Rocking Horse People Eat Marshmallow Pies

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The British Invasion band called the Beatles first played in the States in Washington, DC. It was in an upside down half pipe called the Washington Coliseum. A half pipe the size of an airplane hangar.

There was some kind of massive snowstorm that forced the lads up to New York via train. My favorite recollection was that of a man who said all he remembered was deafening, high pitched screaming. That and the smell of urine. I guess thousands of the teeny bopper fans pissed themselves in excitement.

To me the “coliseum” is a decrepit old building among many old decaying structures on the other side of the train yard where the Amtrak, Maryland light rail and the subway tracks criss cross and then feed in and out of Union Station.  It was tagged by the prolific Cool “Disco” Dan, as well as by more visually talented graffiti artists.

I had no business on 3rd St, NE so I didn’t see it up close until the our offices moved to the development at NOMA–which is a made up developer’s name to make the industrial area of empty lots, bus terminals, armories, and abandoned warehouses that was the real estate surrounding the tracks north of Union Station into a destination for high-rise offices, apartments, coffee and pet stores and restaurants.

I saw the “coliseum” up close the first time I passed under the bridge, driving along M Street. You could park your car in that rundown cavern for $5. That is an unheard of and remarkable price for DC. I kept driving. The overhead of walking under the bridge from a sketchy lot wasn’t worth $4 to me. Seriously, I paid $9–almost double–to not park there.

Now, that spot, where the Beatles played and the girls peed and the cars parked, is being converted to a very nice outdoors sporting goods joint. And condos, and, I bet, a new fast casual spot that has greens and grains in a bowl with some sauce.

This changes the neighborhood. Not a little. But a lot. And it’s mostly good.

In my neighborhood–two subway stops and a scant three miles away–we’ve had a torrent of new people moving in. I am very happy that people are buying houses and making spaces and creating families. This is what people in my neighborhood have been doing for the past hundred years. Not the same people–since our time on this earth is finite–but people who move in after others have moved out.

So, this moving into houses thing is NOT new. But, somehow, some of the people who move into the houses think it’s new. That, somehow, their being here defines new. And special. Really special.

I would call this attitude gentrification. Know that my neighborhood, that we have lived in ourselves for multiple decades and have been overlapping with other multi-decade residents (some from many decades before our multi-decade gig), was just fine before the newest new people got here.

Don’t get me wrong. We are happy you are here. We welcome you. We welcome you when you move in when you’re still are single. We welcome when you adopt your shelter dog and as you struggle through your training. And we are downright excited when you have babies and are tickled when you stay here when they go to school. And when we watch them go to prom and graduate high school, we know you are one of us.

But know that we have been a close knit middle class ‘hood pretty much forever. Maybe you haven’t lived with native Washingtonians before–I know I didn’t before I had my children–but they did fine before you. You are not the savior of our ghetto neighborhood, because this is not the ghetto and we don’t need saving. We are super happy that the clusters of new apartments and condos and overpriced townhomes have increased the density of our neighborhood so we can support more restaurants and a fancy wine store in addition to the liquor stores that don’t have tastings but have carried decent wine and excellent beer for at least a generation.

And, dearest new people,  if I can give you one piece of advice, as you stroke your long beards and push your running strollers and swing your bikes from your driveway past me into the street, say “Hi!” or at least nod your acknowledgement to the olds and the new’s.

Remember, new people and gentrifiers, we are still a sleepy little Southern town; and those niceties that stitch us together into a community go a long way to ensure that your neighbor digs you out of the snow when you have a new baby and your spouse is out of town, that a neighbor anonymously keeps a watchful eye on your house when you’re away for the weekend, that someone gives the stink-eye to a stranger walking on your porch where your Zulily and Amazon boxes lie, that people who know who your kids are peep on them to make sure they “independently” make it to the schoolyard or playground or scout meeting, that an amazing stranger brings a CVS bag filled with toothbrushes and toothpaste and soap and a comb and tampons when your house burned down. Seriously. This is what we do.

Spend the time knowing the old, and the new. It’s really all good.

Hey, are you new? Oh hai!

Bam Ba Lam

Old lady singing into a large microphone

“Oh, God!” said my high-school boyfriend.

Me: What?
HSBF: You know that song, ‘bam ba lam’?
Me: Yeah?
HSBF: It came on the radio today and MY MOM WAS SINGING IT!!!

Oh. The, Horror.

It was a little funny, except that I never met his mom. So I didn’t have much perspective. Come to think about it, I never met his dad. Or his brothers. In 30ish months of “going together,” with our ancestral homes separated by about a mile, I never met his people.

My mom introduced me to the Beatles. She would play Meet the Beatles and Introducing The Beatles. She had a bunch of old records we’d listen to, like Limbo Rock. I grew up with people listening to music. People had records and also listened to music on the radio. And sang along.

My folks gave me my first AM radio when I was about seven. I used to listen to CKLW [the motor ciiitttttyyy] like church. Detroit radio introduced me to the Stones, Supremes, Little Stevie, Smokey, Aretha, Clapton/Cream/Stevie W/Traffic, Zeppelin, The Who, Kiss, Prince, George Clinton and GrandMaster Flash.

When I was ten, I got my first turntable. It also had a radio that included FM! I bought my first LP–Elton John’s Greatest Hits. In high school I had a job in a record store. I always had music on–in the house, in the car, via my portable FM radio and eventually on my boombox.

On school mornings, I’d get up, pad into the kitchen and turn on the radio to eat breakfast. We’d listen to the AOR station (I’ll be the roundabout). I guess my Mom listened. She didn’t turn it off or tell us to turn it down. She’d be in the room, so I guess she listened or at least heard.

So, like who cares that your mom knows your song?

Maybe that’s why I didn’t know his mom and family. He cared that his mom knew his song. As if only we teens owned the public airwaves. As if it was unacceptable that his mom was part of that public. What if he was embarassed of his family? I didn’t know them so maybe they were embarrassing. That said, they couldn’t be much worse than mine, and he was over our house all the time. What if WE were the embarrassing ones–lacking even the most basic self-awareness that we were embarrassing?

I know that I resemble an embarrassment to my spawn. Rolling into the Boys and Girls Club after summer camp with Get Low blasting from the minivan is certainly cringe-worthy. Or when a millennial colleague caught me on my headphones and asked me what I was listening to. Don’t judge an old book by it’s cover, I say.

So I’m thinking about HSBF’s mom, enjoying music. And hope that she looked like this:

And for the record, these Black Betty induced memories were triggered as the Big Guy blared it from his phone, followed by some Creedence. He ain’t no fortunate son. He came by it honest.