Mumbo’s The Word


The D.C. corner carry out. This one has been most recently named Sammy, but it used to be Sammy’s. Before that it was Granny’s, and before that, Granny’s was Granny’s BBQ. I forget what it was the time before or the time before that. But Carry Out was always part of the sign.

The carry out menu features “Chinese and American food, seafood and sub.” I guess, given the new big sign on the top of the building, pizza, too.

Before the exterior bricks were painted red, it was white. And before it was painted white, it was blue and maybe green. Different names, different facade, same food.

No matter its name or color, the food is always Chinese chicken/beef/pork/veggies that are indistinguishable from each other with rice and a sauce, subs, gyros (for some odd reason, maybe because it’s on the menu generator template that all the carry outs seem to use), fried fish, fried chicken, wings and pizza. Most everything is less than $10 and you can get a 2-liter soda, to boot. They’ll deliver for a fee, but the driver won’t leave his car. You need to come and get your food from the curb.

The carry out takes care of people who don’t usually cook or usually cook but are pressed for time or ingredients. The food itself is filling if not healthy. There is congealed sauce on many of the Asian entrees. The sub rolls are thick and chewy, but without taste. Same with the fried catfish and fries, taste free, if you discount the fat and the salt.

That’s why they have mumbo sauce.

Mumbo sauce is the mainstay of D.C. carry outs. It’s squeezed on the fried fare–french fries, fried chicken and fried fish. It’s an amazing shade of fluorescent orange with more than a little hint of pink. It is not spicy. It’s sweet. If you want to punch it up a firey notch, there’s Texas Pete’s or, increasingly, sriracha.  If you ask me, I’d tell you it was sweet and sour sauce mixed with ketchup. But there are folks who would dispute my cynical recipe.

The carry out condiments are not an accompaniment as much as they are the entire flavor. But between the fat and the salt and the sweet + sour and the spicy all of your natural tastebuds are covered. And you will be full. That’s what a carry out is for.

Inaccessible = Unacceptable

Sign at the metro station telling people who need an elevator to call some body to get them a shuttle bus. But not from this station. MAD!

Dear Metro,

I hope it’s okay that I call you “Metro,” since you have so many names. We call you the train, subway and, when we want to get most official, WMATA.

What is the name that we can call you that will get your attention?

Because if I had your attention, you would know that I am not shocked. I am not appalled. I am not sickened. No, I am angry, with the shutdown of the elevator at my stop.

Do you have any idea that this is the stop for the National Rehabilitation Hospital? For the Washington VA Hospital? For the Washington Hospital Center? Did you know that these major hospitals serve many people who use wheelchairs. That they need to use their wheelchairs to get to their appointments, their therapy sessions, their chemotherapy?

So when you shut down the elevator at the station that serves these hospitals, you are seriously impacting the people trying to access services they need.

I get that the elevator needs to be “improved.” I can even accept that to switch out an elevator takes four months.

Okay, I can barely accept that. If you were building it new, it wouldn’t take four months, would it? And if it takes four months, why is the first month building the walls around it to close it? I only ask because I haven’t seen anybody working on it. But there’s green painted plywood blocking it.

But I’m thinking if I’m in a wheelchair and I have an appointment to see my doctor and I get to the station, I’m stuck. I can’t get out of the station. I have to call a random number on the flyer to transport me from another stop. And I have to get back on the train and go to that other stop.

Do you think that’s okay? Do you think that pasting a paper sign over a “wet floor” stanchion is decent notice? Do you think it’s cool to require somebody to call a number for a ride? Don’t you think that the shuttle should be waiting at the stop? Which stop, you ask? How about all immediately surrounding stops?

This makes me mad because the person in the wheelchair is already put upon by the fact that the elevator is on one side of the tracks. So if you’re coming from the campus side, you need to roll another half mile to get to the elevator. You know, the elevator that’s out of service for four months

Seriously, WMATA, is there any way you could make it harder for folks who need an elevator to get to or from your platform? It’s like you want to fail. Like you want to turn people away. Your accommodation accommodates only in the abstract. In practice you suck. You are not coming within a western state of complying with the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act. From 1990. I was there when it was signed. By the President.

