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Archive for October, 2010

Sea of rally-goers between me and the Capitol. (photo: Reed)

Good morning!  DC is full of visitors this weekend for the Rally to Restore Sanity.  Led by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, the event was supposed to be a rally to bring people together.  Unfortunately I think it ended up being attended almost exclusively by democrats.  It would have been nice to have a more inclusive audience.  

My dad came down from Pennsylvania and we went down to the rally.  I can not tell you too much about what happened there because there were way more people there than what they expected.  As a result, there were not enough speakers/jumbo screens for most of us to hear or see what was happening.  It’s too bad too, because I really like Stewart.  I think he is wickedly smart not to mention one of the funniest guys on television.  I would have given him my $10 – but that didn’t happen.  I did give it to a 16-year-old student from NC who attended the rally with his father.  His story in a couple of weeks.

Located at Connecticut and DeSales, The Mayflower Hotel was home to President Harry S. Truman for three months while the White House was being renovated. (photo: Reed)

As for today, I want to introduce you to Luis.  I met him a few weeks ago outside the Mayflower Hotel here in DC when the IMF sessions were taking place in Washington.  Originally from El Salvador, Luis works in the private transportation industry.  On this day, he was chauffeuring executives to and from their meetings.  He’s been in this business for the past ten years he tells me.  Some times he has been hired to make long trips too.  “Last week I went to New York City twice,” Luis said. 

In front of us was a herd of black Town Cars, Escalades, Suburbans – all with tinted windows.  Some had signs in the window to indicate who they were reserved for.  “BNP Paribas” read one sign referring to the French banking powerhouse.  Another had a sign for the London-based HSBC. 

A flight crew from Lufthansa exited and crowded the side entrance to the hotel, about 10 feet from where we were standing.  They all lit cigarettes and a cloud of tobacco smoke settled over us.  Luis, neatly dressed in a black suite with a blue tie, shook his head in disgust and took a few more steps away from the airline personnel.  

His cell phone rang and he excused himself and took the call speaking in Spanish.  He returned a few minutes later apologizing for the interruption.  He explained that his clients were just about ready to leave so I let him get back to work.  

IMF/World Bank Meetings (IMF Photo/Stephen Jaffe)

Before shaking his hand and wishing him good luck, I asked him if he had thought about what he would do with the ten dollars.  He said he would probably use it to buy some breakfast that week. 

He asked not to be photographed and also preferred to not provide any contact information.  Hopefully he will be in touch later so that I can make sure he gets information about the year-end celebration.

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Giving is the theme of this post!

Click on the link below and help Maggie reach her goal! (photo: Reed)

I found myself swallowed up in a sea of pink on Connecticut Avenue.  I ended up walking south forced by the inertia of the mass of walkers in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 60 mile trek that begins in Maryland and finishes with a spectacular view of the monuments of our nation’s capital.

I found myself next to Maggie, a 46-year-old mother of two who hails from Clarksville, TN.  “I’ve come up here the past three years to join my sister in the 3-Day,” Maggie tells me as she nears the 60 mile marker and the end of her journey.  “My grandmother and a couple of aunts battled breast cancer, but this year I am walking for my friend and coworker who had a double-mastectomy last week.”  She said that her friend was recovering well.

She didn’t hesitate a second and told me, “I’m going to donate the ten dollars to the Komen 3-Day.”  She could use the help too.  She is about $900 shy of the minimum pledge amount that walkers agree to which is $2,300.  She has a few more days to get donations…why don’t you donate $10 today toward Maggie’s goal!  Click here to donate.  I just donated another $10 online to her and it only took a couple of seconds.  And you’ll love her team name too: One TaTa at a Time.

Back home she works with the Wounded Warrior program at Fort Campbell. 

Maggie (right) poses for a photo with her sister who lives in the DC area. (photo: Reed)

She shared with me that she was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991.  She and two other women worked along side 300 Sri Lankan men washing all the clothes for the soldiers stationed there.  “It was a scary experience,” she said.  “There was not a night that I didn’t cry myself to sleep,” as a result of the Scud attacks.  

We arrived at the rest station and she got some water and a little rest before making the final steps to the finish line.  We hugged and I congratulated her for her walk and commitment to help find a cure for breast cancer.  She is a giver.  She’s a mother, she serves our country and even finds time to pursue worthy causes like the Komen 3-Day.  Let Maggie serve as a role model for all of us.  

