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Archive for the ‘Alcohol’ Category

Are you unemployed and want something inspiring to do for the next seven days?  Well, I have a solution for you!  Become a Kindness Investor and give $10 away every day to a new stranger for a week and then share your experiences here on the Year of Giving. I need someone to start tomorrow!!! So please email me today if you or someone you know are up for this amazing experience.

1417 22nd Street Northwest Washington D.C., DC 20037 - (202) 835-2665

On Day 353 I went over to Books for America, a great nonprofit bookstore that I have frequented for several years.  As I was purchasing the book I decided to give my money $10 to someone working there.  Two of the clerks that I mentioned it to both pointed toward a guy slouched down behind a computer off to the side of the register.  “He could certainly use the cash,” one of the clerks said pointing toward Adam who had by now stood up and made his way over to the counter.

I gave him the $10 and he thanked me and said, “I can definitely use it.”  I asked if I could jot down a couple of notes and he invited me outside to talk to him while he smoked a cigarette.

Adam grew up in Maine and attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD.  “I studied Liberal Arts – what do you do with that?” he rhetorically asked.  Well, he ended up working at Books for America and told me, “This is the best job ever.”  Adam picks up donations of books around the city and brings them to the store where they are resold at lower than market prices.

“I one time went to pick up some books from this lady’s house and when I got there she was so upset about parting with her books that in the end I recommend that she hold on to them and think about,” Adam told me.  “I mean, books can mean a lot to people and I want the person to be comfortable with the donation, otherwise it’s not good for them or us.”  I don’t recall if the woman ever called back for Adam to get the books or not.

Adam, who is very thankful to be employed now told me, “The thing that really sucks about being unemployed is having to tell your friends and people from high school that you are ‘in between jobs’ when they ask what you are doing.”  This never really bothered me when I was out of work, but I know a lot of people have shared this same comment with me.

Adam shared an amazing personal story of giving with me.  When he was in high school he and some buddies decided to buy some strangers breakfast.  Their simple altruistic act of kindness lived on for years without them knowing it; until recently when he happened to be visiting one of the same friends that was with him that morning and they received a very unexpected phone call.  Check out the entire story…

My favorite part of his story is, “Her gratitude was so much greater than our generosity in the moment.”  That is beautiful.  It just goes to show you that sometimes the little things you do mean a lot more to others around you.

By the way, the 28-year-old’s ten dollars are going to be handed to a bartender at the Big Hunt in exchange for a few “Bad Ass Amber beers.”

Adam and his ten dollars

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Day 328 – Elizabeth F.

Are you still stuffed?  Did you eat too much turkey and stuffing yesterday?  Well prop yourself up on your sofa and check out what happened with my $10 on Day 326.  I will keep it short to help you ward away the sleep inducing effects of all the tryptophan that is now in your body.

Elizabeth followed up via email, "You ended up being a great end to a day that didn't start off so well. Thank you."

Hockey season is once again upon us and I have gotten to go to a few games.  My brother Ryan has season tickets to the Capitals and is very generous in inviting me to go with him.  It was a Sunday and we met up at my apartment in Dupont.  We hopped on the 42 bus and headed down toward the arena.  I thought I would try to find someone on the bus that would accept my $10 and found Elizabeth sitting in front of us.

A Bilingual Benefits Coordinator at a local health clinic, Elizabeth was on her way to see The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, the third in the Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson.  I haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies.  In fact I didn’t even know that this one was part of the whole Girl with the Dragon Tattoo thing.  

Anyway I gave her the $10 and got my notebook out to ask her some questions.  “I’m not very interesting,” she told me.  I hear that a lot, but just like with Elizabeth I usually uncover plenty of interesting sides of their lives. 

It turns out Elizabeth’s “uninteresting” life includes a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Ecuador.  That sounds like a pretty amazing experience.  My sister-in-law was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kiribati, an island nation located along the equator in the Pacific Ocean.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Peace Corps program however almost everyone raves about the people they meet and overall life experience gained.  

photo: Reed

The bus groaned a little as we motored down Connecticut Avenue.  We had an easy conversation during the 25 blocks it took to get to our stop.  Elizabeth had a lot of questions for me too.  She said she was going to put the money in her wallet and see what happened to it.  I later found out in an email from her that she was going to use it to go to get some drinks at the Bottom Line on Friday when they feature $1 Miller Lites from 4-7pm.  That’s pretty cheap…especially for DC!  But it must have been burning a hole in her pocket because it only made it to Tuesday where it went toward happy hour.

As for the hockey game, the Caps edged out the Flyers in overtime.  The Capitals have a pretty awesome record when I am in attendance!

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Victory Brewery, Downingtown, PA

Some high school friends of mine decided to get together in metropolis of Spring City, Pennsylvania.  I carpooled up with my friend Kimon, who lives close by in DC.  It’s about a three-hour drive but we hit some traffic getting out of DC and made slight detour to visit Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA.  All in all it took us about five hours.

This place was packed.  The parking lot was completely full.  We left my car in a questionably legal parking spot and went in just to say we were there, have one beer, and pick up some beer to take to Maureen and Josh, our hosts for the weekend.  When we got inside, you could barely walk.  I was sure that there was some special event going on, but we were later told that it was just “another Friday night.”

I first approached a woman named Kathy.  She was a little bit interested, much more so than her husband who showed up a shortly thereafter.  The couple was waiting on a table and it conveniently became available giving them a polite excuse to exit the situation.

I scanned the area while sipping on my malty Storm King Stout.

Kathy and Jim (photo: Reed)

Nearby I found another woman named Kathy and her husband Jim.  I noticed that Kathy was drinking wine. What?!  Wine in a great brewery.  “I’m allergic to wheat,” she told me.  Not Jim…nope.  He was happily enjoying some of their cold refreshing brews. 

Kathy tells me that her real name was Myra, but as a young girl she attended Catholic School and all the nuns thought she was Jewish…so she went by Kathy.  Jim I think was really named Jim…or James…at least no confessions were made to the contrary. 

Speaking of Jim, I learned that he has a bit of daredevil inside him.  While in the Poconos he went bungee jumping.  “This sketchy guy tethered me to this rope,” Jim explained adding that he wouldn’t do it again.

It turns out this couple was having a little time out before they picked their daughter up from her high school where she was decorating for Homecoming which was the following evening.  And Jim is going to drive one of the cars in the parade too!  “It’s a red BMW 328 convertible.”  Grinning he added, “Everyone should own a convertible once in their life.”

The $10 went toward a glass of wine and tip for the bartender. (photo: Reed)

It was right about then that I got to see my $10 passed along.  Kathy made her way up to the crowded bar and ordered another glass of wine.  Seven for the wine and three for a tip.

Later I received an email from Kathy with an update…here is an excerpt.

“It was fun talking to you and even more fun connecting to your web site and reading all the stories of the people we are ‘one degree of separation’ from. I loved your 10-10-10 story!  We should have told you about our 8-8-08 night at the Triple 8 vodka distillery in Nantucket!  Anyway – I wanted to tell you that even though $7 of the money you gave us went to the alcohol – $3 of it went to the bartender..not sure if that is ‘donation’ or not but either way good luck in your final leg of your interviews and GOD BLESS YOUR MAMA!”

And as for homecoming…

Jim driving his son and fellow homecoming court nominee. (photo: Reed)

“Everyone had a blast. I think Jim enjoyed the parade more than my son Kevin. It was a beautiful fall day. The home team won.  Life is good.  Keep up the good work – you are on the home stretch!

-Kathy”

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"There's a lot of practice that goes into it. There's a lot of prep work." - Kyle (photo: Reed)

Do you think that you are funny?  A lot of us do.  But what would you do if you had to go up on stage and actually make people laugh for a few minutes?  Would you do it?  Could you do it?  Do you really think you could make a group of 50 people laugh hysterically?  Well Kyle found out the answer to that question.

After a dinner with coworkers at the iconic Tabard Inn in DC, we shuffled next door to the Topaz Hotel where on Thursday nights they have open mic comedy.

The place was full and the only seats were in the very front.  You know what that means!  Yep.  I was seated with a coworker from California and the comedian starts with the, “So, are you guys on a date?” type questions to me.  After dodging any severely awkward moments, he found a new person to pick on. 

Near the end of the show the host welcomed back a young guy who had performed his first stand up routine last week…and was brave enough to come back for more!  That was Kyle.  After the show I saw him and figured I would ask him to accept my $10, I mean after all anyone who has that type of courage to get up in front of a crowd and try to make them laugh deserves a few bucks. 