The subway could–theoretically–be a way for people with disabilities be more independent. Not this subway. Not at this time.

Please fix this most soonest.</rant>


Giving Exactly Zero

long and luxurious lashes. obviously fake.

She was pretty. Her hair framed her face and the horizon beyond in cascades of copper ringlets. They were very fine. Like a chain that would knot if you rubbed it between your fingers.

She wore a crown, of sorts, to keep her avalanche of hair from overtaking her face.It was likely a stretchy beaded band.  The ornament was a tanned leather, medium brown color. The beads were fashioned together in a star-linked pattern that daisy chained around her head.

She was sitting on a bench on the train platform, sheltered by a billboard. You only saw her when you were in almost directly in front of her, give or take thirty degrees.

She was looking down at the phone she held in her right hand. You could see the light reflected from the glue that attached her long thick very black lashes to whatever lash she was naturally given. There was some black eyeliner to try to cover the glue. It did only an okay job. She had a headphone in one ear, the other bud dangled from its wire, into her lap.

Two fingers of her left hand dangled a lit cigarette. The other three fingers gripped a small paper bag. She brought the bag to her face and you could make out her palm and fingers embracing a cylinder in the sack. It might have been a bottle, but more likely a can. She drew a jolt from the bag, and, while her hand was there, she twisted the burning tobacco to her lips. She drew again.

You couldn’t help but be impressed by her flagrant swilling and smoldering on the platform. This isn’t New York. Consumption is not allowed here.  But she clearly didn’t give rules a thought as she chattered cheerily on her phone call. You hoped she finished her smoke. And you tried to give as little care as she did.

Busting Loose

A yet to be "rehabbed" street in Shaw. Around 7th and L, NW. Close to the cop shoppe.

Growing up, a meaningful block was a half-mile long. Nobody walked much, so it wasn’t a big deal, but the distances between stuff were actual distances. Walking three blocks was a mile and a half. Distances were covered in miles per hour, thank you very much.

When I first moved to our nation’s capital, these were pre-GPS days–I know, right?, I pulled out the map to see where I was heading. It was on the other side of the beltway. Using my historical point of reference, I figured it would take about 60-70 minutes. It took me less than 20, and that might have included a little bit of time when I was lost.

Geographically, D.C. is a small place.

Today I told The Spouse that drinks were on me at the hip watering hole that just reopened. I decided to hoof it from downtown. The Spouse hit the pavement from The Mall. It’s a sign of the times that we would even consider walking. Five or six years ago, when the development was in planning, I would not walk that corridor. Boarded up shops, drug deals on corners, and no reason to be there. Nope. Seventh Street was a car route.

I walked the dozen blocks, passing the new convention center, spiffy hotels with five-story atriums, rehabbed buildings, shiny new box apartments, a grocery store with wine and a ton of prepared foods, and a few windows still boarded up. For now.

There were still the few blocks of subsidized apartments, but they’re much less notorious. There was still a cop going back and forth with a citizen. They were being observed by a sidewalk full of the neighborhood a few yards away. Nobody was cuffed. The convenience store was surrounded by folks waiting for the bus. The air included the smell of tobacco and weed. But no piss.

The city was always tiny, but now the walk from the FBI building to the burgeoning condo, bike path, coffee shop and restaurant fueled blocks formerly known as the hood and now known by their hip nicknames was much faster than a cab during Friday rush hour. In less than twenty minutes, office commuters can traverse to the land of brown liquor with artisanal ice, biergartens, craft roasted coffee, dog groomers and hipsters.

These thirteen blocks span less than a mile, not the 6½ that I would have expected in my youth. As the city gets closer together, it gets bigger for some people and increasingly inaccessible for others.

The Spouse remarked on our independent walks through what had been a tough area. I noted that there was new paint and landscaping at the public housing complex across from the shiny new grocery store. The rec center that had an awesome makeover was full of little and mid-sized kids that did not live in the new studio and studio +den apartments with the marble counters and stainless steel appliances.

