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October 20, 1999

Please Excuse the Mistakes

Dear Pardoners:

So, you see, Dorothy and I went to 1789 to celebrate her birthday, and had a very nice bottle of chenin blanc, and I'm editing this right after we got home. Now, I could list having dinner at 1789, which is really what civilization is all about, as one of the main reasons that it's nice to live in Washington, except that we could live in the suburbs and still go there to dinner, so it doesn't really count, and several of you have done better than that at listing reasons to live in DC. But in any case, if there are any errors below, though we know there won't be, I'm blaming them on the wine, just as I'm blaming this unfortunate tendency to run-on sentences on the wine.

Many of you have responded to the question of why a newcomer to this area should move into the city, and not all your responses have made it into this issue. More will come on Sunday, but don't stop answering the question if today's messages strike a chord with you. By the way, my favorite line from this issue of themail is Ed Barron's praise of the long-haired dachshund: “They will eat anything and are especially fond of children.” Ed, don't let the City Council know this, or the dachshund will be the next dog breed they try to ban.

Gary Imhoff


Benefits of Living in the District
Connie Ridgway,

I have never lived in the DC suburbs (I've been in the District 21 years) but until last March I reverse commuted to Maryland or Virginia every week day. Now I do it just two days a week. But I see and hear the incredible jams the “other side” gets in, and I thank God every day I'm not on the other side of the road. In a reverse commute, I take about 15 or 20 minutes to get there — whereas if I were coming into town, the time is getting longer and longer — just read about all the snarls in the news. I enjoy taking the metro downtown — it's a nice walk or a fairly easy car ride/park to get to the station. And bicycling is a pretty good way to get around.

But, the real reason I stay in the city is — it's a wonderful city. Great theater, restaurants, night life, character, scenery (Rock Creek park, Glover-Archibald Park, Canal towpath, Dumbarton Oaks, National Arboretum, all the memorials, views from the high points such as National Cathedral, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Cardozo High School), art galleries, Chinatown. A sense of being in the middle of everything. And who could pass up all this great drama in our political scene?

The only thing I miss is a vote in Congress. And this too shall be ours, I know it will. I just hope in my lifetime.


Advice to the Prospective DC Newcomer
Lea Adams,

Our region hosts a variety of lifestyles and quality of life in city suburbs and rural areas. Make a list of what you want/don't want to experience in the place you call home. The smell of grass vs. concrete; fast food vs. fine dining; night life vs. quiet; DiverCity vs. SuitCity “whitebread.” If rush-hour traffic makes you crazy, buy near a Metro station. As for schools, none of them will damage your kids as much as too much television, not enough parenting, or xenophobia dressed up as safety. You know the drill — follow your instincts, not a realtor.

Yes, you will be subject to instant political disenfranchisement if you choose to live in capital city of the “free world.” If you want to have your laws and your leaders empowered and respected; and your taxes spent on priorities defined in, by and for your community, you'd better stick to VA or MD or be prepared for a fight or a failure in DC. Yes, it bothers me to live under the dictatorship of Congress. It bothers me that Washington, DC, is the first and last jurisdiction in the US to be run like a plantation government — where the masters profit and the slaves are blamed for everything that doesn't work. It even bothers me to think we might get an empowered Member of Congress without an empowered citizenry. If it really bothers YOU, please tell your friends, neighbors and Congressional representatives
that it's time to bring DC residents into the circle of self-determination and democracy enjoyed by citizens in the rest of the nation. If the pending lawsuit known as the Twenty DC Citizens (Adams v. Clinton) prevails, it will right the last of America's great Civil Wrongs. See to learn more. Wherever you decide to live, your neighbors in the District of Columbia need and deserve your support. Thanks, and welcome!


Humanness on 13th Street
Alan Abrams,

In contrast to what makes DC a desirable tourist destination, it is the human scale of its neighborhoods which makes it an exceptional place to live. And the “human--ness” of this scale is in inverse proportion to the accessibility of the automobile. While I am not luddite enough to deny that there is a balance required between perfect tranquility and the convenience of relatively unimpeded travel by car, I still maintain that the balance point is upset when the highest value is maximum traffic flow rate. I remember how easy it was, 25 years ago, to slide downtown on 13th St., which was one-way inbound in the morning, and one-way outbound in the afternoon. Of course the traffic flow was nothing less than oceanic. I am happy to sacrifice five minutes of travel time if it makes that street more livable for my neighbors.