Can you say hero? (photo: Reed)

As I left I saw a man doing the walk with the help of a prosthetic leg.  Tell me that’s not inspiring!  Way to go!

On my way home I saw Tommy from Day 230.  He seemed to be doing ok but was suffering from depression.  He is on medication and is hopeful that he will improve.

By the way, this was 10-10-10 Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day.  I totally forgot to tell Maggie about this. I was so wrapped up in the mobs of marchers that it totally slipped my mind!  I do do this every day, so sometimes I kind of shift over to auto-pilot.  However, my I met my friend Tricia for lunch and afterwards she gave $10 to my neighbor Howard who walked by!

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Ben, me and Ian. I look ridiculous I know! (photo: Reed)

One thing I did not do enough of this summer is ride my bike.  I meant to meet up with Mark E. from Day 132 and go for a ride.  He is an avid rider and offered several times to meet up.  I did manage to get out a few weeks ago though and took my $10, notebook and camera with me.

Somewhere about a mile or so north of Georgetown is a place called Fletcher’s Boat House.  It was there I spotted Ian and Ben.

You can rent boats to go out on the Potomac River at Fletcher's. (photo: Reed)

“I’m officially a police officer,” Ian tells me.  “But I consider myself an EMT.”  It turns out he is quite the busy guy.  He is juggling classes at George Washington with his work as a police officer and EMT.  “I hope to go to med school,” he says in a steady confident tone.  Somewhere in all of that he finds time to get away and enjoy the beautiful crescent trail.  And let me tell you, it is stunning this time of year.

A senior at GW, Ben is figuring out what he wants to do.  “I’m leaning toward the music industry,” he says shrugging his shoulders a little bit.  He’s double majoring in philosophy and psychology, you’d think that this would help to give you the critical thinking skills necessary to figure out what direction to go in, but who knows, maybe it just complicates the entire equation. 

Ian's got his eyes set on going to medical school. (photo: Reed)

My notes say that Ben was going to use his $5 to buy some bottled water.  Next to that I wrote, “or deep fried H20” it looks like.  I have no idea what that means, I certainly don’t remember him saying that.  Let’s see if he checks in on the site and tells us.  As for Ian, he was going to put it toward his Metro fare card to get to his EMT station.  

I got a kick out of something Ben told me.  “Ian is time-locked in the 80s.”  That’s kind of funny, because if I do the math right he was born in 1989.  I guess that first year really influenced him!  “Music, TV-wise, movies….he loves Scarface,” Ben goes on. 

Ben needs our help to get an internship at a performing arts center. (photo: Reed)

Hey performing arts centers…Ben needs an internship.  Ideally he would like to get a programming or production internship at the Kennedy Center.  Shoot me a message or leave a comment if you can help Ben out.  Oh, and by the way, if there is dancing at the year-end celebration, I hope Ben comes.  Ian told me, “Ben can dance to absolutely any kind of music.”  Wow…the bar has been set pretty high.  Maybe instead of his internship he ought to try out for the show So You Think You Can Dance?

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The Old Post Office Pavilion (photo: Reed)

How the Old Post Office Pavilion looked in 1911. Free tours of the 315 ft. tower are available daily.

I was strolling along Pennsylvania Avenue taking photographs when I was struck by the beautiful flowing flags in front of the majestic Old Post Office Pavilion.  Built in 1899, it houses a little known gem: the view from the clock tower.  Take a free tour of the tower and get an unparalleled 360 degree view. 

After snapping a few photographs, I continued on Pennsylvania Avenue where I found Dave enjoying an afternoon cigar break from his job in IT at the EPA.  He’s a ten-year veteran of the agency and walks the talk of technology.  “That’s an Archos,” he told me pointing at a handheld device he was browsing.  I hadn’t heard about them, but here is a picture of one of the models.

I offered Dave the ten bucks and he refused and suggested that I give it to someone more deserving.  “I’ve actually read about you I think in the Washington Post,” Dave said.  “Or somebody doing the same thing here in DC.”  I am pretty sure it’s just me doing it every day in DC.  If there is someone else out there…drop me a note!  We should meet up and exchange $10!