We don’t want the city to lose the people who have raised generations of families here. Both of us, at the same time, said we really hoped that there was enough room for everyone. I better go call the Mayor.

Man Spa

A stylized view of a stylized bag from a stylized store.

The plate glass storefront window was striped by mahogany colored shelves filled with fancy rectangular boxes and even fancier bottles. I’m think that the boxes were empty. I bet they ensconced the bottles before they were divorced, and the bottles teased them by their independence on meticulous display.

The boxes, and their coordinating labels on the bottles, were serious colors. Navy blue. Maroon. Pine green. And a parchment white. It wasn’t a pure white, but a white with enough yellow so you knew it wasn’t new. The lettering was either silver or gold, depending on how they performed. The navy had silver and the parchment had gold.

There were a lot of shelves, so many that they obscured whatever was happening behind the glass. If the window was ten feet tall, and it easily was, there may have been twelve or fifteen shelves, each fitted with rows and rows and rows of beautiful packaging. What was it?

The store was new. It was next door to the corner organic sandwich shop that makes their to-go sandwiches fresh daily and give any leftovers to people who are hungry. That shop had just undergone a major remodel and expansion. It took over the space around the corner. I don’t remember exactly what they took over. Maybe it was a remnant from the cupcake craze. Regardless, it was now assimilated into the feel-good shoppe with a french moniker.

The new store, with the impressive window display, more than piqued my interest. It was so interesting that I put my overheating phone that was tracking my game into my purse. I pulled hard and opened the heavy door that was mostly glass but with an impressive mahogany frame. And I felt like I walked into somebody’s bathroom.

The store was teeny tiny on the inside. Maybe this was where they were selling, but definitely not baking, cupcakes.

Opening the door begot a madhatter experience. There was an impressive desk to the left. It was wooden and had an intricately inlaid top that supported a too-large mac monitor, a keyboard, a VOIP telephone and, facing me, a credit card swiping machine. Behind the desk was a very friendly woman with a loosely curly mane of blonde locks that would have been strawberry blonde if there was just a little more red. She had big lips lined with a pinky-brick color and filled with a brown-pink shine that was not glittery but more wet.

Her eyes were lined, too, with a brown pencil. She was smart to avoid black which would have been abrupt on her creamy skin and light rosy cheeks. Her eyes were definitely lined, though. Just not too much.

I think that she was tall, just by how she sat behind the formal desk with all of the electronics on display. Her head definitely topped the large computer screen. She sat tall like she was comfortable with her height. I’m thinking 5’11” or maybe even six. Her smile was toothy in just the right amount. The edges of her lips curved up like a real smile, and her eyes were happy, too. But, unbelievably, I didn’t see her–or her desk–at first. They were a bit behind me.

When I walked in, I pulled up because on my left, ahead of me, were two sinks. This was very impressive because the back of the store was maybe eleven feet ahead. The sinks were very white, in contrast to the manly wood and the serious wallpaper with a paisley stripe, each spaced eight inches from the next. Before I could take anything more in, a sprite stood in front of me.

I named him William in my head. I imagine that his mother and his sisters called him Billy, and his last three partners called him Will. The partners before that called him either Billy or Bill.

He had a plaid bow tie at the neck of his crisp white shirt. The shirt was hugged by a vest. The vest was not the same fabric as the tie–that would be too much–but a perfectly subtle accompaniment in both color and print. He had a pencil thin mustache and a cap that covered most of his short, tight steel colored curls. They were charcoal steel and stainless steel. He stepped toward me from the far sink, but because the space was so small it was a short step.

His greeting had a studied warmth. I felt like he was wondering why I was there. We had that in common. I offered that I thought that the window was so enticing, so that I was compelled to see what was next. I left out the part about my surprise at the tight quarters. Frankly, I was expecting to walk through aisles of toiletries. Instead, I just verbally blundered on about how the display intrigued me.