Living in DC
Peter Wolff, Dupont Circle,

Regarding Dru Sefton's query about what he should say to someone to convince her/him/them to live in DC proper rather than the 'burbs, I say don't waste your time. If people haven't got a clue, then they don't belong downtown. It would be about as pointless as trying to tell me, who grew up on East 96 Street in Manhattan, why I would be happy on a ranch in Texas. Either it's gotten into my psyche that this is what will make me the happiest or it hasn't, but for a rancher to try to convince me or reassure me is not the way to go (although I'd be glad to answer pointed questions dealing with specifics). But if the person needs to be convinced of the benefits of what for him/her/them is possibly a foreign venue, I say, “forget it!”


Merits of Living in DC
Jessica Vallette,

1) Knowing most of your neighbors on your block. 2) Knowing most of the dogs within a 5 block radius. 3) Corner stores (and bars and live theaters and museums) you can walk to. 4) Commuting (or going anywhere) by bike (get outta yer cars and inta life!) 5) Rock Creek Park and the C&O Canal 6) The Metro (if you really need to get to a mall, you can get to most within 20 minutes).

De-Merits: 1) The traffic noise, we live between 11th and Vermont and it has become very loud since traffic has been diverted our way to accommodate the construction of the dastardly convention center. 2) Lack of meaningful representation in Congress. 3) The distance we have to go to get our groceries (the nearest full-sized store, Giant, is 6 blocks away.) 4) School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who insists on paving over our beloved greenspace/playing field at Garrison Elementary.

Rats are not a problem in our part of the neighborhood. Overall, I wouldn't live anywhere else!


Welcome to the City
Michele Rhodes,

Well, Dru, I think you'll find that we in the District are fiercely a loyal, complaining, and activist lot. Yes, of course we want national (and for that matter local) representation, but we're a feisty bunch who won't sit back and let Congress or anyone else trample us. Being close to downtown is a big plus, but not just because of a short commute (although I can't emphasize enough the stress reducer this is). There are great restaurants, a vibrant theater scene, clubs, the zoo, all the museums (mostly free), the Mall (not shopping) and monuments — all within walking, biking, Metro, or a short and fairly inexpensive cab ride. You'll be surprised how much more you use these great amenities when you don't have to drive into the city. Plus, by living and paying taxes in the city I'm guessing you'll be working in, you get the right to complain about it.

MOST of the rats can be dealt with.

On another subject: no speed bumps. We have a 25 mph speed limit throughout the city that needs to be enforced throughout the city. Why do I have the feeling that speed bump placement would have little to do with real need (and who would determine that need)? Although ... maybe rumble strips near the schools would make commuters wake up long enough to see the 15 mph zone signs.


Welcome, Dru
Mike Livingston,

Yes, there are many rats. Yes, it's offensive and frustrating to be an American citizen and taxpayer not represented in Congress — and we're working on that. But this is a great place to live anyway. Discover, if you haven't already: Red Sea. The Brickskellar. Ellington's On Eighth. Everlasting Life. The Uptown. The 10-minute plays contest at the Source. National Museum of Women in the Arts. Kulturas, Idle Times, Second Story. The S. Dillon Ripley Center. The towpath. Walking across Taft Bridge in the snow.

That's just the wistful top 10 of a D.C. native. On a more serious note, I always thought I'd move away after college, but I've stayed around because I can always find myself presented with opportunities to do good in the world — I don't know what you've heard, but there's a lot of good people here working hard to improve people's lives and communities. Plus: Living in town is environmentally responsible, hip, cheap (factoring in transportation spending and time) and a lot easier than you've probably heard. And if, like most Americans, you're tired of the same old politics, we've got 39 political parties on the books — soon to be 38, when the D.C. Statehood Party and the D.C. Green Party complete their merger. (That's where you'll find me, but whatever your political sentiments, please don't be one of those people who move to D.C., live here, work here, raise children here, but retain their old voter registration from back home. You can download a voter registration form at


Living in Washington, DC
Terry Cordaro,

Why not live in Washington? Aside from a shorter commute to downtown and cheaper late-night cab rides (until the metro runs until 1 am next month) it is quick and convenient to drive out to the 'burbs for errands or even jobs. There is a bill in the works, [isn't there?] to grant the children of DC residents in-state tuition in both Virginia AND Maryland starting in the next couple of years — a consideration if a moving couple has children. Washington, DC has many trees. We have lovely buildings. We have Rock Creek Park. One could live even inadvertently in a historic house in this city — to paraphrase our own mayor, how many archaeological digs take place in the suburbs? We are the only American city I've heard of with its very own license plates. I moved from the 'burbs myself this summer and have not looked back.

