Keep Your Cool: Thoughts on Summertime in Washington

July 8, 2012, Washington, DC: The neighborhood chugged along slowly during those last heavy days of June and the swelter of early July. Greens wilted at the outdoor market. Thick heat rose off cement streets. A musician played a slow, sad song above the Metro platform in the midday heat. We moved deliberately, careful not to make a single unnecessary move in the onslaught of Washington’s summer.

Not to say the place was uneventful, just intense: In the heat of late June, our neighborhood hosted a slew of reporters who came to witness a monumental health care law deemed constitutional down the street at the Supreme Court. Twenty-four hours later, a foreign storm called a derecho downed trees and crushed cars throughout these city blocks. The hum of satellite trucks dissipated as the buzz of chain saws ascended. We stayed inside, irritable yet grateful to have ice, air and power. Much of the region did not.

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Neighborhood Nomad: Cecille’s Mid-Century Modern Enclave

This is one in a series featuring the places and spaces people call home. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomad.

May 31, 2012, Washington, DC: From the liveaboard community at Gangplank Marina to the mid-century modern architecture of the Tiber Island and River Park cooperative homes, Southwest DC has its own thing going on. And it’s the perfect place for Cecille Chen, a lover of history, architecture, design and modernism. Judging from her explosive involvement in the neighborhood from the moment she moved it, this is clearly what it means to find a natural and built environment that brings out the best in you.

This is what it means to be in your element.

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Cycling Hains Point

April 29, 2012, Washington, DC: Over by the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial is a long, narrow slice of land, an island actually, that juts south between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. Hains Point, home of East Potomac Park, is named after Peter Conover Hains, a major in the Army Corps of Engineers who served as chief engineer on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers during the 1880s. Hains is credited with designing the Tidal Basin, and for good reason: He did it to eliminate the awful stench of this marshy area here at the entry to the nation’s capital.

Thank goodness for that, because the smells beckoning me around the perimeter of this point today on my bicycle are to die for.

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A Taste of Where We Live

April 28, 2012, Washington, DC: Want a taste of my neighborhood? Here it is: My neighborhood is funny and filling. Today I spent the afternoon at an annual local event called Taste of 8th, assigned to take photographs for the organizers at Barracks Row Main Street. There’s so much food on these few blocks of 8th St. that we need to celebrate more than just once a year (formally, that is), so I happily agreed to photograph/indulge for another go-round. A total of 21 restaurants, cafes, and the liquor store along our main street set up on the sidewalk and sold tickets for appetizers, desserts and tastings. I love where I live. It’s no place for a diet.

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The Most Livable City: A Vision for a Sustainable D.C.

“We shall solve the city problem by leaving the city. Get the people into the country, get them into communities where a man knows his neighbor, where there is a commonality of interest, where life is not artificial, and you have solved the city problem. You have solved it by eliminating the city. City life was always artificial and cannot be made anything else. An artificial form of life breeds its own disorders, and these cannot be ‘solved.’ There is nothing to do but abandon the course that gives rise to them.”

-Henry Ford

April 27, 2012, Washington, DC: How differently things are shaking out, huh? So much for eliminating the cities that the founder of Ford Motor Company declared the root of our troubles. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and projections show nearly three quarters of people on Earth will be urbanites by 2050. Despite Ford’s declaration, it seems people — most people — have not abandoned our cities. Perhaps today’s cities are neither isolating nor fake nor problematic, but rather full of solutions.

Washington’s city leaders certainly think so. Earlier this week, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and his team laid out a vision for making D.C. the most livable and sustainable city in the country. Goals include cutting citywide energy consumption by 50 percent, increasing the number of jobs devoted to green goods and services by five-fold, and guaranteeing that 75 percent of all trips are walkable, bikeable or accessible by public transit. Imagine 1.5 million square feet of green roofs on city buildings. And swimming and fishing in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. And knowing that a quarter of all food consumed in the District is grown within a 100-mile radius of the city. It’s all part of the plan.

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