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December 26, 1999

Winding Down the Year

Dear Prognosticators:

Seems I never learn. I tried this last year without much success — few people replied — so I'll try it again. There's one more issue of themail before the end of the year and before the end of the century and millennium, for those who count that way. Does anyone want to try his or her skill at predicting the future? What will happen in the next week — will Y2K be a big bug or a bust? What will happen in the next year, decade, or century? Where will DC be when that other millennium New Years rolls around next year?

I once knew a woman named Jeanne Dixon (no, not that Jeanne Dixon) who was listed in the DC telephone book, and so got a lot of calls from people looking for predictions. She always told her callers that she wasn't the seer they were seeking. Well, nearly always. She was a grade school teacher, and one time a reporter from the Associated Press called her to check out a rumor that Jeanne Dixon had said that space ships from Mars were coming to earth to kidnap fourth grade students. She had had a tough day in school that day, and instead of telling the reporter to find the other Jeanne Dixon she said, “Well, it wouldn't be a bad idea.” The next day, newspapers around the US reported. . . .

This is your chance. Astound us with the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of your future vision.

Gary Imhoff


Street Cleaning and Parking Tickets
Brian Reeves,

I agree with Malcolm Wiseman's point that street cleaning has been very spotty since it has been rolled out over the past several years. Here are two thoughts that the city might consider to improve this “service.” 1) When I lived in Hoboken, NJ we were allowed to park on a street being cleaned as soon as the cleaning machine passed. So even if the sign stated no parking 9-11 am for street cleaning, you could park there at 9:30 am if the street cleaner had already passed. This is why the ticket writers drove immediately behind the cleaning machine and only ticketed vehicles that were in the way of the cleaner. The District used not to do this. Mr. Wiseman said that the ticket writers came right behind the cleaning machine. If they are doing this now, it is an improvement over the old policy of simply ticketing any vehicle parked on a street during street cleaning hours. 2) The District used to suspend parking restrictions for street cleaning during the winter (since the street cleaners don't come in the winter). Have they stopped doing this? If so, the mayor and DPW have really dropped the ball.


Starpower or Star Weakness?
Richard Robin,

We got the Starpower kit and caboodle about a month ago (phone, cable modem, cable TV). The first three weeks were paradise. Then last Friday (Dec. 17) our cable TV and cable modem went out. The lower TV channels became snowy and the cable modem stopped functioning. Now, a week later, after multiple daily calls to various Starpower service numbers, cable TV is back on, but hope for the cable modem dims with each day. Maybe sometime after Christmas? After the Millennium? The problem is that Starpower rode into town on a wave of discontent with District Cablevision. Remember the downed statue of Lenin: “No Empire Lasts Forever”?

But what has the new empire brought? Long waits on the phone and lots of disconnects. Starpower’s service line greets you with “Average wait time is under five minutes.” Uh… make that 10 to 30, and on one occasion 45. (Make sure you hit the bathroom before you call.) When you do get to a customer support line, the reps often seems confused (“What were you calling about now?” “You said you were calling about your phone line?”) and helpless. But they are apologetic. And they have lots to apologize for: missed promised callbacks and tech dispatches.

There are a few bright spots. The cable modem techs appear to know their business, but they work in tandem with the cable TV people, who don't seem to understand that cable modem users opted for the technology because they want an always-on connection. Clearly cable modem users whose troubles stem for problem on the outside CATV line get low priority — unless there's no picture whatsoever. Whatever the reasons for Starpower’s sluggish responsiveness, the fact is that now, eight days after the initial blackout, I'm still using using a 28.8 modem on a phone line with no idea of when the cable modem connection will become active again. Oh, and about that phone line. I had signed up to switch from Bell Atlantic to Starpower, but the switch hasn't happened yet. Maybe I'm still in time to cancel.