It's very convenient to walk to stores, take the bus to work, and even driving isn't so bad after a while and either acquiring or sharpening nerves of steel. Washington is a very aesthetically pleasing city; far prettier, in my opinion, than the suburbs. Alexandria is lovely but Old Town is probably no cheaper than Washington and the Metro is a mile away from the “downtown” of Old Town. Washington, DC is not as showy or as braggadocios as New York is. It's the quiet little sister who may not be Homecoming Queen, and who is not running around telling everyone how gorgeous she is all the time, but she can hold her own, and the wise ones can figure that out and will appreciate her for it in the long run anyway. Washington is a very clean, pleasant smelling large city, too. I've not had any trouble with rats in my corner of Northwest.

Revitalization is strong in the city and if you want to buy a fixer upper house or condominium, now is the time to do it. Residential parking is not outlandishly expensive here. I live in an apartment which enables me to keep my car, free of charge. And after a few months one discovers where to park downtown on the weekends. My friends may say they prefer living in the suburbs, but I have yet to meet anyone who has complained about stopping by my place on the way home from work for a drink or dinner. Some are even envious. After all, though I pay more rent, I save money on commuting! Most importantly, in my opinion, DC is a vibrant community, 500,000 strong, maybe not as vibrant as many European cities or New York, true, but it is a friendly, southern town and I greatly enjoy running into people whom I know or even people whom I don't know but whom I see frequently; I feel as if I belong to someplace really special.


The Burbs of Europe
Adam J, Marshall,

Ed Barron's comment on “The Vibrant Cities of Europe” certainly hits the mark, but unfortunately there's a downside to this model of urban development as well. What Mr. Barron and most tourists don't see in places like Paris, London, Barcelona and Rome are the incredibly bleak and desolate SUBURBS. European urban planners — one might say with foresight — have always poured money into their inner cities, which pushed property values and prices up, while outlying areas became magnets for lower income housing and the same conditions we see in our city centers. As a result, places like Paris are tourist showpieces; only two of Paris' twenty arrondissements are considered “run-down.” However, satellite cities like Bobigny, Saint-Denis and Nanterre are packed with monolithic concrete apartment buildings, crime, drugs and poorer families. Imagine Bethesda, Oxon Hill or McLean looking like the South Bronx!! It's just the flip side of the coin — the same bad conditions exist, just in different geographic locations.

We in the States actually have a better shot at urban renewal — the solid housing stock in our inner cities, for example, is leading people away from cookie cutter cul-de-sacs and back into the center. The Washington we love will eventually be a 24-hour city, like the ones Mr. Barron saw in Europe. But it will certainly take time, money and more determination. Mr. Barron's right that we desperately need downtown housing; as I recall, Terry Lynch has been fighting for just that for years, and I wish him all the luck in the world. In the end, if we do build more downtown apartments, I believe that we'll have inner-city communities far more diverse and just as livable as those in Europe — after all, given our relative youth, we're just getting started!


Paris and Neighborhood Satisfaction
Mark Richards,

Paris is hosting a summit of mayors of the world in March 2000 as part of the year long millennium celebrations. Purpose: to debate the future of the great cities. Wonder if our mayor will attend. I think he should — he will make good useful contacts to deal with similar problems; he would probably receive criticism for traveling, but the fact is air tickets to Europe are usually less than to other US cities, and as someone suggested in a recent issue, Europe has great urban areas developed over time from which a person with authority could find inspiration and vision for DC. DC has the elements to become a great world city with connected neighborhoods; it is already in the league of international cities (they are networked as international hubs; sometimes have more in common with each other than other cities in their country because have similar behaviors, economies, and are surrounded by satellite towns and cities) — DC is designed for it, on its own merits beyond the NCSA, but it will require an understanding — seeing and experiencing is better than any books — by leadership about how people live together in urban space, and policies to move this along; Beth Solomon said that when she mentioned this to Max Brown in the Mayor's office, he said DC should think more along the lines of Pittsburgh or Cleveland. For me, this is aiming too low; there is a book by an Italian called Streets are for People, about the differences between us and European cities.

Back when the unmitigated local power installed the Control Board, I was tired of reading all the negative press about DC and wondered why the hell so many of us stay, so I did a survey of my condo, the Cairo. I was interested to find a perception gap. When asked to rate satisfaction with DC, the rating was significantly lower than asked to rate satisfaction with ,your neighborhood. I also dug out polls citywide from the Post and found the same thing: people rate their neighborhood higher than the city as a whole. This defies logic, except that people think their own area is better than others — or what they've HEARD about other ones. This told me that much is image/press driven, and this is used to make locals ashamed and to frame the host of the capital and national institutions; for the suburbs and nation; as mostly bad.


