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Posts Tagged ‘music’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

There’s an overwhelming joy … of sharing what I love and bringing it into the community.

Those words were spoken to me back in the summer of 2010 by Maestro Darrold Hunt, the founder and conductor of the Urban Philharmonic, a nonprofit whose mission it is to take high quality symphonic music normally heard only within the marble walls of prestigious concert halls and introduce it to diverse neighborhoods throughout our community.

Hunt was the 189th recipient of my $10. As I normally do I spent some time speaking with him and learned more about him and the organization he started four decades earlier. I was so touched by the history and potential of the organization that I agreed to take a voluntary role of interim executive director. Despite its rich history, the organization had fallen on hard times. Silenced for several years, they were in debt and missing clear direction.

I spent about one day a week for the next year working to revive the symphony. I recently stepped down from my role and now serve as an advisor – albeit in a much less active way. We succeeded in improving the financial position of the organization tremendously, however, now it is time for a full time executive director to come in and take it to the next level. If you are able to make a donation or know of a dedicated individual who might be able to carry the organization forward, please reach out.

Hunt outside Soho Tea and Coffee on Day 189 of my Year of Giving

To learn more about Maestro Hunt and the Urban Philharmonic click here to watch a short video I shot of him in what became our “office” – Soho Tea and Coffee at the intersection of 22nd and P. If you go in the mornings you will hear some beautiful orchestral music. If you go in the afternoon you very well might run into Maestro Hunt…say hello and tell him I sent you!

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

Her name is Jayne T., and as it was my first day being a Kindness Investor.  I couldn’t have asked for a more interesting subject.

My name is Mike and I am honored to be a Kindness Investor.  While reading Reed’s daily blog through the year, it made me think about what I consider “giving”.  It wasn’t a life changing thinking, but more of a subtle difference.  I consider myself a genuinely normal guy and will help a fellow human being out as much as I can “till the cows come home” as my father would say.  But to read Reed’s daily outpouring of kindness, I, like many others, couldn’t help but be inspired.  So when the chance to follow in his footsteps was asked, it was a no-brainer for me.  I too, am unemployed, and have been for 18 months, but due to some long-term planning and some luck, I still have a roof over my head and am able to put food on the table.  So when the opportunity arose to give back, like I said, it was plain and simple.  I was doing it.

So today starts my week and as I told Reed I would do it back in December, I had a good amount of time to prepare for it.  I thought a good way to at least start a conversation with someone, was to follow Reed’s lead and come in with a business card.  So a couple of drafts later, I came up with this.

I was in Middletown, Connecticut this morning mailing something at the Post Office and was looking for that right person to be my first recipient.  No one at the Post Office seemed right and so it was on to my next stop, getting a cup of coffee at a place on Main Street in Middletown called Brew Bakers.  An interesting side note (to me anyway) was the day before I was to start my week, I came across not one, but two people I would have felt right at least trying to give the $10 away to.  But I didn’t, as I was monetarily ready to start the next day and had $3 on me when having a conversation with both of them!

So I stopped at Brew Bakers, got a cup and sat down and surveyed the place. They have a pretty busy lunch crowd as they offer some good soups and sandwiches as well as their coffee bar.  I noticed several people by themselves and decided Jayne was the one.

She was sitting on a couch in the back part of the place, reading a book and enjoying her coffee.  When I approached her, it was a friendly voice that said, “Sure, I’ll listen to your request for help with a project.”  We had quite the conversation and a few hours later, we just about closed the place which was just open for breakfast and lunch.

Brew Bakers in Middletown, CT.

She was excited about receiving the $10 and when asked what she would do with it, she immediately said “Pay it Forward.”  She’s a unique person and very interesting conversationalist.  When asked where she was from, her reply was, “from her mother.” As for her occupation, she was at first apprehensive about telling me, saying it wasn’t easy to describe.  But eventually she said, “What I do is invite people into my life with whom I am able to share my passion for caring for others and creating and finding places for people to play music, who might not otherwise have a place to play.”  She herself is a musician who plays guitar.

She is also an advocate for people in her words, who “need some caring, such as veterans, people with mental health issues or disabilities”.

We talked about quite a number of topics and I would say that I hope all my recipients are as giving as her.  She even wanted to help me in my job search as well!   I asked her if she needed anything for the Lend a Hand portion on the blog and after much thought and consideration, she said she is looking for us all to be a more caring society, to act on that caring (not just talk about it) and not to forget the seniors in our lives.

We both left the place at the same time and agreed to keep in touch.  What a way to start my week!  Can’t wait till tomorrow.

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A man tucks a $5 bill into the donation kettle.

How many times have you walked by the Salvation Army bell-ringer in your lifetime?  Probably hundreds.  How many times have you stopped to make a donation?  Probably a fraction of those times if you are like most people.  Have you ever stopped to speak to the bell-ringer? Well, I did and met Daniel.

 

Originally from Houston, Texas, Daniel moved to Colorado Springs for middle and high school before moving to DC.  Now 17, he is a youth pastor here in our nation’s capital and is studying to get his associates degree in legal affairs at the University of the District of Colombia.  If all this wasn’t enough to make him one heck of an interesting recipient, check out his voice.  That’s definitely what caught my eye, err…ear I guess, when I walked by him on 12th Street.

He accepted my two five dollar bills and put them right into the bright red tub next to him.  “Nobody’s gonna to steal my bucket,” Daniel told me in response to a news report that I shared with him about a bucket being stolen from a bell-ringer in Arlington, TX earlier in the week.  “I’m a good Christian, but if somebody tries to steal my bucket I’m gonna get’em,” he tells me with a deafening smile.

 

Daniel sings holiday songs for hours while he volunteers with the Salvation Army.

“I’ve been doing this since the sixth grade,” he says while continuing the melodic ringing of the shiny silver bell.  “I do it every day and people seem to really enjoy the singing.”  I have to agree with Daniel.  I saw probably a dozen people putting money into the kettle.  “There’s been a lot of fives going in today,” Daniel said.  “It’s gonna be a good day!”  If you haven’t already heard Daniel’s singing and made a donation to the Salvation Army, he’ll be there until 11pm tomorrow night, so if you are in DC, head down to 12th and G Streets and say hello to Daniel and make a donation.

 

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Deb Felz: singer, guitarist and songwriter

I never know where I am going to find my recipients.  Today I found Deb at the Potbelly’s where she was playing guitar.  It’s cool that Potbelly’s has musicians in there.  It’s not a place that you would expect to hear some great local talent, but Deb is pretty awesome.

I ordered their Uptown Salad and headed over to a table.  I was pretty sure that I had seen Deb before.  And then I figured it out, she was opening act at the Velvet Lounge the night I gave my $10 to Ethan, Day 128.  I just took a look back at that blog post from April and sure enough I even mentioned Deb!  

As I walked over to get my drink I asked her if she was in fact Deb Felz who had opened up for Ethan and Machines on Vacation.  In fact it was her, it’s a small world.  I sat down and started eating my salad and then it hit me.  She should be my $10 recipient of the day!  I waited until she finished her song and applauded, I was the only one, not because the others didn’t enjoy the music but because it is just not the environment where people are clapping for the performer.  But I did anyway. Then I went over and explained what I am doing and asked her to be part of it.  She set the $10 on the Fender amp that was to her right and started another song…I sat back and listed to about a half-dozen beautiful songs.  She finished and we pulled up some chairs to talk.

Deb plays as Adam gives me the "Who the hell is this guy?" look.

We were joined by her boyfriend Adam.  I noticed him while she was playing and I was photographing her.  I’m sure he was like, “Who the hell is this guy?”  I introduced myself to him and he was really nice as well.

Deb’s card says “singer, guitarist and songwriter.”  She is in fact all of these…and quite talented at each.  She does pretty much all original music.  I remember at one point some people at a nearby table asked her if she took requests.  “Not really.  I mainly do originals because I can’t do anything else,” she said warming the room with her smile.  Wow…there are a lot of people out there making music that can’t do anything original.  Her creativity started with writing.  “I’ve been writing as long as I can remember,” she told me.  “I wrote my earliest song around 9 or 10 and started guitar to put music to it when I was about 11.”  She doesn’t just enjoy the writing; she says that it’s something she needs to do.

She likes when people listen to her music and get something out of it that she hasn’t even thought of.  “All art,” she says “is for the audience.” 