Originally from New Hampshire, Kyle is in DC for an internship.  He’s a journalism major working for a talk radio station here in Washington.  With graduation next month, he has mixed feelings about going back home.  It seemed like he really liked the possibility of staying in DC.

“I’m going to take your $10 to Lucky’s…they have $3 well drinks.  This will buy three drinks and still have a dollar left for a tip!” he told me.

I put him on the spot and asked him to do some of his comedy material.  This is not easy to do at the drop of a hat, but he was a good sport and obliged.  Kyle took a second and pulled out a folded up piece of paper that he had notes written on.  Even if he had been ready, it is a lot easier when you have an audience and can feed off of the crowd’s laughter.  Here goes…

Comedy at the Topaz Hotel (1733 N Street NW) happens every Thursday night at 8pm. No cover.

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Hey, so yesterday I totally screwed up on my twitter account.  I thought I was sending a private message and apparently I broadcasted my mobile number!  Ooops.  Thankfully LilaScot noticed it and sent me a message to let me know.  Thanks!  I got it taken care of now.

One of my favorite pubs, Ireland's Four Courts in Arlington, VA. (photo: Reed)

So today you are going to meet five amazing, intelligent, beautiful people.  With a description like that they could only be one thing…that’s right Steeler fans!

Dave, Julie, Cathy, Scott and Brandon were all watching the Steelers game at one of my favorite pubs: Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington.  All of them but Brandon were clad in their Steeler jerseys and shirts.  If any of you are wondering what to get Brandon for the holidays, I’m guessing that a Steelers jersey would be much appreciated!

Some of them live here in the DC area, others live in Pittsburgh and Cathy came all the way from Panama City. 

From L-R, Cathy, Scott, Brandon, Dave and Julie. (photo: Reed)

I tried to figure out how everyone knew each other.  So Dave and Scott went to middle school together at Eden Christian Academy.  Julie and Scott are dating and I think Cathy and Dave are too….they actually met playing World of Warcraft online.  Hey, maybe Ashanti will meet someone there too….he used to be a big fan of the online game. 

I commented on Brandon’s hat and learned that he actually bought it in Germany.  “So I was there for Oktoberfest with Julie and Scott,” Brandon told me.  “I have a big head and it’s not easy to find a hat that fits…so when I found this one I got it!” 

All five of my new Steeler friends agreed to put their $2 share of the $10 toward their bar tab. 

I offered to put something on the Lend a Hand section for any of them and got some interesting requests.  Cathy would like to meet the Steelers’ all-pro safety Troy Polamalu.  In fact she said that she bought Head & Shoulders 2 in 1 shampoo just because his commercials for it!  Advertising works.

Brandon would like some help finding a job as a research analyst in the criminal justice field.  The 25-year-old lives in Northern Virginia and has a degree in public policy specializing in criminal justice. 

My new football friends hanging out at the Four Courts. (photo: Reed)

Dave joined in and said he would like some Steeler tickets!  And if you donate some tickets to Dave, add an extra ticket for me!!!  I’ve never been to a game in Pittsburgh.

Well the Steelers went on to trounce the Browns 28-10.  Hey, catch the Steelers this Monday night take on the Bengals!  I’m thinking about going to the Pour House to watch the game if you are in the DC area and want to join.  Who knows, you might even get ten bucks!

UPDATE: 11/20/2010

I just got an email from Cathy…I was right, they are dating, in fact they are engaged.  And guess what, she told me that Julie and Scott have just got engaged as well!  Congrats guys!

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Rain drops on the metallic chairs on Love Cafe's patio. (photo: Reed)

I don’t know why I carried my umbrella over to U Street with me; I didn’t use it to ward off the drizzle that fell as I dodged puddles along the uneven sidewalk.  I ducked in to Cake Love’s Café on the corner of 15th and U Streets.  I think its actual name is Love Café…according to the young Latina behind the counter it opened seven years ago…a year after the original bakery opened in 2002.  It’s a cozy little place with a spectacular corner view perfect for people watching.

Gerald with the original Cake Love in the background. (photo: Reed)

I met Gerald there. When he came in he said, “That’s where I usually sit…it’s got a great view.”  Gerald tells me that he lives across the street which turns out to be the same building that Almena from Day 21 lived in.

This is one of those encounters that I don’t even know where to begin.  We spoke for hours.  Gerald is a character too.  Some of the stories sound too sensational to be true but he swears by them; from being born in Freedmen Hospital (forerunner to Howard University Hospital) in 1943 to looting liquor stores during the riots of 1968 to inheriting a million dollars from his step-father. 

Gerald grew up living on Columbia Road around 12th Street.  “There was only one white person on my entire block back then,” he said. 

7th Street post MLK Assassination riots in DC in 1968.

During the riots Gerald said he was working at the Post Office.  On the day the riots started he was taking a test at the Watergate building.  He got home and painted “Black Power” on the side of his 1961 Dodge Polaris and headed out into the city.  “I didn’t have any prior riot experience, so I didn’t exactly know what to do,” he said.  He decided to go over to the People’s Drug Store and crossed the line of National Guard soldiers and stepped through the broken glass of the front door.  The store had already been heavily looted but he remembers thinking about taking a watch he saw inside, but didn’t. 

Gerald displays his $10 purchase. (photo: Reed)

Armed with a .357 Magnum he went down to Central Liquors at 9th and F Streets and then headed over to another liquor store on U Street.  All in all he says he took more than 22 ½ gallon bottles of top shelf liquor.  “I had two years worth of liquor!” 

Years later he got a job with IBM.  Now to appreciate this you got to understand that he was making about $6,100 a year at the post office and then was offered a $15,000 salary plus bonus at IBM.  The next couple years he made a lot of money and bought lots of material goods…namely cars. 

At some point the good times ended.  He divorced.  He lost his job.  He lost several houses that he owned and said he was even homeless at one point.  Now he lives in a very modest low-income housing complex.

I wish there was some way to bottle the loquacious couple of hours we spoke and serve it up here, but you just had to be there.  Before I left I asked him one last time if he knew what he would do with the $10.  He decided to go next door to the picturesque Best DC Supermarket and purchase a bottle of Dogfish Head Brewery’s Miles Davis Bitches Brew.  I walked over with him and even spotted him an extra buck to pay for it.

We exchanged numbers and he walked back to his apartment and I went the opposite way toward my place.

So something funny is that he put my number in his phone but never added my name.  Over the next week he called me about six times thinking I was somebody else or maybe he was just hoping that I would be giving another $10 away!

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Last night I stayed up to watch the first few miners get rescued from the Chilean mine where they have been trapped 629 meters below ground for almost 70 days!

That is such a long time!  I try to keep that in mind when I remember that there are only about 70 days, less actually, to go until the end of my year-long journey.  Time has gone by so fast!  I am still interviewing potential venue locations for the year-end celebration.  It is exciting…there are so many creative possibilities for the culmination of this amazing year.  I will keep you posted!

Team Rockstar Lifestyle trying to get out of a tough inning. That's Johnny from WAKA in the bottom left hand corner of the photo. (photo: Reed)

It was beautiful the other night and I decided to go for a long walk and find someone to give my $10 to.  I came across a sports field called Marie Reed Park.  Good name!  There were people gathering and I knew something was going to happen.  It seemed that I was the only one not wearing a uniform of some sort.  I grabbed a little real estate on the bleachers and waited to see what unfolded.

It turns out I was at a kickball game.  I was literally the only one who was not playing…except for two guys with some red jerseys who were talking with a woman in a white blouse.  More about those guys later.

"Your not going to believe this, but I was just thinking about you two days ago!" Eric told me when I introduced myself. (photo: Reed)

I finally got the courage to go over to a guy who was sitting an inning out.  I didn’t want to bother someone while they were trying to win a game, but I forced myself to go meet someone.  His name was Eric.  As soon as I explained what I was doing he told me that he had heard about the Year of Giving!  “You’re not going to believe this but I was just thinking about you two days ago!” he told me.   That’s pretty cool….the word is spreading thanks to all of you!

This is Eric’s second season playing kickball in Washington’s chapter of the World Adult Kickball League (WAKA).  In fact, he plays on two teams.  The night I met him he was playing for a team called the Rockstar Lifestyle who was playing against the Ball Busters.  The cool thing about kickball is that just about everyone can play.  Having said that, it was clear that many of the players meant business.

Eric used his $10 to buy a pitcher of beer for him and his team to celebrate their victory. (photo: Reed)

Eric tells me that although he likes kickball, his true passion is in running marathons.  The 28-year-old has run nine marathons already!  He’s preparing for his next one right now which will be the New York City Marathon in just 25 days.  He says that he has seen some crazy things while running.  “One time I was running a marathon with my sister in LA and we saw people selling drugs along the side of the road.”

