaner than you see your parents and siblings. We see these people every day, we might as well ask what their name is, where they’re from, what their story is, how their day is going?” 

“Through People’s District, I have been fortunate to have some pretty incredible experiences. There was this one woman who I met on North Capitol Street. I told her what I was doing and she said, ‘Oh my God. This is amazing, I got a story that you will never believe.’  And she proceeded for an hour to tell me this story about how she was a hustler and a gambler and got shot on the streets because her twin sister was disrespected. It was all over a petty matter that resulted in guns being pulled and eventually this girl, Twin, getting shot about six times in Southeast. Every time I think the story is over, she says, ‘But that’s not even the craziest part. And then we went to the hospital and they don’t want to treat me. And then the cops come and they ask me who shot me and I didn’t tell them because of the street code.’  At the end of her story she said, ‘I’ve never told anyone about this story outside of my friends and family and for some reason, I just felt like telling you…like some reason the spirit moved me to tell you today.’ It was very powerful for me that this stranger opened up and told me this really personal and emotional story. I feel so privileged that I get to spend my days talking with incredible people across this city who have such amazing stories. Whether they are a politician or a dominatrix or a janitor, everyone has a unique perspective on this city. I hope that through sharing such stories, readers will be encouraged to approach those they see every day and ask, ‘So, what’s your story?’”

Watch the following video to find out more about People’s District and what Danny plans to do with the $10!

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I met Moe on Monday evening.  My cousin Cheryl and I hailed a cab in DC to take us over to Rosslyn, VA to meet with my brother, sister-in-law, and friends Conor and Scott.  We were meeting them at Piola, a good pizza joint that I was first introduced to in Buenos Aires in the late 90s.  Later, I ate at Piola in Sao Paulo. 

Piola - Rosslyn, VA

About a year ago, Piola opened up here in DC.  In an age where pizza seems to be getting so processed and tasteless, Piola is a little bit of hope.  Even the pizza they make here is not as good as the pizzas they serve up in Sao Paulo though…then again, Sao Paulo has some of my favorite pizza in the world.

Cheryl and I didn’t talk to Moe much on the drive.  We were busy chatting away.  When we arrived, Moe said he had to ask a question about what happened at the end of Cheryl’s story.  Cheryl explained and we got out of the cab.  Normally I would probably think it was rude for the cab driver to be so nosey as to ask something like that, but, not the way Moe asked.  He had a real genuine interest. 

We paid the fare and got out of the cab, Cheryl noticed she was missing one of her rings and looked all over for it.  The driver got out and checked around the car, under the seats, everywhere.  But it was not to be found.  The 58-year-old former real estate executive and father of two twin boys took our contact info and offered to get in touch with us if he found it.  

I was touched how thoughtful and kind he was and I pulled out my $10.  He took it and said he would use it for gas.  

In all the craziness about the ring, I forgot to get his contact information to invite him to the year end party and maintain contact with him throughout the Year of Giving.  So, Moe, if you check this out, drop me a note!

By the way, Cheryl found the ring in her hotel room the next morning.

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The Year of Giving hit 4,000 unique visitors today from more than 37 countries around the world.

I met Joe, an Englishman from Nottingham (think East Midlands, the legend of Robin Hood, Raleigh bicycles, William Booth of the Salvation Army, Nottingham Forest F.C., home of Boots) who is in DC on vacation.  This is my first recipient who is not living in the US.  The 24-year-old is smart, witty, and easy to converse with.  Even a little self deprecating as he tells me that he has no talents whatsoever.  His friend Anna chimed in, “That’s not true…you are an expert at post colonial Nigerian military history.”  A tight smile came across Joe’s face and he slowly nodded and said, “Well, that is true.  I am.”  I never quite understood why such the specialty, but I am sure that comes in handy.

I asked Joe what he would do with my American dollars that I gave him.  “I’ll probably spend it on some beer and food, I guess.”  I asked his friend Anna what she would have done with it.  She thought about it and said that she would feel like she had to do something karma-like with it…like give it to a homeless person.  She recalls finding $10 a few weeks back and says that she gave it to a cab driver who said he was being evicted from his place.

Joe, like me, is unemployed right now.  He hopes to find work in the UK working in government.  Specifically doing campaign related work for the Labour Party…the party of current British PM Gordon Brown and former PM Tony Blair. 

I enjoyed speaking with both Joe and Anna.  They mentioned an interesting blog to me, People’s District.  I checked this blog out and really enjoyed it.  They also tipped me off to a potential place to hold the year-end celebration that I am planning in December.

