Archive for April 30th, 2010

Last Monday I was on my way to meet up with a friend for dinner when I came across Doug near the corner of 7th and E in Penn Quarter.  He was sitting on top of a hard suitcase, the small kind that you see flight crews carry all the time.  Next to him was a larger suitcase with a bag on top.  Tied to the handle of the large suitcase was a cardboard sign which read, “Travel funds needed.  Extreme Duress.  Borderline Crippled Due to illegal Activity on ME.”

Photo: Reed

I first walked by him and then stopped to check my watch.  I was supposed to meet up for dinner at 7:30, it was now 7:20.  What the heck, I went back and introduced myself and gave him my $10.

I can’t say that I know too much more about Doug after chatting with him for 15 minutes.  Although he talked a lot, he told me very little.  Most of my questions went unanswered and often he just spiraled into long-winded rants about injustices that he has suffered, the details of which he didn’t care to share.

“I am a semi-long term resident of greater Seattle,” he told me.

According to Doug, he came out here a little over a year ago with the intention on staying for just one month so that he could “get done what I came here to do.”  He kept referring to doing everything in his power to legally make things right.  I probed again about what he was trying to do and he shifted into a rant on how some people take advantage of others.

“I bet some people would intentionally trip the blind just to hurt them, you know?”  “If a blind person were to walk by here I bet some people would try to trip’em just to hurt’em, you know what I mean?”  Getting nowhere, I tried to go back and focus on more basic questions like his age.

“Well, how old do I look?”

I tried to dodge that question myself.  I finally answered that I thought he was in his 50s.  He said, “Well that’s not too bad, not after what I have been through.”  

I told him that I was interested in knowing more about that and he replied, “I don’t want to get into details.”

He did tell me that he planned to use the money to buy some food that night and some coffee and breakfast in the morning.  Who knows though, he clearly has some issues and I am not sure I got a single straight answer out of him.  

I knew that he wasn’t going to allow me to photograph or videotape him, but I figured I had nothing to lose right?  He said he didn’t want to be in any photos, but agreed to me taking a picture of his sign.

He continued to rant about things that made very little sense. 

I waited until he paused for a second and then told him I needed to head on my way and extended my hand toward him.  He said he couldn’t shake my hand as his was full of fractured bones.  We left it at that.

Maybe Ivory from Day 49 knows his story.  Ivory sells the Street Sense just a block or two away and he seems to know everyone around there.  I will stop by and check with Ivory one of these days.

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Filter, 1726 20th St., NW, DC

On Sunday I checked out a new coffee house in Dupont called Filter.  It’s well located, tucked behind Connecticut Avenue on the more laid back 20th Street.  I descended a few stairs and walked into the cozy, hip coffee joint an ordered an espresso.  The prices seemed slightly higher than Starbucks and Cosi, both of which are right around the corner.  Overall I liked the place, despite a guy who was working there complaining that a nearby restaurant manager sent about 10 or 15 of her staff over to get espresso so that they understood what a good espresso tasted like.  He didn’t like that they got it to go and one person reached for a cup before it was ready, etc.  Anyway, when you work in an open atmosphere you need to be cognizant that others can hear your conversation.  As a new location, I would have been thrilled to have 15 customers.

While I was there I met Mark, a graduating senior studying economics at the George Washington University here in DC.  He graduates on May 17th and is frantically wrapping up his final papers and studying for his last exams.  I remember my last week of college.  It was a great feeling to be “finished.”  Little did I know that I was only finished with another segment of life and that new challenges and tests were just over the horizon. 

Mark is from the DC area.  He grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Magruder High School.  

He and I have something in common related to the $10.  Well, in a round about way.  So Mark has a plan to go to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and embark on a bicycling journey all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina.  I asked him how far this was and he said, “I don’t know exactly…several thousand miles.”  Well, I did a little checking and I calculated that it will be at least 11,000 miles!  That is like going across the continental US from ocean to ocean 3.5 times!  Along the way he plans to give people $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope.  He will ask that they send him photos, stories, poems, etc. to him as well as a note explaining how they used the money.  He sees it as a way to get to know the individuals as well as study the marginal propensity to save (or to consume) in different cultures.

Anyway, watch the video and you will learn a little more about Mark’s interest in cycling, his cycling trip around Spain and France as well as his plans for his upcoming trip from Alaska to Argentina.  I also included a small piece where he talks about volunteering to help an adult read better.  

As you might expect, Mark put the $10 toward his savings needed to make the trip.

I asked Mark if we could help him with anything on the Lend a Hand page.  He said he needs funds to help him make his journey to Argentina.  He applied for a grant from the University but was denied.  I think there is a way to make this happen with corporate and individual donations.  Furthermore, he needs to find a house/apartment in DC for the summer.  He is looking for a place in DC that he will share with three other friends with a monthly rent of less than $3,000/month.  Mark is also looking for a summer job, possibly in economic development but he is also open to other ideas.  He seems like a great guy and would be a good addition to any business.  

Reed and Mark

Before we said goodbye, Mark asked if I would consider being on the finish line in Argentina when he gets there.  I would love that!  We agreed to meet in a couple of weeks and do a bike ride after I get my bike out and get into shape a little.  I was so inspired after our conversation, that I went home, got my bike in working order and took it for a short ride that evening.  Thanks Mark!

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