Adam said that Deb has good Karma.  I’m not surprised after hearing what she intended to do with the $10.  “I’m going to give it to this one Street Sense vendor, she’s always by the Smoothie King.”  She ended up not seeing that vendor for a while so she gave the money to Kenneth B. from Day 30.  “He’s out there in all kinds of weather.” 

"Deb has pretty good karma!" - Adam

I particularly liked something she told me during our conversation.  She said, “The people who I admire the most are the people who have something to complain about and don’t.”  Well said.

Well, here are some links to Deb’s music.  I love it.  My two favorite songs are Pull and Meant to Be.  If you want to hear more of Deb’s music, just come to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration next Tuesday…she’ll be playing live!

Deb’s website where you can listen to many of her songs for free

Video of Lovesick, Pull and one other song at Potbelly

Video of Raining in Baltimore at Potbelly

Video of Backwards at Potbelly

My video recordings have some annoying background noise that I can’t remove with my free software I use to edit.  Sorry!

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I am not a huge music fan.  I don’t have libraries of music or walk around with earphones attached to my head, but I do enjoy live music.  It’s a little like sports.  I couldn’t care too much if I watch a game on television, but I really enjoy going to a game.  The energy that you feel when you are at a concert or a sporting event is simply not recreated in your living room. 

The other night I headed over to see my friend Michael play a little jazz gig.  They were playing at the Imani Temple on Capitol Hill.  Attendance was sparse but that didn’t affect the show.  They performed as if there was standing room only.  They had a special guest that evening, Denyse Pearson.

Denyse sang about seven or eight songs.  She has a beautiful melodic voice and I was really surprised to learn that she hadn’t been performing in years.  After the show I approached her and asked if she would accept my $10.  She agreed and even took some time to talk with me.

Denyse with her husband Lawrence who is also a talented musician.

Denyse started singing when she was five years old.  “My earliest recollection of me singing is sitting on my grandmother’s steps baby scatting,” she said breaking a smile and drifting off to her childhood.  “I used to sing as I slid down those steps.”  Her father was also a strong influence on her.  A Nat King Cole fan, he was also a gifted singer but “he never went as far as he could have,” she said.    

She followed her passion and her father’s footsteps and developed a singing career until she stepped aside in the 1990s.  “It just got little dangerous,” she explained, “going in and out of clubs late at night.”  She is hoping to get back into performing more now.  In fact, she said she was putting my $10 toward future recording costs.  

I will ask Denyse to update this post with upcoming concerts that she has scheduled so that those of you in the area can check her out for yourself.  In the mean time, you can take a listen to one of the tunes she did when I saw her.  By the way, that’s my friend Michael on piano…he’s also terrific.

And if you live far away and want to hear more of Denyse, why not order her CD?  I bought one and if you would like to get one, drop me a note and I’ll get you in touch with her.

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Before I get to today’s recipient, I need your help to find two things.  First, I need a couple of people who are out of work who would be willing to take the same challenge that I have done this year for a week or two.  In other words to go out and give $10 away every day and then blog about it on the Year of Giving.  If you or someone you know wants to do this, please email me.

The other thing is that the Year of Giving is expanding!  We need a part-time intern for next year.  Someone who is a little web savvy and can dedicate about 10 hours a week to the project.  It doesn’t need to be for the entire year, but at least a 6 month commitment.  It will be an amazing experience, trust me.  Any interested people should get in touch with me ASAP and tell me why you should be chosen.

This is not good.

Now…on to today’s recipient.  This is really embarrassing yet it was bound to happen at some point.  I opened my journal up to the page marked Day 335 and there was nothing written there except the name Paul.  I had no idea who Paul was or where I met him.  How is this possible?  Then I went to look at my photos and figured out the photos immediately after Tyler were probably of Paul.  Bingo!  I was right.  I remember him now, he was a bike messenger I met on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan late one Sunday evening.  But where are all the notes about Paul?  How old is he?  What is his email?  What the heck did he do with the $10?  Hmmmm…I don’t know.  I know I wrote them down some place but I didn’t have my trusty Moleskine on me apparently.  I do have a video though…although it doesn’t tell too much either.

Paul powering up on some beverages at CVS.

I ran into Paul in front of the CVS that is next to the Safeway.  He was getting some beverages to take down to a restaurant down there street where his brother was waiting for him.  He had heard of the Year of Giving and was very friendly.  I told him about my losing my mother and he shared that his father had passed around this summer.  He talks about his dad and their relationship in this clip.  It’s clear that this was not easy for him to talk about.

Other than that, I can’t recall much.  The last couple weeks have been a complete blur.  I think he is in a band or DJs or something…who knows.  Hopefully I will find the little piece of paper where I jotted all the notes down.  And if anybody knows Paul…tell him to get in touch!

UPDATE: Jan 7, 2011

So I was doing some new year cleaning and found the paper where I wrote down the info on Paul!

When I met him he told me, “I’m coming back from a show that I didn’t go to.”  That kind of perplexed me, but then he explained that he went to a show where the band didn’t play.  “I ended up buying some CDs of the band,” he said referring to the metal band that calls themself Body Cop.

Paul is no stranger to music.  He plays bass and drums and even does some producing.  I asked him about musical influences.  “I’ve been inspired by so many but Brian Wilson, Myles Davis and Frank Zappa for sure.”   He has a website where you can listen to some of his work.

“I’m going to use the money for food,” he told me.  “I’ve been trying to conserve money lately.”  He said that he was lucky to have a job and enjoyed the flexibility of being a courier.

When we parted he said to me with so much enthusiasm, “It was really cool running into you.”  The feeling was mutual.

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Did you participate in Pay it Forward Day yesterday?  I did…I gave $10 to Rachel, a 22-year-old who just graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  Here story coming on Day 352!

Today…we travel south to the picturesque town of Charlottesville, VA.  The town of 50,000 is located smack in the center of the Commonwealth of Virginia along the Rivanna River, a tributary of the James River.  It’s about 120 miles from Washington, but somehow we took the most backward way possible and spent 3+ hours getting there.  

So my brother, sister-in-law and I were going to meet up with my cousin Doug and his daughter Chelsea…what does that make us, cousins once removed, second cousins, anyway.  My dad also drove down from Pennsylvania.  Chelsea is a graduating high school senior and is scouting out colleges which landed them in at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  They live in Colorado so we don’t get to see them that often, although come to think of it I have seen Doug three times this year, but anyway, you get the point.  They come in to town and we all thought it would be a good idea to meet up.  And my cousin Dianne was driving in the next day too.  It was fun spending time with family.

Anyway I found a family having a picnic lunch – it was a perfect afternoon for that – right on campus before the football game. 

Tyler is a freshman at UVA and his family is down visiting him from Northern Virginia…close to DC.  He grew up in Herndon, VA…I also lived in Herndon for a while.  Small world.

The 18-year-old economics major says that my cousin should choose UVA.  “It’s great here,” he said as he helped himself to some potato chips, “freedom is the best part!”  I can’t think of a more beautiful place to explore that freedom.  The campus is stunning.  The town is quaint and charming.  “And we’re in the top 5 in the country for soccer,” Tyler adds.

I felt a little like I just crashed their family picnic…which I did, so I tried not to stay too long.  I gave Tyler the money and he said he was going to buy some music with it.  “Probably some punk music.  My favorite band is Sonic Youth.”  

Tyler and his family enjoying their picnic.

Before I left he did have something for me to add to the Lend a Hand initiative.  “I could use an internship in the DC area for the summer.”   Hopefully somebody will see this and give this promising young man a chance.

On Tuesday I got this update from him via email:

I ended up ordering one of my favorite albums- “Psychocandy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain. I’d never gotten around to buying a physical copy of it before.” – Tyler S.

He won’t be able to make the Year End Celebration because he has a final exam that day.  Although we’ll miss him, it’s probably a wise decision.

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In addition to my work with World Wildlife Fund, I am the Executive Director of the Urban Philharmonic Society, a nonprofit orchestra that plays in diverse neighborhoods in the DC area.  The organization was started by Maestro Darrold Hunt back in 1970.  I actually met Maestro Hunt through the Year of Giving and gave him my $10 on Day 189.

Well he and I were heading up to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform a unique event focused on the complex Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.  It was half orchestral half theatrical.  Basically they played some of the highlights of Mahler but also had a small group of actors that tried to reenact an encounter that the composer had Dr. Sigmund Freud. 

