Dear Melodic Correspondents:
I’ve been listening, for the past few days, to some great singers
with bad voices. You know the kind of singers I’m talking about: Louis
Armstrong, Phil Harris, Jimmy Durante, Hoagy Carmichael. Their voices
are rough, never pretty. They couldn’t hit a pure note if they tried.
Their voices are like mine, and when I was in the chorus for my grade
school’s Christmas pageant (we had Christmas pageants then, not winter
holiday celebrations), my second-grade teacher, Ms. Reimers, told me
that it would be all right if I didn’t actually make a sound. I could
stand in the front row and move my mouth as though I were singing. In
fact, she said, it might be better if I did just that. (I didn’t mind;
I got to do a tap-dance duet with Sue Eggers to “Winter Wonderland”;
Susan was cute as a button, and that was fine by me.)
But these singers were never dissuaded by their second-grade
teachers. They persisted, and it turns out that their raspy, bad voices
were no handicap in becoming first-rate song interpreters. Their
phrasing, their timing, and their understanding of their lyrics made
them good. Of course, as singers Armstrong, Harris, and Durante were
best known for their comic and novelty songs, and Carmichael sang mostly
his own compositions, but all of them could deliver a lovely ballad with
a haunting melody in an unforgettable way. Think of Armstrong’s
definitive version of “What a Wonderful World,” of Harris’ “When
It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” of Durante’s “September Song”
and “As Time Goes By” (for that matter, think of Walter Huston’s
“September Song” and Dooley Wilson’s “As Time Goes By”), of
Carmichael’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and “Two
I was going to write tonight about my miserable failure, several
years ago, to get the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to deny a liquor
license to the Coach and Four, the restaurant in the Reeves Municipal
Center that is now in the news under its nighttime club name, Club U.
When I was an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, neighbors of the club
and the Third District Police complained bitterly about the rowdy and
violent crowds that spread out into U Street when the club closed at
night and about the noise from the club. But the ANC commission voted in
favor of renewing its liquor license, so I filed a protest on my own.
The chairman of the ANC commission championed the club’s cause and
testified on its behalf; the priest at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church
wrote a letter supporting it; and the principal of St. Augustine’s
school testified for it. The ABC inspector found no problems with the
club, and the club’s file at the ABC Board, which should have
documented the neighbors’ past complaints, couldn’t be located. The
police and the complaining neighbors didn’t come to the ABC Board
hearing. At the hearing, I looked and sounded, even to myself, like a
lone crank with no basis at all for his complaints. Well, now,
justification. All it took was a few more years and a killing or two or
three, and the ABC Board is acting with dispatch. I suppose that’s
some kind of encouragement, and I was going to offer that as the kind of
encouragement that you can expect when you deal with the DC government.
But I prefer the encouragement of Armstrong, Harris, Durante, and
Carmichael. They teach a more valuable and uplifting life lesson: even
if you can’t sing, you can sing.
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
The proposed tax relief measures proposed by Councilperson/Mayor
wannabe are not unreasonable, but I wish to offer my own proposal. I say
it is time to cut the property tax rate. Assessments do reflect, in most
cases, the inflated value of houses in this area. Those inflated house
values should not be used to penalize those who want to live in those
houses. It would be much fairer in this time of inflated home prices to
reduce the property tax rate to keep the burden on home owners to a
Rearranging Lawn Chairs
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Washington Post has done a nice job of redesigning the
front page of their site. I won’t tell you which ship these lawn
chairs are on, because I don’t know. Neither does the Washington
I went looking for community blogs under the new menus, but couldn’t
find any. I asked Jim Brady, the executive editor of washingtonpost.com,
where I could find the community blogs. He tells me there aren’t any.
Look south to Greensboro, North Carolina. There the News-Record
newspaper figured out that media is not just "us telling them what
we think they need to know." It’s a conversation. A whirlwind has
started in Greensboro that will spread across the nation. It’s about
time the web counter got integrated. Read why at http://shorterlink.com/?OO09A7.
Stay tuned at http://dangillmor.typepad.com/dan_gillmor_on_grassroots.
Spread the word. We’re not sitting at the back of the bus anymore.
