Sunday, May 29, 2005

Joe Citizen was I (part 2)

When last we were wired and blogging, I had recounted my 2nd grade production of the fable "The Obstacle in Our Path." I was berating myself for not having learned that lesson, but hadn't shared those details.

At an intersection near where I live, the gutters are chocking with refuse, which is also scattered along the sidewalks and in a half-used parking lot. There is heavy pedestrian traffic, and its along a commercial corridor. What has irked me is that no one takes responsibility for tending to the area. The District does not do street sweeping on the south side of my block for no clear reason. The sidewalk is along a massive Verizon "tech hotel" that appears to be a telecommunications hub (we're talking a 5 story building) with no human presence. The parking lot appeared to be owned and used by Verizon as well. The resultant trash-filed "dead zone" pissed me off, and when combined with a sudden lack of work to do, I started making noise. You might recall this was the same day I started blogging. Don't leave me alone with an internet connection.

I posted a concern to I was responding to another poster, who had similar success by working with a Councilmember's office. It had become clear to me that I had three parties to lobby: Verizon who owns the "tech hotel," Robertson Development who is a local condo builder that plans to put in a luxury building but is waiting for a year or more to break ground, and the City Department of Public Works who will entertain petitions to add residential street cleaning. [Side note: I can appreciate bureaucracy and entertain the petition idea, but it requires 60% of the residents on that block to sign. This makes sense in Friendship Heights where that means 20 people who would have to move their cars. There are 500 people who live on my BLOCK. I don't even know how to start that process. Besides, its not their cars on the street. So again I'm appealing to higher reason here. It also gets a long way when I point out that its the only block without street cleaning at this time, and the south side is the only block in the neighborhood with 200+ subsidized housing units.]

The fun part, is that my original post has elicited the following contacts:
--NBC4 for a segment on "Bad Neighbors," although I was hoping for Verizon's response before I draw any conclusions about whether Verizon is a "good" or "bad" neighbor. They aren't getting back to me very quickly, so I just might have to be "disgruntled area man" on the evening news.
--14th & U Main Street Alliance, which has similar concerns with the "dead zone" that the building creates, and their desire to work with Verizon to use the windows for visual displays, etc.
--The Mayor's Office of Community Affairs, who do their best to jump at any citizen concern.

I'd like to thank Jennifer for her comment post, in which she more adeptly identified the moral as: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition. I have now decided the entire retelling of the story was irrelevant. Except I got to point out what a pain in the a** I can be.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Dear A4,

[Audience of Four]

My deepest apologies for leaving you in the lurch, at no less a time than mid-story. Alas, this week has included all-day training, followed by trips to one or both of my agencies to put out fires. I get out at 3pm today, and after sleeping until mid-Saturday, I'll happily give you the attention you so rightly deserve.

Thanks for watching!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The King was I [part 1]

In second grade, I had my first (and ultimately last) foray into the performing arts. Though my romance with the stage was limited, I'm proud to say that I took top billing as the King in a play (who's name escapes me). And by stage, I mean the hallway outside my classroom. We didn't have enough clout even to get daytime use of the uncomfortably named Challenger All Purpose Room.

The story was simple enough: King and his manservant (or at least that's what I like to remember him as) hide behind a construction paper bush as one-by-one members of his kingdom happen down a dirt road, notice a large rock in the road, comment on its danger/misplacement, and then note that the King should certainly have something done about it. Each time the King then comments to his manservant that his citizenry is a bunch of do-nothing whiners. Finally, a young peasant happens down the road, sees the rock, moves it, and finds a pot of gold underneath. King jumps out, peasant is apologetic and asks not be made a manservant for stealing the King's gold, and an appreciative King says the gold is his reward for being a proactive member of his community. Presumably in this kingdom a pot of gold can be traded for goods and services--something that today would seem to require some level of money laundering first to make it useful: a fact that has diminished by desire to swoon at the promise of a pot of gold in stories of my youth. In summary, the kid got his
citizenship in the community merit badge.

Sadly, while the memories of this story have carried forward, the lesson learned has not. Tomorrow I will explain how, while walking the streets of DC, I have stumbled upon a number of proverbial rocks, and told just about everyone who would listen what I thought they should do about it. What have I become?

