Thursday, April 27, 2006


Well but so let's say it's a beautiful spring morning, juicy tips of green on trees like a baby's eyelashes, and you peek your head out the door to greet your husband with his orange juice and the newspaper on the porch. And he's talking to a man on the bottom of the stairs, a miserable leprous apparition of a man, with a sad secret mouth and eyes of howling need with red spots in the very center of each. The man on the stairs is asking for money and although he's standing on the very bottom step you can feel the tendrils of his desperate need reaching and curling up the stairs and through the porch and around the whole house. Your husband looks at you and you say "Hi" and he says "Hi" then you look at the man on the stairs and you say "Hi" and he says nothing. You are wearing a loose blue cotton skirt and your arms are bare. He looks at you with a shadow of desire hidden behind a wall of sorrow and then he turns to your husband and he says, a statement not a question, "So that's your..." Your husband says, "Yes. That's my wife." There's a pause, three people on the porch and the sunshine and the wind in the leaves. Your husband says, "I'm sorry my friend, you have to go." The man on the stairs says, "Well do you know any place - any place to go?" Your husband says, "No, I can't help you." The man on the stairs turns and walks away without looking back, and you watch him and then you look at your husband and he looks at you and you say, "But - I think I know some places he could go - there's the church on Harvard St - or the Quaker Church in Dupont Circle - " and your husband says "Forget it." You glare at him and slam the door as you go back into the house, and a few minutes later he follows you in. "Did you just slam the door on me?" "I wanted to help him. He was so sad." "Why do you care so much?" "Because he was miserable and we are happy." "That's what you need to live with in a city. You need to shield yourself, or you'll never survive." "But there's so much pain in the world." "Look, if you care so much why don't you make him a sandwich?" "How can I find him?" "He told me where he was going. He's with his mother, sitting in front of the bakery, a block away." "He's with his MOTHER?" "That's right." So you very noisily and angrily open the fridge and begin packing last night's leftovers into a carton. "You're giving him my lunch?" You glare. "That's right." "That's ten dollars for me to buy one." You glare. "Fine, I'll make him a new sandwich." "I was only joking." You continue making the new sandwich and he does not stop you. You pour some peanuts into the lunch carton and pack it into a bag and start and then you go back and put the whole jar of peanuts into the bag. You glare at your husband in case he noticed this. Then you head for the door. "You're going without me?" "I didn't think you wanted to come." "Well, you thought wrong." You slip on your flip-flops and walk outside. Your husband follows, still in loose pajama pants. As you both walk down the lane with the sun on your hair you must look a handsome couple and your neighbor the English professor waves a greeting. "Beautiful morning!" You smile at him, the white-lie expression of a polite neighbor, and continue walking. There's a teenager listening to his Ipod in front of the bakery and a few friends chatting in front of the nearby cafe. Other than that nothing but a yellow dog wandering down the dusty street. Your husband shrugs. "Gone, just like that." You say nothing as you both walk back to the house. "I wish I'd talked to him more, gotten his story," your husband says. Still your icy silence. "I don't think you understand, I was talking to him until you came out, but then I wanted him to go away. I wanted to protect you."

Well but so how are you supposed to feel about that?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Kids attacking bikers on 11th St between U and Florida

It looks like my Ode to the Hill is outdated. There's a gang of kids that for some reason have decided to wage war on bikers on 11th St. There was a CityPaper article last week about how they throw rocks - but Martin was actually assaulted a few days ago. I quote from a letter he wrote to some journalists about it:

Dear Mr. Grim,

I have a brand new appreciation for the article that you wrote in CityPaper recently:

My name is Martin Nikoloski, and I have been a proud resident of DC and the Columbia Heights neighbourhood for the past six years. I have been riding my bike as a major form of transportation, and I would always boast to my friends that I've never been mugged because I'm hard to catch on my bike. I'd like to share with you what happened to me yesterday, April 6th, around 3:10pm, as I was riding my bike heading north on 11th Street, b/n U St. and V St. NW. There was a group of a dozen African-American kids, that appeared to be coming back from school, as some of them still had their back packs on. My guess is that they ranged b/n 9 and 13 years of age. One of them was crossing the street ahead of me and I wasn't paying too much attention to him when suddenly he turned around and struck me with his elbow. I tried to maintain a balance on my bike with grocery bags hanging, when next thing I know I was jumped by around five kids from all directions who started throwing punches and mercilessly kicking me in my head and ribs. For a minute or two in broad daylight, there was this surreal sight of cruelty and terror.

I started yelling 'stop it, Stop it, STOP IT,' raising my voice as I was taking one blow after another in my head... I never had a chance to get back on my feet. As they ran away I could hear sheer excitement and laughter in their voices. There was a bus (#66) heading north, and my bike, grocery bags and body was blocking its way... I had a bloody nose, bloody knees and vicious headache stemming from a blow just above my right ear, which is limiting motion in my jaw...
Had it not been for my helmet I would have easily ended up in the emergency room.

I am grateful that none of my injuries are permanent or debilitating, and sad that these kids grow up with so much violence in their lives and actually get joy and pleasure from these acts. Around 3:40pm I called 311 and asked to file a police report, describing what had just happened to me. The operator took my name and address and said that she would send the next free officer to take my report. Of course the officer never showed up... I've lived inDC for long enough to know that they might not show up and that they have bigger fish to fry, but I nonetheless wanted to mention this for the record.

I guess I'd like to inform as many bikers as possible to stay away from 11th St. b/n U and Florida, the backyard of Cardozo High, and hope that the community or the DCPD can bring some attention to this problem.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Touch the Works of Art

"Do not touch the works of art.
Do you hear me? No touching!
I'm talking to you. Do not touch.
It's against the rules!" And on the wall
a rather more gently-worded plaque,
full of helpful info about the corrosive effects
of the oil on human skin (it's like acid!),
how many other art patrons
want to enjoy these sculptures, please
help us keep them safe, preserve their lifetimes,
which will hopefully at least be longer than your
own, fourscore fleshbag turns of the hourglass.

Although if the sculptures could speak, I'm sure
they'd have their own opinions of the rule;
some haughty and happy on their pedestals,
others longing to touch and be touched, Moore's
Girl on a Chair wishing for a kind stranger's
shawl around her shoulders, to hide her
prepubescent breasts from grown men's calculating eyes;
Rodin's Crouching Woman writhing, twisting in her
hungry serpent desire for a hug, some human warmth
to break the monotony of rain, sun, camera flash, and
occasional dropping from a pigeon who
definitely did not pay attention to the rules.