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January 6, 1999

Too Damn Cold

Dear Fellow Freezers:

Now I'm just whining. I know this isn't Buffalo, or Canada, or Alaska. But why do we live even this far north, when there are perfectly good underpopulated islands in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the South China Sea, and all over the Pacific? If you have central heating or an electric blanket, ignore the above, and go directly to the more serious matters below.

Gary Imhoff


Original Loose Lips Sealed
Paul and Trish McKenzie,

The next issue of The Loose Lips column of The City Paper will mark the end of an era. Ken Cummins, who kept us laughing each week with his informative and insightful DC political commentary, will cease writing the LL column after 15½ years. Those of us who have been avid readers of Loose Lips over the years have been treated to an inside view of DC politics, and a sensible philosophy of where the center of gravity was in the city. LL coined such famous phrases as “Mayor-for-Life,” “Hizzoner,” and “Lady McBarry.” Although the Mayor was often the target of LL's acerbic wit, he was an equal opportunity critic, attacking anyone from the Control Board to the Northern Virginia Congressional delegation. We eagerly awaited the Thursday publication of the City Paper, especially during election time when his endorsements really counted.

When the column began it was a secret as to who actually wrote it. There was speculation that one clandestine high level member of the city's inner circle was writing all this informative stuff. Similar to “Deep Throat,” others speculated that it was actually three or four highly placed metropolitan heavy weights spilling their guts about information they knew other local news outlets would never publish. However, alas, none of this was true. LL is really a very modest, sincere, regular guy from Kansas.

Washington owes LL a great deal of appreciation for the years of reporting and illuminating the political intricacies of our city. The column has fostered a better community because of LL's efforts, and he has not stayed beyond his welcome. It is not often that one finds a good read in a column on city politics. LL did it for us — his successor has big shoes to fill.


Congresswoman Norton
Harold Goldstein,

I have seen several comments here extolling the congresswoman for all her lobbying efforts. Perhaps I am sadly misinformed, but I do not know of a single benefit that the district has gotten from this Congresswoman that any old hack politico could not have gotten in her position. She has been a TOTAL ZERO as far as I am concerned. I read her disgustingly self serving mailings and all I see is how she has lobbied for this or that but I fail to see any real accomplishments! 

Through all the years of the District's failures the SINGLE CONSTANT has been Congresswoman Norton. And with all her pontificating she's done nothing to keep the federal payment where it should have been, to gain further autonomy, to keep us from the grips of the control board, to do something about the sorry state of local public education. She is a sorry excuse for a congresswoman. Let us not forget that the woman was so totally out of control of her own personal financial situation. How can we even remotely imagine that she'd be competent where she is now. So Marion Barry was a Teflon Mayor? Well, this Norton character, then, is the slickest frying pan this side of the Potomac.


Eleanor Holmes Norton
Ed T. Barron,

Some of “themail” readers interpreted my comments about our “Congressperson” Norton as being critical of her activities and efforts. Not so. I decry the lack of respect that she commands from a Congress that has stripped her of her credentials. A little patience is required here. It will be but a mere two years when the Dems will take control of Congress (yes the people will remember) in the next Congressional election. And that is why Norton and our new Mayor should be laying the ground work with the Dems currently in power in both the executive and the legislative branches of government for more support to make the Capital City a benchmark for U.S. cities.


DPW Still Needs Work
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park,

Not that it is any surprise, but the folks at the Department of Public Works still have not got the message. The trash in the area of 12th Street, !3th Street, C, D and E Streets and Maryland Avenue NE was not collected on Monday, January 4th. I called the residential trash collection number in the phone book, got a message that said the number was disconnected. I tried the main number for DPW, which was closed, but did get a number for emergency management who gave me a number for trash. The first employee (I hesitate to use the word worker) said that he didn't know anything about it, but in the future I should call earlier if I wanted something done (it was 6:30 pm). I agreed and said that I would ask my boss to let me leave work early on Mondays and Thursdays so that I could get home to check whether or not the DC employees had done their job for the day. He passed me on to someone else who did not identify himself and told me it was my fault because I should have known that I was to put the trash out a day late because of the holiday. What holiday was that, I asked. Friday. But this was Monday. Yes, he said the trash would be picked up on Tuesday because the trash trucks were picking up Friday's trash on Monday. End of conversation. He hung up. I tried DPW on Tuesday morning. No answer. Called Carol Schwartz — someone said they would check in to it, and no further word (come on Carol, you wanted the Public Works Committee, get on the stick and do your job or give it back to Sharon Ambrose). Finally called Camille Barnett's office and spoke to the first person who was helpful. She told me that the person who said the trash was to be picked up a day late this week was lying and apologized on behalf of the city. She promised to get the trash picked up by the end of the day (it was now Tuesday). It was not picked up by 6:00 pm; a neighbor on Maryland Avenue called the DPW and presumably got the same employee who again, 24 hours later, blamed her for putting her trash out on the wrong day, and said it would be picked up a day late because of the holiday. (Can anyone identify this guy and can him?) End of story: trash was collected around 8:00 pm. Thanks to Dr. Barnett's staff for being the only responsive people in this sorry saga. Final question for extra points: why can't DPW do its job?


