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November 17, 1999

It’s Stupid

Dear Intellectual Leaders:

The Internet may be good for commerce and everyday communication, but it is great for circulating jokes. On another E-mail list, I received the following list of creative ways to say that someone is stupid. It occurred to me that nothing on this list is specific to our city. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to say that a Washingtonian is stupid? Let me propose another contest — come up with the best way to call a Washingtonian stupid, and you'll win the grand prize that themail always gives, the admiration of your peers.

A few clowns short of a circus.
A few fries short of a happy meal.
The wheel's spinning, but the hamster's dead.
All foam, no beer.
The butter has slipped off his pancake.
The cheese slid off his cracker.
Body by Fisher, brains by Mattel.
Warning: Objects in mirror are dumber than they appear.
Couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel. He fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.
As smart as bait.
Doesn't have all his dogs on one leash.
Her sewing machine's out of thread.
One fruit loop shy of a full bowl.
Her antenna doesn't pick up all the channels.
His belt doesn't go through all the loops.
Proof that evolution CAN go in reverse.
Receiver is off the hook.
Not wired to code.
Skylight leaks a little.
Her slinky's kinked.
Too much yardage between the goal posts.
Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold them together.
A photographic memory, but the lens cover is on.
During evolution his ancestors were in the control group.
Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.
Is so dense, light bends around her.
If brains were taxed, he'd get a rebate.
Standing close to her, you can hear the ocean.
Some drink from the fountain of knowledge, but he just gargled.
She stayed on the Tilt-A-Whirl a bit too long.

Gary Imhoff


Close UDC
Ed T. Barron,

The article in last Sunday's Post magazine section should convince most sane folks that it is time to either close UDC or to drastically change its mission. With a six-year graduation rate of only 6% and a total enrollment (part and full time) of just over 5000 students, the District is pouring in almost $10K per student each year. And for what? We'd be much better off giving needy students who qualify for entrance into other (real) colleges and universities, a grant of $10K per year which (combined with the Federal subsidy) would allow them to get into a whole slew of good schools. George Mason is already conducting remedial courses for would-be college students who are attending the 9th and 10th grades in D.C. schools. There's no grass growing on George Mason. They are lining up potential students to increase, or maintain their enrollment in the years to come.

UDC should reinvent themselves into a Junior College with remedial courses to bring D.C.'s High School grads to a level where they can qualify for admittance to area colleges and universities. Another role for UDC would be to offer courses for non-college-bound students who need specific skill training and education in fields where they can secure good jobs. It is likely that major companies would participate with instruction and funds in this latter type program to create a bank of future employees.


Ted Gest,

For those following the long running saga of the Chevy Chase Community Center: having no luck getting a straight story from the Recreation Department, I went to the top — the recreation director's office, which provided the number of D.C.'s Office of Property Management. The good news is that a polite gentleman actually called me back the same day! But the story essentially was the same: because of complicated PEPCO problems and unanticipated elevator shaft woes (hence “shafted”), the building won't re-open in late November as hoped. Mid- to late December is a better bet, but even that will be up to D.C. inspectors. My informant apologized for the “delay.” I responded that it was a heck of a delay — well over a year so far for a project supposed to take six months or fewer. Will the contractor be penalized? Too early to say. Thanks to the D.C. library system and Fresh Fields (courtesy of this E-mail list) for helping host the National Scrabble Association's Club 171 in the long interim. Now the question is whether the center will beat Y2K. Any guesses?


Millennium Celebration
Lorraine Swerdloff,

Does anyone have details about the New Year's celebrations in DC being put on by the White House and by the District? I'm interested in when/what kind of events are being planned.