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February 13, 2010. 

Today was the wedding of my brother and his fiancée (well, now his wife!) Mandy.  After spending a couple hours chiseling ice off of drain spouts around my building and shoveling snow off of our flat roof (by the way, flat roofs in regions where snow is prone, not a good idea), I headed over to meet my dad and brother for a shave at the Grooming Lounge on L Street in DC.

If you have never gotten a professional shave, I recommend it…at least for you men out there.  Matt gave me my shave.  He did an excellent job and I recommend him if you want to check this place out.  Your face just feels amazing afterwards.  I do kind of wish they would use the straight edge razor…the one that you use the strop with.  But they use safety razors…the same kind I shave with at home and claim that you can get as good of a shave with the modern safety razors as you can with a straight edge razor.  Any opinion on this?

I then hurried around, picked up my dry cleaning at Georgetown Cleaners (they are pretty good) on Florida Ave., reviewed my notes for the ceremony and headed down to the Hotel Monaco for the wedding.

I think I have mentioned in other posts that my brother and Mandy asked me to perform the wedding ceremony.  This is not something that I have a lot of experience doing.  In fact, I didn’t have any experience.

I think it went well though.  I did forget to tell the guests to sit after the bride and groom came in though.  So, everyone stood for the ceremony!  Oops…good thing it was only about 12 minutes long.

Mandy and Ryan (photo: Maureen Buckley)

The reception was wonderful.  The hotel setting was beautiful, the food was fantastic, and all the other details were perfect.  I got to see a lot of family and friends that I have not seen in some time… only wish I could have spent more time with them all.

I sensed the reception was coming to an end…could it have been the Neil Diamond tune that clued me in?  Who knows?  I found a hotel staff member cleaning up and thought I should offer him my $10.

Issa is a 50 year-old-man originally from the West African country of Sierra Leone.  He is a Banquet Captain at the Monaco and has worked there for about 7 years…pretty much since they opened in 2002. 

He is tall and slender and was very appreciative of the gift.  He said that he would use it to put gas in his car and buy some juice.  Issa was busy and I let him finish his work so that he could get home.

Several of us headed to the hotel bar, Poste, for the penultimate drink.

Congratulations Mandy and Ryan!  Your wedding was beautiful and I am very happy for you both.  I love you very much.

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This one will be a short one, as I have to get ready for my brother’s wedding.

I went to get my haircut yesterday at the Hair Cuttery in Dupont.  I like this location.  It is one of the very first Hair Cuttery locations.  I never request anyone and almost always have a good experience. 

Yesterday Nancy was to cut my hair.  She had cut my hair once before.  She is a petite asian woman who has worked there since 1979.  She is a very sweet woman, but she wouldn’t take my $10.  Neither would another worker there. 

On my way out, I asked the receptionist/cashier is she would accept it and she did.  Laqueen is 21 and has been working there for about a month.  The place is very busy and she keeps her cool as she coordinates who cuts whose hair (is that proper English?).  She said she would spend the $10 this week on some food.

If you need a good hair cut and don’t want to pay a fortune for it, head down to the Hair Cuttery in Dupont at Connecticut and R Street.

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I walked by the Best Cellars wine shop in Dupont today and saw the following sign out front.

So I went in to see what the deal was.  The shelves were almost completely bare.  I was promptly greeted and learned that Saturday would be there last day open – assuming they still have wine and accessories to sell. 

I was sad to see this shop close.  After searching the internet some, I found some reports that the landlord has received a much higher offer for rent from a cell phone company.  Although I totally agree with a free market, I am personally disappointed to see Best Cellars leave and a cell phone store take its place.  We have several cell phone stores in walking distance from the Best Cellars location and I have been to three of them and had terrible experiences at all three.  Not that we are short on wine shops in the neighborhood, we have plenty, but the staff at Best Cellars was always very friendly and took their time with customers who had trouble understanding and explaining what kind of wine they liked.

Anyway, I thought who better to give my $10 to than one of the three nice employees who were losing their job this Saturday when the store closes. 

Enter Ali, Lindsey, and “Lodogg.”  And Lodogg made sure to let me know that there were two “g”s in Lodogg.  I gave them $10 to split…and they said they would buy one of their highly discounted bottles of wine and toast to the last days working together.  Lucky for them, they all have other jobs…but they worked here for supplemental income (and I am guessing awesome discounts on wine!)

Lindsey, Lodogg, and Ali toast to their final days at work

All three of them hope to find new part-time work in the wine industry.  I will post this on the Lend a Hand section in case someone knows of some job leads for them.