Good News Prediction: No C2K Downside for DC
Charlie Wellander,

Along with many unknowns, next year surely brings us our decennial count of the populace. Census 2000 (C2K?) and reapportionment may result in Pennsylvania and New York each losing two representatives in Congress, while Ohio may lose one; all due to other states gaining more population. But no matter how many erstwhile DC residents have picked up and perambulated to more palatable political pastures, my good news prediction for DC is that we will not have any decrease in our representation in Congress!


Natural Gas Free Market
Marcus Rosenbaum,

In response to Ed Kane's posting about natural gas competition, I got the same brochure and called Washington Gas. To the woman who answered the customer service line I asked, “Is there any reason I should stick with Washington Gas rather than pick a cheaper supplier?” She answered: “Well, we've been around over a hundred years.” I decided to go with a competitor.


Population Down, So What's Up?
Steph “Proudly swelling the census for almost 50 years” Faul,

All this talk about “population loss” is meaningless unless the number of households is counted as well. People who live in city centers tend not to have children, which skews the head count. Look at it this way: If three households of two parents and three children move out and five childless couples and four single people move in, this triples the number of occupied dwellings but looks to the head-counters like a population loss. Yet the latter scenario is even more beneficial to the city from a tax standpoint. In any case, I have some nominees for emigration.


Grand Jury Duty
Lou Lieb,

I served on a grand jury a few years ago, for five weeks. It was one of the most fascinating, gripping, stressful occupations I've ever done. It was somewhat like serving in a war zone, in that life becomes more vivid and intense. The contrast to my boring, bureaucratic government job couldn't be any more complete. We heard about 104 cases, turning in indictments in all but a few. (The joke is that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich, if the prosecutor wants it to.) The chance to learn about the law was fascinating. I also learned about a part of life that would be otherwise unknown to me. The stress comes from hearing about vicious, immoral crimes day in and day out. One's sense of safety is at least temporarily set back, as one hears incessantly about all the nasty things that can happen. One gets a new perspective on the criminal geography of the city, as neighborhoods that one passes day in and day out suddenly are seen as the site for major heroin traffic, burglary and assorted crimes. Grand Jury proceedings are supposed to be secret, so I can't go into specific crimes — but they certainly included several murders, burglaries, child abuse, sexual assault and a plethora of gun, drug and auto theft charges.
All in all, it was something well worth doing, assuming one has a reasonably strong constitution. Grand Juries also vary somewhat according to their specialties. Interestingly, 90% of the grand jurors were African American, so socioeconomic issues come up in this very intense environment.


Grand Jury Duty
Leila Afzal,

John Rosenthal asked about experience serving on the Grand Jury. I did about two years ago. I served for 8 weeks, 3 days a week. I loved it. I felt as though we were an important part of criminal jurisprudence. I felt I was part of the process of protecting victims' rights, as well as ensuring that an accused was only indicted if there was probable cause, not mere suspicion. We never indicted a ham sandwich, by the way.  


Public Library Hours to Be Extended
Phil Shapiro,

Some happy news to report regarding the public libraries in DC. Starting Jan. 19, 1999, MLK library will be open four evenings a week until 9 pm. (Mon.-Thurs.) Over the coming months branch libraries will also be extending their evening hours from one evening to two evenings per week. (i.e. Mon./Wed. or Tues./Thurs.) In other library news, Washington Post reporter Juan Williams will be talking about his new book: Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary at Takoma DC Public Library on Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 7:30 to 9 pm. This book received a strongly favorable review in the New York Times two weeks ago. I have a copy of the review on my hard drive and can email it to any interested dcwatch subscribers. (Or you can track it down on the New York Times web site. ) Further info about news and events in the DC libraries can be found at


Affordable Hotel
Dante Terrana,

In response to Sarah Woodhead's request for a reasonable hotel in the DC area, I have had success in the past with the Days Inn on Connecticut Avenue (near Albermarle) in upper Northwest. It is a short walk to the Van Ness Metro stop, and the rates have been reasonable in the past, particularly if your visitors are able to use any of the traditional discounts — AAA, AARP, etc. They seem to have attracted a lot of tour bus operators in the past year or two, and it has become increasingly difficult to find availability.



