Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘U Street’

View from Tabaq of the Washington Monument keeping watch over DC.

On day 352 I headed over to Tabaq Bistro, the venue for my year-end celebration, to meet up with my friend Patricia who managed the entire event.  She’s a rock star and knows how to run events.  We went over a bunch of logistical issues about things you’d never dream of (i.e. will they have waiters or a buffet table, what kind of connection cables does their sound system use (1/4 inch if you were wondering), does the price quoted include serving plates and napkins, and the list goes on.  After an exhausting review of items, my head was sufficiently cloudy and we decided to get some food upstairs and figure out what we had forgotten.

We maneuvered our way up the two flights of dimly lit stairs to the upper level of Tabaq which has one of the best views in DC if you haven’t been there.  Its wall to wall glass gives sweeping views toward the downtown, the monuments and beyond.  We grabbed some space at the rather empty bar area and ordered a drink and began perusing the dinner menu.  Muhammara, that sounds interesting.  It’s a roasted red pepper and walnut puree.  We got one of those and chicken breast stuffed with spinach, cheese and peppers that glistened with thin layer of port wine sauce.  My mind swirled like the cocktails the bartender was serving up.  There were a myriad of things that had to still get done that day.  One of which was to deliver my $10 to some unsuspecting individual.

Rachel chatting with Patricia.

Our bartender was a young woman named Rachel.  Why not give it to her?  She was very friendly and frankly had the time since at the time we were her only customers.  The Connecticut native had been working there for about a month.  She recently graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  My friend Patricia also went to American University here in DC and actually knew exactly where Rachel lived in Connecticut.  Small world…almost freaky.

Rachel mixes up the perfect martini.

The world is in fact small for Rachel.  She loves to travel.  Maybe it’s because her father is originally from New Zealand and she has always had the international bug.  Her father grew up in Auckland.  “I’d like to move to New Zealand some day,” Rachel says.  “Maybe try sailing or just hang out for a while,” she added.

At some point the conversation turned very technical focusing on the specific fonts she used to develop her website – which you can find here!  “I used universe font,” she started to say, “I tried to avoid gil sans and helvetica.”  Fonts…hmm, I can barely choose between wearing brown or black shoes in the morning much less what kind of font I am going to use on my website and documents.  Patricia and Rachel debated the finer points of fonts – the conversation gliding far above my comprehension.  I drifted in and out of the conversation while shifting my attention to the hearty portion of Muhammara that was still in front of us.

A cherry blossom photograph that Rachel made. For more of her work, click on the photo to visit her website.

Rachel stood close enough to get us something should we need it but not too close to make us feel uncomfortable as we ate.  “So what do you think you will use the ten dollars for,” I asked the camera shy bartender.  She paused for a moment and told me that she would probably use it to pay for the Metro or maybe put it toward a dinner she planned to make that week for a really good friend of hers.  “I’m thinking about making chicken picatta,” she said.

 

Read Full Post »

Rain drops on the metallic chairs on Love Cafe's patio. (photo: Reed)

I don’t know why I carried my umbrella over to U Street with me; I didn’t use it to ward off the drizzle that fell as I dodged puddles along the uneven sidewalk.  I ducked in to Cake Love’s Café on the corner of 15th and U Streets.  I think its actual name is Love Café…according to the young Latina behind the counter it opened seven years ago…a year after the original bakery opened in 2002.  It’s a cozy little place with a spectacular corner view perfect for people watching.

Gerald with the original Cake Love in the background. (photo: Reed)

I met Gerald there. When he came in he said, “That’s where I usually sit…it’s got a great view.”  Gerald tells me that he lives across the street which turns out to be the same building that Almena from Day 21 lived in.

This is one of those encounters that I don’t even know where to begin.  We spoke for hours.  Gerald is a character too.  Some of the stories sound too sensational to be true but he swears by them; from being born in Freedmen Hospital (forerunner to Howard University Hospital) in 1943 to looting liquor stores during the riots of 1968 to inheriting a million dollars from his step-father. 

Gerald grew up living on Columbia Road around 12th Street.  “There was only one white person on my entire block back then,” he said. 

7th Street post MLK Assassination riots in DC in 1968.

During the riots Gerald said he was working at the Post Office.  On the day the riots started he was taking a test at the Watergate building.  He got home and painted “Black Power” on the side of his 1961 Dodge Polaris and headed out into the city.  “I didn’t have any prior riot experience, so I didn’t exactly know what to do,” he said.  He decided to go over to the People’s Drug Store and crossed the line of National Guard soldiers and stepped through the broken glass of the front door.  The store had already been heavily looted but he remembers thinking about taking a watch he saw inside, but didn’t. 

Gerald displays his $10 purchase. (photo: Reed)

Armed with a .357 Magnum he went down to Central Liquors at 9th and F Streets and then headed over to another liquor store on U Street.  All in all he says he took more than 22 ½ gallon bottles of top shelf liquor.  “I had two years worth of liquor!” 