Common Interests: D.C. Public Schools
Kathy Sinzinger,

The Common Denominator, D.C.'s “hometown newspaper,” wants to know what D.C. residents and taxpayers think would solve the problems in D.C. Public Schools. Do you support Councilman Kevin Chavous's proposal for reforming the school board, which would require changing the city's “home rule” charter? Or do you have a better idea? A chart comparing the current system to Chavous's proposal accompanies a story on pages 15-16 of the current issue of The Common Denominator. A summary of part of the proposal can be read online at Your comments on the issue may be submitted as a letter to the editor or to be posted online in our “Common Interests” section (or you may specify that you are submitting for both). Letters may be mailed or hand delivered to Editor, The Common Denominator, 680 Rhode Island Avenue NE, Suite N, Washington, DC 20002; faxed to (202) 635-1449; or E-mailed to For posting online, please click on “Common Interests” at


Nuisance Properties
Danny Freedman,

Has anyone had any recent bouts with nuisance properties? I'd like to talk with residents about their experiences for a news story I'm working on for a class. I'm looking into nuisance properties, specifically, the work of the old Nuisance Property Task Force, formed under the Barry administration, that is currently looking to be re-established. The group works on cleaning and barricading nuisance properties, and I want to get a feel for how they're viewed by residents, especially if you've had contact with them. Anything you could provide would help, but please contact me by Friday or Saturday if you've got any info to share.


Be Careful What You Wish For
Ed T. Barron,

The folks in AU Park who complained about the large buses driving through their neighborhood asked for, and got, smaller buses. These new buses are likely to create less wear and tear on the streets but they are an assault on the ear drums. The noise level of these buses while in a cruise mode is about twice the noise level of the old long buses.

It is hard to believe that the procurement folks in the District did not test drive one or more of the new buses before buying them. If any rational person had actually taken a ride on one of these buses or observed one on the streets of D.C. they would have been appalled at the high roaring sound the bus makes. If these buses are still plying the residential neighborhoods in AU Park, then my sympathy goes out to those neighborhoods. Here on Massachusetts Avenue the sound is just one small part of the cacophony of daily ear intrusions. Double paned glass all around is the only solution here.


Yes, There Are Lots of Bars and Restaurants
Mike Fasano,

This is to clarify questions raised by Peter and Kirsten. When I refer to the 17th Street Strip I am talking about The Dupont East Moratorium Zone, which includes 17th Street and the restaurants around the corner on P, Q & R Streets. This strip includes the following ABC establishments: 1. Skewers Restaurant (1633 P), 2. Cafe Luna (1633 P), 3. Bua Restaurant (1635 P), 4. Sushi Taro (1503 17th), 5. Il Radicchio (1509 17th), 6. JR's Bar & Grill (1519 17th), 7. Peppers Bar & Restaurant (1527 17th), 8. Fox & Hounds Bar (1537 17th), 9. Trio Restaurant (1537 17th), 10. Trio Pizza & Sub Shop (1624 Q), 11. Club Chaos (1633 Q; corner 17th & Q), 12. Mercury Grill (1602 17th), 13. Annie's Steak House (1609 17th), 14. Frontera Cantina (1633 17th), 15. Dupont Italian Kitchen Restaurant (1637 17th), 16. Dupont Italian Kitchen Lounge (1637 17th), 17. Townhouse Tavern (1639 R), 18. Sol Restaurant (1639 R; corner 17th & R), 19. Cobalt Bar (1639 R), 20. Cairo Wine & Liquor (1618 17th), 21. Berose Liquor (1711 17th), 22. Daily Market (1617 17th), 23. Pena Spanish Store (1636 17th)

Four of the 23 ABC establishments sell alcohol for off premise consumption; nineteen are restaurants and/or bars. There are a total of over 2200 ABC seats in these establishments. The corresponding population in the moratorium zone is roughly 3600. ABC establishments account for roughly 40% of the commercial businesses in the area and roughly 50% of street level frontage. This for a commercial zone that is supposed to be a “community” commercial zone; and which (for the block on which JR's and Fox & Hounds bars are located) is directly across the street from a residential zone. However you slice it, it seems to me like we have a lot of ABC business in the 17th Street area.