Wrong Again About UDC
Marc K. Battle,

In Mr. Imhoff's impassioned tirade against Mayor William's appointment of Rev. Willie Wilson to UDC's Board of Trustees, Imhoff questions whether UDC lacks the perspective of a “loud-mouthed racist demagogue.” I would suggest that UDC is, and has been without such a perspective, and I would challenge anyone to demonstrate otherwise. UDC has consistently been in a fight to secure adequate funding against overwhelmingly tough odds not ordinarily targeted at institutions of higher learning. In the face of this adversity, success stories abound quietly, while missteps are emblazoned on the local headlines. Students not unlike myself have had to balance rigorous studies, employment, families and die-hard activism in a never-ending fight to defend the school from the “let them eat cake” crowd that would deprive DC of a public four-year university. Of all of the negative (and usually baseless) sentiments expressed about UDC, racial demagoguery has never been raised — until now. This blatant mischaracterization of UDC is hurtful, destructive and somewhat emblematic of the same traits that Mr. Imhoff himself decries. Mr. Imhoff should set the record straight and correct his highly inflammatory and irresponsible statement.


Cynthia Savo,

I am deeply offended by your characterization of Rev. Willie Wilson. Do you know Rev. Wilson personally or just saying what you've heard others say about him? I am a regular visitor to Rev. Wilson's church when I am in DC. You would see me as white. I think of myself as a person of far African descent since humanity began in African. Rev. Wilson is a strong man who speaks truth and lots of people have trouble with that from white folks who are racist, don't know history or are asleep to black folks who are self-hating. Is his message strong medicine for the disease of racism that has been eating away this country for many years? Yes, and we need it. All of us.

Too bad for you that you don't know Rev. Wilson. He is a sweet, loving person who embraces so many different people. The day I knew I could be part of Union Temple was the Sunday Rev. Wilson invited a group of Native American leaders to the church to talk about their leader Leonard Pelletier and their work to get him released from prison. They left with a large envelope of money collected at the services and the love and moral support of hundreds of people. Check yourself out. You sounded a lot like a loud mouth demagogue to me.

[Mr. Battle, I'm afraid, misread my posting. It is Mayor Williams who appointed Rev. Wilson to the UDC Board, and Mr. Omer who said that Rev. Wilson would provide a needed perspective to the UDC Board. I'm the one saying that the perspective that Rev. Wilson represents wouldn't be a valuable addition to the UDC board. Ms. Savo, on the other hand, reads me correctly. Willie Wilson led protests against Asian shop owners because he didn't like it that people from their countries — people of their race — operated stores in neighborhoods in Ward 8. That's the poison of racism, not strong medicine against it. As Jay Leno says after the audience boos, “Yeah, right, like I'm so out of line.” — Gary Imhoff]


Historical Accuracy in DC Movies

Greetings, all — I just wanted to clarify a few things. After arriving on Earth in 1951 and being promptly seized by the military and as-promptly escaping, I was — due to my extremely human appearance — able to hide myself within the population of your charming city. I took residence in a rooming house at 1468 Harvard Street NW, in a large and well built house run by a charming lady. But alas, the native suspicion of her native Washingtonian son exposed me for the alien visitor I am, and O learned too late how well organized the city can instantly become to ferret out the alien. I was shot, died, and my body was busted out of jail by the invincible robot policeman Gort, who resurrected me for long enough for me to tell you what I really think of your kind. After we took off I was placed in stasis, returned to my home world and had my ego transferred to a new corpus, and resumed my life in civilization.

Unfortunately, due to my expertise on your civilization and my ability to move among you, I was returned to your world in 1995. Nostalgia drove me to seek out my old haunts. The rooming house is still there, but the streets are no longer the safe and leaf-shaded avenues of genteel hospitality. The park nearby — where I once passed some days baby-sitting the landlady's child and learning about your people — is now a trash-filled and rat-infested mess, with no children playing, but lots of people dealing openly in sex and drugs. Stupidity (something my people have learned to live without) had driven the capital of the most free and advanced culture on your planet into a state of disrepair and disorganization which bespoke imminent collapse. I was shot at, not because I was an alien but apparently because I was wearing the wrong color jacket, but my new personal shield returned the bullet to its origin, and I walked away. Yet there have been advances. You stand at the edge of harnessing compact fusion, and your mathematics have advance to the point where soon you may develop contragravitic technology and hyperspace access. Your rockets have never been better, and more of you have them — and the same may be said of your weapons of mass destruction. Your microbiology and microengineering are advanced to the point where you can change the nature of life itself, but most importantly, I am tasked to see if you have changed your own nature.