DC Funding Priorities and Needs
Richard Layman, email@example.com
Re: Len Sullivan’s (NARPAC) post [themail, February 13]: While it
is great that DC has a budget surplus, and while proposals like taxing
federal land are misguided and even dumb, the belief that everything is
hunky-dory and there are few structural problems with the revenue side
of the DC budget continues to be false. The primary reason that DC has a
budget surplus is that money isn’t being spent on important and basic
needs, particularly infrastructure, such as road improvements (as much
money is being spent, there are still even greater needs), on
maintenance of buildings in the DC government property inventory (most
buildings, particularly historic buildings, are “under-maintained”),
on cleaning streets and sidewalks (it appears that the DPW budget has
been reduced in this area as I notice less frequent removal of trash
from street receptacles), needs for WMATA in terms of maintaining the
aging subway system (DC, along with area counties in Virginia and
Maryland, provides the lion’s share of the budget for annual
operations and capital improvements out of general fund monies), parks
and recreation facilities, funding for cultural resources (historic
preservation, City Museum, other arts and cultural activities), etc.
These and other programs continue! to be funded at levels that clearly
are not commensurate with the needs currently expressed and basic
expectations for service levels. And I didn’t mention human services,
public safety, and education, which comprise the bulk of the annual
Capital improvements. This doesn’t even get into the question of
how the DC government chooses to collect certain tax revenues and where
to spend them. E.g., while $300-$600 million will be collected to pay
for the construction of a baseball stadium, imagine the same amount of
money being invested in the realization of streetcars/light rail
proposals embodied in the joint WMATA-DC Department of Transportation
Bringing back streetcars would have a return on investment of ten to
thirty times. Clearly, there are issues concerning DC government funding
and capital investment priorities, and "eight years in a row of
budget surpluses" doesn’t change this fact.
DC is like most older traditional center cities (NYC, Boston,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc.) in that the financial needs, particularly
for infrastructure, are far greater than current revenues. (It would
take an entire issue of themail to explain that this is historical, a
function of out-migration to the suburbs, the support of sprawl and the
abandonment of the center cities through federal and state policies,
etc., and it is generally understood by “urbanists” without having
to explain it each time issues such as these come up.) Where DC differs
from many cities is that the Federal Government/Congress has the
ultimate say over the budget and revenue side, and said government has
imposed restrictions that most any other city government does not have
(Congressional tax exemption for Fannie Mae local taxes, taxation of
commuters — 71 percent of the income earned in the city is earned by
nonresidents, etc.). Proposals by the Bush Administration to reduce the
amount of dollars and programs that typically target city needs such as
the community development programs of HUD merely propose to extend the
problem that DC has vis-a-vis the federal government to other US center
Once again the foibles of DCRA have come to light. One of their own
is caught with his hand in the cookie jar. It seems that the magnifying
glasses of building inspectors, when investigating the property
belonging to another DCRA employee, become clouded and unusable in
ferreting out the unsuitable living conditions thrust on the tenants in
one of his buildings. The DCRA employee proclaims loud and clear that he
is innocent and was totally unaware of the conditions that existed in
his property. For a moment I thought that I was back looking at The
Passion of Christ, when Pontius Pilate washed his hand in innocence. If
DCRA can’t police the property of one of their own, what do you think
is happening when they are cheek to cheek with some of the peewee
developers in the city during this construction boom? The problems with
DCRA can be fixed if the powers-to-be have guts to fix them. It is a
simple way to deal with the entrenched mind set that prevails among
those who are entrusted with assuring compliance with building
regulations. Simply rewrite the qualifications of each job description
in DCRA and have all employee rebid their jobs. Either they qualify or
get lost; in this way we get rid of the deadwood. Just changing the head
of the agency will not get the elephant out of the living room. Maybe
some day someone will realize that until you go deep into an agency to
effect change, nothing will change. And, getting back to this employee
who is in a conflict of interest based on his position — I bet he will
come out of this smelling like a rose. And the beat goes on.
Hazmat Bill Narrowly Crafted?
Paul Wilson, Ward 6, dcmcrider at gmail dot com
Supporters of the hazmat transportation ban suggest that it’s
narrowly crafted enough to pass muster with the Surface Transportation
Board and the federal courts. I guess we’ll find out for sure after
the DC Attorney General spends considerable taxpayer dollars defending
it in those venues. The “narrowly crafted” contingent claims it bans
the transportation of the materials “only” within a two-mile radius
exclusion zone of the US Capitol. That argument is transparently
disingenuous to anyone familiar with the region’s railroad network. A
quick review of the railroad map shows that the two-mile radius
hamstrings all three CSX lines through DC. The ban effectively bars
through shipments in an area bounded by Richmond to the south, Manassas
to the southwest, Point of Rocks, Md. to the northwest and Baltimore to
The second aspect is that the Council arrogated to itself the solemn
duty to “protect the Capitol,” using the two-mile exclusion zone
device. One wonders why Congress, which indisputably has legislative
authority in this matter, does not enact a ban, if it indeed is a
pressing security need. The nervous nellies on the Hill, with their
ever-expanding rings of barricades in our streets, don’t seem to mind
the trains rumbling a few blocks south of the Capitol. US Capitol Police
Chief Terry Gainer could probably close down CSX in the middle of the
night, just like he did First Street, NE. They’re more than capable of
taking care of themselves, it seems to me.