If you are in the neighborhood, stick your head in and say hello (or good-bye) and grab some wine and accessories at a great price!

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Snowpocalypse 2010 (photo: R. Sandridge)

I woke up this morning to more snow!  After going down and shoveling the stairs and sidewalk in front of my condo, I headed out to give away my $10.  I found Melise, Kevin and Danilo…all said they could not accept my $10 for one reason or another.  All were nice and interesting to speak with…however, I was on a mission.  After more than an hour searching, I found Jeremy.

Jeremy was standing in a covered entry way for an office complex where he sought refuge from the cocktail of cold, wind, and snow that was swirling around Farragut Square in DC.  He is 48.  His stained clothes and weathered look led me to believe that he was homeless.  When I asked him if he was, he struggled with the answer.  Jeremy said he tried to stay with friends mostly or in a shelter near 2nd and E Street. 

Conversation was awkward with Jeremy.  He was extremely polite but seemed to be in a slightly altered state.  I don’t know if it was the cumulative effect of being out in the cold or a result of substance abuse or something else.  He took out a folded piece of newspaper that he had in his stained jacket and wrote down my name and other information I told him.  Every time I would jot something down in my small notebook, he would write something on his paper.  

Jeremy hopes to make a few dollars shoveling snow (photo: R. Sandridge)

I asked him what he was doing there.  He said he thought that some of the maintenance crew of the nearby office buildings would pay him to shovel some snow for a few dollars.  I asked what he would do with the $10 and he said that he would get some food, hot tea, and maybe use the leftover for bus fare.

We didn’t talk more.  I felt he was uncomfortable and I was freezing by this time.  I asked if I could take his picture…he obliged and I took the photo you see here. 

Would you believe on the way home I passed Melise again…the first woman who refused my $10 today.  She was nice and recognized me immediately.  Small world.

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I didn’t think that the driving situation could get worse than yesterday…but I stand corrected.  Today there were way more amateur drivers venturing out into the snowy mess.  I helped dig out and push five cars.  Most of the people were not used to driving in the snow.  Sadly one of them was a taxi driver who was completely clueless about driving in the snow (in his defense, he was from East Africa).

I was surprised at how few people offered to help.  One time a maintenance man at a nearby building offered to help.  His name was Chavez…I tried to give him $10 after we got the person unstuck, but he politely refused and said the next time I saw him he would accept.  I will be looking for you Chavez!

I later found Roger, a Street Sense salesman, at the Farragut North Metro entrance.  Roger is 58 and lives in DC.  He has been living with his brother-in-law for about four months after he had some serious problems with his wife and daughter that lead to his wife changing the locks.  “That’s a bad sign” he tells me.  Yea…I would have to agree with you Roger.  Now his brother-in-law is also asking him to leave.  He is not sure where he will go after Feb 11th.

He says he will keep my $10 and add it to his savings to hopefully pay for housing/shelter.  

Roger seems very nice.  I shot a little bit of video of him that you can see here.

Want to help Roger out?  Here are a couple of things he needs:

  • A place to keep some of his things.  Preferably a place where he could have key to lock the items up.  Even a closet like space would help.
  • Free counseling. Roger has went through a very difficult time with his family.  He realizes that he needs counseling on how to deal with the situation.  I would like to try to find a therapist who would work with Roger on a pro bono basis.
  • Lastly, his computer broke and he really misses having his computer.  He actually still carries his computer case.  If anyone or any company has a working laptop that they would like to put to good use, Roger would be very appreciative. 

If you can help with any of these things, let me know and I can contact Roger.

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I got out to go to the gym today.  Hadn’t been there since the snow storm.  On the way back I stepped on what I thought was ice and my sneaker sunk like 6 inches and became completely water logged…thankfully it happened on the way home, so I was already done with my workout.

I went out later in the day to find my recipient.  Too many people ventured out in the snow today.  It’s like amateur driver day – people who have no business driving in this weather are out and about.  I saw a little compact car with bicycle size tires trying to navigate the streets.

I got stopped by the Save the Children canvassers…I stopped and listened to him.  Told him I was doing my own venture and he kept trying to get me to give them money until I finally just said I could help them in other ways, but not with money…but he wasn’t interested.

First I approached Ernesto and then a few blocks away Gene … both said they didn’t want to accept the $10.  They didn’t feel worthy of it.  So, I was off to find someone else.  Hopefully both Ernesto and Gene check out the site and comment on their decision.  By the way guys, you are still invited to come to the year-end party..so keep following the blog.