As I move among you, and listen to you speak, I see that most of you have for your concerns only your greed, your status, acquisition of possession and destruction of any who might impede attainment of your goals, whether or not you are actually enemies. Almost a majority of your children are starving slowly in poverty, and are not educated to rise from it. The mad wander through your streets, competing with vermin to feed from your abundant waste food, and they are eating better than are many of your children. An entire class of people, in the generations I was home, have been raised in a sort of idle slavery and they know not how to fend for themselves, and yet you are turning them out of housing with no training and no resources. With quiet weapons, you are fighting silent wars. And you stand on the edge of space, and wish to come be among the established, peaceful, generous, and extremely concerned elder civilizations. I am not alone in my watching, but I alone of the watchers remember when life was beautiful, and had value to you. Human nature can change, and can change quickly, but it appears that it has changed for the worse. Can you change again, and change for the better? Time is running out unless you do.

“We look through a glass but darkly:/ What we see is more colored by our beliefs,/ than what we believe is colored by what we see.”


DC in the Movies
Cindy Butler,

I now live in Seattle after a lifetime in DC. I was just talking about this with a friend here — I am reading The Street Lawyer and get a huge kick out of trying to figure out why in the heck they would say the largest homeless shelter in DC is on 17th and L, etc., etc.? As for movies, what about the steps in “The Exorcist,” or my personal favorite, Kevin Costner jumping from the Whitehurst Freeway over a wall and smack into the middle of Georgetown Park. “All the President's Men” was fun too, as were the scenes in Adams Morgan with Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men.” Thanks for the nostalgia.


My Favorite DC Film Moment
Nick Keenan, Shaw,

Toward the end of the film “Mars Attacks,” DC has been reduced to rubble by marauding Martians. The filmmakers shot the scenes in an area at the ssouthern edge of Shaw along Massachusetts Avenue that conveniently had been reduced to rubble in the riots of 1968 and never rebuilt. As a neighbor, I enjoyed the irony that the filmmakers actually had to spend several weeks cleaning, painting and otherwise repairing the area to improve it enough to look post-apocalyptic!


DC Movies — Off Sets
Anne Drissel,

In 1985 I moved to Santa Monica, CA, and lived briefly in a condo on the oceanfront adjacent to the (in)famous Venice Beach. I still had my northern Virginia license plates and inspection sticker on my sporty looking red car. At one point while driving on the front street, I was stopped by a harried guy carrying a clipboard who told me I was supposed to have turned in my license plate and sticker with the prop manager. I looked around and realized I was driving through the middle of a set shortly after a “shoot” that was evidently supposed to “mimic” the DC area! I never did find out what movie was being shot then.


Best DC Movie, “The American President”
Dan Parker,

Annette Benning speaking with the president about the traffic problems: “someone should blow up Dupont Circle.” In reality, someone should prohibit people with suburban tags and out of state tags from driving the circles.


JAG and DC
Bruce Monblatt,

I was intrigued by Gene Hoffman's reference to naval JAG in Falls Church. The program, whatever its other virtues, really messes up my sense of local geography. Bud and his wife, who are low ranking officers, live in an extremely nice house in Rosslyn. Mac, now a Colonel, has a deluxe apartment in Georgetown, while Harm has a restored warehouse floor somewhere behind Union Station. All of the above, although unsettling, isn't as bas as Efram Zimbalist's ride home in the FBI where he apparently zigzagged past every recognizable landmark in no particular order.


Georgetown Missing Metro
Carl Bergman,

Stephen Kurzman mentions several solid reasons for no Metro stop in Georgetown, alignment problems, disruption of older buildings, etc. I clerked the appointed Council's Transportation Committee during the planning for almost all of the downtown stops. I, too, wanted to know why there was no stop. The answer was simple. Metro's planners saw the system as a commuter's employment shuttle. Georgetown was not an employment center and the city had no plans to make it one, therefore no stop. Even if Georgetowners had opposed the line, the planners would have paid them heed. Hence, the stops on the Mall and Arlington Cemetery were add ons, pushed by the Smithsonian and the Park Service to their credit.

Metro wound up fitting well into much of DC, but not due to its planning staff. Metro's DC configuration owes a great deal to the then city planning office. The office set up a Transit Development Team that examined each station in detail for its impact on its neighborhood. The team did brilliant work and managed to cajole Metro's planning staff — headed by Walter Fauntroy's brother — into several significant changes. For example, they fought Metro's plans to put hundreds of commuter parking lots in DC neighborhoods. Metro made a strong case for hundreds of parking slots in DC, but folded when team members noted that Metro planned not a single parking space in Arlington County.


