Best & Worst of 2013: The View from the Neighborhood

Supreme Court, DOMA, March 27, 2013, Photo Credit: Kate Barrett Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

December 31, 2013: It was the year tragedy blanketed Boston and royal baby fervor gripped London, the year Toronto cringed with embarrassment and New York embraced pedal power. It was the year that wrapped with good people like Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis winning the day over less admirable personas like Miley Cyrus and Lance Armstrong. But for all the far-flung ruckus, it was a year in which we didn’t need to look far for national and local headlines. In 2013, the scoop was right here under our noses within a two-mile radius of home.

Inauguration 2013, Washington, DC

The Renewal: Inauguration Day

President Obama was sworn into his second term in office on January 21, 2013. About one million people attended the festivities.

Related Posts:
Miles from Monday: Inauguration Day (January 21, 2013)
Inauguration Through the Eyes of a DC Neighbor (January 19, 2013)

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Supreme Court, DOMA, March 27, 2013, Photo Credit: Kate Barrett Gallery

The High Point: Supreme Court Gay Marriage Arguments

In March, two watershed gay marriage cases were argued back-to-back before the Supreme Court. I snapped this photo of plaintiff Edie Windsor, the woman challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, leaving the Court on March 27, 2013. The gay marriage victory came down in June; in December, Windsor was named TIME’s #3 Person of the Year behind Pope Francis and Edward Snowden.

Related Posts:
Two Moments, One Movement (March 27, 2013)
Big News in the Neighborhood (March 26, 2013)

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fragers

The Fire: Beloved Local Business Goes Up in Flames

A massive fire at Frager’s Hardware, a 93-year-old Capitol Hill institution, devastated the neighborhood on June 5, 2013, just as I was exiting a nearby Metro station. The store has since set up shop on the empty lot at Eastern Market, the same lot that became a temporary home to the market after its own fire in 2007.

Related Posts:
Rallying Around Frager’s (June 8, 2013)

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The Water: Kayak Rental Opens on the Anacostia River

While the Nationals didn’t provide the Navy Yard with any welcome headlines this summer, investments in the adjacent Anacostia River most certainly did. In late July, Ballpark Boathouse began offering the river’s first kayak rentals, a highlight among many commitments to DC’s other river.

Related Posts:
A Warm Welcome to Ballpark Boathouse (July 20, 2013)
This is Our Anacostia River (May 24, 2013)

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Navy Yard DC

The Tragedy: Navy Yard Shooting

On September 16, 2013, a gunman killed twelve people at the Washington Navy Yard. Neighborhood schools and businesses were locked down as the tragedy was unfolding, giving the local community its own brush with the workplace and school shootings that have hurt far too many in recent years.

Related Posts:
Glimmers of Hope on the Hill (October 4, 2013)

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shutdown

The Dysfunction: Government Shutdown

Plagued by an inability to compromise, the US government shut down from October 1st through October 16th, 2013. The shutdown furloughed approximately 800,000 people and cost an estimated $24 billion. It also left neighbors growing beards and looking for drinks, and drew attention to DC’s lack of autonomy from the federal government.

Related Posts:
Shutdown in the City: District Blues (October 8, 2013)
Shutdown in the City: An Ugly Sight (October 1, 2013)
Same Old Song and Dance (September 26, 2013)

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The Projects: VA Ave. Tunnel

Construction projects in fast-growing Washington, DC packed local headlines in 2013. Among them is community concern over the reconstruction of the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel that runs nine blocks between the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and Navy Yard. Health and safety worries about carrying hazardous materials through an open trench, as well as concerns about a potential lack of access to the neighborhood during construction, brought neighbors together for a notable meeting in late November 2013.

On tap for 2014: Far more conversations about neighborhood health and safety, drama and milestones, development and density, connectivity and public space, including projects at Eastern Market Metro Plaza, Hine School, 11th St. Bridge Park and more… 

Someplace Happy

happyplace

October 26, 2013, Washington, DC: I picked up this letterpress print Sunday afternoon at Eastern Market and I am in love. Melissa of Grey Moggie Press sells them for various DC neighborhoods, from Brookland to Shaw to Logan Circle, and her work is simply beautiful. Some of it is also quite funny. I had to resist buying a few more prints that said thing like, “Have you tried it with bacon?,” and “Smile. Ryan Gosling exists.”

But this print was a must because, as you know, Capitol Hill is my happy place. (Yes, so is San Francisco.) It makes me happy when I walk around the corner to pick up dinner at Nooshi or stroll home from an evening art class at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop or jog through the neighborhood just to marvel at the architecture. The neighborhood even makes me smile when I step outside into a dark weekday morning just as the late October sun is coming up out there past the Hill Center and the Anacostia River. And if someplace makes you happy before sunrise and coffee on a Monday morning, it’s likely worth sticking around.

Does your neighborhood make you happy? Where are your happiest places? Share them with Neighborhood Nomads in the comments below.

