People, Columbia Heights is so cool. I had no idea. They're so political down there, almost like Takoma Park where I live, except maybe a little less peace-signs-and-rainbows, a little more Workers-Unite! Every street lamp is plastered with posters, the bars have signs in the windows for Democratic politicians, the businesses seem to represent every ethnicity under the sun, it feels safe, but not rich.
Except for the new stuff they're building-- that looks rich. How long will Columbia Heights stay cool in the way that it is cool right now? Maybe just a couple of years before it is totally overcome by gentrification. Hopefully I am wrong about this.
So, my Metro station has been closed for maintenance for nearly two weeks, and to get to Columbia Heights I had to take a bus shuttle to Fort Totten, then grab a train for the rest of the way. It went quite smoothly (and on the way back as well); I was surprised. Good on Metro.
When I arrived at the Columbia Heights station, I was hungry and had to pee, so I stopped for a "Little" fries at the Five Guys. A "Little" fries involves a very small cup full of fries, which is placed inside a paper bag, and then approximately 4-5 additional cups worth of fries are tossed on top. I am not sure of the logic behind this. I could not eat all of the fries in one sitting, but tucked half of them away in a greasy paper bag in my purse. Here is a view from the window of the Five Guys:
When I walk the Neighborhood Heritage Trails, I don't read all the historical signs, but try to get a sense of the present neighborhood. I do read a few of the signs, though, the ones that fate places in my way. One of these alerted me to the fact I was standing right in front of a historic African-American gay bar, one of the first and longest-operating. I knew my teenager would appreciate this.
19 degrees, in the District, is what passes for Arctic chill. Women shuffle by in their fake fur-lined hoods, looking wounded. A spirit of camaraderie prevails, though, a sense of shared adversity: people give a few bucks to the homeless guy to get coffee and warm up, exhort one another to put on some gloves, wish strangers "Happy New Year!" We smile a bit more under our tightly wrapped mufflers.
This was the context of my second trip to the Columbia Heights Heritage Trail. Pretty quickly I ran into a guy who was waiting outside a neighborhood soup kitchen. Apparently it did not open till noon, but he and his suitcase had arrived at 10 am. He still had another hour to wait when I walked by. Cold enough walking; much too cold to stand still. We chatted and I gave him some money so he could wait inside a business instead of out. In this weather, a miscalculation of timing could turn into a real disaster. I was seriously considering stopping someplace for a cup of tea myself.
In the end, I didn't; the walk wasn't very long, and with my face turned into the sun, the cold was bearable. I was back in the land of aggressive cultural fusion: Korean tacos, kung fu and capoeira, monuments to African-American literati.
By this time I was glad I knew the way back to the Columbia Heights station, and glad to get in from the cold. I am learning my way around.