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

David on Day 258 in 2010 (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I want to update you on David G. who was one of my $10 recipients last year. I met David on the corner of Connecticut and Q in D.C. while he was selling the Street Sense newspaper. Homeless in DC for ten years, David hails from Kenya.

When I asked David if he needed anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand program he thought for a minute and then said that he would like to find his cousin and find out more about his father. So with the power of the Internet, I posted their names on the Year of Giving and asked that if anyone knew them to contact me.

Six months later…it happened! By an almost impossible series of events I was on the phone with David’s cousin Ben who was now living in Poland. Check out the update here to find out the latest news in this beautiful story.

You will read in the update that we need to raise a little bit of money to help David…so please consider clicking on the DONATE button on the upper right area of this page and contribute $10 to help reunite David with his family back in Kenya!

These kind of experiences are what it is all about!

To read the original blog post when I met David click here.

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Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC.

Willie and I in October of 2010

A memorable moment for me last year during my 365 day journey was giving $10 to MSNBC morning host and author Willie Geist on Day 317.  He’s intelligent and witty.  His calm demeanor and intoxicating grin create a feeling like he’s a guy you’ve known all your life.

Now usually when I post an update, it’s because I have met up with the recipient and found out how they are doing.  Well, I have tried to follow up with Willie, but he’s a busy television personality and understandably doesn’t probably have time to reply, however, what I want to update you on today is an awkward moment that Willie suffered through this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

TIME Magazine editor at large, Mark Halperin, has one of the weirdest moments on TV that I have seen in a while.  The exchange goes like this:

Joe Scarborough: Mark Halperin, What was the president’s strategy? We are coming up on a deadline and the president decided to please his base, push back against the Republicans. I guess the question is, we know a deal has to be done. Is this showmanship? A lot of times you go up there and both sides and they act tough so their base will be appeased, then they quietly work the deal behind the scenes.

Mark Halperin: Are we on the seven second delay?

Mika Brzezinski: Lordy.

Halperin: I wanted to characterize how the president behaved.

Scarborough: We have it. We can use it. Go for it. Let’s see what happens.

Brzezinski: We’re behind you, you fall down and we catch you.

Halperin: I thought he was a dick yesterday.

Scarborough: Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing? I can’t believe — I was joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that?

Halperin: I said it. I hope it worked.

Scarborough: My mom is watching! We’ll know whether it worked or not.

All along Willie Geist is sitting very uncomfortably next to Halperin.  And it only gets worse.  They come back from commercial and Halperin apologizes while Willie looks on with a look of disappointment and awkwardness.  Check out the video below from the Daily Show where Jon Stewart takes this train wreck one step further and suggests that Willie should chaperon all broadcasted public apologies.

I felt bad for you Willie!  You’re the best!

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Blog post by Reed S. from Washington, DC.

Last year I introduced you to Carlton, a 45-year-old homeless man who took up painting a few years ago and discovered an untapped talent.

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Carlton working on a new painting on Wednesday. (photo: Reed)

Yesterday I was walking around the west side of the traffic circle at Dupont Circle where I found Carlton in the exact same location I found him last summer.  Sweat beading down his forehead, he greeted me with an upbeat hello.  “Everything is cheap.  Really cheap,” he told me.  I reminded him who I was and he claimed to remember meeting me although I am not sure.

He reminded me why he chose this location to do his paintings.  “I used to panhandle right here and now I want all those people who knew me then to see what I am doing now!”

Having not seen him much lately I asked if he had started painting someplace else.  He explained that he had been down in Norfolk,VA helping with his mother who is struggling with diabetes.

Sitting on the concrete sidewalk, just feet away from some leftover puddles from a mid-afternoon shower, Carlton started to work on a clean canvas.  “I painted a parrot today!” he blurted out.  “I’ve never painted animals before.”  I prefer his landscapes.

Carlton, who battles HIV, stays healthy by walking and biking throughout the city.  “I’m staying over near Gallaudet University now and ride my bike all the way over here.”  That’s about 30 blocks and in this heat it’s easier said than done.

He seems to turn into Bob Ross and starts painting happy bushes and trees.  “I ran out of black paint,” he told me as he used a piece of sponge to smear a terracotta colored horizon.

Always working the crowd, Carlton is keenly aware of when the eyes of passersby focus on his work.  “I’m Carlton, the homeless artist,” he says in his raspy voice.  “They’re all very inexpensive.”  She’s silent and he goes back to putting in some trees on his newest work.  “Talk to me,” he says grinning and hoping she will make an offer on one of the half-dozen paintings that surround him.

