themail.gif (3487 bytes)

April 30, 1996

The Nation’s Attic

Dear Neighbors:

Technology is either moving too fast or I'm not moving fast enough. Last week, I made my first visit in three years to the Smithsonian's American History Museum, accompanied by my nephew (age 11) and niece (age 8). We visited the Technology exhibit where the museum displayed everything that I have owned or used. The transistor radio, the Victrola, the first Hewlett-Packard calculators, the IBM 360, computer punch card machines, and even, hold your breath, black-and-white televisions. This is supposed to be a museum, not a wake for the living dead. What made it worse, of course, is that my sister and I had to explain these items to the niblings. Much like the government does with secret documents--holding them in under wraps for 50 years--I suggest the Smithsonian do the same with its knick-knacks. In 50 years, I'll be 89 and I either won't care about or won't be able to comprehend what Mr. Smithson's heirs put on display.

BTW: Please remember to sign your postings. Name and email address. Right at the bottom. You'll have the pleasure of knowing that you saved me much time in reformatting your messages.


Jeffrey Itell


Barry's Rejuventation

I have read the Barry statement. It is an interesting document in many ways, and a gem of innuendo. It opens with some rather strange grammar: "Since becoming Mayor...*we*.." (Emphasis mine). He's obviously identifying himself with the entire city government, which is indeed in bad shape but that's probably not what he means. The statement goes on to offer a Big Lie: "...up in helicopters and on the streets inspecting snow removal and pothole repairs..." (If snow had actually been removed and potholes repaired, he wouldn't have needed a helicopter.) Barry then fogs up the windows with God and the twelve steps, and finally drags in Stephen Covey, whose book is unreadable and whose very name sends bullshit detectors into screaming red alert. Which is what my bullshit detector did after reading the Post.

But what *I* want to hear is what the folks who analyzed the Unabomber texts thought of Barry's statement.

stephanie faul


Leaf Nazis

March 13 was my birthday. This, of course, is neither here nor there (who counts after 40, anyway.) But something did transpire that day which would prove interesting, albeit 5 weeks later. When I pulled my blinds up that morning, there was a beige pick-up truck with the red and white D.C. gov't. logo parked in front of my house. After a few minutes, a man got out and took pictures of my side of the street with a Polaroid. I figured it had something to do with property tax assessments, or some other reasonably important matter. NOT! Last Tuesday, April 23 -- some 6 weeks later! -- I received a ticket for the heinous crime of "failure to maintain abutting public space in the area between the inside edge of the sidewalk and curbline." Yes, the Leaf Patrol had nabbed me. But before I had time to channel my anger into bagging the leaves and filling potholes in the night with them, I saw a report on TV that same day that the city has changed its mind and the tickets need not be paid. I think I'll have the ticket framed and send it to Barry as a going away present.

Alan Grossberg



I am astonished almost daily at how meekly smokers have been ground under the boot heels of anti-smoking brownshirts. I am weary, but will fight on their behalf.

Yep, unless we've been living in a tobacco-filled cave, I think we all know it's bad for us. But really, if you're so concerned about your personal health don't you really have a lot of work to do? Shouldn't you be monitoring compliance from light industry? Checking the TCE levels of local runoff? The First Amendment may not entitle me to pollute the air, but my driver's license certainly does. I'm sure the noxious effects of spending a few minutes on almost any D.C. street corner at almost any hour of the day is far more lung-polluting than breathing next to a smoking cigarette. Don't you have an awful lot of cars to get off the road? Or perhaps as Mr. Seymour suggested, he should just eat them. There are a lot of things you can do, beside whining about smokers, to improve your personal health, and with it your insurance premium. Because isn't that what this is really all about? Money? It gave us seat-belt laws, age-specific zoning, pre-employment drug testing and sign codes and a whole lot of other abridgements of personal freedom too numerous to name here. Sure, to sell them their backers talked about saving lives, but what it all comes down to is money.

And if you're just livid about littering -- gosh, those awful fiberglass filter tips are incredibly unsightly! -- why is it that you don't go ballistic over those gum-chewing heathens, or fast-food eating fatboys, or beer-swilling belchers who toss their detritus everywhere with nary a word from you fervid, sanctimonious anti-smoking types.