Mr. Mayor, What in the heck did Jack Valenti, former head of the
Motion Picture Association of America, do for the District to deserve a
$2000 key to the city? Certainly, there are more deserving people. More
importantly, why are the citizens of the district paying for such an
[After news outlets picked up the story about the cost of the key to
the city, Carol Schwartz introduced a sense of the council resolution
opposing the extravagance that was unanimously cosponsored by all
members of the council. Mayor Williams’s response at today’s press
conference was that he didn’t know what the fuss was about, but that
he would find a private donor to finance the keys. — Gary Imhoff]
Another City Rip-Off?
Gabriel Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com
Clyde Howard [themail, February 13] opposed DC’s charging for use
of Emergency No Parking Signs and Reserved Parking Signs, called it
gouging. I don’t live in DC but I visit a lot, and I am frustrated by
the number of parking spaces lost to various emergencies, constructions,
disruptions, etc. Without fees, there’s no incentive for anyone to
minimize use or scope or duration of such restrictions. Parking
restrictions inconvenience the public for the benefit of whoever needs
the space and their ultimate customers. Allowing the restrictions for
free subsidizes the real cost of doing business. Why shouldn’t the
businesses (and their customers, if businesses can get away with passing
through the costs) pay for prolonged use of shared public space? Why is
deciding to charge for something that’s been inappropriately free a
“rip off”? Why should something that’s legitimate necessarily be
free? It’s legitimate that I need to park in DC for business or
pleasure, but that doesn’t get me free parking. Same for construction,
The Paducah-Columbine Bus Tour
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr., firstname.lastname@example.org
[Reply to Bryce Suderow, themail, February 13:] Please read this
entire posting before flaming me. You know Bryce, I agree with you.
Based upon the actions of a few individuals it is possible to taint a
whole generation as being bad, especially those of the Hip-Hop
Generation. However, you do not go far enough. After having read stories
of overindulged children whose parents are seemingly more concerned with
making money than raising their children, it is obvious that children of
dual-income families who reside in the suburbs should not be allowed to
attend public schools because of their affinity for making bombs and
shooting up the place. Since these incidents happened in divergent
states, Kentucky and Colorado, it is clear that there must be something
genetic in these white children which causes them to commit mass murder.
Therefore, all white children of this demographic should be segregated
away from society, for society’s safety, and educated at an
institution which can better cater to their proclivity for guns and
violence. Can we say NRA High? I know I won’t feel safe until all
those gun-toting Jesus-haters are out of my public schools!
The above paragraph is just as ignorant as your posting regarding the
Hip-Hop Bus Tour.
Bryce, If you would stop trying to refight the civil war one ignorant
E-mail at a time you might actually be capable of learning something. I
apologize, in all sincerity, to anyone offended by the first paragraph.
I only sought to illustrate that making sweeping generalizations about a
group based upon one’s own prejudice and the behavior of a small
subset of that group, which at first blush seems to justify bigotry, is
I joined Flexcar, found it satisfactory, and got rid of the
automobile I’d kept at curbside for years. Perhaps I’m not the only
one! Clyde Howard [themail, February 13] may discover that car-sharing,
even when the shared cars live in on-street parking spaces, actually
eases the parking crunch — producing a priceless public good.
This is to advise that the February 2005 on-line edition has been
uploaded and may be accessed at http://www.intowner.com.
Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports,
editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews
(prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular
"Scenes from the Past" feature. Also included are all current
classified ads. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to
March 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home
page at no charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be
able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all
photos and advertisements. The next issue will publish on March 11 (the
2nd Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be
posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the
latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news,
and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.
To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the
home page to the following headlines: 1) “Dupont Historic District
Expansion Raising Questions of Appropriateness — Proposal Generating
Heated Debate”; 2) “Thomas Circle to Regain Semblance of Original
Look with Restoration”; 3) “Mt. Pleasant Residents Debate Renewing
Four-Year Ban on Single Sales of Beer.”
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Events, February 17
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
Thursday, February 17, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Second Floor East Lobby. Impact of “Brown
vs. the Board of Education” on Black Deaf Educational Issues. Dr.
Ernest E. Hairston, education research analyst at the Office of Special
Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education will present a lecture
about educational issues facing black people who are deaf. Hairston is
also co-author of Black and Deaf in America: Are We that Different?
Public contact: 727-2245 (Voice and TTY).
Thursday, February 17, 12:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A-5. Patricia Carter Sluby discusses her
book, The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity.