It was an interesting performance.  The orchestra sounded very good, the acting portion was interested but I would have rather had more of the music.  Maestra Marin Alsop seemed a little off, but that was explained during a talk back session after the performance where she stated that she had been battling a severe cold all week. 

Margarita and Jack at Meyerhoff Hall

After the show, I ran into Margarita and Jack in the lobby area.  “We enjoyed the show very much,” they told me.  She said that she was more of a theatre-goer than a symphony-goer, but they thought they would check out this unique hybrid.  Jack on the other hand said he leaned more toward music.  “I played clarinet as a kid and had a drum set,” he told me. 

This performance seemed to have a special significance for Margarita.  “My father loved Mahler…and Freud for that matter,” she said. 

The couple seemed well-traveled and in fact I think they are currently in Colombia, where Margarita was born.  Jack grew up the son of a Foreign Service diplomat and lived in Brazil and Dominican Republic.  We got talking about different places we’d been and figured out that we were both in Brazil’s northeast city of Salvador at the exact same time in 2003 for Carnaval!  Small world.  I had been living in Brazil for just three months and decided to check out the celebration in Salvador.  Margarita and Jack were on their honeymoon!

“I think we’ll donate the money,” Margarita said looking for confirmation from Jack.  He nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders a little in agreement.  I tried to email them and see what exactly happened to it in the end, but I am almost positive they are in Colombia still and may not hear for them for a few days.  Stay tuned for an update!

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Jorge was born on the second floor of what is now the Russia House. (photo: Reed)

I was walking along Connecticut Avenue when I saw a guy dressed up in a Roman outfit.  It was getting close to Halloween, so I thought perhaps there was a costume party.  Then I realized he was having his picture taken…I decided to walk over and give my $10 to him.  

“I’m a rock’n’roll pop singer, song writer and producer,” Jorge told me when I asked him what he was up to.  “I am out here today doing a photo shoot for my electronic press kit for five of the largest major record label groups in the world.” 

Most of my conversation with Jorge was captured on my video.  Check it out and find out what he’s doing with Vanilla Ice.

It’s a bit self promoting, but I guess he needs to be getting the word out as he gets ready for his forthcoming albums and books – Jorge’s also a non-fiction writer and poet!

As for the $10, he said he was going to put it toward some food and transportation.

You might recognize the Royal Palace in the background from Day 309. (photo: Reed)

If you would like to listen in on some of his music, you can check it out on his MySpace page: mutatioformulae.  You can also check out his Facebook page.

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Some of you might recall that two of my recipients are celebrating a very special day today.  October 16th is the anniversary of Bob (Day 251) and Michelle’s (Day 277) sobriety.  Bob has been sober 24 years and Michelle eight.  I am so proud of them both and am thankful to have met them through my Year of Giving!

A VW Beatle sits almost completely underwater as flood victims make their way through town by boat. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella, AFP)

Today I am going to tell you about a fascinating young woman.  But first let me give you a little background on the circumstances that I met Ximena.  In September parts of Mexico were devastated when torrential downpours caused disastrous flooding in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz.  As you might know, I used to live in Mexico and have many friends there today.  Fortunately everyone I know is safe, however, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were affected by the relentless waters.  In September a group here in DC put together a fundraiser to collect money to send to needy families in Mexico.  My neighbor Paulina, who is Mexican, told me about the event and I stopped by to donate some money.

The fundraiser was held at Lupe Cantina, 1214 18th Street, NW (photo: Reed)

In addition to my donation to the fundraiser, I made another “donation” of $10 to Ximena.  She is a performing artist who was preparing to sing that evening at the event.  I found a moment when she was not busy and approached her and explained the Year of Giving concept

Ximena talking to a friend. (photo: Reed)

Ximena is 34 years old and hails from the Mexico City.  This talented young singer caught my attention when she shared with me part of her life where she spent four years living on a bus.  That’s right.  At the time she was living in Austin, Texas when she met up with a guy from DC who had driven a bus down to Texas.  The bus, called “Destino 2000”, would later turn into the home for several individuals.  The core group was about four people.  They loaded up and started driving south into Mexico.  But they didn’t stop there; they kept on going to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, etc.  “We worked everywhere,” she explained in Spanish, “to get enough money to get us to the next place.”

Ximena, originally from Mexico City, lived on a bus for four years. (photo: Reed)

Her experience on the bus taught her many things.  “When you live here you take many things for granted,” she told me.  Sometimes the most basic necessities presented challenges.  “Without drinking water you can not survive,” she added. 

There was one common thread that sustained the nomadic group during their journey: music.  “The music was always the vehicle that opened doors for us and sustained us,” Ximena said.

Last May she received her degree in music education.  She smiled and said, “It took me 14 years to do it, but I made it!”  Although she currently does not have a job she says that she is fortunate enough to pick up small projects here and there.  When I invited her to the year-end celebration in December, she said she would not be able to attend because she would be in Texas in the area that is made up of Juarez on the Mexican side and El Paso on the US side.  “I am organizing some Fandangos in response to the violence that that area has suffered.”  I thought that I met Ximena before the alleged murder of David Hartley by Mexican pirates, but after checking it was in fact the same day that I met Ximena.  As a side note, something seems strange about that case…I’m not sure we are getting the full story.

“When you live here you take many things for granted.” - Ximena (photo: Reed)

Anyway, being out of work you would think that Ximena would use the money to help pay for her rent or get some groceries but that was not the case.  “I’m going to send the money to my ‘papa’” she told me.  “He doesn’t work any more and I haven’t had very much to send him lately.”  I thought that was very touching.  Our parents do so much for us as children that it is nice to be able to help them when they are in need.

I unfortunately had another event that evening and had to leave before Ximena performed.  Hopefully I will get another chance.

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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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Live music at Nanny O'Brien's (photo: Reed)

I met up with my friend Kimon for dinner in Cleveland Park.  Afterwards we went over to Nanny O’Briens to have a couple pints of Guinness.  

I’ve been to this place several times…used to go there on Tuesday nights for trivia.  It’s a no frills neighborhood pub that has straightforward service and live music some evenings.  This night there was a pony-tailed man strumming the guitar to typical sing-along type bar songs like Brown Eyed Girl and American Pie.

In the front of the bar there are these two little secluded tables that are tucked away on each side of the door.  They look like a nice romantic place to sit and have a chat with your loved one.  I noticed a young couple that were looking at each other like they were the only ones in the bar.  The carved out window nook lends itself to that feeling I think.  Would it be rude and insensitive to go and interrupt this beautifully peaceful moment?  Who knows, but I was about to find out.

A shot from outside of Jessica and Jonah enjoying a drink at Nanny O'Briens in Cleveland Park, DC. (photo: Reed)

Jessica is a 28-year-old human rights advocate.  She mainly focuses on Sudan, Burma (Myanmar) and the Congo.  Originally from New York City, she moved to DC about a year and a half ago. 

She and her boyfriend Jonah were killing some time before heading over to the Uptown Theater to see Inception.  Opened in 1936, the Uptown is a historic art deco theater featuring just one screen.  Sadly I haven’t been there yet to see a movie.  Shame on me!

I learned that Jessica used to live on an island in Southeast Alaska.  “It was interesting.  I was friends with this one guy who had dodged the Vietnam war by paying people off with homemade baked wheat bread,” she went on to say.  Odd…what would make you think to do that?  Hmmm…I don’t want to go to Vietnam.  What can I give these people that will keep them quiet?  I know, I’ll bake some bread, wheat bread no doubt, and give it them.  At least they were quiet I guess while they were eating the bread right? 

Jonah and Jessica (photo: Reed)

I definitely felt like I was intruding and felt bad about that.  I tried to be as quick as possible and let them slip back into the moment where they were before I interrupted.  His scotch and soda looked almost done and she was finishing up a gin and tonic and they were getting ready to head over to the theater.

“I think I will treat myself to a really nice coffee,” Jessica says referring to the $10 that was on the bar table.  Wow…ten bucks must buy a hell of a cup of coffee!

I grabbed a few photos, thanked them for their time and told them to enjoy the movie.  

