Archive for July 8th, 2010

Rigatoni with “Sunday gravy” at Potenza. (Photo: Scott Suchman)

I recently had the chance to meet with some friends that were visiting from Toronto.  We decided to meet for dinner with another friend of ours who lives in DC at a relatively new Italian restaurant called Potenza that is just a block or two from the White House.  The food was good.  They are known for their oval pizzas, but none of us ordered pizza.

After dinner, I decided to walk around the neighborhood downtown and see if I could find a recipient for my $10.  I walked for about 20 minutes, not really seeing anyone that I felt was right, until I spotted Valerie.  And boy was I ever right.  This one is amazing, wait until you see the video!

It was about 10:30pm and Valerie was carrying three bags and walking with a pronounced limp north on 11th Street.  When she got to H Street I gathered the courage to stop her and ask her to accept my $10.  The 55-year-old mother of four, grandmother of 12, told me she liked what I was doing but preferred not to participate.  She put her bags down and we started to talk.  I wasn’t going to let her get away!

Washington, DC, April 5, 1968 (photo: unknown)

She told me that she was born here in the nation’s capital.  Valerie remembers the riots that erupted in Washington after the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  “They burnt down this jewelry store over on H and 8th Streets in Northeast.  There was a black man walking around where the jewelry store used to be throwing diamonds up in the air!”  Things are better now though she says.

She talks to me about her 89-year-old mother.  “She moved here from Ohio and she’s still here.  Sharp and in good health.”  I bet she is a good woman because she certainly raised a good woman. 

Valerie was on her way home from work where she cleans offices.  “Where were you when I needed you…when I was broke!” she says.  Her laughter quickly subsides and she goes back to telling me that I should just give it to somebody else.  We go back and forth on this and she says, I could use it to take a cab home instead of a bus, but I can’t do that.  I asked her why not and she said, “I need [the ten dollars], but I don’t need that bad.” 

There was a point when I thought that I had convinced her to take the money.  Then she really started getting anxious, almost panicking a little bit.  Her eyes darted back and forth behind her large frame glasses sweeping the streets for someone to give it to.  She just wanted to get rid of it as fast as possible so she wasn’t tempted to use it on herself. 

Well, take a look at what happens when she finds who she is going to give it to and then gives it to them right before my eyes!  Her face lights up so much when she decides what to do with it, it’s great.  Check it out!

I waited with Valerie until her bus came.  The S2 pulled up and she got on and headed toward her home in Southeast.

Wow…what a great night.  I only wish she would have given me her contact information so that I could keep in touch with her and make sure she comes to the year-end celebration in December!  If anyone knows her, let me know.

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First of all thank you so much for all the kind notes, emails and comments about my new job here and on Facebook.  I am very excited about this opportunity!

Photo: Reed

Summer time is a great time to get outside and visit a farmer’s market.  I was walking downtown on Day 192 when I came across a small farmer’s market near Penn Quarter in DC.  Near the corner of 8th & H Streets was stand with a yellow tent with the name Endless Summer Harvest on it.  I decided to wander over and find out what exactly the folks at Endless Summer Harvest were all about.

Photo: Reed

  • The water stays in the system and can be reused- thus, lower water costs
  • It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety- thus, lower nutrition costs
  • No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system
  • Stable and high yields
  • Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container’s mobility

Cassandra and Zack (photo: Reed)

The main disadvantage of hydroponic systems is that great caution must be taken to control the growth of salmonella due to the high humidity environment coupled with the presence of fertilizers.

 Anyway, I got to meet two great people who were working at the stand: Cassandra and Zack.  Day 192’s recipients met while studying biology at James Madison University.  Cassandra works full-time at the Alliance to Save Energy and helps Endless Summer Harvest out on Thursdays at the farmer’s market.  Zack, a 21-year-old JMU student, has worked at Endless Summer Harvest since high school. 

Photo: Reed

I asked the two of them what they were going to do with the $10 and they said that they were going to donate it to a group that works to stop mountaintop removal for coal mining purposes.  I am trying to find the exact organization and when I do I will post it here.  There are lots of negative environmental effects of this practice.  My new employer, the World Wildlife Fund, has this to say about it on their website:

In West Virginia and other Appalachian states – in one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions of the world – mountaintops are torn apart to gain access to low-sulfur coal lying underneath. The leftover rock and earth is dumped into nearby valleys and streams. These practices threaten songbirds and other wildlife dependent on large tracts of interior forest, and the mussels, fish, crayfish, and invertebrates found in the streams. Hundreds of miles of streams have been buried by the dumping of such wastes in the past, in an ecoregion that WWF has identified as being globally outstanding.

Photo: Reed

I enjoyed meeting Cassandra and Zack.  They opened the door to a new world to me, the vendor community at farmers markets.  They seem more like partners than competitors.  “The fruit people do really well,” Zack says with a little bit of envy, “but we all help one another out.”  While I was talking to them several other stands stopped by to see if they could use some left over product that they had.

7pm came around and they started to pack up.  I was impressed at how quickly they tore down and got everything packed up.  Cassandra wasn’t scared to get her hands dirty either.  She didn’t hesitate to pick up the huge coolers they use and load the van.

Photo: Reed

 Note: The Penn Quarter Farmers Market is administered by Freshfarm Markets and is located at the north end of 8th St. NW, between D and E Streets.  According to a representative of the organization, it is open every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) from April 1 – Dec. 23rd from 3pm – 7pm.

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