I'm not sure that we can ever agree on what the right balance is for our neighborhood. And I am not opposed to any of the businesses we have now. I just think that if you have too many bars and restaurants, your neighborhood becomes more like an entertainment zone than a neighborhood. That may be OK for people who commute in from other areas and even for some who live nearby; but it concerns me. I think we are at the limit of what a neighborhood can have and still remain a neighborhood.


17th Street Bars and Restaurants
Ralph Blessing,

Peter Luger asks how a proposed JR's expansion would have anything to do with a pet food store relocating or a plant shop closing. I suspect it may have something to do with the need to have a critical mass of stores open during the daytime to attract pedestrian traffic, which is the source of potential customers upon which small businesses depend. Awhile back my wife was told by the owner of the Artistic Lamps store on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park that the proliferation of new restaurants, coffee shops, etc. on the block might force him to go belly up, since those newer businesses attracted most of their customers at night. A store like Artistic Lamps, on the other hand, depends on potential customers being out and about throughout the day. But as the number of like businesses decreases, their
space taken over by the latest trendy restaurant, fewer and fewer potential customers frequent the area during daylight hours.


Cell Phones and Safety in the Park
Kathy Chamberlain, Hillcrest, SE,

Cell phone towers ARE about safety, and I wish we had at least one in our neighborhood. Almost two years ago while taking my morning walk, I came across a dead body although at the time I wasn't entirely certain he was dead. Not having a cell phone, I ran into the street and flagged down the next car that passed. It was a Saturday morning so traffic was light. The driver happened to have a cell phone and let me use it. The signal was weak, so it took several tries to get through to 911. This incident happened on 28th Street, S.E. which runs through Fort Circle Park, an extension of Fort Dupont Park. Most people who live near Rock Creek Park won't have the slightest idea where this is, but suffice it to say it is a beautiful national park in east-of-the-river DC which has something in common with Rock Creek Park: poor cell phone reception. The emergency team informed me that the man was dead (blunt force) but had probably only been dead for 1-2 hours. His body was still warm. By the tire tracks nearby, they surmised that he'd been dumped from a car. This meant that if I had walked at my usual time, about an hour earlier, I might have witnessed the drop-off scene. I briefly considered discontinuing the daily walk — very briefly. Instead I got a walking partner and invested in a cell phone. The walking partner is great, but the cell phone is almost useless. I've tried every carrier. Reception is poor throughout my neighborhood. BAM, why don't you put a tower on this side of the river? By the way, the police later told me that the dead person was not from around here, but from NW, and that parks all over the city serve as convenient drop-off points, especially during times when there is little traffic. Rock Creek walkers/joggers: consider yourselves fortunate to be getting a cell phone tower.


Road Service
Kathy Carroll,

Speaking of road service, I am very happy with the service I get from GEICO for just about $10/year. I've been locked out of my car at the MCI center at 10:30 p.m. and gotten help, I've been in VA and MD and gotten help. (NOTE ON THE MCI Lock Out: I was on the phone to GEICO getting help when literally 15 employees surrounded me in what I took to be a menacing manner because I was holding them up from going home!) GEICO members may want to check it out.

And about stakeholders. Haven't we kicked this around enough? It's just the latest "thing." No one says it in real life, just in the annual reports. Let's not get stuck on this — it's just the latest business-school-talk. We'll all be over that soon — after all, no one calls anything a paradigm anymore, do they?


AAA Service
Fran Dixon,

I've enjoyed at least a decade of excellent service from AAA since moving to the District. The operators have been helpful and reassuring, and the tow truck operators and locksmiths have been relatively quick to respond and unfailingly helpful under pretty distressing circumstances. I can't think of how I would have managed without my AAA membership.


