Miles From Monday: Running the Capitol Hill Classic

Capitol Hill Classic, Washington, DC, May 2013

“It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination. We have a better chance of seeing where we are when we stop trying to get somewhere else. We can enjoy every moment of movement, as long as where we are is as good as where we’d like to be. That’s not to say that you need to be satisfied forever with where you are today. But you need to honor what you’ve accomplished, rather than thinking of what’s left to be done.” — John Bingham

May 20, 2013, Washington, DC: We run together through a spitting rain. First as a tight pack and later as a long string of a neon sneakers stretched out over the entire neighborhood. We check the landmarks off the list first, tagging the back of the Supreme Court and the Shakespeare Library before beelining it away from the city in a straight shot out toward its edge. Familiar faces and strangers reach into the street offering paper cups and high fives. Clutching coffee mugs, wearing baseball caps, there’s the shopkeeper from around the corner, the family who lives down the block…

Continue reading

Ode to The Corner Store

Corner stores, Washington, DC May 2013

Congress Market, 5th and East Capitol SE

“Why go far afield when within three or four blocks there at the heart of Capitol Hill we had the Capitol of the United States, the Library of Congress, Mr. Johnnie’s Ice Cream and Candy Store, Grubb’s Pharmacy, Sherrill’s Bakery and Restaurant, McPhee’s Men’s Haberdashery, at least four churches, one school, four doctors, a barbershop, two corner grocery stores, two delicatessens, a dentist, a milliner, a leaky movie theater, Providence Hospital, four undertakers and Santa Claus?”

-Mary Z. Gray

May 11, 2013, Washington, DC: I recently read “301 East Capitol: Tales from the Heart of the Hill.” It’s a great neighborhood history by Mary Z. Gray, and I told her how much I liked it last weekend when I met the 94-year old at Literary Hill BookFest at Eastern Market. I told Ms. Gray that now when I walk by her old house and the former homes of her friends and family, I suddenly feel like I know who lives there, even though the characters in her stories moved out decades ago.

Although much of the neighborhood has changed since Ms. Gray explored it as a child in the 1920s (don’t I wish we still had a candy shop and a leaky movie theater and a haberdashery if only for its name), it’s uplifting to see many remnants of the neighborhood she enjoyed still standing. Churches are still tightly concentrated in the blocks behind the Capitol, Grubb’s Pharmacy is still open, and so are the corner stores.

I took a walk recently to photograph the corner stores, recognizing them as an integral element of the neighborhood. As an adult, I’ve gravitated towards neighborhoods where I can walk down the block to pick up a carton of milk or some laundry detergent, places where running errands rarely involves getting in the car. In her book, Ms. Gray credits DC’s original city planner Pierre L’Enfant with envisioning mixed-use neighborhoods where that’s possible. “L’Enfant’s idea for filling this diamond was to begin with squares and circles forming small town centers that would gradually grow into larger towns until they melded, and, eventually, filled out into a city,” she wrote. “Each population center had its own necessities and conveniences, hence the corner grocery stores and other amenities that remain.”

A few of the corner stores in southeast and northeast DC are pictured here, as is Grubb’s Pharmacy:

Continue reading

Seven Days Til April (Seriously?)

National Cathedral snow, Washington, DC, March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013, Washington, DC: DC’s first snow of the winter arrived this morning just in time to coincide with spring break and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. (The blossoms are a little late to the party.) It’s fairly amazing to think how warm and in bloom the city was last year at this time, more unbelievable yet to realize it hasn’t snowed like this once since I started this blog more than a year and a half ago. To celebrate the occasion I took a snowy morning walk around the National Cathedral, trying not to let it bug me that it’s nearly April. I admit it was pretty… if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I’d prefer to leave mornings like this one to residents of places like Chicago and Montreal, and cross my fingers that Washington has gotten this little bit of rebellion out of its system.

Related Posts on Neighborhood Nomads:

Technicolor Dreaming on Capitol Hill

eastern market, dc, march 24, 2013

March 24, 2013, Washington, DC: Forget that whole bit about spring springing. It’s freezing here! Eastern Market is downright drab today, and it’s not helping that the street musician bundled in a ski coat at the top of the Metro escalator is playing a mopey rendition of “Killing Me Softly” on a flute. Even the thickest winter running clothes are not enough to put a pep in my step and turn my afternoon walk into a jog. Instead I walk briskly through the neighborhood, snapping photos of any measly infusion of color I can find.

Click below to see the most colorful images I could muster up during this last chilly week on Capitol Hill. Here’s hoping it truly is our last cold snap for months and months to come.

Continue reading

Spring Springing at Eastern Market

spring, eastern market, dc

“In the winter I rise at first light and spend as many hours as the weather allows outside, taking advantage of every moment of light the stingy heavens offer. But soon there will be so much daylight I won’t know what to do with it. I might sleep in every so often. I might even take a nap in the middle of the afternoon.”

-Pam Houston

March 10, 2013, Washington, DC: An overhyped winter storm came and went earlier this week without leaving a flake of snow on the ground in our southeast quadrant of Washington, DC. This Sunday afternoon, the wooden boards of the deck are warm against my bare feet and an extra hour of sunlight will propel us into the evening. That hour of the morning we lost is already well worth the trade off. It is my favorite day of the year, nothing but longer and warmer days ahead. The hard part is behind us.

I am absolutely someone who is fueled by sunlight: by a bright room, by a long summer evening, by rays reflecting and bouncing off the water. The neighborhood, too, is its best self as the light stretches out around it. Tulips and produce peek out of the bags people tote home from Eastern Market. Outdoor vendors like those at Vigilante Coffee field questions from visitors in no rush to head back inside. It is a week or so before we’re surrounded by cherry blossoms and allergies, and we’ve reached the daylight at the end of the tunnel. Ten days more until the official start of spring.

Related Posts on Neighborhood Nomads: 

Happy Presidents’ Day From Capitol Hill

Library of Congress, President's Day 2013, Washington, DC Library of Congress, President's Day 2013

February 18, 2013, Washington, DC: The Library of Congress is one of those close-to- home landmarks I walk, bike, run and drive around regularly, but I’m ashamed to say I’d never been inside until now. But today the Main Reading Room was open to the public — photographs allowed — and that only happens twice a year, so we walked over, waited in the line and wandered inside. The architecture and history in this neighborhood is truly astounding. Happy Presidents’ Day from Capitol Hill.

Library of Congress, President's Day 2013

Library of Congress, President's Day 2013

Library of Congress, President's Day 2013

Related Posts on Neighborhood Nomads:

Places We Express Ourselves

Ai Weiwei at the Hirshhorn, Washington, DC

February 11, 2013, Washington, DC: On a trip through the airport this fall, I picked up the magazine Foreign Policy. It’s a publication I rarely read, but this was the Cities Issue, jam packed with articles about the world’s urban landscapes. Statistics about the global population and a piece on “The Rise and Fall and Rise of the New Shanghai” were fascinating, but what resonated most was an interview with Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei. The interview, titled “Twitter is My City”, was striking due to its emphasis on the power of place as it relates to freedom, choice, expression and ownership.

Continue reading