I found Lionel sitting on a bench with a crazy hat on.  I found out that the 43-year-old was originally from Sinaloa, Mexico.  Coincidentally, I lived in the state of Sinaloa in 1990-1991 as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student.  He was from the capital city, Culiacan, about 2 hours away from where I lived.  He first came to the US in the 80s.  Right now he is unemployed.  He was a bike messenger here in DC for the last 13-14 years and hopes to find work again once the snow clears out of DC.  If anyone knows of someone needing to contract a bike messenger in DC, let me know!

Some interesting things about Lionel.  His nephew is Jamar Nesbit, who is a member of the 2010 Superbowl winning Saints!  Nesbit (#67) did not play apparently, but should receive a ring.  That is pretty cool.  Athletics runs in the family.  Lionel used to be a boxer in both the US and Mexico and his daughter has played college sports.

Lionel says he will spend the $10 to put minutes on his cell phone (which is in a Pittsburgh Steelers case!).

I spent another 30-40 minutes talking to Lionel.  He is a very nice guy and I did something that I have not done before.  I gave him my cell phone number.  I usually just give an email address…but he did not use email.  Hopefully I can meet up with him again sometime soon.

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Yesterday my brother invited me to see another Capitals game.  Man, it was a good one!  The Caps were down 4-1, then came back to tie it and eventually win it in overtime.  Although Ovechkin looked a little sluggish sometimes, he was on fire shooting 3 of the 5 goals.

After the game, Ryan and I thought we would hang out a while before we tried our luck getting on the Metro.  They were only running one train every 30 minutes and the majority of those who came to watch the hockey match came by Metro…so you can imagine what a mess it would be right after the game.

We headed into a Starbucks to take refuge from the cold and chat for a while.  I ran into Thomas, a friend who used to live in the same condo as me before he and his wife moved to New York.  Well, they moved back and he spotted me in the coffee shop and said hello.  It’s a small world.

I approached a woman, Lori, reading the paper at the counter and asked her to accept my $10.  She refused, urging me to find someone else more deserving.  I get this answer a lot.  I try to explain to people that they can do whatever they wish with the money.  If you think that you are not deserving of it, why not take a minute out of your day to give it to somebody who you think is deserving of it.  I sometimes think people are too lazy to do that…or they just don’t want to be bothered.

I ended up finding Esteban.  The 67-year-old Mexican-American was standing, with the help of a cane, next to the Verizon Center.  The first thing you notice about Esteban is the fact that he is not wearing any socks or shoes!?!?  He has a pair of sandals on.  He says that he doesn’t wear socks of shoes because he was poisoned with mercury by some people walking by while he slept and now it is too painful to put anything on his feet.

After a few minutes, I find myself a little confused in the conversation.  I switched to Spanish hoping that that would help clear up what he was trying to tell me.  Unfortunately, I realize early into my 25 minute chat with Esteban that he most likely suffers from schizophrenia and/or other mental illness.  Ok, the lack of shoes and socks should have been a red flag.

I am not sure what to believe about what he tells me.  Some details seem normal and very believable.  Like the fact that he came to the US in 1984, has been homeless for most of the time, has relatives in Texas, and is originally from Tamaulipas, Mexico.  But then there were the bizarre stories.  Like the lynching of a bully in a DC shelter or the friendship with a DC police lieutenant or stranger yet, the intimate knowledge he has of a scandal involving the FBI, CIA, and a former DC mayor that caused him to flee the city and end up at the Pentagon. 

It was sad.  Esteban needs help far beyond what I am able to provide.  It takes a while to wrap up the conversation as he retells some of the stories.  He said he would use the money to get some food this week.  I told him to protect his feet.  He explained again about the mercury and how anything he put on his feet hurt.  I suspect his feet are frost bit.  I urged him to go to a shelter, but he refused.

I wished him luck, shook his hand and nodded to my brother to get on our way.  He smiled and hobbled a bit further under the overhang, close to where his bags sat wet from the gray slushy mess that covered the sidewalk.

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I spent my Saturday mostly shoveling the walkways in front of my building and doing things around the house.  I decided to go out in the evening to try to find a recipient.  It’s hard to get someone to stop and talk to you when the weather is like this, so I decided to stop in to a little wine bar that is next to my place called Veritas.
 

Veritas DC: Corner of Conn. and Florida

I like Veritas and recommend you check it out.  It’s a small laid back place, perfect little escape during a snow storm.  I tried a flight of Spanish red wines which was highlighted by a Beronia “reserva” from the Rioja region.  It was excellent…it was a little spicy with a velvety texture that coats your tongue.  