It was almost comical that after looking at rows and rows and rows of bottles, the product line was on two twenty-four inch shelves. It wasn’t a shop. Well, it was a barber shop. But the entirety of the wares was on my immediate right.

William offered me some sticks of paper on which I could smell the colognes. I demurred. I preferred to grab a bottle, remove the stopper and wave it from side to side underneath my nose. I knew better than to take a deep breath, so I just inhaled and exhaled naturally to catch the scent. Last thing I wanted was to burn my nostrils with patchouli.

It was a clean scent, but way to citrusy for my likes. William asked me what types of scents that The Spouse liked.

I looked at him askance, my eyebrow that I can’t control asking what the hell was he thinking?

“I don’t care what The Spouse likes. It matters what I like.”

William broke. He snorted a little, but quickly recovered. He was at the barber to the Kings of England, and whatnot. He couldn’t go to his Billy self, even if it was funny.

I asked him what he liked, and the woman who was seated four feet from me chimed in. (This was the first time I saw her, despite the intimacy of the space.) She offered what was most popular, and William answered my question on what he liked. Neither of which appealed to me. Too fruity. I asked if there was a sharper scent. William offered the mahogany box.

My nose was insulted from the first scent. The second I sprayed on the paper but missed and got my thumb. I couldn’t smell the paper as much as the crap I sprayed on my hand. I committed to spraying this next scent on the paper and almost succeeded. It was more woody and a bit sharper. I could see smelling this on the neck of The Spouse.

William offered me the services price list. Haircuts, hot lather shaves, facials, beard trims, neck shaves and manicures. William seemed good, I’d recommend him for a neckshave, as if I have any idea what that is.

The woman behind the mahogany desk reached behind her, to the rows and rows and rows that instigated my attention, and took a seriously orange box from a shelf. William pointed out the additional shaving gear–blades and brushes and soaps–in case I wanted to be even more generous. But let me tell you, when I signed the credit card slip I realized that I was being quite generous already.

The box was wrapped in the store’s signature tissue wrap and then placed in the seriously navy blue bag. I left pleased with myself for my purchase of a surprise gift, but mostly pleased at falling into the rabbit hole and being led through the madness by William, the MadHatter.


Walking Without a Net

Sunset in Brookland. At the intersection between work and home.

It’s the end of a long week, meaning, in part, that it’s the weekend. The last steps to home are in front of me.

I texted The Big Guy to see if he wanted some special pizza for dinner. Not like the stuff the guy in the beat up Nissan compact brings to the door. I like that it is brought to the door, but I like much less the similarities between the cardboard box-container and the crust. He replied and special pizza it was to be.

I left the station and walked the block around the old Brooks mansion. You used to be able to criss-cross the lawn to reach the corner, but now there’s an iron fence with pointy metal pickets to direct foot traffic to the sidewalks. Better for the lawn, I guess.

It’s a little late so the remnants of rush hour traffic are gone. The sun was sinking low and red on the other side of the bridge, and I see a lone car making its way over the hill and coasting toward me. There are no cars on the other side. A quiet night.

I slowly stepped into the street, the same street where I jaywalked the cop. I was, again, walking against the light. The approaching car was getting close to the intersection and then came to a dead stop two car lengths before the crosswalk.

Oh, jeez. I was three short strides into the road and, if the car kept at his reasonable pace, he would be past me, through the light and onto the next block before I was near his side of the road. I was not intending to interrupt his progress. Not at all. I was just trying to make the most out of my time, and the timing of my pedestrian commute.

I looked at his tags. The blue and yellow bands framing the white background and the blue raised letters. Pennsylvania. Not likely Philly. Nope. Rural or suburban Pennsylvania where pedestrians drive. He had no concept for the give and take of an urban parlay between vehicle and walker. He didn’t know that I knew where he was and that I was timing my crossing. He didn’t know the choreography, or even that it was choreographed.

