Saturday, November 19, 2005


BEFORE I GO ANY FURTHER WITH THIS POST, let me make it clear that I do appreciate all that charities do for the District's homeless population. There are certainly gaps that they fill in spots where the city's social services come up short, despite the best of intentions.

But if you were to observe McPherson Square on a Saturday afternoon -- let's say today for instance -- you might question whether resources to feed the homeless are coordinated at all, or whether the well-meaning charities are all operating in a logistical vacuum, unaware of each other's activities.

THIS AFTERNOON, I was watching the Michigan-Ohio State game (Michigan lost ...) in a friend's living room overlooking McPherson Square (yes, there is one residential building on McPherson Square) where we had prime viewing of all the activities of the homeless residents down below. In the span of five hours, we saw five vans pull up at different times to feed the homeless population. Every time a food van pulled up on the western side of the square opposite Georgia Brown's, McPherson's population would rush over to the sidewalk (including one man in a red motor scooter) to line up to get their food.

Like I've already said, I applaud the efforts of charities, but I would have difficulty eating what looked like five good-sized servings within the span of five hours. People do get hungry at different times of the day, not just during the afternoon.

But perhaps I'm missing something. Maybe it's a one-time logisitical lapse. I do pick up Street Sense (the city's homeless newspaper for those who are unaware) every once and a while but not enough to where I would consider myself well informed on the situation the homeless face in D.C., so I would be hesitant to give a full analysis of the overall feeding strategies for the charities without some more research. But as a simple observer, it would make sense if the charities would either pool their efforts or make sure that the same group of people isn't overfed in the same time period. That's all I'm saying.

(Speaking of Street Sense, there's an interesting article about the Metropolitan Police reportedly harassing Street Sense distributors in Chinatown ...)

>> "Community Group Fights Harrassment" [Street Sense]

LIVEBLOGGING: "It's Academic," WRC/NBC4 and the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade

Someone a long time ago told me that someone should liveblog WRC/NBC4's "It's Academic." So here's my attempt:

This week: St. Albans v. Annandale v. Seneca Valley

Round 1: St. Albans sweeps opening round, 170 points. Many questions were politically focused. Team captain had to defer to team member over a question about Porter Goss, former congressman turned CIA chief. (I say c'mon, don't you go to school with the sons of half of this city's top powerbrokers and influence peddlers? You should know better.)

Round 2
St. Albans (270)
Annandale (180)
Seneca Valley (210)

It's announced: St. Albans has a pep band, Annandale has a dance team, Seneca Valley brought j/v cheerleaders. This should be interesting. St. Albans, a pep band? Yes, I realize that you're an all boys school, but can't you get any cheerleaders or some equivalent from the Cathedral School up and around the corner?

Going into the first commercial break, the Annandale dance team, dressed in red and white dances to a peppy song. It wasn't all that impressive. Sorry kids, I'm just being honest. Why do schools have dance teams?

Then Seneca Valley j/v cheerleaders cheer their team with a cheer built around their team members' names.

St. Albans and Seneca Valley are really having at it during Round 3. St. Albans leads.

St. Albans' pep band is all kids on guitars and a kid on the drums going into the second commercial break. Dance team/j/v cheerleaders are dancing to St. Albans pep band. Mac is really into the rock band. Mac: Let's "rock and roll!"

Going into Round 4:
St. Albans (320)
Annandale (180)
Seneca Valley (240)

Annandale is still stuck at 180. They must be sad.

St. Albans does quite well in the round where all the questions go to them, but no bonus.

Annandale is now racking up some points, but this is the round where all the questions go to them. But they sweep and get the bonus.

Seneca Valley is doing just fine, no bonus.

Going into Round 5:
St. Albans (460)
Annandale (365)
Seneca Valley (380)

Seneca Valley is now on a roll and is now approaching St. Albans.
How can Annandale have 416 points? They just fixed it to 415.
St. Albans still has a comfortable lead, up by 100 points. Now 120 points.
Now St. Albans has 600.

20 seconds left. 600-435-480.

Mac, face becoming animated: "And its the end of the game!"

ST. ALBANS WINS! 640-435-480. Go figure ... St. Albans has a winning track record when going up against public schools.

Mac congrats Annandale on their new orange "It's Academic" competition shirts. But they didn't win, so that must not matter much.

St. Albans' pep band is doing a Strokes cover to close out the show. The cheerleaders and dance teams can't dance to that. So people are just milling about as the credits roll across the screen.

Gonzaga, T.D. Woodson and Centreville next week. Will I do this next week? Probably not.

IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR SOME OTHER exciting local television programming ...

News Channel 8 is doing live coverage of the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade in Silver Spring with WJLA's Maureen Bunyan and Doug Hill.

The Geeks on Call float just went by on Ellsworth Drive. Maureen Bunyan is concerned about the size of the float because it can barely squeeze down the parade route.

Now the Potomac Valley Irish Wolfhound Club is making its way down the parade route. Look! Martin O'Malley is next, campaigning for governor. Montgomery Blair High School marching band is next. Doug Hill announces that this year's marching band theme is "school spirit." On-the-street reporter John Gonazales announces that Miss D.C. is coming up soon, as is the Hannukah balloon.

"It's a great day for dancing," declares Maureen Bunyan, following the performance of the Pure Energy Team real estate dancers, who are real estate professionals from Gerlach Real Estate all decked out in purple dance uniforms.

Dancing real estate agents? This must be the signal that liveblogging the parade must stop. There must be better things to do on a Saturday morning.

Friday, November 18, 2005

TRANSIT: Coat and Hat Weather

IT'S THAT TIME OF SEASON AGAIN for public transit. The weather gets colder, people bundle themselves up in warm coats and those extra inches begin to add up and spill into the aisle.

This afternoon, I was on a 52 bus headed north on 14th Street and had forgotten how extra layering can create extra headaches on public transit, especially on a crowded bus, like your 52/54s (14th Street NW), S-series (16th Street NW), 30-series (Pennsylvania Avenue-Wisconsin Avenue crosstown), and rush hour D2 buses. One slight move that wouldn't ordinarily intrude on your neighbor's personal space can amplify itself. Trying to navigate yourself in and out of a seat can be a challenge and so too can be the process of proceeding your way to or from the bus doors. While people are expected to bump into one another on a bus, it is the colder weather where people are reminded how transit riders can be packed in like sardines.

The photo above was taken this afternoon on a 90 bus on 18th Street NW heading through Adams Morgan, which didn't happen to be as crowded, but you can see here how this woman's outer layering can create abundant buffering that spills over into the next seat. Add 10-15 more such folks on the bus and you can see where crowding in the winter can become a little too close for comfort for some.

ZOO: Lazy Day Sleeping

SO HERE'S TIAN TIAN, sitting and sleeping in a tree at the National Zoo, doing what a panda does best: sitting around and not doing much of anything. But as a Woodley Park resident, Tian Tian must be by now pretty oblivious to the banging construction of the Asia Trail on the zoo's back ridge, that butts up against the Parkway apartments at 2929 Connecticut Ave. NW. Do pandas like the fumes coming from the construction vehicles? Just a little bit ago when I was there, they were giving me a little bit of nausea. Think of Butterstick's vulnerable lungs! ...

>> Asia Trail [National Zoo]
>> Giant Pandas [National Zoo]

ODDS 'N ENDS: New Diversion

AS TOM LEE OF DCIST SUGGESTS this morning, we should all take the next few months off from work because it's cold out. Yes, it may be 43 degrees out, but from this cold-weather hardened blogger, I say 43 degrees is warm. To all those who complain about the weather, just to complain about the weather, I say you all are weak. Go enjoy your day, the sun is out, so go be happy.

BUT IF YOU MUST REMAIN INDOORS and like geography and plotting things on maps, then head on over to Bless the Google mapping technology for this is wonderful.

Look ... I plotted out the D2 bus route. You can tag things, put notes in, etc. Think of all the other great tools wayfaring can be used for. There's a possibility I may end up playing around with this all day.

>> "Morning Roundup: Is It Spring Yet Edition" [DCist]
>> "D2-Dupont Circle-Glover Park Line" [Wayfaring]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

ODDS 'N ENDS: Thursday Is My Friday

AHHH, THE END OF THE WORK WEEK is nearly here. From the breeze blowing in my window, I can tell it's considerably cooler than it when I headed off the work yesterday. (My father tells me that back in Grand Rapids, Mich., it was 24 degrees this morning with six inches of snow on the ground. And I'm going to a wedding in Milwaukee the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Hopefully all the warm hearts of all the kind souls in the Dairy State will melt any snow that's on the ground. I'll bring a heavy coat just in case.)

Just a few things of note this morning, before I head off to work.

FIRST, my write-up of Open City is in today's Express, in Weekend Pass. Pick up a copy or go read it online on the .pdf (p. 57/E25). Just to be clear, it's not a review. You can't adequately judge a restaurant's food/performance/etc. from one visit, especially on its opening night. But since I live a block away, I will definitely be returning.

SECOND, Kyle over at Information Leafblower unveiled the results of the 40 Greatest Bands in America Today 2005 survey. He got in touch with a bunch of music bloggers from all around and took their rankings to survey experts at the Brookings Institution's Musicology/U.S. Popular Culture Research Division(*) to get the results.

(*) Please note, there is no musicology/U.S. popular culture research division at Brookings. Though Kyle admits there are some flaws in how things were tabulated, he has some great music minds contributing their input, including some bloggers who I have met or know, like DCeiver, Seeking Irony and Coolfer.

The top 5 you ask? ...
1.) Sufjan Stevens
2.) The National
3.) Kanye West
4.) LCD Soundsystem
5.) Sleater-Kinney

>> "'Open' for Business" [Express, p. 57/E25]
>> "40 Greatest Bands in America Today 2005" [Information Leafblower]

DETROIT: Skyscrapers of Weeds and Trees

Image of an abandoned Packard factory from

over my junior year summer at the University of Michigan, I was assigned to cover the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Every week, I had the pleasure of taking the People Mover to 211 W. Fort St. (a tall Carter- or Reagan-era skyscraper on the edge of the downtown core) where I would go up to the 21st floor to rifle through thousands of recently filed bankruptcy filings. Among all the many, many, many personal bankruptcy filings ... (I can only imagine the space the office had to create in the file cabinets for the influx of filings with the bankruptcy reform measure implemented in October) ... I would examine the commerical bankruptcy filings for possible articles, especially if the filing had liabilities that were more than $1 million.

BUT SCOURING THE FILINGS COULD BE TEDIOUS as you might imagine. So there was always the window overlooking the northwest quadrant of downtown Detroit. Looking out across the landscape, it was filled mile after mile with Motor City bungalows. You could also gaze out at some of the absolutley amazing 1920s Art Deco skyscrapers, some which stood abandoned and vandalized, vacant or partially vacant like the Book-Cadillac Hotel (which had some impressively placed graffiti way up on the tower's peaked roof) and the Book Tower (the Italian Renaissance/Art Deco tower with a lot of cell phone antennae on its roof), where "form meets function," according to its website. (It does have quite a few tenants.)

And among some of the towering abandoned buildings that line Washington Boulevard and Woodward Avenue, you could see vegetation. After years of neglect, mother nature took over and decided to let bushes and trees take root in the sky. Seriously! There was a tree growing out of the roof of the abandoned Book-Cadillac Hotel. Now it wasn't a giant redwood or a maple, but a tree nonetheless.

From the 2001 Detroit Free Press article "Rooted in the Air: Nature Restakes Its Claim on Downtown as Trees Crown Detroit's Abandoned Gems" (subsc.):
High above the streets of downtown Detroit, spring is bustin' out all over. From Grand Circus Park to the Detroit River, real trees are budding and growing -- with no human help -- from the rooftops of abandoned skyscrapers, warehouses and hotels. The Greening of Detroit, 2001-style, means that some of the biggest, oldest and most interesting buildings in the nation's 10th largest city are succumbing to nature. Literally.
(Last week Tuesday following the Super Furry Animals show at the 9:30 Club, I mentioned this fact to the band's drummer Dafydd Ieuean in our conversation about Detroit and he was very much surprised by that.)

REMEMBER THE MOVIE '28 DAYS LATER' where a super virus is unleashed by environmentalists who were trying to free laboratory monkeys that just happened to be infected with a rage virus? (That's where the population of London and the rest of the United Kingdom either flees, gets killed or is infected.) In the movie, London is for the most part intact while hoolagins or some rage-induced accident burns Manchester to the ground. So what ever would happen if London would lay abandoned? How long would it take for nature to gradually reclaim the abandoned and ancient metropolis?

According to this article, the process would get fully underway within a decade, if not immediately.
The initial changes are familiar to every city dweller who goes into battle against invading weeds and shrubs. Within the first year, dandelions and other weeds begin growing in the gutters and emerge from the cracks caused by frost and flooding in concrete, paving slabs and walls.

But they only exploit existing weaknesses. Shrubs like buddleia are far more aggressive. Its roots are powerful enough to penetrate bricks and mortar to find moisture, says botanist Anthony Bradshaw, formerly of the University of Liverpool. Buddleia grows fast, and its light seeds are easily dispersed by the wind. Brought to Britain from the Himalayas to adorn Victorian gardens, buddleia is already everywhere in London, poised to rid the city of its concrete and brick.
Hmmm. That doesn't sound too good. Let's hope Detroit can save its historic skyscrapers, because who knows what biological stuff is blowing across the river from Ontario ...

In the meantime, check out The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit, one of my favorite websites. Also, this book ("Natural History of Vacant Lots") looks quite interesting, especially if you consider all the vacant land in the city of Detroit.

Also, be sure to look at's photostream on Flickr, especially the photos of the abandoned Michigan Central Station. No, those are not the ruins of Rome ...

>> U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
>> Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel
>> Book Tower
>> "Return to Paradise" [Eco Action: Do or Die]
>> The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit
>> photos [Flickr]
>> "History of Vacant Lots" [via Urban Cartography]

-- Second image from this photo tour of the abandoned Book-Cadillac hotel.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

OCULUS: Now With More Graphics

AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED, I added a photo illustration in the right rail earlier this week and tonight added another image in the header. There's really not much more to it than that. I'm assuming that these should translate correctly to the various Web browsers you all use, but if something's askew, drop me a line in comments or send me an e-mail.

GEORGETOWN: Send Me to Saint E's

(Editor's Note: With the current public hearings surrounding the future of the Whitehurst Freeway, I decided to do some architectural and planning analysis of the highway's proposed removal. I might be totally wrong in my approach, but it's good to throw the ideas out there.)

CALLING THE WHITEHURST beautiful could get you committed to a hospital’s psychiatric ward. So please, find me a straight jacket for I am going to declare just that. As the District continues to hope that its plans to rid itself of the elevated structure that hovers above Georgetown’s waterfront will move forward, I am going to defend the scorned structure. In that concrete and steel viaduct, I see an ugly duckling.

My argument for keeping the Whitehurst does not hinge on traffic concerns that everyone immediately jumps to. Nor is it only dependent on those few days in the winter when falling snow magically interacts with the glowing streetlights and the shadows created by the freeway’s steel beams and old brick warehouses that line Water Street.

My concern about tearing down the Whitehurst is more symbolic.

DEMOLITION IS FAR TOO EASY of an option. In a city that is usually far too concerned about its facades than its substance, I’m not all that surprised about the reactions from those who want the structure gone.

"It's an ugly structure, which I don't like," D.C. Council member Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, was quoted this spring by The Associated Press.

In cities across the country, elevated freeways like the Whitehurst have been targeted for demolition, especially along waterfronts in need of revitalization. City officials like Evans and others late to public space reclamation game envision a version of San Francisco’s wide bayside Embarcadero or a grand Parisian-style boulevard. But the Whitehurst’s right-of-way is far too narrow to recreate such a beautiful public asset. And there are no visionary Georges-Eugène Haussmanns nor a McMillan Commission calling for anything grander than just the idea of reclaiming the waterfront just for the sake of reclaiming the waterfront (or for condo interests at the Flour Mill or Ritz-Carlton).

Simply removing the Whitehurst is far too easy of an option. And it is aesthetically risky.

Subtracting the Whitehurst from Georgetown’s waterfront, you remove the one thing that’s protecting its façade from itself. Like a bad puss-filled abscess, picking away the freeway would unmask Georgetown’s ugly hodgepodge of old brick warehouses, more modern-yet-underwhelming office and residential buildings and the Georgetown Harbour complex, which is the dominant anchor on the water. It would take more than a generation of natural free market development to totally reshape Georgetown's waterfront into something that has clear definition, something that is more appropriate for Washington.

IF YOU STAND on the Key Bridge looking toward Georgetown and the Kennedy Center, you can follow a clear, long horizontal line along the Whitehurst, a theme that’s repeated in the Watergate and Kennedy Center and one that will be reflected in the cutting-edge design of the House of Sweden, which is currently under construction next to the Georgetown Harbour complex.

Remove the Whitehurst, and you might as well move the House of Sweden out to a suburban office park. It will sit naked, unprotected and exposed.

My fears with a potential Whitehurst removal will be the possibility of the Georgetown waterfront turning into New York City’s West Side Highway, Route 9A. The old elevated highway began to collapse in 1973 and was eventually replaced with a boulevard that was supposed to create a more eye-pleasing visual connection between the Hudson River and the city. Instead, the busy six-lane divided highway — lined with an ugly mix of buildings much like Georgetown — it is a speed demons’ paradise. And despite numerous improvements to encourage pedestrian activity, a vibrant public waterfront that was envisioned has not yet materialized. There are too many cars speeding down the at-grade highway. Remember, the Whitehurst is part of the U.S. Highway network, signed as Route 29. Though the District may have plans to reroute traffic or accommodate it, cars could in the end ruin the idealized Parisian boulevard on the Potomac.

There are ways to improve the Whitehurst Freeway as it stands today. Just look at some of the proposals to recapture the lost space beneath New York’s elevated FDR Drive while keeping the highway. (Some of the ideas are silly, but nonetheless, improving an elevated highway doesn't mean that it must be removed.) Such viaducts don’t have to be ugly. We just choose to make them so because it is far easier to do.

>> "More stuff about buildings and food" [mattwdc]
>> "Whitehurst Freeway Deconstruction Feasibility Study" [DDOT]

- Top photo from Drew McDermott's archives []
- Second photo from Rob Goodspeed [Flickr]

WOODLEY PARK: Open City Is Open

I SWUNG THROUGH OPEN CITY last night after work for dinner and I can report that it is indeed open for business. It's not fair to judge a place on opening night, so I'd be hesitant to throw out my thoughts on the place right now. (But ... I had a Cubano sandwich, which was good. The homemade chips were also quite good. And the beer list had a good mix of drafts and bottles at reasonable prices.) But as I've said before, Woodley Park needs a place like this. I think I may go grab breakfast there in a bit to see what the AM crowd is like. Have a good morning.

"ODDS 'N ENDS: Ruins of Fasika's, Open City's Almost Open to the City and Preservation Battles" [The Washington Oculus]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

MEDIA: Fun With Headlines

CLEVER HEADLINE: "Yes, Virginia, There Really Is a Yellowcake" [Gawker]
(for the winners of Gawker's Judith "Millerpalooza Sweepstakes" ... there's actually a cake)

AWKWARD HEADLINE: "9/11 body attacks White House" [Financial Times]
(blast those troublesome one-column, five-deck headlines)


CAN JELL-O STAND UP TO A 8.0 EARTHQUAKE? This is too cool not to pass on. San Fransico, cast in gelatin ... Alamo Square, Telegraph Hill, the Bay Bridge, all brought to you by artist Liz Hickok.

>> "San Francisco in Jell-O" [Liz Hickok via Dynamist Blog]

KIEV: Bon Vivants Vexed at Their Persecution

ODD THINGS HAPPEN ON THE BANKS OF THE DNIEPER. A former colleague of mine from Roll Call, Ethan Wallison, sends a somewhat humorous dispatch from Kiev regarding the plight of some French-Lebanese ex-pats who find themselves ridiculed by the native press corps.

From Room 12A:
[Omar Harfouch] has a girlfriend called Musa ("muse"), in addition to his other girlfriend: his ego. (In interviews, he says things like, "Musa is fascinated by me, and I have taught her so much about life." Musa is 19, last I checked.) He claims to own and to have preserved Maria Callas' hair.
But that's not why people laugh at the brothers Harfouch, Wallison reports.

Someone torched Walid's Bentley! (I ask, was Paris Hilton's new billionaire boyfriend anywhere near the car? ...) And Walid, who was planning to run some scandalous photos of President Yushchenko's son in his gossip magazine "Paparazzi," claims that the torching came by order of the government to silence him. Some in Ukraine's press corps think that Walid torched his own car as a publicity stunt. The situation has now devolved to where Walid is suing Ukraine's interior minister.

If Kiev doesn't work out for the brothers Harfouch, they could always move to Washington and start a luxury magazine here. There's certainly room for another one, right?

>> "Laughter Sans Fronteras?" [Room 12A]
>>"Publisher of 'Paparazzi' Magazine Sues Ukraine Interior Minister" [UNIAN]
>> "Paris Hilton, Boyfriend in Car Crash" [Who]

YELLOW LINE: Searching for Clarity

THE RECENT COMMENT THREAD on DCist regarding the idea of extending the Yellow Line through the Green Line's Mid-City corridor has been an interesting study of people bellyaching and throwing out solutions that seem to have been partially developed on the fly. (There have been some good thought-out ideas too.) Just to sum up, there are vocal elements in the Columbia Heights area who think that Metrorail service to U Street and 14th Street is not adequate, especially later at night and on weekends when waits are considerably longer. Their proposed solution? Extend the Yellow Line from its terminus at Mount Vernon Square-7th Street-Convention Center and on through the Green Line's Mid-City corridor.

After Yellow Line activists inquired, Metro CEO Richard White responded, saying that can't be done in the near future because there aren't enough rail cars right now and the current priority is to eliminate four-car trains throughout the system.

BUT THE DISCUSSION HASN'T CEASED of course. On the thread, commenters went back and forth. Of the nonsense discussed, Hugo said:
The wait for yellow line trains on weekends is already as bad as the wait for green line trains on weekends is. You can't rob Peter to pay Paul here.
To which Green Line responded:
Hugo - what you said makes no sense. People are not proposing decreasing the frequency of the yellow line, they are proposing maintaining the current frequency (the one that allows both the yellow and green lines to run between Mt. Vernon and L'Enfant), however make the end of the Yellow line at Greenbelt. This would require more cars, as stated in the story, however nobody is proposing decreasing the frequency of the yellow line.
Then Michael declared:
I think if a new rail line can be planned and funded to dulles and tysons, it should not be to difficult to find a way to extend yellow line service north along green line tracks.
In an ideal world, Michael, but this is public transportation, not Sim City.

Then a commenter named cooperred jumped in quite frustrated:
Yes there is a "turn around system" in place at Mt. Vernon Sq. It is plainly obvious that most people have no grasp whatsoever of railway construction, and should simply try to learn it before spouting off.

Shunting yards are usually at the end of the line, on open ground with plenty of space. Mt. Vernon Square is almost unique in the system for its underground placement.

I have lived on the Green Line for many years, and if you think it's crowded now, you didn't see it back when the line first started running to Branch Ave. After the new cars arrived things abated considerably.

If Metro has learned anything, due to the two track limitation, it is that parallel lines (are you listening Blue and Orange line riders?) cause more problems than they solve. It doesn't matter if you have 56 freaking colored lines on the map, you can still not put more cars on the rails than there is space for, allowing for safety. So the extension is moot. If it were extended to say U St. and then "turned around" would add more delays because it would have to be shunted onto the track in the opposite direction, sit there while the driver walks to the other end, and then driven back the other way. That is, assuming the crossover track is exactly at the entrance into the tunnel. It might not be, it might be much farther away.

You want more trains on the Green Line, fine, bitch about that. Don't think making more parallel lines is a solution other than "ooh look at the pretty colors on the map." The lines are only a logical representation, the number of cars on the track is not tied to it.
Michael then responded:
I don't understand why Metro claims the Yellow can't go to U St because there's so turn-around track until Greenbelt. When I moved here there was no Green line (gasp!) - the Yellow line ended at U St, so there MUST be a way for it to turn around. And of course it doesn't turn around; it just goes backwards over an "x" track.
As was discussed, Mount Vernon Square is the station with the pocket track for Yellow Line trains to turn around. Michael says that "there MUST be a way" for Yellow Line trains to turn around at U Street. Yes, there is a way, but that would involve having trains go backwards over the crossover tracks under Vermont Avenue. You don't want to make it a habit for trains to regularly go backwards on an active rail line unless there is an emergency or construction situation of some sort. That's why Mount Vernon Square has the pocket track to conduct the Yellow Line turn-around away from the active Green Line.

Then Michael, the Robert Moses of underground rail construction, threw out his new vision for Metrorail.
For the long-term, we need to expand the number of lines. I support DDOT's surface-rail efforts, but it still makes sence to expand Metro. The Yellow line should go to U St then veer off the Green's track to a new stop under Adams Morgan - one entrance by the parking garage at 17th & U, and another under Marie Reed. It could keep heading west, hitting the Red line at Woodley or Kalorama... Metro claims tunnels cost $200 million per mile... It's better than just renaming the Woodley station Woodley/Zoo/Adams Morgan...!
Well yes, more lines would be wonderful, but even if there were an bottomless pot of gold at the end of the transit funding rainbow, WMATA would be hesitant to go about any sort of construction through Adams Morgan and into Woodley Park, or U Street for that matter. The Red Line section beneath Rock Creek was perhaps the most difficult to construct, as the deep-level line had to deal with challenging bedrock.

And what if Metro were to build a branch off from the current U Street station? Remember, that section of the Green Line was done with cut-and-cover construction, essentially ripping open the street and neighborhood. To build rail spurs that tunnel beneath the mainline track would require expanding the underground complex beneath U Street. The neighborhood probably wouldn't want to be dramatically torn up for a second time as it was when the Green Line originally went in.

My take on people's troubles getting to Adams Morgan: Don't wait for a Yellow Line extension of your wildest fantasies. Take any 90-series bus (90/92/93,96/97,98) on U Street. It's quite easy.

>> "WMATA on Wednesdays" [DCist]
>> "COLUMBIA HEIGHTS: All Ripped Up" [The Washington Oculus]

Monday, November 14, 2005

GLOVER PARK: Oh How I Miss Cafe Romeo's

DO YOU REMEMBER THAT "SEINFELD" EPISODE where Elaine takes temporary residence in a random apartment building's janitor's closet just so she could take advantage of being within the delivery range of a particular Chinese restaurant with great flounder? It can be hard to predict what places will deliver where, so in the end I'm normally too lazy to actually call to see if someplace on Wisconsin Avenue might deliver to Connecticut Avenue, etc. Then every once and a while you get a delivery menu in your mailbox that confirms that a particular place will deliver to your place of residence.

In my mailbox tonight arrived the delivery menu for Cafe Romeo's. (They're open 'til 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, which is a rarity for an establishment west of Rock Creek Park.) And I am ever so happy. If you live in Glover Park (I once lived there), you should already know about this once-sketchy place on Wisconsin Avenue, next to Holy Rood Cemetery and the strip of formerly abandoned row houses across from Soma Fit, just south of W Place NW. About 10 months ago or so, Cafe Romeo's underwent a drastic renovation to spruce up the place. Fortunately the menu has remained more or less the same.

Romeo's "MEGA" sandwiches are perfect for the dinner delivery/lunch left-over strategy. I suggest the spinach and artichoke (with grilled herb sauce, caramelized onions, roma tomatoes, feta cheese and mushrooms) and the Romeo's Special (pesto, mozzarella cheese, bacon, roasted peppers, spinach and roma tomatoes). Sandwiches, and these are large sandwiches, are just $6.45. Their pizza isn't all that bad either. So if you live west of Rock Creek Park, and/or are a Ward 3 resident living below Tenley Circle and/or live in Georgetown and/or in Dupont Circle/Sheridan-Kalorama, Romeo's probably delivers to your door. The menu is available here.

BUT THERE WAS AN ERA of Cafe Romeo's before the renovations. And was it ever a spooky era. The food was the same, but being there late night could bring out the neighborhood's odd characters ... you know, those strange estate lawyers, Capitol Hill staffers from Maine and drunken American University undergrads. And if you were looking out in the direction of the Chinese Embassy annex and the Naval Observatory from Cafe Romeo's front doors, mysterious occurances were known to have happened.

The Friday before Halloween 2004, a thick fog had rolled into Washington. I was at Romeo's around 3:45 a.m. when an motorcade rolled by on Wisconsin Avenue.

From my DCist post on Oct. 31, 2004:
Through the thick fog, a group of at least 15 Metropolitan Police squad cars and some motorcycle cops drove up Wisconsin Avenue, lights flashing. They were protecting a WMATA metrobus, which drove uptown with its lights out. It was unclear what was inside the darkened bus.

While DCist is used to government helicopters and the occasional motorcade shutting streets down, with the fog, this episode was particularly spooky, something that would make the mind of any conspiracy theorist go wild.
A friend and I joked that it was Jenna Bush's party bus leaving Smith Point for Camp David. But yet, it is still to this day unclear what/who was in the darkened Metrobus so late at night with heavy police escort.

Regardless, the sandwiches are wonderful.

>> "Cafe Romeo's Menu" [Cafe Romeo's]
>> "Things Going By on a Foggy Foggy Night" [DCist]

ODDS 'N ENDS: Ruins of Fasika's, Open City's Almost Open to the City and Preservation Battles

WALKING DOWN 18TH STREET NW this morning, I discovered that the Ethiopian restaurant Fasika's is pretty much out of commission after a fire that I think happened last night. The charred remains of the restaurant's interior furnishings sat outside on the sidewalk, as you can see in this photo at right. While I'm sure the remains were fully extinguished, the sidewalk still smelled of smoke, wafting down the block.

>> "Fasika's Ethiopian Restaurant" [ City Guide]

RIDING THE L2 BUS down 24th Street on Saturday night, I saw that the folks over at the yet-to-open Open City were busy in a training meeting in the prime corner location at Calvert Street that was once occupied by Washington Gourmet. This will be the third location of the Constantine Stavropoulos empire (Tryst and The Diner on 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan are the others). According to On Tap, it'll be part coffee shop, part bar, part diner. Essentially mixing the best of The Diner and Tryst for the residents of Woodley Park, and guests coming to and from the Omni Shoreham hotel.

As a Woodley Park resident, I hope this place does well and won't be run over like The Diner and Tryst are at most hours of the day. Our neighborhood needs more neighborhood establishments, instead of restaurants and bars that cater to the hotel community.

>> "What's New, Notable and No Longer a Part of the DC Bar/Restaurant/Lounge Scene" [On Tap]

IN THE NEW YORK TIMES this morning, there is an interesting piece in the Arts section about a New York City Council subcommittee meeting today that should be of interest to anyone in the historic preservation community. Nicolai Ouroussoff writes about how the city council may be shaking up the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has been criticized over its handling of the renovations debacle over Edward Durell Stone's 2 Columbus Circle.

From The New York Times:
The bill ... would require a public hearing on any building that has been determined eligible for listing on the state register of historic places. It would also allow the City Council to demand such a public hearing in a majority vote.
It seems that the saga of 2 Columbus Circle is not over yet, though scaffolding is supposed to rise in the near future. It looks like it will probably be sacrificed, but the battle over the building has become a modern-day preservation rallying call, much like Penn Station was in the late 1960s.

>> "Turning Up the Heat on a Landmarks Agency" [The New York Times]
>> "Checks and Balances at the LPC?" [Curbed]
>> "America's 11 Most-Endangered Historic Places 2004" [National Trust for Historic Preservation]

LABOR RELATIONS: Communism and the Lunchtime Assembly/Production/Delivery Line at Cafe Phillips

Image of the Communist Rulers Gallery from CzechSite

I FINALLY GOT AROUND TO READING the cover story of the most recent City Paper, "Sleeper Cell" where for "D.C.'s communists, the struggle isn't about acquiring the means of production; it's about getting together." In the piece, Chris Peterson quotes Dustin Tasker, 22, a graduate student at American University pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy. Mr. Tasker, who is a communist, says to get a good grasp of modern-day communism, all you need to do is fully understand burrito production.
... Specifically, Chipotle Mexican Grill. “If you look with the right eyes, you see them taking raw materials and turning them into commodities,” he says. Anyone who’s ever eaten at Chipotle knows the drill: At one end of the line, an employee gets the burrito started, placing rice, beans, and/or meat on a tortilla, then passes it along to the next employee, who’s in charge of other ingredients. The third employee rings you up. It’s about as close to factory-floor industrialism as locals will get these days.

Burritos, says Tasker, explain the evil interdependence inherent in capitalism. “The bourgeoisie needs the proletariat, and the proletariat needs the bourgeoisie,” Tasker says. “This is why communism is a revolutionary idea. The system itself is the problem, and it all needs to be uprooted.”
Obviously, Mr. Tasker has never been to Cafe Phillips, the hand-carved sandwich emporium with a handful of locations in the downtown Washington area.

IN MANY WAYS, Phillips may best demonstrate Mr. Tasker's burrito production labor theory. While the Chipotle production line needs four people to operate properly (tortilla/rice/beans/sometimes meat person, sometimes meat/salsa/cheese/lettuce/guac person, the foil wrapper/bag-of-tortilla chips retriever, and the cash register clerk), Cafe Phillips can have as many as eight people working the food production and delivery process. It also shows how complex modern-day production interaction can be between workers, overseers and everyday consumers like you and me.

IT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS at the Cafe Phillips at 50 F St. NW:
Worker A is standing somewhere between the bread repository and Worker B (the meat carver). Worker A takes your order and gets your bread and calls out what meat Worker B needs to carve for your sandwich. Worker A works closely with Worker C (the toppings person) and will sometimes take on the role of Worker C. In some instances when it is really busy, Worker A will only repeat the order. Other times, Worker A will actually do some work, like open the bread and lay down a piece of lettuce, slap on mayo and/or mustard (spicy or yellow) in advance of the meat Worker B will deliver and the toppings Worker C will add about 2 seconds after the meat is firmly in place.

As the counter makes a sharp right turn, workers D and E will be waiting. Worker D will sometimes facilitate communication between workers A and F, who is stationed at the grill, in case a customer orders a reuben or cheesesteak. Most other times, Worker D will be equipped with a knife to slice and close the sandwich, to hand it off to Worker E, who will wrap the sandwich in the appropriate foil or butcher paper. Sometimes workers D and E will be the same person. It is either D or E who will hand off the sandwich to the customer and tattoo it with a black marker scribble to ensure that Workers H and I (later described) aren't getting cheated by cunning customers.

In some instances, Worker E will be Submanager A, who is keeping an eye on whatever goes on in the back kitchen. Submanager A is often stationed at the salad production area where the counter makes another right turn. Submanager A has a pretty low-impact job of tearing romaine lettuce into similarly shaped pieces, slicing tomatoes into precice quarters and laying them down at precise angles in the corners of the flat plastic containers which will be delivered to the publicly accessible refrigerated case in the front of the establishment. If salad responsibilities get too troublesome, Worker G who is back in the kitchen will come in and fill little plastic snap tubs with salad dressing as Submanager A is spooning up soup or (overpriced yet tasty) chili and gathering crackers to go with said soup. There is no Submanager B.

During the lunch hour, few customers order complicated coffee or espresso concoctions. They know better. In such a lunchtime operation, fancy coffee is an indulgence that simply cannot be tolerated when there are 10-15 people in the process of completing their sandwich order. Any gridlock between the cash register and the salad station could cause a backup. And Worker A way over at the meat-carving station would be looked down upon by Mother Phillips (the operation's no-nonsense task master) if he would not be doing his assigned duty by carving turkey, roast beef and ham as furiously as possible. I wonder if Worker A starts to fret and sweat when there are a bunch of vegetarian or egg/chicken/tuna salad orders in a row and the day's quota of turkeys consumed doesn't meet Mother Phillips' expectations.

Next up is the cash register operation, where there are always two Phillips associates, workers H and I, ready to process the cash-only transaction and bagging operation as quickly as humanly possible. Mother Phillips is usually hovering behind workers H and I, ensuring that the payment/bagging process is running at optimal efficiency. Sometimes Mother Phillips will throw the sandwich in the bag, sometimes she'll calculate the correct change quicker than Workers H and I. Sometimes she'll smile. And sometimes, just sometimes, Mother Phillips (with perfect hair, make-up and the finest of clothes), will even say thank you, no matter how many times Worker I will say "Thank You" during the cash exchange process. (Worker I has been known to say "Thank you, have a nice day" as many as four times as the customer delivers the sandwich for bagging, digs through a wallet for cash and change, waits for change and accepts the bag once the transaction is complete.)

Mother Phillips and Worker I will trade turns -- depending on how busy it is -- to handle dessert and treat orders. Certain treats, like blondies, must be baked with either crack (much like the chicken salad is) or mounds of butter. They are addictive, which is precisely what Mother Phillips must want: a captive pool of F Street workers who become so seduced, so mechanized by the process, they become enslaved by the Phillipian system, much like the workers who handcraft your sandwich every day. Soon enough you're spending close to $9 on lunch five days a week if you're not careful. The Greek deli over on G Street is so mismanaged -- it is the anti-Cafe Phillips -- that you always return to Cafe Phillips. Mother Phillips is much like Medusa (seen here, courtesy Caravaggio and the University of Texas), or perhaps she's just Stalin With a Smile. She'll turn you into a stone-faced zombie and you’ll be unable to loosen yourself from her clutches. Pity the railroad association workers who dominate the building. They might not know any better. (If Mother Phillips is reading this, your sandwiches are wonderful, by the way. I miss the chicken salad.)

>> "Sleeper Cell" [City Paper]
>> "Cafe Phillips Owner Promises Clients ‘The Best Coffee in the World’" [Roll Call]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

14TH STREET NW: Before There Was the Popped Collar, There Was Duke Ellington

IF YOU THOUGHT that the socio-geographic evolution of the corner of 14th and T streets NW was limited to the popped-collar debate at Cafe Saint-Ex from the past year, you are quite mistaken. Be sure to read Anne Hull's front-page article in today's Washington Post about how the corner, where some of the first windows were broken during the 1968 riots, has evolved over the past few generations.

From The Washington Post:
Fourteenth and T remained essentially untouched until 2003, when Cafe Saint-Ex arrived, bringing Dutch lager to a crossroads that was home to the 40-ounce. Replacing an Ethiopian restaurant and Laval's Good Food To Go, Saint-Ex was a cause for celebration for some, an elegy for others. "It was like Saint-Ex was putting its flag down on the moon," says Rachael Storey, a documentary filmmaker who lives nearby and misses Laval's.
As the article notes, the neighborhood, where Duke Ellington used to live (over on 13th Street), has changed before. Its latest reincarnation has it being "re-imagined by baristas and purveyors of tapas. Race and class are colliding on dozens of other blocks in a city where demographics are shifting by the month, but 14th and T represents something else: that split-second before the curtain drops on one era and rises on another."

It's all good reading.

>> "One Urban Panorama Fades, Another Rises" [The Washington Post]
>> "Once You Pop, You Can't Must Stop" [DCist]
>> "Where Jenna Goes, Flocks of Merrymakers Follow" [Express; pdf, p. 54]

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Kofi Annan Wants to Give Me Oil-for-Food Cash

I LOVE E-MAIL SOLICITATIONS that try to dupe me into sending money where I can later cash in on millions of dollars. The tricksters from Nigeria (where the majority of these schemes are generated) can be ever so crafty.

But this one takes the cake: Apparently I too can profit off the United Nations oil-for-food program, according to an e-mail I received from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
I Dr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, would like to ask for your partnership in reprofilling funds over $250m in excess, the funds would be coming via a string of selected banks in Europe and Asia.

The Funds in question were generated by me during the oil for food programme in Iraq. I have been getting scandals/ controversy in this regards, you can read more on the links below-

You would be paid 5% as your management fee. Please do not write back directly to me via my official email address. All further correspondence should be sent to my private mail box ( As soon as you indicate your interest I will give further details.

Remember to treat this mail and transaction as strictly confidential. I will await your urgent correspondence via my private mail box-

Dr.Kofi Annan.
I love the fake e-mail address because the use of the "4" instead of "for" lends a lot of credibility, don't you think?

According to London's Metropolitan Police, these crimes are known as 419 Fraud cases, since they deal with section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code.

From the Met
This type of scam, originally known as the "Spanish Prisoner Letter", has been carried out since at least the sixteenth century via ordinary postal mail. These scams have come to be associated in the public mind with Nigeria due to the massive proliferation of such confidence tricks from that country since the mid-eighties, although they are often also carried out in other African nations, and increasingly from European cities with large Nigerian populations, notably London and Amsterdam.
Now who's going to fall for it? Someone, unfortunately.

>> "Fraud Alert - 419 Fraud" [Metropolitan Police]