I was seated next to a group of three young professionals.  I asked the one closest to me if she would accept my $10.  Patti declined, but said that she would do something with her own $10.  She was heading back to see her family in New Jersey soon and said she would use $10 to pay for other people’s tolls.  Excellent!

I still had to give my $10 away though.  I asked her two other friends.  They talked amongst themselves a little and then decided that Lauren would accept it.  

I move down to speak with her and find out a little more about her and what she will do with the money.  The bottom line is that I didn’t learn much about these folks.  My questions were deftly deflected to questions back to me for the most part.  I learn that the three of them are in journalism…so they are used to asking the questions.  I did find out that Lauren was 31, lived in the Dupont Circle area, enjoyed boxing (I kept my distance), and yoga.  

She was not sure what she would do with the $10.  She said she would somehow “pay it forward.”  We talked about somehow putting it in a protective sleeve and leaving dropping it on the ground with her email on the $10 so that someone would follow up with her if they found it.  She agreed to email me later and let me know what she did with it.

Lesson for the day, don’t try to ask journalists questions.  They will flip the tables on you :).  Maybe they will check out my site and give me some suggestions for improving it and reaching more people.  Heck maybe they will be inspired to write about what I am doing.

I’m off to watch the Super Bowl now… I have no real passion for either team, so I guess I will go with the underdog, the Saints.

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I am snowed in. 

We got about two feet of snow in DC so far and it is still coming down lightly.  Trees are down, cars are completely covered, and people are heading to Dupont Circle for a massive snow ball fight…the news reported that some 3,000+ on Facebook have said the are going to join the fight.  I think I will stay here for now.

Last night my brother invited me to go to the Capitals game where they beat the Thrashers.  On my way home, some friends sent me a message to meet up for a drink at the Russia House.  I made my way through the snowy streets and arrived at the Russia House.  It was pretty busy.  My friends showed up and we had a few Lithuanian beers.

Beth was sitting next to us.  The 30-year-old lives in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in DC.  Although she studied Art and History in college, now she works in energy policy.  In addition to her job, she is enrolled in Johns Hopkins’ International Energy and Environment Program.  Coincidentally we discover that we have both lived in Brazil.  I lived in Sao Paulo for three years, she lived in Rio.

Beth said she was pretty sure that she knew what she wanted to do with the $10, but asked to follow up with me later on it.  I just got an email from her now saying that she donated the money to the World Resources Institute’s International Financial Flows and the Environment program.  That was the fastest follow up I have had so far!

By the way, Andrea S. from Day 48 followed up with me and let me know that she gave her money to the Woodside United Methodist Church Food Pantry.  She wrote me a nice note and I have asked her to post as a comment on her day’s blog post.

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Day 52 – Dom P.

I got up around 6:00 am and walked to the grocery store this morning.  We are supposed to get a foot or two of snow today/tomorrow, however, you would have never known it this morning.  It was gorgeous this morning.  The temperature felt warmer than the reported 35 degrees.  I truly felt “the quiet before the storm.”

I met my friend Kimon yesterday evening at the 18th Amendment, a bar near the Eastern Market Metro.  He was meeting some others and invited me to join.  The 18th Amendment gets a thumbs up, although I had my doubts when I first arrived.  They had a beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co., a 20 year veteran of the brewing business from Cleveland, OH, who is starting to enter in the DC market.  I actually was introduced to them (literally I met Bernie the DC sales rep) earlier this week, so ironic that I found it on the menu some place.  Give them a try, I especially like their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, although the 18th Amendment only had the Eliot Ness Amber…also good.

18th Amendment near Eastern Market

While I was at the bar, I found myself talking to Dom, a clinical psychologist and professor at Georgia State University.  He is in DC on business, reviewing some grant proposals.  Dom is a lot of fun to talk to.  I am not surprised that he is a professor.  He seems to be able to talk intelligently on a variety of different topics.  Even when he has a strong opinion, he tends to encourage discussion rather than squash your ideas with his own.

I find out that aside from being a professor, he is also an official spokesperson for Woodford Reserve Distillery, a bourbon producer.  No wonder he is in a bar!  How do you get to be an official spokesperson you ask?  Well, I am not sure I recall 100% of his explanation, but I believe the gist was that he was hanging around the distillery so much that they just gave him the honor.  Pretty cool.  His favorite bourbon though is Ridgement Reserve 1792.  I haven’t tried either of them.  My brother had some Blanton’s bourbon…that was probably the best bourbon I have had.