Years later he got a job with IBM.  Now to appreciate this you got to understand that he was making about $6,100 a year at the post office and then was offered a $15,000 salary plus bonus at IBM.  The next couple years he made a lot of money and bought lots of material goods…namely cars. 

At some point the good times ended.  He divorced.  He lost his job.  He lost several houses that he owned and said he was even homeless at one point.  Now he lives in a very modest low-income housing complex.

I wish there was some way to bottle the loquacious couple of hours we spoke and serve it up here, but you just had to be there.  Before I left I asked him one last time if he knew what he would do with the $10.  He decided to go next door to the picturesque Best DC Supermarket and purchase a bottle of Dogfish Head Brewery’s Miles Davis Bitches Brew.  I walked over with him and even spotted him an extra buck to pay for it.

We exchanged numbers and he walked back to his apartment and I went the opposite way toward my place.

So something funny is that he put my number in his phone but never added my name.  Over the next week he called me about six times thinking I was somebody else or maybe he was just hoping that I would be giving another $10 away!

Read Full Post »

After leaving the Black Cat on Day 242, we got some pizza on U Street and I offered to walk a friend of mine home.  On the way we noticed some bright lights in the CVS parking lot. At first I thought maybe they were filming something. As we got closer we noticed that there were five cloth backdrops with scenes painted on them, some portrait studio type lighting and two color printers.

You can find Carlton every weekend until October at the CVS parking lot near Florida and 7th (photo: Reed)

Carlton was holding a Canon Rebel camera. I asked what was going on and he explained that during the warm months he and his brothers set up in the parking lot there at the CVS and take people’s photos in front of the backdrops. “It’s ten dollars for a picture,” the 31-year-old tells me. I looked at my watch, it was about 12:30am…it’s a new day. Game on! I reached in and grabbed $10 and gave it to Carlton. “I’ll take your guys picture for you if you want,” he offers but I explain that I can’t receive anything in return for the $10.

Carlton’s uncle negotiated a deal with the CVS people to use their parking lot from 11pm to around 3am on the weekends. Then he and his brother’s got a friend named GQ to design all the back drops. There were five backdrops lined up: one that said “Wasted” and had some alcohol bottles on it, another with a Cuervo 1800 bottle, a third with a Mercedes, the fourth one had a Cadillac truck and the last one showed a beach with waves crashing under the moon. “My favorite is one that is not up tonight, but it’s one with two bottles of Moet champagne,” Carlton says.

Carlton at work (photo: Reed)

As we are chatting a group of nine presumably inebriated young people show up to get their picture taken in front of the “Wasted” backdrop. He takes their photo about four times until they are happy with it and then pulls the memory stick out of the camera and slips it into the printer and hits print. About 90 seconds later, their picture was ready.

“We print about 70 pictures a night,” Carlton says. “We got a lot of regulars too.” No sooner did he mention that he had regulars than a guy shows up who must have taken 30 photos of himself. He was wearing sunglasses and had his car stereo system pumping hard. He took photos in front of several of the backdrops but then he took some of him in his car too. Carlton printed what looked to be about two dozen photos and handed them to the customer. “He’s a regular,” Carlton says nodding toward the man as he pulled out of the parking lot. I hope he didn’t pay $10 per picture!

Carlton poses for a picture (photo: Reed)

Carlton and his brothers, DC natives who attended Roosevelt High School, have been doing this for four years. Sometimes they also set up in clubs and other places, especially in the winter when they are not out at this location.  Things get a little out of control from time to time too. “Sometimes ladies get naked, it’s crazy,” Carlton admits.

Some ladies strike a pose for Carlton (photo: Reed)

Two young ladies approach us and ask to get their picture taken. I now had my camera out and I guess they thought I was working there…reasonable assumption. I directed them to Carlton and they struck a pose in front of the Cuervo bottle. I captured Carlton taking their photo.

“I’m going use the $10 to put gas in my car,” he says as he slides the ladies’ photo into a sleeve.

Before leaving, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get my photo taken as well.  I chose the beach scene. You can find the photo on the Facebook Page.

If you want to get your photo taken by Carlton, you’ll find him or one of his brothers in the CVS parking lot at Florida and 7th Street, NW any weekend from 11pm to around 3am until October.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

I met up with a journalism student from Howard University who was tasked with doing a short video report.  Brittney chose to do it on the Year of Giving and asked to meet up with me and follow me around as I gave out my $10 for the day.

We met at 9am at the Starbucks on Howard’s campus.  We spoke for a little while and then headed South down Georgia Avenue in search of a $10 recipient.  We hung out near the Shaw Metro entrance but then decided to walk up to U Street.  We came across the African American Civil War Memorial.  You might recall that on day 79 I went to the memorial and then walked over to the museum and met with Hari, the curator of the African American Civil War Museum, and gave him my $10 for the day.

Memorial surrounded by the Wall of Honor

It was still early and the sun was shining bright on the 209,145 engraved names of the soldiers and officers who served in the United States Colored Troops.

There was a woman pushing a stroller slowly around the memorial.  I approached her and asked if she would accept my $10.  The woman, who I believe was a nanny from French-speaking Africa, declined to participate in the Year of Giving.  She got nervous I think with the possibility of being on camera.  I don’t know if she was here illegally or something, but she was pretty clear that she wanted to avoid any and all cameras.