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Knox gets his first customer of the day (photo: Reed)

Yesterday was a great day.  I ran into my very first recipient for the first time since we met on December 15, 2009.  I embarked on this journey 259 days ago when I placed $10 in the hands of a man named Knox who was shinning shoes on a bitter cold afternoon on the corner of 21st and P Streets.  I walked by him yesterday and I wasn’t sure if it was him, so I asked.  “Yeah that’s me,” he said.  He remembered meeting me too.  We talked and I got his phone number so that I can invite him to the year-end party.  “I’m gonna be there,” he assured me.  He also offered me a free shoe shine which I politely declined.   It made my day to see Knox again!  Here is an updated picture of him.

Knox, the Year of Giving's first recipient! (photo: Reed)

I am about two weeks behind writing up the blogs…so today’s recipient is from Day 246.  I was in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC when I realized I was close to the restaurant Social.  You might remember I visited this place on Day 84.  It’s a cool place that is hard to categorize.  I called it a restaurant, but it is rather chameleon like.  It is a restaurant, bar, lounge, living room…it is what you are looking for.  I ended up talking to some people sitting outside on their patio.  I offered a woman there the $10 but she refused.  Then a guy at the table suggested that I give the $10 to the next person that walked by.  Well, I was thinking that it might be difficult to get someone to stop and talk to me since it was almost midnight.

About 100 yards away we spotted a guy walking and when he got close I asked him to accept my $10, but he declined.  I sat back down and enjoyed one of the tasty beers they have at Social.  About five minutes later we spotted someone else approaching the patio.  One of the guys at my table said, “Oh my gosh, you may want to skip this guy,” because the man who was walking toward us had fluorescent blue hair, eyebrows and goatee.  When I saw him, I wasn’t discouraged, in fact, I knew that he was the one.

Freakshow isn't so freaky, he's actually a really nice guy (photo: Reed)

Somehow I wasn’t surprised when the 45-year-old Altoona, PA native told me, “They call me Freakshow.  I’m a DJ.”  He’s been mixing high energy music for several years here in DC creating a music genre that he calls “funky junk.”

I had to ask him about his color choice for his hair.  “It’s always changing; from leopard prints to zebra stripes, to an American flag mohawk.” (I’m back to using the word mohawk on my blog!)  He channels his creativity in many other ways too.

Freakshow is a flower designer and a re-creation artist; someone who takes “something that is considered to have outlived its useful purpose and give it one last chance at being worthwhile.”

He told me about one of his artworks that got a considerable amount of attention from his neighbors.  He decided to reuse his downspouts in a new and creative way.  Check out these photos from the Prince of Petworth’s website.

Freakshow's downspout art (photo: Reed)

"Creativity takes courage" -Henri Matisse (photo: Reed)

Like or dislike his creation, it does get a reaction.  It generated 90+ comments on the August 9th Prince of Petworth blog post.  Freakshow himself even chimed in to explain himself.  I personally don’t care much for the result of his new arrangement of the downspouts, but I get what he was doing and what I like even more about it was what he said about how his experiment triggered social interaction within his community.  “I in the past two weeks have had the opportunity to meet more of my neighbors than in the two years I have lived at this residence. I have made friend and foe but I have lived an experience that allowed me to see and grow, to realize how people can be so utterly judgmental of another person’s vision. I never claimed beauty or functionality I only took a moment to look at life from a different perspective and my god it was a journey.”

"It's always changing." Freakshow commenting on his hairstyle (photo: Reed)

By the way, Freakshow told me the whole creation was held in place by three screws and some duct tape.  I may be wrong, but I believe that he has since removed the downspout.  He wrote in the blog post comment that he envisioned replacing it with a brick patio, flower-cart and bench that hopefully won’t offend his neighbors.

So I bet you are wondering what this guy did with my ten bucks right?  More duct tape perhaps?  Nope, he joins previous recipients Matt and Isaac in using my $10 to purchase cigarettes.

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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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Justin (photo: Reed)

Working now creates some new challenges to keeping up with my commitment.  On the plus side, I have some positive cash flow!  On the negative side, my days have become much longer trying to keep this up while working.

Well long days and short nights of sleep are nothing new to today’s recipient.  Meet Justin.  I was leaving work and walking toward Dupont Circle when I ran into him as he was walking home from GW Hospital in his scrubs.

Justin is a 1st year resident in the department of radiology.  Originally from northwest Indiana, he went to medical school about an hour away at Chicago’s Northwestern University.  He recently finished his internship at a hospital in Akron, OH.

When I ran into him he had only been here a few weeks and when I asked how it was going he said, “So far it’s pretty good for me.”  Pretty good attitude for a first year resident.  He’ll spend the next four years here going through intensive training. 

So how is residency life?  “It’s ok, I mean there is just an overwhelming amount of stuff that you are required to learn,” Justin tells me.  Although he said summer in DC was really hot, he likes the city.  He was already familiar with the DC area before moving here.  In fact he spent a summer doing research at NIH which he says definitely played a role in his choice to come here for his residency. 

I wonder how you decide that you want to study radiology.  Check out why Justin says he chose it.

Miraculously he finds some time to relax and enjoy life.  When he is not soaking up endless quantities of knowledge at the hospital, he enjoys playing music.  He started playing bass guitar a while back and would like to get a band together here in DC.  For a guy who is new in town, he already has a guitarist and a keyboardist lined up.  They need a drummer though.  “We need a beginner/intermediate drummer who wants to play some rock music,” he tells me.  My brother hasn’t played in a long time, maybe he wants to get back into it.

Justin right before he turned my $10 into dinner (photo: Reed)

So what does a first year radiology resident do with $10.  Eat!  That’s right he said that he was going to take the $10 straight to Potbelly’s to get some dinner.  He kindly let me tag along as we hiked the 8 blocks over to the sandwich shop where he got his dinner. 

Bon appetite Justin!

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Charlie (foreground) plays harmonica while Kevin handles the guitar (Photo: Reed)

On Day 195 I thought about heading over to the Adams Morgan neighborhood to find someone interesting to give my $10 to.

I walked north along 18th Street, dodging the bar-goers coming in and out of the various bars and clubs that hug the road until I reached Columbia Road.  As I stood on the corner, I noticed two musicians starting to play on the corner across the street.  I decided to head over and listen to them for a while. 

As it turns out I decide to give them my $10.  Kevin plays guitar and Charlie plays harmonica, percussion and sings.  I approached them and told them what I was doing.  They agreed to participate.  Charlie didn’t say much to me but gave me a business card that says, “The Legendary Charlie Sayles” and has his contact information.   “You can read all about me on the website,” Charlie says.

Photo: Reed

Kevin tells me that they often play there at the corner of 18th and Columbia Road in front of the Sun Trust Bank and also at Dupont Circle Metro near the Krispy Kreme.  “Charlie’s in the Who’s Who in Harmonica Players and has something like three blues albums.” 

As for the $10, Kevin says they will use the money to get some food.

As they got ready to start up playing again, Kevin shared that he was looking for a job.  I didn’t get any more details on what exactly he was looking for, but once I do I will post it on the Lend a Hand section…maybe someone out there can help him out!

Charlie starts to make his harmonica sing and they continue playing.  They play mostly blues numbers.  The melody seems to naturally dance back and forth between Charlie’s harmonica, Kevin’s guitar licks and Charlies vocals.  Here is a short taste of their performance.

When I got home, I did take a look at Charlie’s website.   The 62-year-old has an extensive musical career that followed an upbringing in various foster homes and a three-year tour of duty in Vietnam.  You can find out more about Charlie here or take a listen to his music on his MySpace page.

Jay, me and Lumumba

While I was photographing these two talented musicians, a man named Jay from Atlanta came over to me and inquired about what kind of camera I was shooting with.  We began talking and I found out that they were here putting on a large trade show and conference.  When he and his colleague, Lumumba, heard about what I was doing, they got excited.  “We’re going to give you $10 each man!” said Jay.  They insisted.  Thank you guys so much! 

Pretty cool that they felt so inspired to do that.  I used $5 to buy a sandwich for Carl, a homeless guy that I met the next day in Dupont Circle.  I donated $5 of it to the family of Javier Lopez-Cruz, a 26-year-old from Oaxaca, Mexico who was killed in an auto accident.  They are trying to raise enough money to send his remains back to Mexico.  The last $10 I donated toward those who are out of work in the Gulf region.  If you would like to help me in these efforts, you can send $10 of your own by clicking here!

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SoHo, 22nd & P, in NW DC

I met Darrold at the SoHoTea & Coffee Café at the corner of 22nd and P in DC.