Let me answer that, since I have the floor for the moment: the reason you don't go after those other groups is because smokers have become the new lowest caste. The language of prejudice is the same as the timeless lexicon used against any other group that was hated and reviled for far less reason -- it's us against THEM. THEY are evil. WE are right. THEY are not. And YOU PEOPLE .... (yahdah, yahdah, yahdah). In an age when it is very politically incorrect to pick on people who are different in some way, it has become very politically correct to attack smokers, I think, as a substitute for all that pent up anger you all can't expend in your usual ways without retribution, or at least social censure.

Glad we cleared the air a bit. Take a deep breath. There now, don't you feel better? I know I do.

Adrianne Flynn



While I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that we are screwed in DC and are not treated as full fledged citizens, the constitutional arguments made don't fly. The constitution itself created the District and gives the Federal Government the right to "exercised exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever." It is also made clear that the District is not a state. All references to representation in the constitution refer to state's rights. If it's in the constitution, it can't be unconstitutional, right? (No, I'm not a lawyer. Just making conversation.)


This is in response to Randy Well's articulate position on the federal taxation of DC residents. As stated in prior communications, the Ward 3 Democratic Committee is organizing a Forum on DC Governance Options for the Fall of 1996. I suggest that Randy speak with either Duke Ryan at 202.362.1716, Ask old Boretsky at 202.966/0317 or me at 202.686.0607 (home). Perhaps he could participate in the fall program as an advocate for rescinding the obligation of DC residents to pay federal taxes; and I understand that Courts have found that it is indeed an obligation! In case we think we can just stop sending in the checks. Let us hear from Randy and advance the governance options agenda!



The Norton plan would certainly be a step in the right direction. Any plan that is ultimately adopted must accomplish at least two things: (1) stem the flow of DC residents to the suburbs; AND (2) encourage suburbanites to move back in, thus increasing the tax base. Only a radical plan, such as a low, flat tax (or a total federal tax exemption) is likely to accomplish these objectives. An incremental approach, such as the one suggested by a group appointed by Gingrich, would be a nice "benny" for those of us who are sticking it out (so far) but, in my view, would not change things much.

As to the suggestion of an earlier poster that any new tax system in the District be more "progressive" than what Ms. Norton has proposed, I can only say that, as far as I am concerned, our "progressive" tax system is itself fundamentally inequitable, punishes success, and has far outlived whatever usefulness it may have ever had. Time to chuck the whole thing once and for all. Take that, Congressman Bonior.

Greg Jones


It appears most timely for a huge number of District Residents to make a public stand on No Representation - No Taxation. If we could muster about thirty thousand people - each carrying a used tea bag - to march down Wisconsin Ave to the Potomac, we could host a truly magnificent Washington Tea Party. We must do this while Congress is in session. Our aim is not for representation, but, rather, No Taxation. If there are any others who will help organize this march then let's do it.

With regard to the firehouse closings, the mayor's comment will likely be "Get over it" as you sit among your smoldering ruins.

Ed Barron



Having covered many important subjects in this newsletter--from potholes to libraries to schools to retrocession--may we turn for a moment to the District's recreation facilities or lack thereof? I have a 14-year-old son whose little league needs a field with 90 feet between bases. Apparently there are no such playable public fields in upper northwest D.C., thus requiring all games to be played in far-away locales. This state of affairs is variously blamed on competition among baseball leagues and other sports--and among different levels of government agencies--but does anyone out there have any insight into this situation? Granted it isn't life-threatening, like some crime, taxes and potholes, but it is anything from annoying to outrageous to be paying lots of taxes and getting little in return when your son's one major sports activity is at stake.

Ted Gest 73652,


Thanks to the 20+ Mount Pleasant neighbors who spent four hours Saturday morning (April 27) cleaning up the Harvard Street/Adams Mill Road area near the Zoo entrance. The National Zoo donated an enormous dumpster, and we filled it with bottles, cans, tires, car parts, branches, etc. If we had a nickel for every bottle and can that is tossed into Rock Creek Park, we could bail out DC schools. Perhaps it's time for DC to require deposits on containers.

Gordon Glaza


Parking Tickets

Whenever people complain about DC ticketing, they often say it's not worth fighting because you have to spend the day at the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication. I've used the "adjudication by mail" option 5 times and had the ticket dismissed for 4 of them. I was right about the fifth one, too, but it's still a pretty good record. For those of you who got those tickets parking behind your own building in the alley, it's worth a shot. There's even a phone number to call to make sure they got your appeal. You might want to send it certified (less than $2.50) so you have proof. If you lose the appeal, you pay the original amount of the ticket, not the doubled amount for waiting more than 15 days.