I shove a few dollars in his cup and shake his slippery hand.  “Now you tell your wife (I’m not married by the way) that you didn’t fall in the mud, you tell her you shook Carlton the homeless painter’s hand!”

You can see video of Carlton from my first visit by clicking here.

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Blog post by Reed S., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

A year ago this week I met a charismatic young post-grad student from Georgetown University: Alex S.  His story is one of my favorites and one that I tell over and over because I love how he thought outside the box and was creative and thoughtful with how he used the $10.

Here it is…

Originally posted on April 12, 2010

So this morning I heard the NPR story by Liane Hansen…it was great!  If you missed it, check it out here.

So I was walking around my neighborhood one night looking for someone to give my $10 to.  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  There really isn’t any scientific method, but more of an instinctive gut reaction that I have.  Something about the person makes them interesting to me.  Maybe they are dressed in an interesting way, maybe a pan-handler says something clever, or perhaps it’s just a nice bus driver.

Alex is sitting in a small park on a bench reading a book at about 9:00pm.  The dim light from a nearby street lamp is just enough for him to read his book: Negotiating Across Culture by Raymond Cohen.

Alex is dressed in a suit sans tie.  He looks comfortable and at ease with me approaching and sitting down next to him.  He is reading the textbook for his post-grad coursework at Georgetown.  In addition to his schoolwork, Alex also has a part-time job at a DC think tank.  As I explain to him my year-long commitment I learn that his birthday is December 15th (the day I started the Year of Giving).  Somehow I feel that I was meant to meet Alex.

When Alex isn’t studying, working at the think tank or taking in a night at local art galleries (that’s what he was doing this night) he gives his time.  He helps out at shelters and kitchens around DC.  He has volunteered several times atLoaves and Fishes, a ministry of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church that has been serving lunch to the hungry and homeless on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays since 1968.

Alex hopes to work in international development and policy in Africa.  This is no surprise given his vast international experience.  For a 24-year-old he has seen a lot of the world.  Check out the video where we talk a little about his experiences overseas.

The following is a letter that I received from Alex explaining how he used the $10.  Also, take note of the link to the study on kindness at the end…definitely worth a read.

Hey Reed,

I was really unexpected and nice meeting you the other night. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I really think your project is fantastic. I think it’s great that you have embraced the curiosity, generosity, and faith in other people that a lot of us aspire to. I too believe that there’s so many incredible and interesting people we encounter in our daily lives that we seldom take the time to stop and appreciate. I myself wish I did it more.

So, I told you I’d write you to tell you how I’d spend my money.  Basically, 10 bucks isn’t going to change what I can afford, or what some deserving NGO in the area could do if I gave the money to them.  But, what the gesture of yours can do is change something I do, particularly stopping to appreciate the people we see in our daily lives but maybe don’t stop to acknowledge or appreciate. So, what I decided to do was spend that money on some cookie supplies, bake some cookies and give them to people we don’t too often acknowledge – the guys who hand out the WaPo Express, the people who work at the Metro stations and the cleaning people and receptionist in my building on K Street.

Oh and I also thought you’d be interested in this article I came across on the kindness multiplier. Reminds you that an act of kindness has consequences you don’t see!

Cheers and best of luck,

Alex (109)

Thanks Alex.  What a thoughtful and creative use of the $10.  I would love to know how the people reacted!  If you haven’t already done it yet and can record it, it would be great to post here!  It was great to meet you…thanks for making this giving experience so special.

Update 4/9/2011

Alex attended the Year-End Celebration in December.  And he didn’t show up empty handed either.  Would you believe that he showed up with cookies to share?  What a thoughtful guy!

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By Reed Sandridge, a Kindness Investor and Founder of Year of Giving.

Matt out of costume (courtesy of Faction of Fools)

I thought I would catch you up on a former recipient: Matt from Day 250.  Although I met up with him in February, it somehow seemed appropriate to share this update with you this week since two days ago marked the Ides of March and you might recall Matt was portraying William Shakespeare when I originally met him at an arts festival for children back in August of 2010.

My recent encounter with Matt was at a fundraiser he was throwing to try to raise money for his nonprofit theatre company called Faction of Fools, which focuses on Commedia delle’Arte.  Commedia del what?  It’s a genre of theatre characterized by its use of masks, improvisation, physical comedy, and recognizable character types – all characters are based off of four specific types of characters.  You can find more information here.