Although all of this is interesting and very topical given our presence at a bar, especially one named for the constitutional change that enabled national prohibition of alcohol, I wanted to talk to Dom about the $10.  I asked him what he was going to do with it and he said that he would probably spend it on alcohol this weekend.   His reasoning in his answer was based on the fact that he had received an additional $10 that he didn’t have before and the most honest answer for where that $10 would end up is probably in the cash register of a DC bar.  He likened it to the possible scenario of finding $10 on the street.  That is how he viewed my $10.  He added, “You can’t really make a judgment on how charitable a person might be by what they do with the $10…for that, you should check my charitable contributions.”

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I woke up early this morning to see that the snow we got overnight had pretty much melted away.  At least the roads were pretty clear.  The sun was really bright today and if it wasn’t for the snow on the ground and Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of 6 more weeks of winter, you would have thought Spring was here!

I hopped in my car and headed over to the Unemployment Offices off of Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast DC.

Unemployment Office near Rhode Island Ave. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Unemployment Office near Rhode Island Ave. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I arrived to find out that the woman with whom I had a meeting, Ms. Bonham, was not in, probably due to the snow.  Ms. Bonham has been very good to work with.  She is professional and follows up on what she says she is going to do.  The woman at the reception said that she was aware that I would be there and that Ms. Bonham had arranged for me to meet with someone else.  I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to make another trip out there. 

The center is rather empty due to the weather I imagine.  I grab a seat and wait to be called.  Just a few minutes later the attendant asks if anyone could translate for a Spanish-speaking individual.  I offered to help.  There was nobody available there to translate.  Maybe they should hire me to translate for them there :).  After I helped the first gentleman, I was called upon again to help another man, “Miguel”.

Miguel explained that he had been unemployed and then started to work for a few days, but that ended and he was unemployed again and needed to know how to handle the situation.

Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Miguel has lived in Maryland for 20 years.  He is married and has a 5-year-old son.  I asked him what kind of work he was doing and he said he was skilled working with concrete.  If anyone knows of any job opportunities working with concrete, let me know and I will pass it along to Miguel as he doesn’t have internet and has limited English.

Miguel is seated with some other Latinos.  They are noticeably shocked when they hear what I am doing.  The fact that someone who is out of work themselves would be giving $10 away seems very foreign to them, and I have to admit it is a bit out of the box.   He says that he will use the $10 to put gas in his car. 

We chat for a while.   I learn that he loves to cook and we reminisce about Mexican food and how we both love the carne asada in Mexico.  He says he misses his parents dearly.  At some point, I get the feeling that he suspects that I may not be who I say I am…that my altruistic gesture may not be just that.  I mean, why is this strange guy giving me $10 and asking me all these questions?!?  When he learns that I will post this on the Internet, he gets uncomfortable.  He didn’t say why, perhaps he thinks that I am with the Immigration Office or something.  I offer to change his name to Miguel for the purposes of the blog and he seems to be more comfortable.

I leave to go have a call that I had scheduled with a potential employer.  Unfortunately I spent a long time waiting at the center and would have to do the call from my car.  As I sit in my car talking on my cell phone, I see Miguel walk by me to go to his car for something.  Does he think I am calling the Immigration Police right now?  I hope not.  On his way back, he smiles and gives me a thumbs up.

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Yesterday evening I went to the Brickskeller which is just a short walk away from my home.  The snow was falling and the scene was almost postcard worthy.  I took a picture with my blackberry phone, but it didn’t do it justice and its not even worth posting here.

The downstairs bar at The Brickskeller

The Brickskeller is somewhat of an institution in DC.  For more than 50 years it has been providing one of the most comprehensive selections of beers ever assembled under one roof.  If you are a beer connoisseur, it is a must visit.

They have this awkward bar seating in the cellar.  The bar stools are connected and set quite close together and there is no standing allowed in the bar area, so you usually end up sitting next to someone there and due to the close proximity that I mentioned, you are pretty much guaranteed to meet those sitting next to you.

I hadn’t a bit more sat down when the man sitting to my right asked, “Is it still coming down out there?”  I acknowledged that it was still snowing and settled my bag at my feet and took my coat off.  After browsing through their catalogue of beers, I settled on a Murphy’s Irish Stout. 