Eric took care of things in left field to help his team win. (photo: Reed)

The game was close and the coach tapped Eric to hit the field.  Before heading out to left field, Eric told me that if I wanted to know more about the entire WAKA league that one of the founders of the organization was standing to my right wearing a red jersey.  While Eric tried to help the Rockstars edge out the Ballbusters I went over to introduce myself to Johnny LeHane.  He helped found the kickball league back in 1998 in hopes to create a social activity that everyone could participate in.  “We wanted something that would have an almost fraternity feel,” Johnny told me.  I actually think I met Johnny back in 1998 at Kelly’s Irish Times, an Irish pub that was the first sponsor of WAKA.  I say that because Johnny worked at AOL and so did my brother and a bunch of friends back then and I recall that I went to a kickball happy hour in 1998 or 1999.  I keep forgetting to ask my brother who he knew from WAKA back then, maybe he remembers.  Anyway, in case you are shrugging your shoulders at the idea of organized kickball, be advised that they currently over 3,000 teams in over 300 leagues nation wide and employ a staff of 30.  It was cool to meet Johnny, who was in town from NYC where he lives and continues to work as part of the management team for WAKA.

Rockstar Lifestyle won 5-4! (photo: Reed)

Eric trotted back in to join his team as they had one last opportunity to win the game.  It was close, but he and his team managed to pull out a 5-4 win over the Ball Busters!  I was great to watch him and his team celebrate the victory.  He said they were going to a bar called Town where he would buy a pitcher of beer for the team with the $10.  Cheers!

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Ryan hawks some beers on his first day at work at FedEx Field. (photo: Reed)

What does today’s recipient have in common with yesterday’s recipient?  They both carry things for a living.  Harold from yesterday carries the mail in DC while Ryan carries beer for thirsty sports fans at the Redskins games.

The 21-year-old, who wears a badge identifying him as Vendor #623, said that today was his first day on the job!  I asked him how it was going and he said, “The beer is heavy.  Really heavy.”  Just for that I bought one of his chilled Budweisers…you know, to help his tired arms and aching back out.  The container he is carrying around looks like it holds about a case and a half of 16 oz bottles.  Add some ice and water to that and you got a back-breaker of a load. 

He says that he has already gone back three times to pick up additional beer.  He kept moving and I followed him a little bit and talked to him between his sales. 

"The beer is heavy. Really heavy.” - Ryan (photo: Reed)

He told me that is a sophomore studying business at the University of Maryland.  I’m quite certain that in his first hours at work there at the stadium he has already learned some business skills.  I am guessing that he has learned a thing or two about the price inelasticity of demand when it comes to products like alcohol!  Maybe he can get college credit for his job.  It doesn’t matter that he is selling beers for ten times the cost that they would be sold at a supermarket, people will still buy it.  I bet they could charge $15 a beer and still have tremendous sales.  I hope owner Dan Snyder is not reading my blog and getting any ideas!

Well no surprise here what Ryan chose to do with the $10.  Yep, he’s going to buy some beer when he gets off of work.

Ryan finds some thirsty fans. (photo: Reed)

As for the game, the Redskins held a 17-point lead late in the 3rd quarter and then managed to blow it giving up 20 points to loose 27-30 to the Houston Texans.  The season is not looking good…

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For any Spanish speakers out there, you can see a news report on the Year of Giving by Spain’s CUATRO. 

Jazz in the Garden happens every Friday night in the Summer at the National Gallery of Art's sculpture garden. (photo: Reed)

For today’s recipient we go to downtown Washington, DC on a Friday night to Jazz in the Garden; a free concert series featuring an array of jazz artists performing a range of styles—from swing to progressive to Latin—every Friday evening in the summer at the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden.  Picture a beautiful outdoor setting with people relaxing on benches or blankets with picnic baskets while the sun sets and delightful music plays in the background.  I was sure to find someone to give my $10 to here.

I found Faith, a 30-year-old government worker, standing next to the reflecting pool.  She was on a date, but was kind enough to take a few minutes to learn about the Year of Giving.  “I’m going to use the money to either buy some drinks tonight or possible some gelato,” she said as I placed the ten dollars in her hand. 

Faith is planning a month-long celebration for her 31st birthday and calling it Faith Fest. (photo: Reed)

I asked if I could ask her some questions.  “Sure, what do I care?  My life is an open book.”  I learned that Faith is originally from southeast Arkansas although she later moved to Little Rock.  More recently she lived in Madrid for three and a half years until moving to DC about a year ago.

She is pretty funny.  Most of her responses were witty and made me laugh.  She told me about the previous person she dated.  “I was in a charity auction where guys bid on you to raise money for the charity.  So he kept bidding on me but somebody else won.  He later asked me out though.” 

She is a people person: part social networker part organizer.  “I have never seen a city more into happy hours to benefit random causes,” she says referring to DC.  She’s right, it seems that every charity and nonprofit in DC, with the exception of maybe Alcoholics Anonymous, has a happy hour once a month to raise awareness and money for their cause. 

Speaking of occasions for imbibing, Faith mentions that her birthday is October 23rd and this year she is planning Faith Fest – a month-long array of celebratory events in honor of the occasion.  I think that is a great idea, why limit it to just one evening.  

Spanish Eyes (photo: Reed)

I sensed a bit of an adventurous spirit in Faith and asked her to share the craziest thing she has ever done.  “Oooh…” she said cooling herself with a bright red Spanish style fan, “that would be impossible for me to confess to you if you are going to put it on the internet.”  She did share with me that she biked 500 miles across Spain from the Basque city of Irun along the famed Compestela trail to Santiago de Compostela. 

As we were getting close to the primary election here in DC I asked her who she thought would win the mayoral race.  She said she felt that Vince Gray would win.  She was right too.  Last Tuesday voters went to the polls and ousted current Mayor Adrian Fenty as the Democratic nominee. 

Her date left some friends to come over and say hello and check out what was going on.  After all, I was photographing the girl he was on a date with, so I can understand his curiosity.  About the same time a security officer came by informing us that the sculpture garden was closing and that we needed to exit.  On our way out Faith told me that she and her date were heading to dinner at Brasserie Beck, a great Belgian restaurant/bar.

Before leaving the couple I asked her if there was anything that she needed or wanted that YoG followers could help her out with.  I got an interesting request.  “Well, I have this Argentine leather coat that got left behind in Madrid and I would love it if someone would be willing to bring it to me here in DC.”  So, leave Faith a message here if you or someone you know will be traveling from Madrid to Washington and willing to pick up the coat.

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Just after midnight on Sunday morning I was on my way home when I was approached by two men as I walked through Dupont Circle.  Tyrone approached me and said that his friend wanted to talk to me.  His friend, Josh, approached me and they invited me to join them in threesome!  Oh my God.

I got a bit nervous and kept walking to a more lit area.  The two men followed me there and I tried to change the subject and told them about my project and offered them the $10.  They weren’t interested in the ten spot. I said goodbye and headed home.  Never a dull moment living in Dupont.

Dupont Farmer's Market (photo by Reed)

The next morning I got up early and headed over to the Dupont Farmers Market.  I weaved in and out of the various vendor stalls and looked for someone that caught my eye.  I didn’t find the right person though.  And it was really hot and I was getting impatient.

I left the market and just as I crossed the street I saw David selling the Street Sense newspaper on the corner of Q Street and Connecticut Avenue.

David started working for Street Sense on June 13th (photo by Reed)

Originally from Western Kenya near Lake Victoria, David came to the United States in 1997.  He was working in banking at the time and thought that Delaware would be a good place to live to learn about corporations since most companies are incorporated in the “First State.”  He later moved to DC in 2000.

At first he stayed with a professor friend here in DC while he studied at Strayer University.  He hoped to eventually become a doctor.  “I like medicine a lot.  I even used to volunteer at George Washington Hospital,” David said with a pronounced British accent.  He went on to talk about genetics.  “They are the key to living longer, eliminating disease and improving intelligence.”  In five years he hopes to be a medical researcher.

Like many Street Sense vendors, David is homeless.  However, unlike many of the other homeless that I have met, he chooses to sleep in shelters.  He currently stays at the Mitch Snyder shelter at 2nd and D Streets.  Mitch Snyder was a homeless advocate who was the subject of a 1986 made-for-television movie starring Martin Sheen.  After nine years of homelessness David says that shelters in DC are improving.  “There’s been a lot of changes that started in 2004, like installation of air conditioning, spraying for bugs and improved services.”

