Archive for November, 2007

toy story

Posted in telling it like it is on November 6, 2007 by samsondoggie

Somehow there is a parking space on “P” Street. Its not great, but it also not dedicated for zone 2 sticker holders, either. I was thinking that I was going to have to pay $22 to park.

I shut the door. On the right is that Thai restaurant where I somehow managed to talk myself out of a job. Oh geez, forget about it. But, one thing is true. Dupont Circle has changed so much.

Back then, it was a border neighborhood. I lived between 14th and 15th on R Street, in an area that was then full of “urban gardens.” You know, where people try to grow winter vegetables but mainly avoid stepping on broken glass. Go west, and embassies and museums littered the horizon. But East, that was an area that still had not fully recovered from the unrest of the 60s.

I turn north onto 17th street. While a lot has changed, the bars are still largely intact. JR’s, Trio…

I’m going to Java House. I still remember those mochas, back when Folger’s was still “normal.” Its there, still with the just like every other place green awning and the faux black aluminum fenced-in seating. Of course, now everyone is reading their laptop and not talking to each other.

I grind some coffee and bring it up to the lady. She weighs it and I pay. I check the time. Good, I have another 15 minutes on my meter.

“Do you know where I could get any toys,” I ask. I am thinking that it would be really great to find some DC souvenirs for Rosie and John.

She smiles in a knowing way, arching her tongue against the back of her top row of teeth.

“Oh yeah,” she says, “sure, you can get those. Like, for what?”

“Oh, you know,” I tell her, “for kids.”

Her brow furrows. She takes a step back from the register. She raises her lips a bit. I can see her teeth.

“What do you want with children?”

I think she is imagining a different scenario.

“You know,” I say, “for souvenirs. Something like a Washington Monument keychain, maybe, or something with a flag on it.”

“We don’t have those kind of toys around here,” she says. She laughs. I can see she is at ease again. “In this neighborhood, different toys.”

Dupont existed when I was there because it was home to its own community of expatriates — the gay community. It was not just a place to be, apart from the rest of the world. It was also the locus of a lot of nascent neighborhood rehabilitation. There was more than one busy hardware store tucked in between the Elton John posters and hotels with Brazilian brunch specials.

It is strange to go back. I don’t think Dupont feels as special. It doesn’t feel like the only lit up place for blocks around. Dupont has Starbucks choking it from every direction. Nearby neighborhoods are now safe for not just young venture capitalists, but also government lawyers and legislative staffers. Places like 10th and H are now home to fancy condos.

I think what really makes me wonder is the way in which it does not feel like a beacon for people who can’t be welcome anywhere else.  To really be out now, a gay couple gets a mortgage, adopts children, and lives in the suburbs. And for some, the purpose of an enclave-style community seems to have lost its momentum, in many ways. What does it say about the social networking value of a place where the cafes are full of people staring at their laptops?

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