Friday, May 20, 2005


MommyCorps was a phenomenal success. The chrome trailer was hi-tech, and yet the experience was intimate. I felt like I was a bumbling fool, especially in light of how comfortable, relaxed, animated, and insightful Mommy K. was. We got a CD to take away from it, and while I didn't want to listen to it right away, I was curious about its quality. I didn't sound half bad. The overall interview: again, phenomenal. Check out the site, because you can even do it yourself! Happy history making.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dear CVS,

This morning, while rushing to work, I suffered a misfortune of the "those we don't speak of" variety. Its just too horrifying to put in to print.

I stopped off at CVS, and was reminded that, unconsciously, I HATE CVS.

While I was composing my rant, I realized that CraigsList has already had a post on this very subject: An open Letter to CVS, 17th and P. I wish to share it with you now. And extend it to all CVS establishments in the free world.

A Private Success

When I heard of StoryCorps, I knew I wanted to do it and I knew it would be valuable. Now that I've created my template of questions, I'm happy to report its been a success--and it has yet to happen. I just got off the phone with Mommy K. We had an overwhelmingly insightful, probing, and wandering discussion spurned entirely by the prospect of tomorrow's dialogue. I was reminded how great our talks are; and how they aren't frequent enough.

Gems I took away from tonight:
-We don't have a choice in our luck in life, but we do have control over our resillience in the face of adversity.
-That my parents have been calm and unphased in the times that have been most trying.
-That unconditional positive regard is both incredibly hard to master, and incredibly rewarding when it is.
-That love is an act, not a feeling.

A beautiful end to a day that was at first like any other.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Nothing Less...

Tomorrow I'm interviewing my mother at the StoryCorp booth that is at the Library of Congress for the next two weeks. As they describe it at, "StoryCorps is a national project to instruct and inspire people to record each others' stories in sound.... which we hope will become nothing less than an oral history of America." It's modeled "—in spirit and in scope—after the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s, through which oral-history interviews with everyday Americans across the country were recorded. These recordings remain the single most important collection of American voices gathered to date. We hope that StoryCorps will build and expand on that work, becoming a WPA for the 21st Century."

I have wanted to take Mommy K. to NYC to the permanent booth in Grand Central Station, but that would have been an ambitious undertaking. Now that its here, I quickly grabbed one of the last slots and requested her presence. But this also leaves me with 40 minutes to fill and not waste. In addition, I've heard from StoryCorp that since it is their first day, they are expecting a heavy media presence. All this, and I'm supposed to be asking meaningful, insightful questions of my mother—preferably ones that dig up wonderful stories from her past and/or pull at the collective heartstrings of America. So I'm a little stressed.

I've compiled a sample list of questions and e-mailed M.K. so that she can consider them. I want her to give it some thought and let me know what she's comfortable with. My motivation here is to genuinely learn the answers to some questions that I know I have asked over the years, but couldn't definitively answer if someone asked me today. In light of the "oral history" element, I tried to consider what experiences and descriptions characterize my impressions of her. Among other things, those include her military service, her career as a nurse, her work in death & dying, her strong family ties, her advocacy for mental illness, her progressive politics, her hunger for knowledge, and her compassion. There are also things in her (and my) life that are very personal but I think many Americans experience (though most of us don't talk about—especially not those as articulate as M.K.). This includes issues with fertility and dealing (often in quiet) with your sons sexuality. The question about religion below, for example, might lead her to discuss her marriage to a quietly practicing Catholic, and the issues they confronted with fertility and the opinions of the church.

1. Please tell me your name, your birthdate, our relationship, and where we are.

2. What were the experiences in your life that lead you to work so closely with death and dying?

3. How has religion influenced your life?

4. How has having a gay son affected your life over the past six years?

5. What brought you to serve in the U.S. military? What lessons did you learn from your service?

6. What are you proudest of in your life?

7. How has your life been different than what you'd imagined?

8. Is there anything you regret?

9. What mistake have you made that you hope I avoid?

10. What experiences in your life lead you to be a liberal/progressive?

11. Is there anything that you've never told me but want to tell me now?

12. Is there something about me that you've always wanted to know but have never asked?

13. How would you like to be remembered?

14. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

15. What things still surprise you about yourself/your life?

16. Is there anything we didn't talk about that you would like to add?

So, what would you ask YOUR mother?

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