It’s been 13 years since he left Kenya.  He said that he misses the food.  “A typical meal back home is broiled or roasted corn.  We put lemon pepper on the corn and eat it with coffee or tea.”

One of six children and the only son, David has lost touch with most of his family.  “The last time I saw my dad was 1985, my mom raised us.”  He said he would like to know what happened to his father: Tom Nyamongo.  “I know that he went to Harvard in the 1980s, but he had some type of government job and his life was quite secretive.”  He hasn’t spoken to his mother in several years.  Although he hasn’t been able to confirm this, a sister of his told him in 2001 that she had passed away.

David has been homeless since 2001. (photo by Reed)

In addition to learning more about his parents, David would like to find a cousin of his that was like a big brother to him.  His name is Ben Bella Jaoko and he is in his mid forties today according to David.  “He moved to Poland in the 1980s to study.  With the internet today maybe somebody can find him,” he said with hope in his voice.

Before saying goodbye, David told me that he was going to use the $10 to buy him a nice meal consisting of some Italian sausages and some bread, a beer and put the rest toward a pack of cigarettes.

Although I met David at Connecticut and Q, he says that he is usually at 17th and K if you would like to stop by and say hello.

UPDATE 10/04/2011: Since my initial encounter with David, the most incredible thing has happened. Someone who was going to a job interview at a company in Poland Googled the hiring manager for the job to learn a little more about him – something we all do today, right? The hiring manager’s name was Ben Bella Jaoko!

Well, would you believe he found my post about his cousin David and at the end of the interview asked Ben if he knew that he had a cousin in the U.S. who was looking for him. Completely shocked, Ben wasted no time contacting me and we connected by phone and I put him and David in contact.

From that moment on Ben worked tirelessly to make arrangements for David to get back to Kenya to be reunited with his family.

This morning as I sat working away at my kitchen table, I got a phone call from Ben. I didn’t immediately recognize the voice but when I heard David’s name mentioned I connected the dots. “I’ve managed to raise enough money to purchase the airfare for David to come back to Kenya,” he told me. He explained to me the rest of the details and asked for my help to take him to the airport and help pay for luggage fees, etc. I am sure there will be some other incidentals that will come up too as he prepares to return to Nairobi. If you would like to help us reunite David with his family you can donate $10 by clicking HERE or the yellow DONATE button on the top right side of this page.

We hope to have everything completed for David to depart by the end of the month. With your help, we can make that happen!

I hung up the phone and sat for a moment in silence in my apartment. All because of a simple blog post that I made back a little over a year ago David has is about to leave the streets of Washington to be reunited with his family. This is what it is all about!

UPDATE 11/15/2011: David will be flying home to Kenya on Tuesday, November 22nd. He has been away for nearly 15 years. Thanks to so many of you who have offered to help support these efforts. I have organized a going away party for David on Monday evening at One Lounge (1606 20th Street, NW – Dupont) in DC from 5:30-8:00pm. Please stop by and meet David before he embarks on this exciting new stage of his life. We will also be accepting donations if you would like to contribute to covering some of the costs associated with getting David back home. I hope to see you next Monday!!

 

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Harvey, 42, suffers from mental illness and has been homeless for about a year. (photo: Reed)

On any given night some 671,000 people in the United States, of which 5,320 are located in DC, are homeless according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  Harvey is one of them.

I saw him sitting on the ground next to the entrance to McDonald’s on M Street between 19th and 20th Streets in Northwest.  On his lap was a sign that read, “A man in need is a man without greed.  Please help.”  Next to him was a styrofoam container of food and a bag of personal items.

I met Harvey while he was eating lunch. (photo: Reed)

“I’ve been homeless here in DC for about a year now,” Harvey tells me as he eats some ribs that he purchased for his lunch.  Originally from Lancaster, PA, Harvey said he came down to DC with the hope of a job but his plans were shot after being robbed at Union Station upon arriving here.  “I lost everything I had – some $2,600 in cash.” 

He says that he feels lucky in the sense that people often help him.  “I usually get about $30 a day out here.”  Harvey says that gets support from people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and races with one exception: Asians.  “I don’t know why but Orientals never help me out.”  He goes on to tell me that people who appear to be lower glass give more often than those who appear to be middle and upper class.

As we talked two people stopped to help Harvey out.  One was a young attractive professional who dropped some coins in his cup as she walked by.  The other was a British woman who stopped and asked if she could get him some food.  A few minutes later Jane returned from the McDonald’s with a bag that contained a Big-Mac, fries and a chocolate milkshake.  She even gave him the change from whatever amount she had used to pay for the food.  I asked her why she helped and she said that she felt very fortunate and that the least she could do is help someone else out.  “He’s down on his luck and I am able to help him out, that’s it.”

Harvey says that he has noticed that people’s response varies on the sign that he uses.  “One time I had a sign that said, ‘Please spare help for a worthless piece of shit.’  I made $60 that day.”  Although he was happy for the money he made that day, he stopped using the sign.  “I’m not a worthless piece of shit though; it’s hard to sit here behind that sign when you know that isn’t the truth.”

photo: Reed

He says that being on the streets has taught him survival skills.  “You have to take care of yourself, especially in the winter.  You learn how to use things like cardboard to help you stay warm.”  He also told me that he often has to shower in public fountains.  “I just bought some soap today, I try to stay clean.”

Harvey, who says he has five sisters and three brothers, isn’t in regular contact with most of his family.  “They don’t care about others.”  He also doesn’t seem to have any friends in DC.  “I don’t associate with too many people.”

He goes on to say that some of his challenges are a result of his mental illness.  “Most homeless suffer from sort of mental problem or physical problem.  I’m bipolar.”  Harvey says that he has often thought about committing suicide.  He doesn’t take any medication to help with his mental illness either.

He told me that he was going to use the ten dollars to get him some food over the next couple days and also buy a couple of beers for the evening.  “I don’t do any drugs or hard liquor.  The hard stuff makes me suicidal,” Harvey confessed. 

I shook his hand and wished him luck.  He mentioned some items that he needs and I have added them to the Lend a Hand page.

If you would like to help the homeless in Washington, DC, I encourage you to support your local Street Sense vendor or make a donation through their website.

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The NRIs with Melanie on violin (photo: Reed)

On Day 242 I made my way over to the Black Cat to see my friend Melanie’s band, the NRIs.  You might recall that Melanie is also in a band called Machines on Vacation (see Day 80 and 128).  I had not seen the NRIs before so I was excited to check them out and they didn’t disappoint.  My friend Melanie, who plays the violin, is a great addition to the band giving some of the songs a very genuine sound. 

Before going in to see the show, I spotted some people having a cigarette outside.  I thought I would see if one of them would be my 242nd recipient.  After a brief discussion they agreed that Gabrielle should be one. 

Chris and Gabrielle outside the Black Cat (photo: Reed)

“Today I live in Virginia…I guess,” she tells me as I collect some basic information from her.  It turns out this 28-year-old left Seattle a week earlier and drove 2,800 miles with her boyfriend Chris to Washington, DC.  “It was a long drive.  It was a hot drive,” she told me. 

Gabrielle moved her for a job in the video gaming field as an environmental graphic designer.  She’s the one that puts the trees and landscapes in your favorite games!  You’re welcome!  She likes working on next generation games and wants to make cool monsters (I think that is what my notes say…my writing is particularly bad this day.)  She recently completed some work on the racing simulator Forza Motorsport 3. 

As I recall she initially was staying outside of DC in Virginia as a house-sitter for some people who her father met in Idaho!  Totally random I know. 

 “Wow, that’s cool,” she says as I hand her the $10.  “I need it, I’m pretty much out of money.”  She thought for a while about what she was going to do with it and finally said that it would probably get spent on two beers that evening: one for her and one for Chris.  

Here is a short video of Gabrielle talking about the highs and lows of her trip back east as well as her initial impressions of Washington, DC.  Take a look:

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Today’s recipients are third year medical students at George Washington University Medical School.  It seems that I have had a lot of recipients in the medical field over the last couple weeks. 

I was walking by SoHo Café on the corner of P and 22nd Street, which by the way if you live in DC you should definitely check this place out.  They are really nice there and always take good care of you. Anyway, I saw a guy in front of the café holding a bottle of booze and thought that this guy is starting his weekend off with a bang!  He turned out to be a rather bizarre individual.  He was really paranoid or on some mind altering substance and became very nervous.  Soon another individual approached him and he refused my Alexander Hamilton and walked away. 