I felt bad because he stopped his car. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I scurried past him and alighted on the curb on the other side. He waited for me to be on the sidewalk before he shuttled down the road. I was annoyed that he refused my curtsey and disregarded the dance, but he wasn’t part of the corps de ballet. That’s a hard part of living in D.C., the audience that enters the stage.

But at least we were going to have pizza. Except they ran out of crust.

Something Fishy

Sign for Grand Jury Room.

Twenty-one of twenty-three grand jurors were present. The jury room had two rows of chairs stacked theatre-style in a windowless room. The “stage” was below. There was a chair for a witness and a desk and chair for the court stenographer in the bottom of the bowl. Two juror chairs were empty. Someone was late and someone had a dental appointment.

The novelty and the importance–the grand part–of serving on the grand jury had long since passed for most of the jurors. They’d grown tired of the legion jump outs by police who would testify that they found a small plastic bag filled with a green herb-like substance that later tested positive for weed. Actually they always said marijuana.

They were weary of the multitudes of weapons charges. Each case included charges for carrying the gun (pistol in law enforcement vernacular) without a license and possesion of unlicensed ammunition, too. The jury knew the charge by it’s acronym, CPWL. The charge was read then repeated by the officer on the stand and then read again. If there were two weapons, the second weapon charge was read, repeated and read again, too. And, of course, the ammo charge. It was curious, and then annoying, that the same person was charged for unlicensed ammo on a per gun basis.

This particular jury, Panel 3, spent many hours having testimony “read into” them. This entailed a lawyer reading transcripts from interrogations in front of a prior jury that did not sit long enough to indict. These cases were murders and more complex investigations. Panel 3 did not end up voting on most of them, either. Toward the end of the Panel’s internment, the Assistant US Attorneys–that’s what they call the prosecuting attorneys in D.C.–would use them to get testimony on the record. And this evidence would become a new transcript that would be read to a future jury. Seems like the jury never got the entire story. Just a cog in the wheels of justice.

The Assistant U.S. Attorneys initially intimidated the jury. Ten days into their service, however, Panel 3 realized their powers. They were no longer cowed by the process. They learned that as soon as the foreman closed the door, nobody from the outside could open it. They were a secret citizens panel, and they might be talking jury stuff. Or they might just need to take a break from the never-ending repetition of drug and gun cases. Yes, once again, there was enough evidence to indict. It’s a low bar. Yes, already. And again.

Or they kept the court officials out because they needed a respite from that extra arrogant attorney that pretty much everyone wanted to punch in the neck. He was lucky they closed the door. They might have been lucky, too, since there were many people who worked for the court, who protected the staff and who carried pistols with permission and legal ammo. The court guards might not defend that extra arrogant attorney, though. He was just that vilely arrogant.

On this day a man was called in by the bailiff. The man was very tall and skinny. He was likely in his early sixties and wore a straw hat with a bright sash above the brim. This was only two days after jury duty had been canceled because of a foot of snow. It must have been his good hat.

The man was extremely agitated. He definitely objected to being there. He looked at the people in the juror chairs and he was angry. He was angry before he sat down, and he was angry as he was sworn in.

He abruptly pulled his arm away from an imaginary hand on his elbow. He glared at the officer of the court who restrained him with a raised brow. He reluctantly agreed that he would tell the truth and said he understood that he was under oath and the penalties for being untruthful.

“I don’t even know why“–he hissed the why–“you all bring me all in here,” came from beneath his chin. He wanted to say it much louder but his better angels were in control.

The jurors knew that this wasn’t about him. A Grand Jury rarely hears from the accused. They knew that he was a witness. He was to give his sworn testimony for the record. This man was a piece in someone else’s puzzle. A puzzle he wanted no part of.

He crossed his long legs and his alligator pressed shoe bounced up and down. He was wearing a tropical shirt, too.

The lawyer asked him about a certain day and what he was doing. He explained that he was just a common guy, trying to make a few bucks. But that wasn’t the question.

It turned out that the man was providing rides for hire in his neighborhood. This was fifteen years before Uber.

He had a big boat of a white Cadillac that he used to squire people on their errands. On the day in question, he was taking a customer to go and get some scrimps.

