Saturday…More of DC…

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.

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Washington DC Days…Chapters 2 and 3

Chapter 2

So, where was I now..oh trying to survive the streets of DC,young, dumb and full of cum.  Exactly.

I needed a place to live now, I had a job and I had money coming in.  But to find someone who had a room to rent to a homeless 26 yr old from Maine would be another story.

Seems this is where God decided to intercede.  I had a ferret, remember me mentioning him previously? Spike. Spike was a good little fella, furry and gray and looking like a long sort of rat with a bushy tail.  Maybe even akin to a squirrel.  Spike was living in the back of the truck and I took him out and let him run the lawns of the fancy upscale colleges and churches in DC everyday after work.  I managed to keep him fed and happy.  But he was an escape artist and would run off on me sometimes.

Suddenly Spike was missing.  It was the day after we had gone down to the ice cream placed that sold the blizzards (before Dairy Queen discovered them) in Georgetown section of DC. I was heartbroken, but figured he got loose in Georgetown and that I would never find him again.  Although I did search relentlessly, asking every one on the streets “you seen a small animal, looks like a big rat?”  People thought I was on drugs I think.

Which I probaby was at the time anyways, but that’s besides the point.

I went back to Jaye’s dorm and showered that evening. I got in and got my shower, stole a bananna out of the rec room fridge and went out to my truck to smoke.  The truck was parked over at Wesley Theological Seminary in the parking lot.  It was not yet dark, probably around 7pm, and just getting that hazy end of the day look to the skies.  I was sad about Spike, I missed him alot.  I had had him for a few years and we’d bonded well.

The maintenance man for Wesley was raking leaves, so I walked over to speak to him.  Maybe he had seen Spike.  Naw, I know I lost him in Georgetown.  That’s the last time I saw him, as he was filling his little ferret face with a Girl Scout Cookie blizzard.  As i approached he seemed cautious. I know he had seen me around the place and knew my truck by now.  It was a white SR5 with blue pin striping and a camper cap on the back.  You couldn’t miss it.  The Maine plates gave her away too.

I asked if he had seen Spike, I explained that he looked a lot like these gray squirrels he had running hither and nither around the place.  His eyes got wide as plates.  “YES!”  He got all excited as he tried to tell me, in broken English ( realized later he was not American born, but can’t recall where he was from now) that some ladies had taken Spike home with them.  They left a phone number.  He ran inside the building to get the number and the information he had on the people who had my ferret.  I was elated.

Now this was pre-cell phone era, mind you.  I had to find a pay phone and call these “ladies” that had Spike. All of these questions were running through my mind. Who was I about to interact with? Would they be nice and give him back to me?  Could I find them?

I dialed the number nervously from the pay phone in front of Dupont Circle.  I had gone downt here to meet Jaye for a drink before her night class.  When she heard the news she decided to skip the class in hopes that we could go retrieve our wayward buddy and so I would be relieved to have him back.  A woman answered the phone.  Her name was Nancy and yes, she had Spike in with her other 2 ferrets!  She was a ferret person too!  She invited me over to get him, gave me the address in DC and off we went to get the rascally ferret.

Chapter 3

Meeting Nancy was what God had meant to happen I am sure of it to this day.  He sent my crazy little ferret to a House of God so that I would meet this woman named Nancy.  She would turn out to be my saving grace the rest of my time in Washington DC.

It seems that Spike got hungry after running willy nilly around the grounds of the seminary for a few hours.  And he heard people inside.  Somehow he got inside and entered the board room where there was a big meeting taking place at a long table with lots of people around it.  Spike jumped right up on the table and ran smack dab down the center of it scattering people to and fro.  He petrified every one in there. Luckily Nancy was at this meeting and recognized the animal to be a ferret. And somehow she realized he was friendly because he went right to her and let her pick him up.

I’m not sure how the rest of that meeting went, but Nancy took Spike home with her to her partner, Sara and their other 2 ferrets.  She didn’t put them in the cage together because my Spike was a big boy and he may hurt her guys if she did.

When my straggly ass got to Nancy’s house with my much younger girlfriend in tow I am sure we were a sight to be seen.  Immediately they recognized me as a baby dyke but seemed a little confused about Jaye, who looked very straight.  I could see that they too were lovers and this was a lesbian household.  Wow.. What luck!   Now I knew no one else except a few people at work at this point.  I was still sleeping in my truck and showering in the dorms.  I was about to get my first good sized check soon and was looking to rent a room somewhere.

Nancy and Sara were really cool. They were much older than me.  I would say they were in their early 50’s at that time.  After some conversation about ferrets and my story of how I lost him from the back of my truck, yes that is where he lives.  Yes I feed him. And more questions about his care they turned their attention to me and my situation. What was I looking to do in DC? Where would I keep Spike?  I can’t keep him in the back of a truck forever.  And during the heat of the day it got pretty hot in there, I knew that.  But what else could I do?  I was young and probably a little stupid about this.

I had an idea.  I asked them if they would like to keep Spike for me until I found a place to live.  I could see that they were quite smitten with him already, and he was such a ham for attention.  They immediately said yes, they would love to keep him and take care of him for me. Now this was actually a really good thing for both the ferret and I. I wasn’t really in an position to have a pet and be homeless at the same time.  It would be a huge relief not to worry about him in the back of the truck days while I was working at the nursery.  I know that I was hot out in that sun days, so he must have been pretty uncomfortable too. Plus it would free me up to find a place faster.  And they invited me to stop over and visit him any time soon.  Hell, now at least one of us had a home and food!  Only ferret I knew who could fall into a pile of shit and come out smelling like roses!

Over the next week or so I became fast friends with Nancy and Sara.  Nancy was studying to be a minister and Sara was a lawyer.  They were really good people with very kind hearts.  They got to know me a little, could see I was in a bit of a quandry with trying to find a place to go.  One night they had a friend over when I got there for my visitation with Spike.  Her name was  Pam, that they wanted me to meet her because it seems Pam had a room in her house that she would like to rent out – to ME!  Pam was a painter, she painted homes, interior and exterior in the greater DC metropolitan area.  She lived out in Bethesda and had a really nice house.  Newly divorced she lived alone.  She was a quiet, left over 60’s type and seemed pretty cool.

I was psyched!  God led Spike to Church, where he found  Nancy and then Nancy lead me to Pam and then I had a place to safely sleep and shower and live.  Now I was officially “living’ in the metropolitan DC suburbs.    No more sleeping in the damned truck and living off of Big Gulp sodas and steamed hot dogs at 7-11.  No more raiding dormatory fridges or scaring the young girls in the showers.  Although that part was kinda fun!  I finally had a place to lay my head after a long day of watering plants and hauling saplings for replanting.  Things were looking up!

So for tonight that’s all.  I have more to this story, including time living with the strippers and arguing with street pimps over who’s girl was who’s !  Stay tuned!

Peace & Love

~MB

 

 

 

 

Washington DC: Chapter 1

Washington DC: Chapter 1

During the mid 80’s I lived in Washington DC.  I’ve recently been reminded of this and would like to recount my time there for your entertainment.  I had a blast while I lived there and I also gained some serious insight into street life and earned some hard learned lessons while there.  Let me just say that my time in DC culminated with my ending up in DC jail as one dumb country bumpkin, one of the two only white girls on the block of 440 women.  I told them that I had killed my whole family and hung the dog…it kept them thinking I was outright fucking crazy and kept people away from me.  True story.

I was involved with a young woman 5 years my junior when I went from Maine to DC at 26. She was in college at the very prestigious American University there in the city.  When I got to DC I had just the clothes on my back, my Toyota SR5 pick up truck and $50 in my pocket.  It was a spur of the moment thing.  My girl and I had spent all that summer doing stupid things like a ton of cocaine and partying our asses off spending most of what we earned at our jobs.  So when it came time for her to return to college I decided to go along with her.  I thought I was in love, hell I was at the time. I was exactly where I wanted to be and with who I wanted to be with then.  She was a hot young blonde woman and a lot of fun.  We had met through a mutual friend here in Maine.  The mutual friend, Nano, also was going to college in College Park MD, just outside of DC so she also made the trip down to DC with us that fated August in the pick up truck, along with my ferret, Spike.  Yes, a ferret.