I slowly turned in a circle, scanning the scene until I saw Kat and Ben sitting at an outside table at SoHo.  They had laptops out and seemed to be working on a project (they were actually filling out rotation schedules) or something.  I walked up to them and introduced myself and the Year of Giving

The med students were a bit curious about my project.  Ben asked a couple investigative questions about the project.  I asked them if they would accept the $10 and they looked at each other and shrugged and said “Sure.”  

I asked them what they thought they might specialize in.  They were still pretty open-minded about this and didn’t really have any decision made yet.  “Not geriatrics or psychology” Ben said.  Kat agreed. 

I asked them what they liked to do when they were not studying.  “We live pretty boring lives,” Ben lamented.  I felt bad about invading their time when he said “This is about the only time we have free.”  But that didn’t stop me!  No sir!  Not me.  Seriously, I tried not to keep them too long, but I did want to learn a little more about them.  I found out that Kate loves to play soccer and has been playing since she was 4!  She really enjoyed watching the World Cup this year.  Ben shared that he did his undergraduate studies at Knox College, a small liberal arts school in Illinois.  There he had a radio show for four years and later became the general manager.  He also studied abroad in Copenhagen.

I thought that was pretty impressive and then Kat added that she studied abroad in Spain (Salamanca) and spent some time in Switzerland and New Zealand where she jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!  Pretty impressive.

So what would two young people who seem to have it all do with this new found $10?  Ben seemed to take the lead in their decision making process and explained to me the likely fate of the ten spot.  “Honestly, I think $5 will go toward beer, $3 and change toward an empanada at Julia’s Empanadas and the rest will end up as tip probably.” 

Ben and Kat, on left, enjoy some down-time from their busy med school studies (photo: Reed)

As I always do, I asked to photograph them and get their email so that I can send them an invite to the year-end celebration.  Usually younger people are very comfortable with both of these requests, however, they preferred to stay more anonymous.  They did allow me to take this one picture from far away…that’s them sitting at the table on the left.

Well, I felt like I might have worn out my welcome a little and said goodbye.  I do hope that they check out the blog and decide to come to the celebration in December.  Time to head home before it rains.

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Sometimes I get almost to the end of the day and still haven’t given away my $10.  The biggest challenge when this happens is that being dark outside creates another element to the task.  At least here in the city, people’s defense mechanisms are heightened at night.  We are much more leery of someone who approaches us at night, so sometimes I end up going to business establishments that are lit up where people have a greater sense of security, albeit perhaps a false one. 

Bar at Kramer's Afterwords Cafe (Photo: Reed)

A few minutes later a few guys came in and I honed in on my target: Pat.  

He was a white guy with a beard who looked to be in his twenties.  He had a Pabst Blue Ribbon hat on and a shirt that said something like “Grumpy’s.”  This should be interesting. 

It turns out that Pat is a chef at a nearby restaurant.  I love to cook and had my chance to ask him some burning questions I had, but I didn’t capitalize on the opportunity.  I did ask him however what his favorite item to prepare was.  “The pig.  It’s the greatest animal ever!  It’s 100% edible from snout to tail.”  I would have thought some other animals fit that description too, but maybe they are not as tasty as the pig. 

We started talking about some other things and the topic of the snowpocalypse came up.  He told me how he ended up being stuck downtown for a week.  His employer got him and some other staff a room for the week and he worked 14 hour days.  “We did our best day of business so far this year on the day of the snowball fight at Dupont Circle” Pat tells me.  “We sold over 200 bottles of wine in just two hours.”  They couldn’t open bottles fast enough at one point. 


I asked Pat to think of three words that fully described him.  “Genuine, crazy and asshole” he says as he looks to his pals to get confirmation.  “I tell it like it is and I help other people out.”  As for being crazy he says that anyone who works in the restaurant busy is crazy.  “You can’t work in this business and be sane.  This is the most hard-core cut-throat business there is.”  He adds that alcohol and drug abuse is more common in restaurant service business too which “makes it even crazier.”  

The big and small hand on the clock are creeping toward 12 when the Metro closes during the week and Pat is ever mindful of the time.  He and his buddies decide they have to leave in order to catch the last train.  They were heading to watch Showtime’s comedy-drama hit Weeds.  

“I’ll probably spend the $10 on alcohol or put it on my Metro card.”  He grabs his bag and downs the rest of his beer.  “It’ll probably get spent on alcohol” he says with a smile as he hurries out the door.

Would you believe the very next day I was driving along 22nd Street in DC and saw Pat and his PBR hat.  He didn’t see me because I couldn’t stop, but it was him.  Small world.

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Anthony sits on the frozen ground in front of the Metro

Remember Anthony from Day 6?  Well, would you believe I ran into him a few weeks ago?  I like Anthony a lot.  He unfortunately has a pretty nasty drinking habit which has left him homeless for years.  But if you haven’t read his story or would like to see a video of how he is doing now, check out his updated blog post here.

Day 194 takes us to a local watering hole.  The Brickskeller has been a fixture in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood for the last 53 years.  It’s a unique locale and arguably a bit “touristy.”  However say what you will, I enjoy a visit to this institution now and then. 

The Brickskeller (Photo: courtesy http://www.lovethebeer.com)

As you walk up the stairs of the entrance and pass through the outermost door you find two doors to your right and a reception of sorts far in the back.  The reception is for the Brickskeller Inn, which I know little about.  I seem to always get distracted by what’s behind the two doors on the right before I can make it back to the inn.  Both doors remind me of something out of a medieval castle.  The first one leads downstairs where there is a labyrinth of rooms separated by hand-fired brick walls.  I chose the second door which reveals a dimly lit windowless space with a bar surrounded by 12 stools.  Further to your left are dozens of tables, dart boards, a juke box and lots of beer memorabilia. 

Partial beer list (Photo: Reed)

I take a seat at the bar and study the ten pages of beers that boast close to a 1,000 beers.  They are always out of a lot of beers, so you have to get two or three choices ready.

I sat there writing up some of my blog entries – sometimes I write them out by hand first.  I eventually got a little hungry.  Much of the food is mediocre at best in my opinion; you don’t come here for the food.  Having said that, the Garden Burger is outstanding.  It’s a vegan burger made with mushrooms, black beans, brown rice, onions, chipotle seasonings, etc.  I almost exclusively get that when I order there.  I order one and a Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA to wash it down.  The Snake Dog IPA I found to be quite delicious and went very well with my burger!  Hats off to the Frederick, MD brewer!

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA on the left, Megan in the background (Photo: Reed)

Right before my burger comes, I notice two guys to my left who appear to be brothers.  I thought I would invite them to be my 194th recipient.  Brian and Shawn in fact are brothers.  Brian is a civics teacher from Charlotte, NC and his younger brother Shawn lives just over the state line in Hardy County, West Virginia.  They refuse to accept the $10 saying that someone else in the bar would surely do something much more amazing with the money than they would since they were “already like 15 beers in” as Brian put it.  They were looking to continue their evening and I sent them to Adams Morgan where they were sure to find a lively crowd.

Megan serving a beer (Photo: Reed)

I then thought I would give it to my server/bartender.  As she delivered my delicious Garden Burger, I asked her if she would accept my $10 and she readily agreed.  Megan, a 23-year-old self-proclaimed army brat, lives in the Colombia Heights neighborhood of DC and has been working at the Brickskeller for nearly four years. 

A group of three people take Brian and Shawn’s spot at the bar and I overhear the one member of their group comment that “Megan has been here for ever.  She’s good.”  This guy seems to be a regular as he asks Megan, “Do you have a couple of my usuals on ice back there?”  The Brickskeller is also known for having slightly warmer beers than what many are accustomed to drinking.

Megan stops by as she brings the gentleman his beers and I ask her what her favorite beer is.  “That’s hard.  Right now I would have to say it is the Lagunitas Maximus Double IPA.” 

Bartending for four years means two things.  First you probably know a lot about beer.  Second, you probably have seen some crazy stuff.  Megan knows her beers pretty well and has seen her share of crazy stuff too.  “I once saw a five-foot waitress knock a guy out.”  Wow…note to self: tip five-foot waitresses at the Brickskeller well!

Speaking of tipping, I also asked Megan for some thoughts on the age-old tradition.  “Tipping says something about the service but it also sends a message about the person who is leaving the tip,” she says.  “Sure there are times I haven’t been a good server, but I still tip pretty good when the service is bad.”  I don’t know if I agree with that.  As a former waiter and bartender, I am a firm believer in tipping commensurate with the level of service.  If I get lousy service I don’t have a problem with leaving a lousy tip.