New Reno Road — Watch Out — The Telecomm Cutters Are at It Again!
Anne Drissel,

We can rest assured that that long-delayed Reno Road resurfacing is about to be completed based on the appearance of those sure-fired, predictable, no-surprises telltale signs: newly painted yellow broken lines running parallel to each other about 18 inches apart running up the middle of the northbound lanes, marking the path of precision-cut lines sawed right through the new surface. Yes, you guessed it — the brand new road surface is about to be severed by a brand new telecom utility cut! And, as always, they cut right through those wonderful cement landing pads at the bus stops so we can count on our tires being slashed by the permanently sinking and deteriorating side-walls of the cement cut for years to come!

Give us a break — couldn't somebody from DPW handing out permits for these utility cuts coordinate with whoever is responsible for contracting the road resurfacing and get together on scheduling this work so it's done ONLY once! This is ridiculous!


Calling for a Cab in DC
Stacey Kornegay,

I really sympathize with [Phil Shapiro], because I have been there. I, too, live in Southeast DC and I hate getting penalized for living in the 7th District. Cabs will not take me home, especially foreigners, and when you call for a cab, it may take an hour or two before you MIGHT get one. The only good experience I have ever had with a DC cab company is when my godson was having an asthma attack. This was on a Sunday morning around the beginning of summer. I called Taxicab (829-4222) and told the dispatcher I desperately needed a cab to take me to Children's Hospital. I guess it was the urgency in my voice, or maybe my 5 year old godson sobbing, but I got a cab in 2 minutes. Unfortunately, I didn't get the cab company name, but he got us there in under 10 minutes. I was grateful and my godson turned out okay. I guess I said all that to drive this point home: if you have an address that includes any part of Southeast, your chances of hailing a cab or getting one to pick you up are slim to none.


Give the Man a Sign!
Robert Andrew,

WASA staff had to close a section of Reservoir Rd to install a major water connection, and their time chosen was rush-hour Friday evening. They set up cones and CLOSED signs at each end of the section, and many cars figured out how to detour through side streets to bypass the work. However, lots of others did a U-turn and help clog up traffic going in the other direction. When I asked the flag man why they did not set up DETOUR signs with ARROWS (not just CLOSED), he advised their trucks had no such signs. Come on, WASA, spend some of the rate hike on equipping your crews with signs that help keep things moving!


Speed Bumps in DC
Richard Steacy,

Regarding speed bumps in our city, the best location for them would be on Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park. This would be an ideal way of both thinning out and slowing traffic without going to the extreme of closing Beach drive to traffic altogether.


Critter Sighting
Ed T. Barron,

At 5:30 AM, just as my wife prepared to open the door to let our long haired Dachshund, Bo, out for his early morning foray into the back yard, the motion sensing light illuminated the entire back deck. And there, standing on the deck, was a small raccoon looking for a handout. Not wishing to test our elderly (14 years old) dog's hunting prowess, my wife rattled the door handle and the errant critter headed for safety under the deck. There's not much clearance under the deck but the critter managed to find his way under it. Then my wife let our master hunter out. He sniffed (the sense of smell is the last to go) and let everyone know that there was something in the air but only looked casually over the edge of the deck.

Many folks don't know that long haired dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers. Long haired dachshunds are tenacious, fearless, and terminally stupid. They will go down a badger tunnel to force the badger out the other end. Many dachshunds never came back from those missions. They are, however, lovable and loyal. They will eat anything and are especially fond of children. When our old man heads to dachshund heaven to join his mom and his great great grandmother, we will likely get another lovable longhaired hound.


Teachers’ Unions and School Quality
Joe Davidson,

Ed Barron (10/17/99) states “Teachers' Unions have ruined the public schools in the U.S.” This is a bit off the mark. In general, school performance in unionized states is higher than non-union states. I do not claim the opposite, that unionization helps, as the non-union states tend to be Southern and poor, and the unionized states tend to be more affluent. Teachers' unions sometimes can be real obstacles to school reform. Still, it is a real stretch to blame unions for the poor quality of our schools.



Film Screening
Phil Shapiro,

“There's No Place Like Home,” a film by Marguerite Arnold. Work in progress screening at the Reel Affirmations 9 International Gay Film Festival. Thursday, October 21, 9 pm., Lincoln Theater, 1215 U Street NW, Washington DC. Cost $8. For tickets call 1-800-494-TIXS. For more information about the film, check out the web site at



Heating Repair Recommendation
Clare Feinson,

For heating repairs, I HIGHLY recommend Eli's Heating and Air Conditioning, (301)656-3113. After a squirrel got into our basement and chewed off the contact wires between the starter and the furnace, I called Spartan, who I do NOT recommend. They came, told me that not only was the connection not repairable, but they could not put on a new starter either because the furnace would melt down. They wanted to replace the whole furnace, and quoted me a price of $3900! Eli came and looked at it, told me that what Spartan had said was nonsense, and fixed it for $100.