The truck had a bed in the back and a cap on it.  It was all set up for me to sleep in when I had to do so.  And going to DC on a whim I knew I would be sleeping in there more than one or two nights!  When I got there on my $50 I realized I had forgotten a few things, mostly like what I was going to eat and where I would put the truck that was safe for me to sleep.  It turned out that I was a pretty hungry young Butch for a couple of weeks.  I did the normal shit like sold my blood at the blood bank for $30 a pint (I have a rare blood type and back then they wanted it).  My girl Jaye, went to school days and I went out job hunting in the metropolitan DC area.

After a week of sleeping in my truck, or in her dorm room – which totally freaked out her roommate and caused her to move out.  Turned out that she was a very homophobic young Jewish girl from New Jersey.  Our mere presence in the dorm made her very uncomfortable especially when Jaye hung a rainbow sticker on the dorm room door!  Anyway, I finally landed a job at a plant nursery in Gaithersburg, just outside of College Park Maryland.   It would be two weeks before my first check came in, but at least I had a job, had the promise of money to come and now I just needed to wait it out, survive the streets until I got paid and could find a place to live.  It was grueling work for the most part.  Hot and sweaty, in the direct sun and in September in DC land.  Still a very warm time of year there.

I was still stealing food from college dorm kitchen to survive the hunger.  I all but gave up smoking because I obviously couldn’t afford cigarettes and I was showering in the dorms when no one was around, like late at night when I would sneak in with Jaye.  Things were pretty tough, but I was a tough nut to crack and I was making it – just barely.  It didn’t occur to my young brain exactly how much danger I was in on a daily basis living on the street of DC and the surrounding suburbs.  I was too young to understand the depth of it all, but I was also too in love with the girl and too into just flying by the seat of my pants to care.

After the job got going and I roughed it out for two weeks I finally got paid.  It’s the most memorable pay day in my life – still.  I took that check, took the girl and my bestie and went to a Greek steak house on Dupont Circle and ate until I couldn’t move.  I shall never ever forget that meal.  And how damned fucking hard I had worked to get to that dinner plate.

The next thing on the list was housing .  I was about burned out with all the sneaking around college dorms, churches and public buildings to use their facilities, shower, raid refrigerators and find safe places to sleep.  With the type of work that I was doing I was pretty dirty and sweaty at the end of my 8-9 hour day in the nursery gardens.  The place was on 880 acres of land.  We had every plant you could think of growing on the east coast.  So after work I would generally go to AU and find Jaye and figure out who was around so I could sneak down the dorm hall to the gang shower room.  Thank God this was decades before 9/11 and security in those places was quite liberal.  Jaye would wash my clothes with hers in the laundry room and so for the most part I figured out how to survive while I was waiting for money to start coming my way.  Sure I felt a little bad about how I had to go about doing some things – like raiding refrigerators when no one was around or jumping in and out of dorm room windows to escape the dread of trying to get past the “guard” at the front desk where the normal people entered and exited the building.

I usually slept in the back of my truck, good thing I had put that cap on it.  and I would park in places like the Wesley Theological Seminary parking lot.  I figured who would bother some truck parked in a church school lot?  No one if they believed in God!  Hehe Except the cops one fated night…but I did manage to talk my way out of it.  I left the lot and he left.  After an hour or so he was gone and I re-parked my truck and went back to sleep. It was the safest place in NW DC for me to be sleeping at the time.

Looking back I can see how crazy this all was and how I’m lucky I made it out alive and in one piece.  I don’t talk much about my drug addiction, but believe me it played a huge part in all of this as well.  Just understand I was probably high most of the time so I was more prone to taking chances and risking my life and limb.  I am never sure of how to incorporate the fact that I was a drug addict for many years.   I was a fully functioning one, I never let it get in the way of my working or doing what needed to be done to survive and thrive.

There are many many stories of times in DC. I am going to write about a couple of them for your reading entertainment.  This piece you just read is just the preface, so that you have an idea of how I got to DC and why I lived there.  I will make an effort to dig up some of the photo graphs of my time in DC for you to see….and what a wild time it was!