Photo: Reed

Megan excuses herself again to wait on some thirsty patrons who sat down on the other end of the bar.  Social Distortion’s Story of My Life fades off the juke box and gives way to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

When Megan comes back she says she will probably buy a beer or two with the money at the end of her shift.  “We are allowed one beer under $5.00 for free after our shift.”  Well, my ten spot will come in handy if she wants to order up her favorite from California brewer Lagunitas which sells for $6.95 for a 12 ounce bottle.  Cheers!

The Brickskeller is located at 1523 22nd St NW, Washington, DC 20037.

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For those of you who have not seen the CNN report, check it out.  Reporter David Banks put together a really nice piece.

Last Saturday I met up with a journalism student from the University of Maryland who was doing a story on the Year of Giving.  Ruben and I met her near the Dupont Circle Metro stop and walked over to the circle.  It was pretty busy and Ruben was excited to see all the people and fellow dogs out enjoying the day.  I ran into Danny Harris from Day 64 in the center of the circle.  

Shortly thereafter I spotted Peter under a shaded tree reading a biography of the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock.  Peter is an Actor living in the East Village of NYC.  Originally from Louisville, KY, he studied at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and then moved to The Big Apple.

Originally drawn to the stage by Shakespearean plays, now Peter is focusing most of his energy on some short films.  He shared with me a the link to a rough cut of one that he recently finished…he’s very good in it, check it out!

So you may be wondering why the heck Peter is 250 miles away from his home sitting under a tree reading about Hitchcock.  As it turns out his sister lives in DC and was performing one of the lead roles in The Marriage of Figaro at the Kennedy Center this week and he came down to watch her.  She was working during the day, so he was just relaxing seeing a bit of the city.  

Peter contemplated the $10.  He said that it would probably get spent on some bourbon, beers, or maybe some food.  Later he told me, “Maybe I’ll do something else with it…all these other people have done something amazing with it, so who knows.”

He had more time to kill and I probably didn’t help the chances of my money being passed forward as I showed him where the Brickskeller Pub was.  We said our goodbyes and thanked one another.

Here is some footage of him being interviewed by the University of Maryland journalist as well as a few of my own questions.  The wind is really bad…sorry.  It actually blew over my Flip camera at one point!

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I am still pouring through your emails and comments.  So many amazing stories of people who have been motivated to start their own giving projects.  I have heard from people in Saudi Arabia and Brazil who want to start giving $10 a day in their country.  I have received numerous offers to help recipients on the Lend a Hand page.  Others have told me how they are helping their churches, local schools, community centers, random strangers, neighbors, etc.  Numerous people have offered to help me directly.

I firmly believe that people are inherently good.  When we hear about someone else spreading kindness it triggers something that awakens passive thoughts of kindness that we carry inside us. 

I continue to answer your emails and comments one by one…please be patient if I have not responded to you yet.

My notebook (Photo: Reed)

Today my story is about Patrick, but before I get to him I want to share something that happened to me today.  I keep all my notes in a small black notebook which happened to fall out of my book-bag today as I took some photos in front of a Barns & Noble.  I went to dinner with my brother, his wife, and a cousin of mine and then walked home.  On the way home I stopped in to see Larry from Day 90 at Starbucks to tell him that so many people have voted for him to go to Clyde’s with me (see this post).  It was then I realized that I didn’t have my notebook. 

I took a cab back to the restaurant but they didn’t have it.  I started to walk home and decided to look around the Barnes & Noble.  There is so much foot traffic there though that I was sure it wouldn’t be there.  For some reason I decided to go in and ask if someone had turned a notebook in.

Would you believe that two women had turned it in!  YES!  THANK YOU!  They gave it to a Security Guard named George who gave it to Sultan who was working behind the check-out area.  I tried to give George $10 but he would not accept my money.  I have agreed to try to go back and find him one day and maybe buy him a coffee or something.  I did get the name of the company he works for and will write them a letter telling them of his good deed.  I will also write a letter to the Barnes & Noble to tell them about both George and Sultan. 

Phew….I thought I lost my book.  Ok, back to day 97.

On Sunday night I thought I would look around for someone to give my $10 to at the McDonald’s at the Woodley Park Metro station.  There was nobody in the fast food restaurant so I walked around to the Connecticut Ave. side and found Patrick kicking a soccer ball on the sidewalk into some plastic crates against the wall of a bank.  It was around 11pm so I figured this guy’s gotta have a story to be out here at almost midnight practicing soccer by himself.

Patrick A. (Photo: Reed)

I spent some time just watching him juggle the ball with his feet and knees as well as taking shots on “goal.”  Then I chatted with him some.

The 23-year-old DC native says that he comes out there and practices against the wall of the local bank several nights a week.  A lot of people know him as “crazy soccer guy.”  

Patrick is unique.  He has never owned a cell phone and swears that he will never get one.  He is writing his own Philosophy book.  He enjoys theatre.  He designs his own jeans…the list goes on.

Rather than me talk about him…check him out for yourself.  He’s a trip…I’m warning you.  He uses my $10 for something nobody else has done so far. 

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So today the Year of Giving blog will most likely pass 11,000 hits thanks to all of you following along! 

That is pretty amazing I think for a site that doesn’t sell anything or give you any secret to weight loss or living a longer healthier life.  Well, maybe that is not entirely true…I do believe that making giving a priority in your life will make you a happier person and if you pick up that from the blog…that’s great! 

So my friend Melanie is in a very unique group called Machines on Vacation.  They have a very cool, refreshing sound.  It’s what you get when you put together a guy with a guitar, a string quartet, and some high tech equipment.  They were playing a show in DC and I went to see them. 

(photo courtesy of hahatonkamusic.com)

As a bonus I got to see a band called Ha Ha Tonka.  I had never heard of them, but they put on a great show.  They have a unique sound…it’s like indie rock meets the Ozarks.  After the show, I decided to give these guys my $10 for the day.  I ended up meeting all four members: Brett, Lennon, Luke, and Brian.  I asked them what they were going to do with the money and they said they were going to buy themselves a round of beers.  I felt bad, because I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be able to get four beers for $10…but that was before I knew they had Schlitz cans available….for exactly $2.50 a piece!  Cheers!

The guys are really nice.  They have been together for five years…toured all over, never wrecked their tour van, and travel with a one-eyed pooch named He-Man!  Despite this being the final night of their tour and having driven 475 miles earlier that day to get to DC from Rochester, NY where they performed the night before, they were still going strong! 

They are taking a little rest now and then will start up on tour again.  For those in the DC area, they are not planning on stoping here but they will be opening for a show in Baltimore on April 28th.  Some of their favorite cities to play for are: Chicago, Austin, and Emporia, KS.  (They love all the cities…but you know how it is.)

Here is a little sample of them from YouTube.

And here is poorly shot clip that I took from their show in DC…

You can check their website and listen to more of their music on MySpace and YouTube…but I recommend that you go see them live.

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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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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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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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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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Do you believe in Karma?  I do.  I think that I have always been a generous person, however, since I have started the Year of Giving I have noticed more people being generous toward me.  Are people really more generous, or am I merely paying more attention?  Impossible to know, however, today was an excellent example of kindness coming back to me.

My brother is getting married February 13th.  He and his fiancée asked that I marry them.  By the way, I am not a minister, nor have I ever performed a wedding.  So I am venturing into uncharted territory.

In order to perform a wedding in the District of Columbia, there are a series of hoops that you must jump through.  First you must be ordained.  The Universal Life Church Monastery is an organization that has more liberal requirements to become ordained for the purposes of performing ceremonies.  So, I got ordained.

Then I gathered all the information that DC requires and went down to the Superior Court of DC only to be told that I was missing a copy of the founding documents for the ULC.  I told them that the ULC didn’t provide such information, and they replied, “That is not true.  We receive applications all the time from the ULC and the other applications have the founding documents attached.” So, I said, “well, if you already have copies of the founding documents, then why do you need me to provide you a copy?”  The women smiled and said that that was irrelevant.  Bureaucracy!  She said a simpler way was to find another ordained individual from the ULC who could endorse me.  The problem is that I don’t know anyone, much less someone in DC, who is ordained by the ULC.