Sandy Carroll,

Interested in a good hike? The Wanderbirds Hiking Club meets every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. at two locations in the area. One is 17th and K Streets, NW. We take a bus to the trail, hike a few miles, return to the bus for beer and munchies, and then back to 17th and K. We have two challenging hikes every week (rain, shine, or weather) which include a moderate hike and a long hike, and beginners are welcome. If you are interested in signing up for a hike, or if you would like a copy of the quarterly hike schedule, you can call Sandy Carroll at 202-554-4161, or Herb Cooper at 301-460-3064. On Sunday, January 10, we will be hiking at Seneca Creek State Park on the Greenway Trail. Every week we have a good, healthy outing. Come with us!


Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Together
David Sobelsohn,

Can pro-life and pro-choice activists work together towards such shared goals as reducing the rate of teen pregnancy and educating the public about adoption? Find out on Saturday, January 23, one day after the 26th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when Common Ground of the Nation's Capital holds a one-day workshop at American University. The general public is invited; there will be a $10 charge. CGNC is the local affiliate of the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice, a national group that brings together pro-choice and pro-life activists for peaceful dialogue and cooperative action. CGNC participants include Ann Stone, president, Republicans for Choice, and Frederica Mathewes-Green, NPR commentator and former communications director, Feminists for Life. For further information about the January 23 dialogue contact Megan Park, .


Discover New Worlds with “Galileo”
David Sobelsohn,

Footlights — DC's only modern drama discussion group — meets monthly to discuss plays from the modern theater. Membership is free; we pass the hat to make expenses. At our meeting Tuesday, January 19, we will celebrate the centennial of one of history's most influential dramatists: Bertolt Brecht, author of “Mother Courage,” “The Threepenny Opera,” and our January play, “Galileo” (1947), about the persecution of the famous physicist. Controversial Brecht biographer John Fuegi (“Brecht & Co.”) will lead our discussion, which also features Chris Henley & Jim Stone, co-directors of the upcoming Washington Shakespeare Co. production of our play (under the title “Life of Galileo”). Our discussion takes place from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at Delray Vietnamese Garden, 4918 Del Ray Ave., a few blocks north of the Bethesda metro off Old Georgetown Rd. For reservations e-mail or call (202) 638-0444. We will attend “Life of Galileo” at 2 p.m. Sunday February 21 at the Washington Shakespeare Co., 601 S. Clark St., Arlington. Tickets are $11. For tickets e-mail or call (301) 897-9314. You can attend either the discussion or the performance or both. For general information about Footlights visit our website at or call David Sobelsohn at (202) 484-8303.


Tasting Society International January/February 1999 Calendar of Events
Charlie Adler,

January events: 1) “California vs. Australia/New Zealand Wine Tasting,” Thurs., Jan. 14th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $45. 2) “French Country Wines,” Thur., Jan. 21st, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $38. 3) “Wine Basics 101,” Wed., Jan. 27th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $35. February Events: 4) “Wines of Spain and Portugal,” Thurs., Feb. 4th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $38, 5) “California Dream Wines!,” Tues., Feb. 9th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $40, 6) “Wine Basics 101,” Thur., Feb. 11th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $35, 7) Mardi Gras in Washington, DC. Jambalaya, Gumbo, Dixie Beer and Zydeco Crayz Band! Feb. 16th (Fat Tuesday), 8-12 a.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $55, 8) “Wine 102: Fool the Experts!,” Wed., Feb. 17th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $35. Reservations: RSVP at (202)333-5588 or email: or the reservation form at our web page at



Computer Donations
Phil Shapiro,

Did Santa leave a shining new computer under your tree last month? There are tons of grassroots nonprofit organizations in the DC area who would be immensely grateful to receive a donation of your older computer. If you need ideas of places to donate, I'm happy to share info about some of the organizations I know of doing yeoman community work. I won't clog dcwatch with descriptions of the organizations I'm a big fan of, but will gladly share this info via email with anyone who is interested. I'll also give two hours of free Mac consulting to anyone who donates an older Mac to a nonprofit organization. (Offer valid for the month of January.)


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
The Passing Of Power In D.C.: There was a moment during Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr.'s farewell speech on Saturday afternoon when it appeared that Hizzoner might never relinquish control of the District government. After several minutes of waxing nostalgic to an unresponsive audience, Barry burst forth with a few inspirational words about unifying the city. The crowd voiced its approval, and Barry stood smiling at the podium. It looked like a perfect time to step down, hand the Seal of the District of Columbia to successor Anthony Williams, and fade into private life for the second time in 27 years.
But in the spirit of Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet, Barry held on, waiting out the ovation and continuing his retrospective. That was just what Williams supporters had feared.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:
From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Sunday, Jan 10: Food for Thought farewell, featuring Bill Danoff, John Jennings, Lisa Walker, and Robert Lighthouse. At 6 p.m. at Food for Thought, 1758 Connecticut Ave. NW. $5.
Tuesday, Jan. 12: Joel Glenn Brenner reads and discusses her book, “The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars,” 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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