District Cablevision Strikes Again
Leila Afzal,

District Cablevision has struck again. After a big push to provide reception for channels 4 and 5, and improve reception for channels 7 and 9, things have fallen to business as usual. I had two weeks where I could actually watch local network channels (channel 11 became unviewable as a result however), then beginning on Sunday all my network channels started to have the bars, shadows, and in some cases snow. When I called District Cablevision they said it would be 11 days before anyone would come out to look into my problem. I suggested that it might be a bigger problem since my neighbor was also experiencing difficulties. This is not a customer oriented company. And, if it is true that starting in January satellite TV is able to carry local network channels, I think District Cablevision will finally see
real competition. What surprises me most is the silence of the local networks on this issue. One would think they are directly injured by this lack of good reception. I haven't watched channel 4 news in years because of the lousy reception. In the meantime, if anyone has successfully gotten District Cablevision to timely respond to a complaint and have the problem resolved permanently ... all past fixes for me have only lasted a few months ... please let me know how you did it.


Say What?
Nick Keenan, Shaw,

Did anyone else see the item in the Post last week about how the telecommunications company StarPower plans to cut up every single street in the District between now and 2001? Every single street? Is this insane?


DMV = Delightful, Magnificent and Vibrant
Brian Reeves,

My apologies if this has been covered recently (I haven't read in a couple of months). But I like to give kudos to the city government when they deserve it. My inspection sticker and registration expired over the weekend. So I had to visit the DMV this morning. I arrived at 8:10 am (they open at 8:15 am). The line to get in the place was all the way down the hallway and around the corner. I got in line expecting to spend the entire morning there. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. The line started moving at 8:15 am on the dot. When I got to the entrance, the woman in the doorway asked what I was there for. I told her and she directed me to the proper line to get a number. By 8:25 am I had a number.

What's with these numbers, you ask? Well, they now have this cool scoreboard-like contraption hanging from the ceiling that tells you what number is “currently being served” and at what window. Each teller also has an electronic display above his/her window showing which number they are serving. So you don't have to stand in long lines anymore. Now you sit in one of the 80-100 seats they have and read the paper. You also don't have to constantly look up at the "scoreboard" to see if your number is up. When a number comes up, a pleasant voice announces "number J147 now being served at window 13." And lastly, there is even a ticker at the top of the display giving Times Square-like news and information.

Anyway, back to the story. My number was called by 8:45 am. I presented my documentation for new stickers and registration. That took about 5 minutes. Then the teller told me to sit down and wait for my number to be called again. Before I could even select a seat, J147 came up again. This was to visit the cashier. I wrote my check and got my receipt. By the time, I finished paying, my new stickers and registration were waiting for me at window 11. I was walking out the door around 9:00 am. And, believe it or not, the computers were briefly down during my visit. They've also done a minor renovation so the atmosphere is slightly more aesthetic. And while I was there, I overheard a DMV employee refer to me as a "customer." The experience was so painless that I purposely only got a one year renewal so I can go back as soon as possible (just kidding).


911 Delays
Bryce A. Suderow,

One of your correspondents asked if a long delay on a 911 call to the police is typical. Here is an experience I had with the police when I tried to report a death threat against me: on the night of Tuesday, November 9th, I was standing in front of a convenience store at 11th and H NE when a drug dealer ordered me to get off the street. When I refused, he threatened to kill me. The next evening, Wednesday, I phoned 727-1010 and told the police dispatcher why I needed an officer to come to my house. Many hours later, an officer arrived at 2:30 a.m. but was not interested in taking my report. On Thursday, I tried phoning 727-1010 again, this time while eating dinner at a restaurant. I waited for an hour, but no cop ever showed up. When I stepped outside, I saw a police cruiser speeding aimlessly up and down H Street, but he never dropped by to interview me. On Friday I walked orange hat with three police officers. They promised to take my report but were diverted elsewhere during our walk — and they failed to call me back even though I gave them my phone number. I tried calling 727-1010 again on Saturday, but couldn't even get an operator to send me an officer. On Sunday, five days after I first tried reporting the incident, I cornered an officer I knew in a fast food place and got him to take the report.

We who walk orange hat patrol with the police risk our lives and it is amazing to me that they value us so little that it took me five days to find a cop who would report a death threat against me!