Why No Metro Stop in Georgetown?
Harold Goldstein,

Of course you won't find anything in the public record about Georgetown residents not wanting a Metro stop; it was a very racist action and there could be no public record. Metro planners were essentially told, off the record, that they were not to consider any options through Georgetown. I worked for Doug Schneider, who became the first Director of the DC Transportation Department (previously Department of Highways) in a group of 5 preparing for the process. Doug, who died maybe 10 years ago, was quite clear on what had happened and why that, as well as other less than solid planning decisions were made.

Doug was, himself, not the most objective man in his decision making. He hated cars and was responsible, when the nation went to “right turn on red,” for putting up thousands of signs in DC that said "no turn on red." DC has more of these signs still than any other city I know (except NYC) but the vast majority have been removed (after threats by the DOT to remove funding).


Merry Christmas in themail
Lea Adams,

Kudos: Mark Richards' piece on Washington (George) and Washington (DC) was typical of his work, which is as historically accurate, informative and reader-friendly as DC research gets. Moreover, it ties together the "intention of the Founders" (which is amazingly “revolutionary” in its ability to reflect and embrace today's realities) and the real needs of living people for the kind of leadership those old white-wigged guys provided. Maybe if we had the same freedoms enjoyed by our peers in the “several States,” we'd have better schools and local government services. It's hard to expect our kids to live up to the lofty ideals our early Presidents had for the capital district, when those ideals are not available to them, except in civic and government high school texts and on C-Span. Keep up the wonderful work, Mark. The truth about our past is an absolute prerequisite to building a sturdy bridge to the future.

Movies: I almost forgot — there was a huge party scene in “St. Elmo's Fire” which was filmed in a house at 30th & P Street in Georgetown, owned at that time by Tony and Muffy Stout (their break-up a couple of years later was featured on the cover of Washingtonian mag as DC's most expensive divorce).

Georgetown Metro Stop: People forget was a holy cow Georgetown became from the '50s through the '80s, what with virtually every old-moneyed family or nouveau riche wannabe in town living there. I remember the huge debate over selling DC Lottery tix within the confines of “historic GeorgeTowne,” and how the Congress simply overruled the city's interest in doing so. What's past is prologue. How about the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Calvert Street? It would access Georgetown easily by bus or a ten-minute downhill walk, and break up the span of westernmost DC that now terminates with the Tenleytown stop.

Holiday wishes for peace, prosperity and the love of friends and family to all DC Watchers who correspond with themail. Happy Y2k (don't forget to practice your rhythmic skills, however meager — in case of an emergency affecting more modern systems of communication, the drum will always work)!



The Millennium Extravaganza, December 31, 1999
Michael Karlan,

December 31, 1999: The Millennium Extravaganza, A Celebration of the 20th Century. Sponsored by the D.C. Society of Young Professionals and Event Concepts, Inc. At the Wyndham City Center Hotel, 1143 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. Featuring five themed party areas; the Washington Symphony Orchestra; three live bands; three djs; five hour premium open bar; heavy hors d'oeuvres buffet; complete breakfast buffet; ample dance space, seating areas and dining tables; midnight champagne toast and confetti explosion; private room options; and one night discounted accommodations available. Tickets $199. To order, or for more information, visit, E-mail, or call (202) 686-6085.



Looking to Rent
Brandan Hardie,

I'm looking for a studio/one bedroom in the Mt. Pleasant/North or Mt. Pleasant area for May 1. Can pay approximately $600.


Office Sublet Available in Downtown Silver Spring
Jon Katz,

Office sublet available in nice building in the greenest and most scenic part of downtown Silver Spring. One-room office in trial law firm office suite. 1400 Spring Street, with a view of Woodside Park. Reasonable rent; month-to-month option available; access to large conference room. Heat/air conditioning runs Monday through Saturday. Building stays unlocked Saturdays through 1:00 p.m. Contact Jon Katz at, or (301) 495-4300.



Roofer Wanted
Matt Hussmann,

I'm looking for a good roofer to properly fix my standing seam metal roof on Capitol Hill.


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