“Some what?” said the lawyer.

“Some SCRIMPS!” the man shout-snarled. “And why you come and have to bother me about it? I’m just going to get me some scrimps down at the waterfront and someone going with me.”

The case was about the someone with him. And the police arrested him for driving an illegal cab so that he’d talk. But he was just mad.

“I don’t care that you come and get me. Why don’t you just leave it between you and me?” he complained.

“Was that your car?”

“No. You know it won’t my car. I done gave you the registration. But why you gotta go and tell her? Now she won’t let me drive no more.”

“Who’s car were you driving?”

“It’s my wife’s car. But you didn’t need tell her. Now I got her on me and she hid her key. And I’m just going to get some scrimps. It ain’t necessary for her to be called. We coulda just talked about this like some men.”

He really didn’t know much of anything about his partner in scrimps. But he was outraged at the setup and the domestic discord all drummed up, “over nothin.”

He unfolded his long legs, readjusted his straw fedora and walked out. The attorney and bailiff followed him. The foreman almost ran to the door to close it. And Panel 3–made up of an almost perfect D.C. cross section of race, education, income and age–broke into belly laughs, and guffaws, and giggles, and snickers, and shouts, and questions about winter fashion, and yearnings to meet his wife, and chants of scrimps.

All immediately agreed that they would order scrimps for lunch on Friday. It was a unanimous vote. This Panel was a team.


Passing Through 

I’m not sure if the arch is an entrance or an exit.

The air is too dry to be DC. The sky is brilliant with the late late daylight. It’s mid June. We’re having our longest days. And today is crisp, too. 

The first batch of happy hour revelers are leaving. The people deciding on that third drink are mixing into the people coming back in for dinner, drinks, theatre or all three.

Does the arch welcome my weekend or do I walk through it to close my week? I think there’s a material difference between these options.

But the difference, while with meaning, is irrelevant.

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!

Quiet Please

Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square. Look on the far right. That's the point.

The main library is an old building. You can tell especially because the words carved in the facade that use the letter “U” are inscribed  as “V.” I don’t know why. It seems kinda Latin. Frankly, among the things I need to know, this level of arcane is even beyond DocThink. I can’t even.

The building is still amazing. It’s one of the libraries erected by ancient philanthropists. Ancient in this country, anyway. It was opened in 1902. While Washington, D.C. environs include much older–the Georgetown port goes back to the mid 1750’s–this is an old building in our city. Where old is after the Civil War.

The building is not a library anymore. It hasn’t been since it became overcrowded in the mid-1970s. It’s still impressive.

In addition to being “historic,” it sits on a square. Mt. Vernon Square to be exact. This square would have been a park, except it’s a big building instead. It’s a spot of land squared by roads. Some roads shoot from the square in angles reaching toward the edges of the city and beyond.

Walking past the building, I spied a blob. It was a purple blob. Getting closer the blob took on new details. There were two purple blobs. One blob was a backpack. The purple blob backpack sat on top of an indigo jacket blob. To the left of the backpack was the other purple blob. The second purple blob was bookended by black boots on one end and a sliver-gray puffy jacket on the other.

As the blob moved, it organized itself in my mind. I saw a mass of shiny black strands that went from a puddle of black to a curtain as the blob straightened itself. It’s a woman. I think she is a young woman.

Was she sleeping in the warm sun? Had she stepped away from the hostel a block away? Maybe she was a student.

Why was she sitting alone–and, to me, lonely–at this former library? My brain recalls that this library was a haven for rats.  I’ve seen scores of them scurrying across the plaza and up the steps at many dusks and evenings. Fingers crossed that any remaining rats leave her alone. I start to worry about her.

She was slumped on her backpack. She righted herself. That’s when her yard of hair moved and defined her. I couldn’t see her face. She was her hair. I wonder, is she is sad? Hungover? Drunk? Lost? I can impose anything on her.

She is a small figure on the far right of my lens. Almost invisible. but caught. She doesn’t belong, but she doesn’t belong anywhere else.