The Phantom of the Opera
Jason Juffras,

Was anyone else offended by Mark Richards' reference to “gay boys” at J.R.'s on 17th Street? I'm glad that Mr. Richards is so broad-minded as to acknowledge these “gay boys” as an integral part of his “operatic neighborhood” — one of the J.R.'s staff even lives in his building, as he tells us — but he would do better to treat people with respect rather than as sources of amusement (or should I say derision?).



Grace Reading Series Begins Sixth Season
Robert Andrew,

The Grace Reading Series begins its sixth season of poetry coffeehouses with a reading by emerging poets Mel Belin, Anne Marie Blum, and Paul Napier on Thursday, November 18, at Grace Church in Georgetown.

Mel Belin's book Flesh That Was Chrysalis has just been published by The Word Works, Inc. In 1998 Belin was the winner of Potomac Review's third annual poetry competition. He has published poems in many journals, including Midstream, Antietam, Poet Lore, Cumberland Review, Blue Unicorn, Potomac Review, Visions, Edge City Review, and Minimus. His work was also included in the anthology Hungry as we are (published by the Washington Writer's Cooperative press). Belin has read widely in the Washington, DC area, and has also had his poetry exhibited in a poetry and arts collaboration at the Spectrum gallery in Georgetown and the Strathmore gallery in Bethesda. Anne Marie Blum is a widely published poet who also writes plays and dramatic monologues. Her poems have appeared in the North American Poetry Review, Orpheus, Green Mountains Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Blum's play, “Cafe de l'Espoir,” was produced by the New Works Theater of Virginia in 1994. Paul Napier is a nature writer as well as a poet, and his poetry employs traditional forms and meters to focus closely on the natural world. His poetry has appeared in Mass. Ave. Review and the Federal Poet, and he is vice-president of Washington DC-based Federal Poets.

From its inception, the Grace Reading Series has aimed at providing an intimate setting for bringing new poetry to the community. Admission is free for the reading, which begins at 7:30 pm at 1041 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. During each reading, reduced-rate validated parking is available courtesy of Colonial Parking underneath the Georgetown Park shopping mall, and coffee is donated by the Coffee Beanery on M Street in Georgetown. For general information, call 202 333-7100, and for specific information on the Grace Reading Series contact Jeff Brown at 703-351-9226 or the Church web site at


Join Walk to Help the Homeless
E. James Lieberman,

Saturday, Nov. 20, 10:00 am. Join Mia Hamm and thousands of local citizens to walk 5K for the homeless — Fannie Mae Foundation sponsored. Start and end at Freedom Plaza, 13th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Age 5- 25 (youth) is $10; adults are $20: this gets you a T-shirt and refreshments. You can designate your contribution to a specific organization. You can pre-register at or call 877-WALK-HTH for information.


Hypnotism at UDC
Wayson Lee,

Hi boys & girls, we're all young compared to our parents! Missed you at the Best Western in College Park, hypnotized most of the 55 people last Monday. Next Saturday, we have our next performance. Van Ness-UDC campus auditorium , 11 am - 4 pm, around 3 pm, 4200 Connecticut Avenue NW, 202-362-2068.


Ft. Bayard Park Improvement
Paul J. Fekete,

Friends of Ft. Bayard Park (at the intersection of Western Avenue, River Road, Fessenden Street, and 47th Street, N.W. are forming a group for the improvement of the playground and the beautification of the park. All interested neighbors (on both the DC and Maryland side) are invited to share their ideas and get involved at an initial planning meetings. Saturday, November 20, 4-5:30 pm, River Road United Presbyterian Church, 4420 River Road, N.W., River Road and 45th Street. For further information, please call either Maria Alonso-Vazquez at (202) 966-5633 or Paul Fekete at (202) 686-1759.


Meeting of ANC 3C
Ann Loikow,

Monday, Nov. 22, 1999, at 8:00 p.m. New location for this meeting only, Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street N.W. Agenda includes tour bus issues, alley closing in Square 2140, BZA variance for 2940 Newark Street, DC Voting Rights, and update on Congressional action on DC appropriations. ANC office: 2737 Devonshire Place, NW, (202) 232-2232, fax 232-0667. For more information, call 232-2232 or 363-6658.