I then spotted a man in a trench coat studying the monument.  I walked up to Greg and asked him if he could help me with a project that I was doing.  He heard me out and said he was ok with it.

Greg is 41 and lives in Virginia.  Born and raised in Massachusetts, he has been in the greater Washington area for 10 years.  Greg has been in the hotel and hospitality industry for many years.  In fact, he transferred from Massachusetts to DC for a new job with the same hotel conglomerate that he works for now.  

Greg at the African Civil War Memorial in DC (Photo: Reed)

Greg was actually working when I ran into him.  Well, it wasn’t obvious he was working.  How many jobs pay you to check out monuments?  Note to self: apply for Greg’s job!

Ok, he wasn’t getting paid to do that, but he was waiting for his hotel’s liquor license renewal paperwork to be issued around the corner.  Greg explained that the district renews the licenses once a year on the same date for all establishments.  It seems insane to process all of these licenses at the same time.  It would seem to me that the office would be pretty slow for 11 months and then go crazy for one month.  

Greg was getting ready for a week of vacation up in Massachusetts.  He is a history buff and was excited that he was going to witness the reenactment the battles of Lexington and Concord.  This year marks the 235th anniversary of the battles.  

I asked Greg what he would do with the $10.  He asked if I knew if there was an association or foundation supporting the memorial.  I told him about my encounter with Hari and explained that the museum has a place for donations.  He promised to walk over to the museum and make a donation.  I told him to make sure that he said hello to Hari…who coincidentally I passed earlier that day as I walked over to Howard University and he walked to work.

Read Full Post »

I decided to go over to the Shaw neighborhood today.  On my way I ran into Kenneth from Day 30.  He said he was having what he called “death nightmares” and was being admitted to Georgetown hospital today.  Kenneth, who suffers from various mental illnesses, was not sure how long he would be there.  My friend Mike had his own battles with mental illness and about eight years ago also went to Georgetown Hospital.  He said it completely changed his life and he now has his situation under control.  Kenneth usually sells Street Sense outside the north entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro…keep an eye out for his return and welcome him back with a smile and a hello…heck buy a paper!

When I came out of the Metro at Shaw, I was greeted by a fight between some teens.  The one boy got free and ran away.  It’s definitely a different vibe than my neighborhood.  I was about 15-20 blocks from my home and I thought that I would start to explore the neighborhood and gradually make my way back to my place on foot.  A few blocks later I met Dannie.

Photo: Reed S.

He was sitting at a bus stop, dressed in work clothes and a hard-hat.  He lit a cigarette as I sat down next to him and introduced myself.  Originally from North Carolina, Dannie now lives in the nation’s capital and says he loves it.  “It’s the land of opportunity” he says.  He is referring to the fact that he feels fortunate to have had plenty of work over the past 20 years.  Right now he is working on a window installation project at a local high school.

I asked him what he planned on doing with the $10…he smiled and said he would use it for transportation.

Dannie is a father and talked to me about the importance of his kids getting a good education.  Dannie didn’t continue his studies after high school and is now studying to become a carpenter…but he says that it is much harder going back to school at his age.  “It’s been over 20 years since I’ve done fractions!” 

Check out the video below of Dannie talking about education and how it has influenced his life.

Read Full Post »

Today got off to an interesting start.  Just after midnight this morning, the blog received its 1,000th visitor!  I was sleeping when it happened, but I had a little celebration this morning.  Then when I checked the news this morning, I read that a train had somehow crashed into a Holiday Inn hotel in Helsinki, Finland.  Shivers went down my spine (not just because my apartment was freezing this morning) when I realized I stayed in this very hotel the last time I was in Finland.  Weird.

Early this afternoon I was walking on U Street when I spotted Almena.  Almena is a beautiful 76-year-old woman.  She was braving the cold today as she walked slowly down the North side of U Street, using her cane to help her along.  

I stopped her and asked if she would be able to help me with a project that I was working on.  “Well, I don’t have any money” she gently replied.  I laughed and told her about the irony of what was about to happen.  She gladly accepted my $10.

It was so cold out and Almena’s neck was not well covered by her coat.  I almost recommended that she buy a scarf with the $10 to keep her warm on blustery days like today.  But, I didn’t want to influence her decision of what to spend the money on.  And although she might have been cold, I am telling you that she emanates a personal warmth that is just beautiful.  She thought for a moment and said she would buy some food with it.

Her soft words were orchestrated with a soothing albeit slight accent.  I am not sure from where, but it was the kind of accent that just radiates goodness.  We talked a little and I learned of some of the generous things she does regularly.  Just about then two women passed us on the street and said hello to her.  She lifted her head and shot back a pleasantry.  They lived in the area she said.  I bet Almena is quite the social butterfly. 

I explained to her more about what I was doing and then I said goodbye.  We only spoke for a few minutes, but she seemed like someone who I had known for many years.  I felt like I should have given her a hug when I said goodbye.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »