Thursday, October 20, 2005

PALISADES DISPATCH: Karl Rove, the Cheesecake Factory Escalator Obstruction, Waiting for the D6 and the Fare Dodger

1.) KARL ROVE seems to be a bit in trouble with this whole CIA leak probe by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. (Well that’s not news.) Where any potential indictments may fall, nobody knows, but for someone who holds such power in the executive branch, Mr. Rove’s home in the upper Palisades (some real estate purists might call it Kent) around the corner from the Mexican ambassador’s residence (and behind it tony Rockwood Parkway and Glenbrook Road) and up the long Klingle Street hill from St. David’s Episcopal Church is surprisingly unassuming. One might say more could be done with Mr. Rove’s shrubs and lawn choices, but I’ll leave official landscaping judgments to more qualified observers.

In the past few weeks, Mr. Rove’s residence has been staked out every so often by photographers and other nosy media types trying to catch the presidential adviser leaving his house for work. But I’m surprised not a soul has made note of something I’ve noticed for the past 10 months or so: A campaign sign diagonally across the street that I believe might be in violation of District of Columbia elections law. Just to be clear, the sign is not on Mr. Rove’s property, but that’s not really the point.

Tacked up on a municipal telephone pole out of reach of passing pedestrians is a Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign sign. Since Mr. Rove lives about a 10-15 minute walk from my great aunt, I’ve been monitoring this sign since last fall since it used to be on my walking route between the lower Palisades and the bucolic World War II barracksesque environs of McLean Gardens (where I lived until this past January). When I was editing DCist, I distinctively remember coming across a wire report toward the end of November or in early December (I can’t seem to locate it now) reminding campaigns that, according to D.C. election sign regulations, all of elections signs in the District from the 2004 cycle had to be taken down from public property within 30 days of the election. Each sign found in violation would cost the campaign in question $35. But the sign across from Mr. Rove’s residence lasted well past early December. In fact, as of this past weekend, the sign remains, making it perhaps the last sign from the 2004 cycle left standing on public property in the city.

But after months of snow, rain, intense sunshine and muggy humidity (and a decline in approval ratings) the sign has begun to curl at the edges, making its presence less known. Nature has made it hide and partially cover up its lettering with the “U” and “S” of Bush and the “E,” “N” and “E” of Cheney as the only parts still showing. Regardless, the sign is still posted, in violation of the law (assuming I’m recalling the law correctly.).

2.) PLEASE STAND ON THE RIGHT. For those kind, gentle optimists out there who say that us Washingtonians are too self-centered, impatient and intolerant of those who stand on the left side of Metrorail escalators, please read on. As you will see, taking the time to allow people to violate customary escalator climber/descender protocol can only lead to later headaches, and in my case an hour-and-a-half commute home Tuesday night. When you start messing with one’s transit odds, playing nice is normally not in your interest.

To make a long story short, two love birds with a doggie bag from the Cheesecake Factory prevented me and a few other escalator riders from getting to the Orange Line platform in proper time. I missed my Orange Line train by about 10 seconds Tuesday evening, missing my carefully planned transfer to a Sibley Hospital-bound D6 bus at K and 18th streets NW by three minutes. The next bus wasn’t for a half hour and I had to wait.

Here is what happened.

2a.) A LITTLE AFTER 8:30 P.M., I made my way to the Court House Orange Line station, to make my way back to the District on Tuesday. But for some strange reason, two love birds, hand-in-hand, eye contact locked and engaged in undetermined conversation were taking up both the escalator’s left and right sides, leaving no passage for other Metrorail users to get by. What was odd was the Cheesecake Factory goodie bag. Why would you use the Court House station when the Cheesecake Factory’s Taj Mahal-like outpost of excess and oversized portions in Arlington is located just a few blocks from the Clarendon station? Can the walk along Wilson Boulevard past the Whole Foods be that romantic? These are important questions -- questions I could have asked them when I decided to not assert myself to ask the red-headed twentysomething woman wearing a University of Virginia pullover and her plain-looking significant other to move to the right.

But I decided to wait, take my time. As I made my way through the faregate, “Ding Dong” … a District-bound train was leaving the station. I was 10-15 seconds too late. The display board indicated that the next train would come in 11 minutes. My goal was to make it to the Farragut West station by 8:55 p.m. so I could run the one-block to K and 18th streets NW to transfer the D6 bus.

2b.) OF COURSE, I MISSED MY TRANSFER. I arrived at the corner at 9:00 p.m. hoping that the D6 was running a few minutes behind schedule. It seems that with the bus, when you are counting on the bus coming late, most times it’ll arrive right on schedule and you’re fresh out of luck. All I found were two older women sitting in the bus shelter. I asked them if the D6 had passed by. Indeed, it did, the pair reported. Because their eyesight was poor, they couldn’t read the bus schedule and asked me to figure out when the next Kennedy Center-bound 80 bus was supposed to arrive. They had been there more than 35 minutes.

When I circled the bus stop schedule post and found that WMATA hadn’t posted one for the 80 bus, I told them that.

“But the sign says it stops here,” one of the women said to me. “Look there, it says so. See, 80.”

“Yes,” I replied. “But that doesn’t mean that Metro will post a schedule.”

“But look, the sign says the 80 stops here,” the woman repeated, approaching the bus schedule post to make sure I wasn’t lying to her. Sure enough, I was being honest.

2c.) SO I DECIDED TO WALK TO DUPONT CIRCLE, to catch the D6 at one of the most dreaded corners for any D-route bus rider: P and 20th streets NW. (More on that in just a moment.) There I could grab a slice of Alberto’s Pizza and catch the next bus which was supposed to come in a half hour.