Public contact: 727-1175.
Thursday, February 17, 12:00 p.m. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Journalist A. Peter Bailey
presents a lecture about Malcolm X and shares his personal memorabilia
of photographs, speeches and magazine articles. The Black Studies
Division of the D.C. Public Library sponsors this event as part of a
series of programs in observance of Black History Month. Public contact:
Thursday, February 17, 1:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 221. Something Novel book club. Read and
discuss Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
Public contact: 727-1295.
Washington Renegades Rugby Recruitment,
February 20, 22
Mike Stebbins, Mstebbins6@yahoo.com
If anyone has been thinking about playing rugby and would like to
meet some of the team, please join us! Join the Washington Renegades
Rugby Football Club, coaches, and supporters at the following happy hour
recruitment events: Sunday, February 20, Hamburger Mary’s/Titan Bar,
1337 14th Street, NW, 5-8 p.m., http://www.hamburgermarys.net/dc/;
Tuesday, February 22, Fado Irish Pub, 808 7th Street, NW. 6:30-8:30
Come learn more about the sport of rugby and the Renegades and enjoy
drink specials and light hors d’oeuvres.
The Washington Renegades Rugby Football Club is a Men’s Division
III Club affiliated with the Potomac Rugby Union. The club prides itself
on providing a solid rugby and social experience for both experienced
players and newcomers to the sport. We have an experienced coaching and
training staff that is dedicated to proper training techniques and most
importantly to teaching the game of rugby. Short or tall, lean, big or
muscular, rugby players come in all sizes and shapes and there is a
place for every body type on the pitch (field). All are welcome to play
for the Renegades. We are a mix of men from across the spectrums of life
who have one common goal -- to play, and excel at, the greatest sport on
If you can’t make the event please contact us for more information,
or with any questions about the Renegades, at 331-4471; or visit our web
site at http://www.dcrugby.com.
Polshek Partnership Architects, February 25
Brie Hensold, firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, February 25, 6:30-8:00 p.m., National Building Museum, 401 F
Street, NW. The buildings of the New York-based firm Polshek Partnership
Architects demonstrate elegant architectural responses that are both
technically and socially relevant to their time and place. Recipients of
the 2004 Smithsonian Institution Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in
Architecture, the firm’s partners — Joseph Fleischer, Timothy
Hartung, Duncan Hazard, Richard Olcott, James Polshek, Susan Rodriguez
and Todd Schliemann -- will discuss their work, including the William J.
Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Brooklyn
Museum Entry Pavilion and Plaza, the New York Hall of Science, the
Heimbold Visual Arts Center at Sarah Lawrence College, and the Newseum
on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Following the lecture, the
partners will sign copies of their new monograph, Polshek Partnership
Architects 1988-2004 (Princeton Architectural Press). This program is
presented in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums.
Tickets: $14 museum members, $19 nonmembers, $10 students. Prepaid
registration required. Register online at http://www.nbm.org
or call 272.2448.
Washington Storytellers Theater presents Onawumi Jean Moss: The Day
Destiny Called a Parent-Teacher Meeting at the A&P, at The City
Museum of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW, Saturday, March 19, 8:00
p.m. Ticket price $15 (senior, student and group discount rates
available). Purchase at the door or in advance by calling 545-6840 or
on-line at http://www.washingtonstorytellers.org.
Parking on street or garage parking nearby (check web site for details).
Metro: Red line (Chinatown), Green/Yellow (Mt. Vernon or Chinatown),
Blue/Orange (Metro Center).
Warm tones, gentle humor and soulful rhythms draw you in when Onawumi
tells a story. Her dramatic voice, expressive face and graceful
movements transport you into the worlds of adventurous girls and women,
charming creatures, scheming tricksters and wicked demons. The Duel
Between Cat and Mouse by Frederick Guirmo cautions us to reconsider the
import of participating in both the ups and downs of a flourishing
community. The animal characters are at once humorous and poignant,
creating an array of channels through which the story’s meanings are
CLASSIFIEDS — HELP WANTED
Can someone notarize a document for me and my sister together
sometime between 5 and 5:30 this Thursday? We will be near Connecticut
and Nebraska and are willing to travel up to fifteen minutes away.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
I have a floor model lamp, Tiffany-style glass shade, like-new
condition, to sell for $75.00. I paid $125.00. I will include a matching
table lamp that I accidentally dropped. Only one light bulb socket
broke, which can be easily repaired. The other socket works perfectly.
They are all individually operated by a pull chain. Call 744-0293.
CLASSIFIEDS — WANTED
I’d like to practice my long-lost sewing skills. Anyone have a
working sewing machine collecting dust that you’d like to get rid of?
Please contact me.
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