Archive for January 16th, 2010

I was on my way to help construct the stage for the theatre production that I will be performing in starting January 22nd.  [For those of you in the DC area, come see the Foreigner at Rockville Little Theatre.  Details can be found here!] 

I was heading up to Rockville, MD on Georgia Avenue where you turn off to Veirs Mill Road and saw a woman standing on the median with a sign that said, “Not homeless yet.”  I made a u-turn and parked at a Baptist church, crossed to the median and went to speak with her.

As I walked up to her, she crossed her arms in an “X” shape and said, “Oh no!” as if she was trying to keep me away from her.  What the heck?  This has never happened.  Was I wearing my Montgomery County Police Department hat?  I asked her what was wrong and she said, “Your shirt….you a Redskins fan?”  I was wearing a Washington Redskins shirt.  It was then I noticed her Dallas Cowboys hat.  Oh lord…my second Cowboys fan here in DC that I have encountered in my Year of Giving.  I explain that I am actually a Steelers fan and we form a truce.

Dana, a 47-year-old single woman living in Maryland, says she is at the Georgia Ave. / Veirs Mill Rd. location almost every day from 9am to at least noon.  She claims to have hit financial turbulence two years ago when her mother passed away and left her with a house that still owed more than $60,000.  She says that she was unable to make the mortgage payments and the house entered into foreclosure.  She offers to show me the foreclosure papers that she has in her bag, but I didn’t think that was necessary. 

She says she is looking for work.  “I will scrub floors, clean toilets, whatever!” she says.  She gets by with the money she collects at this intersection now.  A Wonder® Bread truck rolls past and she hollers out, “Hi honey!”  She goes on to say, “Sometimes the driver gives me some leftover bread and pastries.”

This got me thinking.  I asked her what was the best thing she had received from someone driving by.  Her answer intrigued me.  Instead of saying a dollar amount or some material good, she said that the most valuable thing that she had received was encouragement from those that speak with her. 

She says she will use the $10 for food. 

Dana is very likeable.  She has been hardened considerably by her life experiences, but that doesn’t keep her down.  She is very positive and optimistic and smiles often; revealing that she has almost no teeth left.  We chat for a few more minutes as cars wiz by us on both sides.  She probably notices my slight fear of standing only 3 feet away on both sides from cars traveling 40 miles an hour.

I asked her if I could take a picture of her with her sign.  She agrees, but the camera on my phone doesn’t work.  I told her I would try to see her some day next week.  I thanked her for her time, wished her good luck, and said goodbye.

If anyone would like to reach Dana or help her, please let me know.

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So today my brother Ryan invited me to go with him to see the Washington Capitals hockey match against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The game was a lot of fun.  The Caps won easily 6-1.  Even though I was happy to see the Caps win, I felt sorry for the Maple Leafs’ goalie, Vesa Toskala.  He is from Finland and I have a soft spot for Finns having worked for a Finnish company for 7 years and seeing how passionate they are about their hockey.

After the game, Ryan and I walked toward Metro Center and passed a guy who had several buckets set up as a drum set.  He was jamming pretty good.  I thought, I ought to give this man my $10! 

Garland keeping the beat in front of the National Portrait Gallery

His name is Garland although many people know him as the “DC Street Drummer.” He is 33 and actually lives in Baltimore, not DC.  Garland and I chatted for a while.  He told me that he had been drumming on buckets since he was 13.  He comes down to DC because street musicians do not need a license here and you can make a decent amount of money according to him.  “Here at Gallery Place, I make about $100 a night, but over in Georgetown on 19th & M I can bring in $150 easily.” Not bad for doing a little drumming on equipment that he says cost him about $20.

An interesting tidbit is that while we were waiting to talk with Garland we saw a young drunk guy dancing in front of the drummer trying to impress some girls.  He threw a dollar in the drummer’s bucket and continued to dance.  Then he pulled his phone or something out of his pocket and we saw some money fall to the ground.  My brother and I both tried several times to tell the whacked-out dancer that he had dropped some money, but in his highly inebriated state he motioned for us to go away and stop bothering him.  After he left, my brother picked up the money that had fallen and discovered almost $50 in cash.  He put it in the Garland’s bucket.

Garland has one large industrial size trash can and then an array of buckets.  All are on top of those orange-colored pylons that police use.  He uses sawed off mop handles for drum sticks.  The rudimentary set up doesn’t hold him back as he methodically keeps the beat for those who are passing by.

Garland said that he doesn’t drink or do any drugs.  You would think that he was on something given the tremendous amount of energy he has.  He proudly tells me about a movie opportunity that he might have and some other gigs that he has been offered.  He talks about all the kind people that visit him every day.  It’s clear that he has carved a niche for himself here in DC.  If you would like to see him, you can check him out here.  If you want to see him live, keep an eye out (or maybe your ear open) for him around: Georgetown (19th/M), Downtown (9th/Constitution), Dupont Circle (South Metro entrance), and Gallery Place (in front of the National Portrait Gallery.)  Garland gave me his contact details if anyone would like to contact him for work or to do a story on him.

He says that he will use the $10 to pay for food for him, his wife, and two-year-old son.  I note this in my small black notebook and start to wrap up the conversation.  I see my brother talking to one of Garland’s friends, Gary.  I try to eavesdrop on what they are talking about all awhile listening to Garland.  I am not successful.  I can’t understand either of them.  So I decide to finish up and thank Garland.

By the way…I enjoy street drumming.  I think my favorite street drummers are Jermaine Carter (Boston), some street drummers from Chicago (don’t know their name, but there are like 4 or 5 of them that play together outside the baseball stadiums and around some of the L stations, and the Brazilian carnival drummers.  There’s something about the way Jermaine Carter contorts his mouth when he plays that is reminiscent of Sammy Davis Jr.

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