He was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on June 29, 1941.  The son of a construction worker and an electronics factory worker, he comes from a modest family with a strong affinity for the arts.  His mother and older brothers sang and his father played guitar.  Darrold was no exception.  He started performing with his family at an early age.  His dedication paid off too, getting him accepted to study music at the prestigious Juilliard School for Music in New York City.

Darrold (Photo: Reed)

In 1970 he founded the Urban Philharmonic, a nonprofit symphony orchestra that performs high quality music in diverse urban settings without all the formality often associated with symphonies.  Maestro Darrold moved the Urban Philharmonic to Baltimore and then to DC in 1978.  He and the Urban Philharmonic have been here ever since.  Darrold says he likes DC.  “I like that I can see the moon rise and set,” something he says he wasn’t able to do in NYC.  “I miss Manhattan though; the quantity and quality of the arts and performing arts.”

“The Washington community is just beginning to harness its own political power,” he states.  This sounded a bit strange to me because I usually think of Washingtonians as being politically savvy so I asked him to expand upon this.  “The institutions here are powerful, however, until recently the people themselves have not had any power.”  He talks about how former Mayor Marion Barry used his power to leverage the power of the people.  I can see that, but he also used his power to benefit himself tremendously.  Not to mention that he was a convicted on various counts of drug use and tax evasion.

The conversation naturally moved to music and Maestro Darrold told me how excited he was to conduct Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, Eroica.  “It’s an interesting piece,” he says as he paints me a mental picture of Beethoven running off to follow Napoleon to try to understand war, pain, death and dying.  “Beethoven succeeds in sharing his inner most feelings with the listener; this is what makes him so great!”

I asked him what great musicians influenced him when he was young to pursue a career in music.  He grinned widely and told me that Billy Holiday and his mother.  “She was soprano and had a beautiful voice,” he told me still smiling

I loved feeling the excitement in Darrold’s voice when he spoke about the Urban Philharmonic.  Due to a lack of donations, the Urban Philharmonic came critically close to fading away for good.  But Maestro Darrold dug deep and found the strength to push on.  He is fighting now to keep the organization alive.  At almost 70-years-old, he is committed to bringing back the Urban Philharmonic with an aggressive schedule of six concerts this next season.  To do that, it will depend on donations from people like you.  If you would like to learn more about the Urban Philharmonic or make a donation, please click here.

Darrold is going to use the $10 to help buy food this week.

Below is a brief video of part of my conversation with Darrold.  Hear first-hand what it feels like to conduct a symphony!

Note: I was so impressed with the potential of this organization that I have agreed to volunteer some of my time to help with strategic planning and overall management of the organization.

UPDATE: Nov. 14, 2013

I’m sad to share that I learned yesterday that Maestro Hunt passed away last Wednesday Nov. 6th at his home. I don’t have much more details at this time, except that there is a memorial service being held on Friday Nov. 15th at the Church of the Holy City (Emanual Swedenborgian Church) located at 1611 16th Street NW (16th & Corcoran). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. followed by service at 7pm.

Darrold exuded love and kindness. His enthusiasm and passion could hardly be contained within his body. It was impossible not to be moved by his ardent smile which he shared unselfishly. DC, and the world of music, has lost one of the greats.

Here is an article from the Examiner.

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The Year of Giving does not focus on any one “type” of person. People often ask me how I select the recipients. Sure, some days I go out with a type of person in mind, however many times it is just a feeling I get when I am sitting next to somebody on the bus or watching a mother play with her child in a park. Having said this, I have given my $10 to a considerable amount of people who are currently or who have in the past experienced homelessness.

The US Government defines homelessness as follows (Source: US Department of Housing and Urban Development)

The term “homeless” or “homeless individual or homeless person” includes-

  1. an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and
  2. an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is -
    1. a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
    2. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
    3. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

Photo: Jon Howell

Although I don’t think that the government has came up with the best definition here, it is certainly better than the definition that usually comes to people’s mind when they hear that someone is homeless. The image of someone sleeping on the streets.

The area that I have found particularly interesting to study here is the one that deals with those who lack “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” So many people today fall into this category and they are often not counted in statistics on homeless populations. The Year of Giving has taught me an immense amount about the people who struggle with this every day. I often forget how fortunate I am to have such a comfortable environment to keep my belongings, prepare my meals and sleep at night.

As a result of the writings, photographs and videos that I have done about the homeless I was nominated for the David Pike Excellence in Journalism Award. Although Maria Glod from the Washington Post ended up winning the award, I was extremely honored to have even been nominated for my work.

Photo: Jon Howell

I went to the award ceremony with my father and brother. It was a very nice evening. I took pictures which I can try to post here once I get my computer fixed. I thought I would look for a recipient for my $10 at the event, so I had my small black Moleskine journal with me to take notes. As it turns out, the notebook slid out of my bag and remained underneath my seat when we left the auditorium. I noticed that I was missing it immediately and had an idea that it was probably under the seat so I went back and checked but didn’t find anything. Now I was concerned, because I knew I had it with me. Maybe somebody turned it in, right?

Well, just as I was looking around to ask someone if anyone had turned it in, a young man who I recognized from being the photographer at the event, walked over to me and gave me the book. Well, on my Moleskine notebook it is clearly marked that there is a reward for returning it to me. You guessed it, that reward is $10!

I thanked Jon and happily handed him the $10. He explained that he was an intern working at Street Sense for the summer as a photographer. A photo journalism major at the University of North Texas, Jon is here in DC through a partnership with the George Washington University. Still holding his Canon Rebel XTi in his hands, he mentioned he was on his way to the reception to take more photographs. I didn’t want to hold him up so I tried to be quick.

Baylor rugby player (Photo: Jon Howell)

I found out that Jon recently transferred to the University of North Texas from Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX. He played rugby for two years there and hopes to continue playing at North Texas. “It’s different than football,” he says, “you have to learn how to hit the other guy differently.” He talks about the importance that strategy plays in the game as well. But even strategy doesn’t protect you from getting a little banged up. Jon has broken his nose three times (weird, so have I!) and had his AC separated off the clavicle.

Off the field Jon’s artistic interest is not limited to photography. He also loves music. “I own a record store in Abilene, Texas” he says. “You mean old school vinyl records?” I asked. He nodded his head and confirmed my suspicion. This struck me as odd. CDs were already starting to dominate as the preferred physical medium for music by the time he was born! But this has nothing to do with that. This is more about the relationship someone has with music. There is something almost romantic about vinyl records.

Record player (Photo: Jon Howell)

I was just surprised to discover that someone his age who grew up in an era full of hi-tech gizmos would feel so strongly about this format of music that he would own a record store. Let’s not forget how cool it is that at 19 he owns his own record store!

Jon said he was going to use the $10 to get some food that week. As an unpaid intern he has to be careful with his spending.

We talked about Washington, DC some. “The first time I came here was when I was in the eighth grade. I remember seeing the homeless and it made an impression on me.” He also took lots of photos while he was here. Jon was very excited to to return to Washington and work with an organization like Street Sense which does so much for the city’s homeless citizens.

Narrow DC street (Photo: Jon Howell, Street Sense)

His internship will be up in August and he will return to Texas. With him he will take much more than the thousands of photos he has shot and the college credits that he has earned. He will take with him an experience that I believe will change the course of his life as it has changed mine. The opportunity to learn about and work with this city’s homeless population has opened my eyes and my heart in so many ways.

I said goodbye to Jon and let him get to work.  The Award Ceremony reception had left over food and coffee which I took with me a few blocks away to the park at 20th and Pennsylvania.  There I found several people who were happy to receive some of the leftovers.  As I was walking around the park I found one man laying in the grass with nothing but the clothes on his back.  I was worried that he might not be ok, so I walked over and asked.  The man awoke from his sleep and turned out to beAnthony from Day 6! He and I chatted for a while and he seemed well, although sufficiently inebriated.   It was good to see him.  I chatted with another man for nearly an hour and a half.  It was now midnight and my brother and father were waiting for me across the street (they had went to dinner when I went to deliver the food and coffee).  It was a great night!

Jon (Photo: Reed)

A special thanks to Jon for allowing me to post some of his photographs in this blog. Click here to check out more of Jon’s photography.

