Saturday, October 31, 2009

Francisco on Halloween in Capitol Hill


"We've been in our house on the Hill for eight years. My wife grew up around here so coming back was a nice homecoming for her. And, we are raising our kids here, too. We got a house right before, like, the market went berserk. At the time, the area was hot. There was a corner spot where kids were doing shit. Every now and then, there would be a shooting. Still, we were happy to be in the city, but we were just more alert. Especially with kids, you got to be alert. People come to DC and want it to be a small town, but it is a city. You need to behave like it is a city because shit goes down.

"Things started to change a couple of years after we moved when they closed the projects, the Kentucky Courts. It turns out that they closed it because there was an old lady who had lived there forever and one day her ceiling collapsed from all of the pigeon shit that accumulated on her roof. The city had never addressed the pigeon shit and the structural problems the shit caused. The city didn't want to deal with the lawsuits that were forthcoming so they just closed the projects and moved them. They tore that down and turned it into a mixed-income area and then the expensive houses starting going up. Houses in excess on a million dollars right next to mine.

"It's funny when you start to see the neighborhood change and people walking their dogs after nine p.m. That never happened before. In the past, that kind of person was just fucking crazy. Now, people walk around at all hours, even if they don't have dogs. Now, I see Senators living on my block. My property taxes have gone up. True, my value has gone up, but my little old house still has a lot of issues. There is no way that I could afford to sell it and move to another house on my block, things are too expensive.

"Still, I love this neighborhood and want to stay. Sadly, I know all of my old neighbors, but none of my new ones. I do know one of my new neighbors because he gives out brussels sprouts on Halloween. He's a trip. My kids are like what the hell is wrong with this guy. But, that is his thing, I guess. Halloween is crazy here now because people descend on Eastern Market and Capitol Hill. I have seen pickups from Maryland and Virginia drop off, like, eight kids here to go trick or treating. Before the neighborhood turned over, it was a real trip on Halloween. I used to get this crazy sixty-year-old woman who would knock on my door three times a night every Halloween. She was always smoking a cigarette with no kind of costume or child and sticking her bag out for candy. I mean, at least say trick or treat or put on a costume or something. Now, we get tens of thousands of kids coming here and people create these elaborate Halloween decorations and dress their houses up. It's really amazing how everything has changed so much in this neighborhood, especially Halloween."

Read more about the history of the Capitol Hill neighborhood here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Will on His Granddaughter, Nia


“I’ve lived in DC for about 50 years. I came here, alone, at 15 to live with my sister and to attend Cardozo High School. I spent my career here as a police officer. Now, I am retired and get to spend all of my time with my granddaughter, Nia. She is my first grandchild and we have a very special relationship.

“Every day, we go out walking in the city. We leave home at 8:15 a.m. and go out walking until about 12:30 p.m. We go to the zoo and spend time looking at birds and plants. I just love to be with her and let her know that she has someone close to her. Today, we are going to read together about birds.

“Nia loves DC, too. This is such a diverse city, much different than the DC I grew up in, so that is what I am showing her. We enjoy walking and talking with all kinds of people and waving at them and getting to know different folks.

“I remember my close relationship with my great-grandmother. She lived to be 117-years-old. This was in Georgia on the Chattahoochee River. It was wonderful down there. It was like a different world. Everything was fresh and nice, there was no pollution. You could drink water from the streams and eat the wild fruit that grew everywhere. 

"My great-grandmother was wonderful and she always took care of all of us. She was the matriarch of the whole area and the midwife for me when I was born. She used to sit outside of the sycamore tree in her front yard and watch all of the kids play. She always taught me to the do the best I can and don’t worry about nothing else. I am trying to do the same for Nia.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dave on Being a Regular


"I recognize that there is a lot of gentrification in DC, but what causes me more stress is how transient this city is. Even where it is not transient, people who come from the outside act like it is. Many of them don't involve themselves locally, which seems disastrous to me. I make an effort to know everyone in my neighborhood.

"I had a friend in from out of town recently and we were in my neighborhood, Mt. Pleasant. A lot of people I knew were out on the street and many came up to me to say hello. Some of them didn't know my name, but had nicknames for me because I am always out and around. One guy calls me Pee Wee. Another guy calls me Dorothy because he says my bike looks like it is from The Wizard of Oz and another guy calls me Hat Man. We stopped about every 15 feet to talk to people. My friend looked at me and asked if I was running for office here. You know, DC is a nice community and it is easy to know a lot of people here.

"I am someone who thinks about my own funeral and how many people will show up. I think if we throw a good buffet, we could get a couple of hundred people from my neighborhood. Even without a buffet, we could probably get at least a couple of dozen. Considering that I don't own anything here: no house, no business and I can't really do anything for anyone here, I found it pretty easy to make inroads into this community by being humane to people here. I also hang out in the same places and order the same things. It makes me a regular and makes life easy for the wait staff. At Tryst, I get double espressos all the time. At the Diner, I get a BLT sandwich with home fries instead of french fries. They don't even ask me anymore. For me, DC is an interesting place. It is a very local place, a very neighborhoody place."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wellesley on Undercompensating on a Vespa


“I was born in Falls Church, then moved all over the country and then overseas and came back here for law school. I grew up around motorcycles. My Mom owns a Harley and I spent a lot of time around motorcycle clubs. When I was 16, I was living in Germany as an exchange student and went to Italy on a field trip. I was at the Spanish Steps in Rome and there was an attractive woman sitting on a Vespa. She is sort of a blur, but I remember the scooter. I guess that’s a bad sign! It was an early 1960’s burgundy Vespa with eight-inch wheels. It had a leopard print seat cover. From that point on, I wanted to get a Vespa.

“When I was in law school, I decided that DC would be a great place to have a scooter and I tracked down my first project, a 1985 Vespa. Within four months, I had six Vespas. Within a few years, I had 22. I would restore them and sell them to help pay for law school. I really love things with two wheels, that’s why I opened
Modern Classics. The most important thing about Modern Classics is that we’re four people who are really passionate about scooters and motorcycles. We are the only full-service shop in Washington, DC, so you can buy or fix bikes with us. Might as well keep the business in the city.

“One of the things that I have noticed about being involved with scooters in DC is that a lot of the Vespa riders here seem to be more educated about scooters than in most other cities. DC is very white collar even though there are those of us, like me, who are blue collar by choice or circumstance. We have a lot of customers from places like The World Bank, people at embassies, and students. But, ridership in this city is really growing. I am constantly amazed by the people coming into my shop these days to buy scooters. I mean, big macho dudes like rugby and football players. You never would have seen that in DC fifteen years ago.

“Still, there’s been lots of times here when I have heard, ‘Get a real bike, you fag.’ But, I can tell you that if I take my motorcycle and go park it somewhere versus taking my Vespa out, the women love the Vespas. It draws a crowd. That’s not why I ride in DC, but it helps. Women tend to view it as metrosexual and guys who are insecure view it as homosexual. Sure, a Vespa doesn’t have the same testosterone level as a burly guy on a Harley, but some of us have to overcompensate and some of us under-compensate. But, I still think that it is really acceptable for anyone to ride a scooter in DC and people won’t judge you."

Read more about motorcycles in DC from
Kim.

This post is part of a weekly series of People's District stories on the
Prince of Petworth, check it out here.

Shaniqua Jones on the Drag Race


"I came to the drag race tonight with a bunch of friends. I've never raced before so when my friends asked me, I said, 'Sure, why not? I might as well try it.' I think that this parade loosens up the city and makes everything a bit lighter. It shows that we have a sense of humor. It is the one time of the year when everyone can just be themselves. I wish that people could live like this every day here. There is a bit of the drag race in every day life in DC, but it is more racing to get to the top. I have been conditioning a lot for the race because I am a paramedic and firefighter so I have to keep in shape. So, I think that in addition to looking good, I may just win the race, too." 

See more of my photos from the Drag Race here

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Charlie on Equality in the Emergency Room


"I've been in DC now for four years. I grew up right outside of town. I left for about ten years and then came back for my residency in emergency medicine at George Washington University Hospital. Because I work bizarre hours, I get to meet people like me who celebrate a side of DC that isn't the veneer that is written about. One thing that I really love is the horticulture club at Dumbarton Oaks. I volunteer my time there. I really think that place is wonderful. The fixed gear bicycle polo club is another example of a brilliant, DC gone wild kind of scene. I play a little bit, but I'm not very good.

"One of the things that makes the Emergency Department here interesting is that you get diplomats lying right next to homeless people. All people are treated equally once they are on the operating table. I will say that working here, I get a much better sense of the spirit of the people and the city that you don't see in a lot of Northwest. We get a lot of indigent folks from Southeast and Southwest DC. There were a number of hospitals that closed down there, so a bunch of that traffic is brought here. Meeting those people and hearing those stories gives me a better perspective of this city. This job has inspired me to get more involved with community activism and advocate for an affordable and safer Southeast and Southwest."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Joanne on Dog Walking


"I've walked dogs in DC for a long time, since 1992. I started walking dogs because I was laid off from my job. I used to work for a law firm and my neighbor was a full-time dog walker, and she suggested that I start doing this when I was looking for work. So, she promoted me around the neighborhood by putting a small sign up in Marion Park advertising my services. The funny thing is that I was afraid of dogs as a younger person. As I got older, I realized that dogs are more your friend than your enemy.

"To be a good dog walker, the first thing that you have to know is that the dogs can feel if you love them or not. This has never really been a problem with me because I love all animals. Each dog has its own personality and can be a lot like a person. Actually, they are more like infants because they never talk.

"You know, when I was in the workplace, I really didn't know my neighborhood like I do know. At that time, I was either in the office or at home. But this way, I have gotten to meet all of the neighbors, including those who have lived here since the 1930's, and the police department. I help the police with suspicious packages and other things. I've seen a lot of kids grow up here, too, because I am always out, walking around. I have really learned a lot about many things in my neighborhood. I think that many people in Capitol Hill are so fascinated by living in DC that they don't take advantage of the wealth of information in their older neighbors who have been here forever.

"This job, also, is great exercise and keeps me in great shape. There is no stress in my work or queen bee attitudes. At the end of the day, my feet are tired, but I always say it was worth it. You feel so much better about yourself and your life when you are making a contribution and serving people. This job is so rewarding."

Joanne is pictured with Highway.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Javier, Elizabeth and Margaret on Insects and Orange Ice Cream


Elizabeth – "I’m six–years-old, but I am turning seven on February 4th. I am in the first grade at Capitol Hill Day School. I like living in Washington because I like my house and the flat screen TV in my Mom and Dad’s bedroom. I go to school and I am learning how to read and learning about insects.”

Javier - "I’m seven. My birthday is August 30th. I like Washington because I like my home and because we are learning about insects in school. In the spring, we get to play with frogs. If we catch them, we can bring them to class. If not, our teacher brings in frogs that we can take home and play with. And, one time, I caught a frog near my house and it was supposed to be only be an inch, but now it is, like, five or six inches. I am going to bring it to class because it is way big. The park right next to our school has a lot of insects. We just found a stink bug a few days ago, but it didn’t stink.”

Margaret – “I am five-years-old. I like Washington because in school I’m learning about family and friends and how to read. I’m in Kindergarten at Capitol Hill Day School. I’m eating orange ice cream, it’s my favorite.”

Javier – “Mine, too!”

Elizabeth – “Me, too!”

From left to right, Javier, Elizabeth and Margaret.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Joel on DC Being Contagious


“I first came up to DC in the fourth or fifth grade. At that point, I was on a class field trip and with, like, all of my buddies. And I could have cared less about where we were going and what we were seeing. I was just happy to be 900 miles from my parents and in a hotel with other 12-year-olds. I really had no idea about how great DC was at that age. But, several years ago, I came back up to visit with a friend. It was at that point when I realized the sheer history of where I was. DC was just, like, contagious. I wanted to get more of DC and got back up here as fast as I could. I have a background in political science so DC was not that hard of a choice for me.

"DC has an energy about it and when you are driving in, you can feel. You have a variety of cultures here and with that, you are exposed to new ideas that really challenge you to think differently and figure out what it is exactly that you believe, which I think is something we all should do. For me, I believe that when you are exposed to so many new and different things that maybe you hadn’t been introduced to prior, it really makes you appreciate other people’s opinions. I think that goes a long way in business and relationships in general. So, it is a neat area to live.”

Friday, October 23, 2009

Svetlana on Brightest Young Things


“When I got to DC, I knew no one. At the time, I had a boyfriend who lived in LA, such a bad idea. I spent a year traveling back and forth and not giving DC a chance at all, just meeting a person here and there. Then, I broke up with my boyfriend and I decided to focus and really like DC and make it mine. I always used to take pictures and write stories on MySpace, basically narrating what was going on around town. My site really grew and I started getting 500 people a day or so checking out my photos. And, all of these people would come up to me and say, “Hey, you’re that girl who does those pictures.”

“So, my friend, Jason, suggested that we put the website out into the larger world. In 2006, we converted my site into a shitty blog and called it Brightest Young Things. I always wanted to call the blog that after Evelyn Waugh's novel, Vile Bodies. I wanted the name to be funny. The book talks about all of these kids running through London in the 1920's and they have nothing, but partying and live a very superficial life. In the book, they call those kids bright young things. Some people get the joke and some people don’t.

“Right now, our traffic is about 100,000 visitors a month. Sometimes, upwards of 10,000 a day. Now, we have 30 photographers, 60 contributors, and it’s a tight group of friends. So, we just went full-time in July. In the future, we are going to do more festivals and things that take over whole neighborhoods, especially parts of the city that many people don’t normally think of.

“I think that the parties we throw couldn’t happen in any place but DC. DC is an exceptionally smart city and its, like, a conquerable city so there is a sense of familiarity and everyone knows everyone. If you give people a chance to have fun and do something different and creative here, of course everyone is going to jump at it. To think that I needed something to do to avoid thinking about my breakup and now I have BYT, it’s pretty awesome. “

Brightest Young Things is organizing The Bentzen Ball, a comedy festival, this weekend. Get tickets here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Everett on Getting it to the Homeless


“I do outreach for the homeless in DC. When the homeless can’t get to a medical clinic, we bring a clinic to them. We do everything but blood work here. I've been doing this for five years because all of us are a paycheck from being homeless. I don’t look at these people no different than I do myself. They just don’t know where to go and I feel like I can help them. If I can get it to ‘em and give it to ‘em, they got it!

“Everybody is affected by homelessness in DC. Everybody's got somebody that’s doing bad and needs somebody to help them out. A lot of them just want to vent and talk and I ain’t got no problem listening to anybody's problems. I am not here to judge. I mean, who am I to judge anybody? A lot of these people come here angry and mad. You just got to talk to them and treat them with respect. If you got a problem and I can help you, I help you. If I can’t, I direct you to where you can get help.

“For people who are interested in helping the homeless in DC, I say do it. It feels good doing it. It really feels good doing it because you can see that you are helping somebody. Rather than give money, get out here and make an effort because it ain’t hard. You see these people and they are like everybody else. People look at the homeless like they are crazy, but they ain’t crazy. All of us are human and we all need help at times, especially the homeless. And, lots of these people are Veterans, too. They served for all of us.”

Get involved with Everett and Unity Healthcare here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

J on Streetball


“I’m originally from Maryland, but I live in Washington, DC now. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life. My father, since I was young, always put a basketball in my hand. Ever since then, it was a family thing. We all play.

“Now, I'm a point guard on my high school team. I learned a lot playing organized ball, but out here is where I learned my real skills. Each and every day, I practice and try and get better on the courts in DC. You know, streetball is something that is in our blood. We don’t do this for money, we do this for the love of the game and for respect. It brings people together. As you can see, all of my friends are out here playing basketball and it keeps us out of trouble. And, you’re respected for being a good player back in the neighborhood. People walk around and see me and say, “Hey, he’s a good basketball player.” That is a good thing to be known for.

“I play in a lot of places now with my school: Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Tampa, and Maryland. And, I’ve played streetball in those places, too. But, DC streetball is real tough and gritty compared to those courts, you know what I'm saying? I’m telling you, these courts are tough. Just come check it out and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We take basketball seriously up here in DC."

Some of DC's best streetball is at Barry Farms in Southeast, home to the Goodman League. Check out video of DC streetballers here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

David on Taking Care of Ourselves


“I want to talk about DC politics. First of all, I can’t figure out why people keep electing Marion Barry into an office when they know it’s always going to be drama. But, moving on, we have a lot of people who move here every four years from other areas to work with the government, but they come with their own perception of what DC should be. I don’t go to Wyoming telling people there how to run their state, but those people feel entitled to do it here. Take the DC gun ban as an example. So many of us here fought against having guns and assault weapons in DC, but people from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Utah and some other states came over and lobbied to allow guns in DC. These people do not have to deal with the repercussions of having guns in our communities.

"You give us voter representation, allow our voices to be heard and stop having us pay federal taxes unduly, then we will have a vote and will be able to take care of ourselves. We are not just an orphan community of people who don't fit into America. We are Americans, born on these shores, and we should be treated as such. The federal government should stop treating DC like we are a child who needs a regular allowance paid out. That’s not how it works. We are the only ones that need to deal with Congress appropriating us money because we are a federal jurisdiction and not a state. I really think that is asinine.

"And DC needs to step up, too. DC should impose a commuter tax because so many people come in from the suburbs to work in corporate or government industries here. That money goes right back out of this city and we have to depend on tourists as well as the weekend drunks, who come in and spend money in Capitol Hill, Adams Morgan or U Street for our revenue. Look at New York City. They make so much money from imposing a commuter tax. DC has 435,000 residents, but Monday to Friday our population swells to almost two million people. That is all money going out of town. We need some of that to start coming back in to DC. People from Congress should pay local taxes also. I understand that they have to pay a state and federal tax, but if you work in DC, you should rightfully pay taxes here. That’s been one of the big hold backs to us getting voting rights because congressmen and senators don’t want to pay local taxes."

Read more about DC voting issues from Ilir.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eliezr on Mi Tierra Market


"I have lived in DC for 18 years, am originally from Puerto Rico. There are not that many Puerto Ricans in DC. They can only really get together when there is a Puerto Rican band playing in the area or a parade. I went to see a concert recently in Bethesda and there were about 300 Puerto Ricans there. Outside of the Puerto Rican Day parades in Maryland and Virginia, that is probably the most Puerto Ricans I have seen in one place here. That is nothing compared to a place like New York.

"Today, I am helping FIDMi by working at this food stand in the Mi Tierra market. Whatever money we make goes to help pay FIDMi's bills. Because the economy is so messed up, we need to raise money for FIDMi, the organization that created Mi Tierra, in any way that we can. I am a full-time college student, but volunteer here when I can. Today, we are selling chicken breast with vegetables, Puerto Rican meatballs, and rice and beans. This is some of the best Puerto Rican food you'll find in the area.

"The market is a very special place because it gives people in the minority, mostly Latino immigrants, that want to own their own business, the right to sell a product in a safe place in DC. In the past, many of these people were selling on the streets without licenses and were being chased around by the police. Now, these people can work legally and support themselves and their families and send their kids to school. America creates a lot of opportunities for immigrants and this is one of them."

Read more about Mi Tierra market in The Washington Post.

Eliezr, right, is pictured with Fabio.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Clayton on Skateboarding


“There’s, like, a lot of spots in DC that are really, really good for skateboarding and there’s a huge skateboarding community here. But, a lot of the parks you skate in are instant busts. As soon as you put a board down, there are guards, like, almost tackling you and stuff. I still come down here to hit the streets and even the parks, too, when we can avoid the cops. The stuff that is really popular to hit, parks with ledges and rails, those are always total busts though. Cops basically live there. So, we’re out looking for places where the cops can’t find us. There are some secret places, but I’m not going to tell you about them.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ashley on Expressing Faith through Music and Dance


“Today, we are practicing for a marching band competition, which is part of the twelve weeks of holy convocation. The competition will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our band, The Madison Sunrisers, is one of the few DC bands competing. Our church, United House of Prayer for All People, has been in DC for over eighty years and the band has been around for over thirty.

“Our faith is expressed through music. At church, we have the brass band, the Madison Lively Stones, which a lot of churches don’t have. That is how we worship the Lord. Here, practicing with flags, we are still praising him through music and through dance.

“My favorite hymn is ‘They said I wouldn’t make it.’ It is a song about holding on to God’s hand regardless of what you’ve been through. Faith is my life in DC. The House of Prayer is my life in DC. We live in homes and housing that are provided by the House of Prayer. My friends are all from the church. Faith is my way of life. Usually, we are practicing and volunteering around DC, doing community activities, and we also hold an annual peace parade on Memorial Day. Our church is also known for food. We have good soul food and a lot of people in the community come to the church for that. Some people buy, but those in need, we just give it to them. Our church also does different clothing drives and we help senior citizens, too. So, yes, faith is my life in DC.”

You may know the Madison Lively Stones from their regular performances in Dupont Circle. Check them out here and here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ms. Cooke on Five Generations of Cookes


"I have lived in Washington since 1948. In the 1960's, we were transfered to Southwest by the government because of the riots as our house burned down. I have been living in James Creek housing ever since. I raised my family here.

"Now, I have quite a few children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. There are five generations of Cookes in DC. I was saying to my daughter the other day that I need to take the time to sit down and write all of their names down! Don’t remember how many of us there are off-hand, but I reckon there are about 35 or 40 all together. We just had a family reunion a couple of weeks ago and I am now the oldest Cooke. But, I haven’t gotten too old to watch out after my kids, though. My daughter comes around to help me out, but she won’t let me do nothing. She always says, ‘You sit down, Ma! Where you going, Ma? But, I am still young, even though I don't hear so good and want to look after my grandkids, especially because there is a lot of violence with the young people in the neighborhood.

"Sometimes, my little ones get to fighting so I keep them close where I can keep an eye on them. They don’t like it because they want to run around, but it helps keep them away from the violence. The children now want to pick fights all of the time. I tell my kids to avoid fighting, but at the same time, not to let kids hit on you. You got to learn how to protect yourself.

"I hope that when I die, my family will remember me for having taught them to respect one another and to stay out of trouble."

Ms. Cooke is pictured with her grandson, Jeremiah.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Steve on Being a Man of Yogurt



“The story about Mr. Yogato is that I worked for a company called Spacex out in Los Angeles for about five years and then was transferred to DC. When I was in LA, I had Pinkberry probably 500-600 times over two or three years, I would basically go every day. When I got to DC, I saw they didn’t have any frozen yogurt so I decided to open a place. I always wanted to open a ridiculously goofy, absurd store just because most stores here are kind of the same. It was as simple as that.

"I like yogurt and now I get free yogurt, and I wanted a place where I could play games and have ridiculous rules. For example, if you give a
Braveheart speech, you get a discount because that is my favorite movie. The Nintendo is from my basement and the rest of the rules and games are from customer suggestions. One guy is a big Michael Jackson fan, so we made one of the rules that if you do the
Thriller dance, you get a discount. Our flavors are named by our customers. For example, that lady over there, Susan, is one of our thirty-day champions and just named a flavor Snuggiegusgata after her cats. Doesn’t tell you at all what the flavor is going to be, but it works for us.

"I thought we’d be out of business in two months because it is such a ridiculous idea for a store. But, the beauty of this is that all of the investors here have other jobs, we’re just doing it for fun. I think the reason that it did so well is that there was no pressure on the business and we do whatever we want. That fun nature is not in most businesses. I mean, where else will the owner and employees sing karaoke and play trivia with customers just to pass the time while they are waiting in line. I don’t have to be here and I am here all the time.

"Since we opened, ten other yogurt stores have opened in DC. In my opinion, most of the yogurt is the same, bu
t I like mine the best because I made up the recipe. I would argue that most people come here because it is fun."

Find the rules of Yogato
here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Georges de Paris on How the Presidents Measure up


“I come from France. I’ve been a tailor since I was 14 years old. My family wanted me to be a lawyer, my father was a supreme court justice, but I wanted to be a tailor. My sister is a lawyer, though.

“I’ve been in DC for 50 years and opened this shop in 1982. A lady brought me here to DC. She was French-American, but it didn’t work out. After that, things were difficult. You know, I became homeless. I lived on the street at 14th and K St, NW, for a number of months. But things turned around.

“In my time here, I’ve seen a lot of people, a lot of personalities, come through this door: presidents, senators, some poor people and some rich people. First president I worked with was Lyndon Johnson. I was recommended to him when he was vice-president and I made some alterations for him. When he became president, I still did his suits. Presidents I go to see, but senators and Cabinet secretaries, they come to me. But the president, you have to go to the White House! Now, I do suits for President Obama and Vice President Biden. They’re all very nice people.

“The presidents all come to me because of my style, the presidential or ambassador style as I like to call it. The thing that is distinctive about my suits is the perfection. The details. Remember when people thought that President Bush was wearing a radio receiver when he debated John Kerry? That was my suit the president was wearing! He was not wearing a receiver, but a bulletproof vest that no one told me about before when I was making alterations. Instead of telling people the truth, the secret service tried to blame me, the tailor. But, I tell you, my work is perfect.

“In my sixty years in the business, I don’t believe that a gentleman should change his style. He should change suits, but not the style. Some people ask me why I don’t update my style and be more for today? To them I say, look, you can wear whatever you want, you can wear blue jeans, but I prefer classic and conservative. I’ve always been like this. Even when I do my laundry, I wear slacks.

“To me, working with the presidents doesn’t feel like a big deal, but when I walk around people say, ‘Hey, that’s Georges de Paris, the tailor for the presidents!’ One time, I was trying to get a drink from a bartender and someone pointed me out as being the tailor to the president. The bartender looked at me and said, “Come on, man, go back to your country. You’re a liar.’ I said, ‘Ok, I’ll go back to my country, but let me get a drink first.’”

Read more about Georges de Paris in The New York Times and NPR.

This post is part of a weekly series of People's District stories on the Prince of Petworth, check it out here.

Amy on Crafty Bastards


Crafty Bastards was started about six years ago by The City Paper because we wanted to have an event that we felt spoke about the city and The City Paper. And, what people think of DC is that it is very button down. You know, the K Street crowd, blue suits and red ties, and that is not the DC that we know and love. Crafty Bastards has over 150 crafters that make things, most of which are not mass produced. Some make things only for this event. You can’t find this stuff unless you come to Crafty Bastards. We bring them together with about 20,000 people who come to shop.

"The event puts us in touch with people who read and look at The City Paper and it’s a great conversation starter. Crafty Bastards is the unique, one-of-a-kind thing. It reflects our advertisers, many of whom are local Mom and Pop stores. That is the advertising that has always worked for The City Paper.

“And, isn’t this a great location? I remember when they took me down to the school for the first time to see the site. I remember saying, “You’re crazy.” But, it is a perfect space. When the school was built in the late 60's, early 70's, the plaza was built for community purposes and it was supposed to be used like this, yet it never is, with very few exceptions. So, we’re actually using this space as it was intended.

“In the past, it was not so difficult to get the permits, except for this year. The DC government had us doing much more work and permitting for the event than in the past. If anyone is listening in the District government, that is a difficult and expensive process!

“We tried doing Crafty Bastards twice a year. We did one other one in Silver Spring last year and it was too much. You know, it is not our core. We are too busy writing and publishing to do more than one a year."

While the next Crafty Bastards is a year away, you can find links to this year's fair vendors and support their work here.

Amy, left, is pictured with Hunter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hollywood on Being a Brick in the Foundation

“I’m 62 and learned how to cut hair in the 1960's. This barbershop has been in Shaw for at least 45 years. I took it over in 1988 from a guy named Square John. He had it for about 15 or 20 years before that. This barbershop has always been a part of the neighborhood. This is one of the few structures still standing, this and the liquor store next door.

“Everybody comes through here. I’ve seen half of the neighborhood grow up so this is like a mainstay here. A whole lot of people wouldn’t know how to act if we closed, so we stay open seven days a week. And this is where everyone comes to talk sports, politics, women, whatever. Doesn’t matter if people are getting a haircut or not, they come because it is a meeting place. So, me and this barbershop are just bricks in the foundation of the neighborhood. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had Redskin players come through, rappers, movie stars, a couple of Wizard players, mostly just the neighborhood though.

“The clientele here used to be all black, run-down, low-income and now it is gradually moving up economically. We got whites coming back to the neighborhood, Hispanics, it’s becoming more diverse. This diversity in the neighborhood is now being felt in the barbershop. For about ten years, I hadn’t cut a white head at all and now I am cutting two to three a week. And they talk more sports than we talk! And they talk more politics than we talk! We love it. It’s getting there, except when the Spanish guys come in, we can’t talk because we don’t know the language. Otherwise, everything is cool.

“We going to be here until we can’t be here no more. When I get too old to cut, I’ll just get someone else to come in here and take over. I’ve got other barbers working with me now, they’re young and have other jobs too, but one of them will take it over in time."

Go talk sports, politics, women, the neighborhood, whatever over a haircut with Hollywood at Hollywood Style and Cut at 710 S St. N.W.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hamzah on the Color Underneath Those Button-Downs


"How do I feel about the city? I just moved here from New York, and my first experience out in DC was on a Saturday night and I realized that my friend and I were the only ones out in t-shirts. Everyone else was in a polo or a button down. We were like what the..how does a city roll like this? And I did not understand how an entire bar could be filled with so many cookie-cutter people.

"People have a fa├žade here that they don’t have elsewhere. I feel like you can meet cool people, though, who will let down their guard and tell you what they’re like. So, I am discovering that there is a lot more to DC than what I found at the bar. There is some color underneath those button-downs."

Check out some polling data on life in DC vs. NYC here.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Carolyn on DC Corners


“I’ve lived in DC my whole life, couldn’t live anywhere else. I’ve been a crossing guard about 15 years. I didn’t have a job so I had no other choice. The first person that called me for a job, I took it. Now, I been doing this for so long because I like working with people in this city. I been stationed everywhere in DC. Every corner is different, some have more traffic than others, but I mean they all corners in the end. But, of all the corners I've seen in my day, I still like DC corners the best! Ok enough, let me go help these people cross the street.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Anne-Marie and Cori on Starting a Bike Gang


Ann-Marie - "I just moved back to DC, like, a month and a half ago. I bought a beachcomber bike in Miami and when I moved here it was completely useless because of all the hills. I bought a new bike with gears, helmet, and mirror, so now I am pimping on my Schwinn! I bike to work everyday because I am trying to live green. I feel like there are bikes everywhere in DC. That doesn’t mean I feel safe when I am on my bike, though. My route to work goes through Rock Creek and the C & O Canal, so I am not around cars the whole time, but biking home at night is nerve-racking. I don’t think drivers here pay attention to us."

Cori - "I grew up in the DC area and had not ridden my bike since middle school. When I started work, I saw that bikes were everywhere and decided that I should start biking, too. I borrowed my Dad’s bike from the 70s, which is a great old road bike. And, it’s been working really well. I see bikers all over the place which encourages me, and hopefully others, to bike more."

Anne Marie - "Our company reimburses us for riding to work. They encourage people to bike or use public transportation. We even have a bike repair kit at the office. Now that they are providing support, more people are coming to work on bikes. And, the more that people in DC see bikers, the more they will consider riding themselves. That’s what got me started. There is also great camaraderie in biking. We just finished a softball game and came over to Georgetown. This is our first time riding together. It was like being eight again and riding on the streets with my buddies. I was, like, we should start a bike gang!"

For more information about DC bike trails and routes through the city that avoid heavy traffic, click
here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kati on Being Connected by The Greater Good


“I was with my roommate in our lobby when my boyfriend got stuck in the elevator of our apartment building. So, he’s, like, ringing the panic button and we are trying to figure out how to get him out. We were on our way to a Kanye West concert at the Verizon Center and we were, like, what are we going to do? We ended up calling the police or the fire department; I forget which one, to come help. Anyway, they said that they were going to send someone. It took forever, so we decided to crack into the case of beer we had for the concert while waiting on them.

“Finally, there was a police officer outside issuing someone a parking ticket and, as no one had showed up, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We asked if he could come help us, but he was like, there is nothing that I can do as we need the elevator company to come save your boyfriend. So, we just sat around and shot the shit with him and he told us stories of being a cop in DC and about his education. We, of course, offered him a beer, which he didn’t accept because he was on the job.

“Finally, after he gave us his life story, the elevator company came and let my boyfriend out. Anyway, we ended up keeping in touch with this cop and the thing that reminds me most of DC about this story is that he still, whenever he is in Cleveland Park, will send me a text and say, “Are you out? I’ll come say hi.” Or, if there are a lot of police out, he’ll shoot me a text and tell me that there are a lot of cops in my neighborhood and I should behave myself! It was this one little chance encounter that brought us together. We met this kind cop with the best of intentions who now looks out for me. This just shows me how we’re all connected here and look out for each other. It becomes a good representation for me of how people in DC are connected by the greater good. That is one of my favorite random DC stories.”

See how well the DC Metropolitan Police Department is performing here and see their goals for 2010 here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sonny on DC B-Boys


“I started breakdancing around 1989. My crew is called the Lion’s of Zion. We've been on the scene for 17 or 18 years. We taught a lot of kids in the area. Some of them are now competing all over the world. Our squad introduced a whole new breaking style to the East Coast. It’s a DC-specific style, I would call it the LOZ style. If you go anywhere on the East or West coast and mention the Lion's of Zion crew, people will recognize DC.

“To be in the LOZ, you have to be the best of the best. You need your own style and be the best at what you do. Here, people call me Ghost because I am the original battle cat. That’s my nickname. When I step up to battle, people pretty much get scared. I can take different forms. I have every breakdancing style possible.

“I am now of the older generation. I’m 33, but I still rock it hard. There is a newer generation coming up in DC, and I am doing my part to train them and keep DC on the map for B-Boys.”

See Sonny, the Lion's of Zion and other DC B-Boys and B-Girls on Thursdays at Modern. And, check out the Lion's of Zion's D-Moe and Domkey winning this year's Crafty Bastards B-Boy Battle here.



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baker on Being an Endangered Species



“I’m 76-years-old. I was born in this neighborhood and lived here all of my life. I’ve seen a lot of changes on H Street, some for the better and some for the worse. But, I have lived with them. I just go with the flow because I know I can’t do nothing about it.

“In my days, I’ve seen a lot of good changes, but a lot of wrong changes too, especially now. I’ve seen people forced out of their homes so others can move in. Since they rebuilt H Street, we basically lost our rights and now we have to fight for them. And why? We grew up here. Basically, everybody here is struggling, except the owners of those establishments on H Street.

“These clubs, restaurants, and places for carry out, they don’t help the neighborhood at all. They should have opened restaurants where anyone can enter, a place that fits the old and the new. But, it’s not like that, we can’t afford these places. You know what I’m saying?

“And, the police are coming around all of the time now that these places are here and harassing us. We ain’t doing nothing but hanging out, been doing that for 30-40 years with no problems. We around every day, some of us work and some of us don’t, but we don’t bother nobody.

“At night time, the streets are flooded with nothing but white people. I guess we get our time during the day and they get their time at night, except that we get harassed during the day by the police, too. At night, I go in the house and let them enjoy the street. If I am out here at night as a black man, I am like an endangered species. It don’t bother me, but that is the change that I see."

Read more about the development of H Street NE here.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kate on Bringing Stooping Back to P Street


“I have lived in DC for 5 ½ years now. And, I love my apartment and my location, but I don’t love the neighborhood. You know, people have a real pride about living in a place like Mt. Pleasant. But, this specific neighborhood doesn’t even have a name, we don’t know if we’re Logan Circle or Dupont Circle. It is total Puggleville, people are out walking their puggle all of the time and no one makes eye contact. There is no neighborhood feel to it.

“I love to walk. I go walking every day for at least an hour, and I walk up around Mt. Pleasant and even in the back parts of Adams Morgan, and always right around dusk, especially in the summer, people are all out stooping. They’re all hanging out, pouring wine for each other and just being buddies with whoever is around. It is this whole feeling of community that is the reason why I love DC. DC is a place where 5 ½ years in, you can feel like you know so many people. I can’t walk outside without running into people. But, I don’t get that sense where I am living, it feels very non descript to me. There is not a real sense of identity for this area.

“So, I went back and forth for a while about whether I should move to Mt. Pleasant and then I realized that I could just be my own agent of change and I started stooping. I have friends over for dinner a lot and we started a stooping routine, just hang out on the stoop with a glass of wine. I started buying a pack of cigarettes in case people want to stoop out with that. And it's funny, it freaks a lot of people out, especially in the twilight hour. People are super confused about why two people would be sitting outside chatting. I mean, I’ve never seen anyone stoop on this street and look at my neighbors, they actually have a yard. But, I think that I am the only person in the building who knows my neighbor’s faces. You get to hear so many stories from hanging out here. I heard this great story about my neighbor interviewing Woody Allen the other day. But, It’s still just friends that come by, no strangers, that’s the goal. People are very focused here and they miss the opportunity to just chill out.

“People are down on DC because it is not New York, because it is not big enough and because it doesn’t have a lot going on, but I think that is what DC has going on. It gives you the opportunity to make it a small town for yourself. In such a transient, you need to set roots, that’s why I stoop.”

Read more about finding the right stoop and the games you can play on them, including stoopball, here.

This post is part of a weekly series of People's District stories on the Prince of Petworth, check it out here.