Tree Trimmer
Stephanie Mencimer,

Any recommendations for a good tree trimming company? Have big shaggy trees in need of haircut.


Tree Trunk Removal
Evelyn Wrin,

We're looking for someone who can cut down the final part (about 4 feet) of a tree trunk, about 12" in diameter, and take it away, along with two other pieces of the trunk, one about 6-7 feet and the other about 3-4 feet in length. Any suggestions of a business or individual that might do this would be appreciated. Call 202-244-5744 or send an E-mail to


Erica Nash,

For your garden needs: landscape design, planting, mulching, clean-up, etc., try Zoe Richardson. Zoe has been shaping my garden for several years; she spent years working for a landscaper who took care of houses in the plush DC Foxhall neighborhood and large houses on the eastern shore. She is a studying landscape architecture. She is very hard working, diligent, timely, knowledgeable, interesting. She enjoys looking up facts about plants she is unfamiliar with, and researching for new types of plants to place in “problem spots” of a garden. She enjoys a challenge. She is honest. She has always given me and people I have recommended to her, a fair deal, sometimes hourly, sometimes by the job. She also has worked on ponds, installed walkways, landscaped side entrances and facades of hills. I can't say there is much she has not done. She also is not frail: she rototills, moves large plants, re-soils entire fields sometimes with help, sometimes by herself. I highly recommend her. Good luck.


Best School
Erica Nash,

The very best school is The Field School. Very hard to get in. Call the director: Miss Elizabeth Ely, 232-0733.



R. L. Widmann,

For sale, on Capitol Hill, 7th and Independence SE. Art Deco coffee table. Blue mirrored glass top, $125.00. White Ikea drop-leaf dining table, 31"x27", opens to 55", $45.00. Light green Ikea table lamp, 24" high, $12.00. Artist's display easel, $150.00. Wooden rocker w/carved back, $175.00. Wooden lectern/display for art books, $100.00. R L Widmann, 202-543-3015.


Gloria White,

Antique 4-drawer oak filing cabinet, excellent condition ($250). Steel storage cabinets, one 6 feet high, black, excellent condition ($50), second 4 feet high, tan, ($10); arm/side chair, light blue upholstery with mahogany arms ($45); two kitchen base cabinets, one drawer unit and one shelf unit, each white laminate ($20/each); architect's drafting table, ($15). Call Gloria White at (202) 966-2852.



When Only the Opera Will Do
Lynne Mersfelder,

I'm seeking just one ticket for the Washington Opera, for a November 5 performance of Le Cid. If you can assist, please email or call 301-713-3078 x 172. Merci!


Friends of Garrison
Susan Ousley,

Many of you have asked how you might show Garrison School children that you want to help them without taking from them. We tried to send letters to all the teachers, asking them to tell us what they needed. The principal scolded us and took the letter out of all the teachers' mailboxes. Nonetheless, some teachers are determined to help their students and have asked if neighbors can supply: inexpensive analog watches for 2nd graders learning to tell time (25); aquariums for frogs and fishies; paperback books, especially for 5th and 6th graders; sponsorship of field trips (bus or van cost); subscriptions to juvenile magazines (Ranger Rick, Highlights, etc.); math games ('Smath, etc.). Friends of Garrison, Susan Ousley, 626-3148 home.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
B.A. IN FINANCE: On Tuesday morning, a pro forma event went down at B. Smith's restaurant at Union Station: Mayor Anthony A. Williams swore in the members of the Workforce Investment Council, a group that will advise the city's Department of Employment Services on how to disburse its job training cash. Just like any other perfunctory function involving the District's gaggle of boards and commissions, the event garnered nary a mention in the local press.
The moment, however, was not without a notable quirk. Among the council's 34 new members was Charlene Drew Jarvis. No, not Ward 4 Councilmember and Economic Development Committee Chairman Charlene Drew Jarvis. This was the other Charlene Drew Jarvis — the wildly successful president of Southeastern University at 501 I St. SW.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
WEDNESDAY: Dava Sobel reads and signs copies Galileo's Daughter at 8 p.m. at the National Museum of American History's Carmichael Auditorium, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW. $13.
THURSDAY: Thomas Hoving discusses and signs his book Art for Dummies at 8 p.m. at the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Jefferson Auditorium, 14th and Independence Avenue SW, Wing 4. $13.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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