Neighborhood Nomads
places we belong

Category: Maps of Mornings

Breakfast Time on Barracks Row

photo 3 copy 2August 7, 2014, Washington, DC: “Good morning! I didn’t know you were open!”

“We’re not. But you’re about to get a doughnut!”

So began this August morning on Capitol Hill. During my outing down 7th and 8th streets to peek inside the doughnut shop coming soon to Barracks Row, I both met a neighbor who usually keeps to himself and had a spontaneous coffee-doughnut breakfast with a new business owner and a marine. This is something I love about my neighborhood: the random interactions with people we’d never meet otherwise if we didn’t all share the same living space.

One thing I appreciate about cities is their physical variation — the way architectural details from different eras occupy a single block, the way old and new butt up against one another like old friends. But the same can be said of a city’s people. In the neighborhood I call home, residents from all walks of life cross paths during the course of a busy day. And District Doughnut co-founder Greg Menna is certain a good old-fashioned doughnut, individually crafted in small batches by pastry chef Christine Schaefer, will appeal to them all.

Case in point, Greg says: “My dad would never be caught dead buying a cupcake.”

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In My Element


November 1, San Francisco: I wake early, just as daylight is beginning to spread east to west over Angel Island, Fort Point and out through the Golden Gate. The Presidio is growing louder by the minute, coming alive with the beeps and squeaks of delivery and construction trucks beginning Friday morning’s work. I’m still on East Coast time, but I’m 100 percent in my element.

And so my love affair continues with San Francisco. It’s a natural fit, from the moment I land at the airport, collect my bags, and merge onto the freeway leaving SFO. In her book, Under the Tuscan Sun, author Frances Mayes writes about this ride in:

“The houses on the hills are necklaces of light, then along the right, the bay almost laps the freeway. I watch for a certain curve coming up. After rounding it, suddenly the whole city rises, the stark white skyline. As we drive in, I anticipate the breath-stopping plunges over hills and glimpses between buildings where I know there’s a wedge or slice or expanse of rough blue water.”

Arriving yesterday was just as Mayes described it; it always is. The beauty of San Francisco socks me in the gut every time, and no matter where I’m coming from, I get the feeling I’m arriving home. But as visually arresting and intoxicating as the landscape is, it’s the smell of the pristine Presidio rather than the sight out the windows that pulls me in.

Mayes writes about this too, about the scents of a scene that cannot be bottled or captured in the best of photos:

“Whatever a guidebook says, whether or not you leave somewhere with a sense of place is entirely a matter of smell and instinct.”

Mayes is clearly a writer who’s been here, inhaling eucalyptus on the peaceful morning air. Perhaps she understands why the scents and sights of this city make it difficult to sleep at the thought of beginning another San Francisco day.

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Map of Mornings: The Road to Hampton Pool

June 10, 2012, Washington, DC: These are roads I know like the back of my hand. They are the routes we traveled to swim practice and gymnastics and piano lessons and school. Yesterday morning in North Baltimore, I instinctively took shortcuts down side streets and noticed changes in traffic patterns, piecing together a map of so many mornings from my youth. We spent a lot of time in the car growing up in North Baltimore.

Given that it’s summertime, I retrace the best morning drive of all: the one that led straight to Hampton Pool.

Map of Mornings: Historic Annapolis

This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.

April 20, 2012, Annapolis, MD: I arrived early this morning in Annapolis, my former hometown and current work place. I drove down our old street and paid a visit to the waterfront park two blocks away, where water taxi service used to deposit us home. It was quiet out there this morning as usual. A few dogs and their owners were beginning their day.

Map of Mornings: Springtime on the Grounds of UVA

University of Virginia, April 2012, Photo Credit: Kate Gallery

This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.

April 15, 2012, Washington, DC: I took a long walk with friends yesterday morning across the grounds of UVA, beyond the Charlottesville they know as adults and back into the Charlottesville they knew as students. The University of Virginia in springtime is not to be missed at any age.

Map of Mornings: Polk Street

“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.”
-William Saroyan

This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.

February 20, 2012, San Francisco: I have the strangest feeling here this morning. I have a feeling I’ve written this post a million times over, like this whole concept started here years before I knew it. This neighborhood on Russian Hill is documented in my memory in this very format. This morning on Russian Hill was mapped out long ago.

On that note, here are the photos I never took back then, snapped just this weekend, accompanied by words I wrote circa 2003 sitting right here where I sit now, sipping a latte at Royal Ground:

Map of Mornings: H Street NE

H Street NE, Washington, DC, July 2011 This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.

January 8, 2012, Washington, DC: A weekend is a good one that includes Taylor Gourmet, Biergartenhaus, Dangerously Delicious Pies and Capital City Diner, all in this part of Washington known as the Atlas District along H Street NE. Who would have guessed it? Several years ago, this was not a part of town I frequented, nor wanted to. I came here once, actually, many years ago. I vowed not to go back.

Years later, H St. NE is a different story. Or rather, we’ve entered a new, optimistic chapter in the story of a neighborhood filled with history.


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