UPDATE: 10/27/2010

I got an update from Jon.  Here it is…

Hey man its been awhile. Hope all is well in DC and with your giving. Sorry I never got to give you a photo lesson, it was just so crazy the whole time I was there. I’m working for the newspaper at UNT doing photography and multi-media news videos and playing for the UNT rugby team. I also just got a job working as a field representative for  home improvement place in Lewisville. I go door to door to offer a free estimate on any projects they may have on their homes. My brother also graduated from film school and got signed to an agency here in Dallas. He just got cast in stage production and is about to audition for another. The record store is still in business and doing pretty good. I still haven’t found a location for here in Denton but the one in Abilene is doing well. Hope to hear back from you.

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Versión en español sigue abajo.

Good morning and welcome to the Worldwide Day of Giving!!!

Today is a day that you can do what I have been doing for 182 days (I am behind on posting my blogs).  It’s so simple…find someone you don’t know, tell them you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and give them $10, or whatever you can afford, no strings attached and find out what they will do with the $10.  Hopefully you can learn a little bit about them as well.  I always get their contact information and then try to stay in touch.  Have fun with it!  Then I hope you will share your stories here…if you take pictures or video, you can post your stories on the Facebook Page.

I have a couple of media interviews today.  This morning I am heading over to News Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live for an interview with Natasha Barrett and Melanie Hastings.  Then around 2:30 I will be on CNN with Ali Velshi.  Finally this evening, I will be celebrating here in DC at Café Dupont (The Dupont Hotel) from 6-8pm.  If you are around, please join us!

Interviewing Sandra in her classroom (Photo: Roberto Gonzalo Ceballos)

On day 172 I found myself at the Instituto Tecnico Marco Fidel Suarez (ITMFS), a grade school in Manizales.  The kids here are similar to the those at the San Agustin school.  They come from very simple backgrounds.  Poverty is rampant and sometimes the brightest part of their day is the time they spend at school.  “Sometimes the meal they get here might be the only meal they get all day,” says Sandra, and English teacher at the school.

The bilingual chorus that I was working with at this school was made up of Sandra’s students.  After we were done rehearsing with the students, Sandra stayed to talk to me some and I found my recipient for my 20,000 pesos.  

Photo: Reed

An educator for the past 13 years, Sandra never imagined she would be teaching at a school like ITMFS.  “I was teaching at the University.” And before that she had some pretty impressive jobs translating and interpreting for the Ambassador from India.  “I don’t know how it happened but somehow I ended up teaching here and I am so happy to be here.” 

Colombia divides it’s neighborhoods into socio-economic categories called strata.  The wealthiest is six and the poorest is zero.  This school has children from the zero and one strata.  To me the concept was unfamiliar to identify people so readily by a stratum based upon where they lived, but here it was quite common.  In fact, many of the students that I met would ask me which stratum I belonged to.  A question that I didn’t know how to answer but comparatively speaking, it was surely much higher.

Sandra is passionate about teaching.  She speaks English all the time and expects her students to try their hardest.  Most of the students were lucky to know a few words in English.  The hope is that by learning the songs that we teach them that they will make a connection and learn more quickly.  There was one girl who was quite advanced in the chorus.  She had an amazing natural ability I think for languages.  Sounding almost like a proud mother she nodded her head and said, “Yes, she is quite good isn’t she.”

I learned that English is not the only thing that Sandra is passionate about.  Now the proud mother really came out and she flipped through her phone for a second and handed it to me.  “I have the most special baby boy: Juan Felipe.” He is three and looked so happy in the photos she shared.  

I shot a little video of the class singing as well as Sandra explaining what she was going to do with the $10 and why.  This one is in English.  Enjoy.

Versión en español

En el día 172 estuve en el Instituto Técnico Marco Fidel Suárez (ITMFS), una escuela del sector público en Manizales. Los niños de acá son parecidos a los del Colegio San Agustín. Tienen un historial muy simple en donde la pobreza es excesiva y algunas veces, la mejor parte del día es el tiempo que están en la escuela. “Algunas veces la única comida que tienen es la que comen aquí” dice Sandra, la docente de inglés.

El coro bilingüe lo integran los alumnos que asisten a clase con Sandra. Después de haber terminado el ensayo con los estudiantes, me quedo con Sandra para hablar un poco y encuentro a quien darle mis 20,000 pesos.

Sandra, siendo docente durante 13 años, nunca imaginó que estaría enseñando en una escuela como el ITMFS. “Fui docente  a nivel universitario” y antes había trabajado como traductora e intérprete para el Embajador de la India. “No sé cómo sucedió pero de un momento a otro terminé enseñando aquí y estoy feliz de hacerlo.”

Students at ITMFS (Photo: Reed)

En Colombia los barrios se clasifican en categorías socio-económicas llamadas estratos. El estrato más rico es el seis y el más pobre es el cero. Los estudiantes de esta escuela provienen de estratos cero y uno. Para mí el concepto no era familiar, es decir, identificar a las personas rápidamente sólo con base en el lugar donde viven; pero aquí en Colombia es algo demasiado común. De hecho, muchos de los estudiantes que conocí, me preguntaron a qué estrato pertenecía. Una pregunta que no supe cómo responder, pero comparativamente hablando, de seguro mucho más alto.

Sandra es apasionada con respecto a su trabajo, habla en inglés todo el tiempo y espera que sus estudiantes hagan su mayor esfuerzo. Muchos de los estudiantes son afortunados al conocer algunas palabras en inglés. Se espera que aprendiendo las canciones que les enseñamos, los estudiantes hagan una conexión y aprendan más rápidamente. Había una estudiante en el ensayo del coro, quien estaba muy avanzada con respecto a los otros; creo que tiene una extraordinaria habilidad innata para los idiomas. Con el tono de voz de una madre orgullosa Sandra mueve su cabeza y dice: “Sí, es muy buena para el inglés”.

Aprendí que no sólo el inglés es lo que apasiona a Sandra. Aparece una madre orgullosa quien saca su teléfono celular, busca por un momento y me muestra una foto: ¨Tengo el bebé más especial: Juan Felipe.” Tiene tres años y se ve muy feliz en las fotos.

Grabé un corto video (encima)  en donde aparece el ensayo del coro y Sandra explicando qué va a hacer con los $10 y por qué. Está en inglés. Disfrútenlo.

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Sandra Toro en Manizales, Colombia.

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Just two days until the Worldwide Day of Giving

If anyone is located in an area affected by the oil spill or knows someone who is, please drop me a note.

Today’s recipient has a very special treat for you so I hope that you have a way to watch the videos that are posted on here.

Giovanni at work at the Batuta Foundation (Photo: Reed)

While I was in Manizales, I met Giovanni, a 31-year-old talented musician.  Although born in the nation’s capital of Bogotá, he originally came to Manizales to play the bass for the city’s orchestra.  He continues to perform in Manizales and cities throughout the region in addition to teaching music at the renown Batuta National Institute; a national system of youth orchestras that aims to foster social development through music.

He says he really likes life in Manizales.  I got a rather first hand view of his life as I was Giovanni’s neighbor for the 12 days I spent in Manizales.  He was living in the area of Guacas where Roberto Gonzalo lives and has his coffee plantation.  To go to work, he regularly makes the exhausting 30 minute walk up the mountain to grab a bus that goes down into the city.  It’s at least an hour or more to get into the city.  I know that because I did that several times while I was there!  

Giovanni invited me into his home.  It’s simply decorated with the essentials.  I can not help but notice the large bass leaning against the wall.  I was hoping he would play it for me.

We speak a mixture of Spanish and English.  He is very comfortable talking to me and even starts to prepare some dinner.  Dressed in a t-shirt, pants, flip-flops, he moves around his kitchen.  I asked him what he was cooking.  “I am kind of inventing right now.” I tend to do the same thing.

Before I know it he had made some coffee and served me a cup.

This is what was on Giovanni's music stand (Photo:Reed)

He says that he personally likes jazz, symphonies, and chamber music.  With a music degree from the Technological University of Pereira, he has a solid appreciation of many music genres.  If Pereira sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because that is the airport where I arrived.  Giovanni added that it is also where his parents live. 

Since I have been here during the election period, I also asked Giovanni who he felt would be the best leader to continue Colombia’s positive development that it has experienced over the past several years.  He gave me that slightly uncomfortable look that many people do when you move the conversation to political views.  He says that he has the most faith in Antanas Mockus from the Green Party.  “But I think Juan Manuel will win,” he says referring to Juan Manuel Santos who leads the poles.  

