It’s Saturday, a beautiful Spring like day too. Unusual weather for the end of February. It’s been a mild winter this year, thank the powers that be. I opened the door in my office that goes outside/out back and let the fresh air pour in today. It was glorious. Sunshine and sweet cool air. It felt good in my lungs and on my skin. The dogs were loving it too. Lulu took to running giant circles in the yard and into and out of the house, over and over. Nola basked in the warm sunshine on the porch, watching the world. Yes, it’s a very nice day.
I’m going to jump ahead in the DC story to when I lived on 14th and T Street in DC itself.
I moved into a group house on the corner of 14th and T Street in NW DC. It was an area heavy in prostitution and street crime, but the house was a gorgeous 4 story row house of brick and mortar. I loved the place. The owners had completely gutted the place and redone it, so it was very nice. Five bedrooms, a bathroom on every floor and a great open space living room and kitchen with a bar that separated the two. Sweet digs.
I moved in with my lover, Jaye. She and I were on the top floor where there were two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. We had a guy from Italy living there on the top floor, who was one who exuded hair in the shower, it was always a beef of mine that he didn’t clean out the shower drain when he was done. Italian dudes are hairy. And Matteo was no different.
I was the only one that worked in the house. The rest of the residents, all of 5 others, were students at American. Including my girl. The house was full of very good, studious kids who were working hard to make it through school and into real life. I was a blue collar worker who busted my ass to make enough money to live. I should have stayed in the Army, I recall thinking that a million times over the years. By the time I moved into this place I had gotten a job back in the pool and spa industry, a more up my alley line of work and something I had experience in and loved to do. I was working in Gaithersburg for a regional supplier of hot tubs, spas, steam rooms and saunas. It was hard work, but I loved it.
Living in the prostitution district gave me a lot of new things to learn. Like lock the back of my truck up or they would use it to turn tricks. Also, everytime I parked it on the street I would be approached by two or three girls before I got to my door step who wanted to know if I needed a “date”…this was always amusing to me. I used to play it up with them and teasingly ask ” why? you offering me something?” or “no, I have plenty of girls in the house here….do YOU need a date?” Over time I came to know some of the regulars and they recognized me and realized I lived on the street. It was a very African American neighborhood, so seeing a dumb white dyke from Maine wandering around was bound to get looks.
One time I had a friend of our living in our room for a short time, she’d been kicked out of her rich parents’ home in DC. She also attended American and was into theater quite heavily – she was also a stripper in a swanky Georgetown men’s club. Grace was quite the character. Loud in voice and appearance, her bleach blonde hair and very provocative manner of dress got her recognized as a handful. She was funny, fun to hang out with and fun to party with, but she was trouble too.
Grace, when she’d been evicted from home, stole one of her parent’s Mercedes cars. It was silver and a damned gorgeous automobile. She let me drive it a few times, and it was awesome. She was always hiding the car because she didn’t want them to find it and take it back. They of course, never called the cops about it, so I never understood why she was worried.
She would come in at all hours of the morning loud and drunk or high. She had a girlfriend who was sometimes with her. Both were pretty much strung out most of the time.
One night around Christmas time when there was snow on the walkways and it was freezing cold Grace and I decided to play with the hookers for fun. I was a wise ass, and pretty rough around the edges. The hookers knew me, but their pimps didn’t as they weren’t usually around. Grace and I got this idea, from her theater teachings, and so we staged a show for them.
Grace drove up to the house and parked out front in the Mercedes, I opened the door and yelled at her “GET YER HO ASS UP HERE!” from the front porch. She made a big scene coming toward me and the working girls on the corner started to watch us. As she got closer I was yelling at her about “Where you been?!” and “Where’s my money?!” kinds of stuff. When she reached the steps I hauled off and smacked her upside the face (not really, just a theatrical slap, we had planned this) and she stumbled backwards and fell in the snow. The girls on the corner were getting visibly upset at my actions, I could see them talking and gesturing as I was continuing to put a theatrical beating on Grace. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a black sedan pulled up next to the Mercedes. Uh oh. A guy in the sedan started trying to talk to Grace. He was obviously a pimp, and this was his street. I thought I would now be killed.
“You don’t need her beating on you, come with me.” he said to Gracie.
We were in a heap of trouble I thought, but Gracie knew these guys and their kind better than me and my back-woods upbringing. She’s grown up in DC and knew the street wise ways better than I did. Somehow she got out of talking to him, he drove off and we retreated inside the row house to safety! Jesus. It was something I never tried again.
After that incident the street girls treated me a bit different. They were convinced that I was running girls for hire out of the row house, which I thought was very funny. They gave me a wider berth when I drove up to park, they were nicer to me and even would try to engage me in conversation on occasion.
We had some good times in that row house. Christmas came and all the kids in the house went home for the holidays, I had to stay and work. No “school vacation” for this working stiff.
On Christmas Eve I was on the phone with my mom in Maine. I was lonely and alone for the holidays in DC. It was a particularly ruckus night outside, I could hear the banter on the street and hear the cars squealing tires etc. I had walked over to the corner store and gotten cigarrettes and called home when I returned. As I was on the phone with Mom I was sitting at the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room, sort of facing the stone wall in the corner. Suddenly there was a crack and a bullet lodged itself in the stone work just past my head, little stone chips flew. I immediately dropped the phone and dropped to the floor. My Army training kicked in. I picked up the phone, tried to sound like nothing happened as I sat on the floor, below window level and finished my call. When I was done I went over and found the bullet hole in the window. I was lucky.
It was soon after this that we moved over to 5th and H in NE DC….where the riots had devastated the city years earlier after the MLK killing.
No where in DC is completely safe…and you would think that being the capital of our country it would be the safest place to be…not so, not so at all.