Related Posts on Neighborhood Nomads:

Rallying Around Fragers

Fragers Hardware, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, April 2012

Fragers Hardware, Spring 2012

June 8, 2013, Washington, DC: It’s a scary sight to see a four-alarm fire breaking out four blocks away. To arrive back in the neighborhood just as dense black smoke begins to rise up ahead. To have the story unfold over the course of a single block — first as people stop in their tracks, one foot off the curb, and crane their necks towards the southeast sky; then as the shopkeeper in Labyrinth game store peers out the doorway with a telephone to her ear, hands the phone to a coworker and races up the street. It’s eerie to walk a few doors farther past Li’l Pub just as a man rushes out and says, “It’s Fragers.” It’s bizarre to realize that no less than a dozen fire trucks have torn by in the course of that surreal walk down the block, and to see the concerned look on the face of neighborhood councilman and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells as he zips by on his bicycle a few minutes later.

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Waiting for Elephants

waiting for elephants

March 20, 2013, Washington, DC: It was a hodgepodge group out there last night, for sure. A marine in uniform and a clown nose hugged his girlfriend as toddlers ran joyful circles behind the crowd. Fathers held stuffed animals and watched teenage boys rattle through a graffitied skate park. Capitol Hill Police on bicycles fielded questions about bedtimes, and a bored clown tooled around on the scooter of an elementary school student before the boy asked for it back to show the clown his tricks.

“That’s cool,” said the clown. “You should join the circus.”

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I Live in a Cupcake Neighborhood

filmfest

March 13, 2013, Washington, DC:  I leave the Atlas Theater on H St. Sunday night thinking about cupcakes and sweet potato pie. The night is mild and a taxicab pulls up immediately to the theater’s well-lit doorstep to drive us from the north side of Capitol Hill to the south. On the way home, we talk about cupcakes and sweet potato pie and other heavier topics sparked by the evening’s Our City Film Festival.

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Designing The Third Place: A Conversation With Two Architects

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Photo Credit: Robert Stansell, Emporium Design

This is one in a series of interviews about our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

February 24, 2013, New York: My friends Robert Stansell and Tim Welsh are two talented architects who spend a lot of time thinking deeply about the power of place. After ten years working in corporate architecture jobs and designing local watering holes together on the side, they recently struck out on their own to open Emporium Design, a design-build firm with projects under its belt including New York City establishments Ella Lounge, The Blind Barber and Gallery Bar. Over the Christmas holiday in New York, I caught up with them for the opening night of their latest creation, Boulton & Watt, a gastropub on the corner of 1st St. and Ave. A on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Robert and Tim are part-owners of the pub alongside partners Darin Rubell, Jaime Felber and chef Dave Rotter. “We love this neighborhood, and we wanted to create a bar we were proud of,” the group declares on its new website. Needless to say, I was intrigued. My fascination with the sociology of the “third place” — those spots in which we congregate beyond home and work — made me want to learn more about the process behind creating one. I believe third places that exude camaraderie and comfort are imperative in strengthening our communities, so I was eager for Robert and Tim to tell me more about what goes into designing and building an aesthetically pleasing gathering spot where the neighbors want to linger as long as possible.

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An Hour To Spare in Dupont Circle

Dolcezza Dupont, Washington, DC

February 5, 2013, Washington, DC: I had an hour or so to spare this evening in Dupont Circle. Instead of returning straight home from work, I walked across the Taft Bridge over Rock Creek Park, wandering south down Connecticut Ave. and settling in for a latte at a large farm table in Dolcezza Dupont. It’s a gift to have an hour to spare in an inviting coffee shop, whether in my own city or one that’s entirely foreign. Even at home, those slow and steady moments make me feel like I’m traveling.

After the sun set, I trekked through Dupont, stopping in out of the D.C. winter for a quick dinner and a peek in Kramerbooks. From there, I made my way south of the circle to National Geographic to attend tonight’s Travelers of the Year event, featuring our own Neighborhood Nomad Booker Mitchell. Booker and three fellow Travelers of the Year gathered in celebration of the very things we value here on Neighborhood Nomads: they spoke of exploration and observation, of seeing their surroundings with fresh eyes. The tagline on the enormous screen behind them read, “These passionate nomads inspire us to take on the world.”

The featured travelers at tonight’s event spoke of their travels far from home: Paula Busey spoke of her lasting friendship with Maasai warrior Samwel Melami in Tanzania; Heather Greenwood Davis of her family’s decision to take her children out of school for a year to trot the globe; Booker of his perspective as a traveling teenager on a skateboard; and Theron Humphrey of his road trip across America photographing the beauty of the everyday. But what I found remarkable was that the conversation repeatedly circled back to thoughts about neighborhood and home, and to the influence that the far and wide can have all that is very close by.

“We really wanted to show these kids that the world was their neighborhood,” Davis said.

“You can be a traveler in your own city, even,” Booker said, returning to a topic we’d discussed together a few months ago. Whether due to taking a new route, noticing a change in the sunlight, or listening to a different song in transit, he added, “Skating to school every morning, nothing’s ever the same.”

Isn’t it interesting how travel enables us to zoom in on the tiniest details and come away with a deeper appreciation of the big picture? Of negatively perceived locales Davis visited along the way, she said: “The closer you get to them, the more you realize that they’re only that frightening from far away.”

That remark seems true of our own neighborhoods as well as the far-flung destinations we visit so rarely. And I could relate to Humphrey when he explained that those close and careful observations collected while traveling have paid off: “I pointed my camera at what I love,” he said. “I fell in love with life this past year.”

The power of place is indeed transformative, whether that place is a remote beach in Costa Rica or a cold and crowded Dupont Circle.

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