Saturday, December 19, 2009

Janice and Keith on the Difference between Car Backfiring, Fireworks and Gunshots

Keith - "I moved to D.C. in 1977 and was looking for a place to stay and ended up on 18th and Columbia Northwest. Growing up in New York, I thought this was the closest I would find to New York in this one industry town. Over the next few years, I moved to three or four other places around Adams Morgan. We left Adams Morgan because we wanted to buy a house and ended up on Pickford Place in Capitol Hill near H Street Northeast. The Atlas District, as it is now called, is the dividing line between Capitol Hill and Trinidad. It was a nice neighborhood, but a little too crazy at that time. Near us, we had a halfway house and Section Eight housing with absentee landlords. The neighborhood was pretty rough. It was there where we learned the difference between a car backfiring, firecrackers, and gunshots. We left that neighborhood for Mt. Pleasant shortly after there were two people killed execution style at the top of our block. We sold thinking people would leave and the property values would fall, but years later look at how the neighborhood was changed.

Janice - "On Pickford Place, Keith and I started organizing people to clean up the alleys near our houses as they were filthy. That was the best thing we did as it got people in the neighborhood to meet each other. It was a big success and we did it again a few years later. We became the unofficial block captains. We tried to beautify the street and keep the alleys clean. If you're surroundings look good, it discourages crime. It may be a minimal discouraging, but it matters. There was a lot of camaraderie on that block, partly because it was such a rough neighborhood. You did what you could do, but there was still so much you couldn't do. When we left, they threw a big party for us. There was black and white, young and old. We were sad to go.

"Now, we live in Chevy Chase where violent crime is very low. We get occasional break ins around here, but that's about it. We both miss being more downtown. I hate having to get in my car to get someplace. Before, we could always walk to work. It's fairly friendly up here although a few of our neighbors were disappointed when we moved here and they found out we don't have children for their children to play with. Still, we like the neighborhood, but still spend a lot of time in the city. And the thing about kids is that the absence of children made our decisions to stay in the city for so long that much easier. We never had to face the school issue. That is a huge issue for so many people here."

Keith - "Looking back, we have lived in a number of different neighborhoods: Adams, Morgan, U Street, H Street Northeast, Mt. Pleasant and now Chevy Chase. We love it here, but I wish that D.C. had more ethnic neighborhoods. Let's face it, we have no Chinatown or other real ethnic strongholds. It is a traditionally black city with pockets of whites and Hispanics. It was not an immigrant city. I think it would be a more interesting city if we had those pockets, like they do in the suburbs here. The best restaurants are all ethnic and in the strip malls and suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. Sadly, we don't have those communities or places in the core city. To me, none of the D.C. neighborhoods really have their own identity except for being black or white."

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