Since John had already made a little small talk with me, I decided to talk to him and see if he would accept my $10.  At first, the former military serviceman told me that “it sounds too good to be true.”  I assured him that there was no gimmick.  He smiled and replied back, “Just when you thought that you had seen everything, something like this comes along.”  He took the $10 and sat it on the bar in front of him and placed my business card on top of it. 

I explained that I wanted to ask him a few questions for the blog and he shrugged as if to say, ok.  I found out that he was originally from New Jersey, but now lives in Kansas City, MO.  He is in town presumably for some government or military related meetings.  I find out two interesting things through the course of the conversation.  First, he is a fellow Pittsburgh Steeler fan!  We chatted a little bit about our disappointing season and the future opportunities of the former coach, Bill Cowher.  John ventures a guess that Cowher is waiting to see if a job opens up at Carolina – close to where he lives.  I bet he is right.

The second interesting tidbit about John is that he said he once ejected from an F18 aircraft.  I didn’t get a lot of details or circumstances related to the incident except that he was off the west coast of the US and the plane was going to crash so he ejected and landed in the Pacific and withstood a few frigid hours until he was picked up.  I can only imagine what it feels like to have crashed a $42 million plane.  I used to work at a bar in Central Pennsylvania called Pagliaro’s Trattoria.  If you broke some of the bar glasses, they would reduce your paycheck by the amount of the glasses.  I asked him if they took the $42 million out of his paycheck, and he just sorta laughed and said that those are considered part of doing business.  Heck, one plane isn’t too bad, didn’t John McCain crash four or five planes?

My glass is now half full and our conversation comes and goes like a dog falling in and out of a slumber on a lazy summer afternoon.  I ask him what he is going to do with the $10 and he says, “Probably buy you a beer!”  Well that would certainly be ok, but I told him he could do anything he wanted with it.  He did end up buying me a beer, a nice beer from the Pennsylvania brewery called Stoudts.  The left over money he said would go toward some coffee.

John takes off and I finish my beer that he bought me.  I ended up talking to a nice guy named Doug from South Carolina who works for NOAA.  I got a quick education in some meteorological and geological related issues.  He was in town for some meetings that were part of a fellowship he was doing.  Today he was to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum…if you haven’t visited this museum, I recommend it.  It is terribly depressing but well done in my opinion. 

Tomorrow I will make my third trip to the DC Unemployment Offices again to try to straighten out my unemployment benefits.  Let’s hope this time I can finally get everything resolved.

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Day 49 – Ivory W.

You may remember that zazzle.com offered to make cool business cards for me for free!!! Yep, I got them yesterday.  They look great.  I will take a picture of them and post it later this week.  Zazzle’s site is cool, you create your own designs (for all kinds of things, not just business cards) and can then post them in public libraries of content, making it available for purchase and customization by other visitors to the site.  Very cool!

On Monday I got my official authorization from the DC government to perform Ryan and Mandy’s wedding!  Finally.  On my way home, I decided to walk part of the way home.  As I walked north on 7th Street, I saw a Street Sense vendor at the North East corner of 7th and E.

Ivory displays the latest copy of Street Sense

I really like interacting with the Street Sense sales people and I try to see if I know this vendor.  Peaking out of his hooded jacket, Ivory’s eyes look out above his glasses and meet mine.  He smiles, revealing a shiny tooth with 4 diamonds on it.  I have not met Ivory (badge number 102) before and decide to give him my $10.

Ivory is a very interesting guy.  He started selling Street Sense 3 years ago on the corner of 7th and E and has grown his clientele significantly now.  His clients have helped Ivory get out of the shelter and into an apartment in Arlington that he shares with a roommate.

Ivory is an artist.  He paints his canvass with words…whether it be the spoken word or his written fictional stories that he has published.  That’s right, he has over 25 published stories and has written a book that sold 500 copies.  You can browse through old issues at the Street Sense site to find his articles or better yet, start buying the paper and look out for his next story, Galaxy Baseball. 

So what is he doing on the streets?!  I am not sure, I didn’t discover that yet.  He tells me that he is originally from Texas, where he grew up to be a rodeo bull rider.  Sounds dangerous…but so is flirting with homelessness.  Ivory takes it in stride though.  He eventually made it to DC and seems to be on the right path. 

Everyone knows Ivory.  A minute doesn’t go by while I am talking to him that somebody doesn’t greet him.  His eyes are always scanning the faces that fill the streets.  A man stops and Ivory gets excited as he tells me that he was one of the key people who got him started 3 years ago.  The man gives him a dollar.   In the following clip, Ivory talks a little bit about how he got his start at 7th and E Street.

Ivory said he was going to use the $10 to go toward rent.