Tasting Society International Calendar of Wine Events
Charles Adler,

1) November 16th, Tuesday, “Wine Basics 101,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St., NW, valet parking, Metro Dupont Circle (Red Line), 7-9 pm, $39 per person. Our most attended event! 2) December 2nd, Thursday, “New Zealand Embassy: Oysters and Wine,” Embassy of New Zealand, 37 Observatory Circle, NW, 7-9 pm, $55 per person, portion of proceeds benefit Leukemia Society of America. 3) December 7th, Tuesday, “Holiday Wine and Champagne Extravaganza,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-9:30 pm, $35 per person in advance, $45 at the door. Over 100 wines and champagnes to taste and order at 10-15% off! 4) December 8th, Wednesday, “Best of the Best for 1999,” join Ann Berta, wine columnist for Washingtonian Magazine, as we celebrate her current favorites. Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-9 pm, $55 per person. 5) December 14th, Tuesday, “Wine Basics 101,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-9 pm, $39 per person. 6) December 15th, Wednesday, “Delicious Dessert Wines,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-9 pm, $50 per person. Admit it, you love your wine sweet! Price includes wine and a variety of desserts and sweets. Reservation: secure web form at or phone (202)333-5588.



Ski Equipment
Cheryl Campbell,

Ski Equipment: Olin Mark V 195/198 cm alpine skis — asking $125; Kneissl 205 cm alpine skis — asking $125; Fischer WaxFree Cross Country Skis 215 cm, asking $90; Nordica ski and cross country boots also available; in good condition. Recommended for tall skiers, over 6'. Call David at 483-8558 or 486-6938.



Mrs. Dalloway Needs More Room (of Her Own?)
Charlie Wellander,

Mrs. Dalloway is a beautiful gray Siamese cat who would love to sit on your warm lap and purr. She is an adult cat, age uncertain. But being a bit older has its perks! She won't destroy your furniture and her litter box habits are excellent. She is spayed and up-to-date on all of her vaccinations and health checks. She is an indoor cat and would probably be happier as a single cat.

We adopted her seven months ago from the DC shelter. She is very affectionate. She hops up on your lap as soon as you sit down and she purrs and purrs. Unfortunately, our resident cat will not accept her and we can not keep her much longer in our now divided small apartment. We are looking for a good home for her. If you think you might have room in your home and your heart for Mrs. D., please call and leave a message for us. We will call you back and tell you more about her. Judy and Charlie, 202-363-7350; or E-mail



Our Kingdom for a Good Plumber
Paul Penniman,

For thirteen years we have had various plumbers unsuccessfully work on the toilet in our "powder room," as they delicately call it. Can anyone recommend a really good plumber? I know my neighbor Matt would hate to see me start peeing in our adjoining shrubs.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
STAFFER PHIL: Early this month, colleagues of At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson exacted some long sought revenge on the first-year legislator.
Mendelson had proposed a measure that would have exempted teachers at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts from daytime parking restrictions in the surrounding neighborhood.
The proposal never even reached the council dais. Some councilmembers faulted it for singling out one group of teachers for special treatment; others wondered how it would affect local residents. Nearly all councilmembers, however, chided the proposal on other grounds -- namely, it came off Mendelson's desk as emergency legislation.
Only Mendelson could prompt that kind of reaction. In his nearly 11 months on the council, Mendelson has served as the council's procedural Barney Fife, a process fanatic who quibbles over the wording of resolutions, holds up council meetings to clarify rules, and — his specialty — inveighs against emergency legislation at every opportunity, save when he himself proposes it.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SATURDAY: “Dolls of Color on Parade” show and sale for consumers and collectors. At noon until 7 p.m. the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Conference Center, 4301 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $4.
MONDAY: William Wegman: Memories of Fay Ray, at 6 p.m. at the National Museum of Natural History, Baird Auditorium, 10th & Constitution Ave., NW. $13.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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