Museum Exhibit

I don't know if any dc.story readers have seen it yet, but there's a fantastic photography exhibit at the Smithsonian's Arts & Industries Building entitled "Visual Journal: Washington DC and Harlem in the Thirties and Forties." It's a collection of African American photographers' work from both cities.

As a resident of the "New U" corridor, I was particularly impressed by photos portraying the elegance of U St. in the forties, contrasted by those capturing the slums that once made up SW. Photos of beautifully dressed women going to shows at the Lincoln Theater countered those of ragged children playing in the streets. I've read our dc.story discussions with a new perspective since seeing them.

I believe the exhibit was put on by the Center for African American History, the entity that was going to be the much needed National Museum of African American History before the Smithsonian's funding for it was cut. Anyone who has an interest in how our city became what it is today should check it out.

Amanda Revere


Stuffed Attics

We had a yard sale this weekend and put up signs directing blue-light-shoppers to our well hidden street. We put up the signs late Friday night, and had the sale Saturday with a great turn out. At around 4:00 Saturday, I took a walk with my dog to begin to gather the signs, in Good Neighbor mode. I gathered lots of them, but knew that some were out of walking distance. Sunday morning, we went out in the car to gather the rest-and couldn't find one. Who else was so thorough? How did they come down so quickly? Was it the city, was it other neighbors, was it people walking by? Not only were ours gone, but other Saturday-sale signs were gone too.

Thanks to whomever did the deed, I do appreciate it, but we're puzzled about who it was. Anyone have a clue?

A. Sanford


I have a *lot* of old books from my relative's house. I don't know what to do with them. I know a number of them are worth something, but I can't find a place that will take all of them in exchange for something fair (I don't consider 5% of their value (or less) to be particularly fair -- 15 to 25% would be fine, though).

So the question has come down to: What can I do with old books? Is there someplace that will take them in exchange for a tax credit for their value? (Like Goodwill or the Hebrew Home do for cars and sofas and such.) Any suggestions? Places to stay away from?

Dan Turner



I think that dc.story can serve as an excellent consumer protection mechanism. There is a "landlady" in DC against whom I want to warn all potential renters. I don't know what constitutes slander or libel, so I will refrain from providing information in this note that reveals her identity until I learn further of my rights.

The story, in brief: Ms. X showed 4 of us a house on Swann Street, collected an $1800 deposit, demanded that our parents cosign the lease prior to her having drawn up the lease itself, and kept our $1800 when our parents refused to do so. Subsequent research has yielded a pattern. She collected a similar deposit from a group last year, then changed the lease that she had shown them to state that the renters would pay the first $50 of all repairs. When they contested this change, she claimed they were in breach of the initial rental agreement and kept their money. She has been taken to court 14 times in the last 4 years, and has been known to sue renters and cosigners for tens of thousands of dollars, claiming back problems and emotional problems resulting from the demands renters place on her.

Almost all 14 cases were resolved through mediation, partial settlement, or were dropped after some maneuvering in the courtroom. My sense is that this lady knows the ins and outs of courts and uses red tape and bureaucratic sluggishness to her own advantage in these cases. My friends and I were deceived by her in August, 1995. Finally got before a commissioner in DC Small Claims Court on December 12, and were pressured into a settlement for $675, a third of the amount we are owed. Four months later we have seen hide nor hair of that money, despite having brought her back to court twice.

I want to keep this frustrating mess from trapping other DC residents into an expensive lesson. What do I do?

Jeremy Eddy


If any reader wants a good, used, late-model Nordic Trak at an incredibly reasonable price, please call (202) 237-5594. [For reasons with which I will not bore the reader, I now own TWO].

Ed Kane


Anyone in our DC Story circle know of where one can purchase an electric, used pottery or ceramics wheel? Any leads would be greatly appreciated.


Still looking for a nice 1 bedroom apartment near Connecticut Ave and the Red Line. Hoping for something in the $675-$725 range. Thanks to those who replied to my last note.



For fast, reliable Internet services and cutting edge Websites contact Michael Mann at Interstate Internet Web:


Jeffrey Itell Publisher: dc.story

Your Electronic Backfence

For a free subscription, send e-mail to


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)