Splice of Life

A almost collapsed cake with four lit birthday candles. The cake is greenish. With some chocolate cake poking through the frosting. What a mess. We didn't eat this. It's just a picture from the Internet.

Our neighbors moved a few months back. It’s only a few blocks from here, and they really needed more space. Their new house is terrific. The people who moved into their old house are very nice.

But it’s just not the same. It’s like there is a hunk of film spliced out of the reel. Something is missing.

My dog misses their dog. He’s gone up to their porch to check if his pupster uncle is there. He never is. He doesn’t live there anymore. Or maybe The Beast is just waiting for the door to open. One day they were having a party and he pushed into the house and beelined to the brie wheel on the table which he proceeded to eat in a single gulp. The kids were amazed by his audacity. It might have been their favorite story, ever. I know this because they have told it to me more than once. So maybe the dog’s standing on the porch because he wants more cheese.

I miss watching the kids running to the car in the morning on the their way to school. Sometimes they were in a big hurry and there would be backpacks flying and open jackets and someone carrying their coffee in their almost free hand. Sometimes it would be less frenetic and we would have a short visit. The kids would all ask to come across the street to pet the dog. Even though they had one of their own that they didn’t actively pet.  It was always a charming part of the morning. Sometimes I would bitch about The Spouse. Sometimes she would bitch about hers. Always in a loving way. That’s what neighbors do. Listen to each other bitch about loved ones.

I miss the extended family. Grandma’s and sisters and nephews and cousins. After a while, they all knew me. And I knew them, too. I’d get called over for a glass of wine at the tail of a family party. One day The Spouse brought over the leftover ginger ice cream I made. It was Christmas Day. Another day we were all snowed in and they saw that someone made me a fancy mojito. IN THE WINTER. You know how Facebook makes you jealous of your friends? So I sent the Big Guy over with a summer drink to make them feel less envious. The flow of goods and services frequently criss-crossed the street.

My friend and former neighbor had a birthday party. There was cake. There was dancing to favorite music–Hall and Oats and Skee-lo and some 80s music that I must have slept through but that everyone else knew.  And there was love. My neighbors are spliced out of the daily reel, but still have important scenes. I miss seeing them every day. But am glad I still see them.

Abetting the Deplorable

A rain spattered windshield at DCA. You can see the tower.

I hate taking cabs. Really I hate taking cabs by myself. Really I don’t like a stranger driving me home.

The stranger that picks me up at the airport after a late flight. The stranger that is surprised that a nice Doc like me lives in my neighborhood and wonders if I don’t feel scared and asks how do I like living as a minority?

This is the script that more than one white cab driver recited. I get in the cab, tell them my address and the quickest way there and then they start talking some racist shit like I’m in their bigoted white people club just waiting for the safety of their cab to go all KKK with them.

And I just look out the window while trying not to respond in a way that will either encourage him or insult him. The former because I want him to stop. The latter because he is driving me home and it’s dark and I don’t want to be dumped. This was especially terrifying before we had cell phones. I felt vulnerable. Oh hell, I was scared that he’d force me out on the sidewalk in front of the cemetery on Lincoln Road. I’d be a ways from home without much chance of another cab coming by. They didn’t want to take me home, to my nice middle-class neighborhood, in the first place. And don’t call me ridiculous because anyone who easily and safely spouts dehumanizing and vile comments could just be bilious enough to do something else hateful.

So I wouldn’t say anything to offend the racist in his rant. And I likely made it seem that I, at least, didn’t disagree with him. But I did. And when he pulled up in front of my house, the blue one with the white picket fence that was even brighter under the reflection of the street lamp in front, I would get out of the car as fast as I could. I learned to keep my roller bag small and next to me in the back seat so I didn’t have to wait for the intolerant asshat to open his trunk. I wanted to be away from him and his ilk as fast as I could.

I always felt complicit, though. I felt like I should have told him that I wasn’t a member of his intolerant club. That his racist insinuations–or sometimes a full rant–were deplorable. Instead, I learned to interrupt him as soon as he brought up his surprise at my address. I’d tell him how lucky I was to live in such a wonderful neighborhood with such terrific neighbors.

We are the company that we keep.

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!