For those of you in DC, go visit Ivory and help him out.  For those who are not in the area, I will try to post some more video.

As I was writing up my blog, I found a story about Ivory in the Washington Post from March 16, 2008.  It sheds a little more light on his life and the path that led him to be homeless.  There is also a write-up on Street Sense.

Ivory alerts me that it is almost 5:00pm and he needs to start paying attention to the foot traffic as the after work rush hour begins to buzz by.  He snaps into action to meet and greet his friends and customers and I am on my way.

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Day 48 – Andrea S.

Sunday was a long day.  I had my final two theatre performances of The Foreigner, one at 2pm and the other at 7pm.  I thought both went well.  After the second show we had to tear down the entire set and put everything back in storage.  This took us about 2.5 hours, so we left at around midnight.

It’s a good thing that I found someone to give my $10 to earlier in the day.  In fact, I gave it to someone I found in the lobby of the theatre who had seen the 7pm show.  Andrea said that she enjoyed the show and that I was her favorite actor in the play…ok, so she didn’t say that…but I am sure that is what she was thinking.

She is a 35-year-old social worker in the home healthcare field.  Andrea deals directly with the public when they are unhappy with her firm’s services.  She is calm and relaxed talking with me.  I bet that this attribute is a huge asset in her work when irate customers call her to complain.

I usually ask the people I meet a couple of standard questions.  One I like to ask is that they tell me something interesting or unique about themselves.  This is a hard question for many people to answer.  Andrea struggled as well.  She told me that she was the mother of two children…and then she drew a blank on what else to tell me.  She used a lifeline and asked her husband who was with her at the show to share something.  That sparked some thinking and I soon knew that she had met some interesting people such as B.B. King and Garrison Keillor.

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10.  She told me that she didn’t think she was the right person to receive it because she would probably just get a burrito bowl at Chipotle or something.  She said that she really wanted to do something more meaningful with it and asked to be able to think about it a while and then get back to me.  We exchanged emails and I hope to hear from her soon.

I think it is great that people want to think about it.  It shows that my unconditional gift to them has caused them to think about how they should use it, or possibly even how they look at giving in general.  If you want to read a good summary of one recipient’s thought process about what to do with the $10, check out an email I received from Sara of Day 44

Before I left to go help strike the set, I asked her if there was something that the readers of the Year of Giving could help her with and she said that she was looking for a new job.  I will post this on the Lend A Hand page as well, but she said that she would ideally find a job as a Director of Consumer Relations of an Assisted Living operation.  If you know any contacts in this field in the Greater DC area, please post them here or contact me and I can contact Andrea.

Look for tomorrow’s post about Ivory, an interesting writer and salesman for Street Sense!  I got some video of him as well that I will try to post here or on the Facebook Page.

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Some friends of mine were in town this weekend and we met for brunch at Kramer’s in Dupont.  For those of you who have been following the blog, you probably have figured out that I like that place.

They have a decent brunch.  I am not sure that I am a brunch person…I always struggle between the breakfast and lunch options.  It doesn’t really matter I guess though, whatever you order you are going to eat too much probably and feel a bit comatose when you’re done.  As we forced our sluggish bodies out of the iconic locale, we saw a homeless man right outside of the door.  I decided to see if he would accept my $10.

Norman outside Kramer's in DC

It’s a strange feeling when you stand inches away from someone who has committed heinous crimes and feel compassion for them rather than fear.  To say that Norman is a likeable fellow is an understatement. 

His home now is the New York Avenue Shelter.  He says that he tends to be a bit of a loner preferring not to associate with other people at the shelter.  He explains that taking sides is how you get into trouble; probably a lesson he learned in prison.  I asked him what his future looks like.  He kind of shrugged as if to say that he doesn’t see his life getting much better.  I asked him if he was aware of organizations that could offer him help to get back on his feet.  His eyes look downward, then up and into my eyes, “If after 35 years in DC, 18 years in 7 different prisons, you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you aint ever gonna learn.”

Norman said he was going to use the money for some food and transportation this week.  He said it was very generous.  On a good day he told me he can bring in about $110 panhandling.  One time a doctor over near P Street gave him $40.

Like many of the other homeless people that I have met, I feel sad to say goodbye.  I know that I am going back to my warm comfortable home and he will still be here in 20 degree weather.  I shake Norman’s hand and give him a smile and tell him to take care of himself.  I hope that I run into Norman again.

By the way, I have updated the statistics page this weekend and continue to add to the Lend A Hand section.

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