On my way up 18th Street NW, I spied a plain-looking Ford Taurus-like vehicle parked across the street from Eighteenth Street Lounge with U.S. Congressional license plates that identified the car belonging to the representative from California’s 28th district: Howard Berman of the San Fernando Valley. (A word of caution, I was being a bad reporter and did not write down the Congressional district number, but I am almost certain it was CA 28.) I don’t know why members of Congress prominently display their rank on their vehicles. For instance, on the day of the London Underground bombings in July, I saw a car speeding on Rock Creek Drive (not to be confused with Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway) in the vicinity of the Massachusetts Avenue Heights residence of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The car, a bulky blue American four-door, had plates that led me to believe that it belonged to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, but Texas’ senior senator wasn’t driving. Two young twentysomethings, perhaps junior-level staffers were speeding through the residential neighborhood as if they had the day off.

2d.) WAITING FOR THE D6 BUS on P Street behind the Portuguese Embassy screws with your mind if you are a veteran of being bus dependent living in the wilds of Northwest Washington, specifically the Palisades and Foxhall Village. Nothing is more annoying than waiting for a bus that seems will never come on a street with lots of vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Everyone seems to be going somewhere, and you’re stuck just sitting there.

Tuesday night, there was a Honda Civic with Virginia plates parked in the bus zone. So I focused my anger at that car and all those who violate parking regulations at bus stops. For anyone in Woodley Park who eats at Chipotle, you certainly know about the Secret Service agents who park their cruisers in the Route 90 bus stop on Calvert Street. Clearly for them, the national interest lies in getting their Burrito Bol … Screw those unfortunate souls who must step out into an active travel lane to catch the 90 bus to McLean Gardens.

When you sit and wait, you look around and notice the oddities of the P Street NW streetscape.
-- Was Burger King forced by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission to add the three small arched blue awnings above the second-floor windows of their potentially historic building? Or did they do it out of their own free will?
-- What happened to the warning sign on the parking gate behind the Portuguese Embassy that used to show a stick figure being crushed by a moving gate? The renovations are complete at the embassy, but has the gate-crushing threat been eliminated?
-- Do the people who live in the apartment building at the corner of Hopkins and P streets NW get an odd odor of peanut sauce, coconut, cod and garlic? The combination of Sala Thai in its basement and Pesce on the street-level could potentially create a nasally irritating smell mixture if ventilation wasn’t adequate.

Then the G2 (the G train of D.C. crosstown buses for those familiar with the infrequent service of the Brooklyn-Queens subway line) comes by as a surprise, reminding you that no matter how much order can be imposed on the world, the random frustrations of the city’s bus system can never be mastered. The G2/P Street crosstown bus is notorious for being slow, infrequent and inconvenient, a poster child fitting for the Violent Femmes’ bus classic “Waiting for the Bus”:

“… Looks like somebody, forgot about us
Standing on the corner, waiting for a bus
Say hey Mr. Driver Man, don’t be slow.
‘Cause I got somewhere I got to go
Say hey Mr. Driver Man, drive that thing fast
My precious time, keeps slipping past.

Let’s call the mayor, let’s complain
Looks like the city’s done to us again
Tied up in traffic, what do you know?
The damn city bus moves so damn slow …”

That G2 will always come by in the lull between the D buses and will instantly put you in a bad mood, as it did Tuesday night. At this point, you wish that the bus that you’re waiting for will arrive late, just so you feel you can throw your fist up in the air at the omnipotent transit gods or WMATA. But just to toy around with your mental stability, Zeus throws a lighting bolt from Olympus: the D6 arrives precisely on time at 9:38 p.m., just as the posted schedule said it would.

2e.) THEN COMES THE FARE DODGER. Somewhere up on Reservoir Road behind Georgetown University (I believe at 38th Street NW), two people board the bus. A slightly chubby twentysomething with horizontally streamlined boxy glasses boards the bus carrying a bunch of papers, bag slung over the shoulder and approaches the fare box. He fiddles around with his hands looking for the proper $1.25 fare. He was delaying others from boarding the bus.

Since this evening was all about hate and not love, I decided to focus my attention on this fellow who delayed the bus by about 10 seconds as others were behind him waiting to board. After all, there are few excuses for those who don’t have proper fare ready for collection when they board the bus. (Running the catch the bus and carrying an armful of baggage or packages are the only acceptable reasons. But with the introduction of SmarTrip, those excuses are wearing thin year by year.)

I monitored his loitering up near the driver. The guy never paid. He just stood near the driver (there were plenty of available seats near him) hoping that he’d be too occupied keeping the bus on course to remind him that he hadn’t made good on his promise to pay the fare. Apparently appearing preoccupied rifling through papers in your hands and not your bag where spare bus fare might lie can distract the driver enough to forget that you didn’t pay the $1.25 that’s required to ride the bus.

Was he just going to stand there? (He did.) If you’re going to stop pretending to go through your papers (I swore I saw a Government Accountability Office logo on the front page of his thick report), you might as well put them away in your bag so you can appear that you’re trying to find bus fare in your bag. But yet, using Jedi-like distraction techniques, he just stood there riding all the way to his destination in Foxhall Village without paying, a distance he could have walked in the time he waited for the bus. Crafty trickster! Now I don’t know how long he waited for the D6, but I would like to think that the fare dodger with questionable integrity would have at least waited and wondered as much as I did last night. It’s the least he deserves.

About three minutes after he disembarked, an automated reminder chimed in reminding Sibley Hospital-bound passengers to report “suspicious behavior to the proper authorities.”

Too late.


At 2:25 PM, Blogger nm said...

you're so wonderfully bitter in this post. i love it.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Paulo said...

Paulo loves you.


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