As I walked in the door of the Gala Carnavale I was greeted by one of the characters who announced in a thunderous voice to all the other guests, “Welcome Lord Sandridge.”  I thought I was special for about a minute when the front door opened and two more people came in and their names were also proudly announced as well.  I was fitted with a mask and then saw Matt, who was wearing a suit instead of a costume.  I took off my mask to say hello.  He looked a little tired which is reasonable right?  He’s been working his but off to pull this event together.

And it was not only going on here in Washington, but all over the world.  February 25th is Commedia delle’Arte day.  What the heck is that you might ask? Well, “It’s the ‘birthday’ of professional theatre,” Matt explained.  “On February 25, 1545, a troupe under the leadership of Ser Maphio signed the first contract of theatrical incorporation in Padua, Italy.”

“For the first time in history there are celebrations on every continent,” he shared with a glowing smile.  Yep, even the winter-over crew of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica was also hosting a celebration.  Matt had been busy!

That's Matt under that mask performing The Great One-Man Commedia Epic

The evening was a huge success.  There were some amazing items to bid on in the silent auction, delicious food and drink and of course, a sampling of theatrical pieces that they have been performing.  I tried pretty hard to get some of the items in the silent auction, but I ended up getting outbid.

For those of you in DC, keep a look out for Faction of Fools.  Their performances are a lot of fun.  As I was writing this up I saw that Matt is doing his signature piece, The Great One-Man Commedia Epic, this Sunday at The Corner Store.  It’s pretty wild.  Matt plays all 12 characters!

Oh, I almost forgot.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Be careful if you are out and about tonight.  It’s amateur drinking night.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when our newest Kindness Investor, Sibyl from Brentwood, TN, starts her seven days of giving.

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Before I share with you my amazing volunteer experience at Miriam’s Kitchen here in Washington, DC, I want to introduce you to a very important person at the Year of Giving.  His name is Kyle.

A photo of Kyle when I met him back in October of 2010.

Some of you might remember him from Day 311 last year when I gave him my $10 for the day after seeing him do a stand-up routine at a local open mic night.  He recently graduated from the University of New Hampshire and completed an internship here in Washington, DC at a talk news radio station.

The Year of Giving has grown and around the beginning of this year I realized I needed some help.  Kyle volunteered to be the Web Editor and help keep the daily blog posts coming.  In addition to volunteering with the Year of Giving, he’s currently looking for magazine or internet related journalism work in New Hampshire, Washington, DC or potentially other areas of the country.  Please reach out and let him know if you have any connections or ideas for him.  Although he has worked in news, I know that he is also very interested in music and film journalism.

DSC_0038.jpgSo back to today’s volunteer experience.  I was so impressed when I walked into Miriam’s Kitchen.  It was warm, not because of the ovens but because of the love.  I was almost immediately met by Ashley, the Development and Volunteer Manager.  She gave me, and the other 8-10 volunteers for the day, an overview of the 28-year-old organization.  “We like to bring people in through our healthy great tasting food,” she said going on to add that their guests usually stay and utilize the many other services available to their guests.  There was a station full of donated personal hygiene products, a security guard who also gives a hell of a sharp-looking haircut, case managers, legal assistance, access to healthcare, etc.  “A lot of our guests don’t have a physical address so we allow them to have mail sent here too,” she added.

I strapped on a blue or purple apron (I’m color-blind, so who knows which one it was) and was sent to help out Chef Tom.  He had me preparing some home-made chicken and duck stock.  After that I helped wash some of the items used earlier that morning and get them put away.  After the kitchen was in good shape it was time to go out and work the front side of the house.

The inviting dining room had about 25 tables, all with fresh flowers on them, some of them even had cards and games on them.  The walls were covered with art work from the guests.  “It’s a fun environment,” Ashley said as smiling staff members and volunteers started to greet guests making their way in out of the cold.  I was assigned to the personal hygiene station and got to interact with several of the guests who needed essential items such as multi vitamins, deodorant, toothpaste, shaving supplies, condoms, etc.  Everything of course is free for the guests; however, they are limited to receiving a reasonable amount of the items.

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Just one of the delicious items being prepared at Miriam's Kitchen.

Ashley then asked if I would help refill juice cups to those who were seated eating their lunch.  This got me circulating a bit more and I was able to spot some familiar faces: Jim M., Lionel and Bill C. I spent some time speaking with each of them and will update you in the coming weeks on how these 2010 YOGIs are doing.

Lunch came to an end and the dining area transformed into an art center with several of the guests busy working on projects.  Bill was working on a new painting.  “I’m not sure what it is going to be yet,” he told me as he applied some broad strokes to the canvas.  He showed me several of his pieces which were going to be highlighted in an art show being held the following day at Miriam’s.