Dave enjoying a cigar on a beautiful autumn day. (photo: Reed)

I sat down next to Dave and let my back have a break from the weight I was carrying around in my backpack.  It was a gorgeous day and I was thrilled to take a minute and just soak in the serenity from Dave’s shaded vantage point along Pennsylvania Avenue.  

I talked to him a little more and convinced him to take the $10.  I’m getting better at this!  He said that he wouldn’t keep the money though; he preferred to give it someone else.

This is the handheld device Dave was using.

I found out that he’s married and a father to two boys.  One is in high school and the other is away at college.  “He claims it is going fine,” he says about the college freshman.

About this time a beggar walked up and asked for some money.  We were both silent and I was wondering if Dave would give him the $10.  Would I reach into my pocket and give him a few dollars.  But we both somewhat automatically shook our heads no and said that we were unable to help and he walked away.  Actually we were both able to help, but we didn’t.  This has happened before and I think it is interesting from a psychological point of view.  It’s a challenge to analyze this issue fairly in a city like Washington where you get asked probably two or three times a day minimum for money.

Dave could give George A. from Day 201 a run for the money in a Santa Claus beard competition. (photo: Reed)

After he left Dave explained that he was going to give his $10 to a homeless man that was usually at the corner of Constitution and 12

th.  “He always has a friendly hello,” Dave said.  “Every time I walk by him for almost two years; and he only ever asked for money once.  He just says hello.” 

I knew Dave needed to get back to work so I headed on my way.  Later that evening I went for a run and visited with John, the man who holds the signs in front of the Vatican’s embassy here in Washington.  He was doing well.  He has a new banner that he is holding and somebody hacked his website too he told me.  It was good to see him.  All in all, a great day.

UPDATE: 10/28/2010

Check out the comment below from Dave sharing what happened to the $10.  I got a very nice email from him as well today where he said something that I want to share: “I’ve said it to many people on many occasions but I don’t think I’ve ever meant it quite as much: keep up the good work.”  That means a lot to me.  Thanks Dave!

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Kyle (aka Kevin) on the left with his friend Chris. (photo: Reed)

I met two guys that totally cracked me up!  I was at the Social Safeway in Georgetown when I ran into these guys talking football.  They were hanging out at the Starbucks Café that is inside the Safeway.

After some short discussion on who was going to accept my $10 they decided on Kevin.  Kevin told me that he was 21 and lived in Maryland.  Wearing a tie, he told me that he had come from work at a DC museum.  A few days later he emailed me and confessed that his name was not really Kevin and he didn’t work at the museum he told me about.   “Frankly I don’t tend to trust strangers so I made it up,” he wrote in the email.  Now, I kind of had a feeling that Kevin wasn’t his real name because he had referred to himself in a story as Kyle, his friend Chris called him Kyle, and his email had the name Kyle in it!  Hmmm.  He’s a good guy and just not able to lie very well.  That’s a good thing!

Well, I am sure I have received plenty of false names from my recipients.  I mean be honest, would you trust a guy who walked up to you and offered you $10.  You would think that there was some sort of catch, right?

So Kyle is originally from Philadelphia and is an Eagles fan.  “I liked McNabb and I didn’t like that they traded him,” he told me referring to Donovan McNabb being traded to the Redskins.  Although an Eagles fan, he owns a Michael Westbrook jersey.  Westbrook used to be a wide receiver for the Redskins.  I found out about the jersey because apparently when the Redskins played the Eagles back on October 3rd, my man Kyle bet his buddy Chris, who was with him at the Safeway, that if the Eagles lost he would drink as many shots of Grey Goose as the Eagles lost by AND, here is the kicker, eat a portion of his Michael Westbrook jersey!  Yes!  Well, Chris says that he chickened out on the shots and eating the jersey.  Instead he wore a McNabb jersey for a day. 

So this whole thing about betting and money lead to a discussion about what Kyle was going to do with the $10 he now had in his hands.  You guessed it, he put up a $10 bet with Chris on the following Monday night gave between the Vikings and the Jets.  His buddy Chris claims to be a die-hard Jets fan but Kyle says that Chris is just jumping on the band wagon.  They are doing well…in fact they are tied for first place with a 5-1 record.  Anyway, check out this video to see these two go at it about their bet.  I love these guys!  Chris’ comment about “guys wearing a suit” is hilarious the way he delivers it.