The office courthouse was open for another hour, so I called the ULC and asked them to fax over the documentation.  They agreed, but I didn’t think they would get there in time.  Just about this time, another guy in the lobby said he overheard my conversation and told me that he was also ordained through the ULC and was going through the same process.  He introduces himself to me as Mac.  He didn’t need all the paperwork that I did, because he got endorsed.    Mac thought that I might be able to use some of his documentation.  Lucky for me, he is a little further along in the process (he arrived at 1pm, I arrived at 3:45pm).  Then the light bulb went off.  Once he is registered, he could then endorse me!  We were just minutes away in theory to them finalizing his process.  I say “in theory” because there is a lot of walking back and forth to other offices and statements like, “that’s up to the judge to decide.” 

While Mac goes up to talk to one of the clerks, I found myself talking to Mac’s two friends that are with him: Cyndi and Vanessa.  Cyndi flew in from Chicago to surprise Vanessa for her birthday on Saturday (Happy birthday Vanessa!)  Vanessa is the person that Mac is going to marry in the Spring.  All three met in high school in Oklahoma.  Phew, I feel like a family tree might be helpful here.  Anyway, we were talking about how good things were happening to me and I told them about my Year of Giving.

I decided to give Cyndi my $10 for the day.  The 29-year-old tells me that she is an accountant in the Windy City.  So I am thinking that she must have a good grasp on numbers and money.  I asked her what she was going to do with the $10 and she said that she was either going to give it to a homeless woman and her son who she sees every day near her office or buy some cocktails.  A smile comes across her face as she realizes how much her two answers are polar opposites.  After the day they have had at the DC court, I am leaning in the direction of the cocktails.  She says she will circle back with me and let me know what she ends up doing with it.

About this time Mac finds his way back over to the dozen chairs that sit along the perimeter of the room.  He says that he is now legally able to perform wedding ceremonies in DC.  Rather than me wait for my paperwork, since Mac is now “official” he is able to endorse my application.  This was a tremendous help to me.  Despite having spent most of his afternoon at the courthouse, he graciously agrees to remain there a little while longer to help me out.  We are finally called up to the clerk’s desk and she asks him to raise his right hand and swear that the information that he has supplied is true to the best of his knowledge.  He does so and she says he is free to go.  He leaves a dollar on the desk to pay for the notary fee.  I tell him to keep it, but he insists.  Mac, I owe you…more than a dollar.  Let me buy you a drink when you are back in DC (Mac lives in NYC).

I got most of the process done that day.  I just have to go back on Monday and stand before the judge and then I am told that the process should be complete.  If anyone has any good advice for me about performing the wedding ceremony, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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This one is a long one… go get yourself a cup of tea.   

I met up with some former work colleagues today.  It’s great to reconnect and hear how things are going for them.  On my way home, I came across a heavily bearded gentlemen sporting a hiking style backpack.   

Ron, a 40-year-old California native, says he has been in DC for almost 3 months.  He had hitchhiked his way from Phoenix to DC and hopes to continue on to Massachusetts after brunt of winter passes.   

After a long period of not finding work he found himself on the streets two years ago.  Ron says he is a good skilled laborer and has experience operating various types of equipment.   

Ron holds his $10 citation for possession of an open container of alcohol in public

 

We stood talking in the sub-zero temperatures for nearly 40 minutes.  Ron is easy to talk to and opens up to me very quickly.  He said it’s harder to get work as he gets older.  I told him that 40 wasn’t that old.  He shifted his weight from one side to the other and paused a little before speaking.  “I always want to know, how old do you really want to be? I don’t think I really want to be past 60.  A lot of people say they do, I just don’t.”  This was so sad to hear.  I found myself wishing I had some background in psychology and started to ask him some questions about his upbringing.      

At the age of three, Ron’s natural parents, whose names he does not know, gave him up.  He bounced around five different foster homes throughout his younger years. He does not have a solid relationship with his last foster family.  He even says that he doesn’t truly have a legal last name that he knows of.  He uses the last name of his last foster family; however, he was never legally adopted by them.   

There is a lot of pain deep inside him some place.  I decide to change the subject.   

In DC he supports himself by performing day labor and panhandling.  He usually goes to the Home Depot off Rhode Island Ave. and hopes to get picked up by work crews.  On days he panhandles he brings in about $30 per day.  “DC is tough,” he tells me as he mentions cities where one can receive a lot more money panhandling.  Salt Lake City and Las Vegas are much better according to Ron.  He says that a $100 day is not uncommon in Las Vegas, although he explains that panhandling on the strip is prohibited.   

Although Ron is living on the streets, he is a part owner of a house in California.  He and some of his foster brothers went in together on a house years ago, however, right now given the housing market lull, he doesn’t believe he will see any of that money for some years.  Although he doesn’t have a roof over his head, Ron is not bitter about his situation.  He points out that he often sleeps very comfortably in a little covered area just off of Dupont Circle.  As he describes the place, I realize he is describing the place where I found Ayalew.  I start to describe him to Ron and he immediately confirms that it is my friend from Day 20.   

So what is Ron going to do with my $10?  “I’ll probably get a little bit of food and maybe do some laundry,” he replies.  Then he changes his mind as he recalls that it is supposed to snow later in the evening.  He avoids laundry before snow/rain storms that end up getting him wet and dirty.  He then says, he might spend part of it on some alcohol.   

Despite Ron being extremely lucid, there was the distinct scent of alcohol on his breath.  He admits that he has an alcohol addiction and says that he was drinking earlier in the day.  In fact, he goes on to share that his drinking that afternoon resulted in him receiving a citation for having an open container of alcohol in public.  He unfolds the citation and shares it with me.  Would you believe how much the fine was for?  $10!  I said, “Hey, now you have money to pay the fine.”  He smiles and says that he fully intends on paying the fine because if he fails to do so and gets a subsequent ticket he potentially could be arrested.   

His entire encounter with the police department was quite interesting.  They asked him for ID and he showed them his DC ID card.  He showed me as well.  On the ID is a clean-shaven version of Ron.  His address is listed at 309 E Street.  “Is that where you live?” I asked.  He explained it was a Day Center where he sometimes goes.  “What should I put on the card?” he fired back.  “Bench next to Fountain, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC?”  He went on to explain that the confrontation with the police department went on for more than an hour.  Two additional units were called in for back-up since they could not find his name in the system.  He offered to leave the area many times, but they insisted on giving him a ticket.  He felt that this was unfair based on the fact that on New Year’s Eve he said there were some youths that were setting off illegal fireworks at Dupont Circle and the police came and didn’t even write them a citation.  “I wasn’t doing anyone any harm, those fireworks could have actually hurt someone.”   

Ron had been very generous with his time and I felt that I should let him get on his way.  I had one last question for him.  “What would you like the general public to know about people who are in your situation?”  He thought for a while and said that he hoped that people would understand that many people get to be homeless.  Many more, he goes on to say, are 1-2 pay checks away from being homeless.  As I was getting ready to leave he reminded me of the Day Center at 309 E Street where he says I will see first hand some of the struggles people are having.  “Take a body-guard though, it’s pretty rough there.”  Hmmm, I will have to think about that.  He also mentions  that he goes to Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization that offers homemade meals and high-quality support services to more than 4,000 homeless men and women each year.  I checked them out and they seem to be a good operation.  I asked him if he had ever received meals from S.O.M.E.?  He said he had in the past.  I brought it up because I have volunteered there and also started a corporate social responsibility program for a former employer that involved donating our time at S.O.M.E.   

I put my notebook away and asked if I could take a picture of Ron.  He said sure, and I got a picture of him holing his $10 police citation!  I couldn’t hold back my grin from the serendipitous timing of me giving him $10.

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I couldn’t stop thinking about my chance encounter with David yesterday.  It was a real pleasure to meet him.

So, yesterday set the bar pretty high.  With the snow storm here, some of my holiday shopping plans got canceled yesterday and I needed to head out to do some shopping.  Daniela also needed to still get some gifts, so we decided to head out around 4:00 pm to go to Pentagon City Mall in Virginia.  I am a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so this was not an easy decision as the Steelers game started at 4:00 pm as well.  They have lost their last 5 games and I really wanted to see them get their act together.  They ended up winning tonight by one point in what turned out to be a nail-biter.

As we got to the Metro, we saw a man sitting on the ground with a white Styrofoam cup in front of him.  You have got to be kidding me.  It’s 30 degrees and he is sitting on the ground.  We walked past him and then Daniela convinced me that I should choose him for my person today.  So I did.

Anthony is almost 60 years old…although I think he looked a little younger.  Granted I said that about Knox (Day 1) too.  Maybe that just means I am getting older!  He was sitting on the sidewalk, a few wet newspapers between his corduroy pants and the snow.  He had a two plastic grocery store bags behind him nestled in the snow. 