Like Viviana from Day 164, he opted to receive $10 instead of 20,000 pesos and also said he planned to keep the money as a memory of this experience.  That is touching that he would want to keep it to remember our meeting.

I asked Giovanni if he would play for me and he obliged.  Take a listen to this.  It’s beautiful.

Giovanni had some questions for me as well.  When I told him that I grew up in Pennsylvania, he told me that he had been there and that he travelled there regularly to perform.  His grin told me something was not as it appeared though as he divulged that he was referring to Pensilvania, another city in the state of Caldas.  Somehow I think that William Penn had no idea that years later there would be a city in Colombia that would share the name of the US state that was named after the colonial leader.

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I had two sightings of previous recipients this weekend.  Yesterday I saw Carlos from Day 118 about a block from my house and he let me know that he would donate the $10, along with additional funds, at the end of the year because then his employer will double the contribution. 

Today I saw Ron from Day 24.  He was sitting in the same spot where I originally met him in January.  I was going to get some lunch at Chipotle and asked if he wanted anything.  He took me up on the offer and I got him a garden burrito. 

Last Wednesday night I went to the Velvet Lounge to check out Machines on Vacation, a local DC band that mixes a string quartet, guitar, and vocals with electronic beats and sounds.  It’s hard to describe their genre…it’s unique and totally worth checking out.

The opening band was Deb Felz with a percussionist whose name I believe was Dan.  Dan plays the cajón, an Afro-Peruvian box drum that you sit on and slap to produce a wide range of rhythmic beats.  Deb plays guitar and sings.  They were quite good together…you can check their music out here.

Ethan and Machines on Vacation at the Velvet Lounge (Photo: Reed)

The main event, Machines on Vacation, took the stage around 10pm.  My friend Melanie plays violin for the group.  The other members are Ethan (vocals, guitar, and electronics), Amanda (cello), Kellie (viola), and Theresa (violin/viola).  I love that they have such a unique sound.  It’s really refreshing to hear somebody out there exploring new territory in music.  I particularly like Paralyzed Paradise, Oh No, and Light on My Doorstep.  You can find some of their music on their Facebook page.

While watching the group I decided to give my $10 to one of the band members that I didn’t know.  I approached Ethan after the show and introduced myself and asked if he would accept my $10.  He didn’t hesitate.

I asked Ethan how he would describe Machines on Vacation’s distinctive sound.  “I have no idea,” he said, getting a laugh from me.  Seriously he said that its hard to describe but he offered a couple suggestions: “A melody-focused band that thrives on either embracing or rejecting the tenets of minimalism, sometimes in the same moment of a song”, “The music of the 22nd century – which is oddly just a mix of music from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st”, and “Pop music for nerds but not geeks.”  Check out this video for some of Ethan’s comments on musical influences and his obsession with asymptotes. 

Leading a group seems to come natural to Ethan.  When he is not being the front-man for Machines on Vacation, he is the CFO/COO for Elysian Energy, a DC/Baltimore energy efficiency firm that helps homeowners and businesses lower their energy bills and carbon footprint.  The company sounds like it provides a valuable service today as individuals and businesses grapple with energy efficiency strategies, sustainability, renewable technologies, and carbon impact reduction.

Ethan is a fellow Washington Capitals fan (Let’s go Caps!) – they play Montreal Monday night in what is hopefully the final game of that series.  He had already checked his phone I think Wednesday right after he finished playing to see if they had won, which they did that night. 

I asked him what he thought he would do with the $10.  “I feel like I should do something ‘good’ with it, instead of just using it to buy lunch tomorrow.” He and his wife have actually been discussing starting to give in a more organized manner.  He said he would think about it and get back to me, but that it would most likely get used to help a person or organization. 

Here is some video that I shot of the band playing Oh No at the Velvet Lounge.

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Happy Earth Day!  It’s a shame that many people only think about caring for our planet once a year, but I guess that is better than nothing.  I will be posting Day 126 later today about a man who has dedicated his life to saving our country and planet.  His story tonight.

Many people ask how they can help me.  This week I received a check from a friend of mine and four gift certificates from a follower named Tawanna.  A few weeks ago a man from California sent me a donation via PayPal to sponsor ten days of giving.  Although all of these efforts are greatly appreciated, I would encourage you to think about how you can help those on the Lend a Hand page or individuals and organizations in your local community.  I promise to put the donations that I receive to good use, although, I can not accept money for my $10 daily commitment.  I made the $3,650 commitment myself and I don’t feel that it is fair to accept donations for my own personal commitment.  I am in the process of studying the possibility of creating a nonprofit that would help manage and distribute funds that I receive in a responsible manner.  I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.  Call me stubborn!  Larry and Kelly from California told me yesterday that, “to be a great giver, you also have to be a good receiver.”  What do you think?

Gravett playing the EWI4000s (Photo: Reed)

On Day 125 I was walking by Starbucks at Dupont Circle and saw a man playing a clarinet-like instrument inside the coffee shop.  I had seen him playing there before, but didn’t have time to stop.  I went inside and saw that the instrument is connected to a small electronic device that connects to earphones.  He was deep in concentration.  I nervously walked around pretending to be interested in anything but him.  Finally I just bit the bullet and walked up to him and asked if I could talk to him for a minute.

AKAI EWI4000s

That minute turned into two hours.  Gravett is a musician who is practicing on a EWI4000s.  It’s an electronic saxophone.  I used to play saxophone.  My band instructor, Mr. Snyder, I am sure would agree that the saxophone was not my calling in life.

The real benefit of the EWI4000s is that it has an internal sound module that stores the sounds/tones that the instrument produces rather than relying on an external modulator.  This allows Gravett to not have to carry around bulky equipment to hear the sound he is producing.  Pretty cool.

I asked him how he makes a living and he said he played the saxophone and worked as a pedicab driver in DC.  Pedicabs are bicycle powered cabs.  Very timely that I should write about him and his pedicab on Earth Day.  Gravett has returned to Washington DC last year after spending time living in Mexico City, the Czech Republic, and Jamaica.  I told him that I had given $10 to another saxophone player on Day 100 (Bill).  He nodded his head and said he knew him.  “Bill is really talented” he said.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

I asked Gravett what he thought he would use the $10 for and he said he was going to save it for his next stint overseas.  “I have been thinking about going back to Mexico City.  I really like it there … or maybe Guatemala.”  Although Gravett said he likes Washington quite a bit, he prefers to live outside of the United States.  He feels that he doesn’t necessarily know or share in the history of the city and prefers to be somewhere that this is not expected of him.  In his work operating the pedicab he gets asked questions about the city quite a bit.  He impressed me though when he told me the story of Benjamin Banneker.  Banneker worked closely with Andrew Ellicott on finalizing the city plans for the District of Columbia.  I always thought it was the Frenchman Pierre Le’Enfant who was responsible for the entire plans, but George Washington supposedly dismissed Le’Enfant and left

Ellicott and Banneker to salvage the plans.

By the way, for those of you in Maryland, Ellicott and his two brothers established Ellicott Mills, later renamed Ellicott City.

Gravett is someone who lives in the present.  He believes that communication is only real when it is live and spoken.  Sounds are only real when they are produced live from their original source.  We spoke philosophically about these and many items.  Some things we agreed upon.  Others we did not.  But that is ok.  In the spirit of the legendary newscaster Ron Burgundy, we agreed to disagree.  I enjoyed chatting with him so much that soon we were being asked to leave as the coffee shop was closing.  

We gathered our things and headed to the West entrance that boarders Connecticut Avenue.  We said our goodbyes as he put a helmet on and got on his scooter (his legs are probably tired from all the pedaling!)  As I started to leave he said something that I have found myself telling others.  “Thanks for sharing.”

Because that is what we were really doing.  We were both sharing; sharing our time, our ideas, our questions, etc.  Had I not been doing this project, I don’t think I would have ever stopped to talk to Gravett.  I probably would have lived the rest of my life never knowing about Benjamin Banneker.  

Gravett did tell me something that you could help him with.  He would like information on living in Guatemala.  In particular, he is interested in extremely low-cost housing information as well as general safety issues.  He hopes to move there this summer.  If you have information or know where he can research this better, please leave a comment.