DSC_0022.jpgMy shift ended and I cleaned up and said my goodbyes.  I walked out into the brisk afternoon, the sun warming my face as I headed north along 24th Street.  I was impressed by how well the staff seemed to know the guests.  “Yesterday we had 212 guests for breakfast,” Ashley told me earlier, “and our case managers knew all but three of them by name.”  Everyone there seemed happy.  It was almost family-like.

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Reed finishing up in the kitchen.

This appears to be a really well run operation.  That being said, they rely on support from volunteers and donations.  If you live in the DC area you can check their list of volunteer needs.  In addition to your time they need lots of items for their guests such as: gloves, socks, long johns, sleeping bags, jackets, yarn, crazy glue, Crayola markers.  If you would like to donate any of these items, reach out to me and I can see that they get there.  If you would prefer, you can also make a financial contribution.

Thanks to Ashley and everyone at Miriam’s!  You guys are awesome.

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A picture of Bob from my original encounter with him a year ago. (Photo: Reed)

Tomorrow will mark exactly one year since I met Bob on the basketball court near the intersection of 17th and P Streets in DC.  Draped in layers of clothing and blankets Bob made me very nervous.  I remember his hands disappearing under the garments several times as he erratically moved closer to my face calling me stupid.  “Was there a weapon concealed beneath the sea of fabrics he wore?” I thought to myself as I held my ground.

It turns out that Bob suffers from mental illness and probably doesn’t pose a threat to anyone.  I have seen him a few times since our original encounter; however, I hadn’t been able to really talk to him until last night.  It was just before midnight as I headed home from a dinner at Birch and Barley on 16th Street with an old colleague in town for the week.

“Oh, yeah…you were the one who writes the stories,” he told me after I reminded him that I had given him $10.  “Well, ok,” he began to say nervously, “So, how have things been with you?”  I gave him a quick update on me and then tried to find out what he has been up to.

He was dressed in the exact same sweatshirt and torn slippers that he wore a year ago.  The aluminum foil, rags and plastic bags that covered his head were gone; however, he now had a small swatch of aluminum foil covering his nose.  It was held in place by a rubber band that wrapped around his head, forcing the skin of his upper cheeks toward his eyes.

I watched as he shot from the foul line.  Like my earlier encounter he sank basket after basket always shooting with just the right hand.  In his left hand he held a newspaper, bottle of water and the corner of the grey standard issue homeless outreach blanket.  His twelfth attempt wasn’t successful.  “That wasn’t a good shot,” he said as he released the slightly deflated ball, “I’m not concentrating.”  I apologized and offered that he probably missed the shot because I was talking to him.  He says that he believes that he has made 20+ one-handed shots from the foul line this century.  That doesn’t compare to his record of lay-ups in a row which he claims to be approximately 2,900.

The evening was definitely worthy of a warm jacket but the still air and bright light from the moon’s last quarter phase helped mitigate the temperature.  He seemed to be shooting a little hastily, albeit every time placing his toe exposed slippers in the exact same location.

“I think there is about four or five specific movements that I do and I try to do them exactly the same way every time in order to make a basket.”  He went on to explain that the key is to add a little bit of top-spin to the release.

Another photo from my original encounter with Bob in 2010.

I stood in silence and watched him shoot.  He’s truly gifted at being able to reproduce the same shot.  One of his attempts misses and I take the opportunity to ask him about the $10 I had given him.  I actually never asked him what he was going to use it for so I thought I would try to take the moment to find out.  He didn’t recall very well, after all it has been a year, but he said it probably went toward some food or bus fare.

My question about money must have triggered something in his head.  “Do you have a few dollars that you could give me,” he asked not taking his eyes from his target.  The shot missed and he walked over to retrieve the ball next to his cart holding his belongings.  I reached into my pockets and found some coins.  “I hate to ask you but I need to add a few dollars on my Metro card.”  I pulled a five dollar bill from my wallet and placed it in his hand.

Shortly after I thought I should leave.  It was now close to 12:30 in the morning and I needed to get up early.  I shook his weathered hand and told him to take care of himself.  He returned the pleasantry and continued shooting baskets.  I watched him shoot as I excited the court.  He made three in a row before he slipped out of sight.

You can find my original post on Bob by clicking here.

 

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC.

When I started the second Year of Giving and invited others who were out of work or underemployed to pick up where I left off after my 365 day journey I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that a year was way too long to find someone who would continue the giving; however, I figured that I could easily find people who would commit to seven days of giving.  I was wrong!  I’ve had a hard time finding new Kindness Investors.  Can you feel me trying to nudge those of you who are on the fence about it?