Anthony sits on the frozen ground and panhandles

A native of Bethesda, MD, Anthony has been homeless here in DC since loosing his job in 2000.  I was pretty shocked when he told me that he had been on the streets that long because Anthony, despite sitting comfortable sitting on the frozen ground in sub freezing temperatures, comes across pretty well.  He had several jobs in the past with household name companies such as Safeway, Marriott, a local country club, and Greyhound bus lines.  He eventually had some alcohol related issues that lead to his departure from driving for Greyhound.  He agreed with me that it was totally reasonable for them to let him go due to his drinking problems.

Anthony is light-hearted and soft-spoken.  He made us laugh several times as he spoke about his times working at the country club when they would have some fun hitting golf balls before the course opened up while they were supposed to be clearing twigs and branches.  His eyes lit up suddenly as he recalled the routine occurrence of seeing foxes dart across the greens in the early hours.

Anthony pulled out the two bags behind him.  One was a six-pack of Natural Light that was literally sitting on ice, the other had some miscellaneous items.  He offered me a beer, which I declined.  He made some excuses for his drinking, mainly that it keeps him warm.  I bet in the summer it helps keep him cool J.

He began to open the other bag and said that he had something for his mother, whose birthday was on Wednesday.  It was somewhat of a birthday/Christmas gift.  As he explained what he had got her and untied the bag, the word “egg” came out of his mouth and I was sure he got her some eggnog!  But it wasn’t, it was an egg custard pie.  He also had some Christmas cards in the bag that he wanted to sign and give to his family to distribute.  He said, even on the streets you don’t escape sending some Christmas cards. 

Anthony said he was going to use the $10 for two things.  You probably guessed that some was going to go to getting some additional Natural Light at some point.  You are correct.  In addition he said that he would be able to take public transportation this week to meet up with his sister.  

Anthony doesn’t have a lot of contact with his family anymore.  “It’s hard.  I don’t want to embarrass them, and I understand that they need to keep a little distance.” He planned to drop the pie and the Christmas cards off to his sister.  I wish I would have asked him about any family he might have had.  It was so cold, and I was squatting on the ground to speak with him, that I forgot to ask several things that now I wish I would have. 

Anthony seemed ok with his being homeless.  He has obviously conditioned himself.  He admitted that he might end up dieing due to his illness and inability to stay sober and escape from the streets. 

I asked if I could take his picture and he said “sure.”  Then he removed his GW hat and asked if I thought he looked better with it on or off.  I said it was up to him and he decided to leave it on.  As I started to stand and stretch my legs I asked him where he would go tonight.  He said he would probably head to St. Luke’s as the temperature was to creep into the low 20s tonight.  He thanked me and said that I had been very gracious.  I shook his hand and we wished one another a happy holiday and I left.   If you come across Anthony, say hello…he is a kind and gentle man.

These experiences are definitely causing me to appreciate my life and family more this year than any other.

UPDATE: June 16, 2010

After more than six months without seeing Anthony, I came across him sleeping in the middle of a park around midnight.  I didn’t know it was him, but saw someone who didn’t seem to be breathing and had no belongings with them laying motionless on the ground.  I checked to see who if they were ok and it turned out to be Anthony!  He seemed intoxicated, but happy.  He remembered me and we talked for a while.  Here is a short clip.

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Today was cold.  I thought I would look for someone who was living on the streets.  It didn’t take me long before I walked by JR.

I have actually seen JR before…probably even given him some money too.  As I walked by, he charismatically asked me for some help.  I asked if I could sit down and talk to him and he grinned revealing a warm albeit almost toothless smile.    

Originally from DC, JR said he was in his 50s and has been on the streets for about 15 years.  He said he got on the streets after 20 years of “being in trouble.”  He sometimes stays at St. Lukes or the La Casa shelter.  He commented on the pros and cons of each.  “St. Lukes kicks you out at 6am…and its cold that early.” 

He had cane leaning against his leg and showed me his knee…the right knee noticeably larger than the left.  He said it was full of fluid and he needed to get it drained.  Then he pulled out his left hand from his coat and revealed his thumb which he said was cold “due to anemia.”  His hands looked tired and leathery and the left thumb felt more like a Popsicle.

JR says he is going to get some chicken soup and maybe a beer with the money.  I told him about Knox’s fondness for eggnog and he too divulged a soft spot for the concoction.  Although he was going to spend the $10 on himself, he said that he once found $300 next to an ATM.  Upon finding it, he claims to have shared a few $20s with some friends. 

He must have asked three more times for more money before I left.  However, I am not too worried about JR.  He is a brilliant salesman at heart.  He must have got $4 plus a cigarette from others during the 15 minutes I sat with him.  He said some days he brings in close to $100.  He deftly manages conversation with me as he scopes the passing foot traffic and tries to lure contributions to his paper cup in his right hand.  He even told me that he was interviewed on MTV’s The Real World Washington, DC.  I believe him too.  He is quite the showman.  I have a feeling that today was not the last we will hear about JR.

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So yesterday I started the Year of Giving. My first day of a year-long journey into exploring the act of giving and the meaning of altruism.  I chose December 15th as the starting date.  It marked three years since my mother died from heart disease.  She was one of the most generous people that I have ever known; rarely ever doing things for herself…with the exception of getting her hair done, which she really liked.  She always thought of others first and certainly serves as an inspiration to me.

I had a rather busy day yesterday, ironic for someone who is unemployed right now.  In the morning I went to the gym, tried unsuccessfully to get an actual human being from the unemployment office on the phone, and did some job searching.  Before I knew it it was noon.  I grabbed a quick lunch and hustled down to a meeting.  As I navigated my way down Connecticut, I wondered if I would see someone that I would feel compelled to give my first $10 to.  I was running late and decided to do it afterwards.

After the meeting I had about a half hour to find the first person of my Year of Giving!  I decided to check out Dupont Circle…I met a guy there named Jerry once (more on him some other day) and thought he would be a good recipient of my first $10.  He wasn’t there, but I did see a man sitting by himself who looked really lonely…so I approached him.  Now I had to figure out what I was going to say.  I think I said something like, “Hi…can I sit down here.  [long uncomfortable pause then while I figured out what the heck to say next] Then I just kind of blurted out, “I would like to know if I could give you $10.” He asked me to repeat what I had said.  I did, then he looked at me funny and got up and left.  Strike one.

I then started walking South where I spotted a man standing by the bus stop on Connecticut Ave.  He appeared to be in his 60s.  I don’t know what drew me to him, but I thought I would make my second attempt.  I was a bit nervous and asked him which bus came by that stop.  Then I explained that I was starting a year-long project to give $10 to someone every day and that I wanted to give my $10 for today to him.  The gentleman, I later found out that his name was Ed, responded without hesitation that he could not accept my offer and that there were many people more deserving of the money than him.  This was precisely one of the things that I hoped would happen.  That people would think of others before themselves!  And although I was thrilled that this happened, I still needed to find someone and I was running out of time before I needed to go and pick some friends up and give them a ride to Silver Spring.  So strike two!

Knox braves the cold to make a few dollars shining shoes.

Then I spotted a man on the corner of 21st and P with a small bench and some shoe shine equipment.  I approached Knox, a black gentleman bundled in winter clothes with just the knot of his neck-tie sticking out of his jacket.  He later told me he was 50 years old, he looked much younger.  I asked him if he would accept my $10.  He hesitated and then agreed.  He struggled to come up with an answer when I asked him what he was going to do with my $10.  The alcohol that enveloped each of his words gave me a hint though of where it might go.  I explained that I was not going to judge him on what he chose to do with the money, that it was his and up to him what he wanted to do with it.

We chatted for a while…he spoke of the struggles that he has had and his attempts at staying sober.  “I’m about 50/50,” he said when I asked how his sobriety was.  He said he occasionally goes to AA meetings, but admitted that there had been times he had got himself some eggnog before the meetings.  Eggnog!  What?!  The last thing I would think of that a guy who wanted to get his alcohol fix for the day would want is eggnog!  I laughed…and he assured me that the eggnog was good.  He told me that he was probably going to buy some eggnog with the money.  Oh well.

I explained what I was doing.  He smiled at one moment and said, “maybe some of your readers want a shoe shine!”  Please visit Knox at the corner of 21st and P if you need a good shoe shine or want to know anything about eggnog.

I had to get going.  Before I left, I took a picture of Knox in front of his shoe shine stool and wished him well.  I told him to stay healthy and he said he would try…and warned me of the dangers of eating chocolate bars and “peanut chews.”

UPDATE: February 23, 2011

I caught up with Knox in 2011 – click here to read the update with him and see how he is doing.

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