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For those in the DC area, check out the 11pm news on NBC 4 Tuesday night.  There is supposed to be a report on the Year of Giving

So the voting for the Clyde’s dinner is done.  The two top finishers were Larry from Day 90 (34 votes) and Roger from Day 57 (11 votes).  Congratulations guys.  I am going to contact them and set up a time with Hans from Clyde’s.  I’ll make sure to get a picture and post it.

Other day I was walking down Connecticut Avenue when I saw a man with two guitars (one with 10-15 feet of rope tied around it) strung around his neck, a baby’s pacifier threaded into his hair, one shoe, and one sandal.  I didn’t really have time at the moment to stop and talk to him, but when else do you find a guy like this, right?!

Gary (Photo: Reed)

So I stop and talk to Gary.  He is 57 and has been in DC since 1967.  He says that he is married, but has an open relationship and doesn’t live with his wife currently.  He has five children.

Gary clearly has some challenges.  He openly admits to a substance abuse problem and some criminal misdemeanors.  I asked if he had been drinking or done any drugs that day and he said no.  When you see the video, you can make up your own mind on that issue.  He told me that he goes to AA meetings regularly at the Reeves Center.

Gary's guitar (Photo: Reed)

I won’t say much more about the man who calls himself “Johnny Wa Wa” except that as I was leaving, a woman stopped and said hello to him.  He asked if she would marry him.  She laughed and said “no.”  He asked for her address and she denied him again.  After I left I saw the woman and asked her about Gary.  She said that he is a smart and very friendly man with a substance abuse problem.  She vouched that he does go to AA meetings.  She herself is a recovering substance abuser and knows Gary through AA meetings.  She shared with me that she recently celebrated five years of sobriety.  It was nice to see her reaching out to be a friend of someone who needs positive influences around them.

Who knows where my $10 will end up…but Gary says he is going to most likely use it to get two strings for his guitar – which only had four strings on it.

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Unfortunately my cousin Ricky passed away on March 12th.  He had a heart attack on Wednesday and later died on Friday.  Although I had not seen Ricky in a long time, I did see his mother (my aunt) much more often.  You never prepare yourself fully to lose a child.  

Welcome to Kroger's!

I traveled to Roanoke, VA on Thursday to be with my family.  While I was there I found myself at the Tanglewood Kroger on the Southwest edge of the city. 

As I walked through the grocery store I found Rob deep in concentration as he studied the Bomb Pops.  I thought I would introduce myself. 

Like me, Rob is unemployed right now.  He was working as a financial specialist for the hospital in Roanoke up until being laid off last August.  Although he would like to find work, he has used his time off to focus on his passion for making music.  He is a one-man recording artist making experimental home-made music.  He goes by the name Sad Wilson and you can hear a sample of his music here.  I listened to a bunch of the songs.  Most of them have heavy tones of melancholy (hence Sad Wilson).  Rob integrates different media into the songs…for example recordings of conversations or telephone operator recordings on top of guitar melodies.  There was something Neil Youngish about Junk Stomp Brain and Pretty Corpse.  All in all not my preferred style, however, I think the experimental approach he has taken is cool and the fact that he does it all himself is amazing. 

Rob with his $10 and favorite Popsicles (Photo: Reed)

I got out my camera to take some pictures…I got a little worried that the Kroger people might come over and ask me to leave or put my camera away.  Jokingly I said to Rob, “They might get upset unless you know somebody that works here.”  He said, well, my grandfather used to be the CEO of Kroger.”  I was like, “really.”  He just looked at me and nodded “yup.”  So…I took some photos! 

Rob plans on using my ten-spot to buy some blank CDs to burn some of his music.  I have a feeling if there is anything left over it will get used for Bomb Pops.  Never met anyone with such an affinity for them! 

Around this time Rob’s friend came by.  I think this was his girlfriend or wife…and I believe her name was Ashley…but I could be wrong.  My note-taking is pretty poor.  Sorry!  They both told me how bad the economy was in Roanoke.  And let me tell you, it looks way more depressed there than in

Rob and Ashley (Photo: Reed)

DC.  Next door to the Kroger is the Tanglewood Mall.  Ashley said, “Yeah,it’s pretty bad…you can find that mall on deadmalls.com!” I checked…she was right.  I also went to the mall…and it aptly listed on the website.  “There’s just a lot of empty buildings around town” she added. 

Although it is sad to see this, it is important to see it.  I think Washington is a little recession proof because of all the government related jobs.  This town needs some life pumped into it.  

I asked the two what they would recommend for someone to see in Roanoke.  They looked at each other, shrugged, and said, “I don’t know….maybe the Star?”  They are referring to the Mill Mountain Star, built in 1949 at the top of Mill Mountain.  It is the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. (There is a bigger one in El Paso, TX, but it isn’t illuminated)  I had actually seen it before…my cousin Martha got married last Fourth of July at a winery in Roanoke that overlooked the Star.  It was a great view and the Star is pretty at night.   

“Other than that…maybe the Taubman Museum…but it’s weird.  It looks like a space ship” they told me.  The Taubman  apparently has permanent and temporary exhibits and focuses mostly on 19th/20th century American art, modern and contemporary art, new media, photography, and visionary art.  I didn’t have time to visit it this time. 

Give Rob’s music a listen.  It’s good to have artists who are pushing the envelope. 

Today’s blog is dedicated to the memory of my cousin Richard “Ricky” C. Huels, Jr.  (Nov. 27, 1959 – March 12, 2010)

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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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I have been so impressed with how many people I know who have opened up their wallets and hearts to help those in Haiti.  Maybe it is because technology has made it easier for us to make contributions, maybe it is because many of us remember our own times of need and how much it means when someone offers to help.  Regardless of the reason, I am impressed.  I have also seen the generous side of many people after they have learned about the Year of Giving.  Thanks to all of you who have offered me support and encouragement.

Today I struck out three times before finding a willing recipient of my $10.  I first approached a city worker.  There is an area of DC called the Golden Triangle.  That district has workers dawned in bright yellow vests whose job it is to help people find where they are going and keep the area clean and safe.  I doubt they get paid very well and they offer a great service.  The first person I approached said he was not able to accept money while he was working.  So, I went on my way and saw a Latino man leaving a bank with a chef’s outfit on.  I approached him and he seemed very skeptical of my intentions.  He said he was working and could not talk to me.  I gave him my card and kept on walking.  Then I saw another Golden Triangle employee and thought I would see if I got the same answer as his colleague.  Sure enough, he toted the company line.

Three refusals…wow.  One more and I will have a new single day record.  I walked by a man sitting on a park bench next to a guitar case.  Bill was dressed all in black and sporting dark sunglasses.  He looked cool and relaxed as he enjoyed his coffee on this warmer than average Tuesday.  I sat down next to him and explained what I was doing.  He smiled easily and said he really liked my project. 

Bill playing a few songs at Dupont Circle

Bill has been playing guitar for 45 years.  He tells me that he has played and worked with all kinds of people in all kinds of places.  From street corners to now mega-star Alicia Keys.  Yep, Bill did some work for Alicia Keys when she was a young teenager.  He says he likes any kind of music, “from the 50’s to Smashing Pumpkins.”  He credits the Ink Spots, the Platters, and all of Motown as influencing factors.

In recent years, Bill has not been so fortunate.  Playing some gigs here and there and getting some extra cash on the street.  He entertains the public in front of the Starbucks at Dupont Circle and the North and South Dupont Metro entrances.  On a good day he says he brings in over $100.  On a bad day $15. 

If you want to check out some of Bill’s music, you can find him on MySpace.  The site is outdated and doesn’t look like it has been updated in a few years.  I asked Bill if he had family and he mentioned 7 brothers and sisters.  On the MySpace page you will also find what looks to be a blog post by Bill in 2007 asking for help finding his two children that he apparently has lost touch with.  Sad.  He is such a nice guy.

So I asked Bill what he was going to do with the money and he said it would go to food and utilities.  I get the feeling he is not paying rent right now and tries to give as much as possible to his roommate, a fellow musician. 

Bill pulled his guitar out and tuned it.  His fingertips tell the whole story; the hardened skin from years of sliding his fingers up and down the guitar.  He plays a couple tunes and even breaks into some vocals as well.  It would have been a beautifully serene moment had it not been for a certifiably crazy man screaming on the next bench over.

Before I left I asked Bill what his all-time favorite song was…Moonlight Serenade.  For those who live/work/play near Dupont Circle, keep an eye out for Bill and say hello.

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