As everything starts to seemingly fall into place for the first time in my life, I just wanted to offer a sneak clit tease at the very base idea behind one of my upcoming Washington projects.
Taken this morning on the way back from a photo session at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue NW and 7th Street NW, in the very heart of the historic Shaw neighborhood. In the car, facing southwest along Rte 29 (Rhode Island Ave) toward home (Dupont Circle), all that is visible past the once run down city row houses now undergoing gentrification (or renovation, as the real estate market likes to call it) is the West End.
The buildings that are rising in the background is D.C.â€™s financial district, which makes the premise behind the show \”K Street.\” Barely visible in the photo is Logan Circle, where Rhode Island, P St, 13th St, and Vermont Ave meet among a newly restored battalion of million dollar row houses. Directly west of Logan Circle the business offices of \”downtown\” D.C. start to sprout along the 14th Street corridor, and extend fully to the river. Between here and the river lie internationally known landmarks and neighborhoods, such as \”M Street,\” \”K Street,\” \”Pennsylvania Avenue,\” \”The White House,\” \”George Washington University,\” \”Georgetown,\” and \”Foggy Bottom.\”
While the prestige of this side of the city is infamous, what is barely known to even the citizens of the extended Washington metropolitan region are the tiny intricacies that make life here all the more human. The crack dealers along N St NW between New Hampshire and Connecticut Avenues. The many nightclub rapes that end up taking place in the Columbia Road and Massachusetts Avenue Hilton hotels. The huge homeless population living in the Dupont Circle Underground, carrying on their lives beneath the people sipping their lattes in Starbucks, Cosi, and Kramerbooks. The handicapped Nam vet in his wheelchair who has been known to get up on his feet and chase people down on foot when they refuse to give him money outside CVS. The numerous strip clubs with shady brothel activity who cater to even the highest of patrons. And where the hell is Chandra Levy\’s skull, already?
Much has been made of the seedy underbelly of other cities. Most know Washington\’s reputation as the murder capitol of the U.S., but few know why. Most of the murders rarely make the news. It is well known that Washington\’s residents not only elected a crack addict for a mayor, but re-elected him after conviction, and now stand to do so again. Artists, activists, and the media enjoy attempting to put together the pieces of the puzzle: combining the city\’s rise, fall and heavily anticipated successful gentrification of the entire city to try and see the full picture of what is truly Washington. Perhaps this is where they fall short.
There no longer exists a Washington, D.C. What we have today is a \”Washington,\” capitol of the U.S., with no citizens other than government and business; a District of Columbia, which is the old Washington, struggling to rally against the ever increasing inevitably of total gentrification of the area and a complete wiping out of the true essence of what was once D.C.; and the New Columbia, the onslaught of the latest and largest in the long line of yuppies, developers, artists, contractors, independently affluent youngsters, and the internet boom job burst employees who have decided to make this area \”home.\”
It is here where the residents of New Columbia work, play, live, spend their money, pay their taxes, alienate their neighbors, force out their predecessors, and know absolutely nothing about the area in which they call home. They rarely vote, they do not know who Walter Washington was, and they do not care. The new residents are forcing out the Washingtonians themselves, and yet most of the new residents keep their driver\’s licenses and vehicles registered in their home states. The divide between the people, further wedged apart by corporate Washington, is driving them into two entirely separate worlds. Like Boston\’s government in the 1950s, many feel it is just fine to tear the old neighborhoods and culture down. Only when the old soul of the area is gone, and it is found that the new soul is not willing to invest time, money, or effort into long term stabilization of the city, will corporate Washington realize they are being as foolhardy as Boston. It took a Dukakis to show them. What will it take for D.C.?