As a result I am in a situation where we have no Kindness Investor for a few days; however, I figured I would take advantage of this time to give you some updates on some of the amazing people that I met last year.

 

This is Knox on December 15th, 2009.

The Year of Giving began on the afternoon of December 15th 2009.  On that chilly monochromatic day, I got rejected twice before finding Knox who accepted my $10 as he hawked his shoe shining services on the corner of 21st and P Streets in DC.

 

Fast forward 365 days and Knox made it to the year-end celebration on December 14th 2010.  There is a great photo of us from that event.

And then I ran into Knox on February 12th after I was volunteering with Yachad.  It was ten minutes shy of midnight when I heard the familiar voice reaching out to the alcohol coated passersby on 7th Street near Chinatown.

We chatted for a while.  “Business is good,” he told me.  And he said that he has been doing well.  He claims to have a handle on his addictions although I am not sure what that means…especially after he produces a bottle of shaojiu, an indiscernible clear white liquor that based purely on the label probably has never made it to any FDA testing lab.

 

One year after meeting him, I was reunited with Knox, my very first recipient, . (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

Anyway, Knox is Knox.  He still thinks that I am some sort of event producer.  Ever since I invited him to the year-end party he thinks that I organize regular events.  He encourages me to throw another party soon and invite him to shine shoes.  I let him in on the secret that I am actually not an event planner…although I guess I could be as it seems that I am collecting professions these days.  He seemed disappointed but I promised him that when I throw the year-end celebration in December that he will again get an invite.

 

I updated his cell number in my phone, handed him the three dollars I had left in my pocket and said goodbye.  It was late and I don’t think I was helping his business a bit.

To read my original blog post on Knox that I posted on December 16th, 2009, click here.

 

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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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Carlton sometimes does as many as 10 paintings a day (photo: Reed)

Carlton is sprawled out on the sidewalk in front of Bank of America along Dupont Circle, his feet extending over the edge of the curb and into traffic.  His right hand, covered with paint, swiftly dances over the canvas of a landscape of a far off mountain accompanied by some trees in the foreground.  He pops up and talks to a man who approaches him.  He displays another painting that he has next to him to the man.  They talk for a few minutes and then the man takes his wallet out and pulls a twenty from it and places it in Carlton’s hand.  In exchange he hands him the painting.

I decided to go up to Carlton and ask if he would accept my $10.  He was genuinely curious about what I was doing.  We chatted about his past, the present and the future.  It was a pretty memorable evening.

photo: Reed

At 45 Carlton has been through a lot.  But painting here at Dupont Circle brings his story full circle.  You see it was here about 10 years ago that he used to sleep in the park and panhandle in front of the CVS.  He was a homeless out-of-work drug user.  One evening he went into the park and shot up with some dirty needles.  He suspects it was that specific night that he contracted the HIV virus.  He knew it wasn’t a good idea, but the addiction had blurred his judgment.  It reminds me of Rob from Day 117 who said, “The thing about addiction is that people continue these behaviors in spite of catastrophic consequences.”  Anyway, he went years without knowing he was infected until he started to get quite ill and lost a considerable amount of weight.  He went to the hospital and found out that he was HIV positive.  He says that his health is good these days thanks to three little pills that he takes every day.  He says he knocked his drug addiction although still drinks alcohol which I could smell on his breath.

It was only about a year and a half ago that Carlton started painting.  “I didn’t want to panhandle no more” he said.  He got started when a woman left him some paint by the bench where he was sleeping.  He decided to give it a try.  “God taught me,” he answers when I ask if he was self-taught.  The reason he chooses to paint at Dupont Circle is that he hopes that some of the same people who used to see him strung out years ago will see him today and realize that he has talent and that he has improved his situation.  He talks to me about why he likes to paint landscapes, how he has deals with being HIV positive and being homeless:

With the money that I gave him he said he was going to buy some colored paints.

Here is another few minutes of my conversation with Carlton. I asked him how others can help him and I thought his answer was beautiful.

I really enjoyed talking with him.  As it got late and he finished his last painting he said that he needed to catch the Metro.  “Hey, why don’t you take this painting” he offers as he pushes the painting you see in these pictures toward me.  I told him that I couldn’t receive anything in return for the $10 but I did appreciate the gesture.

 
If you would like to find Carlton, he is often at Dupont Circle in front of the Bank of America during the afternoons.  And sometimes he is there at night, like today.  His paintings range from $20 and up, depending on the size and type.

UPDATE: I ran into Carlton on June 1, 2011 and visited with him for a while.  You can read about my latest encounter with him by clicking here.

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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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