Oh yeah and Kyle said that if they won, he was going to frame the $10.  On the day of the game he sent me an email and said, “I’ve kept the $10 stored in my house hidden from the rest of my family and Chris is going to come over today to see the game. Hopefully I get to keep this money!”  As it turns out, the Jets won 29-20 and Kyle lost the $10 and did some shots of Grey Goose.

I wonder what their bet will be for the upcoming Redskins – Eagles rematch here in Washington on November 15th!  Maybe Kyle or Chris will give us an update on here.

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After 21 years with US Steel, drugs and alcohol have left Michael homeless. (photo: Reed)

In the early hours of October 5th I had just given my money to Alexander and Phaze.  I was talking to Alexander and getting my things together to leave because it was about 1:00am and I had to be at work in a few hours. Right then a guy pulled up on a Trek bicycle.  My initial thought was that the bike might have been stolen since it was missing the seat.  In a soft voice he approached me and said, “You want the real story?” He claimed that Alexander’s story was not representative of those facing real hardships on the streets.  “I don’t choose to be out here,” he said.  Although he was critical of Alexander’s choice to sell

StreetWise magazines, I support it.  I have seen how Street Sense here in DC has changed the lives of many individuals here in DC.  Michael was telling me that he was deserving of the $10 because of the hardships of his life.

So to give you an idea how this went down, I was filming Alexander and just let the camera running when Michael rolled up and started talking to me. Here is the raw unedited (with the exception of one part where we were interrupted) video from that conversation.

Michael said he goes daily to the labor lines in search of day work. “I get work probably once a week,” he told me.

Michael showed me the scars from where he was shot in Seattle. (photo: Reed)

He also told me that he survived a shooting in Seattle. Michael explained that it resulted from an incident where some other man pulled up the skirt of the woman he was with. He stood up for her and ended up getting shot six times. Michael pulled up his shirt to show me the wounds.

Michael's seatless bicycle (photo: Reed)

Before leaving Michael offered to give me the money back. I don’t really know why and I told him to keep it and he did. He said he was going to use it to buy food that week.
Right as I was packing up my stuff, another guy named Tim came by and also asked for money.  What is going on here?  Did someone tweet that a crazy guy was handing out money at Michigan and Randolph? Anyway, I politely told Tim no and headed home.

On my way home a filmed the following video debrief.

Tomorrow, it’s back to DC.

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So you may have noticed that I have been slow posting blogs lately.  Well, I have been swamped.  But now something has complicated my blogging even more!  I have a FLIP Mino HD camera that I use to shoot my video.  It’s pretty awesome for the price range (about $200).  HOWEVER, there is one thing that drives me crazy and has now twice brought my blogging to a crawl.  Their current software versions only output the files in MP4 format.  Previous versions of the software made an automatic conversion to Windows Media Video (WMV).  The issue here is that the movie editor that comes with Windows and YouTube both don’t work with MP4 files, but do work with WMV.  So now I can not edit or upload my videos. 

I have spoken to their support team and they even rolled my software version back, but it has now automatically updated itself again.  Aghhh!!!  This cost me several hours last time it happened and will require several hours again.  Maybe I should get a new camera…any suggestions? 

So the bottom line is that I am skipping Days 295 and 296 for now.  Sorry…have had to jump to 297 since this entry has no video.

On Day 297 I tried to give my $10 to an older gentleman in front of the Verizon Center.  He refused and I walked a few blocks away to the corner of 9th and G Streets where I found Boyo.  That’s actually not his real name but he was not comfortable with me using that.  In fact he didn’t really want to share any details about himself.  He didn’t want pictures taken either. 

Boyo was selling the Street Sense newspaper in front of the Gallery Place Metro entrance.  Born in London, he moved to his parent’s birth country of Nigeria at the age of five.  At some point I guess he moved here, but he wouldn’t go into details about that.  Boyo, who I managed to learn was 45, talked about putting his life story together in the form of a book and said that once he did that we could read it and learn all that we wanted to about him.  But until then, he preferred to stay anonymous and advised me to speak with him through his “editor” which coincidentally is a person that I know.  Small world.

Anyway, I did get Boyo to tell me what he would use the money for.  He said he would get something to eat.

I gave him an extra dollar and bought one of his newspapers and caught the 42 bus home.

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